Spring and its many opportunities

Authored By: Kent Larson, Family Therapist

Why are people so excited about spring? Who cares what the weather is outside?  Doesn’t life just go on no matter the season of the year?

Though some, who are in the minority, may think differently, many welcome the coming of spring.  This is the season when the world around us is awakening and coming alive again.  The trees are budding and blooming, lawns are turning green,  tulips are out in their majesty, the hours of daylight are growing longer, and we hearing the birds again singing outside.  On certain days one can see flocks of various kinds of birds high in the sky flying north for their summer retreats.


To many, spring is a time of renewal as the long dark days of winter are ended and the world is coming to life . The temperatures are pleasant and the sounds of children can be heard in their play. They are so excited as they have been cooped up in their homes for much of the winter months. Many people of all ages are out basking in the sun.  This, when only weeks ago, winter’s rage was still upon us with its snow, darkness, and cold.

People seem happier and have renewed energy. They seem excited about cleaning and fixing up their yards, planting flower or vegetable gardens, and making future plans for the summer.  It’s as if the moods of people have heightened and are now, they are much happier.

A Polar Equinox happens two times per year, approximately March 21 and September 21, of each year.  Today is one of the two days each year when there is 12 hours of sunlight and 12 hours of darkness.  This means that for the next six months until September 21, 2017 there will be more hours and minutes of light than of darkness.  March 21 officially signals that spring has arrived.

Last January I wrote a blog about Seasonal Affective Disorder and the myth that the third Monday of January is the most depressing day of the year. Josh Corp, CEO of Stop Aging Now, wrote about 5 typical symptoms of vitamin D deficiency which may include people experiencing aches/pains, low energy, mood fluctuations, and sleep disturbances. In an article written by the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements, entitled Vitamin D Fact Sheet for Healthcare Professionals, the benefits of vitamin D are mentioned, including better rates of the assimilation of minerals into the body.

During the winter months and short days, many have symptoms of depression (see the blog posted January 19, 2017).  It is a well proven fact that exposure to the sun helps relief the symptoms of depression, that tend to increase during the winter.


I wish to speak of one other benefit to the warmer days. Being outside allows for many different types of outdoor family activities. Spring provides abundant opportunities for activities in the park: playing ball, swinging, frisbee, soccer, zip lines, picnics, go for a walk/run, enjoy a bike ride down the Jordan River Parkway or other trails.  Also family barbecues, playing catch with a ball, bad mitten, are among the many options to choose from for spring fun.  .

Taking time out of our busy schedules to spend time with our families or children will make this spring more wonderful. I look forward to doing many of these things with my family.  Doing so is truly what makes the season of spring worthwhile.


Posted in Family Activities, Mental Health, therapist | Leave a comment

Math & Science Night

Authored by: Michael Cox, Family Therapist

On March 8th 2017 over 200 students, parents and community members from the Kearns Township gathered at Kearns Junior High to solve a mystery; Who “killed” Principal Bell?  While no harm came to Kearns Junior High’s new principal the invented intrigue sparked the 2017 Kearns Junior High Math & Science Night.


During the event, students and families visited several stations hosted by Kearns Junior High faculty and community partners. At each station, they had the chance to do a science or engineering project. Successful completion of the project earned the participant a clue to solve the mystery.


Parents and students used science and worked together to crack the case, and then enjoyed a free dinner together as family, sponsored by Salt Lake County Division of Youth Services.  Community partners from the STEM action center, Salt Lake County Library’s Kearns Branch, the Discovery Gateway Museum, and the University of Utah school of engineering each hosted a booth.  This event has been celebrating student’s talents and drive for math and science in Kearns for over ten years.

Posted in After School Program, Family Activities, SLCO | Leave a comment

St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner!

Authored by: Maria Drummond, Recreational Therapist for Salt Lake County Youth Services

Did you know…

Each year, Salt Lake City hosts the largest Irish celebration in Utah? Organized by the Hibernian Society of Utah, the SLC St. Patrick’s Day parade sees roughly 25,000 people in attendance.

