Breaking Barriers – Curriculum Overview

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Breaking Barriers is a life skills, behavioral/cognitive change model based upon Cognitive Psychology and Social Learning Theory. For more than thirty years, Gordon Graham has worked with staff and inmates in State, County and Federal Correctional Institutions. Gordon’s own personal history and background alone make him one of the most sought after speakers on the subject of managing change. Mr. Graham’s powerful, electrifying style cuts through typical rhetoric and hits his audiences with insights that produce positive results.

In this powerful change curriculum, Gordon teamed up with Hyrum Smith, founder and C.E.O. of Franklin Covey. Hyrum is a nationally acclaimed speaker on managing time and managing your life. His Reality Model provides an effective, easy to understand approach to making positive changes. BBCR is a combination of the original Breaking Barriers and Hyrum’s Reality Model creating a powerful training process that can be utilized in any correctional setting, from maximum security to probation and parole. This compilation incorporates the strengths of both programs and the talents of the presenters, resulting in a process that has a major impact on participants’ lives.

A Framework for Breaking Barriers: a Cognitive Reality Model is presented by trained facilitators certified by Instar Performance. The facilitator training is usually taught on-site, and must be conducted by a Master Facilitator from Instar Performance. The program is a workshop-oriented, application-driven process that offers both group work and individual exercises. Participants are provided with application guides, allowing the opportunity for review, reflection and long-term follow though.

The process consists of seventeen training modules. Each module builds on the previous lesson, reinforcing the application of the concepts and techniques presented. Personal accountability is the core principle that weaves the sessions together. The tools are new thinking skills, anchored to new ways to live, and new ways to deal with the challenge of personal change.

Breaking Barriers: a Cognitive Reality Model has immediate credibility with people who are incarcerated. Produced inside a maximum security prison, the audience includes lifers, short-term inmates and former inmates who have turned their lives around. Vignettes and personal testimonials from inmates and former inmates bring an important message to the participants.

Other curricula produced by Instar Performance include: New Realities, Framework for Recovery, Navigating Change, Cultural Renewal, Seeds of Success and On Solid Ground. The programs have become the foundation for cognitive behavioral training in correctional settings throughout the United States and Canada.

Theoretical Model and Basis in Research

The concepts taught in any of the Instar Performance curricula are designed to lead people to greater self efficacy, higher goal achievement and increased personal accountability. The programs are based upon research supporting the following theoretical models:

  • Social Cognitive Theory and the construct of self-efficacy (Bandura) – one’s behavior is constantly under interacting influence from cognitive factors and environmental influences.
  • Social Learning Theory (Miller and Dollard) – humans model observed behaviors which then become reinforced through environmental influences. Cognition serves as a middle point between stimulus and response.
  • Learned Optimism (Seligman) – Focuses on the concept that the way we think and use our self-talk determines how we act.
  • Cognitive Dissonance (Festinger) – The existence of dissonance, being psychologically uncomfortable, motivates the person to reduce the dissonance by moving toward the new desired end result. The greater the magnitude of the dissonance, the greater is the pressure to reduce dissonance.
  • Affirmation Writing and Visualization – A cognitive act that establishes a specific course, direction, outcome or state of being for the future; a confirmation or ratification of a truth. Affirmations are written and spoken in the first person, present verb tense to emphasize their attainability. Based upon a scientific discipline consisting of scientists from various fields such as anthropology, psychology, computer science, neurology and others who study the brain and the mind.

Key Cognitive Components

  • Goal Setting
  • Self-efficacy and Self-esteem
  • Accountability
  • Motivation
  • Internal vs. External Locus of Control
  • Cognitive Dissonance
  • Self-talk
  • Affirmations
  • Constructive Synthetic Visualization
  • Action Plans
  • Stimulus (Cognition) Response

Breaking Barriers Curriculum Outline

Session 1: An Awareness Workshop
This first unit is a starting point for change, and covers the Adult Learning Model, the Reticular Activating System and how Scotomas cause limitations to our awareness. Communication, empowerment, empathy and the Circle of Influence are introduced, and the session establishes the current reality of each participant.

Session 2: A Reality Model
A behavioral control model called The Reality Model is presented to help participants discover, understand and evaluate the underlying principles that drive behavior. The Natural Laws of consequences are discussed, and addiction is defined in unique terms.

Session 3: An Awareness of Self
The roles of the conscious and unconscious mind are presented and the psychology of the self-image as a controlling mechanism is discussed. Comfort Zones are presented to help us discover what is keeping us “stuck.”

Session 4: Current Reality
Human adaptability (incremental change) and its effect on our behavior – will what we’ve gotten used to serve our needs over time? Participants examine the long-term impact of their behaviors.

Session 5: The Reality Model Revisited
Social Cognitive Theory is used to demonstrate and put into action the concept of changing cognition in the time between stimulus and response to create a more desired outcome for your life.

Session 6: Changing Reality
An overview of three models of change and their impact on behavior: pendulum change, change by exception and paradigm change. The LO/LO principle and the Cognitive Dissonance theory is introduced to give deeper insight into the impact of belief on behavior and perception.

Session 7: Barriers to Change, Part I
The impact of your preconditioned cultural beliefs on the way you conduct your life can be a major barrier to change. We examine the reciprocal process between cognition and environmental influences.

Session 8: Barriers to Change, Part II
A continuation of the previous session, this unit identifies additional barriers to change including habits, attitudes and expectations that are no longer serving you. The way you talk to yourself – the self-talk cycle – is critically important to your ability to change and grow.

Session 9: The Reality Model Applied
This session expands your understanding of The Reality Model by identifying the remaining seven natural laws and outlining the five steps to follow to change the ineffective or faulty principles you’ve identified.

Session 10: Cognitive Awareness
You will learn the cognitive skills used by the most effective people in the world to change behavior and create exceptional results.

Session 11: Motivational Checklist
Constructive and restrictive motivation are defined and the outcomes of each are examined to give you the opportunity to find the most beneficial ways of moving toward your goals in life with enthusiasm instead of moving away from fear.

Session 12: An Awareness of Self
A new and dynamic approach to goal setting is outlined in Session 12. Instead of a step-by-step outline, you learn that the most powerful goals are attained by utilizing the teleological nature of the human mind. By employing the concept of belief without evidence you learn to set goals based on what you want, instead of what you think you are capable of accomplishing.

Session 13: Current Reality and Vision
Critical to achieving a dream or vision is to know where we are starting, where we are going, and then creating a plan of action to closing the gap between the two. Critically important is learning to embrace the gap between current reality and the vision!

Session 14: Time Management
Time management is more than just a system of managing the events of your life. Time management allows for control of your priorities and time, creating the opportunity for what most of us are seeking – peace of mind.

Session 15: An Awareness of the Playing Field
Learning to play within the lines is the subject of this session, with an emphasis on staying in the present and building trust through accountability.

Session 16: Resiliency
Participants learn cognitive skills like the flick-back/flick-up technique for building resilience, managing setbacks and staying focused on their vision for the future.

Session 17: Giving Back
In this session the importance of balance is discussed with opportunities to examine life-long priorities and goals. The restorative and reciprocal nature of life is emphasized in an effort to promote the participants’ commitment to “giving back.”

Facilitator Certification Training for A Framework for Breaking Barriers is required. Learn more about Facilitator Certification.

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