The Adolescent Day Program (ADP) at CASA Centre focuses on youth with serious mental health and sometimes addictions issues, helping them and their families move towards a better life.
Students from grades eight through 12 who are typically dealing with anxiety, depression, school avoidance and family stresses typically attend this five-day-a-week tertiary program for a full school semester.
With the support of the ADP’s multidisciplinary team, students work on developing their interpersonal relationships as well as their capacity for problem solving, conflict management, organization and family functioning.
“We have 12 kids per semester divided into two classrooms, with six kids per class,” says Samantha Hogan, a Registered Psychologist and the ADP’s Clinical Lead.
“Besides our two (Edmonton Public School) teachers, our team includes two classroom behaviour specialists, a psychiatrist, therapists and a nurse. I’d describe it as a therapeutic program with a school component, although the kids spend most of their time in class.”
The ADP’s intensive, all-encompassing approach includes individual therapy for the teens, and their families, as well as multi-family therapy, where all the families and teens gather for collective discussion.
“We’re working with them every day, whereas in private practice or in other programs you might only see your clients once every month or two. It’s all these face-to-face interactions every day over a period of five months that makes this program so special. The shifts we see over that period are just incredible,” says Hogan.
“We all have seen examples of the incredible shifts that occur,” says Dr. Robert Drebit, the ADP’s Medical Lead and Consulting Psychiatrist.
“Some kids especially stand out, for example the girl whose voice was silenced by her experience with trauma who then began to speak again. Or the anxious teen who tried to make herself invisible, but later would dance into or exiting a room.”
From left: Dr. Robert Drebit, Samantha Hogan and Karl Merritt.
It’s that underlying capacity for resiliency in these young teens that Dr. Drebit and other staff members hope to find and nurture.
“We live in a society that likes to think mental health issues in youth can’t be severe or persistent, but that’s just not true. There is a massive shortage of appropriate care for adolescents in our system,” says Karl Merritt, the ADP manager.
“Many of our youth can’t attend school because their anxiety is so severe. Our program provides the intensity and comprehensiveness of treatment needed to improve their functioning and change that.”
Another key differentiator between CASA’s Adolescent Day Program and other programs is that it is family-centred, and not focused exclusively on the teenager alone.
“Sometimes parents will send their teens to us with the idea, ‘We need a cure, fix our teen.’ But that’s not our approach,” says Hogan.
“Our goal here is to get to the core of the issue for the whole family. It’s not just your teen coming here to get fixed and learn skills and strategies. We also offer the parents the skills, strategies and supports that their teens are getting.”