Posted on: February 6, 2018
Many of us grapple with a problem from time to time. This month’s Ask an Expert will breakdown some of the ways to solve problems.
Featured Expert- Zachary Dembo, LPC
As a therapist I am always, on some level, assisting my clients in solving problems. Sometimes these problems are relatively small and can be solved over the course of a few sessions. In these cases, all that’s needed might be some psychoeducation, a pros and cons list, and a sprinkling of validation, for clients to come up with effective and long-lasting solutions. Other times the problems clients present with can be complex and multilayered, made up of multiple problematic behaviors, involve numerus people, and require the cooperation of not only the client but also doctors, school administrators, teachers and more.
Over the course of my career I have found that, despite the size and complexity of the problem(s), there are always four possible solutions available to the client.
Solve the problem
Sometimes it is possible to come up with a solution to a problem, but for whatever reason we are unable to identify or develop a plan to implement that solution. In these cases, I work with clients to first become educated about the problem, break down the problem into pieces, and then brainstorm solutions to each piece. Then I assist in the implementation of the plan, identifying road blocks, and helping clients come up with modifications when necessary.
Feel Better about the Problem
Sometimes a solution is unnecessary or impossible to implement. In these situations what’s needed is a change in perspective. For example, let’s say your NFL team lost in the playoffs leaving you frustrated and sad. Most of us can’t walk on a field and train the team to be better or give them a second chance at getting to the Super Bowl, so solving the problem is not possible. In these situations I work with my clients to change their perspective and emotional response to the problem. In this specific situation we would work on changing “Ugh my team is awful!” an anger and sadness generating perspective to “Tom Brady is one year closer to retirement!” a positive and joyful perspective.
Tolerate the Problem
Sometimes clients find themselves in situations where they are unable to problem solve and changing perspective is ineffective. Sometimes saying yes to life, just as it is, can be most effective way to deal with a problem. This approach is called Radical Acceptance and entails embracing the life one has and not resisting what they have no power to change. For example, when I worked with Military Veterans I had a number of clients who had lost one or more limbs while in Iraq or Afghanistan. For these individuals the amputation of one or more limbs had fundamentally changed the way in which they could interact with the world. In these situations, I would work with clients on radically accepting the loss of their limb(s) and assist them in finding new ways to live their lives. During these sessions we would collaborate in the building of a new life, one that, through fully embracing their new body’s, they could find contentment.
At the end of the day there is always the option to do nothing. Although I usually don’t suggest this option, If none of these other approaches appeal to you, or seem too difficult to try, you can choose to stay miserable or possibly make the problem worse.
Whichever solution you choose it takes time. Many of us have felt that when one problem is solved another one takes it place. At Edgewood Clinical Services we are there to listen and support you, whenever problems arise.