Redirectional Therapy

The Philosophy of the Redirectional Therapy

Much of the Redirectional Therapy is owed to humanistic psychology, existential thought, and the Person-Centered Method of Carl Rogers, approaches that present the perspective that each person is a product of his or her own set of experiences, and, therefore, has a unique internal frame of reference. The basic tenet of this third force of psychotherapy (the other two being Freudianism and behaviorism) is that people are free to choose, but must accept the consequences of their decisions within the limits of prevailing values, social customs, and laws.

Existentialism takes the view that life is not predetermined and inevitable, but that we are active players in molding what we are and what we become, and that to become the person we want to be takes ceaseless effort. The burden of decision-making within this process is on the individual and not on any other party, including the therapist.

Destructive behaviors can be redirected into constructive behaviors when youth believe that they matter is a fundamental belief. It is not the place of the Redirectionalist to judge whether a behavior is good or bad, or for that matter to judge the degree of abhorrence. The Redirectionalist, also, does not focus on changing specific behaviors in treatment, believing, for the most part, that where there is one significantly destructive or illegal behavior, there are others that are interrelated. Therefore, clients are treated holistically. Regardless of the problem or problems that are manifested, the client is presumed to be fundamentally okay and has potential to become a contributing person within the social and economic mainstream.

The practice of the Redirectional Therapy, which is a non-judgmental, non-directive therapy, most often occurs within the context of a group since gangs are very cohesive natural friendship groups with very loyal memberships. Efforts to break gangs up by selecting individual members for treatment or punishment appears to be unrealistic and self-defeating. The group dynamics hypothesis, the fear of outside threats increases cohesion, applies to the gang. For these reasons, at least in the early going, the gang as an entity is the client. As time goes on and the redirectionalist is trusted as a helping person, s/he may be spending more time with some members than with others, and individual therapeutic relationships may emerge. As gang members become increasingly self-confident, the cohesion of the group breaks down, and the gang breaks up, although members may still retain friendly relationships with each other. The group approach to practice is critical to the Redirectional Method.

Specific philosophical principles that derive from the method's core beliefs are the following:

1. People have the capacity to change.

2. People are perceived holistically as products of the sum total of their existence. Therefore, as experiences are altered, attitudes and behaviors also change.

3. Most people have the capacity to make decisions that are in their best interests, but may require support, encouragement, and information before they believe they are capable of doing so.

4. A mutual and respectful relationship between the Redirectionalist and the client is critical for effective intervention.

5. The Redirectionalist and the agency provide an environment that is genuine, caring, and nurturing.

6. Parties to a redirectional relationship are equal in power and their relationship is based on the fulfillment of mutual needs and expectations.

7. The client is always first. The Redirectionalist's primary responsibility is to the agency and its clients. Staff, therefore, are committed to representing the client's best interests and advocating on his or her behalf.

8. Formal and informal education are means for achieving freedom, thinking critically, and becoming aware of a greater universe within which to make decisions.

9. Children are capable of influencing their families. The precept, a child will lead them, has therapeutic value. It implies that as children change, they influence changes in their families and the world around them. As teachers and parents begin to see the child in a positive light, the child begins to see him/herself that way as well and performs accordingly. Teachers and parents, subsequently, feel better about themselves, and are more likely to work harder on behalf of the child.

10. Youth can be effectively helped without family intervention. Family participation at some level, and where there is motivation, may enhance therapy, but it isn't a requirement.

11. Where more than one gang is present in a community, and where gangs interact with each other, it is imperative that as many gangs as is possible, and certainly more than one, receive service. Failure to do this may result in the Black Robe Syndrome. The name derives from efforts by French Catholic missionaries to pacify Indian tribes in eastern Canada that ended in tragedy. Rivals to be pacified tribes exterminated them.

12. Patience is a virtue. Change doesn't occur over night. It takes time for clients to feel good enough about themselves to develop the will to change.

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