As a formal approach to treatment problem solving therapy PST emerged from

As a formal approach to treatment problem solving

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treatment, problem-solving therapy (PST) emerged from cognitive-115Special Issue: Showing Clients the DoorsThis document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers.This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly.
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behavioral therapy, and includes the work of D’Zurilla (1988), who, in hisoverview of PST, enumerated five basic phases of the problem-solvingmodel: problem orientation, problem definition and formulation, genera-tion of alternative solutions, decision making, and solution implementationand verification (p. 107). Although I believe active problem solving can beutilized in a person-centered framework in any phase of D‘Zurilla’s (1988)problem-solving model, to me it has seemed most applicable in the phaseof generation of alternative solutions, that is, when the client has recog-nized the importance of the problem and has contextualized it, such as isoften the case when a client presents for therapy. According to D’Zurilla(1988), the goal of this phase “involves making available as many alterna-tive solutions (coping options) as possible, in such a way as to maximize thelikelihood that the ‘best’ solution will be among them” (p. 112). Myapplication of active problem solving does not deviate from D’Zurilla’s(1988) general model, in that the client is encouraged to “let his or herimagination run loose and try to think of as many new and original ideas aspossible without filtering them through any evaluative screens. . .” (pp.112–113); it does, however, differ in that it is not seen as a central thrust oftherapy, but rather an interchange between client and therapist that hasimmediate practical and interpersonal implications for both the client andthe ongoing therapy process. Implicit in this approach is the assumptionthat it is most clearly appropriate when clients are evidencing—usingProchaska’s and DiClemente’s (1992) “Stages of Change” model—thatthey are in the preparation stage, “a readiness to change in the near futureand acquisition of valuable lessons from past change attempts and failures”(p. 305).The therapist’s role when a client presents an identified, contextualizedproblem is, in my opinion, to play as nondirective a role as is feasible whileat the same time assisting the client in moving toward the decision makingand solution implementation and verification phases of the problem-solving model. If possible, the therapist merely encourages the client togenerate as many possible solutions as possible, although if the client ispresenting the problem as one for which no apparent options exist, Ibelieve the therapist can, as I term it, “toss options.” “Tossing options,” inessence, involves the therapist generating possible options, which meetD’Zurilla’s principles of quantity, deferment-of-judgment and variety (seeD’Zurilla, 1988, pp. 112–113), while not “owning” any of them. In other
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