from: Restoring Sanctuary: A New Operating System for Trauma-Informed Systems of Care by Sandra L. Bloom, Brian Farragher on adaptive vs. technical problems in helping relationships.
In human service delivery, we have a historical burden to carry in that there is a long-standing belief that in our line of work we are dealing with technical problems. A client carries a diagnosis, and that means we give him or her a medication or a specific behavioral plan and the client should respond. Technical problems generally lend themselves to cookbook kinds of solutions such as “Ten Easy Steps to Put Your Backyard Grill Together” or “The Proper Procedure for Filling XYZ Form.”
But in reality, the problems we are dealing with are generally adaptive problems, problems that have never been solved before. We may have solved a problem like this one before but not this one. This is a different client. This is a different day, a different year. The people involved in delivering the new response are different. There are always different variables that make this problem different from the last one. Every story is a different story; every reenactment is a different reenactment.
Because our work is so complex and outcomes are so uncertain, we yearn for technical problems; as a result, we often treat adaptive problems as if they were technical problems.
This is not meant to suggest that addiction is a adaptive. However, many of the behavioral, social, cognitive, emotional, psychiatric and spiritual barriers we face are adaptive.