disturbance is not a symptom of individual pathology but, rather, a sign of malfunctioning human ecosystems. Re-ED professionals strive to develop competence in restorative relationships, working in close liaison with families and communities (Lewis & Lewis, 1989). The American Re-ED Association, a nation-wide network of residential and school-based Re-ED programs, has grown from this ecological tradition. The Re-ED philosophy now is being applied to the challenging problems of urban schools in setting such as the Positive Education Program in Cleveland, Ohio (Cattrell, 1992).
Cross-fertilization has increased among all of these theories, albeit much of it random, as practitioners intuitively tinker with once pure models. Today, we find behaviorists advocating relationship building, psychodynamic programs using reinforcement concepts, and nearly universal recognition of the importance of group and ecological dynamics. In the face of this intermingling of theories, traditional concepts such as “behavioral” and “psychodynamic” no longer convey a clear meaning at the level of practice.
The Search for a Unifying Theme
A rich array of specialized methods now is available for treating troubled children and youth. What has been missing is a conceptual framework to bind together these separate components into a coherent system. As Yochanan Wozner (1985) of Israel observed, a “powerful reclaiming environment” for troubled youth requires a “unifying theme.” This is a shared set of beliefs about program goals that gives consistency and cohesiveness to elements of the program. A unifying theme is essential to mold a common consensus among staff and youth about program mission.
We now propose a unifying theme for psychoeducation that grows from “empowerment” philosophy and psychology. This “new” paradigm challenges the deviance and deficit model that is common in many approaches to troubled children. Our model seeks to address the question, “What do all successful approaches have in common?”
In visiting an air show, one might see machines as diverse as biplanes and bombers, but each is able to fly only because it has been designed to the same fundamental principles of flight. Likewise, in spite of variations, all successful models of psychoeducation with troubled children must address the same fundamental needs of children. We have sought to identify these common principles that transcend successful work with children regardless of setting or theoretical model.
In our book Reclaiming Youth at Risk (Bendtro, Brokenleg, & Vann Bockern, 1990), we proposed a unifying theme for the education and treatment of troubled children. Dr. Brokenleg, a Lakota Sioux psychologist, introduced us to sophisticated Native American child-rearing systems that created courageous, respectful children without the use of harsh punishments. We integrated this
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