August 1, 2010

Thriving Conversations in Clinical Practice

This pilot program by James Furrow promotes initiative and self-confidence in at-risk youth.

Project Dates

Summer 2010—2015

Thrive Research Team

  • James Furrow, Principal Investigator
  • Lisa Criswell, Student Researcher
  • Courtney Foltz, Student Researcher
  • Emily Andrews, Student Researcher

Funded By

This project was made possible by the Thrive Foundation for Youth.

Project Overview

“One of the most profound moments in the project occurred when the director shared the impact of this program on the youth. She noted the importance of having our doctoral students show interest for the lives of these youth—taking time to invest, to learn, and to struggle to build relationships with girls who had survived by trusting no one. The girls felt a difference as a result—something they were not used to, especially on the street.” – James Furrow


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

The primary goal of the Thriving Conversation Project was to assess the potential use of thriving principles in a therapeutic setting with at-risk youth. In this strategic partnership project, the Thrive Center worked with Children of the Night (COTN), a nonprofit organization in Los Angeles that helps youth escape prostitution. Three Thrive student researchers developed and implemented “Thriving Conversations,” an 11-week, mentoring-based curriculum that helped these young people, ages 11–17, 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 that is 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 have been enjoyable and helpful in learning about more effective goal-setting, as well as envisioning a positive personal future. Findings from this evaluation will be used to inform similar programs using thriving principles in interventions with at-risk youth.


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