The First Female Muslim American to Win an Olympic Medal Is Passing Along the Mentoring to ‘Our Youth’

Woman on stage in hijab talks to young woman on stage in beige suit.

Olympic medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad (left) is interviewed by Mia Prince, a Boston high school student, during the National Mentoring Summit. | Stan Murzyn

WASHINGTON — Olympic medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad would not be where she is today were it not for her mentor, also an Olympic medalist in fencing.

As a teen, Muhammad was often the only African American — and the only one in hijab — at fencing competitions in and around her hometown of Maplewood, N.J. She was “othered” in the predominantly white sport, she said in a recent interview — a form of discrimination that continued as she advanced through the ranks.

When her national team lost a major match, her coach was especially critical of her performance during video review sessions, Muhammad said. She was also left off important emails, not informed of details about practices and made to feel like an outcast on Team USA. “They did not want me there, and they made it very clear they didn’t want me there.”

Like endless jabs, the microaggressions were intended to drive her from the sport. 

Fortunately, her mentor — Peter Westbrook, a bronze medalist in the 1984 games and head of a nonprofit fencing organization for youth from underserved communities — encouraged her to deflect them. The first African American to medal in the sport, Westbrook used the lessons he learned during his Olympic journey years ago to prod Muhammad to continue hers.

He was a “guiding force that has helped me see what’s possible,” Muhammad said — a story she told last month at a national mentoring conference here.

Westbrook provided the kind of ongoing holistic support that is the hallmark of strong mentoring, helping her physically, emotionally and spiritually, Muhammad said. He gave her tactical fencing lessons, counseled her using a faith-based approach and helped her envision herself as a professional athlete. He also helped fund her Olympic dreams through his foundation.

She learned to cast aside the “white noise” of mistreatment and to believe in herself. 

“I feel like you have to love yourself, have to appreciate yourself, you have to know you’re capable,” she said. “That’s such an important message for kids today. We often look for validation from other people. I think the validation you need has to come from within first.”

Westbrook wasn’t Muhammad’s only mentor. She also credits Keeth Smart, who won a silver medal in the team saber competition in the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing. Also African American, Smart counseled Muhammad on everything from footwork to diet to cross-training. 

She sought to “recreate his blueprint” for victory, she said, and the plan worked. In 2016, Muhammad became the first U.S. woman to compete in the Olympic games in hijab and the first female Muslim American to win an Olympic medal. In 2017, Mattel unveiled its first hijabi Barbie, which was modeled after Muhammad’s likeness. 

And in 2018 Muhammad — who has also launched her own line of modest clothing — released a memoir about her fight for “an unlikely American dream.”

As an activist, entrepreneur, author and speaker, Muhammad is now paying it forward. 

As an instructor at the Westbrook Foundation, she has helped dozens of underserved kids master the sport of fencing. And she’s working closely with Isis Washington, a fencer and volunteer coach at the Westbrook Foundation who Muhammad says is “on track” to qualify for the 2020 Olympic games in Tokyo this summer.

“When we have the opportunity to give our youth kind of a lens into what’s possible for them, it can make a huge difference,” she said. 

“I don’t know where I would be in sport without having these really strong mentors in my life.”

The post The First Female Muslim American to Win an Olympic Medal Is Passing Along the Mentoring to ‘Our Youth’ appeared first on Youth Today.


Only Death Ends the Rescue Fantasy for Clinician — At First

recidivism: aggressive young man and therapist

Photographee.eu/Shutterstock

From training to practicing to now teaching, one of the key factors in psychotherapy that continually surfaces is countertransference (sorry self-care), which we know as the phenomenon of the clinician reaction to the client. I prefer to think of countertransference as our “entanglement” with the client — it is never neat and organized. And I think a lot of managing entanglement starts with recognizing that fundamentally, clinicians are entangled with themselves and the stories we create for ourselves. So this is a story about the story about my entanglements.

I began working as a behavioral health clinician in a juvenile detention center mainly by chance, so the experience was going to be completely new to me. I had no prior training with this population, and while I did have experience in a residential setting, the idea of going to do behavioral therapy in a secure detention center was an unknown for me.

Sean E. Snyder

So my clinician story started with projection and preconception. The overt preconceptions are easy to see going into the detention setting — these youth are here for allegations of violent offenses, property crimes, drug-related crimes. My introduction to providing care in this setting was reassurances from the organization in charge: that the detention staff will be outside the door in case something happens, or if a youth is on what is known as “one-to-one” supervision, staff could come into the room during the session. 

I saw my first youth for needs assessment and the encounter remains unforgettable. Here is this adolescent in blue scrubs, no identifiable features, and I knew nothing. Admittedly, it felt like I was getting through sessions as quickly as possible because I didn’t really know what to do. There was that first-session anxiety — the functional kind in new scenarios — but I remember trying to resist the preconceptions and projections. 

Cue overcompensation. To resolve my “quickness,” my story came to involve seeing as many youth as possible to extend my reach, to build a sense of competence with me, to try to provide the most access for what seemed to be a scarce resource. But I resisted getting entangled with the depth of their stories, and looking back, it seems largely protective of my story.

Reality always wins. As months became a year and beyond, I struggled with the youth readmissions and recidivism, questioning myself: “Why were they coming back so frequently? What role did I have to play in this?” Clinicians tend to overstate their importance and downplay their role in undesirable outcomes (anecdotally and empirically speaking …), and so I figured this must just be a total product of the flawed system. The system wasn’t trauma-informed, not responsive to the needs of adolescents in a large urban area. So the rescue fantasy, the fantasy where a “helper” will save vulnerable people from their plight, came in full force.

