How Effective is Harm Reduction; a Critical Look at Drug Prevention Programs Implemented in Schools.

How Effective is Harm Reduction; a Critical Look at Drug Prevention Programs Implemented in Schools.

Most middle/high schools have some sort of drug prevention program, where an assembly, field-trip, or day long event is put in place to encourage youth to make smart choices and prevent substance abuse. For me, this meant a field trip to the P.A.R.T.Y. (Prevent Alcohol and Risk-Related Trauma in Youth) Program in Calgary. The day itself was full of interesting information, talks from survivors and the chance to experience a simulated injury incurred from substance abuse during lunch break. I’m sure all of my grade ten classmates had a different ‘take home message’ from that experience, however as we all grew up and graduated together, I truly wonder how effective that program was (if you’re also from a small red-neck town, I’m sure you know exactly what I mean).

So what is harm reduction? “Harm Reduction refers to policies, programmes and practices that aim primarily to reduce the adverse health, social and economic consequences of the use of legal and illegal psychoactive drugs without necessarily reducing drug consumption. Harm reduction benefits people who use drugs, their families and the community”. There are multiple obvious reasons why these programs are tailored towards youth/students, and the P.A.R.T.Y. program’s stance is based “on the understanding that 90% of all injuries are both predictable and preventable” and “is about experiencing what happens when young people make a decision that changes their life forever”.

For these programs, there are a few different ways to get their point across to youth. In a 2016 article commentary by Theodore Caputi and Kevin Sabet, they mention Scare Tactics (a method sometimes including graphic images and videos, as well as ‘horror’ stories told by survivors or families), Mainstream Prevention Programs (such as ‘Keepin’ it REAL) and Harm Reduction Programs (such as D.A.R.E. and SHAHRP).

It’s mentioned by Caputi and Sabet that the most effective of these three options is Mainstream Prevention Programs, in which a 2008 systematic review by Faggiano and colleagues found that there was a “55% reduction of hard drug use” when the methods of prevention were “drug knowledge, decision making, self esteem and peer pressure resistance” (Faggiano et al., 2008). It is also worth mentioning the least effective of the three were Scare Tactics. This method was most popular in the 1990’s and are mistakenly still used today, but research proves that scare tactics are simply unsuccessful, and can actually have damaging effects (National Institute of Health Science panel, 2004).

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources affirms why Scare Tactics don’t work in 5 very simple points;

  1. Often youth dismiss these messages, as a defense to the feeling of fear.
  2.  Youth have a different filter than adults.
  3. High risk groups can be MORE attracted to the behaviour
  4. Strong warnings can send unintended messages
  5. Trauma: Showing graphic images could bring up past traumas

In conclusion; prevention is complicated, and regardless of method used (although preferably not Scare Tactics), these programs should use tested methods to increase the overall effectiveness of “prevention science”, and educational institutes should be the ones making smart choices that have proven science and work best for encouraging the health of their students.

Thank you for reading! 🙂



Caputi, T. L., & Sabet, K. A. (2016). Commentary on “New Perspectives on Drug Education/Prevention”. Journal of psychoactive drugs48(3), 227-229.

Faggiano, F., Vigna-Taglianti, F. D., Versino, E., Zambon, A., Borraccino, A., & Lemma, P. (2008). School-based prevention for illicit drugs use: A systematic review. Preventive medicine46(5), 385-396.

McBride, N., Farringdon, F., Midford, R., Meuleners, L., & Phillips, M. (2004). Harm minimization in school drug education: final results of the School Health and Alcohol Harm Reduction Project (SHAHRP). Addiction99(3), 278-291.

Singh, R. D., Jimerson, S. R., Renshaw, T., Saeki, E., Hart, S. R., Earhart, J., & Stewart, K. (2011). A summary and synthesis of contemporary empirical evidence regarding the effects of the Drug Abuse Resistance Education Program (DARE). Contemporary School Psychology: Formerly” The California School Psychologist”15(1), 93-102.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, NIH Consensus Development Program, NIH News, October 15, 2004


Creativity in the Classroom: Fostering Innovation

Creativity in the Classroom: Fostering Innovation

Everyone would agree that children are more imaginative and outgoing than adults, however research suggests that this imaginative approach to problem solving can become a powerful asset further in life. Unfortunately, most children experience a significant decline in creative thinking between kindergarten and grade 3. The purpose of my first Psychology of Education blog post is to examine the importance of creativity in the classroom, and how to maintain/encourage creative thinking.

