Realising Resilience in Trauma Exposed Juvenile Offenders: A Promising New Intervention for Juvenile Justice and Prevention Professionals

Research Paper 4: Thomas M. Kelley & Jack Pransky & Judith A. Sedgeman

Journal of Child & Adolescent Trauma ISSN 1936-1521 Journ Child Adol Trauma

Considerable evidence suggests that untreated childhood trauma is a contributing factor to delinquency and juvenile justice system involvement. This paper describes a promising new intervention for at-risk youth and juvenile offenders with traumatic histories grounded in a model commonly referred to as the three principles. This intervention attempts to draw out the inner mental health and resilience in trauma exposed young offenders and provide them with a new perspective on their past traumas that can prevent them from infecting the present. First, the origin, nature, and logic of the three principles are described. Next, the three principles intervention is described and compared to cognitive and other trauma interventions. Then, several guideposts followed by effective three principles practitioners are described. Finally, empirical evidence is presented in support of the efficacy of this intervention with at-risk youth, juvenile offenders and adults with traumatic histories.


The three principles explain that a juvenile offender’s experience of a potential traumatic event – in other words, how that event ends up affecting him or her – is created exclusively in the mind of that youth. It further explains that with a shift in consciousness, juvenile offenders with traumatic histories can realize inner mental health/resilience, recognize how to access and sustain this health, and see how to prevent traumatic memories from infecting the present. Viewed through the logic of the three principles, PTSD and other posttraumatic mood disorders can be temporary or entirely avoided by these youth through understanding and using the power of Thought in their best interest instead of against themselves. When trauma exposed juvenile offenders grasp the role that thought plays in carrying past traumas through time, they begin to see beyond their less healthy thinking and put traumatic memories into perspective. When these youth realize that emotional disturbance is a state of mind and not the result of a fixed personality trait or an external event no matter how horrid, their painful memories have less of a grip on them and they rebound to healthier states of mind more readily. In this way, these youth take control of their lives rather than reliving their traumas. Although more rigorous, controlled research is needed to test the logic of the three principles and the effectiveness of the three principles intervention, existing supportive evidence is compelling and appears to warrant the attention of juvenile justice and prevention professionals.

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