Engaging Families in their Teen’s Recovery Journey – Laura Cummings, LCSW, CCDP-D, Adolescent Clinical Supervisor


Third Wednesday of every month, we get a visit with the folks from the McCall Behavioral Health Network. We’d like to welcome back to the show Laura Cummings, and she is the Director of Clinical Supervisor, Director of Adolescent Services at McCall, and she joins us this morning.

Good morning, Laura.

Hi. I’m happy to be here. Thank you. Thanks for joining us.


We’re going to talk about adolescent services, which of course is right in your wheelhouse. And you know, I guess there’s been a program that you’ve been using at McCall now for about a little bit over a year.


Yes, that’s correct. Our adolescent services program, we developed an intensive outpatient program and we’ve now been in existence since September 2022. Why did we feel that we needed this? What was the goal here? Or identifying a need? Yeah, there’s a lot going on with young people and families. Winter can be a really difficult time. You know, the holiday stress is over, it’s cold, school problems are becoming more and more obvious as we go into that second half of the school year. So our IOP program, it’s like I said, it’s been running for over a year, it’s proving successful in helping a lot of our youth and our families navigate their problems.

We do serve ages 13 through 18, as long as the 18-year-old is still in high school. You asked about why we kind of created this intensive outpatient program level of care. A lot of our clients have mental health struggles. There’s depression, there’s anxiety, suicidal thoughts, self-harming behaviors. One statistic, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, their website, 49.5% of adolescents have had a mental health disorder at some point in their lives. That’s a high percentage. Yeah, nearly half. Yeah. There’s also substance use. That’s kind of the other side of what we do.

So a lot of youth struggle with that. Young people come in using marijuana, alcohol, pills, it’s negatively affecting their mental health, their school performance, and their relationships. SAMHSA.gov says, according to SAMHSA’s 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 8.2% of adolescents ages 12 to 17 drank alcohol in the past month. 13.8% of adolescents used illicit drugs in the past year. So again, kind of high percentages and substance use is really out there among this younger population.

At this program being out for just over a year now, did we notice really a surge or a rise post-pandemic? It seems like we’re still toting up the damage from this thing.

Yeah, yeah. So we kind of came into existence, I think that was part of it. Just kind of the after effects from that and young people trying to get over that. It really did affect the young children negatively.

How do young people  get into the program? How are they steered toward McCall?

Yeah, so I’ll give you a little bit of information about our program. We meet for three hours, three afternoons a week. Clients are given skills to improve their current coping with these different types of stressors that we talked about. We teach new ways to change their behaviors, their thinking patterns. That’s kind of the CBT, cognitive behavioral piece, right? The thinking and the behaviors. We teach them how to build up their social support networks. We help them identify alternative healthy coping activities and challenging their thinking patterns. So these are all different skills that we teach.

Because young people learn differently, we also include art in our program. So some people respond better to, you know, artistic creative ways to kind of bring these concepts into their lives. So we do painting, we do clay, sometimes we do games, or we’ve even included yoga to help the youth kind of learn different ways to heal and cope. And again, different people will respond better to different things.

Sometimes we have other agencies and other speakers come in and talk about different topics, like internet We offer snacks and fidget toys. And we also do individual sessions every other week with the young person. We can have family sessions once a month. And that’s a really key component as well because a lot of times the young person and their parent or guardian really needs that kind of to talk and open up and move together as a family. And we do provide medication management as well

I would imagine including the family too so that everybody is really on the same page. Because if you’ve got a child who is struggling, you get them into the program, and in part if they’re struggling because of the situation at home, that whole herd has got to move together if we’re not going to latch back into the same kind of behaviors or practices that got us there in the first place.

Yes, yes. So that’s why the family piece is really, really key. So if I can, I’d like to just say a little bit, kind of to demystify this whole process, how the initial intake process goes for the new families. Sure. So we begin with a triage phone call. So the parent or guardian can call our office and they’ll do a triage over the phone. They just call our main number, which I’ll just say it’s 860-496-2100. Sure. They get some basic information, answer some kind of safety triage questions, and then they schedule an intake with one of our clinicians.

At that intake appointment, we sign consents and releases. We do a drug screen. We collect information about what brings the young person to treatment. And then after we’re kind of done gathering information, we can make up a whole comprehensive biopsychosocial history. Together with the parent, we sit down and we make a recommendation for treatment. We decide how we’re going to move forward with the family.

In addition to our intensive outpatient program, we also offer outpatient level of care, and that level of care is only once a week for an hour. So it’s nice to have that. We can offer both, depending how kind of intense the young person’s problems are at the time. For both levels of care, we create personalized treatment plans with the youth and the family, and that’s how we make sure the goals are appropriate and attainable and they’re important to the youth and the family.

So if there’s a family out there, if there’s a parent that thinks their child may be struggling and they want to contact McCall, I think they’re being able to express in as much detail as possible their concerns or their fears about what their child may be going through is critical to setting up that personalized care.

Yeah, their input is really, really key. We’ll also ask them to complete a caregiver survey, which is just written and kind of reinforces what they tell us. So we definitely need their input as well.

If you’re just joining us, Laura Cummings is clinical supervisor of the Adolescent Services at McCall Behavioral Health Network this morning. We’re talking about their intensive outpatient program for youth ages 13 through 18. Believe it or not, we’re just about out of time on the program. It flies by, right? What’s a practical takeaway that could be most helpful for families in the here and now?

So one thing we’ve been seeing a lot of lately is parents and youth having difficulty talking with each other. We know that family conversations can get tense. And one important thing is for everyone in the family to be able to take space from each other when they need this. So it’s really important that they tune into their own needs enough so they can recognize when they’re starting to feel upset and need to take that space. They also need ways to calm themselves. And that doesn’t mean that these family conversations will never happen. It just means you need space to realize your emotions are spinning out of control.

Take that time to get regulated and then come back together and talk when you’re calm enough to access the thinking part of your brain.

It reminds me of an old adage on the lighter side when families were stuck together during COVID that there was this one particular household they had what they called the hat rule. If there’s a member of the family that’s wearing the hat, they want to be left alone. I like that. Don’t communicate with them just now. Yeah. So I thought it might be a great way for families to communicate or not when that is the key. Yes. Laura, we appreciate your time. Thank you very much.

One more time, if you could give the the mainline phone number for McCall Behavioral Health for any family out there that might want to get in touch.

Yes, sure. It’s 860-496-2100.

We appreciate your time today. Thank you. Laura Cummings is the clinical supervisor, director of adolescent services at the McCall Behavioral Health Network. We visit with them once a month here on FM 97.3. Back to the newsroom. Back to the newsroom.