Behavior Modification Schools

Behavior Modification Schools

While most behavioral schools for boys still employ elements of behavior modification in their programs, also known as the applied behavior analysis model, they lack the supervision of a clinical treatment team. Since behavior modification programs use varying degrees of negative and positive reinforcement, their use in the past has been controversial due to over-disciplining and abuse problems. However, studies have shown that with proper supervision of a clinical team, behavior modification can be a highly effective treatment model.

White River Academy offers behavioral health treatment, enabling us to provide care with a team of licensed clinicians while addressing concurrent behavioral issues such as substance abuse. Our programs incorporate elements from behavior modification models while balancing them with a team of healthcare professionals, ensuring that our students’ mental health needs are being addressed and abuse is not occurring.

According to studies conducted in Spain, behavior modification programs that are used in facilities or in the natural environment have the largest effect, leading to a 15 percent reduction in recidivism (relapse).

A brief history

The implication of the applied behavior analysis model in residential treatment programs began in the 1960s when a team from the Department of Human Development and Family Life at the University of Kansas began studying the applications of behavioral analysis. The goal of behavior modification still remains the same today – to restructure behavioral patterns in adolescents, reducing the chances of recidivism and improving academic performance.

Led by American psychologist Montrose Wolf, Achievement, the first “teaching family home,” became the prototype for behavior modification programs. Opened in 1967, the home consisted of six to eight adolescents with two “parents” trained in behavior modification techniques. Outcome studies have found that Achievement as well as the teaching family homes that followed its model reduced relapse rates and antisocial behavior as well as increasing self confidence for at least a year after treatment.

While past studies have shown behavior modification models to be as effective as doubling learning rates and reducing relapse, their overuse of negative reinforcement initially led to poor client/counselor relationships before treatment facilities began implementing oversight from a clinical team in the late 20th century.

Although treatment facilities incorporate different facets of the behavior modification model (now known as applied behavior analysis), they all share the seven following characteristics in common:

  • A strong emphasis on defining problems in terms of behavior that can be measured

  • Treatment techniques are employed as a means of altering one’s current environment to help them function more fully

  • The techniques are usually applied in everyday life

  • The methods and rationales can be described precisely

  • The techniques are based largely on principles of learning, specifically operant conditioning and respondent conditioning (involves analyzing what is prompting the behavior, developing consequential strategies and replacement behaviors)

  • There is a strong emphasis on accountability for everyone involved in the program

  • An emphasis on scientific demonstration that a particular technique was responsible for a given behavioral change

White River Academy’s approach to behavior modification

White River Academy’s behavioral programs utilize many of the core components of behavior modification such as the three level token system, a focus on education and functional analysis (which focuses on the reason or motivation for a behavior and has been shown to reduce the need for punishment). We help our adolescents cultivate pro-social behavior and self-esteem via psychoeducational groups and team building activities as well as community service.

Our discipline school for boys is located in scenic Delta, Utah, capitalizing on the surrounding mountains and rivers to provide our young adults with a wide range of therapeutic options.

Although possessing paramilitary elements such as a focus on physical activity, our male boarding school is not a boot camp-style treatment center since it does not utilize negative reinforcement devoid of context (real military training has a reward at the end of graduating, where adolescent military schools are generally ineffective due to a lack of a real incentive). We also employ more forms of positive reinforcement than military and most behavior modification schools such as verbal affirmations and access to phones and Internet.

A vital component of our adolescent program here at the White River Academy is education. Our curriculum teaches students about the nature of their behavioral health disorders as well as evidence-based strategies for coping with them and establishing healthier interactional patterns with friends and family members.

If you would like more information regarding behavior modification schools or their model (now referred to as applied behavior analysis) or the ways in which we integrate it into our program, feel free to contact our 24/7 admissions helpline today.

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Justin Nielson

Program Administrator

It is natural for parents to worry and have concerns when sending their son away to a residential treatment center. We hope this detailed description of the admission process at White River Academy will answer some of your questions.

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