The Total Transformation Program® – Does It Work?

[The impetus for this post was a recent comment on this blog]

Total Transformation Infomercial

What is the Total Transformation Program®?

According to their website, “The Total Transformation is a child behavior modification program for child behavior problems like oppositional defiance disorder and child anger issues.” [note 1] It “offers practical, real world solutions for the most challenging problems parents face such as defiance, disrespect, lying and cursing, acting out in school, unmotivated behavior and more.” As the video above notes, it will even help in dealing with A.D.D./A.D.H.D.

If you are unfamiliar with their advertising,
I recommend watching the video before reading further.

Does the Total Transformation Program® Actually Work?

In Search of Reviews:  A Google search on the term “total transformation program” turned up the following on the first page:

However, there are some negative reviews on Amazon.

“We were not at all satisfied with this product. When we tried to return it, we too, received the run around. We were told it takes longer than 30 days to see results (but the refund policy is only for 30 days – imagine that). We tried this program consistently for well over 4 months. It was an absolute failure….” Really Really Disappointed – Don’t Waste Your Money, November 17, 2009

“I tried this with my daughter. It did not work. I passed it along to a friend. It did not work. She sold it and kept the proceeds. We are no longer friends. How’s that for a total transformation?” Total Junk, September 15, 2008

“I do not even want to give this product one star but amazon makes you pick at least one. My husband and I decided to try this out with our son. After trying it for two months, it was not effective AT ALL. Very time consuming without any positive results. My husband and I felt like fools for even ordering the thing. First of all, the terms of the trial period are horrendously inconspicuous, which may lead you to keep the product longer than intended. Let me tell you, if it is kept longer than the 30 days, you WILL NOT GET A REFUND!!!” HORRIBLE, May 29, 2009

In Search of Scientific Data: The following Google searches turned up nothing of value, that is, no reference to a scientific study that examined this program. [note 3]

Google Searches Performed

  • “scientific” site: www.thetotaltransformation.com
  • “data” site: www.thetotaltransformation.com
  • “study” site: www.thetotaltransformation.com
  • “studies” site: www.thetotaltransformation.com

There are, however, many testimonials on the website that attest to the program’s effectiveness. But the accumulation of testimonials does not constitute scientific data. It may be the impetus for a scientific study but it is not, in and of itself, “science.”  Furthermore, there is something very curious about the testimonials. They seem to all refer to the first 30 days of program implementation. Where are the testimonials of those who have used the program for longer than 30 days? Those testimonials are sorely missing.

Does It or Doesn’t It Work?

Logically speaking, it is safe to say that it should work. In fact it should work for at least 30 days in most cases. After all, imposing a structure where such structure may not exist or may have been implemented in an inconsistent manner, is quite likely to have a beneficial effect. In a very thoughtful and well-reasoned review (See: Sound Parenting Techniques, May 19, 2008), the reviewer – a retired special education teacher – writes:

The program contains much practical content on ways for the parents to change THEMSELVES, which will impact their children’s reactions OVER TIME. It is NOT a “quick fix” in all regards–there IS NO such thing–but parents should start to see very positive results relatively soon IF they stick with it. As the saying goes, “It may get worse before it gets better” if children sense that things are changing–again, once children learn the PARENTS are consistent in acting differently, they will respond and act differently too. [note 4]

A Product Endorsement?

I am puzzled by a review of the Total Transformation® Program written by Dr. Quinn of the National Center for Girls and Women with ADHD. (A summarization of the review appears on the Total Transformation® website and, it seems, the full review appears on Amapedia, Amazon’s answer to Wikipedia.) If one reads it very carefully it reads as an “endorsement by similarity.” Here is what I mean by “endorsement by similarity.”