“The Hibernian Society of Utah was formed to promote and preserve Irish history, culture and traditions within the State of Utah. [They] are a non-profit organization that strives to present a variety of events and activities throughout the year. The Society meets once a month from September through June and holds informal classes in Irish history, literature, music and culture on a monthly basis.”

es.jpgThe big events for March are, of course, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and the Siamsa (celebration) afterward. If you haven’t come out to participate in this family friendly parade and party, put this on your calendar for this weekend. What a great opportunity to revel in the fun times, and learn a little bit more about one of the many cultures that melt together to make our community rich and beautiful.

Here are the details about the Parade and Siamsa this weekend, from The Hibernian Society of Utah’s website:

March 18, St. Patrick’s Day — Parade

March 18, 2017 Salt Lake City St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Join the Hibernian Society of Utah for the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade as we celebrate “A Hundred Thousand Welcomes in America”. Come & celebrate the acceptance, diversity & tradition of our Irish ancestors in America Saturday, March 18th at 10:00 a.m., through The Gateway. Don’t forget to follow up with a taste of live Irish music, dance & cuisine at the Siamsa, located in the Grand Ballroom of the Union Pacific Station, in the north end of The Gateway.


March 18, St. Patrick’s Day – Siamsa

Everyone is invited to attend the SIAMSA, a family event, which begins at approximately 10:45 am in the Grand Ballroom of the Union Pacific Station, north side of Gateway. The name comes from the Irish language, meaning “celebration”. To help enhance your party mood, plan on attending this unique post-parade event where one can enjoy live Irish music, dance as well as some delicious Irish cuisine, as well as joining us for a ‘warm one’ or perhaps even a ‘cool one’. Join us for this most Irish of celebrations!

Posted in Family Activities, History, Parenting Tips, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Law Enforcement Partnerships with Salt Lake County Youth Services

Authored by Kari Larsen, Youth Services Juvenile Receiving Center – F.A.S.T. Case Manager and Carol Hendrycks, Youth Services Communications Manager

Salt Lake County Youth Services works closely with local law enforcement and specifically saltlakecountysheriffwith the Salt Lake County’s Sherriff’s Department. Youth Services appreciates its close partnership with the Sheriff’s Department. Every day of the week there is an officer from the Sherriff’s Department on location at Youth Services. The role of this officer is to help maintain the peace and keep all youth, staff, volunteers, and members of the committee safe. The officer is on location from 3:00pm until 11:00pm at our North Office/Main Campus. These are typically the busiest hours at Youth Services as group home youth are back from school, groups are being held throughout the campus, and other youth in the community are coming home from school which can lead to conflicts within the family if it was a bad school day, and then they too end up at Youth Services. The Sherriff’s Department officer does more than keep the peace. The officer on location, whoever he or she may be, interacts with the youth in non-crisis moments to help build rapport and trust for when those crisis moments do arise. Moments of escalation can easily be defused if there is established trust between the officer and the youth.

On March 2, 2017 Youth Services hosted its annual law enforcement luncheon and heard from keynote speaker U.P.D. Chief Jason Mazuran. His message to over 30 attendees and Youth Services staff was that of that of being an example of approachable, kind and offer best customer service practices. He explained that people remember kindness and being genuine in every or any situation. And as a youth he experienced wonderful examples of kindness from family members and friends. When he decided to become an officer it was those great examples that he carries out into the workplace and has contributed to a successful career. He encouraged officers to remember this as they build relationships and trust out in the community.

We also heard from guest speaker Moises Prospero, who is a research consultant, youth advocate and member of the advisory board for Magna/Kearns Youth Peer Court. Speaking with him was Ricky Vigil, SLCo Youth Services Afterschool Program Coordinator who also serves with Moises and talked about how peer court serves as early intervention, diverts youth from juvenile court and youth panels provide guidance to youth participants. Peer Court is based on restorative justice and helps youth learn accountability, teaches youth the value of community services and helps with skill development.

