Problem-Solving Therapy
This web site provides information and resources about Problem-Solving Therapy (PST)
PROBLEM-SOLVING THERAPY

Problem-Solving Therapy (PST) is a psychosocial intervention, generally considered to be under a cognitive-behavioral umbrella, that is geared to enhance one’s ability to cope effectively with both minor (e.g., chronic daily problems) and major (e.g., traumatic events) stressors in order to attenuate extant mental health and physical health problems.

The major treatment goals of PST include:

  • The adoption of an adaptive worldview or orientation towards problems in living (e.g., optimism, positive self-efficacy, acceptance that problems are common occurrences in life), and

  • The effective implementation of specific problem-solving behaviors (e.g., emotional regulation and management, planful problem solving)




HISTORICAL BACKGROUND (click here for reference list)

  • In 1971, Drs. Tom D’Zurilla and Marv Goldfried, published an article that described a prescriptive model of effective problem solving, hypothesizing that individuals able to cope more successfully with real-life difficulties and strains would also be more "psychologically healthy"

  • In the mid-1970's, Art Nezu, working as a grad student with Tom D'Zurilla conducted several studies that confirmed many of the theoretical tenets of this model (e.g., D'Zurilla & Nezu, 1980; Nezu & D'Zurilla, 1979, 1981a, 1981b)

  • Nezu, D'Zurilla and colleagues later developed a relational/problem-solving model of stress (e.g., D'Zurilla & Nezu, 1999; Nezu, 1986a, Nezu, Nezu, Saraydarian, Kalmar, & Ronan, 1986; Nezu & Ronan, 1985, 1988) that is the precursor to the current problem-solving, diathesis-stress model of coping and adaptation (Nezu, Nezu, & D'Zurilla, 2013) that provides for an understanding of how PST can be an effective approach for helping people deal more effectively with significant stressors. This updated model is based on recent research in emotional regulation and neurobiology (see Nezu et al., 2013, chap. 2)

  • In the 1980s, Nezu and colleagues developed a PST-based intervention to treat major depressive disorder, which was found through a series of randomized controlled trials to be an effective treatment for MDD (e.g., Nezu, 1987; Nezu, 1986b; Nezu, Nezu, & Perri, 1989; Nezu & Perri, 1989)

  • Since these early outcome studies, PST has come to be viewed as an evidenced-based psychosocial treatment for a wide variety of psychological disorders and patient problems (Nezu, 2004; Nezu et al., 2013) (click here for listing of clinical applications)
RATIONALE

PST is based on the following precepts (Nezu, Nezu, & D'Zurilla, 2013):

  • Stress can lead to a variety of emotional and mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, and feelings of hopelessness

  • Stress can also increase the likelihood of experiencing certain medical problems (e.g., heart disease, diabetes, hypertension); stress can also lead to worsening of such symptoms


  • Effective SPS has been found to be an important moderator of this stress-distress relationship; in other words, successful coping with stress, via effective SPS, serves to buffer or attenuate the negative effects of stress, thus supporting the notion that teaching people to become better problem solvers can reduce psychopathology and enhance resilience. To learn more about the research supporting the efficacy of PST, click here
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