Prevention Corner

How can a student learn about prevention groups?

A psychology major asks for help with finding a program in prevention groups without changing schools.

By Elaine Clanton Harpine

Editorial Question Posed

Dear Prevention Corner:

I'm a psychology major trying to decide on my career goals.  I want to work with teenagers from poor communities and help teens accomplish their dreams.  My advisor says that I should look for a school that offers a program in prevention groups.  I can't find anything. I also cannot financially afford to change schools right now.  Is there any way for me to learn more about prevention groups without moving to a new University?

Just Wondering


Dear Just Wondering:

The lack of training programs in group prevention has become a major topic of discussion.  We referred to several universities that offer programs in group prevention in an earlier Prevention column.  This very topic was also discussed this summer at the American Psychological Association's national convention in Hawaii.  A panel of experts discussed how some universities offer full semester length courses in prevention, and other universities filter prevention techniques into their traditional courses.  Unfortunately, if you are unable to transfer to a university which offers a more prevention or community focused area of study, you might try supplementing your present coursework through continuing education workshops and special training programs in group prevention.  The APA convention will be in Washington D.C. in August 2014 and always offers several training programs and seminars on prevention.  There are books, workshops and online sites which offer assistance and training for those working in group prevention.  You can search the term group prevention and find a wealth of information on-line.

I noticed in your letter that you mention helping teenagers to fulfill their goals and dreams.  This is a wonderful idea.  Before you can become successful in helping teenagers to fulfill their dreams, particularly teenagers who may come from low socio-economic backgrounds, you must help teens resolve the problems that they confront in everyday life.  Prevention with adolescents often takes the role of preventing failure.  Most of our adolescent and teenage prevention programs take the form of preventing bullying, drug use, violence, suicide or academic failure.  If you want to help teenagers fulfill their dreams, they must first overcome the problems that bombard them in their community and family settings.  As an example, if you want to develop group prevention programs to keep teens from dropping out of school before graduation, you must incorporate effective skill building techniques into your prevention program.  By teaching effective skill building techniques, you can give students the skills they need to pass in school.  A teenager with a strong educational background is much more likely to be able to fulfill their dreams that a student who drops out of school before graduation. We cannot simply say, "I believe in you and I want to help you fulfill your dreams."  Instead, we must give teenagers the skills they need plus the motivation to fulfill their dreams. Therefore, your prevention program will need to focus on both skill building and motivation in order to prevent failure. 

I mention this because as you look for training programs you need to look for training in prevention techniques, group techniques, and also motivation.  As I've mentioned before in this column, in order for a prevention group to be successful, it must incorporate and emphasize group interaction and group cohesion.  I suggest a course in group process and theory for anyone planning to work in group prevention. You must understand the intricacies of working with a group before you can be successful in group prevention.  Group cohesion is your goal, but it is not always easy to obtain.

Good luck to you in your career search.  I think one of the best places for students or anyone interested in learning more about group prevention to begin is by reading.  There are numerous books available.  Search such keywords as prevention groups, group prevention, adolescent prevention programs or teenage prevention programs.  You'll find several books which will help you hopefully sharpen your career focus and offer suggestions and help.

If you have interesting ideas to share, we welcome your participation. We invite psychologists, counselors, prevention programmers, teachers, administrators and other mental health practitioners working with groups to network together, share ideas, problems and become more involved.  Please send comments, questions and group prevention concerns to Elaine Clanton Harpine.