Can anxiety prevention efforts be streamlined for school-based delivery in the real world?

The REACH For Personal and Academic Success program was designed by Dr. Armando Pina and his team at Arizona State University, Tempe, to target anxiety in school children through a sustainable in-school curriculum. While it is common for children to experience a bit of anxiety in certain situations, extreme amounts of anxiety – that which interferes with the child’s social or academic life – is unhealthy for the child’s physical and mental health.  Unfortunately, it is also one of the most common mental health disorders among children.  

ASU’s REACH program is modeled after Dr. Pina early work in the treatment area and is similar to the Australian program, Friends for Life. Unlike FRIENDS, the complete package of the REACH program can be printed and assembled at your local office supplies shop for about $80 and it includes reusable materials. REACH training is only a day long and there are video module summaries accessible online. REACH is pull out, so groups are kept small – five to seven kids – and sessions last only twenty minutes. This translates into working with students who could benefit from the program by offering focused attention without mayor interruptions to their class time.

REACH has collaborated with schools across the East Valley, in Phoenix Arizona to use games and enjoyable learning activities to deliver anxiety coping lessons supported by research from past studies. The goals of the program include encouraging positive attitudes toward school and learning, advancing academic curiosity, and promoting engagement and achievement in academics. Acronyms like S.T.O.P. (Situation, Thoughts, Other thoughts, Praise yourself) and S.A.F.E. (Speak your mind, ask nicely, firm but kind voice, eye contact) guide the students in remembering methods to reduce anxiety and build self-esteem; recorded relaxation tools, also available online for use in session and at home, also free or charge. Notably, one exciting aspect of the program for the kids is when they get the chance to play Worryheads, a board game that presents real concerns kids have and they get the chance to problem solve and build strong minds

Initial results are positive and promising, suggesting that children who participated in REACH show significant improvements in self-regulation, emotional expressivity, and social skills. These findings, combined with the nearly unanimous agreement among participating children and parents on the attractiveness of the program, are encouraging for the REACH team. Furthermore, 95% of parents reported no stigma associated with their child being in the program. Since the program is implemented in a separate classroom, it becomes a part of the curriculum thus drawing little or no attention to the children who are in need of resilience building services.        

Article By: Danica Kugler, Social Media Intern; Psychology Undergraduate Student


Danica Kugler