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Class Descriptions

Strengthening Youth Engagement and Retention Skills


Credits: 1
Prerequisites: None

Pathway Associations

Community Change
Interpersonal PracticeElective (Host)
Mgmt & Leadership
Policy & Political
Program Evaluation
Older Adults
Children & Families

Course Description

Youth living in impoverished communities experience high incidents of involvement with the juvenile justice system, high rates of school dropout, high levels of suicidal behavior, economic hardships that result in frequent moves and often unstable family support networks and lower levels of successful engagement and retention in behavioral health services (Carson, Cook & Alegria, 2010; Hogue & Dauber, 2011; Huey & Polo, 2008). In their daily lives they face violence, homelessness, incarceration, foster care, disabilities, immigration and sexual orientation and racial intolerance. Engagement and retention in treatment are major problems for mental health prevention and intervention programs. This course will present evidence based interventions designed to enhance the knowledge and skills of engagement and retention in treatment when working with high need youth, young adults and their families. We will review commonly utilized theoretical models that inform engagement and retention strategies: the Health Belief Model; Behavior Modification; Strategic and Structural Family Systems Theory; the Ecological Model and the Therapeutic Alliance. We will present promising approaches to engagement and retention which include the Strategic Structural-Systems Engagement (SSSE) model (Szapocznik’s et al.,1988) in which engagement resistance is part of the process; adjunctive family support interventions (Miller & Prinz, 2003); interventions that utilize Motivational Interviewing to address engagement (Nock & Kazdin, 2005; Grote et al. 2009); and McKay and colleagues (1996) provider engagement training to enhance the therapeutic alliance early on in treatment. Special attention will also be given to issues of diversity as it relates to building therapeutic relationships and intervening with youth and their families.


1. Apply knowledge of human behavior and the social environment, person-in-environment, and other multidisciplinary frameworks in engaging, assessing, and intervening with individuals and families; select appropriate intervention strategies, and facilitate effective transitions that advance mutually agreed-on goals (EPAS 7, 8)
2. Mediate and advocate with diverse clients and constituencies with a host of holistic needs (EPAS 8)
3. Engage diversity and difference in practice: demonstrate an awareness of the sources of power, how to mobilize power towards positive change, and ways to challenge oppressive assumptions, biases, and prejudices (EPAS 2)
4. Recognize the importance of inter-professional communication, collaboration and knowledge throughout engagement, assessment, and intervention, to achieve beneficial practice outcomes (IPE 1)
5. Use the knowledge of one’s own role and those of other professions to appropriately assess and address the health care needs of patients and to promote and advance the health of populations (IPE 2)
6. Communicate with patients, families, communities, and professionals in health and other fields in a responsive and responsible manner that supports a team approach to the promotion and maintenance of health and the prevention and treatment of disease (IPE 3)
7. Apply relationship‐building values and the principles of team dynamics to perform effectively in different team roles to plan, deliver, and evaluate patient/population centered care and population health programs and policies that are safe, timely, efficient, effective, and equitable (IPEC 4)
8. Understand the role of values and culture in driving decisions and demonstrate the appropriate flexibility necessary in working with others having different values (IPE 5)


The instructor will assign required and recommended readings. Class format will include lecture, discussion, case analysis, and skills development sessions. Presentations and written assignments will integrate theory, evidence-based research, and case analysis, and when possible, the student’s practicum work.

Intensive Focus on Privilege, Oppression, Diversity and Social Justice (PODS)

This course integrates PODS content and skills with a special emphasis on the identification of theories, practice and/or policies that promote social justice, illuminate injustices and are consistent with scientific and professional knowledge. Through the use of a variety of instructional methods, this course will support students developing a vision of social justice, learn to recognize and reduce mechanisms that support oppression and injustice, work toward social justice processes, apply intersectionality and intercultural frameworks and strengthen critical consciousness, self-knowledge and self-awareness to facilitate PODS learning.

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