How you problem solve can determine how creative you are, and whether you’re a divergent, or a convergent thinker. Those with higher levels of creativity are classified as divergent thinkers and are able to propose more unique ideas from different thought categories. Creative thinking is further divided into two levels, those with “little-c” creativity are fast thinking and excel at cultivating novel ideas in their everyday lives. Those who are “big-C” creative display the highest form of creativity, and can be identified through their “breakthrough kind of thinking”. Some individuals that are “big-C” divergent thinkers include Darwin, Van Gogh and other revolutionaries in history.

Convergent thinking is encouraged in education as it’s thought to “foster conventional thinking skills that focus on one linear idea or correct solution”. While pushing this method of thinking is great in theory, squandering natural creativity greatly reduces the ability to problem solve, and explore new ideas comfortable and confidently. This can greatly hinder an individual as they grow into adults and are expected to become independent functioning members of society.

In a 2013 review by Dan Davies, it is stated that instructors do make an active effort to enhance creativity in the classroom by assigning a “critical event” or project to foster creative freedom. Through these events, it was found that there are several important factors in maintaining a creative environment. The first is the physical environment itself, in which the classroom should have an emphasis in the flexibility in space usage, where it’s not too crowded. It is also mentioned that the room should include “sensory qualities”, such as different usages of light, color and sound greatly impact the amount of creativity the students display. The second is the availability of classroom resources/materials. In children, this could mean “formless materials…such as clay, modelling foam, wire, cellophane, tissue paper, etc”, while in older students it’s recommended that there is an emphasis on the access to new media technology. The third most important factor that I’m going to mention in this post is the use of outside environment. In younger students, outdoor walks are suggested; while a review of several schools found that the schools with the highest scores of creativity included “a use of local woodland, regular contact with that setting, providing freedom to use multiple senses, time for individual learning styles to be recognises and nurtured and a low pupil to adult ratio”.

The review by Davies concludes that creativity was increased through the “presence of a professional learning culture… which provided opportunities to take risks in a supportive environment”, more positive student involvement, cultivating student individuality, and “allowing more room for individual pupil responses”.

In summary; the more emphasis on creativity placed in educational settings, the more the students were able to perform independently, and the better they were at problem solving.

Thats it! Thanks for reading! 🙂


Davies, D., Jindal-Snape, D., Collier, C., Digby, R., Hay, P., & Howe, A. (2013). Creative learning environments in education—A systematic literature review. Thinking Skills and Creativity, 8, 80-91.

Bergese, R. (2013). In the spaces between–sustaining creativity in child psychotherapy. Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 39(3), 319-333.

Psych 3330; Final Reflective Post.

Psych 3330; Final Reflective Post.

Psych 3330, Social Cognition was a very interesting experience, and one of my favorite classes I have taken so far in my academic career. This class allowed students to choose a social cognition related topic that was interesting to them, while also allowing flexibility for the students to write and comment before the deadline whenever their schedules allowed.

Students pursuing a post-secondary career will potentially be expected to have adequate literacy and people skills, while also being able to present themselves and their knowledge in a coherent and reasonable manner. This class required weekly blog posts and bi-weekly in class presentations, promoting students to choose a topic they’d want to present on, and encouraging this intellectual development these individuals need in their future.

Many students were put off by how often they had to present, and I was also concerned during the first class, however after my first presentation, I was relieved to know how casual it was. Many students presented in a lecture/speech style, where they had cue cards to read off, but I found that preparing an actual Powerpoint/Google-Slides was beneficial to the topics I chose, where I’d need pictures and diagrams to better describe the topic. From my experience, the effort I put into my blogs and presentations was reflected in the grade I received.

From this class I believe I’ve enhanced my planning ability, and my confidence in presenting, as well as I’ve learned to chose topics that are interesting to me, as I performed significantly better on  blogs and presentations I had a prior interest in, than ones I didn’t.

I sincerely recommend if anybody takes this class, they ensure they have the responsibility to write a short assignment every week, and the motivation to comment on their classmates blog. There have been nights where I was not able to get the required four comments done because I put it off until last minute, and was too tired to continue writing.

All in all, I had a great semester with Professor Martin, and I sincerely enjoyed his teaching methods. I will gladly take more classes with him in the future.

Thank you for the semester, I hope you have a great summer! 🙂

Topic Blog 4: Synthesis of Cult Cognition.

Topic Blog 4: Synthesis of Cult Cognition.

My last three blogs have had the topic of cults, specifically, how we perceive cults and what methods cult leaders may use to change how the public perceives them.

