Program Spotlight: Behavioral Support Services in the Time of COVID-19
“It’s been quite a year!” shared Esther, KYC’s Child and Adolescent Behavioral Support Team Lead and Therapist. Esther and several members of the team shared how COVID-19 has impacted clients and our program over the past year. Throughout the pandemic, our team has creatively adapted to support clients as they work toward their therapeutic goals.
About Behavioral Support Services
Behavioral Support Services, referred to as “Mentoring,” is a clinical program for qualifying clients who also receive individual therapy. This program is available to youth, as well as to parents, to provide additional coaching and guidance. Behavioral Support Specialists work one-on-one with their clients, turning everyday social experiences into an opportunity to practice coping skills, socialization, and emotional management strategies.
Activities provide an opportunity for clients to monitor and regulate their emotions and thought processes during a social situation, with the supportive guidance of their Behavioral Support Specialist. If a child struggles with expressing frustration in a healthy way, their Behavioral Support Specialist can remind them of the communication techniques they learned in therapy. A child who lives with anxiety can practice mindfulness during a virtual yoga session. Each activity is carefully selected and personalized to the client’s unique goals while still providing an enjoyable opportunity to connect with a trusted adult who isn’t Mom or Dad.
“Mentoring helps a client’s treatment in therapy. I compare a Mentor to being a client’s tutor and the Therapist is like the teacher,” explains Alex. Behavioral Support Specialist. “The Mentor tutors the client in mental health rather than academic education,” he continues.
“There are four facets to the program: skill building, identifying natural supports, finding community resources, and psychoeduction” shares Esther. This program aims to equip clients with the confidence and practice they need to successfully employ the methods they learn in a therapy setting, while gaining a better understanding of how they process emotions, thoughts, and reactions and where they can turn for guidance within their own personal support system.
“Therapy can have a ‘seriousness’ to it whereas mentoring is more fun for clients,” shares Alex. “Clients have opened up to me about what is on their mind while shooting hoops. Shooting hoops might be the client’s coping strategy and they do not realize they are practicing their coping skills while they talk about a stressful/frustrating experience,” Alex explains.
This program is meant to be entirely community-based and social, which posed a particular challenge during a time of stay-at-home orders and social distancing.
Finding Creative Solutions
“Since mentoring has been created to be in the community, it has been a challenge to switch, but the team has done it gracefully and creatively” shared Esther.
Twenty Child & Adolescent Behavioral Support Specialists wasted no time in finding new ways to keep clients engaged, working together to find virtual-friendly fun. Specialists found craft ideas that they knew their clients would enjoy, and mailed or dropped off the supplies at their clients’ homes ahead of their upcoming sessions. Others found online games to play together, or shopped for ingredients to bake tasty treats like brownies, holding their very own virtual baking sessions.
“Clients have been incredibly flexible and resilient as we have transitioned this program,” shared Brooke, another Behavioral Support Specialist. “I personally love doing a mix of games, baking, or even a book club like structure with clients combined with some kind of psychoeducation activity. Overall, it is good to know there is a way to still connect and make improvements in our clients’ lives despite the distance.”
There are a few “silver lining” benefits to this re-imagined virtual version of the program: Behavioral Support Specialists have had the opportunity to connect clients with online resources that can be accessed at any time, in some cases even introducing clients to virtual community groups where they have found friends with shared interests. Virtual sessions have also provided a new level of insight into the home lives of clients, including many heartwarming virtual introductions to friendly family pets.
Looking Forward to Time Together
Despite some welcome benefits, many clients have found virtual sessions to be tough. Understandably, it can be difficult to be engaged in another virtual call after a long day of online school. Additionally, many clients faced challenges with social interactions prior to the pandemic. Nick, Behavioral Support Specialist, shares that this often led to self-isolation and difficulties forming friendships. He reflects that with severely limited opportunities for in-person interactions outside of family members, these challenges have grown for many clients during the pandemic. Every client has experienced the last year in a unique way, with social isolation having been harder for some.
Behavioral Support Specialists and clients alike are looking forward to the return of incorporating in-person activities into their plans, with safety measures in place. During in-person sessions, masks are worn, physical distancing is observed, and many activities are being held outside as the weather warms up. “In-person work is SO helpful to our therapy team, and it’s really beneficial, especially for kids who have been isolated at home for a year” shares Esther, adding “when they do switch to in-person, it’s the best — they’re so engaged!”
KYC is proud of all that our clients have accomplished during an especially difficult time. We’re honored to partner with them as they work toward their goals and prioritize their wellbeing. We’re also grateful for our incredible Behavioral Support team for all that they’ve done to support both youth clients and parents creatively throughout the last year.
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