Our Therapeutic Approach

Our professional, expertly trained therapists utilize a range of relevant, evidenced-based therapeutic approaches within a holistic, multi-disciplinary framework in order to provide our clients with the most appropriate, individually-tailored support and care to help meet their needs and address their mental health challenges.

Brief Solution Focused Therapy (BRIEF)

Brief Solution Focused Therapy is a strength-based approach to help young people who are experiencing difficulty, find tools they can use to manage their symptoms and cope with challenges. Our expertly trained clinicians may utilize Brief Solution Focused Therapy when seeing Walk-In Clinic clients for the first time. The therapist can focus on a specific issue or set of issues that the client is presenting and then work proactively and collaboratively with the youth to identify the problem and find ways to address it.

The therapist helps the young person imagine the future they desire and then works collaboratively with the client to achieve their goals in a therapeutic context.

Research has shown Brief Solution Therapy to be a helpful intervention for youth who are experiencing behavioural concerns or academic/school-related issues. It’s also proven to be effective as an approach to family therapy and is often used in conjunction with other modalities

Collaborative Problem Solving (CPS)

Pour Français

Instead of more conventional approaches involving rewards and consequences, CPS approaches challenging behaviour as a result of lagging skills and aims to teach skills that are lacking. Youth in our programs have needs that haven’t typically been met through intensive imposition of adult will or incentive programs. CPS represents a different way of working with challenging behaviour that involves a structured, relational process for understanding and helping youth.

“Kids do well if they can, not simply because they want to” – Collaborative Problem Solving’s central principle helps to frame challenging behaviour as by-product of lagging skills, not motivation.

CPS is a strengths-based approach that provides a structured way for incorporating trauma-informed care and highlighting the youth and family voice.

For clients who have struggled with behavioural, emotional and social challenges, this approach provides a new way of engaging and helping youth (and the adults in their lives) learn to resolve problems in a collaborative, mutually satisfactory manner.

‘Rethinking Challenging Kids – Where There’s a Skill There’s a Way’ with J. Stuart Ablon PhD.

When youth are struggling in school settings, traditional approaches like incentive programs, consequences, and the imposition of adult will are often utilized. When these approaches have not been successful, CPS provides a skill-building approach that uses strengths and collaboration as an effective alternative to achieve goals. This affects 100% of day treatment clients as referrals are often resulting from difficulties achieving or experiencing success in mainstream school settings.

CPS is also an effective way to teach parents to think about challenging behaviour and use this approach rather than relying on incentives or rewards. It draws on the strengths of youth and adults to create mutually satisfactory solutions through a structured process. In this way, everyone benefits from learning how to identify and articulate their concerns, hear the concerns of others, and consider each other’s concerns.



Expressive Art Therapies

At Skylark, we use art therapy that combines artistic expression and psychotherapy in order to connect with clients. The art therapist utilizes the therapeutic nature of creativity, as well as the client’s own use of symbols, as a way to gain insight into issues affecting the young person that they might not even be aware of on a conscious level.

Art therapy is commonly defined as an expressive non-verbal therapy, in which various art-making activities are used to facilitate emotional expression, healing, and growth.

These are some of the most recognized forms of expression:

  • dance movement therapy
  • drama therapy
  • music therapy
  • visual art therapy

Young persons often have difficult articulating emotional issues and art therapy can help them to open up through self-expression. For example, young persons presenting with depression can work through the underlying issues troubling them by creating works of art. The therapist will then lead the young client in discussion and analysis about the artwork and any use of symbols, in order to help the young person gain insight into issues they may not be able to articulate in any other way.

Art therapy encourages creativity, builds inner resources and has a valuable and often profound effect in reaching youth who might resist more traditional therapeutic approaches. Art therapy can also be highly effective when combined with other therapies. At Skylark our Art Gallery is run by youth for youth and is a wonderful reminder of the talent, diversity and strength of our young people.

Narrative Therapy

Narrative Therapy is an evidence-informed, solution-focused collaborative approach to counselling and community work, which centres people as “the experts in their own lives”. It acknowledges their unique experiences, contexts and perspectives and strives to respond in ways that “fit” for them and the lives they want for themselves and their families.

Developed by Michael White and David Epston, Narrative Therapy views problems as separate from people’s identities and assumes people have many skills, abilities, values, commitments, beliefs and capabilities to help them to get through their challenges. Through Narrative Therapy, young people and their families discover different ways of viewing themselves and their relationships, as well as finding alternative and unique responses to problems.

Centering people as “the experts in their own lives” is a cornerstone of all Skylark programs and services. We listen to the unique stories of young people and their families, assist them to identify challenges, engage them in an exploration of their skills and knowledge for resolving life’s difficulties and empower them to move forward in their lives.

Narrative Therapy also recognizes that difficulties may be related to issues of social injustice and provides opportunities to explore the impacts of broader concerns, such as race, gender and sexual orientation.

In the past in therapy I’ve felt like I was under a microscope, like a test subject, and that was not very humanizing… (in this way of working) I felt like I get to choose what to put under the microscope and then Amy (therapist) and I would look at it together… it was much more dignifying.

