Think Positively! A course for developing coping skills in adolescents

Author(s) by Erica Frydenberg
Editor(s) foreword by Thomas Oakland
Publisher Continuum
Published 2010
Pages 240
Price £24.99
ISBN 9781441124814
Reviewed by Mr Liam Casey
GSOE, University of Bristol
Review published 27 July 2010

‘Thinking positively! : A course for developing coping skills in adolescents’, by Erica Frydenberg (Associate Professor in Psychology, in the Faculty Education, at the Melbourne University), is a book designed for teachers to use as a structure for teaching their students self-helping strategies. Through the interactive modules described in the book, adolescents build up a battery of skills to help them deal with struggles that they have gone through, are going through, and may go through in the future.

The title in itself may be off putting to those who are critical of Positive Thinking Psychology, but Frydenberg may have done herself an injustice by giving her book this title. Frydenberg draws together techniques from many different fields of psychology, counselling and education to give adolescents a broad array of techniques for coping with the stresses of life. For example, Frydenberg uses relaxation guided imagery in one part of the book, which is a very cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) based practice. She also uses techniques such as the ‘miracle question’ from solution focussed therapy (SFBT). This is where the student is asked if it could all go away how would it feel? What would it mean for you? This then helps the student to envisage how their life would be without the problem and give them hope in showing that it is achievable.

Possibly the term ‘Productive Thinking’ may have been a better choice of title as the book is essentially a ‘how to’ guide for teachers and other professionals working with adolescents, to teach children useful and productive ways of dealing with problems or issues they may have or may come across.

Techniques that are more proactive in treating issues that people may come across  (empowering people to help themselves should problems arise), rather than reactive (waiting for the problem to occur and then treating the person) are becoming more and more popular. This book is full of techniques to help students deal with issues should they arise, rather than wait for the problems to become so big that they are unmanageable. Though this is not the be all and end all of adolescent problems, it is a good start to empowering children to deal with the stresses and strains of everyday life.

The book is broken into three main sections. The first section is an explanation of the theoretical and practical underpinnings to the book. The second section is a description of 12 interactive modules that teachers and other professionals can use to teach adolescents productive ways of coping; and the final section explains possible ways of adapting the sessions for adolescents that may have specific other needs.

The 12 modules to go through with students are:

•    The language of coping
•    Positive thinking
•    Strategies that don’t help
•    Getting along with others
•    Asking for help
•    Coping with conflict
•    Problem solving
•    Social problem solving
•    Decision making
•    Coping in cyber world
•    Goal setting and goal getting
•    Time management

Modules 1 – 4 should be taken in sequence before any other modules as they build up the language and ideas that form a foundation to the following modules.

All the modules have step-by-step classroom activities that can be used to teach adolescents useful and productive ways of dealing with stresses, whether they be every day stresses or more serious. Each module is designed to be given in a 40 – 50 minute classroom session.

Each section has handouts for the class that can be either photocopied or downloaded from a website given. There is also a handout that can be sent to parents, giving information on the safe use of the internet for their children.

Every step is explained clearly and carefully, though the book is not overwhelming in length. The book can be read in less than a day and can then be used to refer back to either between or during the sessions.

The book also lists websites and phone numbers, where children can seek help if they need it. Though being based in Australia, Frydenberg has given UK numbers and websites so that teachers can give these to their pupils.
The final section of the book is based on tailoring the modules to specific groups of children who may have additional requirements. The specific groups covered are adolescents with:

•    Learning disabilities
•    Experienced divorce
•    Depression
•    Chronic illness
•    Aspergers

Frydenberg also provides useful documentation of where further information can be gathered should teachers or anyone reading the book wish to read further into the subjects that are discussed.

This book will be useful for teachers who wish to help their students deal with the emotional ups and downs of life. It may even be useful for heads of schools to use a basis to implement for all of their students.