Nothing works with everyone

After establishing my workflow and processes, I was fortunate to be trained in trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, the key (in my mind) that would unlock the system and produce such good outcomes. At the time, this training felt like the panacea that I had been looking for. With all of the trauma exposure these youth experience, clearly the answer to their challenges was trauma-focused treatment. I had my daily musings: “If I could just get youth to do this treatment, then the likelihood of their return should decrease.” 

I did have some treatment success, even with small doses of the intervention, but I generalized the model to practically every youth that I saw. To take a step back, there is no doubt that youth can benefit from skill-building interventions and some exposure to their stressors, but with my practice, I went a little overboard. I was defining my story further by negotiating how I would get entangled with my clients — I’d go by what the evidence says. And I was not ready for the impact of the entanglement of trauma work.

By putting myself out there with trauma treatment, I wasn’t ready for the effects of it. The fatigue was something I rationalized. Month by month, I began developing burnout symptoms and eventually I had secondary traumatic stress symptoms. I superficially sensed that I needed to go to therapy but I was so reluctant because it didn’t fit my story. I had chosen to do this work and it was just the byproduct of my decision. And I told myself, “I will press on and get through it.” ( I did eventually go for my own therapy.).

The story kept going because I had been doing the treatment and there were enough results, albeit mixed results. Some youth were getting “better” with their symptoms, some got worse, some I never saw again. Then there were some who appeared so much more functionally present but still reported high levels of symptoms. Here was the new challenge I had to overcome — “incongruence.” 

I began to get crazy about measurement-based care, thinking “if I just measured everything correctly, then I would be able to get the results I was hoping for.” Stop me if you have heard this — treatment becoming more about the clinician’s insecurity than the patient’s needs. (For reference, our team systematically used the PHQ-9, GAD-7, the Mood and Feelings Questionnaire, the Peabody Treatment Progress Battery, the Childhood PTSD Symptom Scale-5 and the Columbia Suicide Severity Rating Scale.)

I did my new and improved measurements, and some of these activities helped. I incorporated the CGI scale to give myself some slack about functional improvement but lack of symptom reduction. As an aside, this part of my story is not to trash measurement-based care; it is a really effective practice for client treatment outcomes. But it was another way for me to keep the reins on my story, to manage the entanglement. 

In my craze of figuring out measurement, I got connected to a brilliant doctor/researcher on the West Coast who was doing amazing work with pain management in children. She gave me what I was looking for with notes about measures, problem hierarchies; but she gave me something so much more at the end of that email: “Have you ever heard of healing-centered engagement?”

That question challenged the story, and I can see that she engaged my head to get at the heart of what the work is all about. The youth aren’t their traumas, they are more than just what happened to them and their collection of experiences.

Shut up and listen

Thomas Merton, a social activist of the 1960s and American Trappist monk, mentioned in his “Letter to a Young Activist” that the work becomes less about the problem and more about the people. More eloquently put:

“Do not depend on the hope of results. You may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself. You gradually struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationships that saves everything.”

Sometimes, to get the message, you really have to shut up and start listening more as a clinician. For years, I told everyone who asks about my work that the best part of the job is the people, the youth I am honored to see. I get the chance to grow alongside them, to have moments of grace, shared joys and shared disappointments. I’ve seen some youth grow up in the system, and while that is disheartening, they are still people under our care. So the story now becomes less about symptom reduction, measurements, congruence and my story, and it becomes more about what all this means for them, how their identity and self-concept are affected, how they are striving toward the self that they envision for themselves.

Then there are those wake-up call moments that really put things into perspective. I have learned of the deaths of many youths I had clinical contact with, with cause of death ranging from intentional or unintentional shootings to suicide to unintentional overdose. My initial reaction to the first client death was another fantasy: “How did I not delay death for this youth.” 

It is a complete shock to hear a client has died, as it really is the most existential entanglement possible. And it’s moments like these that really make me think back to why I do this work in the first place — to improve the quality of life of people and their communities. It’s going back to that mission, the mission of healing, of resilience, of striving towards the possible, that helps to keep me moving forward. It’s about their stories and my stories together at this instance of time. Social work is not about delaying death but enhancing life. It’s authoring the story for what it is, what it could be, the mess, entanglements and everything in between. 

Sean Snyder, MSW, LCSW is a licensed clinical worker practicing and teaching in Philadelphia. He enjoys Phillies baseball.

The post Only Death Ends the Rescue Fantasy for Clinician — At First appeared first on Youth Today.


Only Death Ends the Rescue Fantasy for Clinician — At First

recidivism: aggressive young man and therapist

Photographee.eu/Shutterstock

From training to practicing to now teaching, one of the key factors in psychotherapy that continually surfaces is countertransference (sorry self-care), which we know as the phenomenon of the clinician reaction to the client. I prefer to think of countertransference as our “entanglement” with the client — it is never neat and organized. And I think a lot of managing entanglement starts with recognizing that fundamentally, clinicians are entangled with themselves and the stories we create for ourselves. So this is a story about the story about my entanglements.

I began working as a behavioral health clinician in a juvenile detention center mainly by chance, so the experience was going to be completely new to me. I had no prior training with this population, and while I did have experience in a residential setting, the idea of going to do behavioral therapy in a secure detention center was an unknown for me.

Sean E. Snyder

So my clinician story started with projection and preconception. The overt preconceptions are easy to see going into the detention setting — these youth are here for allegations of violent offenses, property crimes, drug-related crimes. My introduction to providing care in this setting was reassurances from the organization in charge: that the detention staff will be outside the door in case something happens, or if a youth is on what is known as “one-to-one” supervision, staff could come into the room during the session. 

I saw my first youth for needs assessment and the encounter remains unforgettable. Here is this adolescent in blue scrubs, no identifiable features, and I knew nothing. Admittedly, it felt like I was getting through sessions as quickly as possible because I didn’t really know what to do. There was that first-session anxiety — the functional kind in new scenarios — but I remember trying to resist the preconceptions and projections. 

