What Makes Behavior Modification Work – And How It Can Work For Your Teen?

The changes in therapy over the past hundred years is astonishing. With the advances in how we approach mental health and the way we understand the finer points of brain function, has given way to a whole new way of treating those who need behavior modification.

When you have a troubled teen, you have probably tried most if not all the approaches to treating their behavioral issues. Talk therapy, group sessions, maybe some emergency inpatient for those who have children dealing with suicidal ideation or mental disorders. Medication could have been introduced at some point, the success of which varies depending on the child.

Many experts are choosing to move away from some of the above approaches to treat deep-seated behavioral issues and instead focus on behavior modification programs for teens. This is a specialized form of mental health treatment that puts the onus of success of the patient, while the medical provider is their support and guidance through the process. It is only as effective as the work put in by the patient and there lies its power to help your troubled teen change their life.

Why Behavior Modification Works

Originally based on the work of psychologist and researcher B.F. Skinner, the modern form of behavior modification has grown leaps and bounds from the work he did teaching animals to respond to positive and negative reinforcement.

What we learned from Skinner and other expert’s experiments is that you can help a person heal by changing two things:

  1. Their environment
  2. The way they respond to their environment

For example, think of an alcoholic. They are trying to stop drinking, so they go to the bar where all of their friends are and asks only for water. But a couple of hours in, they start to think, “Well, what is the harm in just one drink?” Soon one drink becomes two, then three, and before you know it, they are inebriated and falling into the same negative behaviors as before.

This is completely understandable. How can an alcoholic be expected to resist alcohol in the beginning of their sobriety when they are in an environment that is dedicated to serving alcohol? Especially when their friends are all engaging in and possibly enabling their behavior?

If the alcoholic stops going to the bar and starts spending time with sober friends, they will find it much easier to abstain. They can attend meetings with other alcoholics who are working on remaining sober and building healthy habits. If they are successfully focused on recovery, alcoholics can begin to introduce healthier forms of coping with the stress and emotions, like going to the gym or hiking on weekends, maybe starting some kind of creative process.

Successful behavior modification programs are based on these steps, both ones which cater to adults and teens in need of change.

Behavior Modification and Your Teen

The idea of behavior modification and your teen is very similar. Your teenager is currently reacting to the environment around them. You have tried to do everything to help them, but in many ways, this creates an unhealthy dynamic between you and your teen that can be enabling and ineffective. It is damaging for everyone involved and almost is guaranteed to not lead to any changes.
Your child needs to be in a new environment with new people, including mental health specialists, who can help them to learn those new and healthier behaviors.
While short term programs or outpatient therapy attempts to do this, it isn’t as effective as a complete change of environment with a longer program. Residential treatment centers were made for this process, as they offer an even split between providing this form of therapy, more traditional therapy, as well as academic support.

How Will My Teen Change

Your child will not change on a fundamental level, they will still be who they are, but going through a behavior modification program will help them replace their negative coping behaviors. In these programs, teens will learn is how to understand, process, and cope with their emotions in positive ways. They will learn a healthier way of reacting to situations where they may have struggled before, and the benefits of their improved behavior over the high-risk behaviors they were engaged in before.

On top of that, teens who go through a behavior modification program for troubled teens will be better prepared for life outside the program. This means teens who have completed one of these programs will enjoy improved grades, have extracurricular experience for college applications and have experience in many different areas of life such as cooking, cleaning, camping, working with animals, interacting appropriately with peers, community service, and more.

Behavior Modification For a Better Life

While your teen may struggle, we here at Liahona Treatment Center understand they are not a bad kid. They need help managing the torrent of confusing and painful emotions inside of them and in processing the world where they live. Behavior modification can help them do that at Liahona can help them overcome their struggles. If you believe your teenage son may benefit from our program, contact us for more information.

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