Image by Stefan Widua

Arbinger Framework

Arbinger is a relationship philosophy we use at our program. The staff lives by it, the boys learn and live by it, and we provide extensive resources for parents and families of residents at our facility to learn and implement it into their own lives. As a school of thought, Arbinger is fundamentally about resolving tension and creating peace, in our hearts and our relationships.

Arbinger was developed in 1979 by Dr. Terry C. Warner who wanted to explore and conceptualize how the human psyche resists changing. Even when making changes in one's life may present substantial benefits, it is human nature that we all fall into traps of self-deception, and assure ourselves that we don’t need to change.


Many teenagers lack the communication skills necessary to work through problems in a healthy way. Through the diagrams and examples Arbinger presents, this helps teenage boys work through often abstract emotions in concrete steps. It’s essential that parents and families also learn Arbinger methods so that they can meet their son at this level. We facilitate workshops and resources at every step of the journey for our resident's families so that they can work with their son in beginning to unpack relationship struggles and strengthen their family.


Constantly working on our own ‘way of being’ is part of life’s journey. None of us are perfect, and we can all work hard to make ourselves a more open and understanding space. As a school of thought, Arbinger is fundamentally about resolving tension and creating peace, in our hearts and our relationships. Arbinger introduces ideas that together explain and solve the self-deception problem. In studying this material, you will learn what self-deception is, what its impact is on oneself and others and what to do about it.

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Our staff members are not drill sergeants, none of our residents are forced or coerced to participate in any part of our program. Systems of discipline and rewards do little to facilitate lasting behavioral changes, and we have found that these techniques are not appropriate to our positive setting as a working horse ranch. 

Our equine therapy program has a proven record of effective influence with struggling adolescents. Our therapeutic framework demonstrates how certain learned, negative behaviors are ineffective in these boys’ everyday lives. Young, hot-tempered boys get nowhere with a horse by yelling, pushing, shoving, or hitting. Once a young man can demonstrate to himself that persuasion is achievable through gentleness and kind deeds, he begins to realize that there are better ways than the ones he has been applying in his daily life. 

What you will see is the results are so much more satisfying. The lessons learned and how a horse can demonstrate them are: 


  • My aggression will provoke your aggression, which in turn escalates my aggression.  

  • You can change my behavior and reactions by changing your own.  

  • You create your own behavioral problems 

Nowhere is this better demonstrated than in the care and training of horses—equine therapy–where young boys can witness the positive effects of their behavior modification first hand, and to their immediate benefit. When we partner Equine Therapy with education in positive behavior models, such as the Arbinger Principles, we can integrate and internalize that knowledge to bring about desired results in behavior patterns.


The 7 Arbinger principles provide a foundation for moving behavior from anger and violence to positive motivational action. The principles were developed by the Arbinger Institute, which is a worldwide leader in training on self-deception and its solution. The seven principles, greatly abbreviated here, are: 

  1. Every person has hopes, needs, cares, and fears. 

  2. When another person’s hopes, needs, cares, and fears are less important than our own; we see others as objects rather than as people. 

  3. To see a fellow person as an inferior object is to harbor a violent heart toward them. 

  4. We communicate how we feel about others even when we try to hide it. 

  5. When others detect violence in our hearts, they tend to become defensive and to see us as objects. Violence in one’s heart provokes violence in others. 

  6. Most occasions of outward violence are manifestations of a prior, and often escalating, a conflict between violent hearts; that provokes further violence. 

  7. Any effort to reduce outward violence will succeed only to the extent that it addresses the core problem—the problem of violent hearts. 



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