Phoenix Gang Intervention and Prevention
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Life Skills for Gang Intervention Programs

Life skills are critical for a successful gang intervention curriculum. Such skills range from basic social skills, problem solving skills, and hygiene to getting and keeping a job. These skills can reduce the risk of relapsing significantly.

The skills and concepts taught here are the basics of a healthy and happy life. Each lesson comprises a lesson plan with a detailed narrative for the counselor or teacher, and a handout, worksheet, or other activity for the learners. Designed to maintain attention and promote active involvement, each hour-long lesson is based on identified behavioral objectives. At present, over 150 lessons are available in this series.

Core Coping Skills Resources

CS1 Coping skills for emergencies Clients learn to identify their own highest risk situations, the cues that they are becoming at higher risk, what they will do to cope effectively, and then practice these new coping skills until they are confident they will work. Included in these skills are thought stopping, conflict avoidance and "escape" skills, and a comprehensive set of "refusal skills."
CS1b Critical coping skills Critical coping skills lessons (thought stopping, thought switching, etc.), including lesson plans, skills practice activities and instructor's scripts.
CS2 Coping skills for relapse prevention, set 1: techniques for use when you are at greatest risk Provides guidance and practice in mastery of seven emergency skills - to address areas of temptation to relapse (or to act out anger, etc.). Guides the development of personal action plan for use of immediate measures at highest risk situations.
CS3 Coping skills set 2: establishing a safer environment Clients are guided to identify their most dangerous temptations, high risk people, places, things, feelings, and situations. They will identify areas of continued vulnerability to old temptations. Clients will complete action plans to avoid high risk people, places, things, and situations.
CS4 Coping skills, set 3: techniques for handling uncomfortable feelings and thoughts Provides guidance in mastery of thirteen coping skills important for relapse prevention.
CS4b Breathing/Relaxation skills Critical coping skills lessons (breathing/relaxation skills), including lesson plans, skills practice activities and instructor's scripts.
CS4c Creative visualization and relaxation Critical coping skills lessons (creative visualization and relaxation), including lesson plans, skills practice activities and instructor's scripts.
CS8 Identifying and addressing your highest risks Identification of personal highest risk factors with specific coping skills to be used and demonstration of competence (self-efficacy) in addressing risks for relapse. Special emphasis is placed on the transition to the community.
CS9 Managing your stress Basic stress management workbook, including self-examination, symptoms awareness, identification of triggers, underlying stressors and lifestyle issues, evaluation of past coping, and introduction to several key coping skills.
CS10 Reducing your risk Basic risk reduction workbook, addresses highest risk situations, warning signs, high risk feelings leading to relapse, and provides coping skills guidelines.

Problem Solving Curriculum

Research has shown that problem solving is the critical skill in reducing delinquency. Our Phoenix Curriculum is the primary gang prevention problem solving curriculum nationwide. The Phoenix Curriculum is provided in multiple versions (Elementary School, Grade 6, Middle School, High School). It's provided in 25- and 50-session versions, and also in Spanish. The objective of this curriculum is the mastery of problem solving skills in addressing the participants' highest risk factors. These risk factors include high-risk people, high-risk places, high-risk things, and high-risk situations. Each lesson includes a lesson plan and significant opportunities to practice problem solving skills in high-risk situations. Mastery of these problem solving skills is a key component in self-efficacy against the risk factors that contribute to crime, delinquency, substance abuse, and other problems.

  • Problem Solving and Thought Stopping (avoiding impulsive thinking)
  • Problem recognition: using cues to warn yourself about trouble
  • Problem recognition activities
  • What could happen? (consequential thinking)
  • What are your choices? (alternative solution thinking)
  • Risks and consequences (weighing pros and cons)
  • How your decisions affect other people (consequential thinking, sensitivity to other people's feelings)
  • Doing the right thing (consequential thinking)
  • Making a wise choice (consequential thinking)
  • Your values, dreams and goals — as guides to ethical problem solving
  • What's important to you? (values activities)
  • Dreams and Goals (planning, means-ends thinking)
  • What's at the end of your rainbow? (planning, means-ends thinking/sequential planning)
  • Making your dreams come true (planning, means-ends thinking)
  • When you need help, who will support you? (planning, means-ends thinking)
  • Where can I go? What can I do? (planning, means-ends thinking)

The Phoenix Curriculum emphasizes self-efficacy in problem solving—primarily by providing significant practice in addressing issues and problems relating to high risk factors for gang involvement, crime, substance abuse, and related problems.

