4-Step Problem Solving Technique

I work with all different kinds of people from the very young to the very old, people with and without disabilities and a wide range of circumstances; one of the things that I find in common with all types of people is that many struggle with problem solving skills.  From my position, I want people to move from being reactive to situations to becoming responsive; the difference being choice and control, which allows freedom in high energy events. One of the main purposes of a good education, formal or not, is to teach HOW to think rather than WHAT to think.  There are many people out there who have learned how to think and are very accomplished thinkers, however, there are a greater still number of folks of all ages that have not learned these skills.

Schools and counselors alike often teach: STOP, THINK, and ACT as a skill for problem solving, and early on in my careers I also did the same.  However, I noticed that this was not really effective, that there was still a piece missing.  I realized that people didn’t really understand HOW to analyze the problem, HOW to think about it.  So I developed a simple set of questions that teaches HOW to think about a problem and be responsive to situations rather than go into trigger or knee-jerk reactions without thought about consequences and the after effects of those actions.  While this may seem simplistic or childish, it is basic on purpose, for most people in reactive situations, fight or flight chemistry takes over and their bodies go into an automaton situation allowing for little control of their reactions.  The STOP aspect of the technique is meant to slow a person down, THINK, is to problem solve, and ACT is to be responsive based on your thoughts and analysis of the problem and chosen solution.  The following is my 4-step problem solving technique for the THINK part of this coping skill.


  1. What is the problem? List all aspects of the problem, even if there are things that seem silly.


  1. What are the solutions? Brainstorm and list all of the solutions to the problem(s) and all of its aspects even if there are solutions that seems silly.


  1. What is the worst that can happen? Brainstorm and list all of the consequences, worse case scenarios, outcomes, and effects of the solutions.


  1. Is it worth it? Evaluate the solutions and answers in #3. Decide on what the response will be to the problem and if you are willing to deal with and accept responsibility for those outcomes.


If the answer to number four (4) is no, then you go back to number two (2) and pick a different solution and repeat until you can come up to a “YES” answer to number four (4). Then you move onto the ACT portion of the coping skill.

That’s it. It’s simple and basic. However, in the heat of the moment it is hard to do.  One of the ways I teach this technique is in a worksheet format with role play scenarios or as an after incident reflective activity.  Working an incident backwards from outcome to start is a good way to teach this and to see where the problems really originated from for the person.

I have used this with young children, disabled adults and children, people with mental illness, in substance abuse rehabilitation centers and with people in criminal situations, as well as just regular clients struggling in their lives.  It is effective and really helps to see a problem on paper while you are getting the skill under your belt to THINK in the heat of the moment without the paper in front of you.  It is a great life skill to have, and there are many people on television or the internet in political arenas, reality TV shows, and in the everyday news that certainly can benefit from these skills.  None of us are perfect; we all can be reactive to situations rather than responsive.  It is something that takes practice and to get your emotions out of the way.  This is an easy way to work on that and teach yourself how to problem solve and think critically about a situation.

2016 Copyright by Katie Pifer http://www.witchpetals.wordpress.com



4 thoughts on “4-Step Problem Solving Technique

  1. Pingback: 4-Step Problem Solving Technique — WitchPetals | The Daily Advocate By Painspeaks

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