Aboriginal EMPATHIC Program

Program snapshot

Age group: Late childhood (7-11)

Gender: Mixed (male and female)

Population served: Aboriginal/Indigenous

Topic: Aggressive/violent behaviours; Antisocial/deviant behaviours

Setting: Rural/remote area; School-based

Location: Nova Scotia

Number of completed Canadian outcome evaluation studies: 1

Continuum of intervention: Secondary crime prevention

Brief Description

The Aboriginal Emotional Maturity Problem-Solving & Awareness Targeting Higher Impulse Control (EMPATHIC) Program is a school-based curriculum. It is based upon the Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies (PATHS) programFootnote1 which is widely recognized in the United States as a proven program to prevent or reduce levels of violence, crime, or drug use.

The program was modified to reflect Aboriginal cultural values and teachings and is centered on emotional awareness, impulse control, techniques to handle emotions, and increasing levels of self-esteem and pride in the Aboriginal culture.


The main goal of the Aboriginal EMPATHIC Program is to:

  • Develop emotional awareness and impulse control among Aboriginal children. 

The expected outcomes for the Aboriginal EMPATHIC Program include:

  • Reduction of aggressive or violent incidents at school;
  • Reduction of antisocial behaviour requiring intervention; and
  • Increased self-control.


The appropriate clientele for the Aboriginal EMPATHIC Program is all Aboriginal children in grades one to five (approximately aged from 6 to 11 years old), including those with aggressive and disruptive behaviours.

Core Components

The Aboriginal EMPATHIC Program consists of 40 lessons for each of the five grade levels, with some lessons overlapping from previous years for reinforcement. Classroom teachers are responsible for the administration of the program. There are a total of 129 different lessons over the five grades. Lesson techniques include role-playing, storytelling, journal writing, drawing, picture-based scenarios, and sharing of personal stories. Each week in each class, one child is chosen to be PATH Kid of the Week.

Home visits occur each week. Out of all the PATH Kids of the Week, five homes are visited by a program representative to create a positive focus on the child. The homes that are selected are those homes where the situation may be less than desirable and a positive school visit would provide much needed positive attention.

Implementation Information

Some of the critical elements for the implementation of this program or initiative include the following:

  • Organizational requirements: Limited information on this topic.
  • Partnerships: Organizations should collaborate with school staff and administrators. The program promotes community ownership through the involvement of diverse community representatives throughout various stages of program development and implementation.
  • Training and technical assistance: All teachers should attend a standard PATHS training workshop.
  • Risk assessment tools: Limited information on this topic.
  • Materials & resources: The Aboriginal EMPATHIC Program curriculum documents.

International Endorsements

The most recognized classification systems of evidence-based crime prevention programs have classified this program or initiative as follows:

  • Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development: Not applicable.
  • Crime Solutions/OJJDP Model Program Guide: Not applicable.
  • SAMHSA's National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices: Not applicable.
  • Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy: Not applicable.

Gathering Canadian Knowledge

Canadian Implementation Sites

Public Safety Canada’s National Crime Prevention Strategy provided funding to implement the Aboriginal EMPATHIC Program in the Eskasoni Elementary and Middle School in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia between 2003 and 2006. The program was implemented by the Eskasoni School Board in conjunction with school administration, teachers, parents, community members and program personnel.

Main Findings from Canadian Outcome Evaluation Studies

As part of Public Safety Canada’s funding, an outcome evaluation studyFootnote2 of the Aboriginal EMPATHIC program was conducted in 2006 by Chaytor Consulting Services Ltd. The one-year evaluation of the Aboriginal EMPATHIC Program in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia was based on a quasi-experimental design – a two-group, before and after design.

Results from this evaluation showed the following:

  • Changes in student behaviour were beginning to emerge as a result of the implementation of the Aboriginal EMPATHIC Program. Improvements were reported in the students’ ability to understand and express emotions, students were also beginning to show signs of improved impulse control. 

For more information, refer to the National Crime Prevention Centre’s (2013) publication.

Cost Information

The cost per youth involved in the Aboriginal EMPATHIC Program is based on the size of the school(s) involved in implementation. In 2006, the cost of implementing the program without assistance in a small school was $10 (CAD) per student (based on 100 students: 5 classes x 20 students per class). The cost of implementing the program in a medium sized school with part time support was $144 (CAD) per student (based on 200 students: 10 classes x 20 students per class). The cost of implementing the program in a large sized school with full support was $143 (CAD) per student (based on 400 students: 20 classes x 20 students per class) (Chaytor Consulting Services, Ltd., 2006).


Chaytor Consulting Services, Ltd. (2006). Evaluation of the EMPATHIC Program: Final Report. Submitted to the Eskasoni School Board & the National Crime Prevention Centre, Public Safety Canada (Unpublished report).

National Crime Prevention Centre. (2013). The Aboriginal EMPATHIC Program. Evaluation Summary. Ottawa, ON: Public Safety Canada. Available from: http://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/rsrcs/pblctns/2009-se-20/index-eng.aspx

For more information on this program, contact:

Educational Program Innovations Charity
PO Box 1897
North Sydney, Nova Scotia B2A 3S9
Telephone: (902) 794-7225
E-mail: epiccharity@gmail.com
Website: http://www.epiccharity.com/

Record Entry Date - 2018-02-19
Record Updated On - 2021-05-14
  1. 1

    For more information on PATHS, refer to the specific program descriptive sheet.

  2. 2

    A process evaluation study of the program was also conducted through Public Safety Canada’s funding. For more information, communicate with the Research Division, Public Safety Canada.

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