A Living and Learning Place…
The program at Abbott House is an adaptation of current thinking and proven research in the ever changing practice of residential treatment programs for youth. At its most basic level, Abbott House has built a program using concepts grounded in learning theory that have been proven successful at making changes in behavior as the result of planed social interactions. Learning occurs within a social and educational environment in which every staff member is grounded in teaching and practicing the social skills necessary to overcome adversity.
The environment provides physical safety, meaningful learning experiences and the opportunity to grow continuously in productive learning interactions within a structured daily program. Here, in a supportive and controlled setting, the young person can practice the skills she will need to gain new perspectives and to experience novel opportunities to learn more about herself and how better to interact with the world.
The Abbott House environment is one of acceptance, where everyone starts at their own level of ability and where better behaviors are reinforced. Change is expected and encouraged every day. It is a place of action and thoughtfulness where girls learn the reasons why alternative social skills will improve their life and it provides them the benefit of earning the things that they want. Through close monitoring and continuous interactions the youth can actually measure their own improvement. And they can see the benefit of that improvement in their daily life.
The girl works her program within a system of levels that progress toward her eventual completion of the program. Virtually everything that occurs within her daily schedule is based upon achieving success in making more productive decisions.
The model for the environment at Abbott House is based on upon established principles of learned behavior. In that context it is assumed that since all behaviors are learned that it is then possible for new behaviors to be taught.
The important distinction is that there is not an assumption of viewing the girl as having behavior problems or emotional impairments. Instead, inappropriate behavior is viewed as a product of previous learned responses or a need to learn more productive behaviors.
We emphasize that this is not a “Behavior Modification” program. It is a TEACHING program based on teaching observable and measurable actions. The care with which the teaching interactions are initiated are the key to this successful program. It assumes that new behavior can be learned and old behaviors can be improved.
A motivation system carefully maximizes the opportunity for the girl to obtain a personal benefit based upon understanding and practicing improved behavior. Elements of the program include:
- Structured positive reinforcement by verbal praise and practical rewards
- Continuous reinforcement following a desired behavior
- Shaping basic skills and then combining skills with successive desired skills
- Generalization of the skills learned to similar situations in the community environment
- Discrimination of skills from one setting to another
The attraction of this program is its overriding outcomes….(1) There is absolutely no punishment associated with this approach and (2) It is clearly measurable and sustainable.