Positive Intervention
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This is an initial entry for guidelines for increasing the influences for what we call “Positive Interventionsm.” We will be identifying and publicizing schools and programs that meet this subset of our guidelines, calling them Positive Interventionsm schools and programs. We expect to create a trademark that we will authorize programs to post if they meet our guidelines.

The concept here is, in simplest terms, is to  base therapeutic / change intervention on goals that are marks of successful, healthy people and avoid that which seems unnecessarily punitive and which disrespects the student/client.  A Positive Interventionsm school or program is a school or program where person with  even a serious mental health problem and a positive attitude could enter and experience treatment with dignity and respect. 

To be more precise, a  Positive Interventionsm school or program includes these principles: 

(1) A defined goal or set of goals based upon characteristics reasonably believed to be the marks of all successful people are identified and stated.  These are goals that would be reasonably of concern for high functioning people, and are not related to pathology in any way.  These become core issues in treatment / intervention planning for all students/ residents/ clients along with specific issues that need to be addressed to overcome problem areas.  Pathology, behavior problems and other deficits enter into both the formal planning process and the informal thought and action process in a context of being identified barriers to meeting those core positive goals.  "A glass is half full rather than half empty."   Achieving results that would be positive outcomes for high functioning young people is the focus. Overcoming negatives is set in the context of working toward a specifically identified positive end and removing the negative obstacles to that end..

(2) Discipline is corrective, not punitive.  Disciplinary corrections occur only in response to behaviors that occur after enrollment, and where doing so directly supports the achievement of the positive goals described in (1) above. Corrective action is taken in as affirming a manner as possible.

(3) A  consistent programmed approach to affirming the students / clients pervades the school or program.  Every interaction with staff is intended to be as affirming as possible within the context.  Peers are guided to be affirming to each other.

(4) A high functioning, mentally healthy, behaviorally appropriate person of the same gender and age level of the students/clients of this school/program could enter and participate and feel safe and comfortable.  Such a person might find himself/herself functioning under restrictions that she/he knows  he/she does not need and doesn't want to stay under those constraints but she/he would not experience the baseline environment as punitive.

(5) Staff maintain the same standards of conduct expected of the students/clients within the range of what the clients can observe. This applies not just to staff conduct in the presence of the students but also to staff conduct that the students would reasonably learn about.  For example where students/clients may not smoke, staff do not come to work with smoke on their breath or on their clothing or with tobacco stained hands.  Where students/clients are expected not to use alcohol, the  staff does not talk about the party they attended last evening and students / clients are not  used to serve staff or guests of the school or program at functions where alcohol is served. 

(6) Rules and policies are in all cases expressed in terms of what is expected/required rather than what is discouraged/prohibited.

(7) Both through internal resources and by adhering to principles of good continuity of care, students/clients remain in as near to a normalized environment as is consistent with their needs. 

We want to clarify several points.  We have applied principle (6) in writing the principles. We did not say "no loud confrontations or humiliating punishments."  We did not need to because a school or program cannot adhere to these principles and still do that.  The principles are, however, compatible with high levels of structure and security when interacting with a population needing high structure and/or security.  They are not compatible with keeping a person in a high level of structure or security longer than is necessary to meeting the needs of that particular individual.

In addition, to  designate a school or program a Positive Interventionsm school or program, we expect to see full adherence to guidelines listed in this website on relationships, staff example, and healthy development.

We make allowances for people for whom allowances must be made.  In application of principle (1) above, we don't expect most people with Downs syndrome to learn calculus, but we do believe they can achieve the “Significant Seven.” and/or the “Five Cs” described below.  The explanation of of the justification for the “Five Cs” in the linked article goes a long way toward supporting our concept of a "Positive Intervention" school or program.

We want to clarify that Positive Intervention sm school/program can be compatible with highly structured environments, secure environments, the use of some behavior modification techniques, and application of consequences following both encouraged and discouraged behaviors -- provided that these are consistent with the true needs of the students/clients admitted..  Adjusting to handicaps that simply cannot be overcome in a respectful and sensitive way remains acceptable  for Positive Intervention sm facilities consistent with (1) above.  However, all of these need to be conducted in a manner that shows respect and maintains the dignity of the students/clients. 

Goals that are marks of success include such programming as Positive Youth Development or Developing Capable People , two approaches toward similar results that are already connected.  Positive Youth Development lists the “Five Cs” as the target characteristics;  Developing Capable People lists the “Significant Seven.”    We believe youth who exhibit either of these sets of characteristics very likely exhibit the other.  Reinforcing the existing strengths of the individual and working toward the characteristics that these two sets of principles identify as marks of healthy, successful people are the principal areas of emphasis in Positive Interventionsm. Covey's Seven Habits may also qualify.

One concept we are challenging is that young people must always be broken down in a gratuitous punitive context before they can be helped. The emotional growth tradition that began with the Cedu Schools and and was widely copied, and the wilderness tradition that was promoted from faculty of the  Recreation Management and Youth Leadership Program at Brigham Young University have introduced the illegitimate concept the young people must be punitively "broken down" and deprived before being helped.  We reject that concept.  We admire positive peer methodologies,  subject to the concern that there are sufficient controls to prevent hazing and abusive confrontation between peers.  We understand that these concepts that we believe are antithetical to Positive Intervention sm also appear in situations that are not derived from these sources. However we do want to know that schools and programs with a history of influence from these sources have systematically reviewed their process and removed procedures that do not reconcile with Positive Intervention sm, before we provide the Positive Intervention  sm designation.

