Empowering Young Adults with a Strengths-Based ApproachReading Time: 4 minutes
Strengths-based programming is founded on the belief that each person, no matter their challenges, has unique strengths that can support them throughout their life.
All too often, our culture prompts adolescents and young adults to focus on their failures rather than their successes. Well-meaning parents, teachers, clinicians, and other helpers and mentors tend to focus on what’s going wrong in a young person’s life rather than encouraging them to explore their unique gifts. As a result, a young person’s strengths and talents can be eclipsed by the shadow of their perceived shortcomings.
All too often, our culture prompts adolescents and young adults to focus on their failures rather than their successes. Well-meaning parents, teachers, clinicians, and other helpers and mentors tend to focus on what’s going wrong in a young person’s life rather than encouraging them to explore their unique gifts.
Over time, this dynamic can lead to burnout, frustration, and a lack of motivation. This is often especially true for emerging adults who struggle with mental health or substance use issues. This fixation on dysfunction creates a cycle of negative feedback that robs individuals of self-esteem and self-determination. When this happens, it becomes that much harder for young people to set and achieve the short- and long-term goals that will foster lasting change.
With roots in positive psychology and solution-focused therapy, a strengths-based approach is designed to interrupt that cycle by empowering young adults to reframe the way they view themselves and shift the focus back to what they do well. At Newport Institute, strengths-based programming is a hallmark of our therapeutic approach, and it shapes every aspect of care—from the moment a young adult begins the intake process until they begin the transition back to their home and community.
Strengths Shape the Treatment Planning Process
Patients often come to Newport Institute feeling discouraged and disempowered, suffering from the damaging effects of trauma, unhealed attachment wounds, mental illness, and substance abuse. They’ve become accustomed to constant reminders of their failures and unfavorable comparisons to their peers. Many are unable to effectively self-regulate due to the damaged synapses and heightened cortisol levels brought on by chronic stress.
Our goal is to guide these patients to sustainable healing through a whole-person approach that addresses their mental, emotional, physical, relational, and spiritual needs. As part of that approach, we use a strengths-based perspective to shape the treatment planning process.
At intake, our team utilizes assessment tools designed to uncover each patient’s unique interests, aptitudes, and talents. Informed by these valuable insights, our team builds an individualized treatment plan consisting of therapeutic, educational, and life skills modalities. The patient’s strengths are incorporated into each aspect of their experience, including aftercare planning.
Know the Facts
A research review examining the efficacy of strengths-based interventions in mental healthcare found that this approach improves hospitalization rates, employment/educational attainment, and qualities such as self-efficacy and a sense of hope.
Welcome to the Learning Lab
Many clinicians utilize a strengths-based perspective when conducting individual and group therapy sessions. A strengths-based approach complements evidence-based clinical modalities such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). At Newport Institute, however, we also use a strengths-based approach in our young adult education and life skills programming.
As patients begin to process underlying psychological issues with their individual therapist, they also practice relevant coping skills and goal-setting work in our Learning Lab. Academic advancement and career planning take place here, as in a typical classroom. But, in addition, young adults work with coaches and tutors who offer guidance and immediate feedback as patients put what they’re learning in treatment into action. It is a safe space where patients can hone critical life, communication, and social skills; build autonomy and executive functioning; process setbacks; and navigate stressors.
Young people experience what it’s like to be uplifted by their team and their peers, and how different that may feel from what they’re used to. Coaches and teachers, who bring specialized degrees in the field, find ways to celebrate every milestone, no matter how seemingly small, so that patients can begin to see themselves in a different light.
An Integrative Approach to the Healing Journey
An integrative, strengths-based approach to treatment includes guiding young people to look toward the future through the lens of their personal qualities, talents, and passions.
With the support of coaches, young adults explore big-picture questions, such as:
- Who will I rely on to support me after treatment?
- What choices did I make today that will help me meet my goal?
- What type of environment will set me up for success?
- What type of job will allow me to utilize my gifts and strengths?
- How could I have handled that scenario differently?
- What small objective can I set today that will help me meet my bigger goal?
Ultimately, a strengths-based approach helps young people develop the self-efficacy and independence they need to be successful long after their time in treatment comes to an end. Whether they are returning to high school or college, or entering a sober living facility or the workplace, young adults can set a course for the next stage of their journey through identifying, honoring, and learning to utilize their unique strengths.