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Family all aboard with Katie

February 22, 2010

Katie’s a much nicer person to be around now.

She’s on track to finish high school and realize her goal of service by enlisting in the Navy.

The path to achieve her dreams wasn’t always so clear. This Greensboro-area 16-year-old had outbursts of anger toward her family. Her personal life suffered. She began abusing drugs and alcohol.

Katie (Greensboro, NC)

Katie’s mother had been involved in several abusive relationships, and Katie was also physically abused. She began regularly using substances and harming herself to cope with her feelings of anger and depression.

She didn’t react well when she heard a Youth Villages counselor was coming to visit.

“I was mad,” Katie said. “I yelled at my mom because she didn’t tell me the counselor was coming ahead of time. I went to my room and refused to talk to her.”
But things got better.

“Early on, we established safety plans and ways to create more structure in the home,” said Sierra Kehoe, Youth Villages family counselor. “We set limits and developed a behavior contract, utilizing rewards and consequences.”

Katie’s mom increased her communication with Katie’s teachers at school and was able to address Katie’s poor school performance and defiance toward teachers. More importantly, Kehoe addressed the family’s interactions with one another.

“We identified how they were pushing each other’s buttons,” Kehoe said. “We examined their communication with one another and the effects it had. Through structured communication exercises, we were able to change that dynamic in the home.”

At school, teachers began taking Katie out of class to discuss her behavior and what prompted it instead of dismissing her with in-school suspension. She learned that her choices have consequences and, by examining them, was able to improve her decision-making skills.

And Katie began to change.

“It worked for us,” Katie said. “I could tell a difference after a few months. Now I know to stop and think before I react when someone makes me angry. I walk away instead of getting in trouble.”

Her grades have improved. Katie’s helping out around the house. She’s better equipped to productively cope with events that previously triggered angry outbursts.

Multisystemic Therapy is the treatment approach Youth Villages North Carolina provides to help children and families in their own homes and communities.

MST counselors provide intensive help for families, meeting in the home at least three times each week and providing 24-hour, on-call support.

“It surprised me how committed my counselor and family were to the program,” Katie said. “To someone else beginning the program, I would say, ‘Listen to what the counselor has to say and try it. It will work.’”

Mom also has more tools. “We are getting closer to being what a family should be,” she said. “Katie hasn’t lost her attitude and confidence, but she is able to apply it in a constructive way.”

Katie’s getting back on track to achieve her goals, and she has the support of her family to help her get there.

“I see her finishing school, going into the Navy and making something of herself,” mom said.

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