What is engaging?
Engaging is the process by which youth AOD practitioners and agencies develop connections with young people and their families.

Young people and families that are engaged successfully demonstrate a clear understanding of services available and how to use them in the most meaningful and effective way.

Engaging is a reciprocal process through which practitioners develop working relationships with young people and families. It is guided by commonly agreed therapeutic goals and based on mutual respect, empathy and an understanding of each other’s boundaries. Working relationships act as a vehicle for delivering interventions, evaluating their effectiveness and ensuring that services delivered continue to be commensurate with the needs of young people and families.

Why is engaging important?
Engagement with practitioners and services has a direct influence on treatment retention, outcomes and the quality of the experience for clients. Evidence suggests that young people who remain in treatment do better than those who drop out, regardless of the seriousness of the issues (Gilvarry, 2000).

Engaging is especially significant for young people who are less proactive in seeking help for health concerns (Sawyer & Patton, 2000). More specifically it has been observed that adolescents rarely perceive a need for treatment of AOD problems. Further, young people experiencing the most disadvantage and life complexity have been found to have low rates of access to AOD and mental health services relative to need (Busen & Engebretson, 2008; Barry, Ensign, & Lippek, 2002; Rosenthal, Mallett, Milburn, & Rotheram-Borus, 2008; Waldron et al., 2007). This can be because disadvantaged young people with AOD issues often:

  • Have fraught relationships parents or carers, who are not in a position to  advocate for necessary services (Statham 2004)
  • Have limited resources and diminished power in adult-centred systems (Meade and Slesnick, 2002)
  • Mistrust professionals and lack the confidence or interpersonal skills to negotiate access (Karabanow & Clement, 2004) or advocate for themselves (Barry et al., 2002).

Clients who are engaged effectively are more likely to raise and work through any issues with practitioners that might jeopardise their involvement in treatment or with a service. 

Where a robust connection is established with a client, Youth AOD practitioners are in a position to facilitate their engagement with other key services and social institutions such as schools.

Aims of this module
This module has been developed to strengthen the existing capacity of youth AOD practitioners and agencies to engage eligible young people and families effectively. Twelve key aspects of engaging young are identified and a range of related evidence informed practices explored.

This module continues on the next page….

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