Psycho-Educational Life Skills Training for Youth and Parents: Changing Lives Through Diversion, Intervention and Motivations for Change



Strand #1

Social & Emotional Skills

Strand #2

Mental & Physical Health


Our proposal relates to two of the conference strands, “HEART”: SOCIAL & EMOTIONAL SKILLS, and “HEALTH”: MENTAL & PHYSICAL HEALTH. Our program approach addresses the social/emotional and mental/physical health and wellness of youth within prevention, diversion, intervention and treatment settings. We affect the social and emotional wellness of our participants through psycho-educational life skills workshops that address anger and conflict, expose personal barriers to emotional wellness, and provide skills in communication, decision making and goal setting. Our method appeals to the emotional intelligence within each individual and helps them to develop social skills necessary for building and maintaining strong family, work and social relationships. We employ both Cognitive Behavior and Social-Constructionist Models throughout our curricula. Through psycho-educational group sessions we uncover deep emotional wounds often inflicted via exposure to violence, racism, and family dysfunction. Through using mental health, academic motivation and wellness exercises, we foster the healing process that enables these youths to begin to redirect their own lives.

Brief Program Description

Our presentation addresses the needs of youth from mentally and emotionally challenged life situations or involved in alternative education, truancy court, or juvenile justice.

We describe our unique adaptation of Cognitive Behavioral and Social Constructionist Models of behavior change via psycho-educational life skills workshops and group treatment, then illustrate program sustainability through non-profit partnership, funding strategies, data collection and outcomes measurement/documentation.


This presentation will provide an overview of our program model, with selected examples from our experiences with alternative schools, truancy court, juvenile diversion and intervention. We will also describe our LLC-501c3 partnership that enables program funding and sustainability. Our workshops focus on improving social competency and understanding of social and environmental factors that can possibly influence youth decision making; civic responsibility through discussion and processing related to consequences for actions; life skills centered on emotional and behavioral barriers to short, mid and long term goals; and assisting those who seemingly have little motivation for change. Through discussions of multiple life stressors and environmental factors that may influence poor decision making and criminality, youth are taught how to redirect thoughts and perceptions from negative towards positive behavior choices. And our emphasis on processes of emotional development, self-esteem and self-worth help motivate cognitive behavior changes that increase the need for personal and educational achievement; these in turn improve employment readiness. Within the presentation are examples from the following modules: 1. Hip-Hop History & You: emotional impact of Hip-Hop on the lives of youth. 2. Conflict Resolution: identifying conflict; related emotions; non-violent ways to resolve differences. 3. Managing Urban Anger: history of gangs & youth violence; impact on feelings and self-esteem; overcoming anger. 4. Need for Achievement vs. Need for Affiliation: street-life vs. school-life and general positive living; identifying positive affiliations; instilling pride in academic and life success. 5. Coping with Stress: identifying stress & overcoming life’s struggles. 6. The Power of the Mind: promotion of “smart” as “cool”; understanding what being smart means; building personal intellect. Program conceptualization, formulation and implementation by Urban Thoughts, a community based organization headed by a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), is enabled via partnership with a 501c3 non-profit organization. As fiscal agent, Mind, Body & Soul, Inc., responds to requests for proposals from various relevant funding agencies, obtains funding contracts, prepares assessment instruments, collects and maintains outcome data, documents progress and prepares reports as per funding agency requirements. Outcome documentation enables subsequent funding, thus our ability to sustain the program model.


Our program utilizes a best-practice therapeutic model that emphasizes Cognitive Behavioral and Social Constructionist Modes of behavior change and incorporates psycho-educational life skills workshops and group treatment. Most youth served by our programs have experienced potentially traumatic life events which include exposure to neighborhood or domestic violence, stressors of concentrated poverty, peer pressures towards gang involvement or delinquency, family health related issues, and death of family/friends. Many students are involved in the juvenile justice system; some are repeat offenders and work with probation officers and court counselors. Several are chronically absent and truant from school. Some students have previously been admitted to hospitals and mental health facilities. Many live in single-family homes, foster homes, and group homes; some are homeless. Mental health responses to traumatic events experienced by these students include Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, and oppositional conduct. PTSD, an anxiety disorder triggered by exposure to a traumatic experience, is commonly associated with violence-related trauma (Bloom, 2013; Erwin, 2014; Listenbee , et.al., 2012; Smithgall, Cusick & Griffin, 2011). Ford, Chapman, Hawke, and Albert (2007) indicate that post-traumatic stress can inhibit thinking and learning in children with impacts that include attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnoses and other learning disabilities, decreased cognitive abilities, substance abuse issues, and externalizing disorders like aggression, conduct problems, defiant and oppositional behaviors when exposed to violence (Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, 2013; Ford, et.al, 2007; Listenbee, et.al., 2012; Smithgall, Cusick & Griffin, 2011). “Traumatic experiences affect brain development in children” (Adams, 2010, p 2). The neurological, psychological and social effects of trauma may influence traumatized youth towards delinquency (Adams, 2010). CBT is a recognized therapeutic intervention for PTSD (Erwin, 2014). Through its positive youth development approach, CBT helps youth begin to view themselves as able to change their own circumstances. The social constructionist model teaches youth that human beings respond to each other and to their surroundings not so much on the basis of any objective or inherent meanings, but out of meanings assigned to people and settings by the people within those settings, e.g, school, work, community, as well as within the context of race, class and gender (Berger & Luckman, 1967; Kukla, 2000; Shankar-Brown, 2008). Interactions and meanings are affected by people’s past experiences and beliefs, and their current experiences in the given setting. Through our workshops, youth become aware of ways their past has shaped their thinking and decision making. CBT helps youth determine the need to change their behavior. The psycho-educational portion of the programming is a theory-based mental health intervention model focusing on academic and in-school behavioral needs for children/youth exposed to violence, experiencing traumatic life events, and/or with chronic academic and behavioral problems, or history of delinquency. References: Adams, E.J. (2010). Healing invisible wounds: Why investing in trauma-informed care for children makes sense. Justice Policy Institute. Georgetown University School of Medicine. Berger, P., & Luckmann, T. (1967). The social construction of reality. New York: Anchor. Bloom, S.L. (2013).Creating sanctuary: Toward the evolution of sane societies, Revised Edition. NY: Routledge. Erwin, R. (2014). Desktop Guide to Quality Practice for Working with Youth in Confinement. (http://www.desktopguide.info), Ch.6, Adolescent Development. National Institute of Corrections. Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics. (2013).America’s children: Key national indicators of well-being, 2013. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. 203 pp. Finkelhor, D., Turner, H., Ormrod, R., Hamby, S., and Kracke, K. (2009). Children’s exposure to violence: A comprehensive national survey. Juvenile Justice Bulletin, Office of Justice Programs, www.ojp.usdoj.gov October, 2009. Ford, J.D., Chapman, J.F., Hawke, J., and Albert, D. (2007). Trauma among youth in the juvenile justice system: Critical issues and new directions. Research and Program Brief. National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice. June, 2007. Kukla, A. (2000). Social Constructivism and the philosophy of science. New York: Routledge. Listenbee, R.L., Torre, J., Boyle, G., Cooper, S.W., Deer, S., Durfee, D.T., James, T., Lieberman, A., Macy, R., Marans, S., McDonnell, J., Mendoza, G., and Taguba, A. (2012). Report of the attorney general’s national task force on children exposed to violence. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. 242 pp. Shankar-Brown, R. (2008). A case study of the social and educational experiences of homeless children. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, UNC-Charlotte, Charlotte, NC. Smithgall, C., Cusick, G., and Griffin, G. (2011). Responding to students affected by trauma: Collaboration across public systems. National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ), 2011, 40-54.


