Consumer guide to Problem-Solving Therapy (PST)

When there is a problem, there is a way. You don’t have to be unwell and keep things for yourself. Depression and anxiety are serious issues that need to be addressed. The more you keep things to yourself the worst your state is going to be. Moreover, it can be bad for your physical health too. In order to get rid of the common life stressors and identify the problem, you should consider trying Problem-Solving Therapy. This therapy can be combined with other types of therapy in order to improve your quality of life. To familiarize you more with this subject, Consumer Opinion Guide has prepared a small guide on all you need to know about the PST.

What is Problem-Solving Therapy (PST)?

To start with, let’s explain to you what PST actually is and where it originated. Problem-solving therapy was originally developed by American psychologists Arthur M. Nezu and Christine Maguth Nezu. This therapy aims to help the person improve their problem-solving capacity in order to better cope and manage stressful life experiences. Moreover, the way a person copes with such situations determines, the extent to which they are likely to experience long-lasting psychopathologies and behavioral problems (eg depression, generalized anxiety, pain, anger, relationship difficulties…).

a therapist taking notes during the problem-solving therapy with a patient
Problem-solving therapy will help you deal better with stressful life experiences.

The goal of this therapy is to help the person solve these problems and ensure that they don’t have consequences on their health. With time the person is supposed to become a better problem solver thanks to the therapy. They will be able to deal with panic attacks better than they usually do.

When it comes to serious mental issues like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia,  this type of therapy is not enough, but it can be complementary to other methods.

What is the goal of PST?

The main goals of problem-solving therapy therapy include:

  • Improve positive orientation;
  • Promote the application of specific strategies: identify why a situation is a problem, generate alternative solutions, analyze the cost-benefits of alternatives in order to decide which ones to include in the overall solution plan, implement the solution, follow up on effects and evaluate the results;
  • Reduce negative orientation;
  • Minimize the tendency to engage in dysfunctional resolution-style activities.

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What techniques are used in problem-solving therapy?

Problem-solving therapy is focused on the client. A professional is there to guide the patient and help him with the problem-solving process. Different techniques are used in PST therapy, and some of the most important ones are:

  • Creating collaboration. This is an important part of the therapy. Therapist needs to create a bond with their clients. Moreover, they need to provide support and show that they are here for the client. Whether it’s an online or in-person therapy session, it’s important to create a safe environment for the person in front, in order to make them feel comfortable and help them overcome their problems.
  • Assessment. A therapist needs to learn all about the client’s current problems and stressors. This will help determine if this type of therapy is adapted for them or not. Moreover, this approach is used to inspect the client’s problem-solving attitudes, as well as its limitations and strengths. This way they will be able to find an adequate approach.
  • Psychoeducation. The main goal of psychoeducation is to provide a problem-solving plan and explain each step. On top of that, the client gets to learn all about mental health symptoms. Learning about the symptoms is key. When you can identify them it’s easier to cope and find a solution to the problem.
  • Coaching. This part consists of asking questions that will make the client think about the alternative solutions to the problem. It’s important to take some time to find other solutions. The first thing that comes to mind is not always the best.
  • Shaping. Once the client starts to show signs of improvement it’s time to teach him new skills.
  • Modeling. This method consists of observing. The client learns through observing problem-solving illustrations that can be both written and verbal. Moreover, by using this method clients can implement it into real-life situations and cope with their problems easier.
  • Rehearsal & practice. The best way to learn something is through exercise. A therapist can role-play with the patient and practice solving real-life issues, or imaginary ones. This is a great way to learn a new skill.
  • Positive reinforcement & feedback. Trial and error is a normal part of problem-solving techniques. Even though the client doesn’t get it right from the beginning, it’s ok because this gives the opportunity to the therapist to provide them with feedback and an alternate solution.
  • Use of analogies & metaphors. Metaphors are a great way to explain something to the client in a simple manner. This will help them understand better a certain concept.

Problem-solving phases

a man in distress
PST will help you deal with your problems in a better way.

Finding a solution to your problems is not an easy task. Just like there are stages of grief there are stages in PST. There are a few phases that you need to go through first before you get to the bottom of your problem.

Phase 1: problem orientation

The first step to take before trying to find a solution to a problem is to adopt a positive attitude towards the conflict. We need to foster beliefs of self-efficacy, assuming that we can manage to resolve the conflict and identify those handicaps that we start with, such as lack of self-confidence.

