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Staff professionalism more important than choice of method in treating problem youth


A fresh report that assessed the treatment at three youth homes run by the National Board of Institutional Care, abbreviated SiS in Swedish, shows that two thirds of the boys do fairly well. On the other hand, the choice of methods used does not appear to be crucial. The key factor is the competence and commitment of the staff and the boys’ relationship with their contact persons.

SiS has 35 specialized youth homes. The adolescents who are placed there often have serious problems in the form of anti-social behavior, crime, and abuse. In almost all cases they have been the object of a great deal of intervention from social authorities.

In the report "Does ART yield better treatment outcomes?" Rolf Holmqvist, associate professor of psychology, and doctoral candidates Teci Hill and Annicka Lang have assessed methods of treatment at three specialized youth homes: Sundbo Youth Home, Långanäs School, and Stigby School. These institutions differ considerably. Sundbo admits both young people who have been apprehended under the Act on Care for Adolsecents, abbreviated LVU in Swedish, and those sentenced to confinement and care, LSU in Swedish, whereas Långanäs and Stigby only treat young people apprehended under LVU.

In the international research world there has been widespread skepticism when it comes to the possibility of successfully treating young people with anti-social problems, but in recent years there has been growing optimism about the possibility of influencing young people with asocial behavior, criminality, and abuse.

In this study the researchers have studied whether ART, Aggression Replacement Training, is more effective than other methods. Sundbo uses ART and token economy methods, while the Långanäs and Stigby treatment programs are based more on object relation theory and developmental psychology, in which the relation to the contact person is seen as central.

"ART is being implemented in many places for treating young people with anti-social problem, both in various types of institutionalized care and in out-patient treatment, that is, in social work and in many schools," says Rolf Holmqvist. "It is indeed very effective for many children and adolescents. But our study shows that institutions can achieve similar results using traditional so-called environmental therapy. For many adolescents, the relationship with the contact person is crucial."

"We find that ART treatment has yielded good outcomes for our boys," says Arne Andersson, head of Sundbo Youth Home. "We emphasize the young person’s own ability to develop control over their behavior and to learn new skills. The better we get at implementing ART, the better our results will be."

The study shows that one third of the boys at the youth homes do very well.

"That means that they have a truly well-functioning life in follow-up studies, with a job, girlfriend, and children," says Rolf Holmqvist.

For another third, things turn out relatively well, and the final third return to anti-social and criminal behavior.

The report "Does ART yield better treatment outcomes? Assessment of methods at three youth homes" can be downloaded in Swedish from the SiS home page under "publications."

Press Office | alfa
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