Positive Life Changes: A Cognitive-Behavioral Intervention for Adolescents and Young Adults

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Positive Life Changes: A Cognitive-Behavioral Intervention for Adolescents and Young Adults
Nancy G. Guerra
Research Press
3 Workbooks, approximately 100 pages/$21.95 each; 1 Leader’s Guide, 117 pages/$25.95; Complete Program $82.60; all spiral-bound.

This curriculum helps young people from ages 13 to 25 to develop practical skills for facing common challenges and planning life goals. Flexibly designed for use in prevention or intervention programs in schools or alternative settings, it can be adapted for small groups or for individuals working with a mentor or counselor.

Its three units can be used separately or in sequence. Each has a workbook where participants record their own profiles and responses, creating a diary-like record of self-exploration and goals.

Author Nancy Guerra, a professor of psychology at the University of California at Riverside, also directs the Southern California Academic Center of Excellence on Youth Violence Prevention. Her extensive writings and trainings on promoting youth health and well-being are evident in this program.

The Leader’s Guide emphasizes that learning everyday problem-solving is essential for all young people and is known to prevent youth violence; lessons are designed for everyone, not just for youth with behavior problems.

The guide explains the program’s basis in research that links healthy development and prevention of problem behaviors with three areas. The first comprises five core competencies: a positive sense of self, self-control, a moral belief system, social connectedness, and decision-making skills. The second is mindfulness-based cognitive therapy that reduces stress and negative emotions by developing inner awareness. The third is social-cognitive skills – problem-solving strategies that process social information.

Lesson plans keyed to specific pages in all three workbooks make up the bulk of the guide, which includes tips for leading role-playing and discussion, and strategies for working with those who need help with reading and writing – strong requirements for this workbook format. Assessment forms and ideas for adapting sessions to restricted settings are provided. Each workbook’s 10 lessons last about an hour apiece.

Workbook 1 is Who Am I and Where Am I Going? Participants create an extensive personal profile and are introduced to mindfulness with a menu of five exercises to practice, such as deep breathing and self-talk. Particularly strong is Lesson 3, “Me and My Brain,” based on recent research showing that development of the prefrontal cortex – which governs impulse control and decision-making – can take until age 25. It offers skills that teenagers can learn to build a better brain sooner: organization, focus and flexibility. By the time participants complete this workbook, they will have constructed their own code of ethics and strengthened their willpower and anger management – and projected their future purpose in life.

Workbook 2 is How Do I Get Along with Others? Empathy, helping others, friends and “frenemies,” romance and peer pressure are examined through exercises such as responding to typical school or neighborhood scenarios and listing names of people who form “My Circle of Support.”

Workbook 3 is How Do I Solve Problems and Make Good Decisions? After ordinary problems and dire consequences of poor decisions are discussed, the remaining chapters are devoted to each of the “Eight Steps to Personal Success,” a system for making good decisions.

Presented with the clarity and focus encouraged in its lessons, this well-conceived curriculum is sure to engage young people of all kinds and may be life-changing for many. (800) 519-2707, www.researchpress.com.