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Four DBT Problem-Solving Techniques

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puzzle of a brain, hand is positioning the final puzzle piece in the center, to illustrate a problem solving lightbulb moment

Norman Vincent Peale once said, “how you think about a problem is more important than the problem itself.” At times we can find ourselves at a crossroads where we need to make a decision. However, we may feel stuck and don’t know how to proceed. Next time you feel unsure on how to resolve a problem, try these four dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) problem-solving techniques.

1 – Solve the problem:

With this problem-solving technique, you can change the situation by avoiding, leaving, or getting out of the situation for good. This involves the use of different skills, such as communication skills to express your wants/needs in a situation or to negotiate in a situation. This can also involve looking at the pros and cons of a situation. What would be the pros and cons of leaving the situation? What would be the pros and cons of staying in the situation? It is important to look at both sides and determine what best fits your values and long term goals.

2 – Feel better about the problem:

In order to feel better about the problem, you can use skills to regulate your emotions. This may look like acting the opposite of what your feeling tells you. For example, if you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation and want to avoid people or a place, the opposite of that would be to fully engage in the situation or engage with the person. This is helpful when the emotion is doing more harm than good. You can also work towards decreasing your vulnerability to feeling intense emotions by eating nutritious meals, drinking the recommended amount of water per day, getting 8 hours of sleep, engaging in physical activity, and taking care of yourself when you feel physically ill.

3 – Tolerate the problem:

In order to learn how to tolerate the problem, we have to learn to identify feelings that come up with the situation. Ask yourself what feelings come up from your situation and why you are in a predicament/trying to solve the problem in the first place. After recognizing and identifying your emotions, you can then practice mindfulness to bring yourself back to the present moment. Alternatively, after noticing your emotions, you can choose to use a distress tolerance skill in order to tolerate the moment. If you are in a crisis situation, you may think about using Temperature to shock your system. You can also make playlists for different moods that you can listen to when you are feeling anxious, excited, irritable, or down.

4 – Stay miserable:

If we can’t make a change, aren’t ready to shift our perspective, or can’t accept a situation, we might end up feeling miserable, and that’s alright. It’s okay to do nothing until we are ready. Keep in mind that staying miserable can lead to no changes, or can lead to the situation getting worse. Maintain awareness of the situation until you are ready to do something else.

Many people feel as though there are two ways to problem-solve situations, and it’s to be fully in or remove yourself. The 4 DBT problem-solving techniques challenge us to think about how we can solve a problem. We can choose to avoid or leave a situation, feel better about the problem, tolerate the problem, or choose to stay miserable and not do anything. If you find yourself in a predicament, the 4 DBT problem-solving techniques are extremely helpful in deciding how to proceed.

Nina Iraheta wears a light blue sweater and has long dark hair streaked with blonde. She has a bright, kind smile.

About Nina Iraheta

In my free time I like to read, hang out with my cat, and attend live shows. I love a good suspense/thriller book, however I also love to spend the night singing along to my favorite artists at live shows! I also love to enjoy nature, go hiking, and it is a hope of mine to visit all of the national parks in the United States!

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