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This August Confluence added Dr. Caitlin Kinnart, Ph.D. to its clinical team. Caitlin comes to Confluence with a diverse set of work experiences that have focused on helping adolescents, young adults, and their families through mental health challenges. She has provided counseling in community-based programs, at a wilderness program, and at a therapeutic boarding school. Her work has earned her a reputation for exceptional care and service among clients, their families and referring professionals.

Caitlin holds an M.S. in mental health counseling from Montana State University. In 2010, she returned to school at the University of Vermont, where she earned an M. A. in Developmental Psychology and a Ph.D. in Developmental Psychopathology and Developmental Psychology. At UVM her direct care work and research focused on the young adult experience, stress, emotions and relationships in college life, as well as coping within family systems. Dr. Kinnart’s academic research and work experience makes her uniquely qualified to help Confluence participants confront their challenges and develop the strengths and capacities to move their lives forward. Here she is in her own words.

What motivated you to study and eventually work with young adults.

Young adults today are facing entirely new and unique challenges that are complicating their paths to adulthood especially for those who experience a mental health challenge. The unprecedented use and effect of technology, the pervasiveness of drug and alcohol use and increases in the prevalence of stress can exacerbate an already tumultuous stage of life. All of which can contribute to and worsen underlying mental health diagnoses. At the same time a new body of research supporting an entirely new stage of development both on the psychological level and on the physical level is informing treatment and transforming how we think about the young adult experience and this stage of life in general. These factors make working with young adults extraordinarily interesting and rewarding because they in some ways have a unique opportunity, given the stage of development, to make dramatic improvements to their lives with the right help.

What strengths do you see in Confluence’s approach to working with young adults.

Traditional talk-based therapies at the individual and group level combined with psychoeducational and experiential approaches as well as the comprehensive health and wellness program deliver a holistic top down and bottom up approach to healing. It enables those who are at a pre-contemplative level of change and those who are actively seeking help to engage and participate and ultimately benefit. The clinical treatment coupled with various therapeutic approaches offers many avenues for healing, change and wellness. Lastly, I think Confluence has a unique capacity given its combined residential and wilderness experiences, which minimizes stasis during treatment, to help young adults improve life skills, build resilience and incorporate stronger executive functioning capacities.

What role do you see parents playing in supporting treatment and the path to wellness.

I have always been a proponent of incorporating family members into the continuum of care and I believe doing so betters outcomes and improves the durability of treatment gains. Working with young adults we strike a unique balance working to both maintain the integrity of the treatment relationships with participants while at the same time helping parents understand the program’s process, the specific challenges of each individual and ultimately how best to support their daughter or son’s treatment journey to increase the chances of long-term wellness. It can be a challenge but I believe it is integral to the Confluence approach and helping young adults make meaningful change.