Self awareness and insight are the first step in the change process. But for a young woman to make permanent change, she needs to connect that awareness and knowledge to every aspect of her daily life. Our therapeutic milieu, or social living environment, was carefully designed to integrate treatment into the girls’ daily life. When a girl is able to use her newly acquired knowledge and skills to experience positive change in her life, her confidence and self-belief will grow and motivate her to reach her goals.
Uinta Academy uses the evidence-based Teaching Family Model in our daily living environment. This model was selected by the American Psychological Association as a “model program in service delivery in child and family mental health.” Uinta uses these empirically validated methods to help youth develop positive relationships and learn and practice new skills. This approach includes skills development, problem solving and mindfulness, relationship development, and self governance
Teaching-Based Skills Development
While a girl may realize that unhealthy behaviors are contributing to her struggles, she may not know how to change what she is doing. Our Family Teachers are participating in every activity with the girls and are modeling for them individualized treatment skills, problem solving, and emotional regulation.The Family Teachers help girls recognize when specific skills should be used, help girls practice using them, and reinforce their attempts to engage in healthy behavior. This teaching “in the moment” is a powerful way to help girls experience small successes throughout the day. Along with each girl’s individualized treatment skills, the Family Teachers also teach a curriculum encompassing social skills, independent living skills, and executive functioning skills. A girl who has a large repertoire of skills will have greater confidence and success in any life situation.
Problem Solving and Mindfulness
When a girl faces challenges or problems in her day, the Family Teachers use guided problem solving to help her examine options, consider possible outcomes, and make wise choices. Part of this process is helping her be mindful, rather than letting her emotions rule the moment. When a girl is mindful, she acknowledges her feelings but chooses to act in a way that honors her goals and promotes healthy relationships. Helping girls manage their emotions and rationally solve problems builds confidence, develops resourcefulness, and helps girls manage stress.
Healthy, supportive and satisfying relationships are the key to each young woman’s success and self-fulfillment. Our experience shows that acceptance is a key component of adolescent identity development. For this reason, we focus on helping girls nurture healthy, supportive relationships with adults and peers. Acceptance, empathy, concern and reciprocity are concepts that are modeled by staff and encouraged among the girls. A young woman who is struggling is more likely to accept help in an atmosphere that is warm, nurturing, and accepting. When girls feel connected and supported by adults and peers who are kind, accepting and interested, they feel emotionally safe and the healing process can begin.
Adolescence is a time when girls start to take charge of their lives and make their own decisions. We help the girls realize that independence doesn’t mean disconnecting from parents and family. We give them age-appropriate freedom to make decisions and try new things while providing guidance and support from the “family.” The girls and staff hold a daily “family meeting” where the girls solve problems together, plan activities, make decisions, give feedback and praise to each other, and discuss all the practical concerns of family life. The girls take the lead in planning and running the family meetings and learn many important skills such as effective communication, giving constructive feedback, problem solving, resolving conflict, assertiveness, social awareness, and cooperation. The opportunity to have a voice in their life helps girls take ownership of their treatment and their future success.