As social, emotional and behavioural difficulties are considered to be a complex issue, many theoretical perspectives have emerged to attempt to explain their formation and guide intervention. No single method is bulletproof, however, and I would encourage teachers to build a diverse toolkit of strategies and theories to help empower them to successfully manage any kind of a difficulty a child may be experiencing in their care.
A theory that is relatively unheard of that may be a beneficial tool to teachers is the Brief Strategic Approach. Here are four key concepts to this theory below that are simple to understand and may give some food for thought:
· Brief Strategic Interventions are based on the concept that problems are considered to be a result of the environment the child is interacting with as opposed to pathology. They move away from focusing on a label such as ADHD, ADD or ODD.
- Brief Strategic Interventions focus on how things work as opposed to why. They want to make them work as effectively as possible. They argue that we can intervene in the persistence of the problem, not the formation of it.
- Interventions and solutions are based on the very specific characteristics of the individual problem rather than the problem having to fit into a rigid theory.
- The Brief Strategic approach is based on a circular model of interaction. It believes behaviour is cyclical as opposed to linear. As opposed to believing one behaviour causes another in a straight line, it believes in focusing on disrupting the cycle of interaction with some kind of change to alter the problem behaviour.
How can it help?
Brief strategic interventions and thinking are very useful when you are finding that ordinary logic and common solutions aren’t working. Lots of theories have rigid pre-determined strategies like behaviourism and the strategy of reinforcing positive behaviour but, what happens when these strategies aren’t working? Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. This is where a brief strategic approach can come into play. This approach throws out labels and pre-decided interventions regardless of the issue and starts with defining the problem as it appears in the “now”.
A very quick-guide of a brief strategic approach looks like this:
- Define the problem clearly.
- Identify what the failed attempted solutions so far are. (tip: discontinue these)
- Identify when the clearly defined problem does not occur. (tip: use these as clues)
- Ask yourself how you would make the problem worse. (tip: important to know what not to do)
- Set a clear objective.
- Formulate an action plan that uses the above steps to help guide the process.
This approach is a great one to use if you feel overwhelmed or frustrated at the lack of success. If you feel unqualified to deal with labels such as ADHD, ODD or ADD, this approach can empower you by locating the specific problem which can seem far more changeable than a medical label.
I will add more depth to this topic in the coming weeks with examples and a detailed step-by-step model which can aid you in taking a brief strategic approach if it is something that appeals to you.
Thanks to Papantuono, Portelli and Gibson’s book Winning without fighting and Nardone’s Knowing Through Changing for the literature that guides this article.