Tips For Developing Problem Solving Skills in People With Schizophrenia

We’re bound to deal with conflict in our daily lives. It’s impossible to avoid, so we should try to be as ready as we can to deal with them when they come around. Learning how to develop problem solving skills is something that everyone should do, but it is especially important for people who live with someone who has schizophrenia.

How to develop problem solving skills
How to develop problem solving skills

Living with someone with schizophrenia can sometimes be challenging. There will likely be situations that are hard to resolve, which is why it is important to be prepared. Lack of personal hygiene, abandonment, and messiness are usually some common issues that you’ll face when living with someone with schizophrenia, which is why developing the necessary skills to be able to take on these situations is so important.

The other day we talked about how to live with someone with schizophrenia, and how we have to work two skills: communication and problem solving. Today, we’ll give you some tips for how to develop problem solving skills.

Before getting into problem solving strategies, you should know that there are various aspects that we need to keep in mind:

  • Problems are normal and are a part of our daily lives. We won’t always be able to avoid problems, which is why it’s important to learn how to deal with them when they arise.
  • We can all learn how to effectively solve problems.
  • Believing that we can solve a problem is half the battle.
  • Unfortunately, Superman doesn’t exist and we’re not “supermen”, which is why we may sometimes need hep from family members or professionals. It’s important to know who you can count on and how to get the resources that you need. You don’t have to do everything alone.
  • Follow your instincts: if you’re anxious or not sure about something, it may be an alarm that’s telling us that something isn’t right. Follow this instinct and act early on.
  • To solve the problem, it’s better to stop for a minute and think about the best option. Take a minute to think before acting.

Problem Solving Techniques

Problem solving skills are necessary to be able to identify problems and find solutions. It is something that we can learn to improve over time by following a few simple steps.

The first thing that I suggest you do is to write down a list of problems that you want to work on, and rate them depending on their importance (urgent and non-urgent), and how easy it is to face them (easy, difficult, no solution). This will help you know which problems you should work on first, which problems you need to get help with, and which problems you can’t solve and should try to let go.

Once you’ve figured out which problems you’re going to work on, you can start applying your problem solving techniques.

Steps for developing problem solving skills that you can use

STEP 1: Define the problem

You need to go through the problems one-by-one. Trying to solve everything at once will stress you out and making you feel like you can’t get everything done. This is why it is so important to choose the problem that you want to work on first, and then learn how to break it down in small, manageable steps.

That said, sometimes it’s hard to know exactly what problems are bothering our loved one with schizophrenia (or other mental health disorder). One way to find out is by asking yourself what things they’re having the hardest time with and how things can change.

Once you’ve identified the problem, grab a piece of paper and a pencil and answer the following questions:

  • When situation causes the problem?
  • When does the problem arise?
  • Where?
  • How often does it happen?
  • When do I do in these situations?
  • What do other people do in these situations?
  • What would I like to change?
  • What are some thing that I can’t change?

We recommend that you respond to these questions and write create a table to be able to see the problem more globally and in a general setting. You’ll also probably be able to reuse it to solve similar problems in the future, so you’ll be able to go back and look at it whenever you need to. You may want to try to fill it out with your loved one in a calm environment and when there are no other problems going on.

STEP 2: Create solutions

Make a list of possible and alternative solutions to the problem that you chose. We recommend that you let your imagination “fly” and do some brainstorming about all possible solutions, without thinking about how impossible or absurd they may be. Write down everything you think of. Later on you will go through and analyze each possibility, but this step is just for brainstorming, so write everything down.

STEP 3: Evaluate alternative possibilities while brainstorming

Once you’ve created your list of possible solutions, think about the possible consequences that each one may have. Write down this consequence next to each solution and question whether it is possible or useful.

STEP 4: Choose the best solution

After you’ve analyzed each option, or combination of possible solutions, it’s time to create a plan to make it happen. It’s important that you let everyone know who may be affected by the change (family, friends…) what the plan is and what may happen.

STEP 5: I have a plan!

Once you know how you’re going to solve the problem, you have to create a plan. Choose who will do each part and anticipate possible problems that will arise (and think of solutions about how to solve them). It’s always a good idea to reinforce each person who takes part in the process for each positive move.

STEP 6: Assess the results

Our plans and the actual results don’t always go according to plan… but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. If our plan didn’t work out how we wanted it to, we just got back to step 3 and try another alternative.

Assess the results
Assess the results

More tips on how to develop problem solving skills

If you ever need to solve problems related to the living situation with your family member with schizophrenia, it’s best to be understanding and compromise. It won’t help at all to get angry and yell or make someone do something they don’t want to do. Here are a few tips on making this process go smoothly:

Find a good time

The right time to have this conversation is not in the middle of an argument or when you’re angry. Find a time when you’re both calm and willing to talk openly.

Be clear and speak calmly

Bring up the subject clearly. Don’t use language that makes it seem like you’re blaming them and don’t get upset. It won’t help if you’re in the middle of talking about the problem and it causes an even bigger problem… Talk to them calmly and express your concerns clearly, without taking anything out of context.

Listen to what they have to say

Once you’ve brought up the issue, listen to what they have to say about it. Look at what their solutions are and what may be a good way to solve the problem.

Think about solutions together

Work together to come up with a solution that you’re both happy with. Let the other person bring up complaints, opinions, and solutions.

Come to an agreement

Once you’ve both talked about your issues and possible solutions, talk about which solution may be best for both (or all) of you. It is important to compromise. Remember that you both have to make the living arrangement work. Living with someone can be difficult on its own, but it may be especially difficult if the person has schizophrenia or any other mental health disorder.

Assess the agreement

Set a time to go over the plan. Remember to notice the small changes and appreciate them. Congratulate them on making their bed in the morning. If they did it everyday that week, make a special breakfast over the weekend.