In January of this year, Residential Treatment Centers (RTC) throughout Texas gathered in Houston and Austin to explore techniques for reducing their reliance on seclusion and restraint, and improving care for the young people they serve. Seclusion and restraint are dangerous behavioral management techniques that often exacerbate residents’ past traumatic experiences and prohibit the development of caring environments where young people thrive. The January gatherings were coordinated by Texas Network of Youth Services, the Hogg Foundation and national experts who supplied concrete resources and helped RTCs plan their initial implementation of trauma-informed care.

One of the most informative and compelling portions of the January training sessions was a panel of former RTC residents who talked about their experiences in these facilities and their transition into young adulthood. They talked about point and level systems, another behavior management technique often employed by RTCs that has been found to be “antithetical to individualized, culturally and developmentally appropriate treatment.”  Some residents said they liked the predictability of level systems, but many indicated that point and level systems pose an obstacle to treatment. A few of the RTCs decided to change or eliminate their point and level systems as a result of the panel’s feedback. Texas Network of Youth Services was able to interview five RTC residents about the elimination of point and level systems in their facility and wrote an article summarizing the discussion.

Here are some of the highlights from the summary:

  • Young people said “ it is more like it is at home and less like a placement” when point and level systems are eliminated.
  • Residents reported less envy among peers and a “more relaxed” environment.
  • There was a greater focus on treatment and communication.
  • Staff said they are better able to engage and empower residents by helping them set their own appropriate consequences for specific behavior.

Perhaps the best indicator of a successful transition from point and level systems is that the facility had 49 consecutive days without a restraint!