New mental health program for teens offered in Seattle



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Posted on April 17, 2010 at 12:06 PM

Updated Saturday, Apr 17 at 12:06 PM

Twenty-one-year-old "Betsy" says the loss of her mother, and other family issues, left her overwhelmed as a teen.

"It caused a lot of depression and I never grieved," she said.

Instead, she medicated herself with drugs.

"When I was 18 I had a college scholarship and I was going to college and then I dropped out because of using," she said.

She cycled through treatments and relapses. And though she's more hopeful today, she feels the lost years.

"I wasn't getting any younger, you know, and I lost everything over and over again and I kept thinking I was hitting rock bottom," she said.

Dr. Susan Caverly has treated young people like Betsy for years. Now she hopes a new research based program will offer them a turning point much sooner.

"The Encompass Program is directed primarily towards kids that have co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders," she said.

She says that's potentially a whopping 80 percent of teens who do drugs or drink.

Today, care is fragmented, into chemical dependency and mental health visits.

"It's a scheduling nightmare if you're a parent who's already worried about how you're going to keep track of your kid," said Dr. Caverly.

There's another drawback. Their new peers become teens in group therapy, while old friendships are lost.

"The other kids have all moved on. They've done their track, and football season is over," said Dr. Caverly.

Dr. Caverly calls the 16-week Encompass program one-stop shopping.  A cognitive behavioral therapist and a psychiatric specialist coordinate care.  Antidepressants may be prescribed.

Teens must choose a positive activity like yoga or horseback riding, and they're monitored for substance use, but with a twist. They can win prizes just for participating.

In a study, 50 to 60 percent of teens were still sober a year after they completed the Encompass program.

"Outrageously better than anything that we've got here to date," said Dr. Caverly.

It provides new hope for Betsy, who has just enrolled.   

"I was telling somebody last night I'm OK today with where I'm at, and I haven't felt like that in a long time," she said.

Seattle is the first place in the country to offer Encompass, the new mental health program for teens. The Encompass staff is hoping to sign up 40 patients ages 13 to 25.

More information

Encompass program

SAMA Foundation