The Griffin Center: HYTS (Helping Youth Towards Solutions)

Joe Dunn

At a recent conference of The Canadian Association for Adolescent Health, I attended a unique seminar led by staff from the Griffin Center, a North York program for troubled youth. This Program takes a different approach to treating problem youth and addicted teenagers, aged 12-18. Using a client-structured environment, they "help the youths to help themselves". They first help the client to admit that he/she has a problem, and they then help them set realistic goals that they can reach without a setback. They believe there is no sense in setting unreachable goals. For example, a young female might come in highly addicted to opiates, using three or four times a day. An appropriate goal for her would be to decrease her daily usage by half, an achievable goal. After the primary goal has been reached, another goal can be set.

The Griffin Center has a unique engagement process, starting with a tour and intake assessment. If the client likes what he or she sees, they move on to goal setting and an introduction to the Program. Each individual has four parts to their program: academics, expectations, family therapy, and group therapy. The academic part of the program helps the student set academic goals, which they achieve using support and guidance to assess what it will take to re-enter the school system. In family therapy, the kids and parents sit down together and set some goals and limits, with an optimistic point of view.

The group therapy for the day follows the following outline:

There are some unique qualities that I see at the Griffin Center. They use a technique that I have not seen used before, where the clients sign in with their name, date, and whether or not they used that night (a process that allows their peers to see what they are doing and one that provides an embarrassment incentive not to use). Peer support is a primary goal of the program as is safety.

The art therapy program is another unique quality of the Griffin Center Program. The daily group is divided into creation and discussion. It is an open environment with only a couple of rules, no editing, no thinking, and drawing whatever is on the mind. Discussion allows the client to interpret for the group what the drawing means for him or her. There are no marks and no pass or fail.

The Griffin Center Program uses dynamic innovative ways to help youth help themselves. The client-centered approach, setting realistic goals, a varied group approach, and a clean, structured and safe environment are the ingredients of this successful program.

Reproduced from Monthly News in Adolescence, November 1999.

Griffin Centre
24 Silverview drive
Toronto ON M2M 2B3
Tel: (416) 222-1153
Fax: (416) 222-1321