We can acknowledge that the automobile is a useful means of transportation. We can acknowledge that Toyota and General Motors build automobiles. We can acknowledge that their automobiles have a logical structure (the dashboard and instrumentation layout is what is to be expected; the doors allow movement into and out of the vehicle, etc.). At no point did I say anything about the quality of the automobiles. [note 5] All I said was that automobiles have particular characteristics and the automobiles made by these manufacturers have those characteristics. Therefore it is likely, but not necessarily the case, that you will be satisfied with their automobiles. Dr. Quinn’s review seems to employ this same logic.

She notes that there is a real “need [for] a structured program” that can be used with children and teenagers with behavioral issues. She then states that the Total Transformation Program® provides a structured program. After explaining why medication alone is not sufficient for dealing with ADHD behavioral issues and, in light of the time constraints on doctors and parents, she notes that a “training program like the TTP program seems ideal” since it can be done at home and does not require visits to a clinic or other setting. Further, Dr. Quinn points out that

TTP is an accountability based treatment program that empowers parents to deal with their child’s inappropriate responses. It offers them a means to decode and understand their child’s behavior. It places parents in the training and coaching role and offers them a concrete plan that they can actualize in the home.

A bit further in the review she examines “the scientific evidence for the effectiveness of such  programs.” She notes that Parent Training (PT) and Collaborative Problem Solving (CPS) are proven methods of dealing with, and correcting, behavioral issues. Now, here’s the “endorsement”:

In my opinion, the TTP incorporates both aspects of these psychosocial treatments and does it in a way that educates and supports parents as they learn to understand and deal with their child’s behaviors. The materials are also reinforcing and available for parents to review as necessary, as opposed to a session that may provide few written materials and concrete examples for the parent.

The implication is that TTP must be an effective program since it uses the same “psychosocial treatments” that have been proven to work. [note 6] It would seem we could also conclude that Toyota and General Motors build quality automobiles since they both incorporate doors (scientifically proven to allow ingress and egress), instrumentation panels, and so on. But, sarcasm aside, we know that we cannot make ANY statements about the quality of the automobiles based on similarity of characteristics. This would seem to be the same problem with this endorsement of TTP. Features “X” and “Y” appear in TTP therefore, it would seem that TTP will be an effective program. TTP provides a structure and a set of methods that, in other contexts, have been shown to work. But have these methods been implemented correctly? Have there been any studies that reviewed these particular implementations and, when necessary, made adjustments based on the data? We are never told if such studies had been done. [note 7] We do, however, have testimonials (but, seemingly, based only on 30 days implementation) and sales statistics.

At the bottom of the review, Dr. Quinn notes:

Over 85,000 units of the TTP have been sold to date with about 1000 currently being sold per week. A 10-15% return rate reported which indicates overall satisfaction.

TTP may well be effective and there may be many parents who are satisfied with the program. Nonetheless, sales statistics cannot be used as evidence of the program’s effectiveness or the satisfaction level of those who use the program. It can, however, be used as evidence of the effectiveness of a marketing program.

  1. I should point out that you will not find this description of the program anywhere on their website. This description is buried in the “Description” metatag for the home page. I found it by doing this search – “behavior modification” site: www.thetotaltransformation.com – on Google. It is telling that the phrase behavior modification does not appear anywhere else on the site, at least based on my Google searches. There is still a slight negative connotation associated with that phrase because of its association with Skinnerism. See this article on behavior modification. You may also want to look at this. Though it examines behavior modification within the context of Special Ed, still, you may find it to be of interest. WebMD also has an interesting article on behavior modification.
  2. You will find also find links to two reviews of the program. This one offers a realistic yet optimistic review, while this one reads like a 30-second informercial.
  3. The search was limited to the Total Transformation® website. If such studies existed, I am sure it would be on their website.
  4. I highly recommend reading this review. It offers a lot of practical advice.
  5. As I write this, Toyota has enacted a massive recall of millions of vehicles and has halted production on eight of its models.
  6. This reminds me of a story told to me by someone who writes intentionally misleading advertisements. At no point is there anything misleading within the advertisement itself. HOWEVER, the reader is allowed to draw conclusions based on similarities that would imply that a particular product is effective. Here’s the example: An advertisement has a quote from a Harvard study that shows that Vitamin X is effective in dealing with Problem Y. The advertisement then lists the ingredients in the magic elixir and, surprise, Vitamin X is in there. You are then left to draw your own conclusions, namely that the product has Vitamin X and, therefore, could be used to deal with Problem Y. But you will NEVER see this stated within the advertisement itself.
  7. Though not directly analogous, nonetheless, the Success For All program offers an interesting contrast. It provides a structured learning environment – which has been implemented in many schools – and has been subject to extensive studies. Most importantly, the program is modified on an ongoing basis as a result of the findings of the various studies. The point here is that it is possible to have a program that really works and, when the data reveals problems, to modify the program accordingly.
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  • http://adultadhdrelationships.blogspot.com/ Gina Pera

