Science and Practice for Effective Clinical Services

"You will learn a lot in terms of clinical issues as well as research. Someone considering directed research should know that they will be heavily involved in all aspects of the clinical and research work that they do. It is a difficult population to work with so it is really important not to be biased."


Supervising Faculty:

Drs. David J. Kolko, Ph.D., ABPP, Barbara Baumann, Ph.D., and Oliver Lindheim, Ph.D.



Eunice Torres, MS
513 Bellefield Towers
Fax: 412-246-5286


Area of Research:  Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, Forensic Psychology


Specific populations: 

  • Children with behavior problems (with possible ADHD, disruptive behaviors, emotional problems, or anxiety) and their parents receiving mental health treatment in their pediatrician’s office
  • Children exposed to family conflict, violence, and physical force/discipline, including victims of child physical abuse, and their families
  • Children and adolescents who play with fires, children and adolescents who have engaged in firesetting behaviors


Description of Research:

1. Collaborative Mental Health Services for Behavior Disorders in Primary Care
We are developing and testing an intervention program (Services for Kids In Primary-care or SKIP) that targets disruptive behavior problems (DBP) in pediatric primary care settings. Specifically, we are evaluating a comprehensive, evidence-based approach to the management of DBP children that emphasizes increased on-site collaboration between pediatricians and care managers (therapists). The intervention includes:  1) a collaborative on-site service delivery system that includes ongoing pediatrician training and feedback, 2) evidence-based methods to more directly address key child or family comorbid conditions, and 3) technological advances to promote service delivery and communication. Outcomes will be evaluated at both the client (child, parent) and pediatrician levels. We expect that the intervention will show improved symptomatic and functional outcome, and promote greater pediatrician involvement in treatment.  Part of this work involves summarizing the results for our pediatric partners, creating user friendly documents from our intervention materials, and developing ways to make this innovative information easily accessible

2. Treating Child Abuse in the Community
We currently are studying the effectiveness of an evidence-based treatment for child physical abuse (Alternative for Families: A Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or AF-CBT) in community-based agencies. Our study is being conducted in collaboration with community-based mental health providers in eight agencies throughout Allegheny and Butler counties. The impact of training community-based practitioners will be evaluated on measures of practitioner competency/performance and agency/organizational response collected at four timepoints. We are also evaluating treatment outcomes for children and parents on several domains including: abuse-related impairments or injuries, severity of behavior problems, level of functional impairment, environmental supports, and consumer satisfaction. In addition, efforts will be made to refine treatment and training materials. Our program is also involved in disseminating AF-CBT to practitioners around the U.S. who work with families referred for concerns about their use of physical force/discipline, including physical abuse. We conduct trainings for staff in various agencies and collection information to help us learn how to improve our training methods and to most efficiently help community practitioners. This information is managed in a database and then shared with colleagues via a website, scientific documents, and presentations.

3. SAFETY Program
The Services Aimed at Fire Education and Treatment for Youth (SAFETY) Program at UPMC's Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic (WPIC) offers educational and treatment services for children and adolescents involved with fire or firesetting. This service extends more than 25 years of research designed to evaluate the characteristics, course, history, and treatment of child firesetting, supported, in part, by federal (National Institute of Mental Health) and local (State Farm Insurance) grants. Much of this work has evaluated novel educational and clinical interventions, which are incorporated in our program (Kolko, 2001; Kolko et al., 2009). This service is available for children and teens who have shown a strong interest in or preoccupation with fire, played with matches, burned property or set a fire, or used incendiary materials or explosives. The program also provides treatment necessary to help with other problems of the youth and the family.


Duties of Students:

  • Learn about evidence-based treatments and their implementation in community settings
  • Review recent audio-taped therapy sessions and rate them for treatment adherence/integrity of elected session content
  • Code study data using a qualitative, observational coding system
  • Assist in developing and refining treatment and training materials
  • Assist in data management and preparation of scientific materials
  • Prepare basic analyses and break-downs of clinical research data.
  • Complete literature reviews
  • Assist in developing thank yous/ incentives for study participant
  • Attend staff/research meetings
  • Opportunities available to conduct clinical research assessments with families
  • Data management and preparation of scientific materials.
  • Complete research paper based on their experience in the research setting during the second term.


Additional Requirements:

  • PSY 1205 Abnormal Psychology
  • Students with strong research interests
  • Proficiency with basic computing tasks
  • Strong interpersonal skills
  • Ideally, students who are available for more than one term
  • This site is part of WPIC and requires current Act 33 & 34 clearances. These clearances are valid for one year and can take up to 4-6 weeks to process and cost $10 each. Information can be found on the state.
  • This site also requires FBI fingerprint check, and/or a criminal background check. These checks take approximately 4-8 weeks to process and costs $27.50.
  • Completed Statistics and Research Methods in psychology.
  • Excellent computer skills.
  • Knowledge and skills in using Word and Excel.
  • Completed Abnormal psychology.
  • Excellent project management, planning, communication, documentation, organizational, analytical, and problem solving abilities required.
  • Students who are reliable and eager to learn.
  • Strong interpersonal skills.
  • Students need to be available for more than one term.


Terms offered: fall, spring and summer


Number of Students: 1 or 2