A Strengths-Based Approach for Intervention with At-Risk Youth

A Strengths-Based Approach for Intervention with At-Risk Youth
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226
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978-0-87822-695-5
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5695
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A Strengths-Based Approach for Intervention with At-Risk Youth

Overview

By focusing attention on what is right with youth rather than what is wrong with them, the strengths-based approach to intervening with youth avoids negative outcomes commonly associated with deficit- or problem-based interventions. This book provides an accessible outline of the strengths-based approach and details 41 interventions across several strengths domains.

CONTENTS

Part 1: Overview of a Strengths-Based Approach
Chapter 1—Strengths-Based Approach: What, When, How, Where, Why?
Chapter 2—Evidence-Based Support
Chapter 3—Thinking Back to Childhood Experiences
Chapter 4—Holistic Perspective: Prevention, Assessment, and Intervention
Chapter 5—Promoting Resiliency in Youth
Chapter 6—Motivating and Engaging Youth
Chapter 7—Enhancing Youths’ Openness and Honesty
Part 2: Strengths-Based Interventions
Chapter 8—Strengths-Based Interventions: An Overview
Chapter 9—Relationship Development
Chapter 10—Optimistic Attitude Development
Chapter 11—Asset Development
Chapter 12—Prosocial Development
Chapter 13—Intellectual Development
Chapter 14—Provider Development

Practitioners in school, clinical, and community settings will find the book’s numerous case examples, practical suggestions, and reproducible forms and handouts invaluable in the provision of day-to-day youth services.

Praise for A Strengths-Based Approach for Intervention with At-Risk Youth

“Dr. Powell’s 41 strengths-based interventions provide well-supported and practical strategies that illuminate the science and art of working with at-risk youth. This book is a ‘must read’ for new therapists, clinical supervisors, and experienced therapists who need a fresh and optimistic perspective.”

—Tom Leversee, LCSW, Colorado Division of Youth Corrections

“In a world where many times teachers and administrators are looking to label and remove a student from a classroom, the interventions detailed in this book will allow one to take a different approach with a difficult case and hopefully end up in a much better place…I must admit I was left with a positive and energized feeling about the sheer number of positive interventions that could be implemented to meet some pretty trying situations.”

—Robert J. Dixon, PhD, NCSP, Communiqué, published by The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP)

“Dr. Kevin Powell has used his experience with adolescent youth to write a very readable and comprehensive review of a strengths-based approach. . . . The reader will come away with a solid perspective on this very important approach to intervention.”

—Ernest L. Chavez, PhD, Department of Psychology, Colorado State University

Additional Comments About the Book

“An excellent book for those starting out in this field, it is also a wonderful reminder to those of us who have been around for some time of the importance of ensuring that our approaches continue to help build resilience in our young clients through strengths-based work and interventions.”

—Russ Pratt, Dpsych, Department of Health and Human Services, Melbourne, Australia

“It is evident from Kevin Powell's numerous and poignant case examples that he and the strengths-based framework are gifts to the youth with whom he works and the staff for whom he teaches and models. A Strengths-Based Approach for Intervention with At-Risk Youth shares these gifts with us all. Dr. Powell's 41 strengths-based interventions provide well-supported and practical strategies that illuminate the science and art of working with at-risk youth. This book is a ‘must read’ for new therapists, clinical supervisors, and experienced therapists who need a fresh and optimistic perspective.

During a recent hike in the Rocky Mountains, my eye was caught by a rock that was brightly illuminated by the sun. When I removed it from the direct light, it looked plain and nondescript. At the time, I was reading Dr. Powell's book, and I immediately saw this as a metaphor for working with at-risk youth. Too often, the systems and agencies through which our at-risk youth pass see only the plain rock, with its numerous problems and deficits. Kevin Powell's 41 strengths-based interventions and numerous case examples provide well supported and practical strategies that illuminate youths’ strengths as well as illuminating the science and art of working with at-risk youth.”

—Tom Leversee, LCSW, Colorado Division of Youth Corrections

“Early in his book, Dr. Powell states that a strengths-based approach is an underlying manner of thinking, feeling, communicating and intervening. In the rest of this well-researched work, he provides a valuable road map for putting the approach into practice. While in the midst of reading this book, I found myself automatically framing issues and problems in a more strengths-based manner, freeing up myself and clients to find productive ways forward.”

—Mike Munday, LCSW, Child Guidance Center Therapeutic Group Home, Lincoln, Nebraska

“Dr. Powell’s book provides a welcome and comprehensive synthesis of current strengths-based approaches with at-risk youth, including a survey of the relevant historical and theoretical roots of such approaches. In addition, the book identifies and presents an eclectic mix of strengths-based interventions and tools that are immediately applicable in a variety of clinical settings. By focusing on promoting and facilitating a youth’s and/or family’s existing resources and resilience, engaging the youth from an optimistic stance, and highlighting the potential for change and growth, the strength-based approach and interventions can energize the therapy process not only for clients but for clinicians as well. The book will be particularly useful for those working with juveniles with sexual offending issues or other delinquent behaviors because these youth often encounter a more punitive and accountability-focused approach in therapy. By integrating strength-based interventions, a more alliance-based relationship can be allowed to develop, thus enabling youth and families to access and strengthen areas of competence, mastery, self-regulation, and executive functioning skills.”

