Interventions in the skill-building family teach youth to manage challenging social interactions and improve their internal emotional responses via self-regulation. This type of skills training is intended to help youth maintain calm and control their reactions to challenging situations, reducing the potential for academic underachievement and a range of social and behavioral problems. Skill-building interventions may focus on mindfulness strategies for managing emotions or stress, interpersonal skills, social problem-solving, and conflict resolution skills. They may also focus on skills for managing emotional or executive responses to social situations, such as anger or impulsivity, that may inhibit positive social interactions.
Skill-building interventions typically take place in school settings, and can be delivered by teachers, counselors, or others who work with youth to build skills, usually with a detailed curriculum or manual. Providers often model the skills for youth and then use role-playing, practice, and reinforcement to promote internalization of skills.
Characteristics of skill-building interventions (77 studies contributed evidence):
- Interventions lasted 14 weeks, on average.
- Sessions typically took place once or a week (31%) or more frequently (64%).
- Interventions took place in the classroom (21%), in a separate space within the school (resource room or school counselor’s office; 57%), afterschool (7%) or in a clinic or community setting (7%).
- Most used a manual or dedicated lesson plan (65% of interventions).
- Most were delivered using a group format (75% of interventions).
- Students enrolled in an emotional support class were selected to participate in a mindfulness and biofeedback intervention. Modules covered topics such as emotional awareness and how emotions manifest physically during schoolwork and during engagements with other people. Students also learned mindfulness practices such as mindful breathing, focused awareness, and using self-talk to shift emotions. Students learned how to control their breathing and heart rate through biofeedback games and activities. This group-based intervention was administered for 20-30 minutes for approximately 12 weekly sessions.
- Adolescents who had been referred for aggression or disruptive behavior were taught behavioral and cognitive control techniques to help understand their anger and ways to reduce it. Group leaders presented an anger control technique, modeled it, and then asked the students to rehearse the behavior using an actual conflict incident they experienced. Students were taught to analyze the provocation cycle: antecedent cues, aggressive responses, and consequent events. The program adapted a manualized program to include shortened activities, brief meetings with individual students, and development of individual anger management plans.