The Foundations Program constitutes Community West’s “core” treatment program and is effective for a wide range of mental health challenges facing adolescents and young adults including anxiety, depression, self-harm, personality disorder, family conflict, crisis, and developmental difficulties.


Our multi-modal approach utilizes individual therapy, group therapy, family therapy, psychiatry and case management to focus on key areas that we consider central to the mental health and future wellbeing of our clients, including:

Focus on the expression of emotion.

The Foundations Program encourages exploration and discussion of the full range of the client’s emotions.  The individual therapist helps the client describe and put words to feelings, including contradictory feelings, feelings that are troubling or threatening and feelings that the client may not initially be able to recognize or acknowledge.

Exploration of attempts to avoid distressing thoughts and feelings.

People do a great many things, knowingly and unknowingly, to avoid troubling experiences. This avoidance can manifest in distressing symptoms and self-destructive behaviors. A client’s pattern of avoidance behavior inevitably finds expression through interactions with therapists, staff, and other clients.  We make therapeutic use of these real life experiences to actively focus on and explore attempts to avoid the issues most in need of attention.

Identify recurring themes and patterns.

The client’s individual therapist will work to identify and explore recurring themes and patterns in the client’s thoughts, feelings, self-concept, relationships, and life experiences. In some cases, a client may be acutely aware of recurring patterns that are painful or self-defeating but feel unable to escape them. In other cases, the client may be completely unaware of the patterns until the therapist helps them recognize and understand them.

Discussion of past experience (developmental focus).

Related to the identification of recurring themes and patterns is the recognition that past experience, especially early experiences of attachment figures, affects our relation to, and experience of, the present. The client’s individual therapist assists the client in exploring early experiences, the relation between past and present, and the ways in which the past tends to “live on” in the present. The focus is not on the past for its own sake, but rather on how it can shed light on current psychological struggles.

Emphasis on interpersonal relationships.

The Foundations Program places emphasis on the client’s relationships and interpersonal experiences. Both adaptive and non-adaptive aspects of personality and self-concept are forged in the context of attachment relationships, and psychological difficulties often arise when problematic interpersonal patterns interfere with a person’s ability to meet their own social-emotional needs.

The goals of the Foundations Program include, but extend beyond, symptom remission. We believe successful treatment should not only relieve symptoms but also foster a secure foundation from which to continue to develop psychological strengths and resources. Depending on the individual and the circumstances, these might include the capacity to have more fulfilling relationships, make more effective use of one’s talents and abilities, maintain a realistically based sense of self-esteem, tolerate a broader range of emotion, understand self and others in more nuanced and sophisticated ways, and face life’s challenges with greater flexibility and resilience. Such ends are pursued through a rigorous process of self-reflection, self-exploration, and self-discovery that takes place in the context of a safe and nurturing environment.

John Grienenberger, PhD is the director of the Foundations Program.