Walk and Talk: An Intervention for Behaviorally Challenged Youths

Article excerpt

Western societies have seen an increase in violence and antisocial behavior in schools and communities (Pollack, 1998). Juvenile crime rates have increased four times since the early 1970s (Cook & Laub, 1997). After the shock of the Columbine school massacre in the United States and other violent incidents, communities are demanding interventions to help prevent similar occurrences.

Traditional approaches for various youth behavior challenges have assumed the behavior needs to be controlled and contained by using behavioral and social learning approaches (Moore, Moretti, & Holland, 1998). Many current interventions rely on adaptations of behavior modification strategies to provide structure and control. The tenets of some programs for troubled youth are based on a hierarchy of control, authority, and power. The framework of behavior and behavioral boundaries is directed by coercive control with token economies and earned privileges that are enforced by systems involving revoking social and recreational activities (Moore, Moretti, & Holland, 1998). I question and challenge this type of philosophy. Intrinsic motivation for making positive behavioral choices and taking responsibility and ownership for behavior is unlikely to become the behavioral response when behavior is controlled by others. Research (Deci & Ryan, 1985) suggests intrinsic motivation involves self determination, self awareness of one's needs and setting goals to meet those needs. I believe that many behaviorally challenged youths have experienced interactions with key adults that have been punitive, rejecting, and untrustworthy (Moore, Moretti, & Holland, 1998; Staub, 1996). Therefore, many current interventions based on behavioral strategies and coercice control have limited effectiveness (Moore, Moretti, & Holland, 1998; Staub, 1996).

New treatment methods that adopt a therapeutic approach that is grounded and guided by the principles of attachment theory may engage a therapeutic process with the results of youths' prosocial behavioral choices (Centers for Disease Control, 1991; Ferguson, 1999; Holland, Moretti, Verlaan, & Peterson, 1993; Keat, 1990; Moffitt, 1993; Moore, Moretti, & Holland, 1998). By participating in a casual walk outdoors, there can be the physiological advantage of mild aerobic exercise (Franken, 1994; Hays, 1999; Fox, 1997; Baum & Posluszny, 1999; Kolb & Whishaw, 1996, 1998). I believe, as do others (Anderson, 2000; Glaser, 2000; Tkachuk & Martin, 1999; Real Age Newsleter, 2001a), that human beings have a natural bond with the outdoors and other living organisms. By nurturing this bond with a walk outdoors, positive well-being and health can result (Tkachuk & Martin, 1999; Hays, 1999; Orlick, 1993; Real Age Newsletter, 2001b).

WALK AND TALK INTERVENTION

The Walk and Talk intervention has its fundamental philosophy in Bronfenbrenner's (1979) social ecological theory of behavior which views the child, family, school, work, peers, neighborhood, and community as interconnected systems. Youths' problem behavior can be attributed to dysfunction between any one or more combinations of these systems (Borduin, 1999). By understanding these dynamics, the Walk and Talk intervention attempts to provide a support network that encourages youths to reconnect with self and the environment through an attachment process, a counseling process, and a physiological response resulting in feelings of self-efficacy.

The Walk and Talk intervention utilizes three components to engage youths. The counseling component of the Walk and Talk intervention borrows seven principles from the Orinoco program used at the Maples Adolescent Centre near Vancouver, British Columbia (Moore, Moretti, & Holland, 1998, pp. 10-18). These principles are driven by an underlying understanding of attachment theory. These principles are as follows:

1. All behavior has meaning. …