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Ute Indian Tribe Has Success With Reduction In Alcohol Use

Article Provided By: Uintah Basin Standard

Printed December 5, 2006

Positive Action looks to improve thinking, feeling

How do you change a cycle of angry thoughts, self-destructive behavior, and negativism that effect some area youth and adults?

In Uintah and Duchesne counties, and on the Uintah and Ouray Reservation, individuals affiliated with the Positive Action Program are working to answer that question.

Kris Gerber, Positive Action field coordinator for the Uintah School District and now the Ute Tribe, said the program is easy to understand: Good thoughts equal good actions and good feelings and bad thoughts equal bad actions, which produce bad feelings.

The program, now in its third year in both counties, is promoted through the courts, Northeastern Counseling Center, and area schools thanks to a $1.4 million grant secured two years ago. It is a family-oriented, self-help program, that is also now being offered through a variety of Ute Tribe programs, after the tribe secured a $1.2 million grant.

Gerber said the program was jump-started in Uintah County when it was presented to 8th District Juvenile Court Judge Larry Steele, who felt it was something that would benefit the parents of children he placed on probation. He mandated the course for the kids as well.

The seven-week course teaches youth and parents how to work through problems with actual discussions of real problems and through a homework process, Gerber said. There is also a free family kit that participants receive which includes 36 additional lessons for continued family study, explained Gerber.

“It’s a methodical process where you learn to isolate individual thoughts and look at the actions they produce,” Gerber said. “Then learning that if you don’t like the feelings their actions produce, change the thought that caused them.”

What is Positive Action?

The choices we make with each thought always affect how we feel about ourselves and how others feel around us, ultimately helping to form a positive or negative atmosphere.

When we think a positive thought and act on that thought, making it a positive action, we reap an internal positive feeling. This in turn inspires us to repeat this process all over again. The reverse is also true. We see that when we think negative thoughts and put them into negative actions, we reap negative feelings.

The goal of the Positive Action program is to teach people how to slow down and methodically isolate their thoughts. Then teach them to change negative thoughts to positive thoughts before they ever act on them, thus changing the outcome of their actions and the consequences.

Gerber described a family where violence was prevalent in the home between husband and wife. The couple came for one lesson and learned the thought-action- feeling process, but did not return. She said the distraught wife watched her husband come through the door after work one night and knew what was coming because of his demeanor. The woman decided she should leave for good this time, Gerber said.

But before the woman made it out of the house, the husband gathered his family together. He told them what he was thinking about doing to his wife and why, Gerber said, and reviewed the thought-action-feeling process. Then, Gerber said, he told his family he would do better and apologized for his actions.

“The key is to break the violent thoughts before the actions begin,” Gerber said. “And it works for all our thoughts and actions and the resulting feelings, whether good or bad.”

Ronee K. Wopsock, the director of the Ute Alcohol Reduction Positive Action grant, said training of the tribal program’s directors, BIA and tribal police officers, court personnel, Head Start officials has begun. She is also working to get the word out in the community about the benefits of Positive Action.

“We want to help kids be aware that they have choices when it comes to drugs and alcohol,” Wopsock said. “Kids see the family way they grow up in and think that’s what they have to do, too. We say no! They have a choice.”

Wopsock said another emphasis of the program is to revive some of the cultural activities that were once common on the reservation, but have begun to die out.

“We want to help kids want to be better members of the tribe by learning their language, bringing back the Bear Dance and other community events,” she said.

Wopsock said the program is presently working with several families where grandparents are raising grandchildren who need the help that the Positive Action offers. Also, the court system is now mandating family training as part of the rehabilitation process.

Positive Action classes are starting again in January. There is no charge for the instruction or the materials needed to complete the course. Those interested in attending the course can contact Northeastern Counseling Center in Roosevelt at 725-6300 or in Vernal at 789-6300. Members of the Ute Tribe can contact Ronee Wopsock at 722-7078 to sign-up or to receive or additional information.