    Hi Jeff,

    You've done a masterful job analyzing and vetting the claims around this program. Kudos! We need to bring more scrutiny to these "miracle" programs," especially when they make claims about ADHD.

    I am a big fan of Dr. Patricia Quinn. She has been an extremely knowledgeable, compassionate, and altruistic pioneer, leader, and mentor in this field for many years. In short, I trust her opinion.

    That said, I only have to listen to this guy's video for 60 seconds to know he's over-selling his bill of goods.

    Yes, effective parenting skills are important; no one would argue with that, especially when it comes to parenting children with ADHD. And no one would argue that today's parents — often hurried and distracted — might need some help in shoring up their skills. But one thing is clear: Parenting skills alone will not "cure" ADHD.

    Even the "parenting experts" who have long cast aspersions on the very idea of ADHD have admitted defeat when it comes to a certain percentage of children with a "glitch in the DNA coil" who don't learn from their mistakes, etc.. Even Sharon Begley, the former Science Journal columnist at the Wall Street Journal, writes about it here (never mind that her columns used to send my scientist husband into throwing the paper down in disgust):

    http://www.newsweek.com/id/151758

    Do these Johnny-come-latelys provide any mea culpae about how wrong they were to deny and minimize ADHD challenges? Of course not! And does Begley even mention the letters A, D, H, or D? Of course not! That would indicate humility in admitting they misjudged ADHD's impact. And of course they want to see themselves as being original thinkers, it seems. bah!

    Keep up the great work, Jeff!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/jeffsaddmind Jeff

    Gina,

    I have great respect for your judgment so if you say the post is good then I know I really hit a home run. So…THANK YOU!! The issue I really had with Dr. Quinn's analysis is that it was an analysis, not of Total Transformation itself, but of programs that are like Total Transformation. Footnote number 6 above explicates the problem I'm trying to address and which I think is a flaw, exploited by the publisher of Total Transformation.

  • betsy davenport, phd

    Jeff,
    I would like to write at some length about this and the broader subject, and will do so. For now, in my opinion, if it has "Program" in the name, I don't much like it.

    Kids with AD/HD and such suffer plenty from their disorder; then their world throws "programs" and "interventions" at them, drops them off like a toaster at therapies, and at some point everyone sighs and wonders why with all the help they got, they just won't act right, take responsibility, etc. If we objectify them, they lose a sense of themselves as the Subjects of their own lives.

  • betsy davenport, phd

    ont.
    One small example: the doctor always asks the mother about the child's symptoms. Why is that? It is commonly thought that kids don't observe themselves very well. My experience differs, and I am certain most kids never have a chance. No one ever asks them how THEY are doing — feeling, thinking, acting. Not out of genuine interest, curiosity, etc. When adults ask kids with behavior problems, there is always an agenda. SInce AD/HD isn't a behavior disorder after all, but a cognitive disorder, people (adults) are focusing on the wrong thing, anyway. Did you ever hear an adult ask a kid with AD/HD about their thinking? About whether they are having trouble with other kids during unstructured time (vs. structured time)? Etcetera.

    Okay, so I have a lot of thoughts that are less about the TTP and more about how I think kids ought to be treated.

