(NBSS, NEPS, SPHE joint project)

FRIENDS is an evidence-based anxiety prevention programme and resiliency building tool specifically designed for use in schools.

Developed by Dr Paula Barrett in Australia, it is the only childhood anxiety prevention programme acknowledged by the World Health Organization for its 12 years of comprehensive validation in schools and health clinics across several countries and languages. The programme is in use in Australia, Ireland, UK, USA, Canada, New Zealand, Norway, Germany, Portugal and the Netherlands. The programme can be run by teachers as a whole school anxiety prevention programme (NBSS Level 1), as a whole class or small group intervention (NBSS Level 2) or with an individual student (NBSS Level 3). It has proven to be effective for up to 6 years after initial exposure.

Anxiety can significantly interfere with a student’s ability to handle a wide variety of everyday activities, including interpersonal relationships, social competence, peer relations and school adjustment. This programme helps students to develop effective strategies to deal with worry, stress and change and teaches children and young people how to cope with, and manage, anxiety both now and in later life.

In 2011 the NBSS introduced the Friends for Life programme into fourteen post primary partner schools nationally. Training on how to implement and teach the programme to students was provided to three teachers from each school. The training was facilitated by an accredited FRIENDS programme trainer, two psychologists from NEPS and a Child and Educational psychologist working with the NBSS. The training covered the rationale, content, and important delivery style essential to the success of Friends in the classroom and teachers were introduced to the programme’s core skills which are summarized by the FRIENDS acronym:

  • Feelings- Learn to regulate your own feeling and also to learn empathy for the feelings of others

  • Relax –Become more aware of yourself, others and your environment

  • Inner helpful thoughts – Change unhelpful thinking to helpful thinking

  • Exploring solutions- Learn to find solutions for problems and to face challenges

  • Nurturing – Reward yourself by self-talk and praise

  • Don’t forget to practice – Try to use your new coping skills when you are faced with difficult situations

  • Smile – Stay calm and share your skills with your support networks

The Friends programme consists of 10 sessions plus 2 booster sessions. During these sessions students are guided through a series of class-based activities aimed at promoting important educational self-development concepts such as self- esteem, problem-solving, psychological resilience, self-expression, and building positive relationships with peers and adults.