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Prevention Presents: Understanding Prevention

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Understanding Prevention
Donna Bacon, M.Ed., LSC
Prevention Education Specialist

When I was in college training to become a school counselor, I was asked to select the type of counseling I felt was best to use in a school setting where time can be greatly limited.  I chose Brief Counseling because it requires a student to quickly identify the personal skills they have used in the past when dealing with different problem situations – since they’ve already used these skills successfully, it gives them more power to use them again for their own benefit.  

Well, long story short, I am not working as a school counselor, but as a Prevention Education Specialist, and I’ve had to change my mind-set.  Counselors react to current problems they face – Prevention Specialists work to stop the problems from happening in the first place. One of the struggles with my job is getting other people to understand how prevention places focus on the time before cigarette, alcohol or drug use – not waiting until kids are already using and then trying to stop them.  Just like in Brief Counseling, good prevention focuses on skills that students can use to avoid falling into the traps of drug and/or alcohol addiction.  When students don’t have these skills – we teach them.  Positive skills like Self-esteem, decision-making, problem-solving and assertiveness are a few of the areas where we help our students find more confidence.  

Almost everyone is engaging in the act of Prevention – whether they are aware of it, or not:  Most of us drink a lot of water to stay healthy and avoid dehydration; we give our cars oil changes so engines won’t seize up; we check the weather forecast before planning our weekends; we belt our children into car seats and take them to classes like Safety City.  We are all using prevention, every day, we just don’t necessarily realize it.  It is important we all learn to focus on positive beginnings, rather than waiting to respond to results - then we have a better chance of achieving the types of results that are truly beneficial to our communities.  In my case, Harbor Prevention seeks to reduce the future numbers of young people using cigarettes, alcohol and drugs – creating a healthier society for us all.

It’s all about perspective – and learning to see things in a slightly different light.  Perhaps we struggle so much with accepting new ideas because it means changing something about ourselves – how we think.  Most folks, no matter what they say out loud, are NOT big fans of change.  But often our experiences tell us that we DO benefit when we make positive changes in our lives.  Started exercising regularly and felt better?  Washed the salt off your car in the winter?  Prevention (good prevention, not the kind that uses scare tactics to frighten people), is all about being positive – improving self-esteem and self-efficacy.  In teaching ourselves to focus on positives we start naturally reducing the possible negatives to come.


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Family Checkup: Positive Parenting Prevents Drug Abuse 
Deirdre Washington, M.Ed., OCPSI 
Manager, Prevention Education



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