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SMARTER Thinking Programme

A programme targeting antisocial behaviour, Smarter Thinking addresses thinking skills, social skills, emotional management and critical reasoning. It is suitable for a cross-section of clients including offenders in institutional and community settings, and those at risk.

The Smarter Thinking programme is based on ideas drawn from Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (Ellis, 1962), and the work of Spivack, Platt and Shure (1976). These theoretical approaches were influential in the development of the Reasoning and Rehabilitation Programme (R&R) (Ross, Fabiano and Ross, 1989), and the Thinking Skills Programme (Clark,1993) and its successor, Enhanced Thinking Skills (ETS) (Clark, 2000). It also utilizes Goldstein's (1999) approach to social skills training, as well as other sources.

The Smarter Thinking programme focuses on the same thinking skills areas targeted in the ETS and R&R programmes, which include problem solving, social perspective taking, critical reasoning, flexible thinking and self-management. In addition, it addresses a number of areas which have been problematic for those programmes. In particular, the following areas have been identified:

It would appear that offenders in the UK have low motivational levels in relation to ETS and R&R. Partly this is because the material does not offer clients any clear rationale for participation. ETS and R&R do not directly address offending, but attempt to develop skills to enable offenders to think and behave more pro-socially. However, many offenders do not see that they have a problem with their "thinking".
Little attention is paid to emotional management. In both programmes, the emphasis is on thinking, and the link between thinking and behaviour. Techniques for managing emotions more effectively are not given sufficient emphasis, especially in ETS.
Both ETS and R&R largely avoid encouraging participants to use their own experiences to test out the techniques taught on the programme. Fictional scenarios and depersonalised examples are used throughout most of the sessions. This may result in clients completing the programme without really connecting the skills learned to their own personal behaviour and experiences.

The Smarter Thinking Programme attempts to address these three problems. There is more emphasis on emotional management, and the link between feelings, thinking and behavior. Clients receive a clear rationale for participation, and more explanation of rational and irrational thinking and how this impacts on feelings and behavior. Whilst fictional examples are used throughout, more emphasis is put on encouraging clients to consider issues in their own lives and to try out the techniques being taught. The programme focuses less on "deficits" and emphasizes the value of gaining choice and control.

Programme length
The programme is designed to be delivered in 23 sessions, mostly comprising group sessions, but with one introductory individual session and a further individual session halfway through.

Ten days training is recommended, but this can be tailored to meet agency needs. Twelve participants can be trained at a time, or 24 with 2 trainers at additional cost.