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Aggression is a learned behavior. It is immediately, effectively, richly and efficiently reinforced. If I am bigger than you are, and I want something of yours I can just take it. There, I have it, you don't. I get what I want, and my aggression has paid off.
Aggression is a complex, not complicated behavior. Since it is learned, and learned at a very early age, learned in our communities, schools, churches, and homes, we needed to develop an intervention that would get young people to unlearn what had been successfully reinforced and substitute something more beneficial.

Dr. Arnold P. Goldstein and Dr. Barry Glick posited that if aggression was a complex learned behavior, it needed to be countered from a number of fronts. First, most juvenile offenders lack the basic social skills to use in angry producing situations. As you probably know from other sources, these juvenile offenders never learned basic skills in the first instance. As such, ART
® has as its behavioral component Structured Learning Training (SLT). Even if young people know what to do in an angry producing situation, their emotions often get in the way. As such, we included a second component in ART®, that of Anger Control Training. ACT is the affective component. Finally, juvenile offenders may know what skill to use, and even control their anger enough to use the pro-social skill, yet choose not to use the skill. To mitigate against this dynamic in what we thought to be the root inhibitors to mitigate against aggression, we included Moral Reasoning, the cognitive component, in order to train young people a process of how to view their world in a more fair, equitable, and just manner.

What is ART®? Well first let us tell you what ART® is NOT. ART® is not:
** traditional psychotherapy, whether it be psychoanalysis, client centered, or behaviorism.
** group guidance or advice giving
** values training or clarification
** content specific

Rather, ART® is an action oriented, multimodal intervention that uses specific strategies to address those contributors that cause aggressive and violent behaviors in juvenile offenders.

The objective of SLT is to provide young people the skills to use in angry producing situations. These skills may be used with peers, authority figures such as parents, teachers, significant others, and even police. The techniques used to teach social skills is similar to any other learning situation. If you wanted to teach someone, say how to drive, what do you do? That is right, we would show them. After I showed them the perfect way to do the task, then what do I do? That is correct, I encourage them to try it. Here, Joe, it is your turn, you drive. After Joe tries the task, I give him feedback. We discuss what he had done, and how well he did. Then I assign him homework to practice. Teaching skills is as simple as that.

®, we chose ten skills (from the original 50 skill curriculum we originally developed) to train adolescents. Why, because we believed these were most useful in mitigating against aggression and violent behaviors.

Anger Control Training (ACT) is the second component of ART® and was first developed by Eva Feindler at Adelphi University for pre-school children who were emotionally disturbed and aggressive. Goldstein and I adapted this intervention, modifying it for adolescents, especially those who were incarcerated and prone to aggression and violence.

ACT is based upon the A - B - C model of Aggression. A stands for antecedents; B stands for Behavior; and C stands for Consequences. The ACT module trains young people in concepts and techniques based upon each of these three concepts.

Let's take a look at the angry behavior cycle and chain more closely.

What is a trigger? Like a trigger of a gun, that which set the gun off, triggers set individuals off. There are two types of triggers, internal and external. External triggers are the conditions that make you angry. For example, if I am driving down the road, and I see in my rear view mirror a car that is being driven erratically, weaving in and out of lanes, cutting people off, I become concerned. Right by the exit that I am getting off, that same car cuts in front of me and speeds down the ramp. That is the eternal trigger. Depending what I say to myself, the internal trigger, depends on how angry I become. If I say to myself that the guy is crazy, selfish, and almost caused me to run off the road, how angry am I? If, however, I say to myself, that guy is crazy, maybe he is drunk or high on something, and he could hurt himself or someone else, I may be still angry, but am I as angry as in the first instance? And if I see a blue hospital sign at the exit, and I say to myself that the guy must have an emergency and needs to get to the hospital quickly, well, maybe I am not angry at all.

Cues are physical signs that let you know you are getting angry. What are your physical signs. What happens to your body, what do you notice when you are angry?

Reminders are phrases or statements that get us to stop and try to control our reactions. Some key phrases young offenders respond to include: Chill or chill out: Cool Down; You don't have to loose your cool; Don't let him (her) (it) get the best of you.

We then teach a series of anger reducers. These are techniques that actually help reduce aggressive reactions based upon some intervening behavior. Meichenbaum and Novaco have both done extensive work in this area. The three techniques we teach in ART® are: Pleasant Imagery, Deep Breathing, and Counting Backwards.

Self Evaluation is a technique we teach the juvenile offender to use after the incident and anger control skills have been used. How did they do? Did they control their anger? Did they limit their aggressive behaviors?

Thinking ahead is another way of controlling one's behavior and is introduced next. We train young people to look at short and long range consequences, as well as if, then scenarios.

The third component of ART®, Moral Reasoning, is aimed at dealing with choosing to use pro-social skills over aggressive and violent behavior. This is the cognitive component of the program and integrates cognitive restructuring principles into ART®. MR is based upon Lawrence Kohlberg's Theory of Moral Development in which individual increase their view of their world, as they develop to more fair, equitable, and just manners.

