Based on Science, Our Plan is Simple and Sustainable
Our behavior change methodology at Summerland Camps follows three simple guidelines. Everything we do fits into the idea that effective behavior change should be:
- Science-based (“best practice” treatment)
- Simple in approach, and
- Sustainable (something the camper is willing to continue at home).
Basing a program on research into what works for behavioral change is obvious. What really matters is how effective the program is 2 to 3 years or more from the last day of camp.
In almost every program adolescents and teens have some behavioral changes while in the program. In many programs, participants and family members alike are on “cloud 9” on discharge day. But what really matters is whether the child will carry the changes home and keep up with the system that was taught versus just falling into the same old routines.
Along with a comprehensive family component and aftercare program, we further ensure success by creating a program that is both simple and sustainable- while based on tried and true scientific principles.
Our behavior change approach is based on scientific research into what really works to effectively change behaviors- not just for today but for a lifetime. We know through scientific research that goal-tracking tools like behavior journals and wearable technology to monitor behaviors are not the driver of behavioral change- it’s simply a facilitator of change. The driver is the desire to change.
While goal setting is critical, we must start by developing intrinsic motivation to change. This is why our program puts so much emphasis on fun and meeting the camper where they are mentally. However, we can use goal setting to spark a camper’s desire to change technology overuse behaviors by identifying life goals that are more important than a continuation of current habits. Through an insight-oriented group discussion curriculum, campers count the costs of current routines and behaviors and set their sights on a brighter future.
To effectively facilitate behavioral change, we must identify specific behaviors to change and then quantify and track these behaviors. Even small progress towards meeting goals acts as a motivator to continue new routines and habits. Campers get immediate feedback on progress by reviewing their Behavior Planning Journal.
The Summerland Camps plan involves setting behavior goals and tracking progress toward these goals. We set daily limits on computers, TV, social media, and video game play in addition to setting daily expectations for study goals, fitness goals, and any other goals we desire.
Campers at Summerland Camps become goal attainment experts. Most parents agree this is a valuable skill for any child to master, not only to limit video game use, but to achieve better grades, to become better managers of financial resources, and we can even use goal setting to become more physically fit. We use peer-reviewed research to teach campers proven strategies to achieve the goals they have set and what to do if they get off track.
Our science-based methodology is not limited to goal setting. At Summerland Camps, campers develop insight and practice new coping skills. We follow a science-based best practice methodology. What makes us so much more effective than outpatient therapy is that we use a group format where interventions are done at the moment versus in a therapist’s office where issues are discussed days or weeks after they occur.
At Summerland Camps, we believe that the best way to change behavior is to create a simple plan that is also sustainable. We believe that simplicity leads to sustainability.
Campers learn how to become highly self-regulated at Summerland Camps. Self-regulation involves learning a wide variety of strategies to regulate or control your daily behaviors to achieve the desired goal. Goals we discuss achieving at camp include fitness goals, school-related goals, career goals, and anything else that is positive and healthy that can be measured.
Campers learn how to quantify their goals into daily digestible tasks. For example, if a goal is to make the honor roll next year at school, we begin by breaking down on a daily basis how much study time will be needed to make this goal a reality. We look at how video game playing or browsing the internet might fit into their day, or if perhaps the two behaviors are not congruent.
Campers learn strategies to track daily behaviors including how to quantify and record what they do. For example, campers who have fitness goals might learn how to use a pedometer or activity-tracking device. Quantifiable behaviors are recorded in a Behavior Planning Journal where behaviors are planned and tracked. Think if this is similar to a weekly planner you may already use, just a bit more in-depth.
Sustainability is critical for effective results. We approach sustainability in several ways.
Keeping the program simple and straightforward is the basis of our sustainability approach, along with showing the camper some success at camp. The technology detox each camper has at camp along with participating in fun activities is a start.
While at camp the camper then learns about self-regulation and experiences some success at changing their habits. This initial success serves as inspiration and positive energy to carry the changes back home.
Here are other ways we seek to make the Summerland Camps experience sustainable:
Fun, positive approach.
First and foremost, campers have a blast at Summerland Camps. We truly meet them where they are. We have fun and build rapport so they will trust and respect their counselor and tribemates. We don’t call technology overuse habits an “addiction” with campers – instead, we use a habit formation approach that frames the issue in a way where campers feel that change is quite possible. “Addiction” on the other hand feels overwhelming like you are powerless to change.
Goal setting focus.
Where most behavior change programs fail is that they focus on the parent’s goal for the child. We focus on what the child wants, with a little positive reinforcement to guide them into stating positive goals we can use as a basis to work from.
Even for a camper who is defiant and oppositional, if we can guide them to just set a goal of, “I want to move out of my parent’s house and get an apartment” – we can work with this. We then proceed to develop strategies to self-regulate behaviors within a certain set of parameters to achieve their desired goal.