Back in 1974, sociologist Robert Martinson reviewed the research and concluded that "nothing worked" when it came to rehabilitating offenders. Then, in the mid-1990s, when fears about rising juvenile crime rates were at their peak, John DiIulio of Princeton predicted an onslaught of teens in trouble with the law, whom he dubbed "super-predators," creating a toxic political environment for those who knew from experience that youth in the justice system were overwhelmingly capable of positive change and rehabilitation.
Martinson and DiIulio were wrong. Most importantly, Martinson's research was flawed, and he admitted his errors in print. [For this history and much more, see "Juvenile Justice: Lessons for a New Era."]
But the myths remain -- and they get in the way of our ability to take advantage of new, evidence-based treatments that are exceptionally effective.
So argues Dr. Howard Liddle, of the Center for Treatment Research on Adolescent Drug Abuse (CTRADA) at the University of Miami, in the brief video below:
I interviewed Dr. Liddle in May 2011 at the Reclaiming Futures Leadership Institute held in Miami. What I found most powerful in our conversation: his observation that the biggest barrier for therapists and agencies adopting evidence-based treatments for adolescents is lack of hope. Buy into the myths that teens can't or won't change, and the game's already lost.
Hold onto hope -- believe that young people and their families can change -- and you can be extremely successful at implementing evidence-based treatment. He's not saying you should have rose-colored glasses, or that optimism by itself is enough. You still need to be realistic about how much change you can accomplish, you need excellent training and clinical supervision, and you need an effective, family-focused intervention.
But without hope? You may as well pack up your bags and go home.
Related Post: Strength-Based Focus, Positive Youth Development and Rekindling Hope.
Updated: February 08 2018