Behavioral Modification Programs

With the rise of troubled teens reaching epidemic numbers in today’s America, it is more critical than ever for parents of said wayward teens to become familiar with the most reputable treatment options that are available for their child. Among these clinical options is a therapy known as, Behavioral Modification.

Probably the most widely recognized form of troubled youth-therapy around, behavioral modification is a methodology which, when conflated with a state-certified academic curriculum, and cognitive therapy, also happens to be the most popularly-used treatment model being used by programs today.

In the following, we will discuss the definition, functionality, and overall therapeutic significance of behavioral modification, and by extension, behavioral modification programs. Our discussion will include the types of behaviors, mental illnesses, and other adolescent issues that ‘behavioral mod’ facilities are clinically designed to help treat.

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Here at Monuments, we have created the following article in hopes that its content will educate needful parents on the specifics of this widely-used treatment model – including the types of facilities that utilize its therapeutic principles – so that they may be able to definitively decide whether or not its methods are appropriate for their child’s specific mental, emotional, and behavioral issues.

If nothing else, we hope this article will encourage parents of troubled teens for two reasons: First and foremost, that the following words will assure parents that they needn’t face the daunting challenge of saving the life of their adolescent boy, alone. And second, that upon reading the following article, parents will be comfortably reminded that potential life-changing treatment for their child, wherever and whomever that treatment may be or led by, is always just a phone call and a (most likely) plane ticket away.

So, What Is Behavior Modification?

Behavior modification is a type of treatment that includes replacing or modifying self-sabotaging behaviors with more self-serving, fruitful, and proactive behavioral patterns. According to Behavior-mod proponents, replacing said behaviors is made possible through therapeutic-learning techniques such as biofeedback and positive and negative reinforcement – e.g. rewarding good behaviors and punishing bad ones.

While the treatment has varying uses for various types of mentally suffering people, behavior modification is most commonly used to treat troubled teen programs including, residential treatment centers, group homes, wilderness therapy, and therapeutic boarding schools.

While its origins are ambiguous, most experts suggest that behavior modification was originally developed by the famed American psychologist and behavioral expert, B.F. Skinner. Regardless of whether or not he was the actual creator of behavior modification, it was through his formulation of applicable concepts such as observing that behaviors could be more easily shaped by reinforcement (encouraging favorable behaviors and discouraging negative ones), Skinner was indeed the first expert to shape the treatment into what it would eventually become.

Skinner is also heralded by many as being responsible for its popularity and modern usage among troubled teen programs in modern times.

Behavior Modification Programs Attempt to Treat the Following: 

  • ADHD
  • Depression
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)
  • Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Drug and Alcohol Addiction
  • Low-Self Image

Behavior Modification in Today's Troubled Teen Programs

While behavior modification has been ubiquitous in treating troubled teen behavior, the last few decades have given way to programs that use it as a supplementary part of their program rather than their curricular staple. While behavior therapy is still very much in use by said adolescent programs, most programs do not consider themselves to be “behavior mod” facilities. With the exception of boot camps and brat camps, most residential facilities – programs which now commonly use rather recent and provenly effective treatments such as positive peer culture, emotional growth, and leadership development –  refer to themselves as therapeutic schools or residential treatment centers. While recent developments in the evolution of troubled teen facilities have changed their functionality and approach to treating mentally-suffering adolescents, behavior modification still plays a very lively and fundamental role in most programs’ therapeutic curriculum.


How can behavior modification help with teenage anxiety and depression?

Choosing to send your son to a boarding school for troubled boys offers many benefits, including peace of mind for you. In addition to knowing that your teen is safe and in an environment that is conducive to positive behavioral and emotional changes, you’ll benefit from knowing that teens are less likely to run away from a boys boarding school when they are unfamiliar with their surroundings. At the same time, the change in location can offer an additional therapeutic benefit, such as removing any unnecessary pressures or temptations.

The troubled teen’s siblings and other family members will benefit immensely from living in an environment that is free of the chaos, hostility, and even violence that were almost certainly present before he left for a boarding school for troubled boys. This could also protect your other children from going down a similar path of destruction, particularly when substance abuse is involved.

