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Our Region, Our people: Meet Pier

Published 13 November 2023

Psychologist creates better lives for vulnerable young people on Tablelands

Pier Portella is changing the lives of young people on the Tablelands.

Pier Portella is committed to working with vulnerable young people to help them live better lives.

As a provisional psychologist at Better Together Community Support, an Atherton and Tablelands-based health and wellbeing service, Pier’s mission is to support young people in the community to overcome the challenges and issues they’re facing.

Those issues can include anxiety, problematic use of substances, addictions, and other complex situations.

And he’s been doing amazing work with one young person in particular.

Recently, Pier worked with a 16-year-old who had turned to video gaming to cope with the impacts of a difficult home life.

The teenager was referred to Better Together for mental health concerns (anxiety), related video game addiction, and being at-risk of alcohol use.

Pier said the teenager had been through traumatic times and wanted assistance and support to improve his situation.

“The teen identified goals to improve his relationship with his mum, improve his social skills, and reduce his anxiety,” said Pier.

“However, there was conflict within the family for his unwillingness to stop video gaming.”

Pier said Better Together provided the teen with ongoing emotional support to address his anxiety, psychosocial education regarding the risk of alcohol use, education related to healthy family relationships, coping strategies to reduce video gaming, and engaging in pro-social activities.

Northern Queensland Primary Health Network (NQPHN) funds Better Together’s Youth Alcohol and Other Drugs Case Management and Complex Care Coordination (YAODCC) program, a free service that provides case management support for young people aged 12-25 who misuse substances and have complex needs.  

“The young person told his YAODCC program case manager his fear surrounding his mother's alcohol use because she was aggressive towards him when drinking, and also of the threat of physical abuse by his mother's partner,” said Pier.

“These disclosures allowed YAODCC to liaise with Better Together’s Intensive Family Support (IFS) program to work with the mother on parenting and substance use, and allowed YAODCC to create a safety plan with the family to ensure there was no further contact between the teen and the mother's partner.”

It was the amazing work of Pier and Better Together that allowed the teen to start overcoming his family issues and other challenges.

“This opportunity allowed YAODCC to re-enforce the learnings that a patient, gentle approach to engagement is beneficial to relationship development, and allows safe space for young people to explore their concerns,” said Pier.

Pier said the situation was difficult in the beginning, however the adolescent had progressed very well.

“At the moment, the teen is in a stable and safe environment, which allows him to grow and develop,” said Pier.

“This marks a huge shift from the situation he was in when we first started working together. 

“His reaction has been positive, and he has also shown a high level of engagement, even through the most difficult moments. 

“This has led to a positive outcome, with the primary carer (his mother) also receiving relevant support too, and with increased safety for the young person by ceasing contact with the mother's partner.”

Last updated: 14 November 2023