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Youth in crisis transforming into Overcomers at Immerse Arkansas

Image used to show youth in therapy
Photo by Immerse Arkansas, Integrated Therapy

Immerse Arkansas is dedicated to helping young people overcome crises, heal from past trauma, and prepare for adulthood. The organization serves young people aged 14-24 who are currently in or aging out of foster care, have been adopted, or are homeless or runaway. The youth center is a place to come in, have a meal, wash clothes, shower, and receive coaching and mentoring. Immerse will open The Station this fall, providing safe housing for homeless youth and combining trauma-informed therapy and transformational experiences that support youth on their path to healing.

Youth Integrated Behavioral Healthcare

Immerse has identified challenges and gaps in the foster care system, as well as the lack of resources for those transitioning into adulthood. They recognize the need for behavioral health support, supported by funding from the Blue & You Foundation for a Healthier Arkansas. A therapist connects with the youth as soon as they arrive.

When she was 18 years old, Ashley found herself homeless and sought help from Immerse. She started meeting regularly with a therapist named Victoria to improve her life. When asked how working with Victoria has impacted her thoughts about herself and her future, she shared that she realized “I am a work in progress, not a product of my environment.”  Since then, Ashley has completed a Certified Nursing Assistant program, secured a job, and registered to start college courses in the fall. Ashley’s therapist, Victoria, is proud of her “effort to let her guard down and allow others to walk alongside her on her journey of healing.”

Therapy at Immerse has become fully embedded across our programs. Victoria says, “Immerse aims to create a non-judgmental, comfortable environment filled with joy and laughter that leads to healing, growth, and transformation.” Her favorite part of serving the youth at Immerse through therapy is being able to be a “beacon of light and give them some type of hope to continue fighting to overcome.” Over 150 youth from crisis have engaged in therapy through one-on-one or group sessions. They have the capacity for every single youth to meet with a therapist every day if needed.

Recreation Inspiring Overcomers

Immerse Arkansas is one of Central Arkansas’s few providers of youth-focused, trauma-informed, relationship-based care. The Blue & You Foundation has also been able to support the Recreational Therapy and Transformational Experiences for Youth from Crisis project. With the abuse, neglect and trauma children can experience. In contrast, in and out of foster care, they also experience low self-esteem, and it can negatively impact their health or their openness to new experiences. In Immerse’s 12 years of experience, recreational activities have helped to restore confidence, increase coping skills for managing stress and physical health, increase willingness to try new or challenging opportunities and provide youth with normalized, age-appropriate experiences. Immerse integrates recreational therapy while engaging youth in basketball, hiking, fishing, disc golf, dance and music lessons, rock climbing, float trips, ziplining, bowling and equine sessions.

Dante, who experienced homelessness at 19, began rock climbing with Immerse in November 2023. Initially, this activity was a challenge for Dante and a fear to overcome. With the support of his peers, he continued to progress and used the perseverance he was developing in other areas of his life. He is now belay certified and continuing to achieve higher grades in climbing. Dante says, “The walls are like obstacles in life. The rocks look far away, but all you have to do is stand and reach to achieve your goals.”

Image showing youth participating recreational therapy
Photo by Immerse Arkansas, youth participating in recreational therapy

“Youth entering adulthood with unaddressed trauma, no support structures, and no constructive relationships have a significantly heightened risk of incarceration, homelessness, and mortality. Even though we can’t always prevent trauma from happening, we can provide the needed structures that create a climate for healing, growth and vision for a full future. Quality mental health support is instrumental to the healing process, and we’re thrilled to have the support of The Blue & You Foundation to make it possible to serve youth from crisis in this way.” – Eric Gilmore, Executive Director.

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