I Can Problem Solve (ICPS)


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Determinants of Health: Personal health practices and coping skills, Healthy child development


I Can Problem Solve (ICPS) for Schools is a universal school-based program that focuses on enhancing the interpersonal cognitive processes and problem-solving skills of children ages 4-9. ICPS is based on the idea that there is a set of skills that shape how children (as well as adults) behave in interpersonal situations, influencing how they conceptualize their conflicts with others, whether they can think of a variety of solutions to these problems, and whether they can predict the consequences of their own actions. Rather than addressing specific behaviours as right or wrong, ICPS uses games, stories, puppets, illustrations, and role-plays to help children acquire a problem-solving vocabulary, learn to understand their own as well as others’ feelings, think of alternative solutions, and think of potential consequences to an act. In turn, ICPS aims to prevent and reduce early high-risk behaviours, such as impulsivity and social withdrawal, and promote prosocial behaviours, such as concern for others and positive peer relationships. A key principle of the program is that the child, not the teacher, must solve the problem at hand. Giving the child this responsibility allows the child to develop the habit of creating solutions to problems, considering the potential consequences of one’s actions, and thinking for oneself. A companion ICPS program for parents is also available.

ICPS consists of three age-specific programs: preschool (containing 59 lessons), kindergarten and primary school (83 lessons), and intermediate elementary school (77 lessons). ICPS lessons are 20 minutes in duration and taught three to five times per week over the course of the academic year. In addition to the lessons, ICPS offers suggestions for integrating problem-solving principles into day-to-day classroom happenings, a technique called “ICPS dialoguing.”

The impact of ICPS has been studied in several evaluations involving diverse ethnic populations, including one study involving seriously emotional disturbed children. ICPS has been found to have positive impacts on interpersonal cognitive problem solving skills, classroom behaviours (including aggression), school bonding, coping, and pro-social behaviours. Two longitudinal evaluations found that the positive impacts of ICPS were sustained up to four years after the intervention.

Primary Source Document

Shure MB, I Can Problem Solve (ICPS): An interpersonal cognitive problem solving program for children. Residential Treatment for Children & Youth; 18(3): 3-14

Contact information of developer(s) and/or implementer(s)

Myrna Shure

Drexel University Department of Psychology

3141 Chestnut St. Stratton Hall Suite 119

Philadelphia, PA 19104

Telephone: (215) 553-7120

Fax: (215) 895-4930

E-mail: mshure@drexel.edu

Intervention Focus

Intervention Goal / ObjectiveLevel(s) TargetedEquity Focus
To teach children how to think, not what to think, in ways that will help them resolve typical interpersonal problems with peers and adults.
  • Individual level
  • Interpersonal level
People living in conditions of disadvantage are not explicitly stated to be a target population of the intervention.
To reduce and prevent early high-risk behaviors such as aggression, inability to wait and cope with frustration, and social withdrawal that predict later, more serious problems such as violence, teen pregnancy, substance abuse, and depression.
  • Individual level
  • Interpersonal level
People living in conditions of disadvantage are not explicitly stated to be a target population of the intervention.
To help teachers, parents, and other caregivers apply a problem solving style of communication so children can associate how they think with what they do, and how they behave.
  • Individual level
  • Interpersonal level
People living in conditions of disadvantage are not explicitly stated to be a target population of the intervention.

Health Issue(s) that is/are addressed by the Intervention

Health Promotion

  • Mental Health

Risk Reduction

  • Prevent/reduce alcohol use/abuse
  • Prevent/reduce illegal drug use/abuse
  • Prevent/reduce misuse of medications
  • Prevent violence
  • Other

Specific Activities of the Intervention

  • Curriculum changes in school
  • Group process/program

Priority/Target Population for Intervention Delivery

Life Stage

  • Early childhood (age 3-5 years)
  • Children (age 6-12 years)


Educational Settings

  • Early learning environment (ages 0-5)
  • Elementary school

Community Setting

  • Home
  • Other


Outcomes and Impact Chart
Level of ImpactDescription of OutcomeEquity Focus
Interpersonal LevelInstruction students showed greater improvement in behaviour relative to Control students, behavior, as measured by the Preschool Social Behaviour Scale (PSBS) and the Hahnemann Behavior Rating Scale (HBRS). Further analyses on the subscales of the BSBS indicated that instruction students showed greater behavioral improvement than did Control students on prosocial behavior, as well as on the measures of overt and relational aggression. Students who received two years of ICPS instruction exhibited significantly less relational aggression, and more prosocial behavior when compared to both One-Year Instruction and Control group students. On the overt aggression subscale, Two-Year Instruction students improved more than did Control students. However, the One-Year Instruction students were not significantly different from either the Two-Year Instruction or the Control students on the PSBS overt aggression ratings. For the BBRS, the groups differed only on the prosocial behavior scale, with receipt of ICPS instruction explaining 12% of the variance in students’ prosocial behaviour. Both Instruction groups were rated as exhibiting more prosocial behavior when compared to the Control group.Outcomes are reported for people living in conditions of disadvantage, and are not compared to people living in more advantaged conditions.


Implementation History

  • Multiple implementations - Different settings/populations/providers - The intervention showed significant adaptability as it has been implemented in different settings or with different populations or by different provider(s). This can include multiple implementations during the same time period. Each implementation of the intervention must have been substantially the same and must have demonstrated positive results for the primary objectives of the intervention.

Expertise Required for Implementation within the Context of the Intervention

  • Specialized skills training provided as part of the Intervention - The intervention does not require individuals or groups with highly specialized training, but requires that individuals or groups be trained as part of the implementation of the intervention.

Are there supports available for implementation

Yes. Teacher training; the developer is available to assist in interpreting the data collected with the quality assurance tools.

Are there resources and/or products associated with the interventions

Yes. Implementation resources; facilitator guide; a variety of quality assurance instruments to assist facilitators in delivering the program with fidelity; supplementary books