Health & Medical Adolescent Health

Why Bootcamps Don"t Provide Optimal Help For Troubled Teens

Bootcamps operate from a fairly traditional model of behavior modification.
The programs are structured on a reward/punishment system.
They hope to mold teen's behaviors by creating consequences-good and bad-for various forms of behavior.
These programs are very rules-oriented participants are expected to abide by those rules and a failure to do so usually results in a swift and clearly visible result.
There are two reasons why these approaches aren't the optimal method of providing help for troubled teens.
First, participants will often change their behaviors and actions within the program for the sake of "getting by" without really making any meaningful alteration in their perspective.
Bootcamps become systems for troubled teens to "game".
They know the programs are temporary and they can make superficial changes in behavior in order to get through the program.
When the kids return home, however, they frequently revert to previous patterns.
The "changes" experienced in the program environment weren't really changes at all.
They were merely temporary adjustments.
Second, the artificial structure of rewards and punishments doesn't help to address the underlying causes of the behavior problems that led to bootcamp enrollment in the first place.
Behavior modification programs emphasize the outward behavioral changes but often fail to deal with core issues.
Once the artificial construct of rewards and punishments within the controlled environment of the program "game" is removed, the teen no longer feels a reason to continue playing.
Those apparent shifts in behavior are revealed to be nothing more than temporary adjustments that were more about convenience and system manipulation than genuine change.
Real change, of course, comes from successfully tackling those root causes.
When they're ignored, you can feel relatively confident that problems will resurface again and again.
Bootcamps look like a serious, quick solution.
That's one reason why they get a great deal of media attention.
However, they are not the best way to provide meaningful help for troubled teens.

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