RESEARCH PROJECT TITLE: An exploratory analysis of The Salvation Army’s ‘Positive Lifestyle Programme’.
For over fifteen years, Salvation Army court and prison chaplains and others have utilised The Positive Lifestyle Programme to assist and support individuals involved in criminal proceedings at Magistrates courts throughout both Australia and New Zealand.
More specifically, the program has been thought of as an effective and useful intervention for assisting those individuals for whom re-offending is an issue.
More recently, the program’s utility has extended beyond the court setting where it had primarily been used. Referrals for participation in the program now come from sectors as diverse as community churches, welfare agencies, solicitors, community correctional services, Department of Human Services, Employment Plus, Alcohol and other Drug services; and individuals through word-of-mouth often self-refer. The Positive Lifestyle Programme is no longer offered exclusively in the magistrate’s court, but additionally, by Salvation Army community support services, residential rehabilitation programs, corps, youth and family services, and dedicated positive lifestyle service points.
The main objective of the program is broadly suggested to increase participant’s quality of life. Through one-on-one or group encounters between participants and facilitators, individuals work through ten psycho-educational booklets, which are taken home, filled out and brought back for further discussion. The modules focus on enhancing participant’s self-awareness, assisting individuals in the development of problem solving, cognitive, and interpersonal skills, and alleviating psychological distress. All in all, the Positive Lifestyle Programme is believed to enhance individual’s well-being and maximise individuals potential and possibility for future success. As an intervention program characterised by such beneficial outcomes, it may be of little surprise that the dissemination of the program and service demand has grown exponentially.
The noted growth and expansion of the Positive Lifestyle Programme services delivered may provide some clues and anecdotal evidence that indicate that the Positive Lifestyle Programme is indeed successful in achieving its program objectives and that of the Salvation Army’s, through servicing the individuals that the organisation would seek to support.
Subjective indicators would suggest that there is a strong feeling amongst participants, clients, and others (organisations and agencies) that the Positive Lifestyle Programme makes a significant difference in the lives of those who participate in the program. These indicators include:
• Participants appreciative and enthusiastic comments throughout, or perhaps at the conclusion of program
• Participants referring friends and family to complete the program
• Facilitators reporting client growth
• The PLP being held in high regard within the court and judicial system
It is the intention in this research to go beyond simple growth in program delivery and anecdotal evidence, to attempt to identify some of the outcomes for individuals participating in the Positive Lifestyle Programme, and how they relate to the social interests of the Salvation Army?
• One clear object of the Positive Lifestyle Programme is to enhance and develop participant’s self-esteem. Does the program significantly increase the self-esteem of participants in the program, and how effectively is this objective obtained?
• Does the Positive Lifestyle Programme improve participants optimistic self-beliefs regarding their ability to cope with a variety of difficult demands in life?
• Does the Positive Lifestyle Programme reduce stress?
While the outcomes of the Positive Lifestyle Programme have been reported as beneficial for clients and broader society, there is no known research or empirical data investigating or supporting such an assertion within Australia and New Zealand. Without such information, it remains unclear whether the positive lifestyle program’s value, outcomes, efficacy and utility for clients and broader society are bona fide, and whether the Salvation Army is accomplishing its mission and objectives through the program.
This research project will yield not only a rich and complex picture of the effect the Salvation Army is having on the lives of the individuals who are directly involved in the program, but also indirectly on communities throughout Australia.
Through investigating and gathering quantitative data on the Positive Lifestyle Programme, The Salvation Army can expect research generated information to assist the organisation in clarifying, understanding, and evaluating the role that the Positive Lifestyle Programme plays in achieving its mission imperatives. Furthermore, through examining the program and its outcomes, the research project will assist in any ongoing development of the Positive Lifestyle Programme and support the Salvation Army in its future policy and resourcing decisions.
The researcher believes that a rigorous and robust investigation of the Positive Lifestyle Program would contribute significantly towards the Salvation Army’s mission intents in the following manner:
Transforming lives: The Salvation Army’s interest in effecting positive and measureable change in people’s emotional, physical, and spiritual lives is an important and evident facet of the Positive Lifestyle Program. In seeking to value human dignity and respond to these issues, the organisation’s interventions need to encompass a broad spectrum. From acute crisis care, to implementing and investing in interventions that respond just as practically and effectively to individual’s core and underlying issues. Through investing in the development of knowledge in this area, the Salvation Army could gather some information that will clarify and define the role that the Positive Lifestyle Program plays in transforming peoples lives.
Caring for people: Through the Positive Lifestyle Program, the organisation has the opportunity to care for people and demonstrate compassion. Through a non-judgmental and empathetic approach, individuals in need of support engage in the Positive Lifestyle Programme and experience the affirmation and encouragement of the Salvation Army. Investigating this, and how successfully this mission imperative is achieved, would provide useful data in further understanding how the Positive Lifestyle Program contributes to caring for people within the community.
Reforming Society: The Positive Lifestyle Program undoubtedly has not only a direct and measurable effect on those who participate in the program, but also, an indirect effect on broader society. While attempting to measure and quantify societal reform is beyond the scope of this research project, we can get indications of how the program effects factors beyond the clients own immediate self. Research investigating the Positive Lifestyle Program could provide some indirect insight into the domino effect we could expect to alter society, gathering information on how the program effects the participants, friends, family, and broader society. This information would prove useful in gauging how through Positive Lifestyle Program, the Salvation Armies effects broader society in its efforts to reform society and build community.
Making Disciples: While the Positive Lifestyle Program does not attempt to make disciples, it does illuminate in its psycho-educational approach, significant moral and Christian dimensions of spirituality.
From the above beneficial outcomes, it can be seen how the research investigation will assist the Salvation Army in clarifying, understanding, and evaluating how, and to what degree, the Positive Lifestyle Programme contributes to the mission of the Salvation Army.
This is an exciting research project and I would ask that you endorse and the support the project where you can. If you have any questions about the research or your involvement, please contact me and I will be more than happy to answer any questions or address any of your concerns.
Contact Details: m. 0407 849 063 e. firstname.lastname@example.org,
The Salvation Army Australia Southern Territorial Headquarters, Social Programme Department, PO Box 479, Blackburn Victoria 3130.