New mental health program helps teens get back on track


by Jean Enersen

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Posted on June 18, 2011 at 10:00 AM

Updated Thursday, Jun 23 at 8:01 PM

Brothers Mike and Trevor Dolan have a dream as they work out together at Sculptor Fitness gym near Redmond.

"Our lifting weights at this other gym has become such a passion that we both share the want to open our own gym one day," Trevor revealed.

Teamwork has transformed the brothers who work out often together, spotting and encouraging each other. But as Mike explained, it took a bigger team to help them do what they needed most, to turn their lives around.

"I got myself into a horrible situation with drinking," Mike said.

His younger brother Trevor had followed his lead.

"We do everything together. And we you know, we kinda started to slip in the same way," recalled Trevor.

At their mother's urging, Mike was the first to step up to change. He enrolled in a program called ENCOMPASS, at Therapeutic Health Services, a non profit center in Seattle. THS offers treatment for individuals affected by chemical and alcohol dependency and mental illness. ENCOMPASS is their newest program, offering teens and young adults a team based approach that treats both substance abuse and mental health issues. It is patterned after research conducted at the University of Colorado.

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Susan Caverly, who directs the program, said Seattle is the first place in the nation to offer it outside of a research setting. She said staff here was eager to put ENCOMPASS into place.

"The research has shown that this approach is kind of knocking it out of the ballpark," Caverly said.

The program has been life changing say the Dolans.

"The month before I came in here was like one of the most stressful months. I thought I was going to go to jail," Mike said.

Trevor joined ENCOMPASS when he saw the changes in his brother Mike. He allowed us to follow him in a session with his Cognitive Behavioral Therapist, Chris Chandler. Teens go through 16 weeks of the therapy.

"I'll give you a worksheet that we can kind of go over together and talk about kind of different ways to cope with your anger," Chandler coached Dolan at their session.

The two talked over a number of options for Trevor when he is feeling angry.

"Chill, relax, take a time out. But the important thing is to be bringing yourself back to skills that we've gone over," Chandler reminded him.

The next stop was a drawning from a prize cabinet.  Participants in the ENCOMPASS program must go through weekly urine tests to monitor sobriety. But the reward, a drawing for prizes, breaks the tension.  It's a favorite with teens.

Caverly explained how the prize cabinet drawings provide an important incentive for teens.

"What we use the fishbowl drawing for is to increase the likelihood that someone is going to come into the program and have a positive attitude," Caverly said.

Teens see a psychiatrist as part of their evaluation and treatment, to manage mental health issues such as depression or anxiety. When appropriate, they may be prescribed antidepressants or other medications.

"In our experience the preponderance of kids who are using substances also have concurrent mental health problems. If we don't treat those mental health problems those kids are far more at risk of not succeeding in their sobriety," explained Caverly.

There's another important element of the ENCOMPASS program; teens must commit to an activity. It's what brought Trevor back to his passion, track and field. He was a top ten competitor at the district level this year in discus.

As he looks back over the past few months, and his decision to follow his brother Mike into treatment, Trevor said this time he's grateful for his older brother's lead.

"He saw it in me to kind of bring myself back to life," said Trevor.

"The Dolan brothers are just two of the success stories to come out of the program its first year. Caverly said more than 80% of teens who started it, have stuck with it all the way.