How to combat the mental health crisis among teens is a topic the occupational therapists and mental health professionals at Zier Institute and Amy Zier + Associates have discussed for years. Fast forward to COVID-19 and “post” pandemic lives, there is a heightened demand for mental health services for teens and young adults.
A quick Google search of “teen mental health” results in an array of articles, websites, and statistics that will scare any parent of a teen or young adult who is struggling to fit in, make friends, or experience anxiety and depression. Truthfully, there are things to be concerned about, and we’d be sugarcoating it to say otherwise.
Are social media and the digital age causing more harm than good? That’s a valid question, one without an easy answer. Why do teens and young adults feel lonely and lost when it is easier than ever to “connect”?
Here’s the good news! Our team of occupational therapists and psychotherapists designed Zier Institute and AZ+A’s Beam Program for Teens and Young Adults to help overcome the mental health challenges experienced in today’s contemporary climate. That’s right; this isn’t regurgitated therapy methods and materials from decades past. We tackle today’s topics in real time, and our participants discover their best selves – young men and women who are confident, joyful and self-aware.
Beam is a multi-week program that looks different for every participant because everyone has different needs. The core program includes questionnaires, journaling, exercises, self-reflection, and discussions, but we engage the teens and young adults on their preferences. We meet each individual where they are at and help them build tools to become capable of building and maintaining strong relationships.
Let’s hear from the pioneers of the Beam Program. First up, Larry Zier:
“The BEAM program provides a space for teenagers to explore their reactions to life, parents, peers, and school….without judgment and conditions. If we can create a space where the young adult’s nervous system can feel safe and secure – connection will emerge. Often this happens simply during the funny, painful, silly things happening at school and with friends.
It takes some time to get to the third level of relational development. The teenage walls of protection are high, for their system is preparing to move out into the world without the loving, helpful support of the family system. But once security is established and trust develops in non-judgmental connections, problem-solving and vulnerability flow. This is where the magic happens; learning, self-reflection, asking for help, saying ‘I don’t know’ – those parts of us that make us human, maskless, humble – open.
One of the unique aspects of the BEAM program is that we share these tools with parents and caregivers as well. The feedback from many parents is that they wish they would have learned the skills when they first became parents or even before.” Larry Zier, OTD, OTR/L
Next, a few words from Beam therapist Stephanie Young:
“I have walked countless teenagers, young adults, and young professionals through the BEAM program, and I can confidently state each has left with a better understanding of who they are and want to become. I love watching the “lightbulb” go off when individuals realize they have the autonomy and confidence to be themselves while navigating decisions, relationships, academics and emotions.
BEAM is an opportunity for building relationships around shared experiences and equipping individuals with skills for resiliency, self-awareness, and courage.” Stephanie Young OTD, OTR/L