It is common knowledge that a divorce may be one of the most difficult challenges a person faces in their lifetime. Recovering from divorce is a long process of change that requires hard work and effort. Typically when there is a problem, we tend to spend a great deal of time thinking, analyzing, and talking with others about what went wrong. However there is another school of thought. Rather than focusing on what went wrong (the problem) it is much more effective to work towards solutions. By looking forwards, towards solutions instead of backwards at the problems, allows the person to move into a position of being solution-focused rather than problem-focused.
Here are a few tips to shift from a problem-focused perspective to a solution-focused perspective.
Approach Divorce from Strengths’ Perspective: You have resources and strengths to resolve problems. Make a list of your strengths. Being aware of what you are good at helps build confidence. Believe in yourself and your abilities. Validate what you are already doing well. Ask yourself, “How did I do that?” or “How did I manage to keep it together?”
Be Optimistic: Being optimistic means you possess an overall positive outlook of the world, trusting that good things happen and desires will be fulfilled. All of us engage in many useful things even in times of overwhelming difficulties. We do manage to get out of bed, get dressed, go to work and accomplish other things that require great effort. An optimistic outlook helps you to maintain healthy expectations and hopefulness that good things will happen. View difficulties only as temporary. Create an image of what you want to happen in your life and then take decisive action. Pose the questions, “How have I managed to carry on?” Or “How have I managed to prevent things from getting worse?”
Explore Exceptions: There are times when a problem could occur, but it doesn’t. An exception is something that happens instead of the problem, often spontaneously and without conscious intention. Look for behaviors, perceptions, thoughts and feelings that contrast the problem. There are times when some aspect of your goal is already happening, to some degree, or at least the problem appears less severe. Repeat what has worked in the past and support yourself moving forward. Question yourself, “What is different about the times when this is less of a problem?”
Emphasize What’s Possible: Focus on what is possible and changeable rather than what is impossible and intractable. Develop realistic goals and break them down into achievable steps. Small accomplishments propel you forward while building optimism. Use creative critical thinking skills to solve and find creative solutions. If it doesn’t work, don’t do it. Once you know what works, do it more! Ponder, “What did I do that was helpful?”
Use Solution-Talk not Problem-Talk: Problem-talk creates problems whereas solution-talk creates solutions. Be curious and change your perspective. It is unnecessary to know the cause or function of the problem in order to resolve it. Create an image of what you want to happen in your life and take decisive action. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Envision your preferred future by describing what your life will be like when the problem is either gone or you are coping with it so satisfactorily that it no longer constitutes a problem. Pose the question, “What’s my vision of a preferred future in my coparenting relationship?”
Focus on the Present not the Past: This reflects the basic belief that problems are best solved by focusing on what is already working, and how you would like your life to be, rather than focusing on the past and the origin of problems. For example, ask “What will I (we) be doing in the next week that would indicate to me that I (we) am continuing to make progress in my coparenting relationship?” The past is a journey that has ended.
Becoming solution-focused is a starting point for initiating hope, and creating a more positive outlook towards change. It increases positive affect, decreases negative affect, and increases self‐efficacy. Realizing that you have the power to make positive changes will not only benefit you and your child but also your child’s other parent.
Ann Marie Termini, Ed.S., M.S., LPC