[By Heidi Grove, Regis University graduate of the MA in Counseling Program, co-founder of The Youth Connection.] When thinking of pursuing a Master of Arts in Counseling degree, most assume that you will commit your career to becoming a Therapist. However, most do not realize the plethora of expansive opportunities that one can purse with such an education.
The education Regis University provided in the counseling field allowed me and two other individuals to pursue our advocacy careers through the knowledge and skillsets obtained in the MA in Counseling Program, which resulted in the launch of a new nonprofit that works with disconnected youth in Denver called The Youth Connection (TYC).
One of the most valuable areas of youth engagement that we have instituted in our philosophical approach and practical application is the creation of healthy, trust-based relationships with a population that is for the most part is extremely difficult to reach.
Similar to the field of Counseling, the established relationship with your client is essential to creating a safe, healthy and concrete environment for change and growth to occur. Understanding this philosophy and incorporating this approach is an essential component of every program we have created.
Many youth that TYC works with have experienced high levels of trauma and struggle with healthy attachments. Understanding the impacts these factors have on the healthy development into adulthood allows TYC staff to not only engage young people to meet them where they are at in their life experiences, but it also creates a basis for understanding the barriers in which these youth face.
Recent research, conducted by Daniel Siegel, M.D., a clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine a co-investigator at the Center for Culture, Brain, and Development and a co-director of the Mindful Awareness Research Center, has shown that individuals exposed to high levels of trauma and unhealthy relationships actually experience a change in the way their brain patterns process incoming data, thus altering the physical landscape of the brain. However, the introduction of new, positive and healthy stimuli (such as a healthy adult relationship) can return the brain landscape to a more healthy and productive process, thus allowing them to learn from positive experiences and teaching them how to build long lasting healthy relationships in the future.
This component of theoretical approach is but one of the approaches been actively incorporated via the education Regis University provided, which supports the process in which TYC engages young people within the Denver Metropolitan area, as we will share in subsequent posts.
Through the education of theoretical orientation, support of professors/staff and community experience, I was able to learn and fine-tune the skills necessary to harness such a powerful approach. After all, how can you ask someone to expand their worlds if they can’t trust that you understand their needs and have their growth at the forefront of all you do?
Heidi Grove began her work in the advocacy field in 1998 when she worked at a local not-for-profit agency in Denver, which provides affordable services for Substance Abuse Treatment. From 2001 to 2008, Grove worked with Gang, Urban and Homeless youth; has presented research findings on youth populations at Local, State, National and International Conferences and her findings have been published in academic journals. In September of 2008, Mrs. Grove independently published her first book, which is a curriculum based intervention for Gang Involved youth. She received a Master of Arts in Counseling from Regis University and was nominated and awarded Regis University’s most prestigious Social Justice Award. Since graduation, Heidi Grove became the co-found of the nonprofit, The Youth Connection, supporting and caring for at-risk youth in Denver. She is currently a member of Chi Sigma Iota International Honors Society, and is a participant of multiple state and local committees that address: Juvenile justice, policy reform, and research.