Awakening Moments: Empowering Choices

OutbackTherapeuticWEBONLYfiles2012_jleahy (15 of 30)Because Outback does not promote superficial compliance through behavioral rewards/punishments, we often see kids acting out just as they would at home.  This provides us an opportunity to: 1- assess their internal motivations rather than their external motivations, 2- mentor them into WANTING to change, rather than just faking a change.  One day while I was in a group, we had a large strong boy refuse to hike to the next campsite.  While we do not punish students for non-compliance with programmatic standards, we take a very active role and intentional approach in helping them through their negative behaviors.  Immediately, the staff began engaging him emotionally to try and assess what was bothering him beneath the surface.  Even though this was initially unsuccessful by complete silence in his responses, when the staff began to engage in unrelated conversation around him about something he was interested in, this boy eventually began talking again.  Once they got him talking about something he liked, they were able to transition the conversation into what was going on with his recent hike refusal.  Once that bridge had been built, he opened up about a recent letter he received from his parents.  He talked about how frustrated he was with them and how hurt he felt because they didn’t trust him.  While he was in this emotionally vulnerable state, the staff were able to help him see that his current behaviors only justified his parent’s concerns and that if he wanted their trust he had to earn it.  This subtle yet poignant message empowered him to let go of his victimhood and take some control in the relationship with his parents by doing things that would earn their trust.  It was a long conversation, that took 3-4 hours, but the group eventually hiked that day, and it wasn’t because he was coerced to…it was because he wanted to.


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