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If you would like to speak to a member of our team before getting started, please contact us at 833-482-5558 or email info@possibilitiesclinic.com

Collaborative and Proactive Solutions (CPS): The Ross Greene Approach

For all of us, life throws us challenges and we do our best to meet them. Adults learn a lot over time—about possible solutions to challenges and how to manage emotions effectively—so they know what to do when problem-solving gets tough. Compared to kids and teens, adults have more experiences, more strategies, and more brain development to support success. With kids and teens, though, the story is different. Challenges can be hard, conflicts can happen, and parents can be left wondering what to do. If neurodiversity is in the mix—like ADD, ADHD or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)—challenges for kids, teens and families can be intensified. Collaborative and Proactive Solutions (CPS) is an approach that can be very helpful. It’s offered to families with children and teens by clinicians informed by the CPS approach at the Possibilities Clinic.

Here are some common questions we are asked about CPS, along with our answers.

A Collaborative and Proactive Solutions (CPS) approach helps you and your child learn how to work together to solve problems that can be frustrating for the both of you. CPS will help you and your child work as a team—working with, rather than against, each other!

Collaborative and Proactive Solutions (CPS) is an approach for working with children or teens and their families where challenging behaviours are a concern. CPS was developed by Dr. Ross Greene, a psychologist, who has written several books on the subject. Two core ideas in CPS are these: 1) children do well when they can and 2) challenging behaviours occur when expectations being placed on a child exceed the child’s capacity to respond adaptively. With this perspective, big frustrations and challenging behaviours happen when children and teens lack the skills to handle specific demands you or other adults expect them to meet. CPS is about working collaboratively with children/teens and adults to find solutions that work well for everyone involved.

First, Dr. Greene adds a surprising twist to how we think about challenging behaviours in children and teens—and surprising twists always get attention! When we are frustrated and challenged by anyone, we’re often quick to make personal judgments about who those people are and why they are making life tough for us.

So when children tantrum, or teens argue strongly, refusing to do what you ask, it’s tempting to place the problem solely in your child or teen—as a temperament or attitude problem perhaps—rather than considering something else. Dr. Greene sees things differently. He states that it’s far easier for kids to meet expectations the world has of them—if they can—than to protest, tantrum, and tell adults they can’t. Resisting and revolting don’t feel good for anyone, so why would a child choose that path over a simpler start-do-done action plan? In this model challenging behaviors happen because children or teens can’t meet the expectations put on them due to lagging skills—and not because of intentional defiance. Through decades of clinical work, the model has proven helpful and effective for children and teens, and the parents, caregivers and teachers who have worked with this approach. CPS offers a different way of thinking about challenging behaviour that offers a new perspective for action and a roadmap for developing effective solutions.

Yes! Clinicians who provide CPS see challenging behaviours coming from two sources: 1) lagging skills and 2) unsolved problems. Problems arise when expectations don’t match skills. So clinicians work with parents to determine expectations; which ones can your child meet easily and which ones cause challenges? The clinician works with your child, too, to get a sense of what skills are lagging. You’ll offer your perspective as a parent on this side of the coin, too! Next, the clinician will work with both you and your child or teen to help create a solution you can both agree on. That’s the collaborative part of collaborative and proactive solutions.

In a nutshell, it means preventing challenging behaviours before they start. The more predictability you can build into interactions with you and your child, the more tantrums and resistance can be prevented. But you need to understand the patterns of behaviour that happen first, before you can think about preventing them. An analysis of lagging skills and unsolved problems is key. When you begin to see mismatches between skills and expectations, you can begin to think about: 1) expectations that are more realistic, or better matched to current skills, 2) how skills in your child can be developed with skill-appropriate experiences and reasonable challenges, and 3) how you can collaborate with your child in a way that solves problem without resistance. Being proactive is always the goals, but CPS uses those reactive moments to help you and your child figure out how to get there.

Clinicians who use CPS work with parents and children to identify skills that are absent—called lagging skills—and expectations the child has difficulty meeting—called unsolved problems. Then the clinician helps you and your child develop a collaborative and proactive way of working together to solve problems with a Problem Solving Plan you both agree on. The Problem Solving Plan has several steps when a clinician works with a family:

  1. The unsolved problem is identified
  2. You start a constructive conversation with your child or teen about the problem [e.g., “I’ve noticed that you get frustrated when_________. What’s up?”]
  3. Your child discusses concerns and frustrations associated with the specific problem
  4. You discuss concerns and frustrations next from your perspective
  5. A solution is developed and agreed upon as you reflect on the problem and discuss the plan collaboratively with your child
  6. You and your child try out the solution to see if it worked for the both of you
  7. If a solution is not successful, the clinician will help you revisit it. You’ll come up with another solution that seems effective, that you and your child agree on, and that you can try going forward.
  8. If the solution is successful, another problem is addressed with the same process

No. We all do our best when expectations don’t overshoot—dramatically—what our skills allow us to do. In CPS, when goals are agreed upon collaboratively, your child won’t feel overwhelmed and incapable of completing a task right from the start. If your child feels that way, the goal wouldn’t be agreed upon in your collaborative discussion—especially by your child! It feels great to work through plans we are fully capable of completing. That’s why Ross Greene says children do well when they can! Systematic plans have an added benefit. When children work through problems step by step, they leverage the skills they have and learn new skills, too. So, over time, skills evolve, rather than lag, and expectations can grow. The CPS perspective helps ensure that those expectations remain in sync with your child’s skills at any given time.

At Possibilities, clinicians informed by the CPS approach work with you and your child together in 6-session blocks. You are welcome to book additional blocks if you would like clinician support working through additional challenges. Single booster sessions are also available with the clinician to help you maintain skills after you have completed at least 6 sessions using the CPS approach.  

Yes. Our clinicians are licensed to practice in Ontario and we provide services across the province through secure video sessions. You and your child must be within Ontario during the time of your sessions in order for our clinicians to see you through video sessions.

You can learn more about Dr. Ross Greene and his approach in this summary.  Dr. Greene’s classic book, The Explosive Child, is a must-read for any parent who craves fewer conflicts and more collaboration with their children at home! You can order the book through our online store.

CPS is an effective approach for families with young children and teens. Children as young as 6 years could collaborate with parents to create proactive solutions!

This service at Possibilities is provided by non-medical health professionals such as psychologists. As such, it is not covered by OHIP. Your private insurance plan may cover services offered by psychologists, social workers or registered psychotherapists.

Yes! You do not need a doctor’s referral to start this service at Possibilities. 

For more information about Collaborative and Proactive Solutions (CPS) please contact us at info@possibilitiesclinic.com or call 1-833-482-5558. You can also get started right away by completing our Registration Form. Once this form is received, our Care Coordinator will review your needs, match you to an appropriate clinician, and get back to you with booking options.

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