Skylark youth client – Narrative Therapy practice

At Skylark, we are committed to ideas and practices that reflect respect for difference. There are no ‘cookie cutter’ expectations for families or young people. Our approach highlights what people want for themselves and their lives; it relies on the recognition that there are many alternative routes to successful lives and relationships.

Brief Narrative Therapy is three-session approach through the Narrative Therapy world view. Over three, 1.5 hour long sessions, the participant benefits from ‘outsider witnesses’ who will witness the conversation the client has with a therapist.

Some things that people have reflected about the usefulness of having witnesses listen to their stories of suffering and the acts of resistance they have taken to stand up to problems:

  • Gain new perspectives on one’s life and identity
  • Reengage with neglected aspects of one’s own history
  • Reconnect with the values and purposes for one’s life
  • Think beyond what one routinely thinks
  • Unearth small acts of resistance to problems
  • Reacquaint with preferred parts of themselves

For your reference:

What to do when a diagnosis doesn’t fit?
Amy Druker, Social Worker and Narrative Therapist, Skylark Children, Youth & Families, (formerly Oolagen Youth Mental Health)
Published: The International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work | 2014 | No.4 www.dulwichcentre.com.au


Trauma-informed is a therapeutic lens through which we view our work. It’s an approach that has us recognize the adverse events in our clients’ life experiences and integrates a therapeutic approach based on that understanding. For example in looking at a young person’s worrisome or challenging behaviours, we would understand it clinically as stemming from adverse childhood experiences and not as ‘bad behaviour.’

This is one more way that we can help our young people and their families through a holistic and multi-disciplinary approach that seeks to identify the issues and then work collaboratively with our clients to help them resolve the challenges they face.

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) is an evidence-informed therapeutic approach that combines Cognitive Behavioural Therapy with Mindfulness approaches and teaches Distress Tolerance, Emotional Regulation and Interpersonal Effectiveness Skills.

DBT has been shown to be effective in treating youth who are experiencing significant mental health challenges related to emotion regulation, which often includes suicidal ideation and self-harming behaviours such as cutting, significant substance use, disordered eating, etc.

We have two options when it comes to Dialectical Behaviour Therapy; An Intensive DBT Program for youth and their caregiver OR 12-Week DBT Groups that youth/young adults can attend on their own.

For the Intensive DBT Program, it is necessary that young people and their families participating in the program commit to three mandatory components;

1. weekly Group Skills training sessions which are two hours in length and include the youth and one parent/caregiver

2. weekly individual therapy.

3. Bi-weekly therapy sessions for the Parent/Caregiver(s) to bolster the skills learned in group and to discuss how to apply them in your family.

The full DBT Program is a minimum of 6 months in length.

Lumenus’ (formerly Skylark) Intensive DBT program is open to youth aged 14 to 18 years old who reside in the City of Toronto.

The Intensive DBT Program requires both adolescent and parent/caregiver participation. 

The group is currently held on Wednesdays from 5:30-7:00p.m. and is being conducted virtually due to Covid-19 restrictions. 

The individual and parenting sessions are scheduled separately and could be in person, via phone or virtually. Late-afternoon and early evening appointments are available




Lumenus also offers 12-Week DBT groups that youth/young adults can attend on their own via our Central Toronto Youth Wellness Hub.  There are three groups, one for ages 14-17, one for ages 18-21 and one for ages 22-25.  In order to access one of the 12-Week DBT groups we ask that youth attend our counselling walk-in program 1-3 times to help all of us determine if DBT-informed skills group is right for you. Then, you’re able to give our YWHO Administrator and Client Facilitator a call or email (416-482-0081 x 7282 or YWHO@lumenus.ca) and they will put you on the wait list. About 3 weeks before group begins you will get a call to book an intake/orientation meeting to understand your hopes for the group as well as help you to better understand what the group is all about.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based approach to understanding and treating psychological problems.

Client’s problems are understood in terms of how their thoughts, feelings, physical reactions, and behaviour interact and maintain their problems. The focus is on actively teaching skills to help children and youth function better. Clients learn to become aware of their thoughts, and many CBT interventions focus on helping clients change their thoughts. Interventions such as labelling dysfunctional thought patterns, thought records, and developing coping thoughts are regularly used. When clients change how they think, their feelings, physical reactions, and behaviours also change.

Young people also learn to become aware of their behaviour and how their actions affect their thoughts and feelings. Interventions such as action plans, graded task assignments, problem solving, and exposure therapy are regularly used.

CBT is one of the most researched forms of therapy. It was first developed in the 1970s as a treatment for depression and then quickly expanded as a treatment for a range of other psychological difficulties. There’ve been hundreds of studies demonstrating the effectiveness of CBT for a great variety of difficulties including: depression, various anxiety related problems such as panic, school refusal, or general anxiety, problems related to trauma, difficulties with impulse control and anger; and problems related to alcohol or drug use. It’s also frequently a component of parenting interventions and family therapy and is an important component of the Skylark therapeutic multi-disciplinary approach.

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