Studies show that there is a strong sibling influence on adolescent substance abuse. When your teen returns home from a boarding school for boys, he will have made significant changes that will have given him the tools he needs to discover his true potential.

Monuments: A Viable Alternative to "Traditional" Behavior Modification

The Following is an Excerpt From Our Treatment Program Page …

Many programs talk about how they take a relational approach with their students. However, this language is connected to a level system that has embedded consequences and rewards for specific “behavior,” (aka behavior modification. These hoops through which behavior-mod enrolled students are forced to jump through, create an opportunity to “behave” in order to avoid negative ramifications or gain some external “privileges”. This approach ends up minimizing the relationship between student and staff and puts all focus on what the student simply does, no matter the motivation. We believe there is a better approach.

Our focus will not be around change through privileges (levels), but rather change through choice. Our students and families will be invited to join us and educate our team about what they want to accomplish and the things that they need to work on. Our team will work with them to craft a plan of action and help them identify the goals they want to accomplish along the way.

For Immediate Assistance, please call our child placement experts at (800) 559-1980

How can behavior modification therapy help with ADHD?

treatment approaches have been used in trying to help children and teenagers overcome ADHD, but most have been a complete failure. Often the next step is to resort to drug treatment. Now that we know more about ADHD, it has been found that the best therapy is behavior modification. At times, it may help to be supplemented by medication along with behavior modification.

While medication works on a neurological level to regulate the brain (kids with ADHD often have irregular brain-wave levels), behavioral therapy addresses specific problem behaviors by structuring time at home, establishing predictability and routines, and increasing positive attention. Where medication may make a teen less likely to make a certain behavior, it doesn’t teach him what to do in lieu of that bad behavior. That’s what behavior modification does.

This is the problem with medication for ADHD in young children when they become teenagers — they often decide they don’t want to take their medication any longer. When they do, the benefits of that medication end. Now what?

At Monuments, our behavior modification treatments for teens with ADHD are successful because they are consistent and enduring. This is not usually the case with parents, who get frustrated with a lack of visible progress with behavior modification.

Behavior modification therapy for ADHD has four principles:

  1. It reinforces good behavior, such as by extending a special privilege.
  2. It discourages negative behavior by ignoring it.
  3. It takes away a privilege if the negative behavior becomes too serious to ignore.
  4. It removes common triggers of bad behavior.

Is behavior modification used to treat eating disorders in teens?

Behavior modification is crucial in the treatment of eating disorders. That’s because these disorders are typically anchored in distorted self-images and views. Behavior modification helps the teenager see the distorted views and attitudes they have about their weight, shape, and appearance. Then it seeks to modify those distortions and their subsequent behaviors. From there, the goal is to help the teen develop insight to recognize triggers or situations where a non-useful behavior might occur.

What are some effective behavior modification techniques?

You may think the term “behavior modification” sounds elaborate, but it is used all the time. It’s how pets are trained. It’s been used for time eternal (with varying degrees of success) in parenting. It’s how we even train our co-workers. It is based on the concept that any behavior that has been learned can be unlearned or modified. There are various methods used to accomplish behavior modification:

  • Positive reinforcement — Pairing a positive stimulus with a behavior.
  • Negative reinforcement — Pairing a behavior to the removal of a negative stimulus.
  • Punishment — Designed to weaken behaviors by pairing an unpleasant stimulus to a behavior.
  • Flooding — Exposing the student to fear-invoking objects or situations intensely and rapidly.
  • Systematic desensitization — This is used to treat phobias. It involves teaching the student to remain calm while focusing on something he is fearful of.
  • Aversion therapy — Pairing an unpleasant stimulus to an unwanted behavior in order to eliminate that behavior.
  • Extinction — The removal of all reinforcement that might be associated with a behavior. This works best with young children, not so much with teenagers.

Is behavior modification evidence based?

Behavior modification programs are the core of many residential treatment facility programs. They have shown success in reducing recidivism for adolescents with conduct problems. It has been shown successful for treating addiction and for treating depression. It has had remarkable success treating ADHD without medication. There have been hundreds of studies showing the efficacy of behavior modification for treating all sorts of disorders, including everything we treat for our students at Monuments.

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