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Problem solving SKILLS

Types Of Problem
There are many types of problem in our real life. Examples of the sort of problem such as: i) Students with exam-related problems ii) Family difficulties iii) Worries about career iv) Sexual problems v) Relationship difficulties vi) Money worries Advice giving suggests opinion: the counsellors opinion.
(Burnard, 1992, p.199)

That which is most personal is most general The things that you and I worry about are also the things that most people worry about
(Carl Rogers, 1967)

Problem Solving Cycle

1. Clarification of problem

6. Evaluation of solution

2. Explore/ understand the (real) problem

6. Implement a solution

3. Set goals / objectives

5. Choice of solution

4. Generation of possible solutions

The Problem Solving Cycle

There are a variety of problem solving processes but each process consists of a series of steps, including identifying an issue, searching for options and putting a possible solution into action. It is useful to view problem solving as a cycle because sometimes, a problem needs several attempts to solve it, or the problem changes. Figure 1 shows a five step problem solving cycle.

CntdThe Problem Solving Cycle

To solve a problem: Step 1: Clarification of problem Identify that you have a problem and what sort of problem it is so that you can find an appropriate solution. The counsellor and client discuss the problem until BOTH are clear about it. Ask yourself: i) What is the nature of this problem? (temporary or longer term; big or small?; One that effects only you or others?; Will others need to be consulted? ii) What is hindering you from completing this task? (eg. Lack of sufficient knowledge/ information; Lack of experience etc)

CntdThe Problem Solving Cycle

Step 2: Explore/understand the (real) problem When you are clear about what the problem is, you need to think about it in different ways. You can ask yourself questions such as: i) How is this problem affecting me? ii) How is it affecting others? iii) Who else experiences this problem? iv) What do they do about it? v) Seeing the problem in different ways is likely to help you find an effective solution.

CntdThe Problem Solving Cycle

Step 3: Set goals/objectives Once you have thought about the problem from different angles you can identify your goals. i) What is it that you want to achieve? Sometimes you might get so frustrated by a problem that you forget to think about what you want. eg. You might become ill as struggle to complete a number of assignments on time and feel so unmotivated that you let due dates pass. It is important at this time to consider the question i) What is my immediate goal?

CntdThe Problem Solving Cycle

ii) Do I want to improve my health? increase my time management skills? complete the assignments to the best of your ability? finish the assignments as soon as possible? If you decide your goal is to complete your assignments as soon as possible, that will lead to solutions which are different from those linked to the goal of improving your health. eg. One goal may lead you to apply for extensions for your assignments; the other goal may lead you to a doctor and/or to take leave of absence from university. So working out your goals is a vital part of the problem solving process.

CntdThe Problem Solving Cycle

Step 4: Look at Alternatives (Generation of possible solutions) When you have decided what your goal is, you need to look for possible solutions. The more possible solutions you find the more likely it is that you will be able to discover an effective solution. The counsellor and the client brainstorm all possible solutions. The purpose of brain-storming is to collect together a long list of possibilities.

CntdThe Problem Solving Cycle

It does not matter whether the ideas are useful or practical or manageable: just write down the ideas as they come into your head. Some of the best solutions arise from creative thinking during brain-storming. You can also seek ideas about possible solutions from friends, family, a partner, a counsellor, a lecturer, books or the internet. The aim is to collect as many alternative solutions as possible. eg. apply for extensions of your assignments / copy & paste your friends assignments /withdraw from the course.

CntdThe Problem Solving Cycle

Step 5: Choice of solution From the list of possible solutions, you can sort out which are most relevant to your situation and which are realistic and manageable. You can do this by predicting outcomes for possible solutions and also checking with other people what they think outcomes might be. eg. Applying for extensions of your assignments can help you to complete your assignments. If you choose solution of copy & paste, your assignments mark will be disqualified and if you withdraw from the course, it will affect your CPA.

CntdThe Problem Solving Cycle

Step 6: Implement a solution Once you have selected a solution, you are ready to put it into action. eg. You try to make an appointment with your lecturer and discuss about your problem and ask for extensions of your assignments. You will need to have energy and motivation to do this because implementing the solution may take some time and effort. (If the solution had been easy to find and do, you would have probably already done it.) You can prepare yourself to implement the solution by planning when and how you will do it, whether you talk with others about it, and what rewards you will give yourself when you have done it.

CntdThe Problem Solving Cycle

Step 7: Evaluation of solution Just because you have worked your way through the problem solving process it does not mean that, by implementing the possible solution, you automatically solve your problem. So evaluating the effectiveness of your solution is very important. The counsellor and the client explore how effective the strategy was. You can ask yourself (and others) : i) How effective was that solution? ii) Did it achieve what I wanted? iii) What consequences did it have on my situation?

CntdThe Problem Solving Cycle

If the solution was successful in helping you solve your problem and reach your goal, then you know that you have effectively solved your problem. eg. You are allowed to apply for extensions of your assignments and it will not affect your grade for that course. If you feel dissatisfied with the result (not effective eg. You are allowed to apply for extensions of your assignments but it will affect your grade for that course ), then you return to stage 1-5; restate the problem and generate other solutions.

CntdThe Problem Solving Cycle

CONCLUSION Viewing problem solving as a cycle may help you recognise that problem solving is a way of searching for a solution which will lead to different possible solutions, which you can evaluate.

If you have solved the problem you have found an effective solution. If you judge the problem has not been solved you can look for, and try, alternative possibilities by beginning the problem solving cycle again.

CntdIdentifying Problems
Some methods that have identified by other people to identify problems are: i) By direct questions ii) By the counsellor self-disclosing their own problems. iii) By listening to the client. v) By encouraging the client to talk. vi) By helping to focus the clients discussion
(Burnard, 1992, p.200-201)

Identifying Problems
Often in counselling, solutions are not forthcoming because the problem has not been identified/clarified sufficiently. The following strategies can be used are: i) The listener (counsellor) encourages the talker (client) to give a general description of the problem area. ii) The listener then suggests that the talker tries to summarize the problem in one sentence. iii) The listener then asks if there are related problems.
(Burnard, 1992, p.205)

Evaluating Problem Solving

One of the most important aspects of counselling is to ensure that the problem solving (PS) has been successful. The following evaluation problem solving can be used by counsellor are: 1. SHOULD problem solving be evaluated? 2. Why? 3. SHOULD counselling be evaluated? 4. HOW can problem-solving be evaluated? 5. HOW can counselling be evaluated? 6. Do you evaluate your own counselling? 7. What methods do you use? 8. What criteria would you use for evaluating PS?

CntdEvaluating Problem Solving

9. How would you use the clients AIMS /GOALS in the evaluation process? 10. When would you evaluate PS? 11. What would you do if the clients PS strategies had not been successful? 12. To what degree is the counsellor responsible for the outcome of counselling? 13. To what degree is the client is responsible?

(Burnard, 1992, p.218-219)