New Research Clinic Benefits Children

March 8, 2009
SHSU Media Contacts: Tara Lestarjette

Parents with children struggling from traumatic experiences or behavioral problems now have the option of receiving assistance from the Child Treatment Research Clinic, a new branch of study from the department of psychology at Sam Houston State University.

Part of the Psychological Services Center at the university, the clinic furthers the study of emotional and behavioral problems and allows children meeting study criteria to undergo therapy free of charge.

The clinic was established by Brian Allen, an assistant professor in the department, in the fall of 2009. Having gained experience from internships and fellowships at the University of California, Davis Medical Center and the National Center for Child Traumatic Stress at UCLA and Duke University, Allen said he felt that the study of child disorders would benefit SHSU and the community.

The clinic brings the latest advances in the treatment of depression, anxiety, behavioral problems, and posttraumatic stress disorder in children to Huntsville and the surrounding communities. The clinic uses interventions endorsed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, as well as the Society of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology of the American Psychological Association.

The clinic allows children to make routine visits to the clinic. The clinician conducts a thorough evaluation with the caregiver and child to determine the problems most in need of treatment and then decides the most appropriate form of treatment based on the available research.

Currently, the clinic is studying the effectiveness of Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT), a behavioral parent-training program that teaches effective ways to discipline and reward children. This intervention may last may last up to 20 sessions.

“In PCIT, the therapist teaches the parent specific skills to use with the child,” said Allen. “Then, the therapist actively coaches the parent through an in-the-ear speaker that is wirelessly connected to a microphone used by the therapist. The therapist watches the parent and child interact together from another room via closed circuit television.”

“Available research indicates that effective treatment for these types of child behavior problems requires some form of parent-training,” said Allen. “At the clinic, we incorporate the parent into sessions and encourage them to view themselves as the primary vehicle for the positive improvement in their child's behavior.”

Other examinations will also take place using other interventions, such as the use of Trauma-Focused Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. This treatment is for children who have experienced multiple traumatic events and typically lasts no longer than 16 sessions.

“This form of therapy focuses on teaching children appropriate coping skills first, and then having them develop a detailed account of the trauma they experienced,” said Allen. “Then the clinician helps the child examine and change any unhelpful thoughts which then allows them to emotionally process the experience. The treatment ends with the child sharing the narrative with his or her caregiver/parent and having the parent discuss the child's experiences.”

According to Allen, research on child behavior issues is important because therapies used in common practice with children are based primarily on questionable theories.

“The effectiveness of many theories has yet to be fully determined due to the limited case studies or poorly controlled outcome trials. The clinic wishes to explore these areas and as a result, establish sound methods to treat children. The clinic will also explore new areas of research,” said Allen.

“The clinic serves three primary functions: to make evidence-based practices for children available to Huntsville, Walker County, and the surrounding areas; to research and disseminate the results of research on the application of these interventions to the local, state, national, and international communities; and to train doctoral students in the department of psychology's Ph.D. program in clinical psychology in the application of evidence-based practices for children,” said Allen.

For those interested, the clinic is currently accepting referrals. Though only qualified individuals may participate in the studies, the psychology department offers many other treatment services that are based on sliding fees.

For more information, or to make an appointment, contact Allen at 936.294.1177.



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