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Mental Health Specialist Ian Sheiner: Another Point of View

Ian Sheiner, L.M.F.T. is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with San Diego Youth Services’ Prevention and Early Intervention program, also known as the “PEI” program is January’s Family Youth Partner PARTNERSHIP Specialist of the month! PEI is a school based program, utilizing The Incredible Years Curriculum in addition to supporting the concept of working side by side with those professionals with lived experience, or Family Youth Partners. Ian enjoys taking his professional tool box and applying his skills to each school community which has its own special culture and history, all of which must be assessed in order to best serve the needs of the children, youth and parents. Ian has served three different schools which implement the PEI program during the past four and a half years.

Ian states his greatest accomplishment is seeing the sheer number of people his programs reach through classroom lessons, after school small groups, and parenting support groups. Ian finds that whole family support is provided to the community when parents engage in the parenting support groups at the same time their children are engaged in the after-school groups. Such family participation helps create productive home environments because everyone is using the same positive reinforcement language and community skills.

When asked what his greatest challenge has been in this role, Ian stated that finding a working balance within the PEI team itself could be difficult. The PEI team includes Mental Health Specialists, Family Youth Partners, educators and program staff all which must learn to embrace the multitude of differences where not only educational variations co-exist, but differences within culture, age, and lived experience can be as diverse as the community they serve. Ian noted that when a new member joins a PEI program, they are immediately assigned to a school and a team. It really depends on the individual team if there is a balanced appreciation of professional experience and lived experience. He stated ideally you would have a balance of both, and you can never minimize the value of the Family Youth Partner support. When a PEI team meets the challenge of working together effectively, it demonstrates to families that “if they can work together as a team, so can we.”

Ian sees great benefits working alongside a Family Youth Partner, individuals with lived experience of mental illness. The blend of lived experience and wisdom, paired with the clinical clinical scientific knowledge and evidence based practices provide rich and broad support for children, youth and families within the behavioral health system of care.

When asked what benefit Ian receives from collaborating with Family Youth Partners he is quick to respond, “I get to absorb some of that wisdom! The greatest teacher is one who comes from experience… I learn so much by just seeing how [Family Youth Partners] relate to others in the community, one on one, and in every other arena we serve.” Ian continued, “I absorb and in turn get my own experiences serving side by side with them… this might mean I have to drop my ego, and look at it from another perspective. But as long as we approach it as a ‘team’ and come together, we will hit our stride and reach our goals more quickly. This collaboration has taught me how to navigate through conflict resolution in a positive and constructive manner.” When asked how organizations that work with Family Youth Partners and Mental Health Specialists best support and strengthen the importance of this working relationship? Ian explained “You have to acknowledge what strengths this unit brings to the table to have honest collaboration. Whenever you have a team, you have to look at who does what best. This takes time and effort, and being open to change.”

Featuring a Family Youth Partner
Do you know a CYF Partner who is making a difference in their community? Nominations are open for a possible feature in a future edition of Our Voices Matter, a column promoting Caring People in the CYFL Newsletter. Send your nomination via email to CYFLiaison@