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Posted: Sep 12, 2005 10:09


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by Stephen G. Biddulph, M.A.
Director of Clinical Services
Provo Canyon School
Provo, UT

When Dr. Kreg Gillman returned to Provo Canyon School as CEO, his vision was to unify a strong, proficient team of professionals, combining Provo's unmatched structure with a stronger and more integrated clinical team.

As a result of this vision, Provo Canyon School has taken on a slightly modified approach that is evident to those who have recently visited. Small teams of 11 or 12 youth live and work together applying what they call team values. Terms like openness and trust, care and concern, service to others, awareness and gratitude, personal responsibility and positive leadership are some of the values encouraged and used by both staff and students. The teams function like family units, playing games together on the field, swimming in the pool, competing in intramural sports and participating in off-grounds community service projects. Group living staff, now called coaches, spend their time teaching and coaching their teams on what we call personal greatness and team greatness. There is a much heightened team feeling as staff and students work together towards common goals.

Some who knew Provo Canyon School in years past have perceived the new focus to not be as hard as the old School. The reality is we now require more - not less -from our youth and staff. Our new emphasis has integrated group living and therapists together with students, parents and involved professionals to form a cohesive team with common objectives. Coaches are asked to model the beliefs and values and to take more individual time with each student in building relationships and mentoring behavioral and emotional management skills.

A student's status advancement is now directly linked to his or her individual capacities to live team values and demonstrate continual problem management skills in conjunction with their individual treatment plan. Youth are expected to reach deeper and show sustained, positive growth. This greatness is exemplified by showing positive, caring values through helping others with the added challenge of identifying and learning to manage one's own unique problems in life. Growth is measured and reported on a teen's ever-increasing ability to apply values and manage problem-solving skills on their own with decreasing prompts from staff.

Youth coming to Provo Canyon are now given two major tasks: (1) to identify and learn skills to manage their individual problems and (2) to show care and concern [helping behavior] toward each other. The staff also has two major tasks: (1) to create an environment of openness and trust and (2) to model and empower greatness in their youth. Parents admitting children to Provo Canyon are expected to learn and actively support these goals.

Problems are seen as normal and as opportunities to grow, not reasons to hide, blame or deny. It's okay to have problems. It's not okay to deny them or to handle them in self-defeating or dangerous ways. A youth's behavior is labeled by staff and teammates as either helping behavior or hurting behavior. Every day spent in denial is a day wasted.

Misbehavior is now defined as mismanagement of a problem. When a youth fails to manage a situation, be it emotional, cognitive or behavioral, coaches redirect responsibility for resolution to the individual and the team for support. The student is reclaimed by teaching skills so that the youth does not languish in self-defeating and negative attitudes, beliefs and behaviors.

Provo Canyon School has not changed its profile of students; we continue to be the program of choice for treatment of resistive, behaviorally defiant students. Provo now combines its history of stellar structure with the clinical expertise that today's youngsters need and deserve.

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