5712 Iroquois Avenue, Harborcreek, PA 16421
P: (814) 899-7664   ·   F: (814) 899-3075

Family News | Harborcreek Youth Services

Welcome to the our Family News & Updates Page! This is a space where we'll make updates about friends and family members of Harborcreek Youth Services' residents, Treatment Foster Care Families, and Multisystemic Therapy teams with happenings around campus and in our HYS community. We have a variety of great events thoughout the year, and we hope this page will help you stay in touch with the amazing things your kids are doing through our programs. 

Putting Sanctuary Into Practice: Social Learning

Posted on July 17th, 2018 at 11:11 AM
Putting Sanctuary Into Practice: Social Learning

What is Social Learning?

Social Learning is actually a process of “unlearning.”  Most of us have established methods, patterns, and routines that we follow and utilize when we are under stress or are in need of making changes. Often the routines and patterns that we use are either dysfunctional or give limited results. Social learning is the ability to adapt in a different way and to gain new skills through learning from others.

As an agency, we promote a culture of inquiry where we can all learn from each other and investigate reasons for our policies, procedures, and treatment methods. We utilize best practices in that we address deficiencies or areas of need with education and discussion rather than disciplining our valuable workers. This allows for seeking out learning from others. In turn, this is how we work with our boys.

At HYS, we are able to bring a group of children together who have all experienced trauma of some type. By holding group therapies, the kids can share their experiences and process their reactions, seeking out new ways in which to respond to crisis or emotional chaos when it arises. With the help of a facilitator in groups, the clients learn in a social setting and begin to cognitively restructure not only their thought process but their overt reaction.

Even more, social learning takes place with individual therapies too. Families can work together, discussing each person’s perspective on the familial situation. This is an extremely helpful way to practice social learning, as the breakdown in communication has hindered productive social interactions within the home, and through family therapy, the therapist can utilize all members of the familial team to learn from each other through active listening and gaining an understanding of what previous patterns in the relationships have had a negative  impact.

Additionally, offering settings of social learning where we can interact and gain skills in an innovative and exciting way can be attained through the use of the arts. Breaking old habits of behavior is difficult, but, by offering options that have never been afforded to the each other and our clients, such as music, art, writing and movement therapy, it allows for those who have maladaptive behaviors from an early age to investigate these new activities with others in a social manner. This creates new ways to handle stress and to react to events with skills that may suit the kids we serve better than traditional means of talking therapy or generic coping skills.

Although one’s previous patterns of behavior may have been adequate or “gotten them by,” these subpar patterns are interfering with the ability to learn improved and healthy ways of handling crisis or chaos or life in general. When we practice social learning, we are using other humans with whom we interact to learn what works and what doesn’t work. It is a way to see how other’s handle their stress and to either learn that it may be a better way to react or learn that what we have observed in others or what we have been historically doing leaves a lot of room for growth.

Social learning is not about one aspect of our lives. It is not a case where we learn something new and are “fixed.” Social learning considers the whole person or the whole group and attempts an understanding of how all the components working together affect the individual or group; and when we are able to try new options or responses to our behaviors, we will continue to learn through trial and error. When we have learned how we can better manage our emotions and behaviors, then the positive and healthy cognitive restructuring begins to take place.