The Strength-based Approach: Philosophy and Principles of Practice

Youth Now Canada



In traditional youth justice settings, the main method of controlling and adapting behaviour is through level systems or point systems.  For example, a young person is rewarded for good behaviour by being advanced to higher levels, which have more privileges or he/she is rewarded with more points leading to more privileges.  At the same time, poor behaviour receives negative consequences such as lower levels or reduced points.  These are classic behavioural psychology methods and do control behaviour at times.  However, these methods do not equip children adequately for lives as responsible adults (Boldt, Witzel, Russell, & Jones, 2007).

Point and level systems are controlled by staff and decrease a young person’s personal control.  Alternatively, a strength-based perspective hands control over to the young person in order for them to develop an internal locus of control.  In a deficit model things are done “for” or “to” clients, whereas a strength-based approach fosters independence, and results in people gaining control in their own lives (Powell & Batche, 1997).


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