A Relationship Based Strengths Approach: Foundations for Working with Youth

Description of Workshop

In the past decade there has been a substantial increase in the number of preteens and teenagers entering into the care of the child caring system. Many of these youth have had early negative and challenging experiences that have impacted their development and orientation to themselves and the world around them. According to the Relationship Based Strengths Approach (RBSA) there exists an inextricable link between these experiences and the difficult and challenging behaviors many teens in the care of social services present with.

Unfortunately many approaches to working with and supporting youth in social service systems can unintentionally result in conflict, stress relationships and, a perpetuation or exacerbation of a youth’s negative valuation of themselves and others. These impacts can actually foster “acting out”, or “out of control behaviors”. Overtime, “out of control” teen behavior can tax guardians/caregivers, and increase the chances of program, case plan or placement breakdowns. This does little to improve youths’ negative valuations of self and others, including their social, emotional developmental trajectory.

The RBSA to Working with Youth is a highly practical and effective method for approaching wounded and/or challenging youth in a manner that simultaneously enhances relationships while fostering self-determination, learning and responsibility on the road to preferred outcomes for pro social, emotional and mental development.

Participants will learn about the values and guiding principles of the RBSA. They will be guided through a process that challenges traditional and ineffective supportive approaches and constructs a strong case for utilization of this paradigm with youth within the context of social service systems. Participants will engage in small group work and discussion as they work to review the operationalization of the RBSA principles. More than 500 concrete examples for values in operation are offered for participants to enhance the efficacy of their practice efforts and interventions with youth.

Attendees are offered an interactive and process-oriented method for reflecting on and evaluating their own experiences with, and approaches to, work with youth. They will learn about conditions that promote positive behavior and resilience and be able to identify ineffective discipline practices. Participants will learn about the cautions to discipline when working with youth with FASD or neurodevelopmental challenges. Participants will review the RBSA process steps for approaching discipline and will have an opportunity to reflect on the material for the purposes of developing their own practice-oriented action plans.

Learning Objectives

At the conclusion of this workshop, attendees will:

  • Understand the link between early experiences of youth in the child caring system and the challenges in caring for and working with them.
  • Be familiar with the RBSA approach to social work helping.
  • Learn how to operationalize the RBSA principles in the context of caring for, supporting and working with youth.
  • Through experience and practice, develop skill in communication methods for building on strengths and enhancing relationships.
  • Learn how to avoid and/or decrease resistant and oppositional behavior.
  • Learn and understand how many discipline approaches are ineffective and counterintuitive to preferred ways of working and desired outcomes for youth.
  • Learn how to promote conditions that encourage positive and prosocial behavior and how to avoid ineffective discipline practices.
  • With the use of case examples, learn the RBSA process steps to effective discipline.
  •  Through guided exercises, initiate the development of a personalized practice-oriented action plan for dealing with difficult youth behaviors.

Target Audience

This workshop will be of interest and value to any persons working with youth in ALL social service sectors.

This particular workshop has been well received across Canada and Australia by a variety of social service providers including case managers, social workers, teachers, justice workers, supervisors, foster parents and support workers from the fields of child welfare, justice, child and youth care, youth homelessness, education and health.

While the RBSA has received exceptional and positive feedback from all participants, First Nations agencies and Indigenous communities have consistently appreciated the respectful and dignified nature of the approach and the congruence between the RBSA way of working and traditional Aboriginal values.

Length of Workshop

This is designed to be a 3 day workshop but can be managed in 2 days. However, when the workshop has been presented in the 2 day format, it becomes more difficult to complete all of the group work, process and practice applications.