Problem Solving Issues & Strategies

Problem solving skills are components of executive functioning, which if you recall is the “boss” of the brain. Therefore, its job is to figure out what to do, how to do it, and make adjustments along the way. A person’s ability to problem solve effectively depends on first recognizing that there is indeed a problem (awareness) and then correctly identifying the problem, as well as potential solutions.

The challenges often seen with people who have sustained a brain injury are:

  • Leaping into a decision without considering all the facts.
  • Difficulty establishing right from wrong.
  • Inability to anticipate problems and work proactively.
  • Repeating mistakes without learning from experience.
  • Rigid thinking prevents alternative ways to solve a problem.
  • Decreased reasoning and difficulty weighing decisions.
  • Low frustration tolerance.

Use a consistent system to identify the problem, brainstorm solutions, make a plan, and evaluate the outcome.

Role-play or rehearse aloud how a problem will be solved.

Encourage self-reflection in the process (How am I doing? Am I stuck? Is this working?).

Provide clear and concise feedback during the process and afterwards.

Use visual checklists to stay on track.


Emotional state will have a large impact on problem solving. Managing frustrations and having flexible thinking are crucial frontal lobe skills that contribute to effective problem solving.