Developmental Approach to Improve Behavior
White River Academy is a therapeutic residential treatment center for troubled males from ages 12 through 17. Our students learn to confront and overcome their problems in a structured, safe and secure environment. Our highly individualized programs incorporate experiential learning, academic curriculum, community service, a positive peer culture and therapies aimed at promoting adolescent’s personal growth, character and integrity. Our goal is to provide healing for our students in the most constructive and positive manner possible. We help students address their behaviors in a way that allows them to move forward from a developmental standpoint and become better adjusted on their road to adulthood.
White River Academy utilizes a developmental approach to help students constructively address their behavioral problems and better adjust socially, emotionally, behaviorally and psychologically. Students learn and acquire developmentally appropriate social skills and behaviors, including self-regulation and problem-solving abilities.
Developmental vacation treatment model
The developmental vacation treatment model is a relationship-based model that was developed by clinical psychologist Daniel Sanderson, Ph.D., to describe adolescents’ refusal to accept responsibility for their actions, avoidance of certain psychological tasks that foster their identity, and lack of participation in the life tasks they need to learn, grow and mature.
Some of the behaviors indicating that adolescents are on a developmental vacation include:
- Acting out of control
- Checking out
- Getting stuck at a developmental position between childhood and late adolescence
- Lacking development of competencies, wisdom and coping strategies necessary to manage adult-level expectations
According to the developmental vacation model, the initial goals of treatment are to interrupt the patterns of the adolescent’s behaviors that are allowing them to stay on their developmental vacation. This approach emphasizes disrupting the teens’ dependencies so that they may begin their developmental process by learning to cope with issues and take responsibility for their problems.
To combat adolescents’ developmental vacation and resolve negative behavior patterns, White River Academy ensures that students take responsibility for their own actions, helps guide them toward developmentally appropriate tasks that strengthen their values and character, and disrupts the dynamics so that the adolescents cannot maintain their dependencies. The goal is to provide adolescents with experiences that assist them in acquiring competencies, knowledge and coping mechanisms they need to live independent and responsible lives as adults.
Reactive attachment disorder (RAD)
To feel safe and develop trust, children need a consistent and caring environment with parents or caregivers who consistently meet their emotional and physical needs. Reactive attachment disorder (RAD) is a rare but serious condition that arises in infants and children who are unable to establish an attachment relationship with parents or caregivers early in life.
Children who develop RAD may exhibit the following symptoms:
- Withdrawal, fear, sadness or irritability with no apparent cause
- Unresponsive or resistant when provided comfort and care
- Lack of emotion or smiling
- Lack of participation in social interactions
- Lack of desire to be picked up or held
- Lack of interest in childhood games such as peek-a-boo
- Lack of stranger anxiety or wariness
- Inappropriate physical boundaries with strangers
- Excessive sociability with strangers
Although it is not clear why some infants and young children develop this disorder, individuals are more likely to develop RAD when they experience repeated changes in primary caregivers or are persistently denied their basic physical and emotional needs for affection, nurturance, safety and care. The risk for developing RAD also increases when children grow up in environments that prevent them from developing healthy and stable emotional attachments. Children may be more likely to experience such neglect when they grow up in orphanages and foster care, or have caregivers with intellectual disabilities, social isolation, drug or alcohol dependence, or who lack parenting skills.
Untreated RAD can negatively impact children’s development and can lead to social, emotional and behavior problems, including:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Low self-esteem
- Learning difficulties
- Difficulty regulating emotions
- Cognitive and language delays
- Sleeping and eating difficulties
- Excessive attention-seeking behavior
- Behavior problems
- Inability to form meaningful relationships
Treatment for RAD includes ensuring that the child is in a safe environment, especially in cases of abuse or neglect, and helping the child to develop trust in others and establish a healthy relationship with an appropriate caregiver. Counseling and teaching parenting skills to parents or caregivers also can help improve the caregiver’s relationship with and behavior toward the child, which can facilitate attachment.
White River Academy
The developmental model is indeed a powerful and appropriate method during the critical growth period of adolescence. Rest assured that students leave our facility with the proper tools they need to make the right life decisions in the future. Upon request, we provide students with a reactive attachment group and other alternative treatment approaches, such as equine therapy and art therapy.
For more information about our developmental approach or the reactive attachment group offered at White River Academy, please call our 24/7 helpline to speak to a member of our admissions team.