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)

For English

À la différence des approches plus conventionnelles axées sur les récompenses et les conséquences, la RCP considère les comportements problématiques comme étant le résultat d’un déficit au niveau des compétences, et vise donc à enseigner les compétences qui font défaut. Les jeunes inscrits à nos programmes présentent des besoins auxquels l’imposition intensive de la volonté adulte ou les programmes incitatifs n’ont pas su répondre. La RCP représente une autre manière d’aborder les comportements problématiques, une approche basée sur un processus relationnel structuré qui permet de comprendre et d’aider les jeunes.

“Les jeunes réussissent s’ils le peuvent, pas simplement parce qu’ils le souhaitent.” Le principe central de la résolution conjointe de problèmes permet de formuler les comportements problématiques comme étant la conséquence indirecte de lacunes au niveau des compétences, et non d’une question de manque de motivation.

La RCP représente une approche axée sur les forces, et une manière structurée d’inclure les soins qui tiennent compte des traumatismes, tout en étant réceptif à la voix des jeunes et de leurs familles.

Pour les clients aux prises avec des défis comportementaux, émotionnels et sociaux, une telle approche permet d’impliquer et d’aider les jeunes (de même que les adultes dans leur vie) à apprendre à résoudre des problèmes de manière collaborative et mutuellement satisfaisante.

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

Lorsqu’un jeune éprouve des difficultés en contexte scolaire, on a souvent recours à des approches traditionnelles telles que les programmes incitatifs, l’imposition de conséquences et de la volonté des adultes. Lorsque ces approches échouent, la RCP représente une alternative efficace qui permet souvent d’atteindre les objectifs en recourant à la collaboration et aux forces que possède le jeune pour consolider ses compétences. Cette situation concerne tous les clients de nos programmes de traitement de jour, lesquels nous sont souvent orientés car ils ont du mal à réussir dans un cadre scolaire conventionnel.

La RCP est aussi une bonne manière d’encourager les parents à repenser leur attitude face aux comportements problématiques et à employer cette approche plutôt que les incitatifs et les récompenses. La RCP mise sur les forces des jeunes et des adultes pour en arriver à des solutions mutuellement bénéfiques au moyen d’un processus structuré. Ainsi, chacun peut apprendre à identifier et formuler ses inquiétudes tout en considérant et respectant celles des autres.

  • Vous trouverez des recherches démontrant l’efficacité de la RCP en milieu scolaire, dans le cadre de traitements en établissement ou d’unités de thérapie pour patients externes ou hospitalisés en consultant le lien suivant : http://www.thinkkids.org/learn/research/
  • Les clients, leurs familles ou les ressources en matière d’orientation (personnes de confiance, écoles, professionnels) peuvent consulter le lien Skylark Day Treatment programs


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.

Due to the intensive approach required, it is necessary that young people and their families participating in the DBT program commit to two mandatory components; 1. weekly Group Skills training sessions which are two hours in length and include the youth and one parent/guardian and 2. weekly individual therapy.

The full DBT Program is 20 weeks in length.

Skylark’s DBT program is open to youth aged 15 to 18 years old who reside in the City of Toronto. This 20-week program requires both adolescent and parent/caregiver participation. The group is currently held on Tuesdays from 5:30-7:30pm and the individual sessions are scheduled separately. Late-afternoon and early evening appointments are available.

Referrals to The 20-Week DBT Program are on hold at this time due to a high volume of referrals and no available spots in the program until at least April, 2020. We will re-open the waitlist for this program in March, 2020 to mental health professionals wishing to make referrals on behalf of the youth they are working with.

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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