Cue overcompensation. To resolve my “quickness,” my story came to involve seeing as many youth as possible to extend my reach, to build a sense of competence with me, to try to provide the most access for what seemed to be a scarce resource. But I resisted getting entangled with the depth of their stories, and looking back, it seems largely protective of my story.

Reality always wins. As months became a year and beyond, I struggled with the youth readmissions and recidivism, questioning myself: “Why were they coming back so frequently? What role did I have to play in this?” Clinicians tend to overstate their importance and downplay their role in undesirable outcomes (anecdotally and empirically speaking …), and so I figured this must just be a total product of the flawed system. The system wasn’t trauma-informed, not responsive to the needs of adolescents in a large urban area. So the rescue fantasy, the fantasy where a “helper” will save vulnerable people from their plight, came in full force.

Nothing works with everyone

After establishing my workflow and processes, I was fortunate to be trained in trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, the key (in my mind) that would unlock the system and produce such good outcomes. At the time, this training felt like the panacea that I had been looking for. With all of the trauma exposure these youth experience, clearly the answer to their challenges was trauma-focused treatment. I had my daily musings: “If I could just get youth to do this treatment, then the likelihood of their return should decrease.” 

I did have some treatment success, even with small doses of the intervention, but I generalized the model to practically every youth that I saw. To take a step back, there is no doubt that youth can benefit from skill-building interventions and some exposure to their stressors, but with my practice, I went a little overboard. I was defining my story further by negotiating how I would get entangled with my clients — I’d go by what the evidence says. And I was not ready for the impact of the entanglement of trauma work.

By putting myself out there with trauma treatment, I wasn’t ready for the effects of it. The fatigue was something I rationalized. Month by month, I began developing burnout symptoms and eventually I had secondary traumatic stress symptoms. I superficially sensed that I needed to go to therapy but I was so reluctant because it didn’t fit my story. I had chosen to do this work and it was just the byproduct of my decision. And I told myself, “I will press on and get through it.” ( I did eventually go for my own therapy.).

The story kept going because I had been doing the treatment and there were enough results, albeit mixed results. Some youth were getting “better” with their symptoms, some got worse, some I never saw again. Then there were some who appeared so much more functionally present but still reported high levels of symptoms. Here was the new challenge I had to overcome — “incongruence.” 

I began to get crazy about measurement-based care, thinking “if I just measured everything correctly, then I would be able to get the results I was hoping for.” Stop me if you have heard this — treatment becoming more about the clinician’s insecurity than the patient’s needs. (For reference, our team systematically used the PHQ-9, GAD-7, the Mood and Feelings Questionnaire, the Peabody Treatment Progress Battery, the Childhood PTSD Symptom Scale-5 and the Columbia Suicide Severity Rating Scale.)

I did my new and improved measurements, and some of these activities helped. I incorporated the CGI scale to give myself some slack about functional improvement but lack of symptom reduction. As an aside, this part of my story is not to trash measurement-based care; it is a really effective practice for client treatment outcomes. But it was another way for me to keep the reins on my story, to manage the entanglement. 

In my craze of figuring out measurement, I got connected to a brilliant doctor/researcher on the West Coast who was doing amazing work with pain management in children. She gave me what I was looking for with notes about measures, problem hierarchies; but she gave me something so much more at the end of that email: “Have you ever heard of healing-centered engagement?”

That question challenged the story, and I can see that she engaged my head to get at the heart of what the work is all about. The youth aren’t their traumas, they are more than just what happened to them and their collection of experiences.

Shut up and listen

Thomas Merton, a social activist of the 1960s and American Trappist monk, mentioned in his “Letter to a Young Activist” that the work becomes less about the problem and more about the people. More eloquently put:

“Do not depend on the hope of results. You may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself. You gradually struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationships that saves everything.”

Sometimes, to get the message, you really have to shut up and start listening more as a clinician. For years, I told everyone who asks about my work that the best part of the job is the people, the youth I am honored to see. I get the chance to grow alongside them, to have moments of grace, shared joys and shared disappointments. I’ve seen some youth grow up in the system, and while that is disheartening, they are still people under our care. So the story now becomes less about symptom reduction, measurements, congruence and my story, and it becomes more about what all this means for them, how their identity and self-concept are affected, how they are striving toward the self that they envision for themselves.

Then there are those wake-up call moments that really put things into perspective. I have learned of the deaths of many youths I had clinical contact with, with cause of death ranging from intentional or unintentional shootings to suicide to unintentional overdose. My initial reaction to the first client death was another fantasy: “How did I not delay death for this youth.” 

It is a complete shock to hear a client has died, as it really is the most existential entanglement possible. And it’s moments like these that really make me think back to why I do this work in the first place — to improve the quality of life of people and their communities. It’s going back to that mission, the mission of healing, of resilience, of striving towards the possible, that helps to keep me moving forward. It’s about their stories and my stories together at this instance of time. Social work is not about delaying death but enhancing life. It’s authoring the story for what it is, what it could be, the mess, entanglements and everything in between. 

Sean Snyder, MSW, LCSW is a licensed clinical worker practicing and teaching in Philadelphia. He enjoys Phillies baseball.

The post Only Death Ends the Rescue Fantasy for Clinician — At First appeared first on Youth Today.


Youth Grief and Bereavement Services Program Grants

OUR GRANT OPPORTUNITIES: Youth Today’s grant listings are carefully curated for our subscribers working in youth-related industries. Subscribers will find local, state, regional and national grant opportunities.

