Strengths Investigation and Self Understanding

In this project, the Centre partnered with the Sister Margaret Smith Centre (SMSC) in Thunder Bay to conduct a study entitled, Strengths Investigation and Self Understanding: Predictors of Engagement in Adolescent Use Treatment.

The purpose of this research was to examine the effectiveness of an in-patient substance abuse program for adolescents that draws from the strengths perspective to enhance and establish cognitive-behavioural, harm-reduction, and motivational aspects of the program. This five-week substance use intervention program employed a cognitive-behavioural approach to substance abuse treatment, focusing on changing maladaptive behaviours through examining beliefs and values. The program used a harm reduction model and included group therapy, individual counselling, education sessions, life skills development, leisure and recreation opportunities and the introduction of self-help groups and relapse prevention work.

 The multi-disciplinary team consisted of the manager of the program, social workers, substance abuse counsellors, child and youth workers, a consulting cultural coordinator, a therapeutic recreationist, a gambling counsellor, a consulting child physician, a consulting child psychiatrist, and a consulting psychologist.

 One of the most novel and exciting aspects of this in-patient intervention was its utilization of a strength-perspective, which emphasizes and makes use of individual strengths to help meet personal treatment goals. From this perspective, youth are encouraged to view their strengths as a means to disengage from maladaptive behaviours, most notably substance use, and re-engage in more positive and adaptive behaviours.

 Overall, youth participants who completed this in-patient strength-based substance use program were able to progressively work toward achieving their self-prescribed goals over the course of treatment and these goals were maintained during a 3-month follow-up.

 As a result of this program, the Centre has developed a manual for strengths-based substance use treatment programs entitled A Strengths Intervention Program for Adolescents. If you are interested in a copy of this manual, please contact the Centre at coespecialneeds@lakeheadu.ca or 807-343-8192