    • Robert

      I guess I am a little lost on what your trying to say here. I have a teenage daughter. We are constantly at odds. I have tried to “teach” her responsibility for actions and how interaction with other carries with them outcomes that can be either negative or positive. We have been in counseling for 2 years now to which I have learned in part that many “kids” of today have a TOTALLY different thought process and/or perseption of what is right these days. Example: in our day a girl who slept with someone in short order was considered loose. Today, this is almost becoming the norm and an accepted means of acceptance. I as a father obviously am having a difficult time accepting this. I have tried not to show up at the arguments that I am invited to, but my daughter truly knows what buttons to push to bring me in. When I try and ask how things are going, or how was your day it is received with an attitude of prying, or disbelief of my true intentions. I have long since blamed myself for much of this as my daughter is not like this with friends parents, or at school with the exception of a “old fasioned” teacher who simply demands respect in his/her classroom. The reasoning my daughter gives is they can throw her out of school. This tends to lead me to that I am “just not hard enough” on my daughter. For all the time I have given to coach her in sports, or work with her on home work (when i understand it) all the things I have done for her otherwise, it is greeted with an argumentative, disrespectful, rude, uncaring of how much she hurts us as parents child. So in closing I would like to know just how it is that you say I am supposed to treat my kid? I didn’t see in any of your comments how this, in your opinion, was supposed to be done.

      • Jeff

        Robert, speaking for myself and not Betsy, the main point is that grandiose claims are made about the effectiveness of the Total Transformation Program (TTP) and yet the company provides no data to back up their claims. One would think that a program that can solve every known problem vis-a-vis the parent/child relationship would have some serious scientific data to back up such claims. Well, good luck finding that data because they don’t provide it at all. The only “data” they provide are anecdotes which is not scientific at all. Has anyone from the company contacted parents 2, 3 or 4 years after purchasing and implementing the program? This would certainly be interesting to know. Without even doing this logic would tell us that the program was probably successful in some cases and not in others but it is quite UNLIKELY it was successful in 100% of the cases. That’s really my point. Based on their commercials their program has a 100% effectiveness rate…so…caveat emptor.

        I’m not qualified to suggest a different program – or any program – that you can try. However, it may be the case that the TTP will work for you but it may also be the case that it will not. The company does offer a money back guarantee if it doesn’t work within 30 days and I’m willing to bet it WILL work for the first 30 days…until your daughter figures out what you are really doing and then figures out how to work around it so…in 90 days…it may stop working.

        What may make the most sense is a smorgasbord approach…taking a bit from here and a bit from there and creating your own “system” that works with your daughter. Speaking as a father I can tell you that I’ve had to come up with different ways to handle the same issues because what worked with one child did not work with the other. You also need to be careful about all or nothing approaches. For example, being a bit hard nosed may be the right approach for one issue but not necessarily for every issue, the point being that you shouldn’t always be hard nosed. Doing that makes it difficult for your child to differentiate between serious issues, like sleeping around, versus comparatively less serious issues…like cleaning her room.

        “argumentative, disrespectful, rude, uncaring of how much she hurts us as parents child” – Have you gotten a diagnosis from the counselor or other professional concerning this? It’s the lack of empathy that has me a bit concerned and sometimes that can be a child’s way of protecting themselves, that is, she may be very sensitive and the way to keep people at a distance so that they don’t hurt her is to push them away through rudeness, etc.

        “I have long since blamed myself for much of this” – You shouldn’t blame yourself. Kids often behave differently for others because, where parents are concerned, they know how to push your (our) buttons.

