Approaches to Promoting Resilience

The Educational Psychology Service offers a range of support for young people with social, emotional and behavioural needs. The support offered includes consultation and advice to school staff and parents, small group or whole class intervention programmes often delivered in collaboration with school staff and therapeutic intervention on a one-to-one basis with children and young people.

The support offered by the service is based on a range of evidence based approaches. The approaches can be divided into three categories; those delivered at a whole school level, those delivered at a class or group level and those delivered at an individual level.

Whole School Approaches

Nurturing Approaches

The Nurturing Approach provides a framework for developing positive relationships and promoting positive behaviour in schools. The focus is on creating inclusive learning environments and positive relationships, based on trust, where pupils can learn within a safe, predictable and secure context. The nurturing approach is founded in attachment theory, which explains the importance of early experience and secure attachment relationships on later development and resilience. Nurturing approaches offer a holistic view of education which places emotional well-being as central to the developmental needs of pupils and to the effectiveness of teaching and learning. The approach encourages staff to respond non-judgementally to children at their developmental level. Staff are encouraged to respond in a way which will enable the child to know they are valued and that their feelings are understood. The importance of structure, predictability and firm and clear boundaries is emphasised. Staff build trusting relationships with pupils by being understanding, accepting, reliable and consistent.  Staff understand behaviour as a method of communication and teach children appropriate social, emotional and communication skills.

Restorative Approaches

Restorative Approaches are a range of practices used to promote positive relationships and behaviour in schools. They include the use of affective statements/questioning, circle time, restorative conversations, restorative enquiry, restorative peer mediation and restorative conferences.

The term ‘Restorative Approaches’ is used in education to mean:

  • Restoring good relationships when there has been conflict or harm
  • Developing school ethos, policies and procedures that reduce the possibilities of such conflict and harm

Restorative Approaches provide a useful and effective way of responding to incidents in schools. Regular use of these approaches helps to develop young people’s understanding of the consequences of problematic behaviour, including the impact on themselves and others,  to reduce its frequency and severity. The restorative approach aims to promote harmonious relationships in schools and successful resolution of conflict and harm. The approach involves including the person whose actions have caused harm and the person who has been harmed in finding a resolution. Instead of attributing blame and punishment, the focus is on involvement, exploration of thoughts and feelings and the identification what action is required to repair harm and move forward.

Solution Oriented Approaches

Solution Oriented Approaches offer an effective and focused ways of identifying positive outcomes to complex and challenging issues. The approach focuses on building solutions rather than solving problems. This is achieved by analysing what is currently working, what strengths there may be to build on, on future goals and how to achieve these goals in small steps. Solution Oriented approaches have the potential to increase pupil responsibility, encourage respect, and improve relationships within school.

The Solution Oriented Schools programme (SOS) is a whole school programme which puts into practice the principles and methods of solution oriented thinking to provide a practical and effective framework for:

  • supporting all pupils to achieve their potential
  • supporting staff throughout the school
  • considering senior managers’ approaches to support
  • multi-agency collaboration.

Mental Health First Aid


Group Approaches

Nurture Groups/Learning Centres

Nurture groups were developed in 1969 by an educational psychologist, Marjorie Boxall. They are based on attachment theory which explains the importance of early experience and relationships on later development. The theory proposes that children with poor nurturing experiences in early childhood do not develop positive and nurturing bonds with a significant adult. As a result, they have insecure attachment relationships, are not able to thrive emotionally and are not ready to meet the social and intellectual demands of the curriculum. The emphasis within a nurture group is on emotional growth, focusing on offering broad-based experiences in an environment that promotes security, routines, clear boundaries and carefully planned, repetitive learning opportunities. The curriculum of a nurture group concentrates on

three key areas:

  1. The development of self-esteem;
  2. The use of play to teach social skills such as turn-taking, sharing, cooperating and appreciating the feelings of others; and
  3. Developing language for communication.

The aim of the nurture group is enable children to reach their full potential by replicating the world of earliest childhood and to provide the basic and essential learning experiences normally gained in the first three years of life.  Nurture groups are designed to be a short term, focussed, intervention strategy. Groups normally comprise six to twelve young people. The young people attend the nurture group on a part time basis and continue to remain part of their mainstream class. They usually return to attending their mainstream class full time within 4 terms.

Being Cool in School

Being Cool in School is a group intervention programme focussed on developing emotional literacy and pro-social behaviour in young people. The young people are taught how to cope positively with everyday situation, how to show sensitivity and respect for themselves and others. The programme uses cartoon characters, who ‘grow up’ with the young people. Structured activities include discussion, reflection and role-play based on everyday school situations. The activities enable young people to practise managing their behaviour and interactions with others in positive ways. The programme demonstrates that positive behaviour can be learned and practised. The skills which are developed through the programme are key to learning across the curriculum and give children the best chance of growing up to be resilient and responsible, with happy, healthy relationships

FRIENDS for Life Programme

FRIENDS for Life helps children and teenagers manage feelings of fear, worry and low mood by building resilience, self-esteem and teaching cognitive and emotional skills.  The programme can be used individually, with a small group or whole class of young people aged 7–11 and 12–16 years to teach children and young people transferable life skills to effectively cope with difficult and/or anxiety-provoking situations.

