Adolescent Program


A program for parents, schools and community agencies
to help adolescents with emotional and behavioural problems






Rationale for the program

Exploring Together is a short-term, multifaceted group treatment program for adolescents with emotional and behavioural problems. Adolescents with antisocial/disruptive behaviour disorders are a serious concern to parents, teachers and the community due to the prevalence of these problems, their stability over time, the damage they cause to others and themselves as well as the financial and emotional costs to their families and society. Many of these students also present with other problem behaviours such as learning difficulties and substance abuse and are at high risk of leaving school prematurely. Adolescents with these disruptive behaviour disorders require intensive intervention if dysfunctional patterns are not to become permanent and deteriorate into severe mental disorders and family breakdown. The earlier Exploring Together program for primary school children has been successfully conducted in clinics, community agencies and schools. A comprehensive evaluation has shown significant improvements in children's problematic behaviour and social skills being reported by both teachers and parents. Based on this success, the Exploring Together program for adolescents has been developed and trialled. The Exploring Together Program is mainly cognitive-behavioural in orientation, but it is also informed by psychodynamic and systems theories. Techniques from these modalities are incorporated into the group process used in the Program. In order to effectively change the adolescent's antisocial behaviour, the program uses a multifaceted treatment approach which includes the adolescent, their parents and teachers. It focuses on the development of social skills, parenting practices and the strengthening of family units.

Families and adolescents who may be helped

Families with adolescents aged 12-16 years, with emotional and behavioural problems including:

  • aggression
  • delinquency
  • hyperactivity anxiety
  • depression
  • social withdrawal
  • problematic peer relationships
  • difficult parent-adolescent and family relationships

The program for adolescents and their families aims to

  • enhance self-esteem and decrease problematic behaviour
  • enhance interpersonal and social skills
  • provide training in conflict resolution
  • improve communication and understanding between family members
  • help families to use their own resources more effectively so that relationships between family members can improve

Program outlines

1. Adolescents' group:

This group focuses on teaching the adolescent the following skills in order to reduce their aggressive behaviour whilst improving peer interactions. Skills include:anger management, assertion, problem-solving, decision making and conflict resolution. The peer group setting provides a context in which adolescents can discuss issues such as sexuality, body image/eating disorders, depression/suicidality, conflict within families, friendships, problems at school and the future as well as practise their new skills.

2. Parents' group:

Through discussion this group aims to:

  • provide knowledge of adolescent development
  • develop parents' understanding of factors underlying their adolescent's behaviour
  • challenge their irrational beliefs about their adolescent's behaviour and about parenting
  • teach conflict resolution principles and techniques and put these into practice
  • deal with parenting issues and relationship issues
  • confront some of the parents' perceptions of their adolescent and themselves
  • assist parents to get more in touch with their feelings
  • deal with parents' isolation, depression, lack of assertiveness and poor self confidence
  • deal with current family issues and if necessary, those from the families of origin
  • recognise parents' strengths and foster use of their own resources.

3. Interactive/ Combined group:

Through dealing directly with each parent and adolescent dyad this group aims to:

  • enhance parent-adolescent communication
  • encourage positive interaction, a cooperative working relationship, the use of conflict resolution skills and acceptance of responsibility for behaviour and change
  • provide a setting for positive, non-judgemental interaction where each other's views and needs can be heard and accepted
  • work on relationship issues as they arise

4. Parent evenings:

These are attended by both mothers and fathers or the parent attending the group and a support person. The focus is on adults working together and supporting each other in providing an appropriate environment for their adolescents' development.

5. Teacher meetings:

The aim of these meetings is to promote a consistent approach in the management of the adolescent across the different systems in the adolescents' life. The meetings also provide the opportunity for two-way feedback between teachers and group leaders as well as offering support for dealing with the adolescent in the school setting.

Structure and content of the 'Exploring Together Preschool Program'

The Exploring Together Program involves 6-8 families participating in group work over 10 consecutive weeks, plus pre-group and post-group family interviews for assessment, evaluation and feedback. Group work consists of separate concurrent groups for adolescents and parents, followed by a combined parent-adolescent group. Meetings with the partners of the parent attending the group take place twice during the 10 week program. Leaders also meet with the adolescents' teachers on two occasions during this period. Four leaders are required to run each program (two for the adolescents' group and two for the parentsŐ group). At least two of these leaders must have attended Exploring Together Training. The time commitment for each leader is at least 3 hours per week. This includes preparation time, group time, post-group debriefing and planning.

Adolescent's group - 2 leaders / 1 hour 15 minutes
Parents' group - 2 leaders / 1 hour 15 minutes
Combined group - 4 leaders / 45 minutes

(pre group) Initial assessment interviews
Week 1 - First meeting
Teachers' meeting
Weeks 2 - 4 - meeting
Partner's evening
Weeks 5 -10 - meetings
Teachers' meeting
Partner's evening
(post group) Feedback interviews

What does exploring together achieve?

At the end of the program both parents and teachers have reported improvement in the adolescents behaviour, particularly in the way they relate to their peers and conduct themselves at school. Adolescents report that peer and parent-adolescent relationships have also improved.
The Exploring Together Program has won three National Awards in recognition of its achievements:

  • An Australian and New Zealand Mental Health Services Achievement Award-for `excellence and innovation'.
  • An Australian Violence Prevention Award (Commendation), awarded by Australian Heads of Government.
  • The Robin Winkler Award for excellence in a Community Psychology Project awarded by the Australian Psychological Society to Dr. Lyn Littlefield.

The Exploring Together Program for Adolescents was supported by a Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) Innovative Project Grant from the Department of Human Services.

Training for professionals is available on request for this program.

contact us

Box 11, 607 Lygon St Princes Hill Victoria 3054. P 0438879360