THIS GRANT’S FOCUS: Child/Youth Welfare, Child/Youth Mental Health, Grief/Bereavement, Therapy, Counseling, Mentoring
Deadline:
Mar. 9, 2020 | July 17, 2020

“The New York Life Foundation in partnership with the National Alliance for Grieving Children is excited to soon announce the opening of the RFP cycle for Grief Reach, a grant program that will expand capacity and increase access of bereavement services for grieving youth with local organizations. The Foundation supports programs that benefit young people, particularly in the areas of educational enhancement and childhood bereavement. Childhood bereavement is one of society’s most pervasive issues: one in fourteen Americans will lose a parent or sibling before age 18 and the vast majority of children experience a significant loss by the time they complete high school. Yet bereaved children remain largely unseen and under-served within their communities and schools, with few outlets to express their grief.

The New York Life Foundation has committed $1.25 million up to thirty-seven grants to be given to organizations serving grieving children across the country. There are two different grant opportunities:

  • Cycle 1: Community Expansion Grants: These grant funds may be used to expand services to bereaved children and youth.
  • Cycle 2: Capacity Building Grants: Funds to enhance organizational capacity, development and effectiveness.”

Funder: The New York Life Foundation and the National Alliance for Grieving Children
Eligibility:
“Organizations applying for these competitive grants must be 501(c)(3) organizations. This competitive grant program is limited to those organizations that serve bereaved children and youth. Applicants for this grant program must serve at least 50 percent—of low-income youth and/or minority children. Special consideration will be given to projects that are focused on     providing resources for families affected by the opioid crisis with their grant proposal.”
Amount:
Cycle 1: $50,000 or $100,000 | Cycle 2: $10,000 or $20,000
Contact:
Link.


>>> CLICK HERE to see all of Youth Today’s GRANT LISTINGS

The post Youth Grief and Bereavement Services Program Grants appeared first on Youth Today.


Youth Grief and Bereavement Services Program Grants

OUR GRANT OPPORTUNITIES: Youth Today’s grant listings are carefully curated for our subscribers working in youth-related industries. Subscribers will find local, state, regional and national grant opportunities.

THIS GRANT’S FOCUS: Child/Youth Welfare, Child/Youth Mental Health, Grief/Bereavement, Therapy, Counseling, Mentoring
Deadline:
Mar. 9, 2020 | July 17, 2020

“The New York Life Foundation in partnership with the National Alliance for Grieving Children is excited to soon announce the opening of the RFP cycle for Grief Reach, a grant program that will expand capacity and increase access of bereavement services for grieving youth with local organizations. The Foundation supports programs that benefit young people, particularly in the areas of educational enhancement and childhood bereavement. Childhood bereavement is one of society’s most pervasive issues: one in fourteen Americans will lose a parent or sibling before age 18 and the vast majority of children experience a significant loss by the time they complete high school. Yet bereaved children remain largely unseen and under-served within their communities and schools, with few outlets to express their grief.

The New York Life Foundation has committed $1.25 million up to thirty-seven grants to be given to organizations serving grieving children across the country. There are two different grant opportunities:

  • Cycle 1: Community Expansion Grants: These grant funds may be used to expand services to bereaved children and youth.
  • Cycle 2: Capacity Building Grants: Funds to enhance organizational capacity, development and effectiveness.”

Funder: The New York Life Foundation and the National Alliance for Grieving Children
Eligibility:
“Organizations applying for these competitive grants must be 501(c)(3) organizations. This competitive grant program is limited to those organizations that serve bereaved children and youth. Applicants for this grant program must serve at least 50 percent—of low-income youth and/or minority children. Special consideration will be given to projects that are focused on     providing resources for families affected by the opioid crisis with their grant proposal.”
Amount:
Cycle 1: $50,000 or $100,000 | Cycle 2: $10,000 or $20,000
Contact:
Link.


>>> CLICK HERE to see all of Youth Today’s GRANT LISTINGS

The post Youth Grief and Bereavement Services Program Grants appeared first on Youth Today.


Community Youth Substance Abuse Prevention Program Grants

OUR GRANT OPPORTUNITIES: Youth Today’s grant listings are carefully curated for our subscribers working in youth-related industries. Subscribers will find local, state, regional and national grant opportunities.

THIS GRANT’S FOCUS: Youth Welfare, Drugs, Substance Abuse, Community
Deadline:
Apr. 3, 2020

“The purpose of the DFC Support Program is to establish and strengthen collaboration to support the efforts of community coalitions working to prevent youth substance use. By statute, the DFC Support Program has two goals:

  1. Establish and strengthen collaboration among communities, public and private non-profit agencies, as well as federal, state, local, and tribal governments to support the efforts of community coalitions working to prevent and reduce substance abuse among youth (individuals 18 years of age and younger).
  2. Reduce substance abuse among youth and, over time, reduce substance abuse among adults by addressing the factors in a community that increase the risk of substance abuse and promoting the factors that minimize the risk of substance abuse.”

Funder: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Eligibility:
Nonprofits having a 501(c)(3) status with the IRS, government organizations serving as bona fide agents: state governments, county governments, city or township governments, territorial governments, special district governments, independent school districts, state controlled institutions of higher education, American Indian or Alaska Native tribal governments (federally recognized or state-recognized) | Non-government Organizations serving as Bona fide Agents: Public institutions of higher education, private institutions of higher education, Professional associations, Voluntary organizations, Faith-based organizations,American Indian or Alaska native tribally designated organizations.
Amount:
Up to $125,000
Contact:
Link.


>>> CLICK HERE to see all of Youth Today’s GRANT LISTINGS

The post Community Youth Substance Abuse Prevention Program Grants appeared first on Youth Today.


The First Female Muslim American to Win an Olympic Medal Is Passing Along the Mentoring to ‘Our Youth’

Woman on stage in hijab talks to young woman on stage in beige suit.

