Talk therapy making breakthroughs with kids at Boys & Girls Club of Southern Nevada

Talk therapy making breakthroughs with kids at Boys & Girls Club of Southern Nevada

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LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Meet Mi’King. He’s a member at the Boys & Girls Club of Southern Nevada and a burgeoning football star with big dreams.

“Wide receiver, running back, it’s speed,” Mi’King said. “I really get it from my mom and dad.”

Like so many young people, he has his challenges.

“Sometimes I feel kind of nervous because I’m not used to talking to people like this. I’m very shy,” Mi’King said.

A new program at Boys & Girls Club, the first in the state, is offering kids like Mi’King a chance to talk to a licensed mental health therapist right at the club.

“A lot of kids, more than I expected, particularly teens and tweens, are coming up to us and saying, ‘Hey, I want somebody to talk to,’ ” Megan Freeman, Chief Behavioral Health Officer, said.

“If you’re going to share a trauma with a complete stranger, you’ve got to break through. You’ve got to build some trust,” said Andy Bischel, president & CEO of the club.

“You guys help me motivate myself from one place to another cause it’s kind of hard to do this,” Mi’King said.

Data shows young people are experiencing previously unseen levels of mental health issues.

Freeman said she’s seen it. “We are definitely seeing an increase in anxiety, depression, anger, and behavior. Acting out.”

Talk therapy provides an outlet.

“Our kids need it. Our families need it,” Bischel said.

“When I feel sad, and things like that, sometimes I get help,” Shyla, another Boys & Girls Club member, said. “Or sometimes I just shake it off.”

“We’re really working to help them feel more in control of themselves, so they know that there’s something they can count on going forward and everything will be okay,” according to Emily Yamashita, Director of Clinical Services.

One focus is making sure that anger doesn’t boil over.

“I like it because they help me and, like, they help me with my anger,” Shyla said. “They help me with what happens in school sometimes and things.”

In group and individual settings, counselors provide sensory skills and tangible techniques to take on and transcend problems.

Bischel walked through some of those techniques. “This is what makes me angry, this is how I feel when I’m angry, but here’s my tools,” he said.

“Like self-management, self-awareness, social awareness. And these are some of the skills that we’re targeting,” Yamashita said.

“Resilience, conflict resolution, communication, identifying your own emotions, and then knowing how to cope with those big emotions,” Freeman said.

“Oh, there’s a stress ball. Now I know what to do with it,” Yamashita said.

The services are low- or no-cost and require no transportation. Therapists even wear club T-shirts.

“It’s the execution, and you can’t do it without people, and you can’t do it without licensed professionals to really do that work,” Bischel said. People are needed to make it happen, and some UNLV students are fulfilling practicums by helping out.

“Our goal is to reach as many kids and families as possible,” Freeman said.

“Creating this really rich environment where everybody is learning,” Bischel said. “Staff are learning, kids are learning. It’s just everybody’s in the same position of trying to improve on themselves. And it’s positive!”

We asked Shyla if she would recommend talking to a counselor.

“Yes, and I’ll help them out a little bit,” she said.

The program is currently running at six of the 13 Boys & Girls Club sites, and the goal is to expand it to other clubs.

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