Collaborative and Proactive Solutions


The CPS Model

Collaborative & Proactive Solutions (CPS) is recognized as an empirically-supported, evidence-based treatment by the California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare (CEBC). Here’s an overview of its basic tenets:

When kids have difficulty meeting certain expectations, they become frustrated. Some kids are lacking the skillsflexibility, frustration tolerance, emotion regulation, and problem solving — to handle that frustration adaptively. And that’s when they exhibit concerning behaviors. In other words, concerning behavior is simply the way in which some kids communicate that there are expectations they are having difficulty meeting. In the CPS model, those “unmet” expectations are called “unsolved problems.” The emphasis of the CPS model isn’t on modifying the concerning behavior by imposing consequences. Rather the model focuses on identifying unsolved problems and then engaging kids in solving them. Solved problems don’t cause concerning behavior; only unsolved problems do. Consequences don’t solve problems.

In the CPS model, the problem solving is of the collaborative and proactive variety. This is in contrast to many of the interventions that are commonly applied to kids, which are of the unilateral and emergent variety. As such, the CPS model is non-punitive and non-adversarial, decreases the likelihood of conflict, enhances relationships, improves communication, and helps kids and adults learn and display skills on the more positive side of human nature:  empathy, appreciating how one’s behavior is affecting others, resolving disagreements in ways that do not involve conflict, taking another’s perspective, and honesty.

How do you identify a kid’s lagging skills and unsolved problems? By completing the Assessment of Lagging Skills and Unsolved Problems (ALSUP). And how do you solve those problems? By doing Plan B, which involves three basic ingredients. The first ingredient – called the Empathy step – involves gathering information so as to achieve the clearest understanding of what’s making it hard for a kid to meet a particular expectation. The second ingredient (called the Define the Problem step) involves entering the adult’s concern or perspective into consideration (i.e., why it’s important that the expectation be met). The third ingredient (called the Invitation step) involves having adults and kids brainstorm solutions so as to arrive at a plan of action that is both realistic and mutually satisfactory…in other words, a solution that addresses both concerns and that both parties can actually do.

In countless families, schools, inpatient psychiatry units, group homes, residential facilities, and juvenile detention facilities, the CPS model has been shown to be an effective way to solve problems, reduce conflict, improve behavior, and enhance the skills kids need to function adaptively in the real world.

You can learn more about the CPS model on the website of the non-profit Lives in the Balance, where you’ll find vast free resources to help you use the model, including streaming video, a listening library, and lots more.  Various books, CDs, and DVDs describing the model are available in the CPS Store on this website, and training options can be found on the Workshops/Training page.

Is there a one-page description of the model that I can download?

Sure thing! Just click here to view and print it.  

Didn’t Dr. Greene originally refer to his model by the name Collaborative Problem Solving?

Yes, you can read more about the name change here. It’s not a pretty tale…