Introduction to Coping Skills

Out of Poverty is a program of personal change. It is intended for individuals whose lives are habituated in a persistent lack of money and other things. In the face of seemingly unalterable circumstances, individuals tend to develop patterns of coping behaviors. These patterns arise from personal perceptions and generalizations about their circumstances and their capabilities, world view, and identity. All too often, these accustomed patterns tend to reinforce the impoverishing circumstances and prevent change from occurring.

Personal change can occur in one of two ways. Sometimes a dramatic life altering experience occurs that makes it impossible for a person to continue in his or her usual manner. In a very short space of time, the person is forced to reorganize his/her world view and personal identity. The conversion of Paul on the road to Damascus is one example of this kind of dramatic revision. The other type of change occurs gradually. A person adopts new behavior, practices it clumsily at first, is reinforced for trying, persists in trying, becomes more successful, and ultimately organizes a significant portion of his/her personality around the new behavior. The child who starts taking piano at an early age, then slowly through years of practice and performance matures into a self identity as pianist is an example of this kind of change. Whether sudden or slow, personal change affects both identity and world view. Participants in Out of Poverty are attempting to break free from a life of lack-a lack of money and material goods, a lack of self-esteem and often a lack of connection with others. The experience of poverty generates a view of self and the world informed by poverty.

All too often, participant coping patterns address the experienced effects of poverty without addressing the problem of poverty itself. Depression, stress, hostility, learned helplessness, drugs, and alcohol abuse are some of the negative effects that these coping patterns may create. In the Out of Poverty program, we attempt to help participants recover their capacity to influence their situation. We recognize that individuals always have one of three change options open to them. They can change their situation, they can change their appraisal of the situation, and they can change their response to the situation. Throughout the program, we are seeking to strengthen the problem solving and planning skills of participants. We provide them tools to alter the debilitating effects of negative self-talk, fear, and perceived lack of control. In addition, we stress self-management and internal locus of control that increase self- efficacy and self-esteem.

This document includes a set of twelve skills. During the program, participants master these skills and begin using them in their struggle to achieve prosperity and abundance. Each skill affects one or more options for personal change. By incorporating and practicing these skills on a daily basis, participants are enriching their lives directly.