Sunday, May 6, 2018

An INCRAmental Approach to Building Rapport with Youth

by Catharine Hannay

I had the opportunity to share my perspective on working with youth in a guest post on the Center for Adolescent Studies blog:

I dreaded my weekly staring contest with the man who was supposed to be treating my depression. He’d start each session by asking me a probing question, then silently wait for my response.  
Since I felt too intimidated to talk about my recent suicide attempt, we just sat there awkwardly looking at each other until the end of the hour... I didn’t have any reason to trust him or believe he could help me. It felt more like I’d been sent to the principal’s office for misbehavior, even though I hadn’t hurt anyone but myself. 
Many years later, I was fascinated by a scene in the TV show Mad Men where Sally Draper chats with a child psychologist while playing the card game Go Fish. This is what my colleague Dr. Sam Himelstein calls an INCRA, or Inherently Non-Clinical Relational Activity. 
Dr. Himelstein explains that an INCRA is “an activity to help take pressure off the youth so the relationship can develop organically.” Playing cards is just one example. It could be taking a walk, listening to music, or baking cookies. An INCRA is essentially any activity that helps build rapport with youth, takes the pressure off a tense situation, or helps them calm down if they’re triggered or traumatized.

Photo by Crown Agency on Unsplash