This post was contributed by Lesley Fine from Community Access.
I found this curriculum, developed by University of Minnesota’s Center for Spirituality and Healing, while researching ideas for PROS groups. It encompasses eight major life realms that I thought were highly relevant to most PROS participants:
- Stress Mastery
- Healthcare & Self-Care
- Emotions, Attitudes & Self-Esteem
- Life Purpose & Service
- Exercise & Fitness
- Relationships & Family
- Spirituality, and
- Diet and Nutrition
Thus far, this has been a highly informative, gratifying and user-friendly curriculum to work with. Each module offers a logical and useful sequence (consisting of: Introduction, How Are You Doing, Goal & Action Sheet, Resources, and Reevaluation) that make it very easy to use.
Aside from being user friendly, I like this curriculum for several other reasons. First, the format is interactive and varied. It includes links to short audio and video clips, handouts, and quizzes (some in a fun Jeopardy format) used for information review and outcome evaluation. Second, since the group requires the use of a projector, it also allows the Facilitator to conduct impromptu internet searches should a participant have a relevant question that’s not addressed in the module. Though I don’t spend a significant amount of time doing this, it still allows participants to learn more about the topic at hand, while increasing their comfort level with the useful skill of online research. Third, the curriculum addresses two often neglected topics – Spirituality, and Life Purpose & Service – that offer much therapeutic grist for the mill. Fourth, the curriculum’s “pie format” makes it easy to offer as a whole or “by the slice” for those only interested in certain topics. Lastly, the information covered is highly relevant and useful.
Thus far I have only covered the Healthcare & Self-Care module, and have been struck by how much the participants need this very basic information. This module discusses, for example, the importance of informed consent and of being a proactive partner in one’s health care. Participants learn about the importance of doing research on and understanding one’s diagnosis and treatment options; knowing what to expect from a proposed treatment and the evidence supporting its efficacy; understanding possible risks and side effects; and being actively involved in decision making related to one’s health care.
There was clearly a need for this information in the group I facilitated on this topic. The majority of participants said that they did not fully understand their diagnosis, why they were on a particular medication regime and potential risks, what they could expect in terms of recovery, or other treatment options. One participant shared an extremely apt example of the need for people to be more informed and assertive in their healthcare when he recounted a recent visit to his doctor. Though he was already on 11 medications (medical and psychiatric), and though his doctor told him that his cholesterol was only “borderline high”, the doctor nonetheless prescribed him a cholesterol-lowering medication without first a) discussing any treatment alternatives, such as diet modification, b) explaining possible drug interactions or side effects of this new medication, c) describing the evidence supporting the efficacy of this medication, nor d) asking for his input. It was highly satisfying to role-play scenarios in which participants advocate for themselves in a healthcare context, and witness the collective digestion of this practical and empowering material.
Outcomes are measured during and at the end of each module through quizzes and self-evaluations. I have not yet completed the module I started with (Healthcare & Self-care) so cannot fully comment on the progress made by participants, aside from noting that the material has easily engaged people’s interest as evidenced by lively discussion and active participation. Of note, I have made a point to review previously-covered information at the start of each group, and have found this to be needed for long-term retention.
The topics covered support goal acquisition directly or indirectly, depending on each person’s goal. Thus far I’ve had a handful of unsolicited comments that the information is both interesting and useful. One participant did express discomfort over a brief section on “healthy sex” that addressed issues such as birth control and the definition of consent, but otherwise no one has expressed any concerns or criticisms when I’ve asked for input. I have not yet had to dramatically adapt the curriculum in any way but it can easily be modified by skipping over sections or links you don’t think are needed by your group, supplementing modules with your own material, and by briefly researching relevant information requested by participants during the group. Role-plays can also easily be included as needed.
In summary, this is a relevant, flexible, user-friendly, interactive, and substantive curriculum that I would recommend to anyone interested in supporting their mental, physical, social, and spiritual health. The curriculum is copy-righted, but as long as it is not disseminated in an altered form, or sold for profit, the University of Minnesota encourages its use by programs like PROS.