Steven’s Story

Dec 18, 2011 | Intensive Community Treatment & Support

At eight years old, Steven was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Because he had been removed from his parent’s home, his grandparents served as his legal guardians. He was referred to Family Solutions for treatment after his behavioral outbursts earned him multiple suspensions from public school. Emotionally out of balance, Steven had difficulty interacting with other children. It was hard for him to overcome his shyness and engage in conversation with kids he didn’t know. Sometimes the other kids mocked Steven, and he got angry and acted out by yelling or hitting. He didn’t know how to manage his intense emotions.

After extensive outpatient therapy from our master’s level therapists as well as wraparound services for him and his family, Steven was referred to our Intensive Community Treatment & Support (ICTS) Program. Now 10 years old, he was paired with Sarah, one of our skills trainers. She worked with Steven in his home and at school. On the playground during recess, Sarah encouraged him to initiate conversations with the other kids. She modeled how to engage in conversation, coaching Steven to look for and talk about the interests, activities, and hobbies he had in common with them. Steven gradually overcame his fear and anxiety, and he started feeling more comfortable interacting with his peers. He also developed confidence and self-esteem with his improved social skills.

In addition to helping Steven develop his skills, Sarah taught him how to control his emotions. She demonstrated anger management strategies and techniques for coping with stress. Sarah showed him how to use deep-breathing exercises to get his anger under control more quickly. Steven also learned how to remove himself from potentially difficult situations when triggered. These actions included taking space, performing sensory integration exercises, and verbalizing his frustrations. This helped Steven realize that just talking about a problem can help resolve it.

To inspire Steven to practice his new skills, his grandma got him a new dog. Steven was elated. He’d never had a dog in his home before, let alone a dog of his very own. Grandma and Steven enrolled in a dog training class (or “People Training Class,” as their teacher called it) that had been arranged by Sarah. Both Steven and his grandma learned how to teach the dog to behave safely and follow directions. Stephen was now teaching positive social skills. Showing his dog how to behave properly was exactly the reinforcement Steven needed to understand how to manage his own behavior. This, too, boosted his self-esteem.

Over the past six months, with the help of individual therapy and the rest of the treatment team, Steven has continued to improve considerably. He is more confident, socially engaged and capable of managing intense emotions. Steven now maintains independently in public school and is on track to attend middle school.

Photo by Rory N. Finney and used for illustration purposes only. Client and counselor names have been changed to protect the subject’s anonymity.

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