Las Vegas boys and girls clubs offer mental health counseling


Boys and Girls Clubs of Southern Nevada is using their after-school programs to help children in a new way: group therapy.

Group therapy was launched at clubs in the Las Vegas Valley last month as part of a new program to guide children and their families to healthier emotional well-being. The association also offers individual and family counseling, which has been going on for about two years.

Group therapy focuses on developing socio-emotional learning skills to prevent future incidents of mental health symptoms, said Alma Spears, senior vice president of family counseling and counseling for the association. These include how to deal with anger, how to recognize emotional triggers, and how to prevent thoughts from becoming bad behavior.

Children are grouped by age in clubs across the valley and group therapy can serve as a screening for further individual counseling.

Clubs “broke into” counseling services about two years ago, CEO Andy Bischel said. Management looked for a way to use Spears’ newly obtained mastery and found that the Department of Health and Human Services wanted to support more youth mental health services that can help solve the common transportation problem.

“Transportation is the biggest challenge because for a working family; how do they regularly bring the child to the meeting? Said Bischel. “They can get them maybe once or twice, but it’s the consistency that is really important. If we bring in the counselors, we take it out because we have the kids in the clubs. “

There are no out-of-pocket expenses for any of the therapy levels for families with Medicaid or without insurance. Families with private insurance are not yet accepted, although the organization plans to add it as it expands services over the next few years.

Services could help fill a gap that young people perceive themselves. A spring 2021 survey of 13 to 24 year olds in Las Vegas found cost and lack of awareness of where to turn were the biggest barriers to accessing mental health resources. The Born This Way Foundation and Benenson Strategy Group study found that 60% of young respondents felt anxious in the past month, up from 46% in 2019.

Bischel views the therapy offers as preventative measures to deal with these feelings. While many children may not need these services, reaching the most vulnerable will put them on the path to graduation and a positive future afterward.

“How to bring them to resilience? ” he said. “Typically what happens if you are not resilient, (is) you succumb to drugs, alcohol, any criminal activity, that stuff, that can totally derail your whole life. So it was really about how to be proactive in keeping kids out of the future safety net or out of the criminal system. “

“It’s not a luxury”

The extra service left some families at the Boys and Girls Club feeling like a deal “almost too good to be true,” Spears said.

“I think for most families the change is very different and scary for them,” she said. “But I just want them to know it’s not a luxury, it’s something they have access to. And just tell them that if they trust the process, they will see the change. “

Counseling in the clubs has helped Marcela Corrales and her 11 year old son. Corrales first placed his son on the club’s individual board in 2019, when he showed aggressive behavior and depression. Corrales wanted to break a pattern of aggression in his family, so she took him to consult with Spears and noticed changes after the second session.

“He started coming home after the sessions and talking about what he had learned and practicing it,” Corrales said through a Spanish translator.

The two also took family counseling, learning to open up to each other and go through times of anger. His son said he felt relieved to know that people were helping him with his problems. Their families now meditate together and can better problem-solve in difficult situations.

“When I got angry I would count from one to ten, then inhale and exhale, then I felt a lot calmer,” he said.

McKenna Ross is a member of the body of Report for America, a national service program that places reporters in local newsrooms. Contact her at [email protected]. To follow @mckenna_ross_ on Twitter.


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