What are the 5 types of coping skills?

Coping skills are methods by which people handle problems and stresses in their lives. These are the five types of coping skills:

  1. Problem-focused strategies directly address the source of the distress, either through action or goal-setting. For example, a person who is behind on taxes due to financial constraints gathers the courage to call and arrange a payment plan. 

  2. Emotion-focused strategies involve "letting out" and processing feelings through dialogue, meditation, or activities. Someone using an emotion-focused strategy might use extreme sports, singing, or writing. 

  3. Seeking/understanding strategies compel the individual to find meaning in or a greater understanding of the stress source. They might consult an astrologer or clergy, engage in prayer or meditation, or make reasonable (or unreasonable) connections between the stress source and seemingly unrelated objects, events, or concepts. 

  4. Help-seeking strategies include calling a friend to vent about a problem, asking a trusted family member for advice, or seeking out professional treatment or guidance. 

  5. Problem-avoidance is "burying one's head in the sand", physically and mentally ignoring the problem in hopes that it will go away.

The individual might engage in activities that distract them from the problem, such as refusing to cross a street after a trauma-inducing pedestrian accident, (physical) or creating internal excuses absolving the cause of the problem—an abuser, for example—or convincing themselves they have no control over the problem.

Another form of problem avoidance is denial, when an individual refuses to acknowledge that the problem exists. In such cases, the person exhibiting problem-avoidance coping styles may immerse themselves in activities that distract them from the stress source and related negative thoughts.

Some coping strategies are adaptive, meaning they allow the individual to confront and adjust their attitudes and behaviors toward the issue; others are maladaptive, preventing them from overcoming the problem.


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