Decision-making training: what is it, structure, and how is it used?
What is decision making training and how is it used in the face of uncertainty?
Problems are an inherent part of life. The world in which we live often presents us with complex situations with which we must deal, and which provide the opportunity to develop our potential.
However, we also know that difficulty in solving problems is one of the main risk factors for the development of emotional disorders. The way we deal with them is therefore important for well-being.
Today, there are decision making training methods that have extensive evidence on how they work. that have extensive evidence on how they work in multiple areas of life, and whose application is a key part of many psychological treatment programs.
In this article we will review the Nezu and D'Zurilla model, as it is one of the best known and most effective. It was conceived with the aim of adapting to diverse contexts, in contrast to others whose range of application is more limited.
Nezu and D'Zurilla's Decision-Making Training.
The problem-solving program of these authors is a structured and sequential model, which stands out for its simplicity. It consists of 5 differentiated steps, and there is the possibility of going back to some of the stages already completed when certain circumstances are met, as will be detailed. This intervention is included in the category of cognitive-behavioral treatments.Although it is easy to understand, it requires practice to master.
The method is based on the rigorous analysis of the behaviors and coping strategies of people with excellent problem-solving skills, but presented in operational, clear and reproducible terms. In this section we will review all the steps, detailing their characteristics.
Phase 1: Problem perception
The authors of this problem-solving model emphasize the need to define exactly what problems are and what solutions are, as well as the different styles that people use to cope with the circumstances that generate stress. The understanding of these concepts is an essential previous step to integrate the rest of the phases that compose the program.Therefore, they are detailed below.
What is a problem?
A problem is understood as any situation in life that generates an adaptive response and sets in motion coping resources to find a solution. Thus, it can be considered as such the occurrence of a negative event, the loss of what is valued or esteemed, conflicts (decisions apparently opposed or in which the selection of one alternative implicitly implies the renunciation of another or others) and frustration (the appearance of obstacles that prevent the achievement of a goal).
The authors defend the idea that, at this stage, it is important to develop a perspective on problems that involves considering them as a challenge, not as a threat.and not as a threat.
What is a solution?
Solutions are all those behaviors that aim to provide an answer to a problem. Most of life's situations do not have a perfect solution.The best of all the possible ones, and this is the one we intend to locate and apply through training in decision making. Objectively modifiable situations will require direct actions, but those that are not will imply emphasizing their emotional consequences.
What are the basic coping styles?
Three basic coping styles can be distinguished: impulsive (a quick decision is made without weighing in depth all the possible angles of the problem or without foreseeing the consequences of the solution), avoidant (the implementation of a solution is delayed, delaying the coping or denying the existence of the problematic event) and rational (it is a balance between the two previous ones and is the one that is pursued with the application of the program).
Other aspects to consider
The choice of a possible solution must be made by considering not only the benefits and detriments to the individual, but also the impact that the decision taken may have on the environment. the impact that the decision taken may have on the environment..
Sufficient material resources must also be available for its implementation, and a level of commitment proportional to the size of the problem must be assumed. It is recommended that it should first be applied to simple situations, progressively increasing the demands of these.
Phase 2: Problem definition
A well-defined problem is a problem half solved.. Therefore, the first step to be taken is to write down on a sheet of paper (or similar physical support), in as simple a sentence as possible (maximum twenty words), the problem we wish to address. This is a process in which the situation is reflected upon in order to capture all its nuances. At this point, not only the what, but also the how, the when and the why should be assessed.
With this step we will be able to translate a complex situation, which is often difficult to define, into more operational and less ambiguous terms. We will be able to reduce uncertainty and be able to look at the facts in more objective terms. Achieving a wording that fits the reality of the problem may be difficult at first, but we must take the necessary time until we feel that the written words reflect accurately enough what is happening to us.
Along with the problem, we can also write the objective to be pursued, using simple terms and realistic expectations (otherwise the risk of abandonment will increase). If the goal we are pursuing is too complex or its resolution is too time-consuming, it is useful to break it down into smaller logical steps that will gradually bring us closer to it.
