What is effective Youth Engagement? Clinical? Community? Both?

I never thought….

I never thought that I would be working with children and youth in a clinical sense. In the past few years, I have been turned off by the word clinical. I think the word has a ‘cold’ meaning. Usually it is a front line worker who provides services and counselling from their desk and the youth or the whole family comes sees the therapist. In a way, its hierarchical, it limits accessibility, and it really limits realness in the therapist. Does it really do an effective job in engaging and building relational care to our children and youth?

Have we moved past this model? Should we move past this model?

After I worked for a children’s mental health agency about a year in a half ago, I got a job as a Community Outreach Worker at a community-based agency for 1 year (covering my friend’s mat leave). Although, I did more group programming and community gatherings, I felt like I knew the young person in their natural setting. I started to feel like I knew the young person as a whole. I did not feel pressure to write down formally what I saw or heard. Conversations pass…

I never thought…

I would go back to a job that would require me to write about everything I see and hear. However, what I need to wrap my head around is that part of the engagement process is also understanding what the young person needs to change or modify their current situation. How do we do this without writing and recording?

.. we see and hear so many young people each day…


8 thoughts on “What is effective Youth Engagement? Clinical? Community? Both?

  1. I endorse both the clinical and community aspect of it. However i find that many ahencies have certain areas they focus on. ..so if an agency’s focus is clinical for e.g. they tend to even over saturate the community portion of engagement with clinical eyes.
    If the angency’s strength and focus is more community..meeting the youth on their terms…i find that they tend to under use the clinical engagemtn portion. Its a cache22.

    Me personally, i respect BOTH aspects of it. However….however..i totally and absolutely think that community is the strength for without connecting and engaging on that level..clinical is almosttt always useless. No genuine clinical relationship can be built without hugging the community portion.


  2. Effective youth engagement imo means removing yourself from the pedastal of praxtionner…helper…saver…and coming down down down to the level of EQUAL Human beings.

    I always tell youth….we alll have our struggles..it just a stroke of luck that i have the privelege of knowing all of yours. You dont know mines. We are humans trying to make it in this life.

    The youth respect honesty and authenticity…as anyone else would


  3. yes! I agree with you Naki about the pedestal because in my take I feel like in the clinical world, there is an energy that is given to a young person that you are meeting someone who will help fix you. I feel like it perpetuates continuous systematic oppression and inequality.

    Thanks for sharing!:)


  4. How do we do this without writing and recording?

    We listen; actively, intently, with genuine curiosity about what they have to say. It also helps to stay rooted in the present while this kiddo/young person shares their narrative. I have noticed that when I employ these strategies, I remember so much more about details of the conversation and it’s themes.


  5. So much bashing for the clinical role in care☹️. I kid, I kid; I honestly think that clinical is just a fancy word that means you’re going to employ a particular technique to help a client through an issue/various issue. I for one have never felt uncomfy with being my authentic self( using humour appropriately) when meeting with my kiddos…and I use the disclaimer that as much as I may walk around with a big bag, I don’t carry a magic stick in there that will cure anybody! I think that statement is helpful in portraying myself as human, with limitations and may set realistic expectations in the minds of my clients as it relates to what I can do to support them!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I read your blog/the comments and a couple of things came to mind for me as food for thought ☺. I think both ‘community’ and ‘clinical’ can complement each other well especially when one agency offers both. I believe another term for ‘clinical’ could be ‘counselling’ or ‘therapy’ and that there is value in exploring the difference between counselling and therapy. I feel there is value in honoring/ incorporating the structural approach to social work of Maurice Moreau which is a framework from which some frontline counsellors/social workers work (I believe some of his work is available on Google). My learning (social work/counselling) was one that invited you to consider intersections of identity, working with the client to advocate against systems of oppression or barriers, working with the client to determine goals they want to achieve and breaking down the power dynamic in the helping relationship as much as possible (one simple example is not having a desk between you and the client). I have learned it is also important to explore whether or not the client wants to be in counselling in the first place/ the sources of that motivation. I feel there are some clinical approaches to counselling/therapy that can be pathologizing, however if a counsellor works with the client from where the client is at (readiness, emotionally etc), names stigma, tries to help the client feel empowered/empower the client to make their own choices, and if the counsellor shows authenticity and humanness (like appropriate self disclosure), this can be very powerful for a client. I think the issue of documenting comes down to several factors some of which are agency/college liabilty and continuity of care (especially when there is a multidisciplinary team involved). One could always strive to be aware of the choice of wording that is being used in documenting (e.g. is there a way to word this that sounds less stigmatizing etc).


  7. Unfortunately, the clinical has become synonymous with being emotionally detached. But working in human services, in our work, this can’t be more so far from true, if anything we go beyond emotional attachment, because of our professional role and the boundaries that come with it. The things we learned in school guide our practice more than anything. Another thing I find our field lacks is solid in vivo training. The practices and our roles are more often than not arbitrary and there is a lack of harmony as a result. I like to remember we are still working in a young field if you compare it to STEM disciplines. We are pioneers, and we can learn and detach from the mistakes of past and grow from them. Self-care and hope are key.

    Can’t wait to hear more of your adventures.


  8. Mythily I totally agree with you. we are definitely a young field trying to understand what works and what does not. That is part of the self care process is to have these conversations!


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