Life Skills Training (LST)

Life Skills Training (LST) is an evidence-based prevention program that seeks to influence major social and psychological factors that promote the initiation and early use of substances. Life Skills has distinct elementary (8 to 11 years old) and middle school (11 to 14 years old) curricula that are delivered in a series of classroom sessions over 3 years. The sessions use lecture, discussion, coaching, and practice to enhance students' self-esteem, feelings of self-efficacy, ability to make decisions, and ability to resist peer and media pressure. LST consists of three major components that address critical domains found to promote substance use. Research has shown that students who develop skills in these three domains are far less likely to engage in a wide range of high-risk behaviors. The three components each focus on a different set of skills:

  • Drug Resistance Skills enable young people to recognize and challenge common misconceptions about substance use, as well as deal with peers and media pressure to engage in substance use.
  • Personal Self-Management Skills help students to examine their self-image and its effects on behavior, set goals and keep track of personal progress, identify everyday decisions and how they may be influenced by others, analyze problem situations, and consider the consequences of alternative solutions before making decisions.
  • General Social Skills give students the necessary skills to overcome shyness, communicate effectively and avoid misunderstandings, use both verbal and nonverbal assertiveness skills to make or refuse requests, and recognize that they have choices other than aggression or passivity when faced with tough situations.


The outcomes relative to controls included the following:

  • Reduced initiation of cigarette smoking by 75%, and 3 months after program completion, by 67%
  • Reduced alcohol use by 54%, heavy drinking by 73%, and drinking to intoxication one or more times a week by 79%
  • Reduced marijuana use by 71%, and weekly or more frequent use by 83%
  • Reduced multiple drug use by 66%
  • Reduced both long-term and short-term substance abuse
  • Reduced pack-a-day smoking by 25%
  • Decreased use of inhalants, narcotics, and hallucinogens by up to 50%


  • Develops resistance to peer and media pressure to use substances
  • Develops a positive self-image
  • Develops decisionmaking and problem-solving skills
  • Helps youth manage anxiety
  • Fosters effective communication
  • Builds healthy relationships
  • Increases youths' self-confidence in social situations

How It Works

The Life Skills Training curriculum for middle (or junior high) schools is intended to run for eighteen 45-minute class periods. A booster intervention has been developed that is taught over 10–12 class periods in the second year and 5–7 in the third year. This means the initial program should be implemented with sixth or seventh grade students, followed by booster sessions during the next 2 years. Optional violence prevention units can be implemented for each year of the program, extending the overall number of class sessions.

The Life Skills Training elementary school curriculum runs for 24 class sessions, each 30 to 45 minutes long, to be conducted over 3 years. The first year (i.e., Level 1) is composed of eight class sessions and covers all skill areas. The remaining booster sessions are divided into eight class sessions for Level 2 and eight for Level 3. The booster sessions provide additional skill development and opportunities to practice in key areas. Level 1 is designed for either grade three or four, depending on when the transition from elementary to middle school begins.

Both the elementary and middle school programs can either be taught intensively (consecutively every day, or two to three times a week) until the program is complete, or it can be taught on a more extended schedule (once a week). Both formats have proven to be equally effective.