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Kwinana families benefit from BEST program

Youth Focus Peel’s BEST family-therapy program will continue at The Zone Youth Centre in Kwinana in 2023 after successfully running at Mandurah’s Coastal Lakes College last year, thanks to ongoing support from Alcoa of Australia.

Developed by Murdoch University, the Behaviour Exchange System Therapy (BEST) program provides support to parents and carers, who in turn are able to more effectively help their young people.

The eight-week family-therapy program has a proven record in reducing harmful behaviour, increasing school/training attendance, and improving mental health.

Alcoa’s Social Investment Manager Rebecca Miniken said: “When a young person is dealing with mental health challenges, it affects more than just one person; it touches whole families and communities. Alcoa is proud to have partnered with Youth Focus for over 10 years to help young people and their families get the support they need in tough times.”

Youth Focus Clinical Lead Leanne Lange is happy the program is returning for 2023, as it had great results in its first year at Coastal Lakes College.

“BEST really helps to open up communication and break down the barriers in families,” she says.

The eight-week program takes place weekly, in a relaxed, informal setting, with two Youth Focus facilitators and a senior youth worker from The Zone. For the first four weeks, parents and carers attend without their young person.

“We find that the parents and carers build their own relationships and learn a lot from each other in that time,” Leanne explains.

“They can talk to others who understand the challenges, emotions, and practicalities that they’re dealing with every day in a non-judgemental environment.”

At the conclusion of the first four weeks, the parents and carers write a letter to their young person, inviting them to take part in the program for the next four weeks. In the second half of the program, the young person gets a valuable opportunity to understand their behaviour from a parents’ perspective, further breaking down barriers.

As Leanne explains, the program isn’t solely for parents and their children. “We’ve had grandparents, siblings, step-parents and blended families all coming together for the program.

“It’s extremely beneficial for everyone. We have a lot of families who feel like the support they’ve been offered allowed them to alter how they parent.

“The BEST group provided a space and time for parents to focus on what’s happening with their teen, while looking at how the entire family is affected. This space for reflection can be hard to find during daily life.

“As a result, parents can make thoughtful plans and decide on next steps to support the family.”