Theory underpining Seasons for Growth
The Seasons for Growth® small group programs combine psychology and education with peer support, within a person centred learning approach. They use the familiar metaphor of the seasons to explore the cyclic nature of grief, and are underpinned by Worden’s tasks of grieving. The five levels of the Young People’s program contain developmentally appropriate discussions and activities, and similarly the Adult Program guides adults through a safe, structured peer learning experience. The Seasons for Growth® programs normalise participants’ experiences, and increase protective factors (including building personal resilience and social skills) while minimising some risk factors (including isolation) that influence mental health and wellbeing. They do not provide counselling or therapy.
Psychology and education working together
Psychoeducation is not a type of therapy, but rather a specific form of education. 1 It involves supporting people to learn about specific events and circumstances in their lives, and the range of ways that people respond to these events and circumstances. Seasons for Growth® programs help people to learn about the experiences of change, loss and grief and how these impact on each person’s life. The programs also support the development of communication, decision making and problem solving skills.
The Seasons for Growth® programs are peer based. Peer support can be described as the social, instrumental or emotional support that persons sharing similar life challenges or circumstances provide to each other in reciprocal fashion,2 and this support can be provided in formal or informal contexts. The beliefs underpinning the use of peer support are:
- people can be healed by finding affiliation within an equal relationship with someone who has had a similar life experience.
- helping someone can be self-healing.
- through a process underscored by mutual sharing of their lived experience, people gain hope that change is possible.3
1 Evidence-based Psychological Interventions in the Treatment of Mental Disorders: A Literature Review (third edition) (2010). Australian Psychological Society. (p8).
2 A Review of Peer Support for Suicide Bereavement as a Postvention Alternative (2009). Rawlinson, D., Waegemakers Schiff , J., & Barlow, C. A. (p7).
3 Rawlinson et. al. (p12).
Person centred learning approach
A person centred learning approach underpins the Seasons for Growth® programs. This approach doesn’t use specific group processes or position the facilitator (Companion) as the expert, but instead aims to create an environment where participants become aware of their own strengths and resources, and decide on their own solutions. Companions model empathy, understanding and acceptance in the group in order to empower participants to be true partners in learning.
Metaphor of the seasons
Seasons for Growth® uses the imagery of the seasons as a framework to explore experiences of change, loss and grief. The contrasts between the four seasons, the changes in seasons from year to year and their cyclical nature are all part of the story of the seasons, and allow participants to learn and reflect on their experiences in a safe and familiar context.
Worden’s tasks of grief
The four seasons are each linked to one of J William Worden’s four tasks of grief (3rd edition, 2009):
Worden’s tasks were specifically related to bereavement, but Seasons for Growth® takes a broader view and believes the tasks have relevance for people managing a range of change and loss experiences.
Developmentally appropriate activities
The Seasons for Growth® Young People’s Program offers five age appropriate levels for children and young people. This ensures that participants are taking part in a tailored, developmentally appropriate sequence of activities and discussions with like-age peers.
Protective and risk factors in mental health and wellbeing
Research has shown that mental health promotion strategies that aim to increase protective factors, and minimise risk factors (or take steps to minimise their impact) can promote mental health and wellbeing in children and adults. Protective factors that the Seasons for Growth® programs help to strengthen include building personal resilience, coping and social skills, and increasing participants’ sense of belonging; while working to minimise risk factors including social isolation and lack of support networks.
4 5 Seasons for Growth® programs are recognised as mental health promotion and prevention initiatives, and any participants requiring further support or intervention are referred by the facilitator to an appropriate source of assistance.
4 Promoting mental health: concepts, emerging evidence, practice : report of the World Health Organization, Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse in collaboration with the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation and the University of Melbourne (2005). Editors: Helen Herrman, Shekhar Saxena, Rob Moodie.
5 Risk, protection and resilience in children and families: Research to practice notes (2007). Centre for Parenting and Research, NSW Department of Community Services.