Individual Presentation

Biographical Sketch

Shante Vines – MSW, LCSW, CSOTS

Shante Vines is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) and a Certified Sexual Offender Treatment Specialist (CSOTS) is the CEO of Urban Thoughts Inc. and has over ten years of experience working in the mental health field which includes providing individual and family therapy to at-risk populations including “at-risk” youth and victims of sexual assault. In her experience Shante has vast knowledge in conceptualizing, developing, and facilitating therapeutic groups and psycho-educational workshops and has done so for institutions and communities such as Johnson C. Smith University, UNC-Charlotte, Urban League of the Central Carolinas, Gang of One, Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department Diversion and Intervention Programs for Youth, Charlotte Mecklenburg and Gaston County Schools, Communities in Schools, Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreations, and community based organizations such as Departments of Social Services (DSS) and Departments of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Programs (DJJ). She has presented for organizations such as the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) on the “State of the African American Male,” Teaching and Learning Conferences on “Mental Health and Education: What Are Our Options” as well as the Educational Research Association on “Closing the Race Gap in Math and Science Achievement.” Shante has worked in various positions within CABHA agencies (Critical Access Behavioral Health Agencies) and with her experience she has supervised Outpatient Therapy Departments, School-Based Therapy Programs, and well as Clinical Evaluation/Intake Departments. Shante currently provides Clinical Supervision to both Intensive-In-Home and Therapeutic Foster Care Departments for Support Incorporated of Gastonia. She also trains fellow Clinicians and Qualified Mental Health Professionals on numerous clinical areas.

Laurie Garo is an ABD Doctoral candidate in Curriculum & Instruction for Urban Education, specializing in therapeutic in-school interventions for children exposed to gang and gun violence. Laurie has 10 years of experience with juvenile justice related grants, youth programs, peer-reviewed writings, and presentations. She has worked with the Department of Justice as a research analyst and gang outreach specialist for Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) since 2004 where she utilized Geographic Information Systems (GIS) as a tool to study juvenile delinquency, to recommend and evaluate intervention and prevention strategies, and to explore neighborhood violence indicators that may impact child well-being. Laurie served as a board member for the Mecklenburg County Juvenile Crime Prevention Council and the Mecklenburg County Gang Prevention Coalition. Through collaborative grant writing she has helped to obtain over $650,000 in grant funds for PSN programs and related youth empowerment initiatives. Laurie is also Executive Director of Mind, Body & Soul, Inc. (MBS), a 501c3 non-profit organization established for the empowerment of youth coming from “at-risk” conditions and especially those marginalized from education and involved in the juvenile justice system. Through MBS, Laurie partners with talented agencies such as Urban Thoughts to provide relevant services to youth through various grant funded opportunities.

Keyword Descriptors

Therapy, diversion, intervention, Psycho-education, CBT, Social Constructivism, assessment, sustainability, outcomes, partnerships

Presentation Year


Start Date

3-4-2015 11:15 AM

End Date

3-4-2015 12:30 PM

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Mar 4th, 11:15 AM Mar 4th, 12:30 PM

Psycho-Educational Life Skills Training for Youth and Parents: Changing Lives Through Diversion, Intervention and Motivations for Change


Our presentation addresses the needs of youth from mentally and emotionally challenged life situations or involved in alternative education, truancy court, or juvenile justice.

We describe our unique adaptation of Cognitive Behavioral and Social Constructionist Models of behavior change via psycho-educational life skills workshops and group treatment, then illustrate program sustainability through non-profit partnership, funding strategies, data collection and outcomes measurement/documentation.