The first topic blog I wrote featured Jim Jones, the notorious cult leader of the Peoples Temple which ended in the tragic Jonestown Massacre. Jim Jones used manipulative and horrendous methods to gain followers, retain followers, and put up a facade to the public that seemed innocent and progressive. As his legacy spiralled out of control, his manipulative methods became less convincing, and more coercive, changing from encouraging his followers to leave their families and donate all their belongings to the church, to just flat out forcing them to submit, by making them strip during congregation, and humiliating them, purposefully psychologically beating his followers down until they were helpless against his tyranny.

My second topic blog features Anton LaVey, another infamous leader, and his cult; The Church of Satan. LaVey uses the public’s preconception of paganism and the occult by using its symbols and imagery (images such as the pentagram, the Leviathan Cross, Lucifer’s Sigil and Baphomet) to make his religion seem more unfavorable than it really was. The Church of Satan promotes individualism and questioning reality, and has several rules and regulation in place that are actually quite agreeable, such as policies on drug use, illegal activities and politics. Those who follow LaVeyan Satanism are perceived as being socially deviant because of the advocacy for non-herd conformity, sex, wisdom, responsibility and independence. Due to these distinct differences, majority religions have a strong opposition to the Church of Satan, although if one looks deeper into the beliefs the church follows, they’ll find that they truly can not base their understanding of the religion on its name.

My third topic blog was focused on Wiccan cults. The Wicca (sometimes referred to as Pagan Witchcraft) also follows a neo-pagan belief, which is disrespected by majority-religions and the public, causing the religion to favor the name ‘Wicca’ over ‘Witchcraft’, which it was originally termed by Gerald Gardner. The Wiccan tradition is most commonly one that promotes peace and pacifism, believing that any harm or good a Wicca causes will be returned to them ‘threefold’. As of recent, counselors have become particularly concerned with the mental state of minority religion members, as those in the Wiccan cult tradition are particularly susceptible to being marginalized and can develop stress, anxiety and depression just based on the dissonance they receive from the public, and the internal conflicts they may face.

In summary: Cults are very diverse and unique, in which not all of them end up in tragedy at the hands of a narcissistic and manipulative leader, like the People Temple. Some minority religions and cults need a second and more appreciative look to fully understand the belief system, such as LaVeyan Satanism. In the case of the Wiccans, these minority-religion members should be treated with more sympathy and care as the harsh judgement the public gives them are very detrimental to their psychological health.

Thank you for reading! 🙂

References & further readings:

Topic Blog 3: A Sympathetic Approach to Cult Comprehension; Wiccan Cults.

Topic Blog 3: A Sympathetic Approach to Cult Comprehension; Wiccan Cults.

In my two previous subject blogs I discussed the ever-changing and subjective definition of cults, and how the perception of cults can represent an ideology different from what the religion actually practice.

Wicca (also occasionally known as Pagan Witchcraft) is a neo-pagan religious movement, first publicly introduced in 1954 by Gerald Gardner, the founder of the Gardnerian Wiccan-cult tradition. Interest in the tradition rose in the 1960’s and 1970’s, possibly influenced by the feminist movements during those times, coinciding with the goddess-worship this religion provided (Coleman, 2005). With the development of the internet, the Wiccan tradition experienced another influx of members, and began to diversify under devotion to different deities. The diversification of these traditions could also be attributed to the fact that many Wiccan and Neo-Pagan cults draw from other cultures, such as Scandinavian and Egyptian traditions, and Celtic mythology (Pike, 2004).

Wiccan traditions mostly represent non-harming, practicing the Three-Fold Law, in which any positive or negatives a Wiccan or Neo-Pagan might do, it will “come back to them threefold” and should generally try not to cause harm to others, so they will not cause harm unto themselves (Harwood, 2007). While this is a general rule, there are some Wiccan traditions that have other beliefs. This WordPress blog encourages current and ex-members of the Alexandrian Witchcraft Cult to speak out about their psychologically scarring experiences and find confidence and help among others.

It has recently been brought up by counselors that marginalized minority religions can be especially subject to stigma and judgment, simply for being the “Black Sheep” among majority organized religions. Wiccan and Neo-Pagan cult traditions are no different, as the idea of a Pagan religion seems to raise a harmful bias in people, believed to be associated with Satan-worship and black magic, which are absolutely unrelated to the Wiccan tradition.

