Family & Children’s Problematic Sexual Behavior Program Enhanced

SAP Staff L to R: Joseph Tristan, Kyle Kuzel, Jessica Cerutti, Bridget Quinn, Ginny Thayer, Renee Parisella, Program Director Jenny Almanzar. Absent: Laura Ward

At Family & Children’s Society we are always considering new treatment approaches proven to be effective. For many years we have offered a treatment program for children who engage in concerning and problematic sexual behaviors but we have been challenged to get their parents engaged in treatment as well.

Staff from Family & Children’s Society, as well as many community partners and members, were seeking an evidence-based program that included a strong component for parental involvement to best help children 12 and younger who engaged in concerning and problematic sexual behavior with other children.

While an evidence-based treatment existed to help these children, training in that type of therapy was hard to come by and challenging to afford. However, Sexual Abuse Treatment Program Director Jenny Almanzar and CEO Lisa Hoeschele partnered with the Broome County Child Advocacy Center and submitted an application to participate in a statewide initiative to train mental health providers in evidence-based treatment for children with problematic sexual behaviors funded by the New York State Juvenile Justice State Advisory Group.

Last year, the agency was one of six New York sites accepted to participate in the Learning Collaborative for Problematic Sexual Behavior – Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (PSB-CBT) for School-Age Children and Their Caregivers led by PSB-CBT Master Trainers Jane Silovsky, Ph.D., and Jimmy Widdifield, Jr., M.A., of the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and Benjamin Sigel, Ph.D., of the University of Arkansas Medical Sciences in Little Rock. Over the next six months, Almanzar and other members of the Problematic Sexual Behaviors Team, including Renee Parisella, Bridget Quinn and Jessica Cerutti, received nearly 50 hours of live training on PSB-CBT during which time they implemented a group treatment program for children ages seven to 12 with problematic sexual behavior and their caregivers, while also serving the child victims. The clinical team concurrently participated in bi-weekly clinical consultation calls with therapists with a PSB clinical program in Olean, NY. The calls were facilitated by master trainers in PSB-CBT until the end of the formal project in April to further enhance training and implementation of the treatment model, including pursuit of training and clinical fidelity requirements.

Since then, Paul Shawler, Ph.D., Master Trainer in PSB-CBT at University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, joined the project to provide consultation and fidelity support to the team. Despite the intensity of training and fidelity requirements, in January of 2017, Almanzar and Cerutti reached fidelity criteria to the PSB-CBT caregiver curriculum, and Quinn and Parisella reached fidelity criteria to the PSB-CBT child curriculum in March. The therapists have since switched groups and continue to demonstrate an outstanding understanding of the PSB-CBT model. They are expected to reach fidelity criteria in the other respective curriculum by the end of November. As efforts move forward to maintain the momentum of the original training project, team members are expected to apply for additional training to be Within- Agency Trainers in PSB-CBT for children. Such training would allow them to train therapists at Family & Children’s in the evidence-based PSB-CBT model, which would be a strength to sustaining the program at the agency and in Broome County. Training to become a Within-Agency Trainer will be an additional seven months of specialized training for the team. Said Widdifield, “Clearly, the team is committed to serving children with problematic sexual behavior, their child victims, and their families using evidence-based treatment and improving the lives of all children in Broome County and beyond.”