Visit by Lon Woodbury
Boulder Visit: July 20, 2006
Beverly Hills Visit: February 6, 2007
Founded in the year 2000, in Boulder, CO, by David Herz, Vive has opened additional offices in Los Angeles and Menlo Park, CA, and has plans to open an office in the Dallas/Fort Worth, TX area in the near future. In addition, Vive has begun offering transition and aftercare services to families located anywhere in the continental US and Hawaii through its Journey On program, which uses traveling mentors and parent coaches to deliver services. Vive is one of the programs that seems to be on the cutting edge of the current evolution of emotional growth/therapeutic boarding schools to integrate community-based programming.
Vive! works with both adolescents and young adults who need some kind of local intervention before residential placement becomes necessary, or who have completed an intensive residential program and need help with the transition back into normal living. Although there is no minimum or maximum length of time specified, the average length is about 12 to 15 months. Each participant lives at home or—if a young adult is transitioning to independence—in an apartment, with the main contact with the program coming from regular visits with a mentor and a family coach (both trained therapists). Work with the parents is also an integral part of the program. The three main areas of the program are to provide a transition or aftercare support, to provide early intervention, and to teach the basics of independent living.
The staff emphasizes that their focus is to exert influence rather than authority. For example, in the concept they call “fail forward,.” they allow the participants to suffer the consequences of their actions so long as they remain safe, and then work with them to deal with the consequences and help them learn that the consequences were a result of their own actions. As an example, when a participant spends all his or her monthly grocery money the first week on treats or doing favors for others, they don’t bail them out but help them find ways to eat through other means, such as finding a soup kitchen. This reinforces the lesson of how important it is to be responsible with money so they don’t suffer the consequences again, which also builds the relationship in that the participant can trust the staff as a resource to call on when uncertain how to handle some situation.
The approach with each participant is individualized, working on what each needs to learn to become responsibly independent. Their emphasis is more holistic than therapeutic, and thus is action oriented. The interactions focus on specific actions the participant should take in various situations, referring to basic principles only as they pertain to the issue at hand. Staff members are available any time the participant needs help, but the minimum contacts are eight hours a month with mentoring activities, and four hours a month working with the parents. Of course, much more time is spent at first with a young person who has moved into the area from elsewhere to attend college.
Vive! does not do crisis intervention since most of their participants have completed an intensive residential program and are ready for transition back to mainstream living. For the rest, which are usually the teens, they work with families who do not yet need residential placement.
In addition to supporting the participant in learning responsible independent living, Vive! works with the whole family to help resolve family issues such as teaching parents how to set boundaries, working through enmeshment problems and helping parents learn how to be supportive when their child makes progress.
The program is very well aware of what kind of young people they can help, and those they cannot help. The admission process consists of a family meeting with the mentor and the parent coach to have the program and expectations explained, then the mentor and young person split off to spend time together. Many families will then go home to discuss the options among themselves prior to making a decision. If the family fits the Vive! client profile and their decision to engage Vive! is based on a real desire to change, then the family is accepted and staff set up a routine with specific expectations based on the needs of the young person and the family.
The program basically works with the participant in the participant’s own environment, whether it be an adolescent living at home, or young adults just starting out in their own apartments and going to college or joining the workforce. It parallels to a large extent the supportive environment young people had when this country was more rural and they had the benefit of support from an extended family or everybody in the community knew the young person. However, instead of having the benefit of an uncle or grandmother or family friend living down the street they could call on in times past, they have the benefit of Vive! staff to turn to for help, support and advice in the process of learning how to handle the problems that go with growing up.