Institute for Social Emotional Education

CSS Framework

What is CSS®?

CSS® stands for the Cultivating SEEDS System Framework. In turn, SEEDS is an acronym for Social Emotional Education in Diverse Settings.


CSS® is an organizing framework that gives context, order and meaning to information obtained about a client’s background. The framework uses social emotional competencies and the social determinants of a person’s life course to explain human behavior. It also identifies the culturally responsive approach-the RUMERTIME Process to influence and transform lives and communities.

Features of the CSS Framework

  • Research Based: The CSS framework is built on multiple evidence-based human growth and development theories as well as evidence-based therapeutic theories and techniques.
  • Evidence Informed: The author incorporated research evidence, stakeholder needs, cultural competencies, values, preferences, practitioner wisdom, and theory into the development of the CSS™framework. 
  • Innovative: The CSS framework uses agricultural metaphors to educate, demystify, de-stigmatize, and re-conceptualize mental health concepts as they relate to the inevitable life challenges associated with self, others, and situations both locally and globally. 
  • Relatable: Agriculture is a universal, unbiased construct, and everywhere across the globe elements of the natural plant world exist. 
  • Easy to teach: Facilitators teaching the CSS framework are not required to have a formal college education. Many of the activities included in the framework offer the facilitator the opportunity to use materials indigenous to their culture and setting. However, facilitators need to complete an official CSS framework training course. 
  • Easy to learn: Concepts in the CSS framework are developmentally appropriate and strongly linked to the plant world, making the concepts both practical and easy to learn, not only for the intended audience but also for any unintended audiences.
  • Adaptable: The CSS framework is accessible, generalizable, and flexible. It was designed to be easily modified to fit diverse settings, needs, ethnocultural groups, time, ages, and resource levels.
  • Scalable: Facilitators and learners engaging with the CSS framework can have diverse levels of educational attainment as well as a wide range of life experiences.
  • Culturally responsive: Ecological systems theory and narrative therapy are two of the multiple theories on which the CSS framework is built. This foundation ensures that rudimentary components including voice, beliefs, culture, and experiences of individuals are reflected in the learning and teaching of the CSS framework.
  • Engaging and active: The activities included in the learning modules actively engage multiple intelligences. Furthermore, the learning modules are delivered in multiple modalities, such as individual, small group, large group, classroom, workshop, advisory, and other modalities using active learning principles.
  • Comprehensive: “As air is to life, so are social-emotional skills to relationships.”  Social-emotional competencies are like the air we breathe.
  • Integrated: The CSS framework is thoughtfully designed to be easily integrated into any setting where relationships are fundamental to success in family life, school life, work life and community life.

The Components of the CSS® Framework

The CSS® Framework is comprised of six components and uses an agricultural metaphor to reconceptualize the promotion, practice and intervention of mental health


  1. Six theories
  2. Social emotional competencies
  3. Social determinants
  4. Triadic principles of wellness(body/mind/spirit)
  5. Levels of engagement
  6. RUMERTIME® Process (the prevention/intervention strategy)

Each component works synergistically to create what we propose as a re-conceptualized approach to global mental health promotion, practice, and intervention.

Eight Theories

The CSS® Framework is built on eight well-established principles:

  1. Ecological Systems Theory
  2. Erikson’s eight-stage Psychosocial Life Span Development Model
  3. Strengths-Based Approach
  4. Social Learning Theory
  5. Cognitive Behavior Therapy
  6. Problem-Solving Therapy
  7. Narrative Counseling
  8. Neuroscience & Triadic body/mind/spirit

The first four of these theories share some conceptual similarities that transcend theoretical bounds – they explain and conceptualize human behavior as occurring within and across social contexts.



The last four theories are cognitive behavior therapy and problem-solving therapy.  These two approaches are widely used across settings and many of the techniques are scalable thus creating accessibility. They both focus on changing unhelpful patterns in cognition (thoughts and attitudes), behaviors and emotions so that the individual can develop personal coping strategies to solve current problems.

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The environments in which an individual is born, grows, lives, works, learns, and plays. They are made up of influences on every aspect of a person’s life.

Positive influences such as self, peers, government, home, school, work, community, media, and culture are needed to foster and promote growth. Optimal balance of these (influences or) elements results in healthy growth and development. Unfavorable balance of these elements leads to inadequate growth and production.

Social emotional competence is a person’s ability to Recognize, Understand, Manage, Express and Reflect upon the social and emotional aspects of their life in ways that enable them to successfully relate to themselves, and others. Being socially emotionally competent helps people to effectively navigate through life and its challenges, found in living, learning, working and loving.

There are five core social emotional competencies that the CSS framework utilizes: Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, Relationship Management and Responsible Decision-Making Skills.

The social determinants of mental health are the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age. These include the wider set of forces and systems shaping the conditions of daily life such as economic policies, development agendas, social norms, social policies and political systems.

Positive social determinants are necessary for developing the social emotional competencies. Many common mental health disorders have risk factors that are strongly associated with various social inequalities.

The level of engagement refers to the “who” of the CSS® framework – the client. The individual, the family, the school, diverse work settings or the community – all of these can be the client. The person delivering the intervention engages with the client and operationalizes the CSS® goals, all at the appropriate level.

The RUMERTIME® Process is a five-step social-emotional, problem-solving process that helps individuals move from a position of intra- and interpersonal imbalance to balance; and from unconscious living to conscious living.


Through the RUMERTIME® Process, individuals develop the social emotional competence to manage the social and emotional aspects of their lives so that they can successfully relate to self, others and situations as they grow and develop.


RUMERTIME® is an acronym, and individuals RUMERize when a triggering event occurs in their life and activates negative thinking, behaving, and feeling patterns. Individuals interrupt this pattern of negativity as they:Recognize, Understand, Manage, Express, and Reflect on their Thoughts, Interactions, Mindsets, and Emotions as they relate to the event.

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