Iris Mini: Problem Solving Skills

“You can increase your problem-solving skills by honing your question-asking ability.” – Michael J. Gelb

Cancer presents numerous new problems, some of which you can solve, and others which you cannot. Problem solving skills can help you find a solution to some challenges that arise during cancer treatment. When stressed, it can be difficult to remember or access these skills.

Luckily, there are ways to think about problem-solving during stressful circumstances that can help you find solutions that ease cancer-related distress.

Four Essential Elements of Problem-Solving

The acronym COPE summarizes 4 essential elements of problem-solving education for people living with cancer and their families. These elements are important in developing a course of action that provides you and your family a greater sense of control while navigating a cancer diagnosis.

  • Creativity: Using a creative approach to generate solutions to illness-related problems

  • Optimism: Regulating emotions and maintaining a sense of competence

  • Planning: Following a thoughtful approach and thinking ahead

  • Expert information: Understanding the illness and your care needs as well as needs of caregivers

The process of solving a problem can be broken down into six steps. These steps will help you develop and implement an action plan for solving your problem (and managing your stress). Breaking the process down into steps can help separate large and overwhelming problems into more manageable parts. 

Six Steps of Problem Solving

1. Define the problem

2. List all possible solutions (as many as possible) 

3. List the advantages and disadvantages of each solution

4. Rate each solution

5. Implement a solution

6. Evaluate the outcome

Is this different than your usual approach to problem solving?

Houts, P.S., Nezu, A.Am., Nezu, C.M., & Bucher, J.A. (1996) A problem-solving model of family caregiving for cancer patients. Patient Education and Counseling, 27, 63-73.