Decision making training structure and how it is used

Problems are an inherent part of life. The world we live in often presents complex situations with which we must deal and which represent the occasion for the development of our potential. In this article we will make you aware of the Decision making training.

However, we also know that difficulty solving problems is one of the main risk factors for developing emotional disorders. The way we deal with them, therefore, is important for well-being.

Currently, there are decision-making training methods that present extensive evidence about their functioning in various areas of life and whose application is an essential part of many psychological treatment programs.

In this article, we will review Nezu and D’Zurilla’s model, as it is one of the best known and most effective. It was designed to adapt to different contexts, in contrast to others whose scope of application is more limited.

Decision Making Training by Nezu and D’Zurilla

The problem solving program of these authors is a structured and sequential model, which stands out for its simplicity. It consists of 5 different stages, 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 falls under the category of cognitive-behavioral treatments, and while it is easy to understand, achieving mastery takes practice.

The method is based on rigorous analysis of behaviors and coping strategies of people with excellent problem-solving skills; but presented in operational, clear and reproducible terms. This section will review all the steps, detailing their characteristics.

Phase 1: Perception of the problem

The authors of this problem-solving model highlight the need to define exactly what the problems are and what the solutions are, as well as the different styles people use to deal with circumstances that cause stress. Understanding these concepts is an essential preliminary step to integrate the rest of the phases that make up the program , which are detailed below.

what is a problem

A problem is understood as any situation in life that generates an adaptive response and that initiates coping resources to find its solution. Thus, the occurrence of a negative event, the loss of what is valued or valued, conflicts (apparently conflicting decisions or in which the selection of an alternative implicitly implies the resignation of another or others) can be considered as such. and frustration (the emergence 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 the problems involved in considering them as a challenge and not as a threat.

What is a solution?

Solutions are all those behaviors that seek the objective of responding to a problem. Most of life’s situations do not have a perfect solution , but the best of all possible ones, which is what is intended to be located and applied through training in decision making. Objectively modifiable situations will call for direct action, but those that are not will involve emphasizing their emotional consequences.

What are the basic coping styles

It is possible to distinguish three basic styles of coping: the impulsive (a quick decision is taken without weighing in depth all possible angles of the problem or without anticipating the consequences of the solution), the avoidant (delaying the implementation of a solution is delayed, delaying the confrontation or denial of the existence of the problematic fact) and the rational (supposes a balance between the two previous ones and is what is sought with the application of the program).

Other aspects to consider

The choice of a possible solution must be carried out considering not only the benefits and damages to the person, but also the impact that the decision taken may have on the environment .

Likewise, sufficient material resources must be available for its realization and a level of commitment commensurate with the problematic entity must be assumed. It is recommended that, first of all, it be applied to simple situations, progressively increasing its demand.

Phase 2: problem definition

A well-defined problem is an average solved problem . Thus, the first step to be carried out is to write on a sheet of paper (or similar physical medium), using a sentence as simple as possible (twenty words maximum), the problem we want to address. It is a process that reflects on the situation in order to capture all its nuances. At this point, not only what, but also how, when and why should be valued.

With this step, we will be able to transfer a complex situation, usually difficult to define, into more operational and less ambiguous terms. We will be able to reduce uncertainty and look at the facts in terms of greater objectivity. Coming up with a wording that fits the reality of the problem can be difficult at first, but we need to take the time to consider that the written words accurately enough reflect what happens to us.

Along with the problem, we can also write the objective pursued, using simple terms and realistic expectations (otherwise the risk of abandonment will increase). If the objective we are pursuing is very complex or its resolution involves excessive time, it is useful to divide it into smaller logical steps whose achievement gradually brings us closer to it.

Phase 3: Generation of alternatives

In this phase, a brainstorming or brainstorming is carried out, through which we elaborate all the alternatives of action that occur to us to face the detected problem. This process is based on three principles: that of quantity (as many alternatives as possible), that of variety (approaching the situation from all fronts), and delay in judgment (indiscriminate selection of “anything that comes to mind”). .

Phase 4: Selection of an alternative

At this point, we should have a written problem and a more or less long list of possible alternatives . Some of them probably sounded silly while we were thinking about them, but we must remember that this is the time reserved for their detailed evaluation, not before. Now, what we need to do is 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 dividing the space into four equal parts for each corner, namely: upper left corner (short-term positive aspects), top right ( long-term positive aspects), lower left (short-term negative aspects) and lower right (long-term negative aspects). In these spaces we will write everything we can think of, thinking in detail.

Each alternative will require its own grid , as everything will have to be evaluated against the four possibilities mentioned. It is essential to keep in mind that we must incorporate in this reflection process the possible consequences of the decision on third parties and/or on oneself, as well as the economic or material viability of the possible solution being considered. It is essential to dedicate the necessary time to this step.

Phase 5: Implementation of the alternative and evaluation

In phase 5, we will have a written problem, together with all the alternatives that occurred to us during the brainstorm and the consequent process of reflection on their positive and negative aspects, in the short and long term. It’s time to make a decision and choose a plan of action . There are two specific strategies for this, one quantitative and one qualitative, but not exclusive (both must be used to reach the final choice).

Quantitative analysis

This phase aims to obtain an “objective” evaluation of each alternative, which can give a clue to its quality. From a score located at zero (neutral), we will add one point for each positive aspect detected and subtract one point for negative ones . Thus, if an option has three good and two bad, the score that will be assigned will be one. This analysis only offers a raw score, which needs a complementary qualitative view.

Qualitative analysis

For this analysis, we will make a personal assessment of the pros and cons, since the weight of each one of them is subject to the values ​​and objectives of each person who develops the technique. It is important to note that they are consistent with the objectives we set at the beginning of the exercise. The decision does not have to coincide with the quantitative assessment , although generally the chosen one tends to be the best evaluated in both perspectives.

And now what?

Once the alternative is selected, it is necessary to commit to its implementation, since the previous analysis was based on rationality and there is a high probability that it will be the best possible one. It is very important to carry out a periodic assessment of the consequences that the chosen solution is having for the development of the situation and whether or not the resulting events meet the initially proposed objective.

We can observe that the chosen alternative, after some time, is not giving the expected results . In that case, we have two options: keep it while you try to combine it with the next best option, or decide to eliminate it and simply continue with what was still on the list. In case this new decision does not seem to be useful, 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 given options can improve the problem, we will return to phase 3 (search for alternatives) and resume the process from this point. With this, we will go back to elaborating new possible solutions, with the additional advantage that, having deepened the problem, we will have an experience that we did not have before and, therefore, we will improve on this second occasion.

If, after this circumstance, we encounter a blocking situation again, it might be time to restart the process from the beginning . It may happen that the problem is not described exactly or that the objective is unrealistic. Anyway, even if the solution seems elusive, as long as we persist in our search, we will acquire greater skill in the procedure and automate the sequence of which it is composed.

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