Moe and Colleagues paper is particularly concerned with the assumptions that counselors might impose upon their Wiccan clients (Moe et all., 2013). “Wiccan and Neo-Pagans may come to counselling due to stress, anxiety and depressive feelings related to the cognitive dissonance that members of marginalized groups cope with on a daily basis” (Moe et all., 2013). These members might also feel the stress of dealing with internal conflicts, such as new initiates coming to terms with their new identities and accepting the new terms of their religion (Salazar & Abrams, 2005). It has been by suggested by Moe and Colleagues that counselors with Wiccan or Neo-Pagan clients keep an open mind and their biases to the clients beliefs in check, and to better foster these individuals practices by including ” referrals to local Wiccan and Neo-Pagan groups” (Moe et all., 2013).

In conclusion, the preconceived notions and judgment passed onto passive neo-cults from civilian non-members and counselors alike could psychologically harm cult members, and it’s always better to further investigate before passing a judgment onto these people.

Thanks for reading! 🙂


Coleman, K. (2005). Why” God” as” She” Provokes us: Semiotically Speaking: The Significance of the Divine Feminine. Pomegranate, 7(2).

Harwood, B. J. (2007). Beyond Poetry and Magick: The Core Elements of Wiccan Morality 1. Journal of Contemporary Religion, 22(3), 375-390.

Moe, J. L., Cates, K., & Sepulveda, V. (2013). Wicca and Neo-Paganism: A Primer for Counselors. Journal of Professional Counseling, Practice, Theory, & Research, 40(1), 38.

Pike, S. M. (2004). New age and neopagan religions in America. Columbia University Press.

Salazar, C. F., & Abrams, L. P. (2005). Conceptualizing identity development in members of marginalized groups. Journal of Professional Counseling, Practice, Theory, & Research, 33(1), 47.

Topic Blog 2: Challenging Cult Perception; LaVeyan Satanism.

Topic Blog 2: Challenging Cult Perception; LaVeyan Satanism.

Satanism has its preconceptions, such as blood sacrifices, seances, and summoning circles. In this blog post, I’ll be talking about LaVeyan Satanism exclusively, and how the symbolism, practices and beliefs used have a much different reality than we might initially believe.

(For the remainder of this blog I will be referring to LaVeyan Satanism as just simply Satanism, and Laveyan Satanists as Satanists. This is not discrediting the existence of other Satanist groups, but for the sake of my word count will be simplifying the religion)

Anton Szandor LaVey, also known as his birth name; Howard Stanton Levey was born in 1930, and became the father to the modern day ‘Church of Satan’ after publishing the Satanic Bible in 1969. The Church of Satan had its beginnings in the notorious Black House, which was bought and painted black in 1950, becoming the headquarters for the Church for several years, oddly nestled between two stark white apartment complexes in suburban San Francisco, California.

The Church of Satan started out as a small organization named the Order of The Trapezoid. LeVay then renamed the organization to the official Church of Satan in 1966, declaring this the first Year of Satan, or Anno Satanas. Satan became the centre figure of the Church of Satan, but LaVeyan Satanists do not worship Satan, rather, they believe Satan represents ideals that should not be repressed. Satan fosters the idea of pride, enlightenment, materialism, individualism, egoism, carnality, and the pursuit of indulgence, the underlying message behind this lifestyle being; life is too short to restrict yourself, so it’s okay to occasionally indulge.

The Church of Satan has three main practices and beliefs, such as the Nine Satanic Statements, The 11 Satanic Rules of The Earth, and The Nine Satanic Sins. Upon reading these Satanic requirements, you’ll find your preconceptions of Satanism shattered, as many of these are agreeable. In the 11 Satanic Rules of The Earth, it addresses issues such as rape, pedophilia, animal activism and home invasion. the Church of Satan also has policies on drug use, illegal activities, and politics, which is hard to find in other religions. It’s very apparent that LaVey disagreed with other organized religions, especially Christianity, as he believing they were repressive and deceitful. This distaste towards Christianity led to the Satanic imagery we all know, such as the Pentagram, the Leviathan Cross (which is really just the Alchemical symbol for Sulfur), Lucifer’s Sigil, and the use of Baphomet.

In conclusion: Anton LaVey believed in questioning reality, messianic figures, and deviating from herd conformity, promoting individuality, but also utterly freaking out those that were unwilling to do so. Because of his use of Satanic symbolism he gained a following of individuals that were perceived as socially deviant due to the independence and non-conforming nature that the Church of Satan encourages, while also setting a distinct difference from other majority religions, questioning their following and beliefs. Due the advocation of sex, wisdom, and responsibility, perhaps we’re all a little Satanic in that regard.

Thank you for reading! 🙂


Topic Blog 1: Introduction to cults; Jonestown.

