Promoting Alternative THinking Strategies (PATHS)

Program snapshot

Age group: Late childhood (7-11)

Gender: Mixed (male and female)

Population served: Persons with disabilities

Topic: Aggressive/violent behaviours; Antisocial/deviant behaviours

Setting: Rural/remote area; Urban area; School-based

Location: Alberta; Manitoba; Nova Scotia

Number of completed Canadian outcome evaluation studies: In progress

Continuum of intervention: Primary crime prevention; Secondary crime prevention

Brief Description

The Promoting Alternative THinking Strategies (PATHS) curriculum is a program that promotes emotional and social competencies and reduces aggression and behaviour problems in elementary school–aged children, while simultaneously enhancing the educational process in the classroom.

The program is centered on academic support; cognitive behavioural therapy; conflict resolution; leadership and youth development; peer counselling and mediation; school-based strategies; skills training; and social emotional learning.


The main goals of the PATHS program are to:

  • Reduce aggression and behaviour problems among students;
  • Develop positive peer relations and problem solving skills; and
  • Reduce emotional problems and enhance social and emotional competence.


The appropriate clientele for the PATHS program is children in kindergarten through grade 6. PATHS can be implemented with children who are in regular education and children with different disabilities, including children with learning disabilities, hearing impairments, and emotional and behavioural problems.

Participants are referred to the PATHS program by teachers, school administrators, and parents. To participate in the program, children must attend a school in which the PATHS curriculum is implemented.

Core Components

The lessons in the PATHS curriculum are taught three times per week for a minimum of 20 to 30 minutes a day. These lessons are divided into the following four sections:

  • The readiness and self-control section: This section consists of 12 lessons that aim to develop basic self-control. These lessons teach children how to stop and think about the possible consequences of their behaviours before acting on their impulses. In these lessons, children are told a story about a young turtle that has trouble with interpersonal relationships and learning in school. The young turtle meets an older, “wise” turtle who teaches him how to think before acting and how to develop more self-control. These lessons stress that the children stop before acting, take a deep breath, and identify the problem they are facing and how that problem makes them feel. This set of 12 lessons generally takes five to seven weeks to complete;
  • The feelings and relationships section: This section consists of 56 lessons that teach interpersonal and emotional understanding. In these sessions, children are taught how to deal with emotions, what these emotions mean, and how they affect which decisions and choices you make. Children are taught how to make choices about their behaviours so that they are respectful to their own feelings and the feelings of others. The students also learn emotional intelligence, which allows the youth to effectively label their feelings and control their impulses to act in a negative manner. This is achieved through group discussions, stories, and art activities. The lessons are taught using a diagram that reflects a traffic light. There are three different control signals – red, yellow, and green. When dealing with emotions and feelings, students are asked to first calm down (red), slow down (yellow), and then try their plan (green);
  • The interpersonal cognitive problem solving section: This section consists of 33 lessons that cover eleven steps for formal interpersonal problem solving. These lessons are usually introduced in grades 3 or 4. There are 11 different steps covered in these sessions. These steps are: stop and calm down; identify the problem; identify the feelings; decide on a goal; think of lots of solutions; think about the consequences; choose the best solution; make a good plan; try the plan; evaluate (how did it go?); and, if needed, try again; and
  • The supplementary section: This section is a non-mandatory unit which includes 30 extra lessons. The material in these lessons are taught in six different sections: informal group problem solving meetings; self-control review; friendship and peer relations; teasing; review of formal problem solving; and fairness or moral development.

Implementation Information

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

  • Organizational requirements: The lead organization must mobilize schools to participate in the PATHS program and manage logistic elements which enable the program to happen.
  • Partnerships: The success of the PATHS program depends on its partnerships with schools, school boards, and parents of children involved in the program.
  • Training and technical assistance: Staff (teachers, support workers, administrative staff) are required to participate in training sessions throughout the entire PATHS curriculum. Each year, teachers implementing the PATHS curriculum participate in weekly or bi-weekly observations, team meetings, and staff discussions. It is strongly recommended that after the second year, teachers implementing the program continue to participate in half-day booster training sessions.
  • Risk assessment tools: Limited information on this topic.
  • Materials & resources: In order to administer the PATHS curriculum, teachers and program facilitators require the PATHS Classroom Modules for kindergarten students and students in grades 1 to 6.

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: Model
  • Crime Solutions/OJJDP Model Program Guide: Effective
  • SAMHSA's National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices: 2.6 - 3.2
  • Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy: Not applicable.

Gathering Canadian Knowledge

Canadian Implementation Sites

The PATHS program has been implemented in selected schools across Nova Scotia, Alberta, and Manitoba.

Main Findings from Canadian Outcome Evaluation Studies

An outcome evaluation of the PATHS program offered by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) in Nova Scotia is currently in progress; results are not yet available at this time.

Cost Information

No information available.


Canadian Mental Health Association, Nova Scotia. (2015). Socially & Emotionally Aware Kids (SEAK). Available from:

For more information on this program, contact:


Telephone: 877-717-2847



Record Entry Date - 2018-03-09
Record Updated On - 2022-02-08
Date modified: