3 Reasons an UnConvention Helps Us Help Young Adults

by Stars Training Academy   2 Comments

Three reasons an UnConvention helps young adultsAn unconventional group of peer supporters and staff who serve an unconventional group of young people will gather in an unconventional way to explore ways to help the mental health system “suck less” at the TAY UnConvention in Stockton, March 16, 2012.

As we organize this year’s event, several people have asked me, “So why an UnConvention?” The answer reflects my own experiences working with young people with emotional and behavioral difficulties, and I can break it into
three main reasons:

  1. We Need to Involve Young Adults in the Process–As I’ve worked with numerous programs that are designed for Transitional Age Youth (TAY) between 16 and 25, I often see a similar struggle. When TAY programs project the attitude of “we know what’s best for you” (after all we have the degrees) and that we professionals have it all together and have never struggled, the outcome is predictable. The results are often seen in low retention rates, poor outcomes and passive clients who show little investment in their own growth and recovery, because their voice and choice are not solicited nor respected.
  2. We Need to “Un-Learn” Some Things–After starting the TAY Academy in Long Beach, I soon realized that the conventional, traditional mental health approaches would not work well with this group. The structure and predictability of scheduled appointments, familiar approaches to therapy, clear treatment goals and well-defined roles of provider/client seemed to not fit well. I learned that I would need to embrace the exasperation and excitement of involving our young adult clients in shaping how the TAY Academy would look, feel and operate.
  3. We Need Peer Mentors and Youth Empowerment–The UnConvention is designed to promote the hiring of young adults with lived experiences and to encourage peer-to-peer opportunities and skill teaching. In partnership with the California Youth Empowerment Network (CAYEN,) we have hired five vibrant Youth Organizers who are not afraid to speak their minds about how this conference should look, feel and operate.

So why an UnConvention? It starts with getting the youth voice “at the table” from the beginning. If the mental health system wants young people to become more empowered and involved, we will need to do much more as providers to make them feel welcome, supported and validated.

It’s not always easy to get our youth involved and empowered in our programs. What ways have you found that have been effective?

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Vitamin A April 12, 2012 at 12:49 am

I like your insightful article. brilliant work. I hope you produce more. I will carry on watching


Solange Kunda September 25, 2012 at 2:26 am

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