New Vail Valley nonprofit Evolve Thrive Joy Youth offers free mental health programs
New nonprofit provides mental and emotional health programs at no cost to kids and their parents
You can learn a lot by just listening. That is what Sheila Griffith found after hearing comments from parents on the bleachers at the game, while backstage helping the drama club with its next project or in the school parking lot. What was shared was a need for mental, emotional, relational and nutritional support at a price that was accessible to everyone.
Evolve Thrive Joy Youth was born out of these conversations. The new nonprofit provides mental and emotional health programs at no cost to kids and their parents in the Vail Valley.
Griffith, who started her education as a massage therapist in 1996, completed her certification as a Pilates instructor in 1998 and as a nutrition therapy practitioner in 2003, started to understand how emotions and mindset affect the body and started to study these fields. She continued her education with Emotions Mentor Coaching trainings, becoming a Heartmath Resilience Coach. Currently, she is also finishing certifications in transformational coaching and authentic relating.
You could say that health and wellness have been a lifelong calling for Griffith. She became interested in holistic health after having success as a 17-year-old with a condition that medical doctors thought could only be taken care of with laser or surgery. A naturopathic doctor gave her a method to do for 10 days.
“As a teenager, I was impatient and thought I was invincible, so I only did the method for seven of the 10 days,” she said. “I tested again and to everyone’s amazement, I was clear and healthy. This put me on the road to understanding our bodies and nutrition on a deeper level and pairing holistic principles with traditional medicine in my life.”
Support Local Journalism
Although mental health facilities are a hot topic in the Vail Valley now, Griffith said she felt that there’s been a need for more mental health options in the valley when she moved here in 1996.
“I had already used therapists in my personal life and struggled to find someone I clicked with and also could afford. Then I heard repeatedly that there was a dire need here in the valley for education and practical mental health action programs,” Griffith said. “I had continued my own personal and professional growth and wanted to share what I had learned — often the hard way — with others so that they could have options at home and tend to themselves and in turn, share what they learned with those around them.”
Griffith feels that currently there are great services in the valley working with youth and their parents, but there is still a major shortage of therapists and counselors to work one-on-one as well as in small group programming in the valley.
“When I last checked, people in need of counseling or therapy had a six to eight-week wait time to come in as a new client and could only be seen once every four to six weeks. These wait times in between appointments can prove disastrous if not fatal to some. The urgency requires immediate attention, in my opinion,” Griffith said.
On top of the need for more support, Griffith said that people also have to overcome the stigma of needing mental and emotional support.
“In the 2019 behavioral health survey in Eagle County, cost, ease of use and stigma in getting to an appointment were the three factors people were trying to overcome. Evolve Thrive Joy Youth wants to help ease the burden by having free or low-cost options that feel accessible to the community and that enable our clients to take action with practical and evidence-based tools,” Griffith said.
Griffith is currently offering programs for girls aged 12-19 and their mother/caregiver at no cost. Participants are in a 10-week small group wellness program that she calls Tembea, which means journey or walkabout.
“Small group coaching and programming allows us to contextualize our perspectives, desires and lives. We know the power of being heard, witnessed and mirrored with others who are in a growth mindset are open to possibility and listen without judgment or assumptions. It is the way to understanding and growth. We put practical steps into action and celebrate failure, success and resilience,” Griffith said.
Evolve Thrive Joy Youth is teaching Eagle County children and adults an easy-to-use, non-invasive, self-regulation technology, Griffith said. It teaches coherence between the heart and the brain that children have fun implementing. They can actually see what is occurring in their bodies as well as with their emotions in real-time. They learn self-regulation skills with results that can be easily observed.
“We have had an enthusiastic response to our programming,” Griffith said. “Because we get our clients into action right away with practical tools to improve their mental, emotional and physical health, people are enlivened and feel connected to each other and their mentors in the process.”
What Griffith has found is that kids and their mentors need communication tools.
“They need more non-judgmental, heart-based connection in our world. Neuroscience shows us that we drive opioid receptors in our brains when we communicate without judgment, assumption-making and advice-giving. Practicing these skills helps people feel connected and not alone, which is our fundamental need in life,” Griffith said.
Currently, Evolve Thrive Joy Youth is funded entirely through grants and private donations. It is fundraising now so that it can focus on supporting those who need it, those who may be slipping through the cracks and those who have not reached out and could be in pain and remain silent about it. If you’d like coaching or to make a donation, please visit ETJoy.org or contact Griffith at Sheila@ETJoy.org and 970-376-2804.