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Group Interventions in Schools
Promoting Mental Health for At-Risk Children and Youth
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Main description:

Every year countless children succumb to the labels of failure or at risk of failure as they struggle in the classroom. My research, stretching over the past five years from Dallas to the Bronx, shows that group-centered interventions may hold the key to restoring children to psychologically healthy adjustment and classroom success.
This book will present the theory that underlies group-centered counseling interventions and discuss research substantiating such prevention programs. The book will include hands-on, short-term, ready-to-use group-centered motivational interventions that have been tested with at-risk children in school-based settings.
Group-centered motivational counseling interventions combine the benefits of therapeutic group process, intrinsic motivation, and play therapy. Research has shown that children especially benefit from group counseling. Play is the language of children. Intrinsic motivation leads to self-determination and engaged learning. When we combine play, intrinsic motivation, and group cohesion, the benefits of group process and the environment of play enable children to grow, learn, and change in a positive environment. For children who have been labeled at-risk, group-centered interventions can mean the difference between success and failure. Efficacy retraining becomes an integral part of the program. As Albert Bandura (1994) stated, skill building is an essential ingredient in efficacy retraining; children must experience success outside of the counseling environment as well as within. Through group-centered interventions, the same school community that hampers the child from learning can then foster learning by creating a positive psychological environment of change.
One of the biggest problems facing public schools today is the pressure on administrators, teachers, and students to perform on commanded tests. School-based mental health treatment often suffers under the demand for higher test scores. Teachers fear that students will miss out on classroom instruction if they participate in therapeutic programs. Parents fear that children will not perform satisfactorily on prescribed tests if they participate in "extra" programs. The attraction of combining efficacy retraining, intrinsic motivation, and group counseling is that it eliminates the need to worry about taking children away from content instruction in the classroom. Group-centered motivational counseling interventions teach remedial skills in an efficacy retraining motivational setting; therefore, students receive both interventions and cognitive instruction.
Efficacy retraining changes how children learn by changing cognitive and academic motivations, expectations, and the perceptions of the child. Preliminary data from my research on group-centered interventions shows that efficacy retraining can be taught and group-centered counseling intervention programs can be transferred successfully to the classroom. Research substantiates that play therapy works with at-risk children. The difference with group-centered motivational counseling interventions and traditional play therapy is that the play emphasis is not open-ended investigative therapy or recreational play; group-centered motivational play aims specifically at giving children the cognitive skills whose lack caused them to fail in the first place.
I have tested all of my group-centered motivational counseling intervention programs in school-based settings. So far, I have worked with children who were expelled from the public school system in Tampa, children from the projects in Chicago, private and public school children in the Bronx, children from two elementary inner-city neighborhood schools in Ohio classified as failing schools, the lowest scoring at-risk readers in a suburban Ohio school, and Hispanic migrant worker children in Texas. Preliminary testing has been exceptionally promising, and I am currently applying for grants so that we can expand our research base. I am applying for a three-year National Institutes of Health grant to incorporate my program into three local public school systems.
Group-centered motivational counseling interventions are new and different, and they work. Response to presentations at the 2005 and 2006 APA conventions has been strong. Our first journal article is currently under review, we are tabulating data from our first one-year study, and a new test site is scheduled for this spring with a two-year follow-up planned. As a Southeastern Regional Coordinator for the Society for Community Research and Action, I am currently engaged in preliminary discussions for organizing a two-day conference on school-based mental health. Interest seems to warrant organization of such a conference. I have also been assigned to work with a committee planning a national summit on group work. School-based mental health is a growing concern for all psychologists and school-based health practitioners.


Explains how to combine efficacy retraining, intrinsic motivation, and group counseling in order to alleviate concerns about taking children away from content instruction in the classroom – Group-centered motivational counseling interventions teach remedial skills in an efficacy retraining motivational setting; therefore, students receive both interventions and cognitive instruction

Back cover:

Children who are labeled at-risk often suffer from severe deficiencies in cognitive, affective, and behavioral skills that, if unaddressed, may lead to limited prospects for future success and well-being. Tapping into the therapeutic potential of groups, this volume presents the theory and practice of cognitive-oriented group-centered counseling – combining intrinsic motivation, efficacy retraining, and targeted play therapy and social role-playing – that can be implemented to help children build core social skills and emotional regulation to complement their classroom instruction.

In addition to providing a complete framework for developing, facilitating, and evaluating group interventions with children in their natural learning environments, Group Interventions in Schools:

  • Offers observational exercises to assist readers in gaining a deeper understanding of how group interventions work.

  • Provides both the theory and research that supports real-world group-based motivational interventions.

  • Explains how and why group-centered interventions support children’s psychological adjustment and bolster their academic achievement.

  • Analyzes how efficacy retraining works, specifically in changing the child’s cognitive and academic motivations and perceptions.

  • Features instructive case examples and proven, ready-to-use group-focused interventions that can be readily applied or adapted to specific situations.

  • Shows how therapeutic gains translate into improved classroom performance.

Written primarily for school-based psychologists, counselors, and other school mental health personnel, this volume provides a solid foundation for those new to the field as well as a creative boost for group specialists. Other education professionals and mental health clinicians working with children and adolescents will find much of practical value here. Its accessible style makes the book worthwhile as a training text.


Erasing Failure with School-Based Prevention Programs.- Skill-Building Efficacy Retraining.- Motivation: Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic.- Group Process and Change.- Selecting Effective Interventions.- A One-Week Group-Centered Motivational Intervention Program.- Designing Group-Centered Motivational Interventions.- Creating Cohesive Group Interventions.- Implementing and Evaluating Your Program: The Long-Term Goal.


ISBN-13: 9780387773179
Publisher: Springer (Springer US)
Publication date: April, 2008
Pages: 122

Subcategories: Psychology


Elaine Clanton Harpine, Ph.D., is a motivational psychologist specializing in group counseling and motivational program design. She has 34 years of experience designing and conducting motivational programs for children and youth. Dr. Clanton Harpine earned her doctorate in Educational Psychology, Counseling from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
Dr. Clanton Harpine has published eight nonfiction books, including No Experience Necessary! which received an Award of Excellence in 1995 and was selected as one of the top five children’s books in its class. Other published children’s writings include a two volume series entitled, Come Follow Me, in 2001, a three-volume family series completed in 2003, and numerous articles for teenagers on peer pressure, coping with failure, alcohol abuse, parents, and suicide.
Dr. Clanton Harpine has been interviewed on local early morning TV and radio concerning her workshop "Communication for Married Couples" and has been interviewed on local university radio concerning her work with inner-city at-risk readers. Her research for the past five years has focused on using group-centered motivational interventions with at-risk readers in a motivational efficacy retraining program. Dr. Clanton Harpine designed the motivational reading program called, Camp Sharigan, which she has used extensively in her work and research during the past five years.
She is currently teaching Group Therapy and Counseling and Human Growth and Development at the University of South Carolina Aiken and is continuing her research with group-centered interventions and at-risk readers. She was selected for inclusion in Who’s Who of American Women, 2006 and 2007, for her work with children in inner-city neighborhoods.