The mental health crisis in schools continues to be a problem area in the U.S. According to The Washington Post, even as federal dollars have flowed into school classrooms since the pandemic, finding mental health professionals who meet the qualifications and growing need has proven difficult.
Adolescent anxiety and depression are on the rise with a sharp increase in suicide attempts among the teenage population. In addition, federal data collected in the spring of 2022 reported that 75% of teachers and staff surveyed expressed concerns about depression, anxiety and trauma with their students.
Attention to mental health
The significant increase in mental health needs suggests that measures of any form need immediate attention in and out of the classroom. As a result, schools are now looking to hire life coaches to address the whole student, from stressors to grades to relationship building and anxiety management.
Without accelerated measures, there are indications that many stressed adolescents will soon enter the scene of real life ill-prepared to cope. Professionals like Vincent Infante are stepping up their efforts to provide innovative methods in coaching, mentoring and elements of psychotherapy for individualized goals. Tapping into her own trauma as an empathetic tool, Infante guides her clients through early breakthroughs that can lead to lasting transformation.
Mixing educational methods
Education is Infante’s starting point. After thirteen years of study, he tried to improve the traditional therapeutic methods he studied. After earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in social work with a clinical focus, Infante worked extensively in hospitals, clinics, private facilities and homeless shelters. Yet after years of hard work, he felt something was missing.
“I almost lost faith in the therapeutic model as we know it now. Why do we often discuss people’s past when the past is over? It’s like we keep going back and looking at the same concrete slab,” he says.
Infante found that going over the past with a fine-toothed comb does not create enough lasting and positive change in the present. Disillusioned, he decides instead to fulfill a childhood dream, leaving the traditional therapeutic path to serve as a firefighter with
Fire Department of New York (FDNY) and help people in a different way.
Even with a career change, his therapeutic instinct did not leave him. In addition to working full-time as a firefighter, Infante created a coaching business. Drawing on his own earlier experience with depression and panic disorder, he began using an approach to dealing with challenging times. “I learned to master my mindset and activate my inner leader,” says Infante. “I am now committed to spreading this message and helping as many people as possible.”
Infante integrates elements from different disciplines to create a unique brand of support. He forged his own educational path by studying a wide range of modalities, including strategic intervention, positive psychology, mindset, neuro-linguistic programming, and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
“CBT is more about management than transformation,” says Infante. “It’s too compartmentalized. I’ve found that a lot of therapies don’t see people as a whole.” They are too focused on one part. Unlocking the subconscious and communication is the key to Infante’s method.
“The physiological symptoms of anxiety and depression are protective functions. Your subconscious is trying to take care of you, but it can go overboard,” Infante says. “Then we have to step in and reprogram your system.” Infante spends about 20 percent of his time with clients analyzing the past for subsequent behavior patterns and 80 percent of his time developing solutions and looking to the future.
Principles of Mentoring
Infante believes that life coaching challenges clients to raise the standards in their lives. It combines improved standards with intensive investigative methods that delve into the past. By making himself available to clients at all times, he found that he fostered the necessary mentor-mentee relationship.
He says the deep trust engendered by this relationship helps produce faster results. “Confidence is what makes people receptive to learning. And if they are receptive to learning, they perceive more value in it. Ultimately, they take more action and achieve better results,” he says.
Inner work and commitment
The world of self-development has always existed in Infante’s life, as his father was a psychotherapist. Some experts believe that therapists themselves should receive therapy in training, as it can be difficult to truly help others without knowing the personal emotional landscape. Infante dug deep into his own emotional growth to become a better coach and mentor. “I was bullied and suicidal in high school,” Infante says. “I’ve done a lot of inner work to help others get through theirs.”
In some ways, Infante’s father acted as an early mentor to Infante’s pursuits. He advised him to go deep and work in the most challenging situations to experience the full range of human complexity. After that, according to his father, you can work with anyone. The ethos of giving yourself wholeheartedly to your chosen path emerged as a hereditary trait. “If you’re going to do something, do it all the way,” Infante asserts. “I am fully committed to my clients and working out the best way to help them help themselves.”
Taking responsibility for one’s own recovery is a cornerstone of Infante’s process. He talks about unlocking the inner leader to change the trajectory of life. “The ‘inner child’ aspect of therapy is well known, but the ‘inner leader’ is less so,” he says.
Infante represents a growing generation of lifelong learners committed to understanding the “why” of the often described chaos in the world around them. Previous generations could settle into decades-long careers providing stability of mind and value.
Younger generations struggle with change moment by moment. The Infante Path illuminates the ability to sustain the energy needed to navigate new paths.
Continuing education is part of the journey that changed Infante’s thinking. He desires to grow and learn individually to mentor and influence as many lives as possible. “My personal goal is to impact one billion lives,” he says.
It’s an ambitious goal, but given the rise of mental health issues in society, his efforts seem as necessary as ever.
Interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.