On the other hand, it is important to change the vision we have of the problem. Instead of thinking about it negatively, which will make it difficult to find a solution, we must perceive it as a challenge that will help us grow personally and improve our skills.

Phase 2: define the problem

Once the person accepts the fact that there are problems and that it is possible to find a solution to those problems, it’s time for the second phase. Moreover, this is the part where a client needs to define and formulate the conflict adequately. Moreover, the person needs to identify the cause of the problem. Only once we do this, we can start brainstorming about the solution. To make this simple, you can even break down the problem and find solutions to those smaller problems. Sometimes this can help you deal with the problem easier.

Phase 3: find alternative solutions

There is always more than one solution to the problem. This is why you should try to find alternative ones. Do not respond impulsively and try to think about various solutions.  Moreover, take your time to think and try to relax and distract yourself. Our brain works better this way which will help you find better solutions. This is easier said than done, however with a bit of practice you will be able to relax and not rush yourself to find a solution. With time you will become better with this and you will deal with problems differently.

Phase 4: decision making

Now is the time to compare and judge the alternatives we found in the previous step. Based on the evaluation you do, you will select the best one or ones to put into practice concerning the problem we have.

Phase 5: implement the solution

Once you have found the solution the next step is to implement it and see if it brings positive results.

What can this type of therapy help you with?

This therapy is mostly known for resolving issues regarding depression and anxiety. However, this method can be used to solve many other issues.

  • Chronic stress due to accumulating minor issues
  • Complications associated with traumatic brain injury
  • Emotional distress
  • PTSD
  • Self-harm and feelings of hopelessness
  • Substance use
  • Suicidal ideation

Working with a therapist can help you identify your triggers and where they come from. When you know the cause, it’s easier to find the solution to the problem. Intrapersonal therapy helps with these issues. However, if you combine it with PST you will have even better results. You don’t have to choose between one or the other you can benefit from interpersonal therapy and PST at the same time.

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PST for anxiety

anxiety written on the small wooden cubes
Try combining CBT with PST to combat your anxiety.

The most common therapy for treating anxiety is CBT however, this in not the only one that is effective. It has been proven that PST can be as effective as CBT for some people. You will often find clinicians that mix both of these therapies in order to get the best possible results. The goal of both of these therapies is the same, and that is to lower the anxiety levels and get rid of your fears. No matter which approach you prefer make sure to look for the best online therapy for anxiety and choose one of the best counseling companies to help you with your anxiety issues.

Who can provide PST?

Now you must be wondering who to contact therapist vs life coach? A person doesn’t require special certifications in order to provide a PST. This is something that health care professionals can provide since they have required the knowledge needed for this in school and throughout their careers. However, there is special training that they can do in order to get even more familiar with the PST. With this in mind, you need to be careful when choosing a clinician that can deliver this kind of therapy.

You can ask your doctor to recommend you someone that uses this method. If your doctor doesn’t know you can look for the best online therapy platforms. There are many of them nowadays that can provide you with this type of therapy. Online therapy can be effective but in-person therapy can sometimes be more effective. Being able to see your body language is important for a therapist. By looking at your mannerism a therapist can recognize the inconsistencies between what you are saying and the way you are acting. This is something that is not possible if you are not in person.

a man and a woman laughing
Finding a good therapist is important. Make sure you do your research before you choose one.

There are many scammers that have no intent to help you. Their only goal is to take your money. Therefore, in order to recognize a bad therapist, you need to do some research. This way you will avoid losing your precious time on someone that is not going to help you.

The cost of the problem-solving therapy

Just like with any other therapy, the cost varies. It can start at $25 and go up to $150.This depends on the practitioner and their experience, the number of sessions, and the nature of your problem. Most of the time in-person therapy is expensive compared to online therapy.

While there are many advantages of online counseling it is always better to see someone in person. Most people need some time to open up and express the way their feel. And it feels more natural to talk about their issues in person rather than through a screen.

Certain insurance companies cover behavioral health, which reduces the costs of the therapy. Make sure to check if yours covers this in order to save some money.


CBT and PST are very similar. They both deal with mental and behavioral issues. But the main difference is that the PST has a better balance between thought patterns and behavioral elements. Some of the best online CBT therapy practitioners implement PST in CBT sessions. They believe that by doing this you will get better results.

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Practitioners use problem-solving therapy regularly, either alone or in combination with other treatments. The goal is to help the client deal with stressors and problems better, which will lead to them having a better quality of life. If you are interested in trying PST look into affordable online counseling for starters. Contact a professional and get informed on how this therapy could help you and your needs

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