Transformational Leadership

Provo Canyon School Teams

Stephen G. Biddulph asked:

The idea of organizing youth into small teams instead of large units at Provo Canyon School residential treatment centre began in the summer of 2004, as a change in treatment philosophy. It began with a vision that required a restructuring of the organization and redefining of treatment team roles.

At that time, Provo Canyon School had two campuses and three programs (a boy’s campus, a girl’s campus, and an early adolescent program) all operating somewhat independently of each other. The units were large, as many as 30 youth on one unit, and the division of labour between therapists and group living staff did not provide the desired cohesion needed to exact long-term sustainable outcomes desired in the youth. Group living caregivers were primarily tasked with carrying out structure and supervision, and the therapists were viewed as the treatment givers. Both divisions had different focuses and expectations of the youth that occasioned some lack of harmony in the treatment team.

The treatment emphasis at Provo Canyon School at the time was to provide a highly structured and rigid program of rules, expectations, and consequences. This model continued to work very well for students who were behaviourally troubled and defiantly oppositional and who needed strict consequence for choice. Yet, there was enough recidivism in discharged students to warrant improvements in the program that suggested changing a patient’s inner beliefs and attitudes, as well as their outer behaviours.

The team concept arose out of a desire to provide a better product for Provo Canyon School’s clients, which equated to an improvement in long-term, sustainable outcomes. Simply, the School wanted youth to make quicker and more lasting changes that provided a better quality of life for them and their families. For this to happen, Provo Canyon School shifted its treatment focus from enforced structure of rules and consequence to a strength-based empowerment model where patients were empowered to make deeper changes in attitudes and beliefs, as well as outer behaviours.

This required a treatment team unity more than Provo Canyon School had ever experienced before. All members of the treatment team needed to unify themselves to a common philosophy and treatment goal, each playing their role. Each team member was viewed as equally important, although they each played a different role. No one could say that one position was more important than the other, and everyone needed to work together for the common good of the patient.

The first step was to erase long-standing departmental identities that existed between group living and therapy. The departments of therapy and group living at Provo Canyon School were eliminated and brought together under the title of Clinical Services under the direction of a clinical director. The roles of both therapists and group living were redefined to more accurately dictate their purpose and function. Provo Canyon School staff members were renamed “coaches” suggesting that their purpose was no longer merely to exact discipline and structure, but to take a more active role in coaching the youth on their treatment goals. Therapists and coaches were formed together into smaller treatment teams so that they could develop stronger rapport and cohesiveness.

Provo Canyon School’s change also required that the youth be broken up into more manageable teams. Teams were created of 10 to 11 youth who were assigned to the same therapist and coaches. The term team suggested that a spirit of unity and support be established, much like a sports team with coaches and players.

The second step was to create an environment of care and concern at Provo Canyon School within each team so that team members would support each other and develop a winning mind-set. Core beliefs and core values were formed as the foundation of this environment, and standards of excellence, or what was also called “problem management skills” were defined in simplistic, understandable terms to standardize all team members, staff and youth alike, in working their program.

There are distinct advantages to the team. Whereas the youth on a large unit is somewhat on their own except for friendships they make, the team cultivates acceptance and empowerment for everyone on the team. The following is taken from the team handbook on which every youth and staff at Provo Canyon School are trained:

The Advantage of a Team: A team has more power than one person when they work together because they can help each other. On the team, every player is of equal importance and every team member plays an important role. A team that works together can be a successful team, as can every member on the team.

(1)Dare to Care: I will dare to care about others on my team. I will let go of my individual pride, biases, and hatred, and have pride in my team. I will get to know my teammates and staff. I will not think that I am any better or more important than anyone else on my team.

(2)Make the Effort: I will work on my own weaknesses, instead of blaming, faultfinding, and denying. I will not be afraid to try, and learn to believe in myself. Give my best effort and let other teammates help me.

(3)Live by Team Values: I will learn to live by team values and rules. I will be willing to take coaching from my team coaches and teammates. I will be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

(4)Give Service to the Team: I will help others on the team; that is the secret to my personal success. Helping others makes me a better person, and it helps me rise above my own problems. Instead of sitting in self-pity and discouragement, I will do something positive to help my team.

“That soul may last, but never lives,

Who much receives, but nothing gives;

Whom none can love, whom none can thank,

Creation’s blot, creations blank.”

– Thomas Gibbons

Who’s On My Team?

Team mates: My team mates are not so much different than me. I am just as important as anyone else on the team. My teammates are here to improve their skills, just like me. My teammates can help me, and I can help them. I will show care and concern for myself and my teammates.

Team Coaches: My team has assigned staff that serves as my coach. I will have at least two coaches. Each works a different shift, but they each are there to help me learn needed skills. I will get to know and trust my coaches.

Team Therapist: Each member of my team has the same therapist. My therapist is a licensed and trained person, skilled in helping me resolve personal problems. My therapist has the following jobs:

(1)To help prepare my treatment plan and goals.

(2)To help me understand your plan and goals.

(3)To meet with me individually on a regular basis.

(4)To have telephone calls with me and my parent(s) and family.

(5)To arrange for special groups for me to attend.

(6)To review my progress on a regular basis and keep me informed.

(7)To help me with mail, visits with my family, and other things.

(8)To provide my parent(s) with progress reports.

(9)To track my advancements and help me with transition and discharge planning.

What Does My Team Do?

Team Groups: At least once a week, my team therapist calls a team group where all members come together to learn about core values and behaviour management skills. This is a time for plans and my me to share openly with my team what I am working on, the successes and failures that I have had, and commitments for the future.

Team Meetings: My team coach will hold daily team meetings. These meetings help us set goals, make commitments, and make individual and team progress.

Daily Practice: Each and every day, I will
practice my values and skills as I work, play, and study with my team mates. Practice helps us become better at our skills and values.
Practice makes perfect.

Team Activities: My team will have regular team activities. This can be just with my team, or it can be games with another team. It may include sports (basketball, softball, soccer, volleyball, etc), adventure, socials, learning, and service. Activities build team spirit and friendship. My personal behaviour will determine if I can participate in these activities with my team.

Team Chores: I am expected to take an active part in keeping my team area and bedroom, clean, neat, and orderly. I will be given assignments to fulfil. How I fulfil my assignments will either helps or hurt my team, and will determine my privileges.

The team concept allows for youth at Provo Canyon School to have more consistent and fulfilling staff interaction and guidance. It unifies the entire treatment team to a set of core beliefs and values that promotes positive internal change, and holds them accountable to standardized treatment objectives and outcomes. Lastly, it empowers the team to live by more lasting principles of care and concern and service, rather than mere obedience to a set of rules.

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