Therapy Services


Weekly Sessions plus Daily Check-ins

Each student at VCS works with an experienced therapist who becomes heavily invested in their goals. Students participate in individual therapy sessions for a minimum of one hour a week. However, during this busy time of transition and growing independence, sometimes that hour session just isn’t enough. That’s why VCS therapists also do daily check-ins. A daily check-in may be sitting down over a cup of coffee and talking about life. It may be a quick text message on a Wednesday evening or a late night therapy session when it’s needed. In addition to the weekly formal session, it’s important that a young adult have access to their therapist in the moment. Sometimes the best therapy is done in real time instead of having to wait until the next “appointment”.

Individual therapy is generally most effective when it’s done with someone with whom you can have a genuine relationship. VCS therapists are social people who are uniquely qualified and highly skilled in their communication with young adult clients. During the enrollment process, the VCS admissions director will help pair a student's needs and personality with a therapist whom they can respect and with whom they can share a personal connection and a high degree of confidence.



An important key to staying healthy as a young adult is having support from family members. Each week, VCS students participate in family therapy with their parents and their primary therapist. This is a great opportunity for students and their parents to regularly interact with each other through adult conversation. Because many participating families may be joining the calls from different locations, VCS bridges the distance using phone conferencing for family sessions. The student and therapist will review a variety of tasks and expectations in order to maximize the family conference.

Going the Extra Mile


In addition to the primary therapist and substance use counselor, each student at VCS also works with several young adult mentors. These are staff members that work in tandem directly with the primary therapists to help the client with day-to-day needs. Whether it’s learning how to use the transportation system in Salt Lake City, getting registered for classes, looking for a part-time job, or managing a new budget, the mentor is an additional go-to person to help with the everyday needs of real life.



Twice Weekly

Learning to be a successful adult often means understanding your place in relation to the people around you. How are you coming across to peers and colleagues? Does taking a particular direction in your life truly make sense? Having a group to serve as a sounding board can help young adults make healthier decisions. Group discussions are also a great place to give and receive feedback, to better understand one’s strengths and weaknesses, and to learn to manage emotions and healthy relationships.

VCS students participate in 1-hour group therapy sessions twice a week. Typically there are 8-12 students in a group and a licensed mental health therapist leads the group as a facilitator.. Proven therapies such as Dialectical Behavior Therapy and Cognitive Behavior Therapy serve as the structure and outline. While individual therapy is focused on the interaction between the therapist and student, group therapy is about the interaction between peers. It’s the perfect place to learn more about oneself, and to help others to do the same.



treating the roots

Some young adults at VCS have a history with drugs and alcohol, and have used them to disconnect from their problems. The true problem, however, is that substance abuse creates additional obstacles. Ongoing drug use for young adults often involves giving up things that are most important to them - things like family relationships, healthy friends, and education. Abusing drugs may help someone feel better temporarily, but the consequences start them on a downward spiral that can be hard to stop. Many young people start off wanting to fit in with their peers and eventually use drugs on a regular basis to cope with life's mounting difficulties. The truth is drugs are rarely the root problem. Substance abuse counseling at VCS involves working through the core emotional obstacles that have been poorly addressed through drug use.


our focus

Recovery involves more than abstinence. By focusing on key concepts surrounding drug use such as distress tolerance, problem solving, and rational emotions, VCS puts students in a position to make logical and reasonable decisions regarding the risks of drug use and its harm to their independence. Integrating the substance use counselor into weekly individual meetings as well as family therapy sessions helps students feel empowered to openly discuss and confront the realities of recovery.


the professionals

VCS therapists have significant clinical experience in addressing substance abuse recovery. Together with our full-time psychiatrist, they will help determine the level or severity of substance abuse that is to be addressed in therapy, and root problems such as underlying depression or anxiety will be targeted in this recovery process.


programs options

VCS relies on a variety of community-based substance abuse programs such as the 12-step recovery model, Alcoholics Anonymous, and Narcotics Anonymous. Whether it’s understanding relapse cycles, managing denial and resistance, or incorporating spirituality into recovery, VCS will tailor assignments and substance abuse counseling to each client. In line with the VCS philosophy of providing high support without confinement, these particular services are available in the community and students are encouraged with tremendous support from VCS to participate in them. Salt Lake City has a strong recovery atmosphere in its community, enabling students to seek out those groups and meetings that they most prefer.


Proven Methods

We use evidence based forms of therapy to help students learn to manage emotions and make rational, smart decisions. An overview of each therapy's benefits and methodology is provided below.


Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Dialectical Behavior Therapy or DBT is a therapy designed to help clients manage their emotions and relationships. It is a concrete set of skills that help clients stay on what's called an "emotional baseline". It works particularly well with teenagers because of its tangible, specific actions a person can take to solve emotional problems. The four main groups of skills include:

  1. Mindfulness

  2. Interpersonal Effectiveness

  3. Distress Tolerance

  4. Emotion regulation

DBT asks people to complete homework assignments, role-play new ways of interacting with others, and to practice skills such as soothing yourself when upset. The individual therapist helps the person to learn, apply and master the DBT skills to successfully manage emotions and relationships.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is based on the idea that our thoughts cause our feelings and behaviors, rather than external things such as people, situations, and events.  The benefit of this fact is that we can change the way we think to feel and act better… even if the situation does not change.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is considered one of the most efficient forms of therapy because it works quickly. It is highly instructive in nature due to the fact that it makes use of homework assignments.

Cognitive-behavioral therapists believe it is important to have a good, trusting relationship, but that is not enough. CBT therapists help clients change by teaching them how to think differently and then act on that learning.  Clients learn rational self-counseling skills to become their own "mini-therapist".

Program Outline

With any transition it's helpful to have something tangible that helps you adjust to life with new people in a new environment. The link below will take you to the VCS program outline, a detailed document that explains what is expected for students who enroll in the program.

View Program Outline

Core Works

Vista's Core Works of Methodological Reference:

  1. Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy: A Therapist's Guide, Second Edition. By Albert Ellis.

  2. Cognitive Therapy: Basics and Beyond. By Judith S. Beck.

  3. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy in Groups. By Peter J. Bieling, Randi E. McCabe and Martin M. Antony.

  4. Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder. By Marsha Linehan.

  5. Dialectical Behavior Therapy with Suicidal Adolescents. By Alec L. Miller, Jill H. Rathus, Marsha Linehan and Charles Robert Swenson.