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Researchers adapt successful strengths-based mental health recovery model for adolescents

Friday, January 15, 2016

LAWRENCE — Researchers at the University of Kansas have adapted a promising adult case management practice for use with adolescents. Early results show the Strengths Model, a recovery-oriented case management practice that focuses on individual strengths, is not only having a positive effect on young people, it is helping the case managers who implement it as well.

The Strengths Model was developed by the Center for Mental Health Research and Innovation in KU’s School of Social Welfare in the 1980s and has become widely used in the field of adult mental health services. The model, which empowers individuals to focus on their strengths and set goals for recovery instead of fixating on a problem or diagnosis, had not been utilized for young people. In 2013, the School of Social Welfare’s Center for Children and Families received funding from the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services to adapt the model for use with adolescents with mental illness and implement it as part of a pilot study.

Amy Mendenhall, associate professor of social welfare and director of the Center for Children and Families, and Whitney Grube, project coordinator and doctoral student, began the adaptation process by working with case managers, adolescents and their families receiving services at the Johnson County Mental Health Center. Case managers helped steer the design of how the model would differ for adolescents by sharing how their processes work and how they could improve.

“This model was developed, trained, learned and implemented ‘on the ground’ on a cooperative basis with individuals in the community,” Mendenhall said. “Whitney has been working closely with case managers, service providers and families on a weekly basis to help put it in place.”

The researchers took baseline levels for youth at the center receiving services and then collected monthly outcomes to track progress. They measured school performance and attendance, socialization in school and other settings, family case manager contact and supported relationships. Initial results show the strengths model may have a clear positive effect for the youth as their social and academic performance levels especially trended upward.

Researchers said the adolescents who took part in the pilot study regularly reported satisfaction with the model as mental health treatment often does not focus on goals of interest to the young people. While the standard was to focus on a diagnosis or correcting a problem, youth in the Strengths Model were able to set their own goals, focus on their strengths and what they do well as part of recovery. Like the adult model, the newly implemented version for adolescents provides a recovery-oriented philosophy and tools to help people set meaningful life goals while drawing on personal and environmental strengths to achieve them.

“Ordinarily, the focus in mental health treatment is: ‘You have all of these bad things happening your life, or you are dealing with these symptoms, and we need to fix them,’” Mendenhall said. “The Strengths Model flips this and says, ‘What would make your life more fulfilling? What are the positive things you have going for you that will help you meet your goals?’ Then we let those things guide treatment.”

The young people are not the only ones who have responded positively to the Strengths Model. Case managers reported positive outcomes after implementing the model as well. Researchers measured their secondary traumatic stress, burnout, case satisfaction and compassion satisfaction. After six months of using the model, managers reported a decline in their burnout and stress levels while reporting increases in their compassion satisfaction.

“In social services there is a lot of turnover, and it’s largely related to burnout,” Mendenhall said. “Before we developed the model, we heard a lot of people say in the focus groups, ‘We’re not case managers, we’re crisis managers, always responding to emergencies.’ We thought if we were able to give them an actual model with tools for providing case management, then we would see benefits for the case workers as well. They would be less stressed and feel more successful in their work.”

The Strengths Model has also helped reduce stress and improve efficiency for case managers by providing a new format for staffing and meeting among colleagues. Managers have reported case meetings have changed from a time of venting frustrations to brainstorming ideas and providing support.

“The case managers have responded really well to the format, and they’ve reported the kids are excited about it, because it’s their own voice and they are setting their own goals,” Grube said.

Researchers have taken lessons from the first two years of the pilot project and used it to help the model evolve. They are now in the process of implementing it with a second case management team at Johnson County Mental Health Center and plan to add two more pilot locations in the next year. The hope is to follow a similar path to that of the adult Strengths Model. After its formation at KU it steadily was expanded as the standard approach across the state and has been implemented in other states and countries.

“The model is not just something locally unique that would only work in Kansas,” Mendenhall said. “We think it could have widespread success. We’ve also talked about how this model could be adapted for use in other youth systems like child welfare and delinquency.”


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Museum Events

Approaches to Teaching and Learning African American History
Thursday, January 18 | 1 p.m.-3 p.m.
The Commons, Spooner Hall, University of Kansas campus
This session will engage a variety of texts and academic disciplines and will benefit instructors teaching the 2017-18 KU Common Book, Citizen: An American Lyric. Please RSVP to firstyear@ku.edu.

Public Lecture: Representations of African American History in U.S. Politics and Popular Culture
Thursday, January 18 | 7 p.m.-8:30 p.m.
Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vermont St.
Free and open to the public. Dr. Pero Dagbovie will speak on representations of African American history in U.S. politics and popular culture as part of the Langston Hughes Center Diverse Dialogues on Race and Culture series.

What's in a Frame?
Friday, January 19 | Noon-1 p.m.
Spencer Museum of Art, Dolph Simons Family Gallery, 316
1301 Mississippi St.
Join resident frame specialist and exhibition technician Dan Coester to learn how frames both protect paintings and shape our experiences with works of art. This behind-the-frames discussion focuses on significant restoration work completed for paintings on view in Civic Leader and Art Collector: Sallie Casey Thayer and an Art Museum for KU and includes examples of the restoration process and frames awaiting treatment.

