Aggression Regression Therapy Essay Sample
Many youth have developed anti-social skills manifested by behaviors of teasing, bullying, harassing and intimidating their fellow youth and in other instances their teachers, parents or caregivers. This can be attributed to many factors which can also be referred to as risk factors whose sources are the individual, family, school, peers and the community. Individually risk factors are for instance possession of guns by youth, inability to communicate non agreement with an issue, becoming a parent at a young age, being mentally unstable and having attitudes that are inclined towards use of drugs. Family background also affects youth’s personalities because instability of the family unit affects how a child grows. A family that adequately provides nurturing and structure is not likely to have any delinquents. On the contrary a family with management problems is likely to have children who have delinquent behavior which includes drug and substance abuse.
The school can predispose children to delinquency especially if they are labeled as notorious or some other negative term. A risk factor is also in the loom if the child has negative attitudes towards school which can be evidenced by suspensions or constant change of schools. Peers will be a risk factor if those that the youth is hanging out are delinquents themselves because even a morally upright child can have his morals corrupted by his acquaintances such that they start having unacceptable behavior. The community can also be considered a risk factor if it is cumbered with incidences of crime. Most of the children that are brought up in high-crime areas usually turn to the crime themselves. If a neighborhood is not safe for the youths, they are likely to be problematic as well as they try to protect themselves. Additionally a neighborhood that is not endowed with resources and is constantly having challenges e.g. financially and economically, has a likelihood of bringing up children who will commit offences in the pursuit of trying to survive or search of a livelihood.
Most of these youths do not know how to handle different situations that come up in life. They mostly handle those situations without self control causing a lot of trouble in the neighborhoods. Picking fights, using abusive language and addiction to substances and drugs are some of the behaviors that can be attributed to such. The public is subjected to many losses and insecurities. Such behavior has seen many youth incarcerated because of their inability to co-exist peacefully with the community around them. Some youth behave like this because of their involvement in drugs or because of poor socialization.
Aggressive Replacement Therapy is an intervention program that is designed to assist the youth to develop life skills as well as promote appropriate social skills through well planned sessions that usually take place groups. Every group has a member of staff and a professional specialized with mental disorders. The therapy is sometimes used a part of the treatment especially if the people taken in for treatment are offenders who have been arraigned in court and convicted. It is aimed at helping the youth replace these anti-social skills with those that are morally acceptable by the society. This paper aims at elucidating on the details of the program.
This program’s major components are training the youth on how to control anger, reasoning in accordance to acceptable morals and skill development. The program also pays particular attention to the issue of motivation as well as reaction to change. Teaching is done in ten to twenty sessions that take 45-60 minutes. It usually takes 10 weeks with the youth attending twice or thrice a week. Trained private contractors as well as prison probation officers carry out the training. More often than not this therapy takes place in prisons or other facilities constructed for confinement of juvenile delinquents. Training is done alongside activities like role plays whereby students dramatize different situations, watch videotapes, do simulation games, and hold group discussions. In addition to this they also model proper behavior to help them visualize what is expected of them. Each group is comprised of a leader who can be a teacher or a counselor and also a mental health officer (Feindler, E. & Ecton, R. (1986).
Students are taught on how to carry themselves in situations that are anger provoking. According to Glick, 1996, a teen faced with such a situation needs to identify the factors that fuel feelings of anger. These can be external for instance what other people do to the teen. An example is opposition from others or in other words people failing to agree with the student or patient. Internal factors have everything to do with one’s personality like feelings of confusion, inadequacy or superiority complex. Once identified, the student needs to make out what physical signs show that he or she is angry like clenching of fists, tightening of muscles and grinding of teeth. Glick further states that after the first two steps, the student should try and look at things positively. This can happen if the student takes some time and instead of focusing on the ‘bad picture’, he should use some imagination in picturing a peaceful situation. Another way could be watering down the whole incidence and convincing oneself that the provokers did not mean what they said or did not mean to hurt their feelings.
Having followed all the above steps, the student is supposed to engage themselves in activities that reduce the hurtful feelings such as taking long deep breaths, numerically counting numbers backwards or contemplating and considering the negative effects that violent reaction would produce and thus refrain. The final step under this anger control therapy is that of self evaluation in which the students assess themselves to establish whether they followed the fore mentioned steps and thus establish whether they are making any positive progress.
Under moral reasoning students are taken through some moral dilemmas in order to initiate group discussions that touch on how to deal with issues fairly without fear or favor, being there for others, being concerned about them or even how to get oneself in others shoes so as to better understand where they are coming from. It is here that the student is encouraged to embrace responsibilities and also be well versed with their personal rights. The objective here is to help the students to be accountable for what they do and not be impulsive in doing things.
