How to be a better problem solver

Support work is challenging work with many demands placed on you. While completing the tasks of your shift, clients may share their concerns and problems with you. Sometimes it may be tempting to suggest to your clients a possible course of action or offer advice, instead of allowing them to solve the problem on their own.

With a few simple steps you can help them become a better problem solver, and at the same time develop your own problem solving abilities. Learning to solve problems allows you and your clients to have more flexibility in coping, as well as confidence in your ability to deal with other problems in the future. Applying these four key steps will help you and your clients to become better problem solvers.

  1. Define the problem – ask your client to list all the details of the problem as concretely as possible. It is important to help clients clarify the problem eg. “What is the most concerning thing about this situation?”
  2. Think of solutions – brainstorm with your client as many solutions as you can without criticising any of them (be as creative as you can be!!). Asking open ended ‘how’, ‘what’, ‘when’ and ‘where’ questions are best. Avoid asking ‘why’ questions or to predict the consequences of various alternatives eg. “What are some of the things you think you could do to solve this issue?”
  3. Choose one of the solutions – encourage the client to choose one alternative solution and ensure that it is realistic eg. “Which option do you think is best for you?”
  4. Put the solution into action – think of ways to put the solution into operation. “What’s the first thing you need to do now?”

It is important to remind clients that sometimes the first solution may not work, so expect to go back and forth from listing details to listing possible solutions. Sometimes you will go through several cycles

People who learn problem solving skills are more likely to cope effectively with stress. This also promotes independence in decision making and reflects a client-centred approach to your work.


Source: Jessica Newhouse, provisional psychologist from Independence Australia

If you have concerns for your client’s well-being, please let them know Independence Australia offers a counselling and psychology service for eligible people with a disability. Click here for more information.