Dr. Labruna leading a lecture on Trauma Treatment

The Institute for Adolescent Trauma announces its partnership with MercyFirst.

Institute directors Victor Labruna, Ph.D., and Mandy Habib, Psy.D.

Institute directors Victor Labruna, PhD, and Mandy Habib, PsyD

The Adelphi University School of Social Work has long been a valuable resource for educating students and professionals in the treatment of adult victims of trauma. Developing a program focused on adolescent trauma was a natural extension for the School.

The Institute for Adolescent Trauma Treatment and Training is partnering with MercyFirst, one of the largest youth residential programs in New York, to train more than 1,000 social work students and mental health professionals on Long Island and parts of New York City in evidence-based trauma interventions. This skilled workforce will then deliver treatment to more than 4,000 adolescents.

The institute was made possible thanks to a $1.6 million grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a federal agency that aims to promote research and provide mental health services to people and communities most in need. According to Peter Chernack, D.S.W., associate dean of the School of Social Work, “This prestigious grant strengthens the School’s capacity to prepare graduates for trauma-informed practice and will contribute meaningfully to building the region’s mental health workforce in this critical area of practice.”

The School of Social Work brought in Mandy Habib, Psy.D., and Victor Labruna, Ph.D., to serve as directors of the institute. Both have extensive experience in studying and treating adolescent trauma and are two of the co-authors of Structured Psychotherapy for Adolescents Responding to Chronic Stress (SPARCS). They say that many professionals lack the knowledge of how to identify and treat adolescents who have been traumatized.

Dr. Habib pointed out that according to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN), a recent study of 1,400 American youths found that more than two-thirds had experienced one significant traumatic event by the age of 16, and more than one-third of these young people reported being exposed to trauma more than once. This multiple, or complex, trauma significantly impacts an individual’s physical and mental well-being. Dr. Habib explained that trauma can manifest  as anxiety, aggression, depression or withdrawal and that these behaviors are often misdiagnosed as mental illnesses and treated with medications or therapies that don’t address the real problem: “that these kids have a history of trauma.”

Being linked to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network enables Adelphi to draw upon renowned experts on trauma. In Spring 2013, Ernestine Briggs-King, Ph.D., director, data and evaluation, National Center for Child Traumatic Stress, and Donna Potter, LCSW, training project coordinator of the North Carolina Child Treatment Program and clinical instructor at Duke University School of Medicine, provided training in trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT) to more than 30 MercyFirst staff and nine graduate students from the Adelphi University School of Social Work. TF-CBT has been used to help children who have experienced a wide array of traumatic events.

Drs. Habib and Labruna said students will be able to use their newly acquired knowledge and trauma-treatment skills in their graduate field placements, including residential settings such as MercyFirst.

Jacqueline McElvey, chief program officer for MercyFirst, said, “The opportunity to partner with the Adelphi School of Social Work and the institute to implement the TF-CBT and SPARCS models of treatment is a gift that we embrace with gratitude, as it brings countless benefits to our youth, their families and our staff. We look forward to welcoming students from Adelphi into our programs, knowing how well prepared they are to engage in the work of effective trauma treatment.”

This is an edited version of an article that ran in the 2013 School of Social Work Newsletter.

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