Problem-Solving Skills Training (PSST)

Solve puzzlePurpose

PSST is designed to teach the skills involved in effective problem-solving, including skills that address practical problems faced by caregivers.


See specific description of tasks for each session in PSST provided below.

Target Population

PSST was developed to provide PST to parents of children with cancer and other illnesses.

Clinical Protocol. Sessions can be structured as follows:

Training Session 1 (or more as necessary)

  1. Review general clinical guidelines
    a. Establish the parent–interventionist relationship
    b. Display interest in the parent as a person and in the child’s problem (i.e., PSST should be provided in the context of a supportive relationship)
  2. Introduce the PSST program
    a. Explain general problem-solving strategies
    b. Present and discuss the parent manual
  3. Review the specific problems and stressors reported by the parent
    a. Ask the parent to discuss the relevant problems
    b. Ask the parent to select the problem to work on first. (This can be any problem, not just a cancer-specific problem)
  4. Discuss parent worksheets in detail
    a. Complete problem analysis chart together
    b. Complete possible solutions and potential barriers chart
  5. Assign homework
    a. Ask the parent to carry out the solution which she or he ranked as most likely to succeed
    b. Ask the parent to complete action and results chart by next session
    c. Discuss concepts behind identifying automatic thoughts and feelings chart and ask the parent to complete by next session
  6. Give overview of format for subsequent sessions
    a. Stress importance of completing homework assignments
    b. Provide contact information so parent can ask questions between sessions

Training Sessions 2–6

  1. Go over homework assignment in detail
    a. Review all completed charts carefully
    b. Work on a problem together in session
    c. Assign new homework

Training Sessions 7–8

In addition to above, discuss need for supportive partner to assist in problem-solving skills development over time after intervention is completed

Outcomes Research References

Sahler, O., Fairclough, D., Phipps, S., Mulhern, R., Dolgin, M., Noll, R., Katz, E., Varni, J.W., Copeland, D., & Butler, D. (2005). Using problem-solving skills training to reduce negative affectivity in mothers of children with newly diagnosed cancer: report of a multisite randomized trial. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 73, 272–283.

Varni, J. W., Sahler, O. J., Katz, E. R., Mulhern, R. K., Copeland, D. R., Noll, R. B, et al. (1999). Maternal problem-solving therapy in pediatric cancer. Journal of Psychosocial Oncology, 16, 41–71.

Clinical Approach References

Iobst, E.A., Alderfer, M.A., Sahler, O.J., Askins, M.A., Fairclough, D.L., Katz, E.R., Butler, R.W., Dolgin, M.J. & Noll R.B. (2009). Problem solving and maternal distress at the time of a child’s diagnosis of cancer in two-parent versus lone-parent households. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 34, 817-821.