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Creating a Positive Milieu in Residential Treatment for Adolescent Sexual Abusers (From Handbook of Sex Offender Treatment, P 55-1 - 55-23, 2011, Barbara K. Schwartz, ed. - See NCJ-243091)

NCJ Number
Vicki MacIntyre Agee, Ph.D.
Date Published
23 pages
This chapter describes one approach to creating an effective positive peer milieu in a residential treatment program for adolescent sexual abusers.
The basic requirements for positive peer milieus are to create a safe environment and build a positive staff culture. In a positive peer milieu, staff guide residents in helping each other follow the norms for behavior that foster mutual responsibility for one another in meeting individual and communal needs. Staff is responsible for maintaining these norms, holding residents accountable for what is expected, and teaching them appropriate behaviors and attitudes. The key to the positive peer milieu is in a program of frequent groups that teach, practice, and reinforce the norms of a positive peer milieu. Groups may include daily peer group therapy, prosocial skills groups, and "huddles." The groups provide an opportunity for concentrated peer influence. The group leader's role is the key to positive group influence. The leader must show concern and caring in reinforcing prosocial behaviors. The chapter discusses the structure and process of peer group therapy. An effective strategy in building a positive peer milieu through peer groups is to initially form a "seed group." This is a group of cooperative residents who are taught the program well and then "seeded" or divided into two or more new groups. The chapter notes that one of the tendencies that can undermine the process of building a positive peer milieu is the promotion of rigidity in the norms and their enforcement that leaves no room for flexibility, creativity, or change. Each resident must feel that his ideas are heard by the residents and staff, even when it involves challenging the norms and how they are enforced. 14 references