As a parent, guardian, or member of any intimate personal or professional relationship, you have determined to achieve a more positive group culture. (Keep in mind, “group” can mean even the two members of a friendship, partnership or marriage, or even, in a figurative sense, just yourself - in fact, it’s especially important to think of your practice as only “your own”, to give yourself the best chance of practicing successfully.) It’s assumed that if you are reading this document, you are interested in how Wholeistic Education (WED) may help promote such a culture. The following material is the most simplified, brief, introduction to WED, I am capable of writing, at this time, without obscuring its defining qualities. It’s meant to guide our initial discussion together, and if you wish, to help further your exploration of this subject.
· In a really basic sense, WED is about creating and maintaining environments for which humans have been naturally selected (in genetic terms, where genetics includes environmental factors – more about this seemingly paradoxical view can be found in the article entitled True Holism, elsewhere on this site).
· The environment for which humans have been naturally selected (the “Environment of Evolutionary Adaptation”, or “EEA”) promoted education (“survival”, “fitness”, “actualization”, etc.) through dynamically balancing pro-social adaptation with individual autonomy.
· By fully applying this understanding of human nature, WED produces an educational culture that improves communication and cooperation, and facilitates the more specific educational and training goals of any group and its individual members.
Some of the special benefits of WED:
· WED produces an educational, social framework that acts as a catalyst for any other educational experience, e.g., school, psychotherapy, behavior modification, conflict resolution, academic/vocational training, sports, music, arts, wellness, adventure, etc.
· WED is based on basic human nature and universal human rights, and so applies to all variations of human society – racial, ethnic, religious, or otherwise.
· WED focuses on “practice”, aimed at aligning one’s life with one’s values. WED avoids the liabilities of specific therapeutic methods, historic educational dichotomies and endless philosophical debates over nature vs. nurture, science vs. religion, pro-social adaptation vs. individual freedom, etc.
· WED unifies group members around a set of Behavioral Guidelines© as a foundation for a culture of connection, mutual support, and individual creativity, and triangulates potential conflict by pointing potential combatants away from ego-control struggles and toward mutual practice.
· WED’s relatively simple, focused approach increases group efficiency. Fewer professionals, and other resources are required to promote healthy growth.
· WED is proven in multiple settings with widely varied populations, including severely traumatized, limited, personality disordered, and conduct disordered children and adults.
· Three major reasons for the effectiveness of WED’s Behavioral Guidelines:
1. The Guidelines explicate universal human rights/expectations. Behavioral expectations must be explicated (in black-and-white, on paper) to avoid the pernicious cycle of distrust, adversarial rebellion, control, distrust, etc., that is naturally stimulated when one feels one may be manipulated by rule-sets that are kept implicit in the minds of other group members.
2. The Guidelines, while minimally invasive or constraining, are clearly defined, and their practice is non-negotiable for allmembers.
3. The Guidelines provide an active, unifying “rallying point”, like a map, with real, useful benefits in our daily lives.
Since 2008, WED has been officially adopted by the Nashua Children’s Home, one of New Hampshire’s largest residential treatment facilities. Despite the difficulties inherent to such an ambitious initiative with a century-old institution, NCH’s Executive Director is on record as follows:
“Since the introduction of the Guidelines, we’ve witnessed a precipitous decline in the number of physical interventions required”.
Furthermore, the conclusion in the Quality Assurance & Performance Review, conducted by the state’s DCYF & DJJS in December, 2009 provide evidence of WED’s effectiveness:
“NCH has significantly reduced the number of physical interventions that occur in the facility…DJJS has compared (NCH’s) restraint data with similar programs throughout the state. NCH has demonstrated they are a leader in NH on reducing restraints with both their adolescent and latency age programs. NCH is to be commended for changing their culture in each of their residential units that facilitated these dramatic changes”.
In fact, evidence indicates an approximate 95% decrease in physical restraints in just one year of WED implementation. Additionally, state surveys of residents, referring state workers, and parents were similarly impressive:
“The residents indicated the rules and discipline techniques were fair. They understood how to address a grievance…All of the residents indicated they were benefiting from the program…In summary, survey information provided by CPSW/JPPOs and Parents was supportive. The themes tended to be positive and the ratings were exceptional.”
