Effective Substance Abuse Prevention: What is SEL?

How do you prevent kids from making unhealthy choices, like the decision to use alcohol or other drugs? Through the years, concerned adults have tried many different prevention strategies, from scare tactics to one-off school assemblies. However, as researchers continue to make discoveries about adolescents, risk, and addiction, we’ve been able to develop more effective ways to help youth make the right choice in that moment of decision. The Compass Mark team has helped guide Lancaster residents and their families away from addiction for 50 years. In that time, we’ve developed a prevention approach based on continuing research and the results of our own evidence-driven programs. This approach is largely based on the concept of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL), the foundation for our in-depth, long-term prevention programs, including Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies (PATHS), Lions Quest, Student Skills for Life, We Know BETter, and Elementary Youth Support Programs (EYSP). What is SEL? It’s defined by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning as the process through which people acquire the knowledge, attitudes, and skills needed to make healthy decisions, recognize and manage emotions, and constructively handle challenging situations. What specific knowledge, attitudes, and skills arise from SEL?

  • Self-awareness
  • Ability to regulate emotions
  • Ability to empathize with others
  • Good relationship skills
  • Responsible decision-making skills

What does SEL look like in a prevention context? Parents, teachers, or other concerned adults nurture SEL by teaching children and teens to:

  • Play cooperatively;
  • Deal with their emotions in a healthy way;
  • Communicate with others in a healthy, productive way.

Does SEL work to prevent youth from making unhealthy decisions? Yes, research suggests it’s effective. For example, one long-term study discovered that high-risk kids who learned social and self-regulation skills between ages 6 and 11 had a reduced risk of delinquency and arrests as they moved into adolescence. The SEL skills were taught through a combination of social skills training, parent behavior management, classroom social-emotional material, and more. Find the right prevention program for your Lancaster, PA school or organization. Contact the Compass Mark team at 717-299-2831, and we’ll help you determine which of our youth programs will best guide the kids you care about.   Additional Resources Used MomsRising.org KQED Image courtesy of nenetus/freedigitalphotos.net.