Five Governing Principles

The emphasis on community at Discovery Connections is our way of giving students an opportunity to get and give feedback on their behaviors. The Connections therapeutic community is founded on what we call Five Governing Principles. These are the same principles at work in the world at large. Our principle-centered culture prepares students successfully return to the real world.

While the Five Governing Principles are the framework for our community, our attitude of justice is the foundation. That attitude is this: Be kind, gentle, loving and only as firm as necessary to get the desired behavior.

By using this attitude of justice, combined with the Five Governing Principles, we reach these goals:

Increased student involvement and accountability.

There is no “us against them,” student vs. staff mentality. Our principle-centered culture creates a “we’re all in this together” mindset.

The culture allows and encourages students to govern by rules and principles of the program rather than simply being ordered by staff. As they understand and master the governing principles, they develop life-long skills to achieve success in their communities outside of Discovery Connections.

Our principle-centered culture requires students to be accountable for their own choices and to help others be accountable for theirs. Students learn to identify and talk about why and how they make choices. They learn to explore new alternatives for positive decision making. They also see in a much more concentrated way the effect their choices have on others.

Improve student problem solving skills.

Students learn to recognize thinking patterns and thinking errors. They can identify when and how they can make better choices. They also learn how to give and accept feedback – a critical skill for a happy life.

Reduce program sub-groups

Any attempted splitting of the group is easily spotted because there is no place to “hide.” Cliques are reduced and students learn to build relationships with others they may not have previously considered as friends.

Increase and improve student communication skills.

Conversation about topics of interest or concern to the community as a whole dominate life in the Discovery Connections culture. The primary emphasis is on getting and giving feedback. As they practice the art of constructive feedback they become better and more confident at all kinds of communication.

Develop student leadership skills.

When students see and understand the impact of their behaviors they realize their choices do not just affect them. They affect the entire community. Once they master this concept, these students become leaders to their peers. They recognize appropriate behavior results in increased privileges. They enjoy the respect of their fellow students and staff and serve as powerful mentors to newer students. They recognize the relationship between their success in the Discovery community with success at home.

The Five Governing Principles are:

Rule of Law Principle:  Rules govern everyone.  When students follow the program rules, there are positive consequences.  When students choose not to follow the program rules, there are negative consequences.
Relative Free Society Principle:  Personal freedoms are contingent on personal choices. Not everyone enjoys the same freedoms.  Compliance with rules/laws increases a person’s personal freedoms while non-compliance reduces personal freedoms.
Collective Principle:  Individual behavior affects everyone in the group or community.  The effect can be positive or negative. None of us is completely immune from the choices of our peers.
Pressure Principle:  The human experience includes pressure.  Pressure can motivate individuals to choose one course of action over another.  Pressure can be both external (social pressure, consequences for choices, and environmental) and internal (personal perception, beliefs, and ideations: real or imagined).
Judgment Principle:  As staff and students interact with each other it becomes necessary to have a system of judgment to maintain a high level of fairness and safety.  As students take on roles of judgment within the group, they are expected to solve their problems using therapeutic principles, program rules and good judgment.

Each Friday students and staff share an experiential activity that focuses on one of the Five Governing Principles. These activities may include hiking, fishing, indoor surfing, trips to museums/aquariums, or service projects. In the middle of the activity, the Discovery community stops and discusses why the principle chosen for that day is important to the Discovery program and society as a whole. The group discusses current issues of concern to the house at that time. The memory of that activity makes the principle take on new life.

Explore our website, or, if you prefer, call an admissions counselor at 801.800.8033 for more information on how Discovery Connections can help your troubled teen.