        • Robert

          Jeff,

          Thanks for your response. I totally understood your point from the initial post. My question, or confussion was more from what Betsy was trying to point out. I gathered it had more to do with the childs point of view. Anyway, there some of what you ask about as to her trying to protect herself by pushing others away. It’s more of a “tough girl” front that she puts up. She does have, and has been diagnosed as having issues with authority figures. Hence the issue she had with a “firmer” teacher. I am very old fashioned and was raised in a very strict house where respect for elders, and others we huge. I have not been able to pass any of this off to my daughter. As for doing the same for all children, I totally agree. My son, now in college, was TOTALLY different. He is respectful and fully bothered by the thought of having done wrong and hurting our feelings as parents. He does very well in school, and has great respect for others. We hear this from his teachers and other parents that have got to know him. We were concerned for a while that our daughter might be “rebelling” agains being compared to him. We have been VERY concious of not doing this.

          As for the all or nothing being to hard thought. The hard part about this is my daughter doesn’t or won’t differenciate between the two. Example if we cave a little on her not cleaning her room, she will use that against us when we wont cave on a more important issue like sneaking out. She see’s it as we cut her a break last time, why not now. Of coarse then follows the long drawn out battle where I find myself beating my head against the wall trying to get her to understand there is a HUGE difference. I will give a good example of how she doesn’t put things together. Just last night she was being very disrespectful. This after me spending 2 hours the night before fixing the stereo in her car that was messed up after trying to put in a new one. I got the old one back in and now she at least has a stereo. Last night came the need to “fix” the harness to make the new one work. However before I got to it came her attitude fest. I tried to explain that it’s not a good idea to be rude and disrectful to a person who you need help from. The light never came on. So 20 minutes later she is asking when I was going to fix the new stereo. I said isn’t karma great and made no effort to fix her stereo. She then upped the amperage on her attitude and said she was very upset that I said I would fix it and now wont. I told her how her interactions with me have different outcomes. If she is nice and polite and respectful it’s amazing how the world around her is much nicer and brighter, but when she is the opposite, the results are the opposite. To this I got her trying to do it in defiance of me saying no. Then Mom came to ask for help. This turned into a battle as I told Mom she was rewarding the bad behavior. Your a Dad, not sure if you’re also a husband, any advice would be great…!

          • Jeff

            I’ve had that battle with my wife over the need to keep a united front. For the most part we’ve been successful but there are times when the kids figured out that asking Mom is better than asking Dad.

            FYI…I also had a problem with authority (well…maybe I still have it). I had arguments with some of my teachers. The school system didn’t know what to do with me because I was also intelligent. But your daughter’s touch exterior may still be a defense mechanism.

            “hard part about this is my daughter doesn’t or won’t differentiate between the two” – Sounds like you need someone who can teach mediation skills.

            It probably makes sense that you and your wife come to an agreement on how to handle certain things. As you’ve already figured out…your daughter will play you against your wife to get what she wants.

      • Robyn

        Robert,

        I am sorry but it sounds like you are having a wretched time with your daughter. We do live in a promiscuous-anything goes society.

        However, as her parent you have the right to tell her she must be respectful and courteous. This is, in part, what The Total Transformation teaches. You can listen to the cd’s for 90 days and return a survey and get a refund. You do not need to do the survey if you don’t want to. I am choosing to do the survey because money is a bit of an issue for my husband and I.

        Again, you have every right to expect good treatment from your daughter. Why should we allow our children to walk all over us?

        Take care,
        Robyn

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  • Mike Truj

    The lone individuals this will not work for are for those very parents which are the reason for the very “problem” child which needs help. Before you can “fix” a child you have the fix the parents which are ineffective. If a parent can not recognize their own problem (s) first the child simply has no chance. While this issue probably does not apply to most parents (even though most of us are not perfect). I truly believe, whomever parent simply states this program did not work it is because they did not want to implement some basic aspects of parental responsibility which is essential. This program is excellent, and because of it it will always demand some form of “looking in the mirror” this is not a problem for most, because self reflection is always good in some manner. And honestly such reflection is actually a small part of the program as the program teaches “you can not change the child” but you are there to help him/her. That said, if you do not do your part, this program as ANY program will fail if one does not put some effort and recognition that though we may have every good intention some of our parenting skills for whatever reasons are simply ineffective and can use more efficient parenting strategies.