Phase 3: Generation of alternatives
In this phase a brainstorming is carried out, by means of which we elaborate all the action alternatives that we can think of to face the detected problem. This process is based on three principles: quantity (as many alternatives as possible), variety (approaching the situation from all fronts) and delayed judgment (indiscriminate selection of "anything that comes to mind").
Phase 4: Selection of an alternative
At this point, we should have a drafted problem and a more or less long list of possible alternatives.. Some of them will probably have seemed stupid while we were thinking about them, but we must remember that this is the moment reserved for their detailed evaluation, and not before. What we must do now is to evaluate them using two coordinates: the positive/negative aspects and the short/long term consequences.
To make it easier, we can draw a cross on a landscape sheet, letting each line cross it completely and divide the space into four equal parts for each corner, namely: top left (short-term positive aspects), top right (long-term positive aspects), bottom left (short-term negative aspects) and bottom right (long-term negative aspects). In these spaces we will write everything that comes to mind, thinking in detail.
Each alternative will require its own gridThe four possibilities mentioned above must all be evaluated. It is essential to bear in mind that we must incorporate into this reflection process the potential consequences of the decision on third parties and/or on oneself, as well as the economic or material feasibility of the possible solution being considered. It is key to dedicate the necessary time to this step.
Phase 5: Putting the alternative into practice and evaluation
In phase 5 we will have a problem written, along with all the alternatives that we came up with during the brainstorming and the consequent process of reflection on the positive and negative aspects of them, in the short and long term. It is time to make a decision and choose a plan of action.. There are two specific strategies for this, one quantitative and the other qualitative, but they are not mutually exclusive (both must be used to reach the final choice).
This phase is aimed at obtaining an "objective" evaluation of each alternative, which can give a clue as to its quality. Starting from a score of zero (neutral), We will add one point for each positive aspect detected and subtract one point for the negative ones.. Thus, if an option has three good and two bad, the score will be one. This analysis provides only a raw score, which needs a complementary qualitative view.
For this analysis we will make a personal assessment of the pros and cons, since the weight of each of them is subject to the values and goals of each of the people developing the technique. It is important to ensure that they are consistent with the objectives we set at the beginning of the exercise. The decision does not necessarily have to coincide with the quantitative assessment, although the one chosen tends to be the best valued from both perspectives.The decision does not necessarily have to coincide with the quantitative assessment, although usually the one that is chosen tends to be the best valued from both perspectives.
Once the alternative has been selected, it is necessary to commit to its implementation, since the previous analysis has been based on rationality and there is a high probability that it is the best of all possible alternatives. It is very important to carry out a periodic evaluation of the consequences that the chosen solution is having for the development of the situation, and whether the resulting events satisfy the initially proposed objective or not.
It is possible that we observe that the chosen alternative, after some time, is not giving the expected results.. In this case we have two options: keep it while we try to combine it with the second best option or decide to eliminate it and simply continue with the next one in the list. In the event that this new decision does not seem to be useful either, we can continue with the next one, until we find the appropriate one or notice that it does not appear in the list.
If we come to the definitive conclusion that none of the options listed will improve the problem, we will return to phase 3 (search for alternatives) and resume the process from this point. With this we will return to elaborate new possible solutions, with the added advantage that having gone deeper into the problem we will have an experience that we did not have before, so we will improve this second time.
If after this circumstance we run into a blocking situation again, it may be time to restart the process from the beginning.. It may be that the problem is not described exactly, or that the objective is unrealistic. In any case, even if the solution seems elusive, as long as we persist in our search, we will acquire greater skill in the procedure and we will come to automate the sequence of which it is composed.
- Anzel, G. (2016). Problem-Solving Training: Effects on the Problem-Solving Skills and Self-Efficacy of Nursing Students. Eurasian Journal of Educational Research, 64, 231-246.
- Nezu, A. and Nezu, C. (2001). Problem Solving Therapy. Journal of Psychotherapy Integration, 11(2), 187-205.
(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)