Thursday, May 25, 2006

Finding Solutions to Your Trading Problems

Note: Well, it's been inconvenient: stuck in Toronto overnight when Chicago's airports shut down last night. I will resume TraderFeed analytics tomorrow and will update the Trading Psychology Weblog tonight. Sorry for the delays in posting.

My talk at the Annual Meeting of the American Psychiatric Association in Toronto yesterday afternoon concerned solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT). I continue to find it one of the most applicable short-term change technique to trading problems. It has also been used commonly and successfully with relationship and parenting concerns, as well as with overcoming personal barriers to reaching goals.

What makes the solution-focused approach unique is that it starts with the assumption that many problems that emotionally healthy people encounter are the results of their becoming too problem focused. In other words, once people become convinced that they have a problem, their subsequent actions unwittingly reinforce this problem, creating a damaging, circular pattern.

The classic example is the person who doesn't sleep well for a couple of evenings. He becomes convinced that he has an insomnia problem, and now starts worrying about his problem and taking extra steps to *make* himself sleep. All of these simply interfere with normal sleep processes and prolong the original concern.

This occurs with traders as well. Just as there can be chance streaks of wins, there are random losing streaks. Once traders define these as "slumps", they alter their trading, becoming overly cautious at times and overly aggressive to regain losses at other times. These changes to normal, good, planful trading only make the slump worse, creating the self-reinforcing problem.

The solution-focused approach gets away from this problem immersion and, instead, emphasizes *exceptions* to problem patterns. These are potential solutions.

For instance, it is very common that traders even in bad slumps make some good trades and have some good days and weeks. The solution-focused approach takes a hard look at these and pushes traders to identify what they're doing right when they're making money. These exceptions to slumps become positive behaviors that can then be codified as trading rules and mentally rehearsed before each day's trade. Pretty soon, the trader is doing more of what works and no longer feels in a slump.

The solution-focused approach suggests that sometimes the problem is not a deeply rooted psychological conflict. Sometimes we become too problem focused for our own good. No one ever succeeded merely by reducing or eliminating negatives. Our strengths are all we have to build upon.

Note: The Articles page of my personal site has free articles related to solution-focused techniques and trading.