This program element—the learning and mastery of a problem solving model—has two major sections.

The first section presents a basic three-step problem solving model and provides practice in dealing with specific high risk factors. These risk factors include high risk people, places, things, situations, thoughts, and temptations experienced by young people. While using a basic stop-think-act model, it includes such areas as problem recognition, consequential thinking, alternative solution thinking, weighing pros and cons, sensitivity to other people’s feelings, means-ends thinking, and planning.

A critical skill in problem solving is “thought stopping.” This skill is taught early in this section and is reinforced in many lessons in this curriculum. Individual mastery of this skill is a critical component in self-control, and teachers should use every opportunity to help students practice.

A second section of this problem solving model is the selection of appropriate behavior when dealing with high risk people, places, things, and situations. Building on the stop-think-act model, this part offers three options: avoid, escape, and refuse. Designed to help students develop resistance skills, it emphasizes avoidance as the most effective—and easiest—area, but also provides practice in escape, resistance, and refusal skills.

Through repeated practice situations, students identify their own highest risk factors and the specific skills and steps they will take to successfully handle these situations. In the program, and in the review elements, students will demonstrate repeatedly successful coping with variations on their highest risk situations.

Interpersonal Communication Skills & Managing Your Anger

Life skills programs often include interpersonal communication skills curriculums. Our Managing Your Anger curriculum is also part of our Anger, Aggression, and Gang Violence program resources. Each lesson in this curriculum includes a lesson plan and participant handouts. It is easy to implement and addresses many topics in aggression replacement and communication skills. Gang intervention programs will find this resource useful.

1-4 Basic skills for better communication 24 When you need to express a complaint
5-8 Becoming a better listener 25 Handling peer pressure
9-11 Learning to be assertive 26 Building relationships 1
12-13 Where does your anger come from? 27 Building relationships 2
14-15 Where does your anger go? 28 The best way to make an apology
16-17 Self control: keeping out of fights 29 Assertion communication skills practice
18-19 Self control: when someone accuses you 30, 31 Protecting your boundaries
20-21 Self control: when someone tries to provoke you 32 Conflict resolution practice
22 Self control: when someone is angry at you 33-35 Refusal skills
23 Self control: stressful situations 36 Using your "escape" skills

Specific Life Skills Curriculum

Handling the Tough Times
1 An introduction to stress management 12 Get yourself together
2 What is stress doing to you? 13 Having a backup plan
3 What happened to you? 14 Making use of community resources
4 What pushes your buttons? 15 Affirming yourself
5 How have you "coped" in the past? 16 Using the serenity prayer
6, 7, 8 Coping skills 17 External supports
9 Living smarter. Living longer 18 How to be good to yourself
10 How am I doing today? 19 Handling difficult situations
11 What to do when you are having bad feelings    
Making Good Use of Your Leisure Time
1 Seeking happiness and contentment 4 Increasing the joy in your life
2 Identifying your needs and wants 5 Your most important values
3 Making your dreams come true 6 Adding balance to your life with new activities
Managing Your Money
1 Keeping track of everyday spending 5 Summary activity
2 Travel expenses 6 When you need more money
3 Clothing costs 7 Becoming money smart
4 Household furnishings 8, 9 Your budget

Pathways to Daily Living

Pathways to Daily Living is a comprehensive life skills curriculum for adults and juveniles helping them develop skills for daily living. This manual is designed to address critical life and lifestyle issues. The overall objective is to help participants improve their general health and happiness as functioning members of society. This comprehensive life skills manual prepares inmates and clients in probationary programs for life in the outside world. [more]

Topics include:

Vocational Skills

See our vocational skills page for more details. Program consists of:

  • Personal Preparation Program (P3) — Identification of work skills and job options, a positive attitude, thinking realistically about work, practical aspects of finding a job, development of personal data sheet, handling applications, resumes, and interviews, and keeping a job. (10 sessions)
  • V1/V2 — Topics include: self-evaluation, job and career values, interviewing practice, job success skills, and ethical issues in the workplace. (10 sessions)

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