(862) 203-4648 | Contact Us | FAQ

Home I want to be a better problem solver. What is a step by step approach?

I want to be a better problem solver. What is a step by step approach?


Break the law, be arrested, be detained, receive education and then be back again in the juvenile justice system. This was a pattern that Yale University psychologist Elena Grigorenko, PhD psychologist and her colleagues noticed among the youth in Connecticut in the early 2000s. 

So together with the  American Psychological Foundation (APF), they wanted to know whether introducing behavioral interventions by teaching the youth problem solving skills  would make them break the law-breaking pattern.

They were taught: 

  • Social Problem-Solving Training (SPST) that includes problems solving skills and social skills
  • Application of problem solving skills through role playing
  • How to resolve a situation peacefully 
  • How to think logically in making decisions
  • How to manage anger and other strong emotions
  • How to interact with others in social situations

Other studies have shown that problem solving skills promote peace, creativity in coming up with solutions, understanding the consequences of our actions, and our improved ability to interact with others. 

That is why problem-solving in all age levels is an important and beneficial skill to develop. 

A step-by-step approach to problem solving:

  • Define and clarify the problem. 

The more you understand about the problem, the better you can address it. Here are some questions to define and clarify the problem: 

  1. What is the specific problem? Get to the root cause. 
  2. What might be the underlying causes of the problem? 
  3. What are the effects of the problems? 
  4. What information and where can you gather information about the problem and its causes? 
  5. After identifying the problem and its cause/causes, prioritize which the topmost issue to be solved. Which one is urgent and its control helps to solve other identified problems? 

Writing all the information down and using tools like “why method” or the cause and effect diagrams helps you see the overall picture clearly. 

  • Brainstorm to generate solutions. 

Propose several alternatives and consider each one based on their value in order to find the most ideal solution. Read on brainstorming methods to encourage you to  come up with creative solutions. Instead of eliminating the solutions after they are proposed, gather all ideas first, then write their pros and cons.

    • Which idea solves the problem without creating other issues? 
    • Is the chosen idea acceptable to you? This increases your confidence during the implementation phase. 
    • Does the solution align with your vision, mission, goals and values? 

  • Implement the chosen solution and monitor progress. 

Implementing the solution requires a detailed plan of action.

  • Make the steps as detailed as possible and include indicators for success that you can measure. 
  • If possible, have someone important to you give feedback on your progress. 
  • Create a timeline for each step of the plan and measure timeliness. 

Your performance indicators and feedback from others help you adjust and improve your actions. 

So whether you are a young person trying to improve your social skills, or an adult who wants to continuously grow more grit and improve your confidence in your ability to solve problems, studying and applying these steps in problem-solving  can help you manage and solve both personal and interpersonal challenges! 

Talk to a licensed mental health therapist or psychologist to help you gain techniques for effective problem-solving. 

I want to be a better problem solver. What is a step by step approach?
Brandon Resasco