Yes We Can Youth Clinics: How We Help 500 Clients Per Year in the Netherlands
Sebastian, 17 years old had given up hope. He did not think his life would get any better. He was addicted to drugs and he used a lot, every day. He lied, he cheated and he manipulated everything and everyone. He could not care less about rules or the commitments he had made.
Mariska is a 15-year-old girl who has been struggling with weight loss, unhappiness and depression. Her obsession with her body got greater and she really wanted to lose weight. She was never satisfied with herself when she looked in a mirror and became depressed. Mariska closed herself off from others, and eventually nobody could communicate with her anymore. The atmosphere in her household was toxic.
Gaming all day and night, falling asleep on his keyboard, eating hardly anything and living in his pyjamas, he couldn’t even be bothered to wash himself. Michael was 17 when he realised this was not the way his life was supposed to go. He tied the psychologists around his fingers within five minutes, in other words his trust in ambulant healthcare was gone. This started at birth; his parents got divorced, he never got on with his stepfather and his biological father and his stepfather also did not get along. Michael became scared of his own father and found a way to escape through gaming; gaming was the only place he felt safe.
These stories of Sebastian, Mariska and Michael are not unique. Yes We Can Youth Clinics treat about 500 teenagers and young adults with problems like these, on a yearly basis. We are doing this with 175 healthcare professionals in our clinic in Hilvarenbeek, based in the South of Holland (very accessible from different airports). In 2010, I established Yes We Can Clinics with some trusted healthcare professionals. Because of the success of our method and the large demand to also treat teenagers and young adults from abroad, we have opened a second international clinic, also based in Hilvarenbeek.
What is Yes We Can Clinics?
We are a centre of excellence, specialising in healthcare for young people suffering from addictions and/or behavioural disorders. Since our start in 2010, we have been the turning point for thousands of fellows. About 70% of the fellows that we see no longer need intensive specialised care after their stay with us.
With which problems can we help you?
Yes We Can Youth Clinics treats those from 13-25 years old who do not function at school, at work, in their family or friend groups, but also who are stuck within themselves. These teenagers and young adults have severe behavioural problems and disorders. This is being expressed through lack of attendance at school, no job, debts, getting isolated from friends and family, an unhealthy lifestyle, sexual or physical abuse, asocial behaviour, abuse of power and mistreatment, severe conflicts, extreme views/preoccupation, losing control, recklessness, self-harm, self-neglect, compulsive behaviour, substance abuse, addiction, mood swings, self-hate, extreme dreariness or suicidal thoughts.
Many of our fellows have been through a lot and collapse under the burden. They have for example ADHD, PDD NOS, borderline personality disorder, autism, traumatic experience, anxiety disorder, depression, been bullied or had to deal with disabuse or misuse. They have found a way to avoid their troubles and pain and to attenuate this pain. These troubled individuals are doing everything possible not to feel or think, if they hurt themselves or their surroundings for that matter, their behaviour is destructive and the youngster is powerless. These teenagers and young adults are not capable of making a change themselves, or making the decision to change. Their surroundings empower and strengthen the negative spiral in which they have ended up. Most of the time the parents have lost their position as a parent. The fellows and their parents/caretakers have, if you look at the severity of the problems, followed previous frustrating and partially unsuccessful healthcare routes, and have thus less trust in health care organisations. These fellows are stuck in such a way, that treatment in their own surroundings will not succeed any more. An ambulant solution does not work for this group. To break through the escalated situation, timeout is needed: a separate recovery route for them and their parents/guardians.
How do we work?
The approach of Yes We Can Clinics has four pillars, those four pillars make our treatment so successful:
1. A safe surrounding and treatment with a multi-disciplinary team where fellows get to know their talent, where they develop and where they learn from each other. Respect, openness, honesty and willingness are our core values.
The fellows will experience a clinical treatment of 10 weeks inside our clinic. This is a safe environment where experts by experience, healthcare professionals and youth coaches all have the same goal: the recovery of the fellows and being there for them 24/7, unconditionally. The team is multidisciplinary, existing of psychiatrists, nurses, therapists, experts by experience/counsellors and coaches/group workers. The nurse team and youth coaches are in the clinic 24/7. Each discipline has their own expertise and role. Experts by experience share their own experience, in which recognition can be created and contact can be made quickly. After that, the fellow can share his or her story with the therapist. Because of the cast of the multidisciplinary team, we will help the fellows to see that they can change and that their way is not the solution.
2. The fellows follow a short-term, intensive and a complete clinical treatment of 10 weeks. Next to an individual treatment programme, seven days a week we have a group programme from 6:45 am to 11:30 pm. The care programme exists of 1-to-1 conversations with therapists, group sessions and a programme with educational and health improving sport activities. The day is full and structured. It consists of:
- 3 hours group session and time to work on assignments from the personal workbook;
- 3 hours sport activities, in which new (learned) behaviour can be applied;
- 1 hour one-on-one session with the individual therapist; a minimum of 3 times a week a 1 hour 1-to-1 session with the individual therapist
- 1.5 hours of psycho-education in the form of a lecture and awareness;
- 1 hour closing of the day;
- A weekly community meeting; theme meetings and every evening there is an educational programme.
This schedule is repeated 7 days a week.
3. Family coaching and counselling programme. Besides intensive treatment of the fellow, an intentional involvement of parents/caretakers is required. During the fellows’ fifth week of residential treatment, parents will partake in a four-day family coaching and counselling programme, also known as “bonding week”. Parents and fellows will renew their bonds on the estate. Family patterns that may produce a relapse will be examined. These family patterns are uncovered in order to support the fellow’s newly acquired behaviour. Counsellors recognise these patterns and help to restore and balance family relations.
4. After the clinical treatment, fellows follow an intense aftercare programme. After completing the 10-week residential programme in the Clinic, our fellows have to face the most critical phase of the treatment process. They have rebuilt self-confidence, are motivated again, feel more energetic and are ready to make new plans. At the same time, they are insecure because they may have changed, but their social environment has stayed the same. For that reason, it is essential they receive a great level of support during this period.
Aftercare will start right after the 10 weeks in our Clinic. In a less isolated area, fellows will spend a minimum of four weeks in a residential setting, gradually getting used to the “normal” world again. One major part of the recovery process is to find purpose again. What are you going to do with your life and more important, how are you going to do that? In addition to a great number of group sessions, 1-on-1 sessions and a sports programme, they slowly start picking up normal things in life. Going shopping, seeing a movie, walking through a city, meeting up with other teenagers and young adults, going to a restaurant, having a cup of coffee in a café, exercising in a fitness club… It all seems so simple.
For thousands of Dutch speaking teenagers and young adults who we have treated in the past years, Yes We Can Youth Clinics has been the turning point in their lives. As of today, we are that for English-speaking teenagers and young adults worldwide as well. If you would like to know more about the treatment and our approach, you can visit our website. And in this video you see what our treatment looks like.
Yes We Can Youth Clinics was founded by Jan Willem Poot. Many years ago, Jan Willem had to deal with his own behavioural and addiction problems. He was trapped in an increasingly negative downward spiral, involving not only his own life, but also the lives of his family and all those around him.