Theories to Support the Work

Theories to Support the Work

Both Covenant House Toronto and Vancouver invest in training their staff on specific theoretical perspectives and use those theories in their work with youth. They are considered to be very important case management tools to assist in providing support to the residents.

What we’ve tried to do is provide a consistent language for the staff to use when they’re talking about the youth, working with the youth and framing their plans.” — John Harvey, Director of Program Services, Covenant House Vancouver 

This begins the moment a youth walks through the doors of the crisis/shelter program for the first time.

The theories and approaches summarized here are some of the key theories used by one or both Covenant House locations in Canada. They are really the tip of the iceberg and a great many skills and theoretical perspectives are integrated into the work. Links to further reading are provided for those agencies that wish to delve deeper into understanding how they work.

The theories included are:

  • Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
  • Attachment Theory
  • Stages of Change
  • Resiliency Theory
  • Motivational Interviewing
  • Trauma-Informed Care 

All these theories are constantly interwoven with what we do. They are utilized and made applicable by the young person, by the situation that presents itself.” — Julie Neubauer, Transitional Housing Manager, Covenant House Toronto

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Beyond a basic intake, the first response is to ensure that the youth has something to eat, clothes to wear and is able to get some rest. Discussions and planning about next steps occur a couple days later after the immediate basic needs have been met. 

The youth can stay in the crisis/shelter program and begin to develop a day plan that includes employment, education or addressing mental health or addictions issues. Moving into the Rights of Passage programs moves them further up Maslow’s hierarchy by giving them more than just safety and security but also a sense of belonging. The life skills training and support provided by staff help them move through other stages as well.

The Canadian Observatory on Homelessness acknowledges with thanks the financial support of The Home Depot Canada Foundation. Thanks to the staff, partners and service users (past and present) of Covenant House Toronto and Covenant House Vancouver who assisted in the development of the toolkit by taking part in interviews, providing data and resources or reviewing information.

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