· WED has been implemented at Direction Behavioral Health Associates, LLC, an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), since 2009, and for the past several years has also run a parial Hospitalization Program (PHP). Despite the fact that Direction services clients ranging from 11 to 21 year old, with the broadest range of psychiatric and behavioral challenges, including habitual criminal violence, there has not been a single act of “putting on of hands” by any person – client or staff – in the program to date. The safety and rich educational experiences of clients and families are perhaps best illustrated in their own words:
“Direction has been so wonderful and educational. I loved all the counselors and advice I was given. The guidelines have influenced me very much as a person, I feel I am a changed person in a good way. My life has been so much easier. Thank you so much for everything. Thanks to Joe and his help. I love you all!” - Sandrine 03/24/2010
“I was at Direction not too long ago and it’s helped me get a long with my family better, thanks to the guidelines (I still have two copies Joe gave me for when I need them and have even used them for family meetings). It's helped me meet people that have shown me how great my life really can be…It helped me realize I do deserve better then to let people hurt me. And I thank everyone at Direction so much” - Sean 03/15/10
“Much like most people forced into court ordered counseling, I was incredibly reluctant to be a part of the Direction program; however, after only three visits, my mind had been changed. I had gone to numerous psychiatrists and counselors and I lost faith that anyone could help me. Then I learned about Direction and how differently they operate. I was surprised to see the high levels of respect and the effectiveness of the group discussions. My favorite part about the staff at Direction is their respectful honesty.” - Starr 12/07/10
“Direction Behavioral Health opened a door and allowed our son to walk through. The program reinforced he is not alone, that he is understood and loved. He is on the right track, still healing however, for the first time in a very long time we are hopeful that our son is moving in the right “Direction” again.” - Mary 09/12/10
There’ also the opinion of the venerable doc:
Thoughts from a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist on Wholeistic Education
As a practicing Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, I’ve seen many different treatment models and therapeutic approaches over the years. To be honest, I don’t like most of them.
Well, that’s not exactly fair. I certainly like aspects of many different treatment models. The problem is that most of them are effective for a relatively small group of adolescents, but don’t work so well (or can be really counter-therapeutic) when applied to others. The real problem is that many well-intentioned therapists and other treatment providers fall in love with a particular treatment approach and use it to the exclusion of others. Moreover, the mental health field at large, researchers, and even insurance companies frequently fall into the trap of over-promoting a certain treatment model for the wrong reasons.
Treatment models – like clothing – come “in and out of fashion,” which they really shouldn’t do.
When Joe introduced me to WED several years ago, the reason I listened as closely as I did is that I knew Joe did tremendous clinical work with some of the toughest adolescents to reach out there. I was also intrigued by the amount of personal time and energy he devoted to formulating and refining WED, which really has been a lifelong journey for him. During this journey, Joe performed an incredibly vast literary survey on human research and thought, which has included the subjects of psychiatry, psychology, education, philosophy, religion, anthropology, Darwinism and genetics, and classical literature, to name a few. I can honestly say Joe is the single best-read person I’ve ever met. I’d hate to play him at Jeopardy.
Of course, all of that study doesn’t amount to anything if you aren’t able to apply it somehow in real life. But this is exactly was Joe has done with WED.
Although I’ve become quite a fan of WED, I can’t say I’m a “convert,” for the simple reason that I had come to nearly all the same conclusions about what makes for good parenting, good therapy, and good education as Joe outlines in WED. Joe and I agree probably 98% of the time clinically (and maybe 66% of the time on other subjects, such as popular music, movies, top NBA players of all time, etc.). So WED naturally resonates with the clinical approach I take every day.
Although the two of us have arrived at similar places, what impresses me among Joe’s accomplishments are the following:
1. He successfully has distilled and articulated all of that knowledge and experience about what makes for ideal treatment, therapy, and education in a way I have not seen done before. 2. He successfully has developed a cultural approach that allows him to work with groups of adolescents – not just the individual – in the context of the most effective group therapy model for adolescents I have ever seen. 3. As teenagers commonly say these days, he can “back it up.” If you ever want to know why he does things the way he does – for example, why the ideal group size is about 12 people (not just in therapy, but everywhere) – he’ll give you an earful.
What really makes WED different in my mind is its applicability to virtually all teenagers, regardless of diagnosis or circumstance. Compared to other models, I find it more encompassing, less restrictive, and with more “breathing room” within its boundaries. It focuses on what is important for all adolescents (and all humans): forming and maintaining healthy relationships. It defines just the right amount of structure, demands just the right amount from the individual, and offers a concise, just way to deal with conflict that arises.
Most importantly, WED works. We’ve treated well over 2000 adolescents of all ages, diagnoses, and circumstance, and the feedback from clients, parents, and other treatment providers has been overwhelmingly positive. I guess that’s really the bottom line.
Why WED? WED works.
Duncan Gill, MD
In summary, WED Educators and our clients have been thrilled by our results with this approach, and are really eager for the opportunity to share it with you.