Compassion, Awareness, Acceptance, Validation, Empowerment  (CAAVE)

CAAVE is a research-based, interactive training that builds a shared understanding of mental health and increases skills for leaders, managers, and teams.  The CAAVE Approach creates a trusting and inclusive setting for a relationally based human service workforce. Through a personalized approach and from a management lens, we work with you to tailor our CAAVE training to meet the needs of your teams and the clients you serve. Our CAAVE training is available in-person or virtually, contact us to discuss your team’s specific needs.


The History of CAAVE

The YMCA of San Diego developed the CAAVE approach to help staff understand the qualities necessary to best engage with and serve youth. Compassion, awareness, acceptance, validation and empowerment, were identified as the most essential staff qualities associated with positive and sustained engagement in a variety of services for youth and young adults. Based on our research on relationships and experience serving youth, we understand the healing power that connections have on the clients we serve. It is imperative that any team is prepared to apply that knowledge to their work. We have shared our findings with like-minded agencies wishing to grow their service value, as well as policy-makers who hope to better serve under-resourced populations through practical legislation and implementation guidelines. Some examples of this work are the following collaborative papers we have been a part of: Ending Youth Homelessness: A Neuro-informed Approach and Laying the Foundation: The Importance of Developmental Relationships for Youth Experiencing Homelessness.

Our work began nearly a decade ago and, in partnership with young adults, we have expanded the CAAVE approach and shared the concepts with diverse professionals across the country. With informative topics, a dynamic presentation style, activities, and real-life stories, a CAAVE training is a great way to introduce an approach that will increase the effectiveness of your work and support personal longevity in the helping fields. Much of the information presented will not be “mind-blowing,” rather the topics are packaged in a way that will help you easily apply compassion, awareness, acceptance, validation, and empowerment to any service delivery model within diverse helping fields. We hope that this opportunity will reconnect you to the roots of the helping professions.


  • Increase client engagement

  • Improve client retention

  • Boost motivation

  • Improve service outcomes

  • Decrease staff turnover

  • Promote staff wellness

  • Create a culture of compassion




What Will You Learn?

  • Basics of neuro-science & Toxic Stress

  • Self-regulation & Co-regulation

  • The role of compassion, awareness, acceptance, validation, and empowerment in relationally based human service work.


Who Should Use the CAAVE Approach?

  • Mental Health Clinicians
  • Social Workers
  • Case Managers
  • Resource & Referral teams
  • Entry-level social service staff
  • Human service Program Managers


About the Trainers


Krysta is the Executive Director of YMCA Youth and Family Services (YFS) in San Diego. Krysta began work in the social service field in 2001, providing direct service as a case manager in multiple program areas, most specifically with youth experiencing foster care and youth experiencing homelessness. She is a nationally recognized expert in her field and is committed to thought partnership to advance efficacious interventions in critical areas affecting youth and families. Krysta is active in the policy arena, providing advocacy and education to policy-makers to develop and implement practical approaches to best serve under-resourced youth and families. Krysta holds a Master's in Social Work, specializing in Organizational and Community Practice.


Kristina is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and serves as the Clinical Innovation Consultant for YMCA Youth & Family Services in San Diego. Kristina is particularly passionate about giving under-resourced youth the opportunities they deserve so that they can identify their interests, unlock their potential, and ultimately contribute to the greater good. She also supports staff development and believes in a relationally based workplace culture.  Kristina has worked as a clinician for over 15 years in a variety of settings including residential and substance use treatment.



Justin serves as the Director of Community Engagement for YMCA Youth & Family Services in San Diego. He is passionate about connecting disconnected and vulnerable young adults to the resources necessary to flourish. He is a champion of diversity and inclusion and truly understands the hardships and barriers ostracized communities and people of color face on a daily basis. Justin has over 20 years of experience serving families, young adults, and children.



David serves as a Support Specialist and Policy Advocate for YMCA Youth & Family Services in San Diego. He is dedicated to making positive change in the world. He is passionate about direct service work and is gifted in connecting with people. David’s advocacy work focuses on matters of equity and access for young adults. His personal experiences and profound resiliency make him a compelling speaker and educator. David “loves helping people overcome barriers that didn’t seem possible to them.” David is pursuing a bachelor’s degree.