Extensive research into the model used by The Other Side Academy shows that behavior change comes through a rigorous and extended experience of social learning in a community that models and expects honesty, humility and personal responsibility from one another. By a process of each one helping the other, with no professionals, we solve problems such as: generations of poverty, illiteracy, habitual criminal behavior, lack of job skills, gang affiliation, hardcore substance abuse, homelessness, perpetration of and victimization from abuse.

At The Other Side Academy, we don’t dwell on the physiological effects of drugs on the brain or attempt to psychoanalyze why life dealt us the hand it did. Ultimately, we don’t think that matters. What really matters, simply put, is whether or not our students are tired of the life they have and are willing to put in the very difficult work necessary to create a real, legitimate, successful and law-abiding life going forward.

Dr. Fernando B. Perfas writes that people with destructive lifestyles — regardless of the crimes they committed or the destructive lifestyles they chose to live, or their backgrounds, ages, or lifestyles – typically share many of the same challenges. We find that our students often need help with trusting others, self-esteem, tolerance for discomfort or frustration, coping with feelings and controlling their impulses, dealing with authority, interpersonal and communication skills, and productivity.

However, one of the most amazing transformations of our model is when these individuals discover that they have tremendous and productive strengths, which may include intelligence, artistic, musical or athletic talents, wit and sense of humor, creativity, leadership skills, etc. We find that treatment is most effective when the individual’s strengths are used to help them address their challenges. In the active environment of The Other Side Academy, there are many opportunities to do this.

Self-help and mutual help is a fundamental part of the The Other Side Academy approach. Self help means that the person takes responsibility for his or her recovery; mutual help refers to people with a common problem helping each other.

We have designed The Other Side Academy model to foster both of these processes. Responsibility is learned by taking on obligations within The Other Side as a member of the community and students are expected to help each other. The abundance of group activities and training schools encourages the mutual help process in which residents play an active role and imparts a sense of empowerment.

The Other Side Academy follows the Therapeutic Community model. The Therapeutic Community theory is consistent with behavior theory and social learning theory. Behavior theory holds that changing behavior can be accomplished by rewarding behavior; behavior change becomes generalized to other situations when it becomes rewarded in other ways by other people.

The Other Side Academy is an active learning environment; much learning occurs by doing. Positive and new behavior is rewarded, initially by the program and faculty, but typically students find new behaviors rewarding in many other ways as well, through the social approval of others and a sense of self pride. The behavior then becomes established and independent of the direct rewards given by the program.

Social learning theory, as defined by famed psychologist Albert Bandura, postulates that much of human behavior is learned through the observation of models who demonstrate desirable behavior. Research has found that when the observed behavior of models is rewarded, it is much more likely to be imitated.

At The Other Side Academy, students who demonstrate pro-social behavior and attitudes are put in leadership positions within the community and within our Training Schools so they may serve as role models for newer members of the community. We try to take every opportunity to encourage students to demonstrate role model behavior and to publicly reward such behavior.

Maxwell Jones , an influential thought leader in the development of Therapeutic Community model, uses the term social learning to describe interpersonal exchanges that are opportunities to become “corrective emotional experiences.” The real-world simulation provided as our students are involved in the day-to-day work involved in maintaining our facility, feeding each other, and working along side each other in the Training Schools inevitably recreates conflicts and problems of the past.

When properly handled, these become “living-learning situations” that allow students to resolve important issues in their lives. According to Jones, every social interaction or crisis presented in the every day life of our community is grist for the therapeutic mill, and an opportunity for learning and changing.