—Kevin Benesch, PhD, Child Guidance Center, Lincoln, Nebraska

“Kevin Powell's new book, A Strengths-Based Approach for Intervention with At-Risk Youth, is the type of book that every practitioner who works with youth should have on the shelf. In Part 1 of the book, Dr Powell takes us briefly through an overview of the strengths based approaches, including the research base pertaining to strengths-based work. Part 2 takes us step-by-step through 41 actual interventions which he has helpfully divided into six categories. Case examples strengthen our understanding of how these interventions can assist those who work with youth to focus on the inherent strengths that can be found in all youth and avoid the temptation to focus on the obvious deficits which lead these youth into difficult situations. Many times while reading the book I found myself nodding in furious agreement with Dr. Powell's insights and summations. An excellent book for those starting out in this field, it is also a wonderful reminder to those of us who have been around for some time of the importance of ensuring that our approaches continue to help build resilience in our young clients through strengths-based work and interventions.”

—Russ Pratt, Dpsych, Department of Health and Human Services, Melbourne, Australia

“Dr. Kevin Powell has used his experience with adolescent youth to write a very readable and comprehensive review of a strengths-based approach. Dr. Powell has both reviewed the literature on strengths-based interventions and given us concrete examples from his own clinical experience regarding these principles. The new practitioner, as well as youth service providers from many disciplines (mental health therapists, teachers, psychologists, psychiatrists, direct care residential staff, caseworkers, probation and parole officers, judges, attorneys, and police officers) will find the book very useful in that it illuminates the basic ideas underlying strengths-based interventions and provides useful clinical insights. The reader will come away with a solid perspective on this very important approach to intervention.”

—Ernest L. Chavez, PhD, Department of Psychology, Colorado State University

Reproducible Forms and Handouts

Reproducible forms and handouts for this title are available on our downloads page.

Author Interview

Dr. Kevin M. Powell, author of A Strengths-Based Approach for Intervention with At-Risk Youth, discusses his new book designed for counseling professionals working with at-risk youth.


Why did you write this book?

Educational and treatment services for at-risk youth have historically focused their attention on disruptive behaviors and other identified problems. This focus can increase defensiveness and lead to negative outcomes. I wrote this book to help counteract this problem-oriented emphasis. Being strengths-based is hands-down the most effective approach I have found for helping youth and their families build strengths and resiliency and promoting positive, psychologically healthy outcomes.

What are the best features of this book?

One of the best features is that it provides a toolbox of specific interventions. Rather than just focus on the theory behind a strengths-based approach, I placed an emphasis on specific interventions. I included many case examples to help illustrate how to implement the interventions.

Another feature I should mention is the user friendly way the interventions are organized. They are broken down into six categories based on what the interventions specifically target. For example, if the reader is interested in interventions that can help establish positive relationships with youth and their family members, there are specific strategies for how to do that in the “Relationship Development” chapter. If the reader is working with a youth struggling with hopelessness, the “Optimistic Attitude Development” chapter provides specific strategies for how to promote hope. The book is set up so the reader does not have to read the book in a linear fashion; instead, it’s possible to jump around to the chapters that are most relevant.

Who should read this book?

The target audience for this book is counselors, teachers, psychologists, psychiatrists, residential staff, caseworkers, probation officers, parole officers, and anybody else who works with youth and families. I also wrote the book specifically for students who are pursuing careers in the human service professions. Having a strengths-based foundation is so important to being effective in this field. The book is also relevant for parents and other caregivers in their quest to raise psychologically healthy, prosocial children and future adults.

What do you see as the main benefit to being strengths-based in youth services?

One of the main benefits is simply how effective this approach is for establishing positive relationships with youth and families. Being strengths-based is the best way I know how to make a positive connection. We know from treatment outcome research that the relationship is a powerful factor. Once a positive relationship has been established, provider effectiveness in treatment and educational settings is much greater.

Another benefit is that being strengths-based decreases the risk of provider burnout. When youth service providers approach life from a deficit-based perspective, they are not only less successful in their interactions with others but also at much higher risk for burning out.

What would you say to people who worry that being “strengths based” means you are ignoring problem behaviors?

Being strengths based is actually a very effective method for addressing problem behaviors. Helping youth to focus on healthy alternative behaviors often reduces problems. In addition, this approach helps create an environment in which youth feel safe to let down their guard and openly address their problem behaviors. Strengths-based providers do address problems: They are just strategic about when and how to broach these topics.

What evidence do you have that strengths-based interventions work?

All of the strengths-based interventions described in the book have been used successfully in educational and clinical settings. In addition to reflecting my clinical experience with these interventions, the book includes a chapter highlighting evidence-based support, and research is also cited throughout the book. All the foundational principles of the strengths-based approach have empirical support, including the power of positive relationships, resiliency protective factors, and solution-focused interventions. One of the true strengths of this approach is that it is not a set curriculum but rather an underlying foundation to guide services. This allows youth service providers flexibility to meet the individualized needs of youth and families.

Do you have any final thoughts about the book?

Using a strengths-based approach in youth services and in life can lead to many positive outcomes. It has kept me energized in this field for three decades. My hope is that this book helps to more clearly define what a strengths-based approach is and shows how it can be implemented in day-to-day work with youth.


For additional information on Research Press author Kevin M. Powell, please visit his author page.