Wholeistic Education© at Direction
Joseph R. Walsh, M.Ed., LCMHC
Direction Program Director
Direction employs an innovative educational and therapeutic model called Wholeistic Education (WED). While one of WED’s major strengths is its natural simplicity, an understanding of its foundational ideas is critical in appreciating its effectiveness. Direction will continue to publish materials explaining WED and the results of its application in various settings. For starters, these are the big shapes on how we apply WED in the Direction PHP/IOP:
1. Attitude. There is no greater responsibility than the education and psychotherapeutic care of others. Though we try to do so with light hearts and humor, we take our work very seriously. Direction considers every experience and interaction an opportunity to grow in a healthy way. We never feel satisfied with uneventful routine.
2. Here and now. Our time is necessarily limited and there is much to do, so we avoid getting bogged-down in unproductive psychodynamics. Each day in Direction is designed to be an inspirational, educational experience, filled with constructive feedback and an opportunity to practice better habits developed in and encouraged by our educational culture. We also provide written evaluations and other material — including meds as indicated — that clients take with them to promote continuation of improved habit formation after discharge.
3. Developmental Goals. We orient the Direction experience around WED’s five Developmental Goals: Respect, Dignity, Responsibility, Compassion, and Perseverance, and focus each day of the week on one of them. We provide experiences in various media, e.g., film, music, art, literature, sports, that stimulate reflection on the Developmental Goals. We provide group psychotherapy and activities that connect the clients here-and-now concerns with the Developmental Goals.
4. Behavioral Guidelines. Behavioral Guidelines define and facilitate the maintenance of our educational culture. They concretely operationalize our Developmental Goals, and so provide an invaluable tool in positively effecting clients. Because of its association with Operant Conditioning/Skinnerism, “target behaviors” have become anathema to many “enlightened” therapists and educators. Instead of throwing the baby (target behaviors) out with the admittedly dirty bath water (operant conditioning’s crude, rewards and punishments approach), we recognize that most is to be gained through the judicious inclusion of target behaviors as one part of a holistic educational approach. In fact, we realize that it is not possible to escape the reality of target behaviors—we all have them for all others! And that it is safer and more productive for the subordinate members of a group (all members, really), to clearly explicate our shared cultural expectations, than to leave them in an easily misused murkiness, or to pretend they don’t exist. Although amazingly powerful, there is nothing onerous about The Guidelines. They are minimally invasive, reflective of basic human rights, and are harmonious with all personal, cultural backgrounds.
5. A Cultural Approach. Direction follows WED’s cultural approach to education. It doesn’t replicate the ineffectiveness of other, more atomistic, compartmentalized, medical-model forms of psychotherapy or education. That’s why it’s so essential to have all leaders in the setting speaking the same language and promoting the same rituals and network of mutual expectations (the definition of culture). Every participant, in every capacity and role, is equally responsible for their commitment to the WED culture as defined by the Behavioral Guidelines. Following are a couple of essential lines from the “script” of our common culture:
• Because interpersonal relationships are where clients’ difficulties ultimately lie, we focus on the development of prosocial behavior as a means of reducing wasteful stress and increasing durable, productive, individual liberty.
• Our educational/therapeutic leadership is guided by WED’s “Educator Goals”. The Goals provide an ethical and effective professional framework that has
proven invaluable in over fifteen years of testing.
1. Modeling healthy relationship. Lead through example, simply by being your most respectful and dignified self.
2. Providing clear reflection. Compassionately help clients develop awareness of their responsibilities to self and others; promote the development of healthier goals.
3. Encouraging true focus. Use all appropriate means to help clients persevere in their pursuit of ever-healthier goals.
• “Embrace all feelings, Guide all behaviors” — WED’s motto that reflects its underlying dynamic balance, and holism.
• Punishment is antithetical to WED and the Direction experience. We follow a collaborative, loving path that utilizes restriction from the group as the means of protecting the group, and leveraging the fundamental need to belong that is the most powerful, ethical tool of socialization and human development.