Reframing: Finding Solutions Through a New Lens

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Carrie Steckl earned her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology with a Minor in Gerontology from Indiana University – Bloomington in 2001. She has spent over ...Read More

“Good reframe!” That’s a phrase heard frequently in our home. When either my husband or I find ourselves viewing something in a negative light – or feel stuck in a problem – we will try to reframe the problem for the other. For instance, I might feel discouraged that I’m such a slow runner. My husband will encourage me by saying something such as, “I know you feel like you’re running too slowly, but you’re still in great shape and you’re avoiding injury by not pushing yourself too hard.” This is when I thank him by saying, “Good reframe!”

Reframing essentially is when we choose to see a problem or situation in a new, more solvable or positive way. In counseling and psychotherapy, reframing is used to provide new learning experiences and to adjust faulty thinking patterns. It is one of my favorite techniques, both personally and professionally, because it helps us see our problems in more constructive, responsible ways.


Another significant advantage to reframing is that it is a pretty simple tool to use. Reframing consists of three steps:

  • Make sure you fully understand the problem. You may think you know why you’re having trouble completing that work project, but have you explored all of the possibilities? Is it only because your co-worker is difficult, or could it also be due to lack of adequate workspace or to your own anxiety about performing in a group?
  • Build a bridge. That is, build a bridge from your current viewpoint to a new way of looking at the problem. Acknowledge a part of your old view – because it came from you and you are valuable – but also suggest a new view that you can take credit for as your own. For instance, you might say, “Working with others on this project might be difficult, but it is also great experience and gives me a chance to demonstrate my knowledge about this topic.”
  • Reinforce the bridge. Do this by writing down the “reframe” and keeping it in a place where you can access it easily (e.g., your desk or smartphone). Then, each time you start to feel negative about the situation, pull out that reframe and read it to yourself.

Keep in mind that when you reframe, you aren’t just putting a happy face on the problem – you are actually uncovering something positive about the person or situation.

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Have you ever reframed a situation for yourself or someone close to you? If so, tell us about it. You just might help others learn how to master this important coping skill.


Young, M. E. (2013). Learning the art of helping: Building blocks and techniques (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

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