Brief Problem Solving and Goal Setting

A fourth option is to assist the family with problem solving or goal setting which can be accomplished in the context of a few family meetings. This may be appropriate for some circumscribed family problems, or if the therapist believes that a few, relatively small behavior changes might make a big difference to the depressed individual or to his/her family. For example, a depressed patient who believes "I must take care of everything in the house or else it won't get done" may take on a lot ofhousehold responsibilities, but also feel overwhelmed and resentful. This pattern could be explained to the family in a family meeting and family members might brainstorm ways to help the patient, choose to make a list of chores for which each family member is responsible, and set a goal to follow through on that list.

To conduct problem solving, the therapist explains to the family the standard steps of problem solving (e.g., defining a problem, brainstorming possible solutions, discussing the pros and cons of these solutions, deciding upon a solution, and evaluating the solution). The therapist can assist the family in walking through these steps to manage a specific problem. Because this is not full-scale family therapy, the focus is less on learning the process of problem solving (although the process should be explained) and more on solving a particular problem. The limitation of this strategy is that because it is not full-scale therapy, the number and complexity of problems that can be considered are circumscribed.

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