Filling the Gap for Transition-Age Youth

Lindsey Harcus, PsyD is pictured on the left and Rebecca Witheridge, LCSW is pictured on the right

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Program Manager Lindsey Harcus and Assistant Program Manager Rebecca Witheridge talk about Emerson St. for Teens & Young Adults.

Why was Emerson St. created?

Rebecca Witheridge: Emerson St. was created to address a gap in services that we were seeing at WellPower. We’ve always had robust child, family and adult services. But we were noticing that young people tended to drop out of treatment when they were around age 13 and then resurfacing in their young adulthood. We knew we needed to do something about that.  

How does Emerson St. provide teens and young adults with whole health well-being opportunities?

Lindsey Harcus: We have clinical services like individual therapy, family therapy, caregiver support, prevention and well-being services. Folks can get to know staff here and then begin using supported education and supported employment services, too. We also have our Phoenix program, which is for early episode psychosis. We meet people where they are and reduce barriers to folks getting access to services.

Rebecca Witheridge: We also have a case manager which allows us to work with the young people who might need a higher level of care and to help connect them with resources in the community to support their recovery.

How has Emerson St. adapted and changed during COVID-19?

Rebecca Witheridge: It was a doozy for everyone when the pandemic began, and we all had to pivot to online services. We’ve always had a lot of young people come here for well-being groups, like cooking, art and outings into the community. When the pandemic began, our team pivoted to doing virtual groups with at-home kits put together by our staff, with supplies for cooking and art projects.

Lindsey Harcus: Yeah, that was really phenomenal. We felt grateful because we have an age group that pivoted well to telehealth. We noticed engagement going up; telehealth really reduced barriers with transportation. I think everyone’s feeling a little bit of telehealth fatigue at this point, though. We’re happy to open in a hybrid capacity now.

Can you describe a particularly impactful moment during your time at Emerson St.?

Rebecca Witheridge: I’ve had the opportunity to take a group of young people to various conferences to do panel discussions with professionals on mental health. That’s probably the proudest that I’ve ever been, because all these professionals line up with their notebooks out, ready to write down every single thing that the young people have to say, because everyone is trying to figure out how to better serve transition age youth.

Seeing them take ownership over that in their own way, to step up and to be brave, to speak about their own mental health challenges and be vulnerable – it was just the coolest thing ever.

In a few words, how would you each describe Emerson St.?

Lindsey Harcus: Empowerment and passion. The staff who work here really want to be here. We really love working with this age group.

Rebecca Witheridge: I think another word I would use is warmth. It’s something we really strive for. We wanted Emerson St. not to feel too sterile, but instead connected and homey. I’ve been on outings with young people when we’ve gone hiking, and they’ll say, “When are we going home to Emerson?” I think that speaks volumes. They feel welcomed and as comfortable as you can be in a space where you’re being asked to be vulnerable.

Balance is a word I would use to describe us as well, because we value laughter and silliness as well as being a space where folks can get serious and can talk about hard things. I think sometimes in mental health, we get lost in the dark and the dreary. We need to go those places, and it’s important to bring the levity and the light, so that we can go on about our lives and finding the good things too.