Wonderment Therapies partners with Best Friends Mentoring to provide mental health training to at-risk youth – The Dickinson Press

DICKINSON — A youth at risk is a minor who is less likely to make a successful transition to adulthood because of their psychological or environmental circumstances. On the Western Edge, there are two local programs that have joined forces to combine their efforts as they seek to create more positive change for at-risk youth in southwestern North Dakota.

Best Friends Mentoring Program and Wonderment Therapies have partnered to provide training and education to their mentors and mentees to increase awareness and understanding of what to look for in children and teens with developmental issues. Mental Health.

The Best Friends mentorship program had been considering a mental health assessment since the fall of 2021 and through research, they discovered that Wonderment Therapies specializes in child psychology.

“I just think the sky’s the limit…I don’t know what might develop, but I only see good things happening,” said Angie Rabbitt, executive director of the Best Friends mentorship program. “It’s so necessary and…we have this gap here. We don’t have the resources here that we could use and I hope that raises awareness of the issues. I hope this early intervention is a solution…I don’t even know if we know until we start peeling away those layers.

Since last week, Wonderment Therapies has conducted staff training and selected a screening tool to help identify underlying mental health issues among young people in this area. The goal will be to train all mentors and new mentors on what they should be looking for with their mentees.

“…I’ve seen more and more reports as they come back into the school year, being face to face 100% of the time (and) just seeing a drastic increase in reports of bullying, self- even confidence has gone down a lot, kids have become isolated. It’s a wide range,” said Katelyn Nguyen of Best Friends, who is an AmeriCorps/VISTA member. “Parents are also starting to get to the point of be a bit desperate, asking, ‘Do you have services? What can you do? Even if they already have this mentoring relationship, it’s much more difficult. So we try to identify, so that we can help alleviate some of that.

The Best Friends Mentoring Program is a Dickinson-based organization that provides mentors to communities in Stark County and other southwestern North Dakota counties. The program also extends its services in schools to young people aged 6 to 16, but has teenagers who seek help throughout high school. The volunteers range in age from 16 to 80 and are always looking for more, Nguyen said.

“Most of our mentors are actually volunteers. Honestly, we’re just looking for people who want to make a difference, who actually want to have a positive interaction with young people, which is mainly our criteria. Obviously we do background checks and other security checks to make sure the kids are safe because that’s our number 1 priority. So it’s really easy to be a mentor,” he said. -she adds.

Wonderment Therapies was started in 2019 by Jenna Weisz when she decided to start her own mental health practice, providing occupational therapy services to children and adolescents while applying behavior analysis services.

Left to right, Best Friends Mentorship Program Executive Director Angie Rabbitt and Katelyn Nguyen visit Kacey Sykora, Erin McCurry and Jenna Weisz of Wonderment Therapies on Monday, March 21, 2022 at Wonderment Therapies, located in downtown Dickinson.

Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press

“We see the effects of COVID, we see the effects of social media and the news and … how it’s played on their own mental health,” Weisz said, adding that human beings aren’t used to isolation.

Erin McCurry, who joined Wonderment Therapies in June 2021, sees this partnership as something crucial.

“I think people don’t always know where to go to find services and Best Friends was already a program that was in town (and) implemented,” McCurry noted. “We already have some of these kids falling through the cracks across the spectrum and so this was a great opportunity to step in, pair up and see how we can serve better. Nor should they be children falling through the cracks; it can be any child. Mental health services are ridiculously hard to come by in this city and so any way we can serve that is a plus.

Although not specifically certified in psychology, within the field of occupational therapy there is a discipline for understanding how to look at the individual as a whole as well as their family and identify where the underlying issues lie, Weisz noted.

McCurry added that training can mean different things to each individual, such as teaching coping tools, regulating emotions, and more.

“A big part of what we do in this office, which is a little different from other clinics in the city, is we see a lot of kids who have behavioral health issues, whether it’s from ADHD, a trauma, anxiety, depression, autism. … All the therapists that work in this office, that’s our heartbeat, basically,” McCurry said. “And we all ended up together by the grace of God and that’s what we ran with…It’s not just about treating the child, but also the family (and) the siblings – in teaching them to interact together.”

While some might argue that bullying has always been a problem, bullying doesn’t stop once you get off the school bus, McCurry said. These days, technology and social media have created unbroken bullying territory.

“It’s 24/7 for these kids. They just can’t walk away from it, which obviously has an even bigger impact on their lives,” she said.

For more information on these services, visit wondermenttherapies.com or bestfriendsnd.org.

Comments are closed.