TPC Journal-Vol 11-Issue-3 - FULL ISSUE

356 The Professional Counselor | Volume 11, Issue 3 developmental period, decision-making reference points are more likely to shift away from family and important adults and toward peer groups. According to normative social behavior theory, perceptions that most of one’s peers use drugs and alcohol may increase the likelihood of one’s own substance use (Rimal & Real, 2005). Students often overestimate the frequency and level of use of alcohol and other substances by their peers, resulting in increased likelihood of earlier experimentation (Prestwich et al., 2016). Community-building efforts have the potential to promote a climate wherein students are aware of the risks related to substance use and support positive decision-making among their peers. In this way, students can learn to advocate for others as well as themselves. Coping and Self-Regulation The MCARR program also emphasizes coping and emotion regulation skills, both of which are associated with decreased risk-taking behaviors among adolescents (Wills et al., 2016). Skills for coping with stress have been shown to impact future substance use (Zucker et al., 2008). The development of coping skills and substance use knowledge is combined to support informed choices and reduced risk throughout adolescence. Additionally, the MCARR curriculum includes skillbuilding instruction and practice on drug refusal skills, as these skills have been shown to increase self-efficacy for resisting use (Karatay & Baş, 2017). To support decision-making, students are taught how to analyze and cope with the increasing prevalence of marketing messages in video and social media. These media messages have been shown to significantly impact adolescent perceptions of substance use, resulting in calls for educational interventions to help students cope with messages that encourage substance use (Romer & Moreno, 2017). Ideally, group norms that encourage emotional well-being and self-care may facilitate a student’s receptivity to healthy messages about the risks of drug and alcohol use and may help students make choices accordingly. Purpose of the Present Study The purpose of this pilot study was to examine the feasibility of a primary prevention intervention delivered by school counselors targeting decision-making and attitudes around substance use in a Northeastern urban high school with ninth-grade students. We posed the following questions: First, does the MCARR program impact student attitudes and knowledge related to substance use, including perceived risk and readiness to change? Second, does the MCARR program impact substance use behaviors? Using research and literature cited above, we hypothesized that the implementation of the MCARR curriculum would influence student attitudes, knowledge, and use of substances as measured by paired-samples t-tests of data gathered prior to and following implementation of the curriculum. Method Participants and Sampling Procedures This study was approved by both the school district and researchers’ university IRB. Participants of this study were 46 ninth-grade students at an urban high school (54.2% female, 45.8% male), ages 13–15 years (M = 14.13, SD = .57), who provided responses before and after participating in the MCARR program. The ethnic background of participants was as follows: 37% Hispanic or Latino, 30.4% African American, 21.7% Caucasian, 6.5% Mixed ethnic background, 2.2% Asian, and 2.2% preferred not to say. The families of all ninth graders were notified of the MCARR lessons being delivered within their child’s dramatic arts classroom. The MCARR program and study procedures were described in the informed consent letter to parents. Students gave assent to participate by signing an assent form that was both read aloud and provided to each student. Data collection via a survey was explained along