Under social skills training, students are taught about courteous behavior like being appreciative of things done to them by saying ‘thank you’, asking for help in areas that they cannot manage all by themselves, requesting for favors when thy want some done for them by using such words as ‘please’. They are also taken through the importance of apologizing when one has gone wrong or even seeking for approval before getting into any activity, for instance permission from parents, teachers or any other authority (Feindler, E. & Ecton, R. 1986).. They are also taught on how to set their own goals of what they would want to achieve in a given time. Afterwards some role play is done whereby it symbolizes one thing that the student does not like or that provokes anger for the teen. Afterwards the trainer discusses with the teen what action he or she ought to have taken.
Actors incorporate many skills which are supposed to guide the students and help them pick up those that are acceptable to the society. Generally they are taught on how to take time before reacting to a provocation. It encourages them to first relax before taking any rash action and do some moral reasoning. They ask themselves “what should I do now?” or “what is the best thing to do in this situation?” This training basically revolves around self control. It is done with the objective that the students that are prone to aggression will know how best to handle situations without having violent confrontations with those in authority or their fellow counterparts. Those in authority could be teachers, parents and guardians. Besides practicing self control the students are trained on how to make out problems, after which they are educated on how they can look for other solutions and how to choose how best to respond to the problem. It does not end here because they are also encouraged to figure out what effect their response would produce.
Aggression Replacement is also keen on students who do not like being viewed as weak and are always striving to be the ones giving the last word or being the last one to hit another such that this makes them feel like they have won. Trainers are supposed to instill to the students that this is instead a sign of failure. Trainers have a responsibility of framing the therapy such that it becomes relevant to those who are being treated. They do this by helping students see that every time they feel pushed to the wall and ‘hit last’ , or have the final word, they have been ‘manipulated to loose their self control’ which in itself is a defeat of sorts. They encourage them to be the first to walk away in case of a confrontation or see to it that they are not the ones who have the final word in any stand off.
Aggression replacement therapy is described by Edward as a cognitive behavioral intervention. It has advantages and disadvantages. It is advantageous because it has been proven to bring about change in aggressive youth whereby they have reduced their recidivist behavior. Improvement of this nature is highly appreciated not only by the close members of the family but also by the entire community because they would have been subject to nasty, violent confrontations or would have been victims of crime. There are organizations that are mandated with this responsibility of protecting the public as well as correctional services to the youth. An example of these organizations is the Oregon Youth Authority. Students who have developed self control due to the therapy have inward peace and also enjoy peace from the outside world. Aggression replacement therapy is also advantageous because it has seen Juvenile delinquency highly decline such that there are fewer children arraigned in courts (Latessa, E. J.(2004). This therefore is beneficial to the taxpayer because he will no longer need to meet the expense that would have otherwise been incurred in the judicial processes of the juvenile offenders. It also works positively because costs of treating injuries are highly reduced due to reduced fights.
Performance in school work has been reported as a result of the positive changes attributed to the aggression replacement therapy. Students now replace the bad social habits with good ones which therefore means that they are able to interact well with their teachers as well as their fellow students. Due to the new pro-social skills that they acquire, they can distinguish which is the right company to hang around and which to avoid. Chances of the would-be offenders to secure employment are also increased due to their ability to co-exist with other people who may be fellow employers. Employment opportunities also increase because people who have less records of prosecutions and convictions stand a higher chance of landing jobs. According to Landenberger and Lipsey,(2004) as cited by Latessa,(2005), of the 79 studies that were carried out, where 26 were random samples, 27 were matched samples and the remaining 26 that were convenient samples, it was found that Aggression Replacement therapy was one of the cognitive behavior control curriculums that reduced recidivism by 35%.
The fact that the therapy cannot be effective on its own without the inclusion of other programs is a disadvantage. Additionally, this therapy only seems to work in the short term unless it is made a life long process. This program takes some time before progress is seen and sometimes can be discouraging to the trainers. Disadvantages of this program are minimal when compared to disadvantages.
The outcome of the therapy is usually measured in terms of frequency of sentences and police suspicion reports. The program would be said to be effective in the event that the number of sentences as well as that of suspicion reports goes down. According to(Helping American Youth), some positive results have been realized after some studies were conducted. In one study, 60 youth participated most of whom had been imprisoned because of committing various felonies like drug offences, theft and burglary.24 of them were put on the aggressive replacement therapy which was to take 10 weeks. Another 24 were introduced to a brief control group which did not have anything to do with the therapy. The remaining 12 were not put under any control group.
The second study involved youth that had been confined as a result of more serious crimes like sodomy, rape, manslaughter and murder. The same procedures and activities that took place in the fore mentioned study were incorporated for this experiment. The number of students that were involved in this study was 54 . Further a third study was also carried out this time involving many entities, with the main objective being to establish whether the aggression replacement therapy was going to be efficient intervention when taken up by the community as a whole. Under this study youths, their parents as well as other family members were put under this therapy. In another setting but still under the same study, the therapy was administered only to the youths leaving out other family members, while in a third setting but still under the same study, neither the youth nor the family members were put under the aggressive replacement therapy. To establish the results the period that these studies were going to take was 18 months.
