The Thriving Conversation Project

Project Lead: Dr. James L. Furrow
Doctoral Student Researchers: Lisa Criswell
Project Dates: Summer 2010–2015
Funded By: The Thrive Foundation

How can at-risk youth develop into thriving adults? What effect will the Thriving Conversation and Goal-Setting tools have towards positive development?

The Thriving Conversation pilot program measured the effectiveness of a specialized therapeutic program in promoting initiative, self-confidence, and a positive future orientation for youth ages 11–17 who have been involved in prostitution. This partnership project worked with Children of the Night (COTN), a nonprofit organization in Los Angeles that helps youth escape prostitution. Three Thrive Fellows developed and implemented “Thriving Conversations,” an 11-week, mentoring-based curriculum that helped these young people develop self-confidence, relational skills, a positive future orientation, and the ability to pursue meaningful goals. Youth and caseworkers at Children of the Night residential facility completed measures of self-concept (Self-Perception Profile for Adolescents), intentional self-regulation (Selection, Optimization, and Compensation Questionnaire), and future orientation (Thriving Subscale) before the start and after the completion of therapy. Scores were calculated and compared to determine in which areas improvement has occurred.

The Thriving Conversation sought to offer at-risk youth a specialized therapeutic program that incorporates educational methods. The program is based on the Thriving Conversation and Goal-Setting tools with appropriate modifications for the population and short-term treatment. The Thriving Conversation is a guided conversation developed for use within a one-on-one mentoring relationship, with questions focused on several important areas of youth development, including meaning and purpose, taking good care of one’s health, social and emotional development, making good choices, positive values, a love of learning, and a hopeful future. As part of this pilot project, youth at Children of the Night residential facility worked toward a positive developmental trajectory informed by specific goals, identified resources, and support for personal initiative. Strengths-based therapy contributed toward the development of self-confidence, relational skills, and a supportive relationship fostering goal formation.

Qualitatively, many youth have expressed that the program has been enjoyable and helpful in learning about more effective goal-setting, as well as envisioning a positive personal future. The director of COTN noted the importance of this project in bringing a positive youth development focus to the program and the powerfully meaningful relationships of the Fuller student mentors. The research has produced 2 dissertation projects, 1 national conference poster presentation, and a pilot study that provides support for the effectiveness of this program. This study is in preparation for publication.