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Meet Beth and Whina – two of Te Tahi’s superstars

Beth and Whina

Beth Lenihan brings her four-legged friend Whina to work every day.

“I spend almost every second of the day with Whina. Sometimes clients say, ‘I wasn’t going to come today but then I thought about seeing Whina’,” Beth says.

It’s this flexible approach that makes Te Tahi Youth different – and why, after working in the specialist mental health service, Beth has chosen to spend the last 10 years at Te Tahi Youth.

“Bringing my training and experience into the NGO space has been really satisfying. We’re lucky enough to be able to be flexible about the delivery of our service. We can zoom, go for a walk and talk, run group work – we can be responsive and deliver support in a way that works for the young person,” Beth says.

Beth is a registered nurse with postgraduate qualifications in mental health and therapy. At Te Tahi Youth she’s a Clinical Youth Practitioner, bringing to the counselling team a medical background that enables her to provide a scientific perspective to clients.

“Because of my medical background I can talk about the brain and the nervous system, and that can be really empowering for some people, helping them understand why some things are happening and why they are experiencing what they are.

“Whether a young person is experiencing depression, anxiety, addiction issues or relationship issues, the brain is going through a similar process which is why psycho-education is so useful. It shows people that a brain is a brain and there’s nothing wrong with you and that, working together, we can usually figure out ways to help you build coping mechanisms and learn to tolerate and navigate life’s difficult experiences.”

Beth says the fact Te Tahi Youth is a one-stop-shop means they can provide a truly wrap-around service.

“I can have someone referred from one of our nurses or GPs, then we may get them to the point where they want to re-engage with school or look for work so they can see our Employment or Mentoring team, then six months later they might come back to see me. This unique ability to provide lots of different services individualised to the young person’s needs means we build trust with our clients. Young people will often say to us that Te Tahi Youth is their safe place.”

Beth says the biggest rewards come when she sees a young person who has been struggling suddenly find their spark and start to bloom.

“It’s such a privilege to do this work and there are definitely some sessions that you walk out of and you think ‘wow, that was really, really amazing’. It can be a very profound, affecting experience when you do some really transformational work with people.”

Beth says one of the most important messages she wants to share is that help is available.

“People can feel despondent after trying to access specialist mental health services, but Te Tahi Youth is different because we are so accessible. You can be referred by your GP, by your family or you can self-refer. Young people don’t have to feel that skilled, experienced, qualified mental health workers are not available, because we are here,” Beth says.

When not at Te Tahi Youth, Beth is busy with her two children and enjoying experiences that fill her bucket.

“I always see it as energy in, energy out. There are things in life that are always going to be energy out and things that are nourishing. For me spending time with friends and family that I love, being outside as much as possible, and crafting – these are things that give me the energy I need to focus in life.”

Having Whina by her side helps too.

“Although sometimes Whina does do things like fart during sessions or jump in the river at lunch, so it’s not always perfect!”