JD Green, SLCo Youth Services Crisis Shelter Care Program Manager also spoke to the audience. He oversees the Juvenile Receiving Center (JRC) and helps with outreach with School Resource Officers or SROs. There is an SRO assigned to every school in Salt Lake County. Sometimes these officers may cover several schools at any one time. SROs are present to help support school personnel as needed and keep our school safe. The JRC will often see SROs come through the doors when a student has been disruptive to the learning process at a school and a parent cannot be found, or is unable to pick the student up from school at that time; usually due to work. The SRO will bring the student to the JRC in his or her squad car. The JRC has established a quick intake process for the SRO so he or she can quickly get back to the school(s) they are assigned to serve and protect. The JRC will then conduct a secondary and more thorough intake and work on getting in touch with the parent(s) or legal guardian(s) and arrange a pick up time that is more conducive to their schedule. The JRC staff is also afforded the opportunity at that time to offer crisis counseling, make referrals for long term counseling, and get youth on waiting lists for prevention groups. Some typical reasons that a SRO may bring a student in to the JRC are, but not limited to: fighting, destruction of property, acting out in the classroom, drug possession, possession of drug paraphernalia, truancy, possession of tobacco, etc.  Sometimes these youth are formally charged and will have to go before a judge and other times they are not.

The JRC is also involved with local law enforcement is with patrol officers through the Sheriff’s Department, Unified Police Department, UPD_badgeand other local city departments. These officers are the ones that are called to homes for ungovernable or out of control youth. These are officers who are called for assistance when a youth is caught shoplifting, trespassing, intoxicated, or are involved in any other delinquent or illegal behavior. Just as with the SROs, the patrol officers have a quick intake to complete at the JRC so they can be back on the road and keeping our communities safe.

Youth Services also offers prevention classes to youth and families. Officers are encouraged to make referrals to youth and families who are looking to strengthen their families by learning better communication skills and for youth who want to improve their social skills when it comes to self esteem and anger management. Cycles of free classes are available for free. Please call Youth Services for class schedule to sign up.

Youth Services is proud and grateful for the close relationships that we have with our local law enforcement and community youth advocates. Please take time out of your day to thank them, especially our men and women in uniform for the excellent service they provide in keeping our campus safe and our communities protected. For more information about Salt Lake County Youth Services please call 385-468-4500.

Posted in After School Program, Bully, Communication Tips, Family Counseling, Homeless Youth, Safe Place, SLCO, Substance Abuse, Success Stories, Teen Counseling, Treatment, Youth Groups | Leave a comment

Women’s Leadership Forum

Authored by: Maria Drummond, Recreational Therapist at Salt Lake County Youth Services

Today is International Women’s Day. A day to celebrate the achievements of women around the globe and across eras. The day also marks a call to action for encouraging equal rights for all genders.


What better day, than this, to highlight Salt Lake County’s Women’s Leadership Forum?

This forum strives to combine a mix of management, supervisor, and frontline female Salt Lake County employees, with the following objective and curriculum, stated in the program overview:

“The Women’s Leadership Forum (WLF) is series of five conversations designed to teach women leadership skills and develop a professional network.  The goal is to recognize and support the role of women’s leadership in Salt Lake County and by doing so to create a shared understanding of how we as individuals can take deliberate action to encourage a more supportive environment where women can succeed and where diversity in our workforce is realized.”


Session 1:  Lead from Strength
The focus of this session is on participant’s strengths and their stories of how they successfully used their abilities to make a difference at work or home or in their community.

Session 2: Lead Like a Women
This session will look at the continuum of leadership strengths and how men and women lead differently. There is no ‘perfect’ leadership style. As discussed in the first session, leaders are strongest when they lead from their capacities.

