What We Believe
More than Anything Else, We Must Be a Positive and Motivating Force for Change
At Summerland, we believe people must want to change. The knee-jerk reaction to parenting is often to punish, yell, or take away. But this does not build intrinsic motivation, and the results are only temporary. Our first step at Summerland is to build rapport with our campers and get them interested in creating new habits.
We take a “coaching” philosophy with our counselors as opposed to an authoritarian stance. We help campers pick positive, healthy goals they want to work on and we help them develop a realistic plan to move forward in their life. Campers plan their day and track their goals in a Behavior Planning Journal (BPJ). Campers leave with the skill of being able to self-regulate their habits, and with the knowledge of why screen overuse or certain types of media can be damaging.
The Summerland Difference
One of the main differences between Summerland and other behavior change programs is our positive and motivating outlook on the transformation process. We don’t see your child as broken- they simply have fallen into some poor habits and behavioral patterns and need the guidance, skills, and motivation to break these habits in practice new behaviors in their place.
It’s one thing to say you are positive, but quite another to have a curriculum with a built-in methodology for staying positive. At camp, we conduct our group process around a systematic-self monitoring methodology. This is just a fancy way of saying goals and daily behavior tracking. We teach our camper the same behavior change process Olympic and professional athletes use. When campers are finished with camp, they are true behavior change experts.
At Summerland Camps, this is what we believe:
Adolescents and teens are growing up in a different world today than their parents. Screens are literally everywhere, and technology is a part of our lives. So we need to learn to live in balance. Many of our children will grow up to work with computers and will get their news from a tablet instead of a newspaper. So the problem cannot be solved by just swearing off-screen time- it’s almost everywhere we look today.
At Summerland, we don’t like to say the word “addiction.” Yes, you can find it on our website, but that is simply to discuss the problem and also to help people find our camp when searching online.
A better term is, “habit.” Habits are learned, and habits can be changed. Often people think of an “addiction” as overpowering, and it’s a built-in excuse to fail. Historically, an “addiction” involves tolerance and withdrawal effects, in addition to psychoactive changes. While it can be argued that computer gaming produces these effects, we take a different approach.
Something that compounds the problem is how new digital media or “screen time” overuse is. Doctors and therapists alike usually have no training in the subject, and the term “gaming addiction treatment” is so new hardly anyone knows exactly what that entails. We do know however that gaming addiction treatment is best achieved when a teen is removed from their home environment for a total reset opportunity.
The Solution for Gaming Addiction and Media Overuse
At Summerland, we believe that the solution to changing screen overuse habits is to apply a similar methodology used by psychologists to change other habits including smoking, overeating, and a wide array of other behaviors. Everything we do is based on “best practices” for habit reversal. We use peer-reviewed scientific research to develop our clinical curriculum and our overall approach. Our behavioral coaches at camp take a coaching viewpoint on the problem. We are changing habits and behaviors just like a coach would with a professional athlete. This way we say positive in our approach.
Staying positive is key at Summerland camps. You probably already gathered that from our website. How many other programs are you going to find such an array of team-building opportunities, sports and hobbies, drama and the arts, whitewater rafting, or rock climbing offered? Our philosophy is that changing behavior can be fun! We believe it’s much more effective to have a change bubble up from within, not to be hammered down from above.
We also believe that a multi-modal approach works best as well, and scientific research on outcomes of behavioral programs supports this notion. What that means on a practical level is that we do many things simultaneously such as providing training on goal setting, we provide education and discussion groups, and we introduce campers to other activities. The parental component is also invaluable to produce positive outcomes, and we know through scientific research how important this piece can be.
What Parents Can Do
Parents play a critical role in the change process. Parental involvement has been correlated with positive outcomes of other behaviorally based programs. We provide workshops for parents where they get the knowledge, training, and support to help their camper be successful back home.
We will provide behavioral contracts for parents to use in order to best support their camper. We will also role-play and problem-solve with you in order to find solutions to ongoing family conflicts over screen use.
Gaming Addiction Treatment Versus Other Digital Media
It’s important to understand that the overuse of all digital media is not the same. Consider for a moment someone that binge-watches episodes on Netflix all day versus someone who plays X-Box for hours and hours. Different parts of the brain are activated with each activity. The gamer is receiving much higher levels of stimulation than the TV watcher. Add to this the notion of a social context such as with Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games.
Speaking of social reinforcement, abusers of social media have different reasons for digital media overuse than both the binge TV watcher and the X-Box player. At camp, we treat each of these campers differently and place them in groups to cater to their needs.
We also look at the co-occurring issues that often go along with digital media overuse. For example, social skill-building opportunities may have fallen off due to the time spent online, especially with gaming addiction treatment. We also get the camper that has problems with frustration tolerance as well. At camp, we have therapy opportunities to correct all of these issues in both group and individual formats.