Session 11&12:

  • Welcome to The Haven! We are a 13+ mental health support site! Visit our main website to learn more about our Discord chats!


Staff member
Jun 12, 2018
The Problem-Solving Process​

usually when we experience anxious thoughts or worries
these are the sorts of things we think we can't act upon or problem solve
so we have to distinguish between productive and unproductive worries

the way i see it is, productive worries are the ones that allow us to be cautious and remember to be aware of things. like danger, remembering appointments, remembering to bring stuff with us that's important, etc
so unproductive worries is more so stuff like, "what if" thoughts that end up turning into MORE "what if" thoughts, and you begin spirallingdown this rabbit hole of worrying
and you can't actually do anything about any of them
hence, they're unproductive

worth mentioning that unproductive worries also very easily turn into catastrophizing (suggested by our wonderful headless owl)
so you're never actually solving anything

productive worries would be something like, did i remember to take my medication? am i going to make it on time? should i check the bus schedule? what are the directions in getting there?

so i'd like to start outlining this problem solving process
we're dealing with 6 steps here:
1. problem orientation
2. problem definition
3. goal formulation
4. generation of alternative solutions (brainstorming)
5. decision making (pros and cons)
6. solution implementation and verification

theres lotsa big words so bare with me

step 1 basically says that people who worry excessively often see their problems differently than people who engage in active problem solving. so the two groups of people react differently
if the problem is avoided, it's recognized too late. also, worriers think it's abnormal to be having the problem. and third, worriers see the problems as threats to be avoided rather than a challenge

the way to orient yourself into thinking of this as a challenge is recognizing that it's a problem.
1. listen to and evaluate your anxious thoughts. sometimes they can alert you of problems that need to be addressed.
2. remind yourself that problems are normative, they are not personal
3. problems take time and effort to solve, but the long term benefits may be substantial
4. ask yourself "is there an opportunity for me to take an active role in improving the situation?

step 2: problem definition and goal formulation before trying to solve a problem one must define it. take the following example. which of the following problems is well defined? "my boss is an insensitive person who takes advantage of me" vs "my boss gives me too many files to work on and doesn't realize how much work they are"

here are three questions to help define your problem:
1. who is involved in the problem ?
2. what specifically is happening that disturbs me ?
3. when does this problem occur?

here are a few guidelines to help you learn how to set goals:
S: specific / the goal should be well defined
M: measurable / it should be noticeable when the goal is achieved
A: attainable / is this goal within reasonable reach?
R: realistic / the goal should be realistically attainable, given your abilities
T: timed/ put a reasonable time frame on the goal

step 3: generate potential solutions during this step we brainstorm as many different solutions as possible without judging or ruling out ideas. often some of the best solutions come from "crazy ideas". use your past experiences with similar situations, even if you weren't completely successful, in order to help with this process

The Problem-Solving Process - Continued​

okey step 4 is decision making, so we have to keep in mind that the perfect solution doesn't exist and that at most, we can pick out the best possible solution for us from the list that we've brainstormed, that would be the most effective in meeting your goal. to do this, you can do a cost/benefit analysis and ask yourself the following questions 1. what will happen if i apply this solution? 2. what are the chances that this solution will work? 3. what are the short-term and long-term implications of this solution? 4. what are the implications for me and for others of this solution?

steps 5 and 6 are solution implementation and verification. so basically we try a solution and assess it's impact, as well as evaluate the outcome. consider: did this solution allow you to attain the goals you formulated at the start of the process? was your solution successful? if you had partial success, what can be learned from your experience? how can you use this experience to improve your problem solving in the future? assess the impact that the solution had on the problem and on your mood. an effective solution should help you feel better.

if the solution didn't work, then we gotta go back n rinse and repeat