There is a tradition in schools and programs involved in behavioral change and therapeutic intervention that involves that school or program starting off with a demonstration of power and control as the base line for how the school/program and students / clients will relate to each other.  Schools and programs that do this are often referred to pejoratively as “tough love” programs. (We think that mis-describes the problem and misuses the term “tough love.”)  They are also described as “break ‘em down then build ‘em up” programs.  This tradition lives on to various degrees in most behavioral programs.  What we call Positive Interventionsm is intended to be the antithesis.  We hope to see this tradition replace the “break ‘em down” tradition.  It is possible to see elements of both in the same school or program.

This is an area where we know of no schools or programs that perfectly adhere to these specific guidelines, although some appear to  come very close.  We hope to see full compliance by some programs in the near future.  The absence of programming that is committed to the principles of Positive Interventionsm is frankly disturbing to us.  If this website accomplishes only one thing, it is our hope that making Positive Interventionsm the standard of the industry would be that accomplishment.

We understand and respect what motivated this tradition originally and why it was important at one time, although we (including our consultant, Tom Croke before there was a FamilyLight sm) never were comfortable with the way this was employed in the Cedu Schools in the 1980s and before, at Cascade  School, in the Straight Program, and in boot camps, in the original Aspen Achievement Academy prior to present management, as advocated by the Recreation Management and Youth Leadership Program at Brigham Young University.  (We will be adding an article in Topics of Interest in 2009 that describes this tradition, its origins, its original significance, and its abuses)  That tradition lives today, and we think it has mostly outlived its usefulness.    The tradition is so strong that it is difficult to find a school or program involved in therapeutics or behavioral change that does not maintain that tradition.  We think the schools and programs need to reconsider this. 

We understand that there are young people going to schools and programs who need to encounter non-negotiable limits, and that necessary and appropriate assertion of control will have some of the marks of the traditional approach.  We don’t think that applies to every child or adolescent who needs help with a psychological or behavioral problem.  This tradition is what has energized Congressman Miller to push legislation to try to destroy all of this programming. He is a misguided fanatic, but the schools and programs have handed him the resources to attack through excessive reliance on gratuitous assertion of power and put down. NATSAP and program owners that do not like Miller’s proposed legislation should take another look at the famous Pogo cartoon where Pogo says, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”  (We should add that we would welcome passage of the Miller Bill after it was amended subject to adding some further amendments to prevent some unintended consequences.  But we do think pressure on the states to better regulate these programs is in order.)

We believe it is appropriate for schools and programs to be prepared to take sufficient action as is needed to take charge when students /clients demonstrate defiance and aggressive behavior.  We know from experience that even in the face of the most outrageous behavior it is possible to assert appropriate control while also projecting respect, encouraging positive relationships, and otherwise adhering to our guidelines.  It is not necessary to approach people just arriving in a program punitively, with hostility, or with gratuitous force or in a way that humiliates.  It is usually not necessary to approach new arrivals with an expectation that there will be outrageous behavior, although sometimes it is.    

It is not realistic for us to certify any school or program to fully meet our Positive Interventionsm guidelines at this time.  We believe that Forest Heights Lodge, Maple Lake Academy, Wediko School, Tyler Ranch, Sober College, and New Summit Academy all are within the spirit of Positive Intervention.    We note with great optimism that Shortridge Academy claims to base its entire program on Positive Youth Development, a claim we are not yet prepared to fully evaluate. We invite comments on other programs that adhere to Positive Interventionsm  guidelines to be shared with us at FamilyLightResponse@yahoo.com .   

FamilyLight sm will be designating selected schools and programs as Positive Intervention sm schools and programs and other services.  This designation will be available only to schools, programs, and other services that submit a completed questionnaire response.  Determination by FamilyLight sm on whether or not to grant that designation is final.  If FamilyLight sm denies that designation to a particular service, that does not prove the service involved does not meet the standard; it only means that the documentation submitted and visit by FamilyLight sm did not assure FamilyLight sm that the standard was met.

Feedback is invited. We will  publish selected feedback.  Email FamilyLightResponse@yahoo.com

Disclaimer: No  program review, no matter how positive, is a blanket endorsement. No criticism is a blanket condemnation.  When we express our level of confidence in a school or program, that is our subjective opinion with which others might reasonably disagree.  When we assert something as fact, we have done our best to be accurate, but we cannot guarantee that all of our information is accurate and up to date. When we address compliance with our guidelines, you need to remember that these are only OUR guidelines -- not guidelines from an official source.  We have also set the bar very high, and do not expect any school or program to be in total compliance.  It is not appropriate to draw a conclusion of impropriety (or even failure to live up to conventional wisdom) from our lack of confidence in a school or program or from less than perfect conformity to our guidelines.  Some will say we expect too much. Readers are responsible for verifying accuracy of information supplied here prior to acting upon it. We are not responsible for inaccuracies.

Last revised 4-25-09

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