About the CPS Model

Collaborative & Proactive Solutions (CPS) is the non-punitive, non-adversarial, trauma-responsive model of care Dr. Greene originated and describes in his various books, including The Explosive Child, Lost at School, Lost & Found, and Raising Human Beings. The CPS model is recognized as an empirically-supported, evidence-based treatment. The model is based on the premise that concerning behavior occurs when the expectations being placed on a kid exceed the kid’s capacity to respond adaptively. So the emphasis of the model isn’t on kids' concerning behavior, which is – whether it’s whining, pouting, sulking, withdrawing, crying, screaming, swearing, hitting, spitting, biting, or worse – just the manner in which they are expressing the fact that there are expectations they’re having difficulty meeting. Rather, the model focuses on identifying the skills the kid is lacking and the expectations they are having difficulty meeting (in the CPS model, those unmet expectations are referred to as unsolved problems). Then the goal is to help kids and caregivers solve those problems rather than trying to modify kids' behavior through application of rewards and punishments.

In the CPS model, the problem solving is of the collaborative and proactive variety. This is in contrast to many of the interventions that are commonly applied to kids, which are of the unilateral and emergent variety. The goal is to foster a collaborative partnership between adults and kids and to engage kids in solving the problems that affect their lives. As such, the CPS model is non-punitive and non-adversarial, decreases the likelihood of conflict, enhances relationships, and improves communication. Here are some of the important questions answered by the model:

Why do some kids respond so poorly to problems and frustrations? 
Because they're lacking the skills to respond more adaptively to life's problems and frustrations. If they had the skills, they wouldn't be exhibiting concerning behaviors. That's because – and here is perhaps the key theme of the model -- Kids do well if they can. And because (here's another key theme) Doing well is always preferable to not doing well (but only if a kid has the skills to do well in the first place). This, of course, is a dramatic departure from the view of challenging kids as attention-seeking, manipulative, coercive, limit-testing, and poorly motivated. It's a completely different set of lenses, supported by research in the neurosciences over the past 40-50 years, and it has dramatic implications for how caregivers go about helping such kids.

When do kids exhibit concerning behaviors?

When the frustration they experience in trying to meet certain expectations exceed the skills they have to deal adaptively with that frustration. Identifying the skills these kids are lacking and the expectations they're having difficulty meeting is accomplished through use of an instrument called the Assessment of Lagging Skills and Unsolved Problems (ALSUP). You can find the ALSUP in the Paperwork section of this website.

What behaviors do challenging kids exhibit when they don't have the skills to respond adaptively to certain demands?

Kids let us know they're struggling to meet demands and expectations in some fairly common ways: whining, pouting, sulking, withdrawing, crying, screaming, swearing, hitting, spitting, kicking, throwing, breaking, lying, stealing, and so forth. But the behavior is the least important part. The expectations the child is having difficulty meeting that are causing the behavior are the most important part.

What should we be doing differently to help these kids better than we're helping them now?

If concerning behavior is set in motion by lagging skills and not lagging motivation, then it's easy to understand why rewarding and punishing a kid may not make things better. Equally problematic is the fact that, in American public schools, punitive, exclusionary discipline is disproportionally applied to Black and Brown students. Since concerning behavior occurs in response to highly predictable unsolved problems, then the kids – and the rest of us – would be a whole lot better off if we tried to solve those problems. But if we solve them unilaterally -- through imposition of adult will (something referred to as Plan A) -- then we'll only increase the likelihood of challenging episodes and we won't solve any problems durably. Better to solve those problems collaboratively (Plan B) so the kid is a fully invested in solving the problems, solutions are more durable, and (over time) the kid -- and often the adults as well -- learn the skills they were lacking all along.

Plan B involves three basic ingredients. The first ingredient – called the Empathy step – involves gathering information so as to achieve the clearest understanding of the kid's concern or perspective about a given unsolved problem. The second ingredient (called the Define the Problem step) involves entering the adult concern or perspective on the same unsolved problem into consideration. The third ingredient (called the Invitation step) involves having the adult and kid brainstorm solutions so as to arrive at a plan of action that is both realistic and mutually satisfactory…in other words, a solution that addresses both concerns and that both parties can actually do.

A very effective way to move away from the disproportionate application of punitive school discipline is to move away from punitive, exclusionary disciplinary practices -- detentions, suspensions, expulsions, paddling, restraint, and seclusion -- and toward interventions that are focused on solving problems. Research has shown that solving problems collaboratively and proactively is at least as effective at improving behavior as behavior modification procedures, and far more effective at reducing the use of punitive discipline.

Where has the model been applied?

In diverse populations, with children and adolescents from different backgrounds and cultures, and countless families, schools, inpatient psychiatry units, group homes, residential facilities, and juvenile detention facilities, the model has been shown to be an effective way to reduce conflict, improve behavior, and teach kids the skills they need to function adaptively in the real world.

Where can I learn more about Plan B and Dr. Greene's model?

This website is a very good place to start, especially the Walking Tours...there's one for parents and another for educators. Various books, CDs, and DVDs describing the model are available in the CPS Store. And there are also over 150 providers across the world who are certified in the CPS model.

Is there a one-page description of the model that I can download?

Glad you asked!  Just click here to print it.  

Why the name change?

Dr. Greene originally referred to his model as "Collaborative Problem Solving," but he changed the name to Collaborative & Proactive Solutions (CPS). Read more here.