Session 3: Lead the Decision
This session will focus on the five questions you must answer when dealing with important decisions. Next, we will discuss how ego can enhance or hinder good decision making and how best to create group situations where it can improve decision making.

Session 4: Lead with Confidence
This session will focus on how to project an executive presence. We will focus specifically on how to make requests of your supervisor, including asking for raises and promotion opportunities. We will also focus on how to exude confidence during interviews.

Session 5: Lead Yourself
In this session we will explore what participants really, really want to accomplish in their careers and in their lives. They will dream their futures and share that dream with each other.


The forum typically runs in the spring and fall, with our next forum beginning next week, on March 17, 2017. Applications are now closed for this forum, but if you are an interested Salt Lake County employee, you may e-mail Mary Van Buren to request that you be notified when fall applications open. Applications require supervisor approval.

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Common questions about Strengthening Families

Authored by: Khanh Tong, Prevention Case Manager

In the Prevention team at Salt Lake County Youth Services; we’ve getting a lot of questions about what our Strengthening Families class teaches, and how it works. In this blog, I hope to be able to answer some of those questions.


What we teach in the class?

Each week, we show parents and teens how to have better communication skills, encourage good behavior, help teens handle peer pressure/bullying, solve problems, give directions, and setting limits/rules. We also open up discussion about goals, dreams, values, traditions, drugs/alcohol, sexuality, and relationships.

When and where is the class?

Our next class starts April 5, 2017 and it lasts for a 10 weeks. Classes are taught once a week on Wednesdays from 6:00 PM – 8:30 PM. They take place at our main campus: 177 West Price Avenue (3610 south), South Salt Lake City, UT. 84115. We have classes year round, so if April does not work, we have other dates available.

How to register and cost?

To register, please call 385-468-4528 . Daycare is provided. Dinner (6pm-6:30pm) is provided. All provided for free.

Who can come to the class?

Parents with youth(s) from 13-17 years old; the entire family is encouraged to attend.

We hope that this answer some of the common questions we receive. If you have any additional questions, call us at 385-468-4528 and we’d be glad to answer them.

Posted in Communication Tips, Family Activities, Family Counseling, Parenting Tips, SLCO, Youth Groups | Leave a comment

Setting boundaries with others: a necessity in interpersonal relationships

Authored by: Kent Larson, Family Therapist

Last fall brought this country one of the most divisive elections I have ever seen in my lifetime (and I am old).  The contention created has been seen in the workplace, at family and social gatherings, in social media, in schools, and wherever people congregate. What has happened to create such a division in this country?  Is there hope for us?  The solution to this issue is nothing more than showing basic respect toward other people, i.e. respecting their boundaries and having the expectation that they respect ours.

It seems that the very freedoms that we pride ourselves in as Americans have been ignored, the greatest of which is our freedom of speech.  We may not have to worry about a dictator arresting and imprisoning us for our opinions, but it seems that we do have to worry about our loved ones, friends, associates, and others who we collaborate with, plus strangers on social media, attacking us.

My wife made a funny quip about one of the presidential candidates on Facebook near the end of the campaign.  A dear cousin of mine became offended and all but attacked my wife.   We seem to take the opinions of others too seriously.


I feel that we have lost respect and common decency for each other.  It is not about having to agree with each other because, at times, we don’t and won’t.  That needs to be okay and we need to allow differences.   We can disagree with an opinion without belittling, putting down, or attacking the other person’s character.  Sometimes, we take one opinion of somebody’s and make that how we perceive them as a whole.  My opinion about a particular candidate is only a small fraction of who I am as a person.  I am made up of various personality traits, values, hobbies, interests, etc.  Unless those things are all considered, someone doesn’t have a very good idea of who I am.  My opinions also don’t make me better than or less than someone else.  I am just a person.

