Options for Solving Any Problem – DBT in Action

If you think about it, the human condition offers us of an almost infinite number of problems – issues with relationships, jobs, money, health, managing our homes, etc. Despite the wide range of problems we might encounter, there are a limited number of options for solving them.

According to DBT, there are four possibilities for action when addressing a concern:

  1. Solve the problem
  2. Feel better about the problem
  3. Accept the problem
  4. Stay miserable

As a simple example, let’s say you order a new couch. When it arrives, it just isn’t what you imagined it to be. Maybe the color is off. Or it doesn’t quite fit in your space. Whatever it is, you’re just not liking the piece. Using Option 1 (solve the problem) you might see about the store’s return policy or you might add some throw pillows to help with the color or add an accent chair if the couch is too small for your space. Option 1 relies on problem-solving and other skills from the emotion regulation and interpersonal effectiveness (when the problem is interpersonal) modules we teach in DBT.

Using Option 2 (feel better about the problem), you might focus on what you like about the couch. Maybe, despite its color or size, you find the couch comfortable or durable, so you bring your attention to that, focusing on what’s right or what works. You remind yourself that the couch is just one item in your home and that your happiness and well-being aren’t contingent upon everything you own. Maybe you focus on other pieces in your home you do enjoy. Option 2 calls upon the emotion regulation skills from DBT.

With Option 3 (accepting the problem), you accept that this is your new couch (even if you don’t like it). You drop the struggle, which means you stop fighting the reality that the couch isn’t right or should be different. You accept that you have a couch that you don’t like. While acceptance doesn’t mean that you like something, it does mean that you acknowledge that that is the reality. With Option 3, we make use of our distress tolerance and mindfulness skills from DBT.

Option 4 (stay miserable) is always an option, but it’s one that leads to suffering and one we hope you won’t often choose. With Option 4, you don’t use any DBT skills.

Can you think of a problem you’re currently facing? Now, see if you can workshop each of the options. What would each option look like in terms of addressing this concern? Keep in mind, you don’t necessarily have to pick only one; you can mix and match to arrive at a solution that works best for you. And, you might shift from one option to another over the course of time.

To learn all of the skills from the four modules of DBT (mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness) in a supportive group setting, contact us to learn more about our DBT skills training offerings.

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