For Theory Lovers

The Thinking that Informs Take 5! Practice

There’s nothing so practical as a good theory - Kurt Lewin

At Take 5! Institute, we’re convinced that our most effective actions are guided by our very best thinking. Which is why we believe that theory is such an important foundation for skillful professional practice.

Put simply, practice describes what we do. Theory explains why we do it. Without the feedback and accountability loops that a good theory provides, our practice isn’t always so practical.

The Take 5! approach synthesizes innovations and insights from two influential fields of research and practice: Interpersonal Neurobiology and Dialectical Behavior Therapy. Take 5! also promotes a thinking and practice orientation that is salutogenic, integrative, and developmentally-attentive – each is explained further in the notes below.

Theory Visual Update - April 2021

Interpersonal Neurobiology

Dan Siegel’s pioneering work in psychology and neuroscience has contributed important new perspectives on health, well-being, and the science of self-regulation. The principles of Interpersonal Neurobiology are integrated throughout Take 5!

Here's one example: Siegel equates self-regulation with self-integration. Integration, he says, is the underlying mechanism of self-regulation, described as “linking differentiated parts into a functional whole.” And the ‘parts’ that are integrated are threefold:

  • Mind – including such subjective experiences as awareness, insight, intention, and focused attention;
  • Brain – really, the ‘embodied brain’ – the extended nervous system that is found throughout the body; and
  • Relationship – the ways I’m connected to other people and my environment

Here's another example: Siegel stresses the primary role of the mind in self-regulation. In fact, he says, the mind acts as the ‘regulator.’ Take 5! builds on this insight and, with hands-on tools and easy-to-learn practices, stresses mental wellness as an important goal of self-reg asset-building.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

We’re equally inspired by Marsha Linehan’s ground-breaking work with Dialectical Behavior Therapy. While DBT is a rigorously researched therapeutic model, there’s growing evidence that the approach is effective for preventing mental health challenges, building resilience, and fostering health & wellbeing.

Take 5! incorporates four foundational DBT skills – mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, emotion regulation and distress tolerance. While these skills are proven to be therapeutically effective, they are also valuable tools for fostering mental well-being and resilience in children, youth and adults alike.

This fits well with the goals of Take 5! - which is all about capacity-building, and not therapy. We always state clearly that, while some professionals that support young people are qualified therapists, most aren’t. On the other hand, each of us has an investment in preventing mental health challenges and growing healthy minds. Of course, we want to use the very best evidence-based tools available. And even young children can learn basic DBT-inspired skills.

Self-Compassion Theory

Self-compassion is an important addition to the theoretical foundations of Take 5! Self-Reg Asset-Building. In fact, we often say that self-compassion is the "heart" of self regulation, helping kids and adults alike to grow their capacity to self-regulate ... to BE HERE, BE WITH, BE CALM, BE STRONG, and BE CHANGE.

Enriching the Take 5! framework with self-compassion theory and practice, we're grateful for the extensive research of Kristin Neff and her colleague Christopher K. Germer. We have also incorporated valuable thinking and practice experience from other influential self-compassion pioneers,  including Tara Brach, Paul Gilbert and Shauna Shapiro.

The Salutogenic Orientation

Take 5! promotes assets that are known to generate health, well-being and thriving. In other words, it’s salutogenic … a term borrowed from the field of health promotion; it means ‘health-generating.’ With a salutogenic orientation, self-reg capacity-builders optimize those conditions that promote higher levels of health, well-being and thriving – in people, and in systems.

Of course, it’s important to identify the gaps, or deficits, in a child’s ability to self-regulate. But it’s equally important to acknowledge current and growing strengths, and offer supportive scaffolding as new capacities are explored and developed. This salutogenic approach to capacity-building is at the heart of the Take 5! approach.

Human Development Theory

Educators are most familiar with two contributors to development theory: Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky. Piaget introduced a ‘constructivist’ perspective, illustrating how our capacities to ‘make meaning’ of our experiences grow in complexity throughout the typical stages of child development. Vygotsky adds a sociocultural lens to the study of child development, acknowledging the role of the environment and social interaction on the way the child learns and makes sense of their experiences.

With both Piaget and Vygotsky, the focus is on child development. What is perhaps less well known is that adults have the potential to continue developing throughout the lifecourse. Just as our brain continues to develop throughout our lives, our mind has the same potential.

Harvard University professor and developmental psychologist Robert Kegan calls this the “hidden curriculum of adult life.” There is much evidence that adults not only have the potential to develop, but that our very health and well-being depend on it. In adults, as in children, the failure to develop is the failure to thrive. And this has important implications not only for learning, but for self-regulation as well.

Integral Theory

As Interpersonal Neurobiology tells us, self-regulation is synonymous with self-integration.

So, in order to grow self-regulation capacities in the young people we support … and in ourselves … we need a better understanding of integration: what it is, and how it works. In other words, we need to have a really good theory of integration in our back pocket. Drawing on Ken Wilber’s pioneering work with integral theory, Take 5! brings an integrative lens to self-regulation & social and emotional learning.

Dan Siegel describes integration as the linkage of different elements. Here are some examples of self-reg linkages, or integration, that occur within ourselves and with others:

  • Right and left hemispheres of the brain
  • Reptilian brainstem, limbic system, and neocortex
  • Neural systems within the brain
  • Mind and body (and the body includes the brain, of course …)
  • Body sensations and emotional awareness
  • Thoughts and emotions
  • Safety & security needs and self-actualization needs
  • Personal needs and relationship needs.
  • My inner world and your inner world
  • My preferred outcome and other people’s expectations

Rather than viewing ourselves as a collection of separate parts, then, we see how those parts connect to form a more complex whole, a more integrated system – within us, and between us.

When our bodies are not integrated, our health suffers. When our minds are not integrated, our health also suffers. In bodies and in minds, a lack of integration equates with dysregulation. The same is true in our relationships.

Take 5! … Integrating Theory and Practice

In sum, Take 5! Self-Reg Asset-Building offers a practical way to help children and youth thrive, growing essential capacities for learning, mental wellness, healthy relationships and lifelong development.

Drawing on leading edge knowledge and practice foundations in each of these key areas, Take 5! makes a unique and value-added contribution to self-regulation and social emotional learning.