Problem Solving Models

Home 9 Problem Solving Models

The linear problem solving model:

Linear problem-solving training is a method from behavioural therapy that is used for problems where there is a clear difference between the current state (“actual value”) and the desired state (“target value”). In this process, you go through different stages, which you usually work through together with the therapist. But even if you work on this alone in our app, this approach can bring new insights and ideas for solutions. You may also want to sit down with a trusted person and discuss the different stages.

Even though it is called “linear” problem solving, it may be necessary to go back to the previous stage in between and repeat it if you get stuck. The problem-solving model has seven stages:

  1. Introduction: Be aware that you are now taking time to deal with this problem. You may want to do a small relaxation exercise or mute the phone to be undisturbed. Clarify what your goal is, what target state you want to achieve. Stay completely with yourself.
  2. Problem orientation: Ask yourself the following questions, perhaps you would also like to make notes on them: Where exactly is the problem? Which feelings, which unsuccessful behaviour do I want to change? What is the cause? What is the significance of the problem for my well-being? Can I influence the problem at all? How would I see the problem from the point of view of a very optimistic/pessimistic person?

3) Emotion control in problem solving: Be clear about your feelings about the problem. Try to look at the feelings in a differentiated way and define them as precisely as possible. Emotional stress is not a good advisor when solving problems. Try to approach the following steps as rationally as possible after you have given space to the feelings in this step.

  1. Problem definition and phrasing: Gather as much relevant factual information about your problem as possible. Set a realistic problem-solving goal (or goals). Try to re-evaluate the problem in terms of importance and influenceability.
  2. Generate alternative solutions: Without judging them, collect as many different potential solutions as possible. Like in brainstorming, you are allowed to accept all ideas as long as they relate to your defined goal and clearly articulate a course of action that will lead to that goal.
  3. Decide on the best solution: Now delete all the proposed solutions that are too risky or cannot be implemented. List the positive and negative short-term and long-term consequences for you and your environment of all remaining solution ideas. Now evaluate the listed solutions according to their cost-benefit balance and the estimated probability of negative consequences. Now find the solution ideas that have the most relevant consequences for you, your well-being and the well-being of those around you, and evaluate them in terms of time and effort required. Ask yourself the following questions: 1. is the problem solvable as it has been worded so far? 2. do I need more information about the problem? 3. which solution or combination of solutions should I implement?
  4. Solution implementation and review: Implement the solution or combination of solutions you have found. Check the result against the criteria from the previous step and adjust your solution or repeat another step if necessary. If you were successful – pat yourself on the back and congratulate yourself on a problem solved!

Whether you become angry or not does not depend on the behavior of your counterpart, but on the state of your mind.
(Dalai Lama)

The ETFA model:

This model assumes that our existence is essentially shaped by four forms of behaviour: perceiving (or experiencing), thinking, feeling and acting. These forms of behaviour can occur at the same time or one after the other, and can be more or less pronounced in different situations. Acting and thinking happen actively, while perceiving and feeling have a more passive-perceptive quality. In order to better deal with stressful situations, we analyze them with regard to the four forms of behaviour, then assess how proportionate our active forms of behaviour (thinking, acting) are in this situation and whether we can change something about it to reduce the perceived stress.

For this purpose, write down a typical stress episode that happens to you again and again. To analyse the situation, the following questions can help:

– Experiencing: What can I see, hear, smell? What could be recorded in the situation with a camera or microphone? What could someone else perceive here instead?

– Thinking: What is my main concern? Why am I thinking like this right now? What would someone think who remains completely relaxed in the situation?

– Feeling: What individual feelings can I distinguish (anger? fear?)? What do I feel physically? Am I overdoing it or underdoing it?

– Acting: What is my goal and what am I doing specifically to achieve it? Are there alternatives? How could one also describe what I am doing – from a very benevolent and from a very critical point of view?

Admittedly, dividing a situation exactly into these four forms of behaviour is not easy. The forms can also occur simultaneously and with varying frequency.

Often, however, you can observe through analysis how your thoughts and actions determine your feelings and thus trigger stress. By becoming aware of this, carefully examining your own thoughts, you can intervene and actively change the situation before it leads to strong negative feelings and stress.

Make good choices!

Now rewrite your stress episode by making changes in appropriate places. The next time you find yourself in this situation, try implementing your changes. Think of it as an experiment and don’t put yourself under pressure. Good luck!

Source: based on: Scholz, W.-U. (2001). Weiterentwicklungen in der Kognitiven Verhaltenstherapie. Konzepte – Methoden – Beispiele. Stuttgart: Pfeiffer bei Klett-Cotta