Olympic medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad (left) is interviewed by Mia Prince, a Boston high school student, during the National Mentoring Summit. | Stan Murzyn

WASHINGTON — Olympic medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad would not be where she is today were it not for her mentor, also an Olympic medalist in fencing.

As a teen, Muhammad was often the only African American — and the only one in hijab — at fencing competitions in and around her hometown of Maplewood, N.J. She was “othered” in the predominantly white sport, she said in a recent interview — a form of discrimination that continued as she advanced through the ranks.

When her national team lost a major match, her coach was especially critical of her performance during video review sessions, Muhammad said. She was also left off important emails, not informed of details about practices and made to feel like an outcast on Team USA. “They did not want me there, and they made it very clear they didn’t want me there.”

Like endless jabs, the microaggressions were intended to drive her from the sport. 

Fortunately, her mentor — Peter Westbrook, a bronze medalist in the 1984 games and head of a nonprofit fencing organization for youth from underserved communities — encouraged her to deflect them. The first African American to medal in the sport, Westbrook used the lessons he learned during his Olympic journey years ago to prod Muhammad to continue hers.

He was a “guiding force that has helped me see what’s possible,” Muhammad said — a story she told last month at a national mentoring conference here.

Westbrook provided the kind of ongoing holistic support that is the hallmark of strong mentoring, helping her physically, emotionally and spiritually, Muhammad said. He gave her tactical fencing lessons, counseled her using a faith-based approach and helped her envision herself as a professional athlete. He also helped fund her Olympic dreams through his foundation.

She learned to cast aside the “white noise” of mistreatment and to believe in herself. 

“I feel like you have to love yourself, have to appreciate yourself, you have to know you’re capable,” she said. “That’s such an important message for kids today. We often look for validation from other people. I think the validation you need has to come from within first.”

Westbrook wasn’t Muhammad’s only mentor. She also credits Keeth Smart, who won a silver medal in the team saber competition in the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing. Also African American, Smart counseled Muhammad on everything from footwork to diet to cross-training. 

She sought to “recreate his blueprint” for victory, she said, and the plan worked. In 2016, Muhammad became the first U.S. woman to compete in the Olympic games in hijab and the first female Muslim American to win an Olympic medal. In 2017, Mattel unveiled its first hijabi Barbie, which was modeled after Muhammad’s likeness. 

And in 2018 Muhammad — who has also launched her own line of modest clothing — released a memoir about her fight for “an unlikely American dream.”

As an activist, entrepreneur, author and speaker, Muhammad is now paying it forward. 

As an instructor at the Westbrook Foundation, she has helped dozens of underserved kids master the sport of fencing. And she’s working closely with Isis Washington, a fencer and volunteer coach at the Westbrook Foundation who Muhammad says is “on track” to qualify for the 2020 Olympic games in Tokyo this summer.

“When we have the opportunity to give our youth kind of a lens into what’s possible for them, it can make a huge difference,” she said. 

“I don’t know where I would be in sport without having these really strong mentors in my life.”

The post The First Female Muslim American to Win an Olympic Medal Is Passing Along the Mentoring to ‘Our Youth’ appeared first on Youth Today.


Only Death Ends the Rescue Fantasy for Clinician — At First

recidivism: aggressive young man and therapist

Photographee.eu/Shutterstock

From training to practicing to now teaching, one of the key factors in psychotherapy that continually surfaces is countertransference (sorry self-care), which we know as the phenomenon of the clinician reaction to the client. I prefer to think of countertransference as our “entanglement” with the client — it is never neat and organized. And I think a lot of managing entanglement starts with recognizing that fundamentally, clinicians are entangled with themselves and the stories we create for ourselves. So this is a story about the story about my entanglements.

I began working as a behavioral health clinician in a juvenile detention center mainly by chance, so the experience was going to be completely new to me. I had no prior training with this population, and while I did have experience in a residential setting, the idea of going to do behavioral therapy in a secure detention center was an unknown for me.

Sean E. Snyder

So my clinician story started with projection and preconception. The overt preconceptions are easy to see going into the detention setting — these youth are here for allegations of violent offenses, property crimes, drug-related crimes. My introduction to providing care in this setting was reassurances from the organization in charge: that the detention staff will be outside the door in case something happens, or if a youth is on what is known as “one-to-one” supervision, staff could come into the room during the session. 

I saw my first youth for needs assessment and the encounter remains unforgettable. Here is this adolescent in blue scrubs, no identifiable features, and I knew nothing. Admittedly, it felt like I was getting through sessions as quickly as possible because I didn’t really know what to do. There was that first-session anxiety — the functional kind in new scenarios — but I remember trying to resist the preconceptions and projections. 

Cue overcompensation. To resolve my “quickness,” my story came to involve seeing as many youth as possible to extend my reach, to build a sense of competence with me, to try to provide the most access for what seemed to be a scarce resource. But I resisted getting entangled with the depth of their stories, and looking back, it seems largely protective of my story.

Reality always wins. As months became a year and beyond, I struggled with the youth readmissions and recidivism, questioning myself: “Why were they coming back so frequently? What role did I have to play in this?” Clinicians tend to overstate their importance and downplay their role in undesirable outcomes (anecdotally and empirically speaking …), and so I figured this must just be a total product of the flawed system. The system wasn’t trauma-informed, not responsive to the needs of adolescents in a large urban area. So the rescue fantasy, the fantasy where a “helper” will save vulnerable people from their plight, came in full force.

Nothing works with everyone

After establishing my workflow and processes, I was fortunate to be trained in trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, the key (in my mind) that would unlock the system and produce such good outcomes. At the time, this training felt like the panacea that I had been looking for. With all of the trauma exposure these youth experience, clearly the answer to their challenges was trauma-focused treatment. I had my daily musings: “If I could just get youth to do this treatment, then the likelihood of their return should decrease.” 

