Short Term Programming
FamilyLightsm: Successor to Bridge to Understandingsm

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We at FamilyLightsm salute the special contributions of short term programs. In their proper role, they deliver results that only they can deliver. There are some things they don't deliver.  We have two concerns: The first is that they not be overlooked for what they can do; the second is that they not be oversold or improperly promoted or used for what they cannot do. 

We consider anything shorter than 90 days to be short term.

Short term programs can respond to emergencies.  They can provide a good evaluation.  They can provide initial intervention, especially where medical issues are concerned, such as detoxification, stabilization, and medication adjustment. They can impact motivation. They can provide a temporary venue for a person waiting to be somewhere else.  But each of these functions is served by a different kind of short term program. 

Wilderness is an example of short term programming that serves the purpose of assessment and developing or enhancing motivation.  We encourage all readers interested in short term programming to read our guidelines for wilderness as well as in this article.  Many of the issues raised in that article, written prior to this, apply to short term programming in general.  We believe there is a potential for short term ranch and farm based programs to take on the tasks usually assigned to wilderness programs, although we are not currently aware of short term ranch programs doing that job satisfactorily. 

Quality short term programs are usually narrowly focused on specific issues.  They are constructive when they are part of a larger plan and expected to get very specific results.  They don’t stand alone. They don’t claim to stand alone.

At one time, thirty day substance abuse facilities were the most common and best available means of treating addiction. At that time the expectation was that they would trigger a stable recovery as stand alone programming. We currently see consistently better outcomes in wilderness programming and followed with longer term programming.  We do not currently see thirty days in any program as sufficient to deliver an addiction or alcoholism “cure” on a stand-alone basis.

Short term programming does not generally resolve any major behavioral issue or psychological  or psychiatric problem alone.  They will address a single issue, that contributes to a solution but is not a full solution by itself.

We are cautiously optimistic that as transition services and family services become more sophisticated and effective, we will see short term programming getting good results with more young people than have been true in the past without the need for long term highly restrictive program.  We don't have the  depth of experience or outcome studies to be confident of that, but we at FamilyLightsm are cautiously optimistic that will be the future. 

Our concern is that short term programs be very specific about their specific goals and stay focused on those goals.  There is no room for a short term program to attempt to be all things to all people. 

Feedback is invited. We will publish selected feedback.  Email

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 updated November 8, 2008; minor edits up to  April 27, 2009


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