A moral dilemma is presented to a group of no more than 20 juveniles who are asked to give their opinion about the situation. Kohlberg posits that those at lower stages of moral development will increase in their development by debating the situation with those who are at higher stages of moral development. The group facilitator guides the discussion to insure interaction between the stages.

Juvenile Offenders attend ART® sessions for ten weeks. They participate in one class in each of the components each week. Thus each young person spends a total of three hours each week in ART® over a ten week time period.

Key Benefits

  • Multi-modal intervention
  • Ten week Program
  • Three sessions per week, one in each of the components
  • Well researched for program effectiveness
  • Cost efficient

Thinking for A Change (T4C)  


The Thinking for a Change curriculum uses as its core, a problem solving component, embellished by both Cognitive Restructuring and Cognitive Social Skills interventions. While each of the concepts are presented systemically, the participant quickly learns and appreciates that Cognitive Restructuring does require some Cognitive Skills methods, as does Cognitive Skills require an objective, systematic approach to identify thinking, beliefs, attitudes, and values. The Cognitive Restructuring concepts are introduced and emphasized during the initial eleven lessons of the program, interspersed with targeted critical social skills that support the cognitive restructuring process. This is followed by the problem solving techniques (lessons 16-21), again supported by appropriate social skills to embellish that concept. Simultaneously, the problem solving portions of the curriculum relies upon the restructuring concepts and techniques already introduced to the participants, thereby integrating all three approaches. By the time participants reach the twelfth lesson of the program, the Cognitive Restructuring techniques are so ingrained in their repertoire of competencies, that it is no longer required to be emphasized as a separate entity, becoming second nature to the offender participant. By the 22nd lesson, participants are ready to evaluate themselves using a skills checklist, in order to develop their own cognitive skills (advanced) curriculum.
The Thinking for a Change Curriculum is comprised of 22 lessons with a capacity to extend the program indefinitely, depending upon how many cognitive social skills are taught. It is recommended that the group meet for an additional ten sessions which is based upon the self-evaluations each participant completes in the 22nd lesson. These additional skills are the result of further assessment of the skill deficits for each participant, and then aggregated across the entire group. In this way, each group member is invested and empowered to participate in their own learning and self development, providing a forum for continued skill and cognitive development.
Each lesson is formatted similarly. It begins with a summary and rationale section in which the scope, breadth, and reason for teaching the lesson is provided. This is followed by concepts and definitions, which outline the key points for the lesson and any definitions necessary for the trainer to facilitate the lesson. The lesson objectives are then outlined, followed by major activities in the lesson. Any supplemental material, equipment and supplies are listed. The content of the lesson is then detailed. Within each lesson, there are both suggested trainer scripts in which at least the fundamental and required information is provided. There are also specific trainer notes given in parallel columns which further embellish the training script.
Participants should be pre-screened after a brief individual interview. Such a meeting which need take no more than fifteen minutes, should set the tone of the learning sessions, direct and focus the participant to their need for the program, and an expectation that positive participation would greatly enhance their options.


Key Benefits

  • Three interdependent cognitive approaches
  • Based upon Cognitive Restructuring, Cognitive Skills
    and Problem Solving strategies
  • 22 Lessons well formatted and easy to follow
  • Participants attend at least two sessions per week

Youth Development System (YDS)                                           

                                              Theoretical Foundation
     The Youth Development System (YDS) is based upon adolescent theory, and leadership principles noted by Hersey and Blanchard. The YDS is neither a level system nor a token economy system, both of which are based upon principles of Behavior Modification. Instead the YDS is designed to provide juvenile offenders opportunities to learn, grow, and experience progress in their daily living activities, even if some of their behaviors are negative or inappropriate. Since the YDS is firmly rooted in adolescent development, it relies on those developmental tasks that juvenile offenders must acquire in four key areas of adolescence: the Physical, Cognitive, Emotional, and Social. The YDS requires that juvenile offenders, by acquiring pro-social skills and appropriate problem solving techniques, will develop responsible behavior based upon positive thoughts, feelings, beliefs and attitudes. It is this cognitive restructuring combined with skill development that produces responsible behavior and in turn warrants privileges. As juvenile offenders advance their stages of development by demonstrating increased levels of responsible behavior, they are given more opportunities to exercise their own control in behavior and decision making.
     Staff is critical to the successful implementation of the Youth Development System. Staff differentiates their actions and behavior with youth based upon the youth’s stage of development. As such, staff learns to assess the situation in which the youth behaves, accounts for the youth’s developmental stage as defined by the YDS, and interacts accordingly. While staff techniques are standardized and dictated by the YDS and Situational Leadership Theory, staff uses their own style and preference to accomplish the appropriate behavior outcome for each youthful offender. As a result of learning and understanding Adolescent Development, Situational Leadership, and the concepts of the YDS, staff will expand their own tools and methods, which they will be able to transport with them, no matter where they work.