I did have some treatment success, even with small doses of the intervention, but I generalized the model to practically every youth that I saw. To take a step back, there is no doubt that youth can benefit from skill-building interventions and some exposure to their stressors, but with my practice, I went a little overboard. I was defining my story further by negotiating how I would get entangled with my clients — I’d go by what the evidence says. And I was not ready for the impact of the entanglement of trauma work.

By putting myself out there with trauma treatment, I wasn’t ready for the effects of it. The fatigue was something I rationalized. Month by month, I began developing burnout symptoms and eventually I had secondary traumatic stress symptoms. I superficially sensed that I needed to go to therapy but I was so reluctant because it didn’t fit my story. I had chosen to do this work and it was just the byproduct of my decision. And I told myself, “I will press on and get through it.” ( I did eventually go for my own therapy.).

The story kept going because I had been doing the treatment and there were enough results, albeit mixed results. Some youth were getting “better” with their symptoms, some got worse, some I never saw again. Then there were some who appeared so much more functionally present but still reported high levels of symptoms. Here was the new challenge I had to overcome — “incongruence.” 

I began to get crazy about measurement-based care, thinking “if I just measured everything correctly, then I would be able to get the results I was hoping for.” Stop me if you have heard this — treatment becoming more about the clinician’s insecurity than the patient’s needs. (For reference, our team systematically used the PHQ-9, GAD-7, the Mood and Feelings Questionnaire, the Peabody Treatment Progress Battery, the Childhood PTSD Symptom Scale-5 and the Columbia Suicide Severity Rating Scale.)

I did my new and improved measurements, and some of these activities helped. I incorporated the CGI scale to give myself some slack about functional improvement but lack of symptom reduction. As an aside, this part of my story is not to trash measurement-based care; it is a really effective practice for client treatment outcomes. But it was another way for me to keep the reins on my story, to manage the entanglement. 

In my craze of figuring out measurement, I got connected to a brilliant doctor/researcher on the West Coast who was doing amazing work with pain management in children. She gave me what I was looking for with notes about measures, problem hierarchies; but she gave me something so much more at the end of that email: “Have you ever heard of healing-centered engagement?”

That question challenged the story, and I can see that she engaged my head to get at the heart of what the work is all about. The youth aren’t their traumas, they are more than just what happened to them and their collection of experiences.

Shut up and listen

Thomas Merton, a social activist of the 1960s and American Trappist monk, mentioned in his “Letter to a Young Activist” that the work becomes less about the problem and more about the people. More eloquently put:

“Do not depend on the hope of results. You may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself. You gradually struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationships that saves everything.”

Sometimes, to get the message, you really have to shut up and start listening more as a clinician. For years, I told everyone who asks about my work that the best part of the job is the people, the youth I am honored to see. I get the chance to grow alongside them, to have moments of grace, shared joys and shared disappointments. I’ve seen some youth grow up in the system, and while that is disheartening, they are still people under our care. So the story now becomes less about symptom reduction, measurements, congruence and my story, and it becomes more about what all this means for them, how their identity and self-concept are affected, how they are striving toward the self that they envision for themselves.

Then there are those wake-up call moments that really put things into perspective. I have learned of the deaths of many youths I had clinical contact with, with cause of death ranging from intentional or unintentional shootings to suicide to unintentional overdose. My initial reaction to the first client death was another fantasy: “How did I not delay death for this youth.” 

It is a complete shock to hear a client has died, as it really is the most existential entanglement possible. And it’s moments like these that really make me think back to why I do this work in the first place — to improve the quality of life of people and their communities. It’s going back to that mission, the mission of healing, of resilience, of striving towards the possible, that helps to keep me moving forward. It’s about their stories and my stories together at this instance of time. Social work is not about delaying death but enhancing life. It’s authoring the story for what it is, what it could be, the mess, entanglements and everything in between. 

Sean Snyder, MSW, LCSW is a licensed clinical worker practicing and teaching in Philadelphia. He enjoys Phillies baseball.

The post Only Death Ends the Rescue Fantasy for Clinician — At First appeared first on Youth Today.


Only Death Ends the Rescue Fantasy for Clinician — At First

recidivism: aggressive young man and therapist

Photographee.eu/Shutterstock

From training to practicing to now teaching, one of the key factors in psychotherapy that continually surfaces is countertransference (sorry self-care), which we know as the phenomenon of the clinician reaction to the client. I prefer to think of countertransference as our “entanglement” with the client — it is never neat and organized. And I think a lot of managing entanglement starts with recognizing that fundamentally, clinicians are entangled with themselves and the stories we create for ourselves. So this is a story about the story about my entanglements.

I began working as a behavioral health clinician in a juvenile detention center mainly by chance, so the experience was going to be completely new to me. I had no prior training with this population, and while I did have experience in a residential setting, the idea of going to do behavioral therapy in a secure detention center was an unknown for me.

Sean E. Snyder

So my clinician story started with projection and preconception. The overt preconceptions are easy to see going into the detention setting — these youth are here for allegations of violent offenses, property crimes, drug-related crimes. My introduction to providing care in this setting was reassurances from the organization in charge: that the detention staff will be outside the door in case something happens, or if a youth is on what is known as “one-to-one” supervision, staff could come into the room during the session. 

I saw my first youth for needs assessment and the encounter remains unforgettable. Here is this adolescent in blue scrubs, no identifiable features, and I knew nothing. Admittedly, it felt like I was getting through sessions as quickly as possible because I didn’t really know what to do. There was that first-session anxiety — the functional kind in new scenarios — but I remember trying to resist the preconceptions and projections. 