Living Life to the Full

Living Life to the Full is a life skills programme based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). The programme is focused on teaching young people the relationship between thoughts, emotions, physical feelings and behaviour. The programme is described as guided self-help; it aims to work alongside the child/young person to support them to develop their own ways of overcoming problems. Living Life to the Full is most commonly used with secondary aged young people.

Circle of Friends

The Circle of Friends approach is used to support young people who are experiencing difficulty with peer relationships. The approach involves a group of peers being identified to become a “circle of friends” for the young person experiencing peer relationship difficulties. The group is encouraged to reflect on their own behaviour and to develop strategies and practical solutions to support the young person.

Video Interactive Guidance (VIG)

Video interactive guidance aims to improve communication and interaction. It enhances learning, social and emotional wellbeing and interpersonal effectiveness. It is often used with parents who find their child’s behaviour challenging at home. It can also be used with school staff who find a particular young person or class difficult to manage or in situations where effective communication and interaction is hard to establish or has broken down. VIG involves a “guider” taking a short video recording of communication and interaction. The guider then edits the clip, picking out examples of positive interaction and communication. The guider and the parent/teacher watch the video and reflect on the examples of positive interaction and communication.  Parents and teachers often notice things they have not noticed before. By seeing positive communication and interaction, t is possible to understand what works and to build on it.

Intensive Interaction

Intensive interaction is an approach to teaching early communication skills to  young people who have severe learning difficulties and/or autism or children who are still at an early stage of communication development. It focuses on teaching the fundamentals of communication or the the communication concepts and performances that precede speech development, including enjoying being with another person, developing the ability to attend to that person and taking turns in exchanges of behaviour.

Incredible Years

This child programme is a social skills and problem solving curriculum which aims to strengthen children’s social, emotional and academic competence. It teaches young people skills such as understanding and communicating feelings, effective problem solving strategies, managing anger, practicing friendships, conversational skills and promoting positive classroom behaviours. The program can be used with groups of primary aged children, who display high levels of challenging behaviour or it can be used as a prevention program for an entire classroom of pupils.

Seasons for Growth

Seasons for Growth is a loss and grief peer-group education programme for young people aged 6-18 years. Seasons for Growth is based on the belief that change, loss and grief are normal and valuable parts of life. It aims to produce a sense of resilience, personal growth and acceptance of change in people’s lives. The programme can be used with any young person who is dealing with change, loss and grief associated with death, family breakdown, or any other form of separation.

Give Us a Break

Give us a Break is a solution oriented programme which helps young people aged 10-14 years who are finding it challenging to adapt to loss and bereavement and/or any significant changes in their live. The programme gives young people a chance to make sense of these experiences in a supportive environment with others who have gone through similar changes.

Supporting Parents

The Psychological Service delivers a wide range of support to parents, from individual support, small group targeted support to universal workshops.  Interventions are tailored to the identified needs of the individual or group. The aim of all parent interventions is to support parents to reflect on their current skills, identify needs and strengths and support them to further develop their knowledge, skills and overall capacity as a parent.

Individual Therapeutic Interventions

The aim of all therapeutic interventions is to support and develop the emotional wellbeing of children and young people.  The development of a positive therapeutic relationship is crucial to the success of all therapeutic interventions. The approaches utilised within East Renfrewshire Psychological Service are outlined below.

Cognitive Behavioural Approaches

Cognitive behavioural approaches aim to teach young people about the relationship between thoughts, emotions, physical feelings and behaviour. The approach is highly evidenced based and supports individuals to develop their confidence and life skills to reduce anxiety and improve mood.

Mindfulness Approaches

Jon Kabat-Zinn, a professor of medicine specialising on stress, applied the practice of meditation to science and created the ‘Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction’ programme which is widely used today to improve mental well being. He defined mindfulness as “the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgementally to the unfolding of experiences moment by moment. (Kabat-Zinn, 2003, pg 145). The practice can be divided in to two apporaches. The first encourages the individual to focus their attention on an object of experience, such as the feelings and sensations of breathing (Kabat-Zinn, 1990; Fletcher & Hayes, 2005). The second approach to mindfulness practice involves paying attention to ‘whatever is in their experience.’ During this approach, individuals are encouraged to become aware of their thoughts without trying to stop or control them (Davis, 2012).

There is a wealth of research to link mindfulness practice to aspects of psychological well being. Mindfulness can be embedded as a whole school apprach or practiced specifically in groups or with individuals.

Solution Oriented Approach

The solution oriented approach is focused on helping young people to develop goals and solutions rather than explore and analyse current problems. It is about building solutions rather than solving problems.  Rather than dwelling on the past and what has happened, it focuses on the present and the future, on what is currently working, what strengths they may have to build on, on future goals and how to achieve these goals. In developing and expanding clear descriptions of future goals, young people can begin to open up new possibilities for change and create a plan for moving towards this preferred future.

Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR)

EMDR involves the use of bilateral stimulation, usually eye-movements or auditory or tactile stimulation, to reprocess disturbing, emotional or traumatic memories or flashbacks. It is often used with young people who are troubled by traumatic experiences.