Art Cart: Painted Fans
Saturday, January 20 | 1 p.m.-4 p.m.
Spencer Museum of Art, Sam and Connie Perkins Central Court, 317
1301 Mississippi St.
The Art Cart is a drop-in activity station where children and grown-ups enjoy hands-on art projects together, taking inspiration from original works of art. After traveling the world, Sallie Casey Thayer donated her collection of objects to KU to form what is now the Spencer Museum of Art. Learn about Mrs. Thayer and create a painted folding fan to start your own collection.

Slow Art Sunday: Steel Wool Peignoir
Sunday, January 21 | 2 p.m.-3 p.m.
Spencer Museum of Art, Kemper Family Foundations Balcony, 408
1301 Mississippi St.
Slow down at the Spencer and spend time getting to know one great work of art. Slow Art Sunday features one work for visitors to contemplate and converse about with Museum staff. In January, get to know Steel Wool Peignoir by Mimi Smith.

Science on Tap: The Cambrian: More than just Trilobites
Wednesday, January 24 | 7:30 p.m.
Free State Brewing Co., 636 Massachusetts St.
The Cambrian is a time in Earth’s history when many modern animal relatives make their first appearance. It is also a time when many bizarre animals without modern relatives appear in the fossil record. At this Science on Tap, Dr. Julien Kimmig will talk about the diversity of animals during this amazing period and what it can teach us about the future of life on earth. 

Career Close-ups: Developing a Career in the Museum World
Friday, January 26 | 2 p.m.-4 p.m.
Spencer Museum of Art, Auditorium 309
1301 Mississippi St.
Undergraduate and graduate students are invited to explore how any major can lead to a career in a cultural organization. A panel of museum professionals will share their experiences, followed by a networking reception and behind-the-scenes tours of KU’s museums. This year’s panelists include: Dina Bennett (Mulvane Art Museum, Washburn University), Glenn North (Black Archives of Mid-America), and Adrianne Russell (Cabinet of Curiosities). Advance registration is required at www.spencerart.ku.edu/career-closeups. Please register by January 24. Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/events/476618689399321/
Sponsored by the Spencer Museum of Art, KU Natural History Museum, University Career Center, and the Museum Studies Program.

Final Friday: Community and Culture Closing Celebration
Friday, January 26 | 6 p.m.-7:30 p.m.
Watkins Museum of History, 1047 Massachusetts St.
The Watkins, in partnership with the Max Kade Center and the Lawrence Opera Theatre, present an evening of 19th-century German-American music and cuisine.

Discovery Day: Celebrating Kansas
Sunday, January 28 | 1 p.m.-3 p.m.
KU Natural History Museum, 1345 Jayhawk Blvd.
In honor of Kansas Day, join us for hands-on activities that are all about Kansas wildlife, plants and fossils. 

Kenneth A. Spencer Lecture: An Evening with Eve L. Ewing: Poetry in Context
Wednesday, January 31 | 7 p.m.-8:30 p.m.
Liberty Hall, 644 Massachusetts St.
Eve L. Ewing is a sociologist, poet, essayist, artist, and educator whose research focuses on racism, social inequality, urban policy, and the impact of these forces on American public schools and the lives of young people. Dr. Ewing earned a Ph.D. from Harvard University and is recognized as a leader and social influencer, especially in conversations involving academia, writing, black women, and the intersection of politics and popular culture. Sponsored by The Commons.

University in the Art Museum for Graduate Students
Thursday, February 1 | 3 p.m.-4:30 p.m.
Spencer Museum of Art, 1301 Mississippi St.
University in the Art Museum introduces graduate students to opportunities for object-based teaching, learning, and research through collaborative partnerships with the Spencer Museum of Art. This workshop includes discussions led by graduate students in the departments of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; Geography; and Atmospheric Science. Advance registration is required by Monday, January 29. Register online at https://spencerart.ku.edu/uam.

Extraordinary Animals: Awesome Adaptations
Sunday, February 4 | 1 p.m.-3 p.m.
KU Natural History Museum, 1345 Jayhawk Blvd.
At this new monthly animal event, parents and children are invited to learn about animals of Kansas. Museum Animal Specialist Ashley Welton will offer presentations about animal adaptations using touchable specimens from the museums collections at 1:15, 1:45 and 2:15 pm. 

FeBREWary at the Watkins
Thursday, February 15 | 6 p.m.-9 p.m.
Watkins Museum of History, 1047 Massachusetts St.
The Watkins, in partnership with Lawrence Beer Co., presents an evening of beer, food, and knowledge! Enjoy beer and a fascinating talk on brewing provided by Lawrence Beer Co., plus food from local restaurants and an informal museum tour. Tickets are $15 for DCHS members, $20 for non-members. You may sign up online or contact the museum at 785-841-4109. We recommend buying in advance. Ages 21 and over only, please. More information and registration.

Winter Table: An Evening of Herpetology
Wednesday, February 28 | 6:30 p.m.
KU Natural History Museum, 1345 Jayhawk Blvd.
A celebration of more than 100 years of KU herpetology research programs and the careers of Linda Trueb and Bill Duellman. Explore the Natural History Museum's reptile and amphibian collections and enjoy appetizers and drinks. Dine in the Panorama Gallery with KU herpetology scientists and students conducting reptile and amphibian research across the globe. 

6:30 pm: appetizers, drinks and science salon
7:00 pm: dinner and program
$50 per person 

Reserve your space now at the 2018 Winter Table by ordering tickets online. Tickets are $50 per person. You may also call 785-864-4450 to purchase by phone or you may purchase tickets at the museum lobby during business hours. Questions? Contact biodiversity@ku.edu or 785-864-4450.

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