    • http://jeffsaddmind.com Jeffs ADD Mind

      Mike, I agree with you that the effectiveness of the program (or any program) is dependent on the ability of the parent(s) to understand their own issues that they bring to the table, to “look in the mirror” as you so aptly stated it. However, what I found most startlingly is that those promoting the program make grandiose claims of its effectiveness and yet they have done nothing, from a scientific perspective, to prove that this is the case. All they provide are anecdotes and no matter how many anecdotes you have, anecdotes do not constitute data. (Someone once said, the plural of anecdote is not “data.”) So while the program may have worked for you and worked for others, there are those for whom it will not work and that’s not the fault of the parent or the child. It is just common sense. When raising children, a one-size-fits-all approach does not always work.

  • Chief555

    Love this movie!!!!!?

  • Chris

    The so called survey is hundreds of paragraph style questions that are impossible for the average person to fill out. The company is a bunch of scam artists – Think Snake oil salesman if you will, only worse

    • http://jeffsaddmind.com Jeffs ADD Mind

      “The company is a bunch of scam artists” – That’s why there’s no real empirical data to back up their claims. All they’ve got is anecdotes and, as someone once said, ‘data’ is not the plural of anecdote.

  • Hatterasman

    One red flag for me concerning this “program” is the fact that Janet Lehman tells the world a dozen times every day that she has “used these very same techniques on her own son”. Nothing like telling the whole world every single day that your own son was an out of control problem child. I would love to know what the son thinks about his mother telling the whole world this on a daily basis. The bottom line is, they are not doctors, they are nothing but a pair of licensed social workers made famous by Dr. Phil, someone whom the majority of REAL psychologists have no use for because his whole gimmick is sensationalism on national TV. The only reason that he is famous is Oprah. In case anyone has forgotten, Oprah is the nut job who declared on national TV that a whole generation of old white people will have to die before racism disappears. I’m sorry, but simply being a celebrity or being endorsed by a celebrity is absolutely no reason to run out and buy a totally unproven “program” such as this “Total Transformation” program. They are snake oil peddlers and nothing else. If you still feel the need to waste your money, buy it on eBay. There are a thousand of them for sale there dirt cheap. What does that tell you?

    • http://jeffsaddmind.com Jeffs ADD Mind

      You hit all the nails on the head.

      One might add that the transformation program is yet another “quick fix” gimmick for a problem.

      P.S. Sorry for the late reply.

      • Hatterasman

        The thing that really disgusts me is the fact that these two snake oil peddling social workers are famous for no other reason than because they have been on Dr. Phil. The only difference between Dr. Phil’s show and Jerry Springer’s show is that the “guests” usually stay seated, keep their clothes on, and keep their hands to themselves on Dr. Phil’s show. Other than that, both shows sensationalize people’s problems on national TV. If the Lehmans wanted real credibility, both have had plenty of time to pursue psychology degrees. When I graduated from high school, it was common knowledge that a degree in social work was the absolute easiest way to obtain a college degree. It should be called a “cake-walk degree”. Sorry, but if I ever needed help with a “problem child”, I don’t think I would trust a pair of social workers to diagnose and treat the child any more than I would trust them to perform open heart surgery. The world is full of REAL psychologists who took the time to get REAL degrees. I believe I would have sense enough to use one of them instead, although I would definitely choose one who did not insist on sensationalizing it on national TV. I cannot help but feel sorry for the Lehman’s son. Can you imagine what it must be like to see your parents on TV every night telling the world that you were an out of control problem child? I also cannot help but wonder how long it takes to give away a thousand programs for free.

        • http://jeffsaddmind.com Jeffs ADD Mind

          Even if they had no degree, they’ve probably sold enough of these to be able to do some real studies on its effectiveness (or lack thereof), which could be used to refine their program.

          • Hatterasman

            Maybe that’s the problem. If Mrs. Lehman would stop giving away a thousand programs for free every freakin’ night, maybe they could afford a real study. lol

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