When John Huntsman and Scott Matheson  Jr. were candidates for governor 12 years ago in the 2004 election, they both ran clean campaigns and spoke about each other with the upmost respect.  They discussed their differences on issues without attacking each other’s character.  I thought they set wonderful examples of how campaigns should be run.  Unfortunately, it seems that in politics or in any other areas of life, people tend to feel the need to be right and not allow opposing opinions.

Over my 22 and ½ years of being employed by the Division of Youth Services I have met many wonderful fellow colleagues.  One of them stands out in my mind. He is a person with whom I shared some similarities in opinion and some differences.  The thing that I always appreciated about him was the ease at which I was able to converse with him about any subject.  We could be at completely different sides of an issue in opinion and yet, there would be respect and kindness between us.   I always felt respected by him, even in the face of strong differences  between us on an issue.   If this attitude could be practiced more by all in our society, there would not be the divisiveness that there is today.


Since we can only control ourselves and can only influence others, how can changes be made?

In my practice as a family and individual therapist, much of my time is spent assisting those with conflicts in resolving them.  Respect for parents or children and assertive communication are often taught and worked on.  I like to define assertive communication as “communicating in such a way that the dignity of the person speaking and the dignity of the person listening are both protected”.

This same principal applies in families, at school, at the workplace, and at social gatherings with friends and family members.  If we view someone with an opposing opinion as the enemy, they will act as an enemy.  If we view the same person with respect, though we disagree, it is much easier for them to respect us.

The difficult part of communicating with respect is when an issue comes up that we are very passionate or emotional about.  When our emotions get involved, we tend to respond with disrespect, rudeness, cutoffs, or anger.  There is a need for us to learn to self-regulate.  That means to sense when our internal temperature is rising and then take actions to calm ourselves down before damage is caused to a conversation.  This can occur through a 5 second pause to think or through a five or ten minute time out for the same purpose.  Being able to sense increased pressure or heat in ourselves before we are beyond our self-control can make all the difference in the world for having conversations turn out well.  The best way for us to influence the outcome of discussions with people is to be in touch with ourselves and to take appropriate actions so that we are in control of ourselves.

When we are in a conversation with another and that person is using disrespectful methods such as cutting off, mocking the our opinion in the conversation, using put-downs or condescending tones or speech toward us, we have the ability to change the subject, end the discussion and move away, or ask the opposing person to please not use such methods so that the conversation can continue.  This is boundary setting.

Negative communication methods to avoid are:

1)             Having to have the last word.
2)             The perception that we have to win a conversation or argument
3)             “My opinion vs. the wrong opinion” (I’m right and everyone else is wrong)
4)             If I don’t like what someone else is saying, I will interrupt them, mock them, put them down, or bully them.

The antidotes of these negative attitudes are:

1) Problem solving instead of arguing.  Working toward win-win situations where each person benefits from what is decided.
2) With people who have differences, finding  the common ground between them.  Finding common ground first can be the focus instead of the differences.  Then people can respectfully acknowledge their differences and why there are differences.
3) Recognizing that it is okay and normal to have differences.
4) Be patient in conversing with others, even if they don’t seem to deserve it.
5) Use respectful humor to lighten up conversations.
6) Acknowledge the differences in others with respect.
7) Speak to others in a way that we would appreciate being spoken to by others.


Sometimes using the best efforts mentioned above will not stop another person from being rude, condescending, forceful, controlling, or inconsiderate.  In most situations, we have the ability to choose not to be close to such people.  I have had to do house cleaning of such people in my own life over the years.  Doing so has made a huge difference in my own peace of mind.

If such a person is a family member, it is more complicated to distance oneself or to completely cut off such a person from our association.  I have done it with relatives as well as close friends.  Though not easy, it has really been the best option in a few situations.  Each individual has to make a choice as to what is best for her/him.  The choice to have nothing to do with someone anymore should not be made lightly.

I feel, however, that in most cases, respectful and assertive communication works very well in setting our boundaries and keeping conversations civilized and respectful with others.

Posted in Bully, History, SLCO, therapist, Treatment | Leave a comment