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Opinion & Essays - Jun, 2000 Issue #70 

By Kristie Vollar
Bonners Ferry, Idaho

[The author is the daughter of Woodbury Reports publisher Lon Woodbury and his wife Denise. Kristie graduated from the Explorations Wilderness Assessment Course in 1993, and Mission Mountain School in 1994, both in Montana. She was inspired to write this article after participating in conversations with other parents while working at her father’s office. Her presence there is a demonstration of the positive relationship that has evolved since she has returned from the above-mentioned programs.]

What is an intervention in a program? A program itself is an intervention of sorts, but most programs have interventions within the program. The type of intervention that I am talking about is meant to get the students back on track. 

In my experience, the “intervention” was used when an “underground” occurred, that is, when girls kept secrets or plotted to run away. Several girls might have known about the plots but wouldn’t say anything. An intervention was then used to mentally and physically wear us down until we would “tell”. 

The staff could usually tell that there was an “underground” when some of the girls would point out other girls’ behaviors or issues, in order to take the focus off themselves. Another thing that signaled a need for an “intervention” was the fact that our daily responsibilities weren’t up to the standards that were expected. Maybe our chores weren’t getting done well or our grades were slipping, even the fact that at our evening groups, no one had anything to say. The staff had experience in the dysfunctional patterns we would go through when an intervention was needed. 

When an intervention started, we would be assigned to be on “work crew,” where we would do vigorous physical work or exercise. We would have limited, or no personal time, and our groups would be more intense. Our sleep time would be cut back a little, making us more tired, and if one girl wasn’t willing to cooperate, we would all be held accountable until everyone was willing to cooperate. If we didn’t work as a group, or if one group within our entire group didn’t pass the required tasks, even the chores checklist, we had to start over until we did do it as a group. Sometimes we had to start the whole day over, which made an intervention last longer. 

There was never a set date to end our intervention; we had to continue until we did everything right for a certain length of time. Some kids took longer to wear down, but lies and secrets take too much energy to keep hidden, and the longer we were in an intervention, the more tired we got. Eventually everyone would be exhausted and the information would come out. The intervention periods made us stronger and more confident about what we could accomplish. 

At the end of the intervention, everyone shared some information about what secrets they were hiding or issues that they had not been willing to work on. It helped us to work as a group and the group therapy helped us to progress in our recovery. 

Interventions within a program are very important. Without them, kids can manipulate the programs and do what they need to do to get out, without ever looking at their issues. These interventions create a safe and honest environment, one that everyone in the group can feel good about. When the kids’ defenses are worn down, they get too tired to remember who they told which lies to, and the truth comes out. A truthful environment is definitely a safer environment. After having been through a couple of “interventions” within a program, I agree with the intervention concept as a way to create a safe and healthy environment that encourages kids to confront their issues and make progress in their personal growth. 

Copyright © 2000, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

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