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Using Skills to Change Behavior: A Strength Based Approach Talon Greeff, LPC Residential Care Director Utah Youth Village This training and additional.

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Presentation on theme: "Using Skills to Change Behavior: A Strength Based Approach Talon Greeff, LPC Residential Care Director Utah Youth Village This training and additional."— Presentation transcript:

1 Using Skills to Change Behavior: A Strength Based Approach Talon Greeff, LPC Residential Care Director Utah Youth Village This training and additional resources can be found at

2 Overview Introduction Research-based Approach Identifying Strengths Developing Strengths into Skills Conclusion

3 Introduction Following Instructions Activity Steps to following instructions Eye contact Say OK Do task Check back Boss or parent who was not clear? Move the card “Be quiet”

4 Research-based Approach Teaching-Family Model “is one of the few evidence- based residential treatment programs” (APA Online, 2009) Skills development within caring relationships lead to lasting changes in behavior Based in Social Learning Theory by Albert Bandura Direct Observation teaches behavior Behavior which is reinforced is maintained or strengthened Bandura’s initial research was focused on aggression in children

5 Skills Change Behavior Skills are a series of behaviors that are linked together for a purpose The Teaching-Family Model has demonstrated that teaching youth skills “using empirically validated methods” effectively addresses negative youth behavior (APA Online, 2009) Rewards and consequences are used to motivate youth to learn the skills being taught and reinforce their use

6 Changing behavior through skills rather than consequences Helps work with your clients be more pleasant, relaxed and fun Much more enjoyable to recognize and praise positive behavior rather than address negative behavior Skills can be used to positively address negative or problematic behavior Produces better long-term results for the children and youth in our care “Forced” change is not long-term change

7 Strengths as Skills Every child or youth has strengths Survival skills are often strengths A series of behaviors linked together are skills Strengths and skills may be hidden in negative behaviors What is the youth doing that would be positive if viewed by another person or in another environment? Negative behavior – “telling you no” Positive use of this behavior - resisting peer pressure What are they doing now? How could it be worse? Example - Youth late home from school Could be worse if youth did not come home at all

8 Building on Strengths and Skills Reinforce what they do well with specific descriptions “What can we praise?” Data shows that typical parents reinforce behavior 1:17 Youth behavior improves with 4:1 ratios Set timer for 15 minute intervals and find something to praise – “It’s hard” Sandwich positive interactions between negative interactions Avoid negative spiral Forces you to find and reward strength or positive behavior

9 Building on Strengths You can address problem behavior with strengths or current skills working in other settings Praise and reward the strengths or positive behavior that is opposite of the behavior you are concerned about Develop strengths to address problem behavior “Map” over success and strengths onto problem behavior Example: If the youth has grades that are an A and a D ask “What works for you in the class with the A you can use in the class with a D to improve the grade? “You get along great with Billy. What do you do with him that can help you get along with Sally?” Help youth figure this out and help them develop it through skill refinement and praise

10 Strength-based Exercise Behaviors that children who are in care may exhibit: Skipping school Disruptive in school Yelling Hitting Refusing to do chores Refusing to follow laws

11 Skills to Teach and Reinforce Problem behaviors Skipping school Disruptive in school Yelling Hitting Refusing to do chores Refusing to follow rules Skills to teach or reinforce Social interactions with peers Able to be on task with reading or drawing Assertiveness Concern for others Taking care of their room Rules the youth do follow or suggested rules

12 Develop Skills Based on Strengths Identify the strengths that the youth have List what strengths they identify Others identify such as parents or foster parents What you see while they are with you List the skills that you want the youth to learn or they identify that they want to learn Take the strengths that you see and add the other strengths or steps that the youth need to learn a skill that helps them Focus on the strengths that will have the most impact Shape and develop strengths into skills

13 Example: Skill#: : Staying Calm Behavior- identifying ABC’s Behavior- deep breathing Behavior- counting to 10 Behavior- leaving situation Behavior- voice/body check Behavior- think of consequences Behavior- relax arms and face Skill#: : Following Instructions Behavior- maintain eye contact Behavior- calm facial expressions Behavior- calm voice tone Behavior- acknowledgement Behavior- completion of tasks immediately Behavior- checking back

14 Focused Teaching Skill #1 Once this skill is taught, then reinforce the use of the whole skill – remember demonstration and roleplay Skill #2 When beginning to teach the second skill, stay FOCUSED on this skill Begin to intermittently reinforce the first skill Once the second skill is taught, then reinforce the use of the whole skill Skill #3 When teaching the third skill, stay FOCUSED on this skill Intermittently reinforce the skills that have already been taught

15 Trouble Shooting Teaching skills through roleplay Behavioral contracting or charting with “super reinforcers” Chunk it down

16 Teaching Skills Through Roleplay 1. Describe the behavior you are teaching 2. Give a reason using an if/then statement 3. Demonstrate the behavior for the child 4. Have the child engage in the behavior and practice three times 5. Reward

17 Charting or Behavioral Contracting Use a “super reinforcer” or reward Don’t just focus on the negative consequences Setup contract for youth to stretch, not generate a new behavior Stretching positive behavior or a strength is much more likely to lead to success Jumping to a new skill or behavior, especially if it is difficult, is much less likely to be successful Avoid language that a dead person can do i.e. Don’t yell, don’t swear.

18 Chunk it Down If your youth or child is having difficulty doing a task, even if they have been successful in the past “chunk it down” Chunking it down means dividing the task into parts that the youth or child can do They may be frustrated, overwhelmed or unable to do the task, chunking it down makes it possible – “Kitchen chore” Chunk the task down to pieces that play to youth skills and strengths

19 Differential Reinforcement of Incompatible Behavior It is easy to get frustrated with problem behavior and apply a negative consequences Focus instead on reinforcing positive behavior It is a simple concept: praise and reward behaviors or skills that are the opposite of the behavior you don’t want to see The trick is to reward the skill or behavior that prevents them from doing the bad behavior You cannot yell if you are using a normal voice, so praise a normal voice You cannot be hitting if you are touching softly, so praise touching softly Praise and reward a strength that makes it impossible for the youth to do the problem behavior

20 Differential Reinforcement of Other Behavior Identify the problem behavior Identify the skill or behavior that the youth have or you would like them to have Reinforce the behavior or skill you want to have rather than the problem behavior We do this all the time with toddlers who ask for a drink “Say please” “please” rather than “drink”

21 Conclusion Creates a more enjoyable treatment experience Produces a more pleasant home environment More effective results for children and youth This training and additional resources can be found at


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