Cue overcompensation. To resolve my “quickness,” my story came to involve seeing as many youth as possible to extend my reach, to build a sense of competence with me, to try to provide the most access for what seemed to be a scarce resource. But I resisted getting entangled with the depth of their stories, and looking back, it seems largely protective of my story.

Reality always wins. As months became a year and beyond, I struggled with the youth readmissions and recidivism, questioning myself: “Why were they coming back so frequently? What role did I have to play in this?” Clinicians tend to overstate their importance and downplay their role in undesirable outcomes (anecdotally and empirically speaking …), and so I figured this must just be a total product of the flawed system. The system wasn’t trauma-informed, not responsive to the needs of adolescents in a large urban area. So the rescue fantasy, the fantasy where a “helper” will save vulnerable people from their plight, came in full force.

Nothing works with everyone

After establishing my workflow and processes, I was fortunate to be trained in trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, the key (in my mind) that would unlock the system and produce such good outcomes. At the time, this training felt like the panacea that I had been looking for. With all of the trauma exposure these youth experience, clearly the answer to their challenges was trauma-focused treatment. I had my daily musings: “If I could just get youth to do this treatment, then the likelihood of their return should decrease.” 

I did have some treatment success, even with small doses of the intervention, but I generalized the model to practically every youth that I saw. To take a step back, there is no doubt that youth can benefit from skill-building interventions and some exposure to their stressors, but with my practice, I went a little overboard. I was defining my story further by negotiating how I would get entangled with my clients — I’d go by what the evidence says. And I was not ready for the impact of the entanglement of trauma work.

By putting myself out there with trauma treatment, I wasn’t ready for the effects of it. The fatigue was something I rationalized. Month by month, I began developing burnout symptoms and eventually I had secondary traumatic stress symptoms. I superficially sensed that I needed to go to therapy but I was so reluctant because it didn’t fit my story. I had chosen to do this work and it was just the byproduct of my decision. And I told myself, “I will press on and get through it.” ( I did eventually go for my own therapy.).

The story kept going because I had been doing the treatment and there were enough results, albeit mixed results. Some youth were getting “better” with their symptoms, some got worse, some I never saw again. Then there were some who appeared so much more functionally present but still reported high levels of symptoms. Here was the new challenge I had to overcome — “incongruence.” 

I began to get crazy about measurement-based care, thinking “if I just measured everything correctly, then I would be able to get the results I was hoping for.” Stop me if you have heard this — treatment becoming more about the clinician’s insecurity than the patient’s needs. (For reference, our team systematically used the PHQ-9, GAD-7, the Mood and Feelings Questionnaire, the Peabody Treatment Progress Battery, the Childhood PTSD Symptom Scale-5 and the Columbia Suicide Severity Rating Scale.)

I did my new and improved measurements, and some of these activities helped. I incorporated the CGI scale to give myself some slack about functional improvement but lack of symptom reduction. As an aside, this part of my story is not to trash measurement-based care; it is a really effective practice for client treatment outcomes. But it was another way for me to keep the reins on my story, to manage the entanglement. 

In my craze of figuring out measurement, I got connected to a brilliant doctor/researcher on the West Coast who was doing amazing work with pain management in children. She gave me what I was looking for with notes about measures, problem hierarchies; but she gave me something so much more at the end of that email: “Have you ever heard of healing-centered engagement?”

That question challenged the story, and I can see that she engaged my head to get at the heart of what the work is all about. The youth aren’t their traumas, they are more than just what happened to them and their collection of experiences.

Shut up and listen

Thomas Merton, a social activist of the 1960s and American Trappist monk, mentioned in his “Letter to a Young Activist” that the work becomes less about the problem and more about the people. More eloquently put:

“Do not depend on the hope of results. You may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself. You gradually struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationships that saves everything.”

Sometimes, to get the message, you really have to shut up and start listening more as a clinician. For years, I told everyone who asks about my work that the best part of the job is the people, the youth I am honored to see. I get the chance to grow alongside them, to have moments of grace, shared joys and shared disappointments. I’ve seen some youth grow up in the system, and while that is disheartening, they are still people under our care. So the story now becomes less about symptom reduction, measurements, congruence and my story, and it becomes more about what all this means for them, how their identity and self-concept are affected, how they are striving toward the self that they envision for themselves.

Then there are those wake-up call moments that really put things into perspective. I have learned of the deaths of many youths I had clinical contact with, with cause of death ranging from intentional or unintentional shootings to suicide to unintentional overdose. My initial reaction to the first client death was another fantasy: “How did I not delay death for this youth.” 

It is a complete shock to hear a client has died, as it really is the most existential entanglement possible. And it’s moments like these that really make me think back to why I do this work in the first place — to improve the quality of life of people and their communities. It’s going back to that mission, the mission of healing, of resilience, of striving towards the possible, that helps to keep me moving forward. It’s about their stories and my stories together at this instance of time. Social work is not about delaying death but enhancing life. It’s authoring the story for what it is, what it could be, the mess, entanglements and everything in between. 

Sean Snyder, MSW, LCSW is a licensed clinical worker practicing and teaching in Philadelphia. He enjoys Phillies baseball.

The post Only Death Ends the Rescue Fantasy for Clinician — At First appeared first on Youth Today.


Youth Grief and Bereavement Services Program Grants

OUR GRANT OPPORTUNITIES: Youth Today’s grant listings are carefully curated for our subscribers working in youth-related industries. Subscribers will find local, state, regional and national grant opportunities.