The results were very encouraging because the youths who had been introduced to the aggression replacement therapy seemed to have acquired new pro-social skills like verbally expressing a complaint in case something that they did not like happened, they also exemplified signs of composure when faced with stressful situations or when in a conversation that was not pleasant. They also seemed to be at a position to handle pressure from the group. As a result, 54 of the 60 youths that had been incarcerated were released from their confinement. It was found that aggressive replacement therapy was very effective for juvenile delinquents who had been incarcerated because it helped them acquire new skills that were going to boost them socially. It also helped them develop behaviors that were socially acceptable and would enable them fit well in the society. Additionally it was observed that the delinquents took some time before taking any action and did not act impulsively. Prior to the therapy they would normally be violent and very difficult to control. Participants seemed to have learnt how to act out of moral reasoning for instance first considering how their actions would affect the other people.
In the third set-up it was found that the youth that had gone through the aggression replacement therapy together with their other family members did better than those who had it on their own. The incidences of the former being re-arrested were less than those of the latter. One thing that was noticeable in the two groups that had undergone therapy is the improvement in their interpersonal skills and competence in other fields. Performance differed significantly between the youth that had been on the therapy and those that were in control programs. However the difference between the two groups that had gone through the therapy but in different settings was very little.
Measurement is taken in terms of weighted indices of the repeat of felonies or in other words recidivism. The number of arrests, suspicion reports and acquisition of new skill as well as their implementation gives a clear picture of how the program is doing i.e. whether it is effective in what it is supposed to do. Less incidences of arrest are a clear indication that the program is truly working or feasible.
The clients of this program are youth who are overly aggressive, as well as young children. Other clients may be juvenile delinquents who may have been referred to an institution with the aim wanting them to be corrected in their way of thinking or acting. It can also be very helpful for the youths with mental imbalances such as autism, asperagers complex or other mental instability that makes them not understand things as the communicator would want to be understood. Lack of this understanding tends to make them very violent and aggressive even after a gentle contact. Psychiatric patients can also benefit from this program as shown in the study carried out by S.Aos etal, 2004, where by adult women in high security prisons as well as their male counterparts in Sweden received this treatment. Juvenile delinquents were also given this treatment. Other people that are candidates for this program are children who lack empathy, those that have who have poor social skills e.g those that like bullying others around, teasing and harassing them.
This program is not devoid of costs because on average the cost for each student is $759 according to (S.Aos etal, 2004). This study was carried out to find out whether there was any benefit per unit cost of undertaking the program. In his analysis he goes further to compare the cost to benefit. His findings indicate that the benefit per dollar of cost is $12.60. The benefits less costs totaled to $8805 per student. An effectively implemented program cost turns out to be a benefit especially when change happens to the youth. This comes into being because the youth stop being engaged in non lawful activities like burglary, robbery and even murder. This in turn translates to less arrests and imprisonment which in itself presents a cost to the taxpayers. The safety of the public, if it was possible to change it into monetary form, would amount to large sums of money. It is an expense worth incurring because the program has the potential of changing one’s life to his or her advantage. This program when introduced to high-risk youth i.e those that do not have a history of crimes, goes a long way in preventing them from actually involving themselves. A dollar spent on prevention saves many more that would have been used for curative purposes.
Aggression Replacement Therapy is a good intervention for delinquents because it has been proved to have more positive results than those other forms of punishments. Where as in other forms of confinement, the delinquents are at a risk of picking very bad traits from their colleagues; this therapy has proved to be more friendly and able to transfer pro-social skills to delinquents. It is therefore highly recommendable to use this therapy for correctional purposes.
Feindler, E. & Ecton, R. (1986). Adolescent anger control. New York: Pergamon Press.
Glick, B. (1996). Aggression replacement training in children and adolescents. In Hatherleigh Guide to Child and Adolescent Therapy. New York: Hatherleigh Press.
Latessa, E. J.(2004) What Works and What Doesn’t in Reducing Recidivism: Principles of Effective Intervention. University of Cincinnati.
S.Aos, R.Lieb,J. Mayfied,M.Miller,A. Penucci.(2004)Benefits and Costs of Prevention and Early Intervention Programs for Youth. Olympia: Washington State Institute for Public Policy.
Available at http://www.wsipp.wa.gov/rptfiles/04-07-3901.pdf accessed on 19th May 2008
HEPING AMERICA’S YOUTH. Aggression Replacement Training.
Available at http://guide.helpingamericasyouth.gov/programdetail.cfm?id=292 accessed on 20th May 2008.