Youth Villages stories

Clinical specialist, Noah and Jack's mother at Spring Celebration gala

Intercept specialists bring creativity to clinical methods

May 26, 2023 | Blog

When working with children experiencing behavioral and mental health challenges, a little creativity goes a long way. And for Intercept specialist Noah Galiffi-Caster, making a connection with the young people he works with is often a key to success.

Noah began his career with Youth Villages in June 2021 as a specialist for the Intercept program. He later became an Expansion specialist and served children, families and young adults in both the Intercept and LifeSet programs in Massachusetts. Noah was recently promoted and now he is a clinical supervisor for the Intercept program.

While working as an Intercept specialist, Noah developed deep, meaningful connections with the children and families he served.

Twelve-year-old Jack was exhibiting physical aggression and struggled to control his anger. He also struggled with suicidal ideation and attempts. After his third suicide attempt at school, the local hospital referred Jack to the Massachusetts Intercept for Emergency Diversion program, which provides immediate in-home intensive treatment to youth experiencing mental health challenges.

Jack’s ADHD caused him to have a difficult time focusing and Noah had to brainstorm creative techniques to draw Jack into their sessions.

Noah got to work building rapport with Jack by getting to know him and his interests and building trust.

“At the beginning, Jack was very self-aware and saw his behavior as unchanging,” Noah said. “So, it was difficult to convince him that he had control over his reactions to triggers.”

Giving youth a choice in leading what the interventions are like helps them engage around it.
- Noah

Noah frequently uses a tool called the ‘emotional thermometer’ with young people as a visual representation of how they are feeling in the moment and a reminder of how they can express their emotions. While the emotional thermometer normally looks like a typical thermometer, Noah wanted to customize Jack’s emotional thermometer and tailor it to his interests. Noah brainstormed ideas with Jack to learn more about his hobbies and interests.

“He really likes Dungeon and Dragons, so we tried that at first,” Noah said. “But then we talked about Jack’s interest in cooking and spices, and Jack took the idea and ran with it.”

With Jack’s passion for cooking in mind, Noah created a ‘Spiciness Scale’ that uses different peppers ranging from banana pepper to ghost pepper to serve as Jack’s emotional thermometer. Each pepper on the scale explains the zones of regulation, or feelings, and Jack even assigned different techniques to cope with the ‘spiciness’ of his emotions.

emotional spicy pepper graphic

“One of the techniques to cope with spice was butter — Jack hates butter,” Noah said. “But, it’s the most effective [remedy] for spice in your mouth.”

Jack’s siblings and parents have adopted it as a tool to assist with their safety plan for Jack. Now, with a visual tool in place for him to express his emotions, Jack’s parents feel more supported and confident in the home.

Noah always goes above and beyond for the youth he works with by customizing his clinical interventions.

“I’ve probably done about six of these customized emotional thermometers and it gets the youth tapped into actually identifying their emotions,” Noah said. “Giving youth a choice in leading what the interventions are like helps them engage around it.”

Noah hopes to inspire other Youth Villages specialists looking to add creative touches to their clinical methods.

Thank you, Noah, for all of your hard work and dedication to your youth and families.

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