The behavior program at the Eaton County Youth Facility is predicated upon the cognitive model of Psychology. The cognitive-behavioral framework is a model for describing, understanding, and changing behavior. It operates on the fundamental assumption that thinking and attitudes influence our behavior, and therefore we can change behavior by changing thought patterns and attitudes. Simply put, the cognitive model states that prior to all human behaviors, a person is presented with an antecedent situation. Based on that situation, a person has certain self-talks (thoughts) that give rise to feelings and then to the behavior that they chose to exhibit. This behavior then results in consequences, which then introduces a new antecedent situation, and the cycle repeats itself ad infinitum. For the purposes of behavior modification, then, we seek to change individual thinking patterns and therefore behaviors by manipulating the antecedents to their thoughts and the consequences that result.
Research indicates that the highest risk factor for re-offending is criminogenic thinking and attitudes. Therefore, we use the cognitive model because its goal is to change such thinking. It uses techniques to monitor thought patterns, recognize the connections between thinking and behavior, and replace distorted thinking with rational thinking in order to foster more appropriate behavior. We challenge our residents to pay attention to the thought patterns they have and the behaviors and consequences that result from them. This further challenges residents to reduce the “automatic” thinking they have to certain situations and recognize the thoughts that they have that put them at risk to doing something hurtful or irresponsible.