Changing Tracks

A program for 9 Year olds through to Adulthood



The Changing Tracks Program consists of intervention strategies applicable to children from Year 4 (nine year olds) to adults. The programs are based on CABCAA, a cognitive behavioural model simplified to enable children as young as nine to understand how emotions affect cognition and cognition affects emotions, behaviour and the consequences of behaviour, and how these consequences affect us emotionally and cognitively. It is a model based on social learning theory and self-efficacy.

The first program developed was for primary school children in response to teachers referring underachieving and problem behaviour children to school psychologists. From its inception in 1983 the program contained a "body" and "mind" segment. The programs aimed at cognitive restructuring to change negative schemas. These schemas were called “Tracks” because of the circularity of functioning. A cognitive behavioural approach was the main process with the addition of relaxation and guided imagery.

The program for primary school children was developed over a period of about five years with the author and other school psychologists, running the group program with over 500 children in the Perth metropolitan area of Western Australia.

In 1987 the program was tested as part of a Master’s Dissertation at Curtin University.

 Other studies have been done and these studies have looked mainly at the primary school program on various topics,, such as resilience, underachievement and self-concept.

After the follow up study in 1988, the program was manualised and published for use in 1990.

In 1989 Thornlie Senior High School in Perth WA,  requested a similar program for adolescents who were underachieving and/or had behavioural issues. This led to the program “Tracking Success” .  The program was trailed and  teachers’ feedback was very positive, however, funding limitations meant  it was never formally reported. The program seemed to be efficacious with students  who had issues with depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, under achievement and social issues. However, it was difficult to engage the disruptive and acting out students.  The program “Changing Tracks Through Life Theatre” was later developed for the difficult-to-engage adolescents.

All of the programs have a relaxation and guided imagery component which, when presented to the age appropriate group, was reported to have had a profound effect on the participants. In the author’s private practice, which includes a high proportion of children and adolescents, relaxation and guided imagery are part of the therapy for 90% of all clients.

Tracking Success was written as a "reader friendly" leader's manual and published in 1990. It has since been revised.

The adolescent programs have had no formalised evaluation, however, they are being used throughout Australia for adolescents at risk. The program is generally well sought-after due to the positive feedback received from teachers who have used the program with their targeted students with reports of great success.

The Changing Tracks program aims to: 

  • Shift the locus of control from external to internal
  • Promote personal power and self-responsibility
  • Promote self-reflection, self knowledge, self awareness and self-regulation
  • Promote rational decision making
  • Promote resilience
  • Motivate the child to change
  • Foster positive thinking,


  • Develop healthy social skills

The primary school program consists of fourteen steps to teach children how to monitor their thoughts and change them. 

The fourteen steps are as follows:


Creating a safe environment
Setting boundaries for behaviour


Raising awareness of negative behaviour that produces negative consequences


Raising awareness of positive behaviour and consequences
Raising awareness of behaviours that have positive consequences in the short term and negative consequences in the long term


Awareness and identification of feelings – both positive and negative



Awareness and identification of positive and negative thinking
Awareness of the connection between thoughts and feelings
Learning to listen to thoughts


Making the connection between thinking, feeling, behaviour, consequences and effect of consequences  
Listening to thoughts

STEP 7         

Making the connection between thoughts – feelings - behaviour – consequences – feelings – and back to thoughts 
Constructing tracks


Constructing personal tracks using concrete materials. 


Identifying what to change
Exploring the process of change

STEP 10          

Learning to use metacognitive skills
Pausing before acting
Putting self-monitoring into practice

STEP 11        

Styles of communications 
Using the wise way

STEP 12 

Assertive communication and conflict resolution

STEP 13 

Applying skills to conflict resolution


Putting it together 
Developing self-esteem
Using the wise part in everyday life

One of the stumbling blocks to positive change, is the behaviours we develop to cope with our present state. These coping behaviours help us to feel better in the very short term. We refer to  this short term gain (the pay off now and the rip off later) as being on a phoney track.


This is how a Phoney Track is presented to children:

Let’s imagine that there is this girl named Gemma.

She cannot sit still, does very little school work and generally plays the class clown. When she is clowning around she feels good, because everyone is paying attention to her and she is also getting out of doing school work. She thinks school is boring, the school work is too hard, but really thinks that she is dumb.

When she thinks about school work she feels nervous because she thinks she cannot do it. So she avoids doing any work, the immediate consequence is that she gets out of doing her school work and ends up feeling good.

She also thinks that other children don’t like her as much as they like Rita and this makes her feel a bit angry. To make herself feel better she clowns around, the consequence is that everyone looks at her and that makes her feel important and she ends up feeling good.

The problem is that Gemma is not learning much and she disrupts the class. The teacher gets angry about her behaviour and most of the children in her class think she is a pain even though they laugh at her. Even though she first feels good, for now, she pays for it later because she gets bad marks and the children in her class think she is a pain and do not want her as a friend.

Lets imagine there is a boy named Ponzy.

He was a bully. He always picked on smaller children as bullies often do. Ponzy was not very smart because he could not see the Phoney Track. Being a bully made him feel powerful and he got what he wanted.  Ponzy was quite a lonely kid. His parents were very strict and his older brother used to belt him about.   Ponzy was very angry because he could not stop his brother from treating him so badly.

When he went to school he was still angry. Children stopped wanting to be around him and this made Ponzy even madder. He began to think that nobody liked him and so he began to bully people to get even and become more powerful.

What he did not realise was that he was developing a bad reputation. He got into trouble often and other children did not want to have anything to do with him. Ponzy became even lonelier than before and to make himself feel better he did more of the same.

What was Phoney about her Track?

Gemma’s Phoney Track may look like this:


What was Phoney about this Track?

This is what Ponzy’s Track may have looked like:


When we use the Wise Part we essentially learn to reflect on how we feel, what we are reacting to and what is the best course of action that leads to a Win-Win consequence.



The Wise Part is explained to children as follows:

The Wise Part is inside all of us. It is the smart part of our brain. Perhaps it is in our mind as shown with CABCAA. The Wise Part is so wise that it knows what is right for us. The Wise Part can tell our brain what to think.

The Wise Part is sensible. It knows what the consequences will be for us now and later. It can help us be in charge of our thoughts. If we take charge of our thoughts we can think whatever we want to think. Since our thoughts control our feelings we can feel the way we want to feel.

Our Wise Part comes into action when we let it. It is the most powerful part of our brain. Until we put our Wise Part into action we do not have control over ourselves. If we learn to use our Wise Part we can become powerful and successful. The best athletes in the world are those that know how to use their Wise Part. The Wise Part is smart enough to let us know how we need to think and what is the best thing to do so that we can make ourselves as happy as possible without hurting others. We can think through things and come up with better solutions to problems.

To bring your Wise Part into action you need to:

Imagine that you have a button in the palm of your hands. This is the Pause Button, which brings the Wise Part into action.

Press the thumb of your writing hand hard in the palm of the other hand. When you do this imagine that it is like the Pause Button a movie. When you press it, it freezes the picture, nothing moves and nothing is said, however you can still think, feel and breathe.

Keep pressing the Pause Button and take a deep breath. Hold the breath while counting to four, then slowly breathe out.

It is now time to check your body and identify and name what you are feeling.

Now listen to your thoughts – are they Irkle thoughts or Huggle thoughts? Do your thoughts show respect for yourself and others? Are you thinking sensible thoughts?

Think what would be a smarter way of thinking about this.

Plan what you are going to think and do so that the consequences will be positive for you and others.

Act in a way that will make you a winner and no one is a loser.