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Helping Youths Develop Life Skills

Brendan Rios, who has been a therapeutic mentor at CHD for four years, likes working with kids—especially teenagers. While some people might think that teens would be the most difficult age group to work with—and they might be right—Rios relishes a challenge.

“It’s a crucial time in their lives, in terms of development and growth,” said Rios. “I enjoy helping them prepare for grown-up life.”

CHD’s In-Home Therapy and Therapeutic Mentoring services are part of the Massachusetts Children’s Behavioral Health Initiative (CBHI), which connects families with teams of support staff to coordinate services.

Therapeutic Mentoring pairs a child with a trained adult to help fulfill one or more goals of a child’s Outpatient Therapy or In-Home Therapy treatment plan. The therapeutic mentor, a paraprofessional supervised by a clinical professional, assists the child in putting the skills learned in therapy to use in the community. These skills include interpersonal communication, problem solving and conflict resolution, and relating appropriately to other children and adolescents, as well as adults, through role play.

A native of Northampton, Rios played varsity basketball in high school, and after earning a bachelor’s degree in community health and preventative medicine, he played a season with the Springfield Sting in the American Basketball Association, and several jobs later was a career advisor at Ultimate Medical Academy in Clearwater, FL. Then he eyed a move back to Massachusetts. “I felt like I couldn’t really work at a desk anymore,” he said. “I’ve been an athlete all my life, and it’s tough for me to stay in one spot. I am not a stationary person.”

As a therapeutic mentor at CHD, he is always on the go, visiting the individuals in the community. “A lot of the kiddos act differently outside of the home than they do inside, so these sessions provide a good gauge to see where they’re at in terms of independence—their social skills, etc.”

A case in point: Rios sometimes works with children who have impulse control issues. “With some of them, one of their impulses is to touch everyone around them,” said Rios. “They’re very ‘handsy,’ and they don’t fully understand personal boundaries. So I try to break it down into little steps. First there’s the education piece—teaching them about it, watch some videos about it, and the work on the improvement by role playing. In general, we want to target what their impulses are and then having them take the time to think before acting.”

Rios, who is also a therapeutic training and support specialist at CHD, said it’s important to be willing to work through the frustrating moments of the job. “Sometimes you don’t see the improvement that you want to see, and when that happens, it’s a tough pill to swallow,” he said. “So, if one thing doesn’t work, then you reassess and try something else. And then, when you see those little improvements in the kiddos, it makes my job that much sweeter.”

  • Know of anyone needing children’s behavioral therapy, including In-Home Therapy and Therapeutic Mentoring? Have them call 1-844-CHD-HELP.

  • Those interested in making a difference in the lives of children, youth, and families can apply for a clinician position in our In-Home Therapy program by clicking here.