Externalizing Relational Interventions

Externalizing Relational Interventions

Relational interventions (PDF, 2 pages) aim to change youth behavior primarily through the development of positive and supportive relationships with adult or peer mentors, counselors, therapists, or others. Programs in this intervention family range from loosely structured and open-ended programs to more structured programs grounded in a specific curriculum or orientation.

Open-ended. The needs and interests of individual participants often drive the content of open-ended relational interventions. Services can range from mentoring or facilitating discussion groups with young people to individual and group counseling. Open-ended relational interventions may use professional counselors or therapists or trained paraprofessionals, peers, teachers, or adult volunteers to deliver services.

Structured. In contrast, structured relational interventions are guided by specified principles or goals. Common goals of structured relational interventions include helping youth develop a sense of self-competence and self-worth, improve school engagement, or take individual responsibility for behavior change. Structured relational interventions are delivered by trained adult paraprofessionals, teachers, or professional counselors or therapists typically using group counseling and discussion methods.

Both kinds of relational interventions are delivered one-on-one or in group formats. Most are integrated into schools during the school day or after school, while others are in community-based settings.

Select a different outcome or intervention family.

Characteristics of relational interventions (91 studies contributed evidence):

  • Interventions lasted 28 weeks, on average.
  • Sessions typically took place once or twice per week.
  • Interventions took place in the classroom (34%), in a separate space within the school (resource room or school counselor’s office; 37%), or a community setting (29%).
  • One quarter were delivered using a one-on-one format; the rest were delivered in a group format.

Intervention examples

  • High school mentors met weekly with middle school students at lunch for 8 weeks. The mentors related self-regulatory strategies by sharing their own use of the strategy, modeling, and asking how the student planned to use the strategy. Mentors also provided support and acceptance through the relationship.
  • A counseling intervention was part of the disciplinary process at a large urban junior high school. Students met one-on-one with a school psychology graduate student prior to a disciplinary meeting with the Vice Principal. Counseling emphasized problem solving skills, rational thinking, and self-control.