                                                       Situational Leadership–An Overview
     Situational Leadership is an approach developed by Hersey and Blanchard (1981, 1985), to help manage individuals. It originally was developed for supervisors in a work situation, and later applied to a variety of human services settings including corrections. Situational Leadership combines the amount of direction and control (Directive Behavior) a leader gives to a subordinate; the amount of support and encouragement (Supportive Behavior) a leader provides; and the competence and commitment (developmental Level) that a follower exhibits in performing a specific task in any given situation.

1. Directive Behavior is the extent to which the leader engages in one-way communication; spells out the subordinates role and specifically tells the followers what to do, where to do it, how to do it, when to do it, and closely monitors and supervises the subordinate’s performance.
2. Supportive Behavior is the extent to which a leader engages in two-way communication, listens, provides support and encouragement, facilitates interaction, and involves the subordinate in decision making.
3. Developmental Level is comprised of competence (the follower’s job knowledge and skills) and commitment (the follower’s motivation and/or confidence). The more competent and committed, the more responsibility the subordinate will take to direct his or her own behavior.
Staff learns how to combine the two types of behaviors to interact with juvenile offenders. The combination and balance between Directive and Supportive behavior is directly related to the stage at which the youth perform. By combining these two types of behaviors, four leadership styles are available for staff to use. Once staff masters the four different leadership styles, they are in a capable position to manage youth behavior and direct their growth.

     These Leadership styles are:
1. Directing: High directive/low supportive behavior. Staff using this leadership style provides specific instructions for youth and closely supervises task completion.
2. Coaching High directive/high supportive behavior. Staff explains the decisions they make and solicits suggestions from juvenile offenders, but continues to direct task achievement.
3. Participating High supportive/low directive behavior. Staff makes decisions together with the youthful offender and supports efforts toward their task accomplishment.
4. Delegating Low supportive/low directive behavior. Staff allows the youthful offender to implement and achieve the assigned task independently, exercising responsibility and decision making as appropriate.
Thus, the YDS provides guidance to staff as to how they should approach juvenile offenders in any given situation. Based upon the youth’s developmental stage as defined by the YDS, staff choose the appropriate leadership style in order to best manage the youth’s behavior in any given situation. Staff are always the final authority and in control of any situation, but exercise great latitude as they interact with the youth they manage. The YDS creates a learning environment in which juvenile offenders are provided opportunities to grow and develop by exploring their thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and attitudes. Using developmental tasks they have already acquired and learning new ones, juvenile offenders are constantly challenged to increase responsible behavior and advance their developmental stages through a variety of experiences and learning aids.

The Youth Development System
     Youth are assessed through Interdisciplinary Team Reviews and placed in one of four Stages. Stages are determined by the youth’s developmental level as defined by Situational Leadership Theory (i.e.: competence and commitment). The following chart identifies a youthful offender’s Developmental Stage (in general terms), given any specific situation. The Developmental Stages ranges from low to high, identifying juvenile offenders from “in the process of developing to having fully developed”. 

              High                     Moderate                  LOW

Low Competence Low   Commitment

Some Competence Low Commitment

High Competence Variable Commitment

High Competence High Commitment

Stage I



Stage II



Stage III



Stage IV



Developed                                                                                                                                    Developing    



     Each developmental stage has its own set of responsibilities that the youthful offender must acquire in order to move onto higher stages. Once acquired, a stage may not be taken away, and so it is incumbent upon staff to insure that when a youth is certified as reaching a certain stage of development, that the youth has indeed demonstrated the responsibilities required of that stage. Each stage of the YDS has a set of responsibilities that a youth must demonstrate competency and in turn a set of developmental tasks in which the youth must be proficient. Because the YDS is based upon adolescent development principles, youth need not complete all stages of the YDS in order to be released from program or be successful in their habilitation. Rather, staff must be able to accurately assess their developmental stage and insure that those significant others understand the competencies and commitment the youthful offender has, given situations they encounter.
Documenting progress is reported during regular case conferences and youth records, as any staff log or note would be recorded. The YDS also has certain tools to aid staff as they interact with youth at various stages. These include:

• Youthful Offender Progress Reports
• Youthful Offender Evaluation Forms
• Criteria for Stage Advancement
• Stage Review Process
• Youthful Offender Behavior Improvement Plans
• Mentor Weekly Progress Report

     At each Stage, youth are provided with a color coded identifier (e.g.: tee-shirt; wristband; id-card) to signify the Stage they have achieved. Staff are able to better identify YDS stages of youth, group youth accordingly and manage behavior, both individual and group. Specifics of the YDS may be found in the YDS Rule Book for Juvenile offenders, The Youth YDS Handbook, and The YDS Staff Manual.

Key Benefits

  • A System to manage behavior of anti-social, criminal, aggressive youth
  • Based upon adolescent development theory, and situational leadership
  • Matches staff interventions with youth according to youth maturational developmental tasks
  • Curtails system manipulation by youth and staff

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