Topic Blog 1: Introduction to cults; Jonestown.

For my next four blog posts I’ll be focusing on the topic of cults. This is a topic many have my other classmates have done, however I will be trying to further the analysis section and relating it to social cognition more.

To start this series off, I’ll be choosing “Jonestown“, a well known case of a cult that will be an easy start to these next blogs that everyone has most-likely heard of.

The Peoples Temple had its humble beginnings, originally known as the Wings of Deliverance, founded by Jim Jones. Having no more than 20 followers, Jones then renamed it the People Temple, known for its racial activism, allowing people of color to join the congregation, setting up soup kitchens and an orphanage. Jones promoted equality, preaching about the intolerance he has to racial segregation, and commenting on the flaws of capitalism. In 1960 Jones and his wife and him were the first white people to adopt a black child in Indiana (Ksander, 2o07). The Peoples Temple started to grow in popularity, growing from a few hundred to 20,000 in a short amount of time. With the mixed congregation, people believed this sort of equality was only something Jones could accomplish. Many of Jones’ followers were homeless, or addicts, and Jones offered shelter and guidance, an offer many couldn’t afford to turn away (Nelson, 2007).

As the Peoples Temple continued to gain followers, he began to gain political power. This attention drew the media, in which his following swayed slightly. Humiliated, Jones went to Guyana and began his commune there.It was during this time that Jones became increasingly belligerent as his drug addiction becoming more apparent, and his captivating speeches that entranced so many people were becoming more difficult to understand and no longer were about this “better future”, and were much more pessimistic in nature. Jones’ methods of manipulation became more aggressive, and word continued to spread, Congressmen Leo Ryan came to Jonestown to see if these rumors were true, along with family members and journalists. During Ryan’s visit, many of the members made their situation apparent, having several ‘defectors’ asking to leave with them. This pushed Jones to a breaking point, and some of the Peoples Temple members shot several of the defectors, Ryan, and some of the journalists. Jones then called an “emergency meeting”, distributing his poisonous mix of Kool-Aid and cyanide. Many drank willingly, those who didn’t were injected with it through syringes, forced to drink, or shot.

Whether the tragic end of the Peoples Temple was planned from the beginning with the Wings of Deliverance, or he fell victim to his own madness; a further analysis is necessary to better relate the tactics Jim Jones used against his followers to Social Cognition.

Jones first gained traction by his social manipulation, catering to the public and gaining followers through his passionate and intense speeches, many people report getting easily caught up in what Jones was saying, just because he was so emotional about it. Jones offered a hand to people in need, those that were homeless took up refuge under Jones, easily convincing them that he saved them, and that he was someone that they owed something to (Nelson, 2007). He encouraged his followers to sell their belongings and turn away from their families, as Jones deliberately tried to “break down” his followers outside ties, believing that family relationships were “sick” (Ross, 2008). He quickly became a sort of Messianic-figure to his followers, demanding that they call him father, staging spiritual healing presentations, and even drugging his own followers to further their belief in him as a saviour (Webb, 1978).

Jones was not only convincing, but also coercive, and often humiliated his followers by having them sit naked in meetings, and would criticize them during congregations (Kilduff, 1977). Jones would also put on suicide-rehearsing “White Nights” in which a portion of his followers would ingest a liquid that was said to have poison in it, demanding that they drink if they want to prove their devotion (Ross, 2008). These methods were so degrading and psychologically damaging, that a majority of his followers had no opposition, as they were just mentally exhausted. In this broken state, Jones was able to further manipulate them, encouraging them to spy and report on each others actions, creating a system of anxiety and paranoia. Shortly after the death of Leo Ryan, Jones ordered that children drink first, severing the final ties any members might have to family. The community in Jonestown was so broken down at this point, many no longer saw the point of living, and the fact that many members willingly drank the poison becomes easier to understand.

In conclusion for this blog, as I am way over my word count, Jim Jones used manipulative forces to socialize his followers into believing the Peoples Temple was concordant to their own beliefs, and a movement worth joining. Jones quickly stripped them of personal identity, and punished them when they questioned his authority, and through the methods already discussed, Jones was able to socialize his followers into becoming helpless and completely dependant on him, some; even willing to end their lives for him. Thank you for reading! 🙂


Nelson, S. (2006). Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple. Fireflight Media, October, 20.

Webb, A. (1978). Jonestown Survivors Describe Their Escape. The Bryan Times, Nov.

Kilduff, M., & Tracy, P. (1977). Inside Peoples Temple. New West, 8(1), 77.