THIS GRANT’S FOCUS: Child/Youth Welfare, Child/Youth Mental Health, Grief/Bereavement, Therapy, Counseling, Mentoring
Deadline:
Mar. 9, 2020 | July 17, 2020

“The New York Life Foundation in partnership with the National Alliance for Grieving Children is excited to soon announce the opening of the RFP cycle for Grief Reach, a grant program that will expand capacity and increase access of bereavement services for grieving youth with local organizations. The Foundation supports programs that benefit young people, particularly in the areas of educational enhancement and childhood bereavement. Childhood bereavement is one of society’s most pervasive issues: one in fourteen Americans will lose a parent or sibling before age 18 and the vast majority of children experience a significant loss by the time they complete high school. Yet bereaved children remain largely unseen and under-served within their communities and schools, with few outlets to express their grief.

The New York Life Foundation has committed $1.25 million up to thirty-seven grants to be given to organizations serving grieving children across the country. There are two different grant opportunities:

  • Cycle 1: Community Expansion Grants: These grant funds may be used to expand services to bereaved children and youth.
  • Cycle 2: Capacity Building Grants: Funds to enhance organizational capacity, development and effectiveness.”

Funder: The New York Life Foundation and the National Alliance for Grieving Children
Eligibility:
“Organizations applying for these competitive grants must be 501(c)(3) organizations. This competitive grant program is limited to those organizations that serve bereaved children and youth. Applicants for this grant program must serve at least 50 percent—of low-income youth and/or minority children. Special consideration will be given to projects that are focused on     providing resources for families affected by the opioid crisis with their grant proposal.”
Amount:
Cycle 1: $50,000 or $100,000 | Cycle 2: $10,000 or $20,000
Contact:
Link.


>>> CLICK HERE to see all of Youth Today’s GRANT LISTINGS

The post Youth Grief and Bereavement Services Program Grants appeared first on Youth Today.


Youth Grief and Bereavement Services Program Grants

OUR GRANT OPPORTUNITIES: Youth Today’s grant listings are carefully curated for our subscribers working in youth-related industries. Subscribers will find local, state, regional and national grant opportunities.

THIS GRANT’S FOCUS: Child/Youth Welfare, Child/Youth Mental Health, Grief/Bereavement, Therapy, Counseling, Mentoring
Deadline:
Mar. 9, 2020 | July 17, 2020

“The New York Life Foundation in partnership with the National Alliance for Grieving Children is excited to soon announce the opening of the RFP cycle for Grief Reach, a grant program that will expand capacity and increase access of bereavement services for grieving youth with local organizations. The Foundation supports programs that benefit young people, particularly in the areas of educational enhancement and childhood bereavement. Childhood bereavement is one of society’s most pervasive issues: one in fourteen Americans will lose a parent or sibling before age 18 and the vast majority of children experience a significant loss by the time they complete high school. Yet bereaved children remain largely unseen and under-served within their communities and schools, with few outlets to express their grief.

The New York Life Foundation has committed $1.25 million up to thirty-seven grants to be given to organizations serving grieving children across the country. There are two different grant opportunities:

  • Cycle 1: Community Expansion Grants: These grant funds may be used to expand services to bereaved children and youth.
  • Cycle 2: Capacity Building Grants: Funds to enhance organizational capacity, development and effectiveness.”

Funder: The New York Life Foundation and the National Alliance for Grieving Children
Eligibility:
“Organizations applying for these competitive grants must be 501(c)(3) organizations. This competitive grant program is limited to those organizations that serve bereaved children and youth. Applicants for this grant program must serve at least 50 percent—of low-income youth and/or minority children. Special consideration will be given to projects that are focused on     providing resources for families affected by the opioid crisis with their grant proposal.”
Amount:
Cycle 1: $50,000 or $100,000 | Cycle 2: $10,000 or $20,000
Contact:
Link.


>>> CLICK HERE to see all of Youth Today’s GRANT LISTINGS

The post Youth Grief and Bereavement Services Program Grants appeared first on Youth Today.


Community Youth Substance Abuse Prevention Program Grants

OUR GRANT OPPORTUNITIES: Youth Today’s grant listings are carefully curated for our subscribers working in youth-related industries. Subscribers will find local, state, regional and national grant opportunities.

THIS GRANT’S FOCUS: Youth Welfare, Drugs, Substance Abuse, Community
Deadline:
Apr. 3, 2020

“The purpose of the DFC Support Program is to establish and strengthen collaboration to support the efforts of community coalitions working to prevent youth substance use. By statute, the DFC Support Program has two goals:

  1. Establish and strengthen collaboration among communities, public and private non-profit agencies, as well as federal, state, local, and tribal governments to support the efforts of community coalitions working to prevent and reduce substance abuse among youth (individuals 18 years of age and younger).
  2. Reduce substance abuse among youth and, over time, reduce substance abuse among adults by addressing the factors in a community that increase the risk of substance abuse and promoting the factors that minimize the risk of substance abuse.”

Funder: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Eligibility:
Nonprofits having a 501(c)(3) status with the IRS, government organizations serving as bona fide agents: state governments, county governments, city or township governments, territorial governments, special district governments, independent school districts, state controlled institutions of higher education, American Indian or Alaska Native tribal governments (federally recognized or state-recognized) | Non-government Organizations serving as Bona fide Agents: Public institutions of higher education, private institutions of higher education, Professional associations, Voluntary organizations, Faith-based organizations,American Indian or Alaska native tribally designated organizations.
Amount:
Up to $125,000
Contact:
Link.


>>> CLICK HERE to see all of Youth Today’s GRANT LISTINGS

The post Community Youth Substance Abuse Prevention Program Grants appeared first on Youth Today.


Water reuse could be key for future of hydraulic fracturing

Enough water will come from the ground as a byproduct of oil production from unconventional reservoirs during the coming decades to theoretically counter the need to use fresh water for hydraulic fracturing operations in many of the nation’s large oil-producing areas. But while other industries, such as agriculture, might want to recycle some of that water for their own needs, water quality issues and the potential costs involved mean it could be best to keep the water in the oil patch.