Youth and Family Services is there for those in need
by Shawn Yorks
Guymon Daily Herald
Sometimes the day-to-day pressure of just being a teen can be overwhelming. Peer pressure, family problems, stress and anxiety - all can lead to emotional problems, and sometimes crime.
That's where Western Plains Youth and Family Services comes in.
Most of the time, kids just need someone to listen and understand.
Jennifer West and Miranda Gilbert know exactly what to do.
They help teens and children overcome the “stigma” of seeing a counselor.
The duo counsels children ages 3-18 in their office at 306 NW 5th in Guymon.
Among the services available are outreach counseling, programs for repeat juvenile offenders and programs for first time juvenile offenders.
And while most of the clients are referred from Juvenile Services, kids don't have to be in trouble to benefit from the services offered.
“We're looking for parents who think their children could use a little guidance,” West said. “We have two different services (for that) and it's a free service.”
Added Gilbert: “(Services are available) regardless of who you are. It doesn't have to be a negative thing to come to counseling.”
The Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program (PREP) is a 7-week class, one-day a week, that lasts two hours.
“We focus on communication, anger management, problem-solving,” West said.
“We teach a communication technique called the speaker/listener technique that teaches a better way to communicate without letting things get out of hand.”
PREP is available to any parent and child. Parents are required to attend the class, as well.
“It's a parent/child program, the child can't come by themselves,” West said. “We teach a full belief system and the way people are different.”
Outreach counseling offers individual and group counseling as well as crisis intervention, community education and community development. Those services are offered to youth and families in area schools and is also free of charge.
“It is basically a one-on-one counseling for youths who may need a little bit of guidance on their own,” West said. “We draw up a treatment plan of services that we think will be of full benefit to them, covering such things as decision-making or living skills. Anything that helps them.”
That could also include drug and alcohol education But the counselors are available for other problems, as well, such as grief counseling.
“We've had several young adults who have died in car accidents in the past year,” West said. “We go into the school and we meet with the kids who feel like they need to talk to someone (about it).”
Individuals or families are often referred by friends or other family members, which is sometimes a difficult prospect.
“People who are in a relationship don't necessarily see a problem,” Gilbert said. “It's normal to them. But people who are on the outside know it can't be this way forever. We've got to fix it.”
West has been counseling for about 15 months, and Gilbert started three months ago. Both are well qualified and state-certified, and anxious to help more people.
“At first it was a little difficult for me,” West said. “Because I just started with the first offenders and PREP program. The more I did it and the more I saw what I could do, and these kids listen. I get excited now.
It's a pretty good feeling.”
Once the kids overcome the stigma of “seeing a counselor,” they develop a good relationship with their counselors.
“I've had several kids who have come back to see me,” West said. “Before, they might have been ashamed to have to see a counselor. But now they've gotten through everything. You can hear a different tone in their voice.”
Most of the time, problems stem from a lack of communication. And that's something both the children and parents learn in the course of the program.
“Sometimes it is just a communication problem,” West said.
“Once they learn a better way to communicate, and look at it in a different way, they realize they can fix (the problem).”
West has a Bachelor's in Criminal Justice. Gilbert has a Bachelor's of Science in Psychology. Both hold several state certifications.
“Everything we do is based on approved research,” West said.
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