A General Semantics Approach to Clinical Supervision with Drug Prevention Counselors

By Levinson, Martin H. | ETC.: A Review of General Semantics, Summer 1996 | Go to article overview

A General Semantics Approach to Clinical Supervision with Drug Prevention Counselors


Levinson, Martin H., ETC.: A Review of General Semantics


I am the Assistant Director of PROJECT SHARE, a 12 month Kindergarten through ninth grade New York City school-based drug prevention program serving over 26,000 students, teachers, parents, and other residents of Community School District 30, located in the western part of Queens County. We call ourselves the "United Nations" district because of the diversity of immigrant students who attend school here and the number of languages spoken. It is estimated that our 26,000 students speak more than 100 languages and come from over 140 countries. The poverty index of the district's 26 schools is approximately 70% (this reflects the percent of students receiving free lunches or on public assistance).

The goals of our program include delivering a clear no-use message to children; educating and motivating people to make healthy choices in their lives; reinforcing cultural norms that discourage destructive behavior; and reinforcing basic civic values.

Project share has been in existence since 1971. Over the years we have refined and updated our educational approach to drug prevention. When we first started there was little research on what was effective, and we basically relied on scare tactics and moral exhortations. These methods did not produce very good results. Since then we have adopted a more sophisticated approach known as "Results-Oriented Prevention Programming." This allows us to use a variety of strategies to impact specific targeted groups. For example, our Youth Advisors give classroom lessons and assembly presentations on such topics as coping with stress, good decision-making and problem-solving techniques, ways to bolster self-esteem, and lessons on the risks of drug-taking. They may offer students positive alternative programs such as music, dramatics, crafts, or athletic workshops. We also sponsor an elementary school animal club emphasizing concern for living things and respect for life; an annual fairy tale trial providing students an opportunity to become familiar with the workings of the criminal justice system by presenting a mock jury trial; and a mediation skills program providing students with alternative dispute-resolution techniques.

Our Youth Advisors are required to offer faculty, parent, and community presentations on a variety of topics including: how teachers can recognize child abuse; communication skills for parents; how to stop smoking; and many other practical topics.

Our program has applied for and won numerous federal and local grants to help us accomplish our mission. And we have just been nominated by our state funding agency for a 1995 National Exemplary Alcohol and Other Drug Prevention Award. The goals of these awards are to (1) provide models of state-of-the art alcohol and other drug prevention programs that may be adopted by others and (2) focus national attention on exemplary alcohol and other drug prevention efforts.

My job as assistant director includes administering and supervising a staff of 23 Youth Advisors who are responsible for delivering our drug prevention services to the 26 schools in our district. I have held this position for 10 years. For 16 years before that I worked as a teacher Youth Advisor in the program.

In 1980 I received a Ph.D. in Organizational and Administrative studies from New York University. My dissertation involved using general semantics to reduce feelings of alienation among junior high school "problem students." As an administrator and supervisor, I have continued to use knowledge gained from general semantics. This paper will focus on some of the ways I have done this. More specifically, I will discuss how I have applied general semantics formulations in my work to facilitate better interpersonal relations and more effective organizational functioning.

The Map is Not the Territory

In the late 1970s and early 1980s salaries for our counselors, whom we call Youth Advisors, were quite low, even by the traditional standards of social service workers. …

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