Immediate Life Challenges and Self Discovery – Youth Empowered Solutions

Immediate Life Challenges and Self Discovery

The YES! model focuses on addressing the immediate life challenges that motivate young people to seek mental health services, and, offering  a longer term approach to building a better future.  Building relationships and trust are primary first goals in any developmentally based model.  A focus on immediate life challenges signals the importance of a youth-driven model and contributes to these important early goals.

Life challenges tend to fall into fairly predictable categories—relationship challenges, emotional regulation, the ability to process information (and executive function) and identity.  Usually, there are safety factors involved and minimizing those challenges paves the way to enabling the young person to then focus on other factors.

Addressing immediate life challenges provides opportunities to assess young people through actually seeing how they manage situations and usually unveils the kinds of developmental and skill gaps that contribute to their struggles.  Successful outcomes correlate with attention to the scaffolding processes—identifying both existing and emerging skills, providing the kinds and amounts of support needed to promote successes and skillfully helping young people to recognize their own growth from their participation in changing the challenging situation.

Gradually, two exciting things happen, young people begin to trust the staff and the process.  And, they dare to hope, to believe that they can continue to make their lives better. As they do these things, they become more open to facing their mental health conditions and the nature of the work changes. They begin to see that it might actually make sense to confront their substance use challenges, figure out better ways to handle their emotions, get along with others, keep the job that supports their eating habits, etc.

Addressing these newly acknowledged challenges often results in combining in vivo experiences with involvement in an evidence-informed practice provided by a transition specialist (the term often used to describe the care coordinators who specialize in working with youth and young adults) or by referral to a specialist in that particular therapy.  It is rare that the transition facilitator role is the only process by which a young person progresses.  It is, however, a key role.  Information in the next section will suggest a bigger context.

Gradually, the drive for self-discovery becomes an increasing influence in the life of most young people served in YES!  For some, this focus results in a readiness to leave the program—they have minimized the original struggles and feel prepared to continue without professional support.  For others, it provides motivation to work through additional challenges and maximize the benefits of YES!  There is an increasing body of work available that addresses how to support young people interested in pursuing post-high school educations.  And a number of colleges are beginning to be more conscious of the mental health needs of the student body.  These newer developments can assist programs to be supportive of a fuller recovery than was previously imagined.