How mentor-delivered single session interventions can broaden youth psychosocial services

Hart, M. J., Sung, J. Y., McQuillin, S. D., & Schleider, J. L. (2022). Expanding the reach of psychosocial services for youth: Untapped potential of mentor-delivered single session interventions. Journal of Community Psychology.

Summarized by Ariel Ervin

Notes of Interest: 

  • Although there are ongoing improvements in developing, validating, and disseminating mental health interventions, treatments are still inaccessible for many.
  • Single-session interventions (SSIs) are a promising solution to this issue. Evidence shows that SSIs can alleviate or prevent a range of youth mental illness symptoms and have some accessibility benefits that traditional services don’t have.
  • This paper postulates that incorporating mentor-delivered programs and SSIs can make youth mental health services more accessible while maximizing the benefits of mental health services.
  • There are many benefits to having mentors work as psychosocial health service providers. For instance, it…:
    • Boosts SSI outcomes
    • Can help reduce the stigma of seeking & receiving treatment
    • Mitigates youth mental health concerns
    • Makes treatments more affordable
    • Has a time-efficient training model
    • Can address the inequitable workforce distribution.
  • Additionally, a mentor’s established community presence can promote coordination and communication among caring adults who interact with youths.
  • Mentor-delivered SSIS a) ensure that youth mentees participate in evidence-based exercises with their mentors and b) broadens mental health and psychosocial services for youth.
  • Intentionality and thoughtfulness from individuals of all levels of involvement (in addition to ongoing research on the subject) are needed to develop and run effective mentor-delivered SSIs.

Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)

At present, the mental healthcare system cannot meet the demand for services, and the need-to-access gap is widest among children and adolescents. Single session interventions (SSIs) are brief, intentional, and mechanism-targeted programs that have shown promise in increasing the reach of effective, evidence-based services; yet, a wide gap still remains due to structural barriers (e.g., lack of awareness, workforce shortages). The present paper posits the integration of SSIs and mentor-delivered programs as a promising future step to further overcome the inaccessibility of youth mental health services. Capitalizing on the advantages of mentoring relationships (e.g., the associated interpersonal benefits and mentors’ pre-existence in most community settings) has the potential to complement and enhance the value of SSIs, and to expand the acceptability and reach of evidence-based mental health services. In this paper, we discuss the anticipated benefits of mentor-delivered SSIs, as well as cautionary considerations related to the proposed model. To conclude, we highlight the necessary implementation and research implications.

Implications (Reprinted from the Conclusion)

Youth mental healthcare is in increasingly high demand, due in part to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and traditional providers and service models do not have the capacity to aid all those in need. At the same time, mentoring programs are as popular and prevalent as ever, with the practice of youth mentoring even becoming “professionalized” in some cases (i.e., working as a youth mentor can be a full-time, paid job; Eddy et al., 2017). While mentoring programs and relationships are already linked to a host of beneficial outcomes for youth, an expansion and reconceptualization of the field to this degree provides an opportunity to query and reexamine the mechanisms at play in youth mentoring relationships. Under scrutiny, it becomes evident that current practices in youth mentoring lack actionable suggestions to keep pace with the conceptual developments across the field, due largely to a lack of affordable, flexible, and practical frameworks.

Future research exploring the introduction of mentor-delivered SSIs provides a hopeful future step for growing and strengthening youth mentoring programs, as the advantages of SSIs largely complement the shortcomings of mentoring (i.e., evidence-based SSIs are acceptable, brief, evidence-based, mechanism-targeted, and structured programs). Delivery by a mentor may also bolster SSI outcomes, as a mentor can guide youth participants in connecting them to resources and helping select a program that may be most helpful for them, and by providing a healthy, non-parental relationship. Indeed, mentor-delivered programs and SSIs offer many benefits in their own rights, and coupling these practices may be a step toward maximizing the accessibility and benefit of mental health services for youth. The nature of SSIs lends to intervention design that ensures developmental appropriateness, leading us to conceptualize mentor-delivered SSIs as an adaptive intervention approach that can change based on youths’ needs. Because “single session” refers only to the duration of the intervention’s active ingredient, this approach does not limit the length of a mentee/mentor relationship and, therefore, allows participants to also gain interpersonal support and social capital through the pairing. Mentor-delivered SSIs may also be acceptable, and even advantageous, for multiple tiers of providers, and may highlight valuable future directions for the field of mentoring, such as further exploring single-session JITTs for mentors. While we urge those involved in providing youth services to exercise care and caution in the uptake of our proposed model (i.e., through conducting prerequisite research), we hope to also draw attention to its substantial potential.

To access this article, click here.