SRI to Evaluate School-Based Intervention Program for Middle School Students Coping With Trauma-Based Stress

Sep 15, 2011, 13:32 ET from SRI International

MENLO PARK, Calif., Sept. 15, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- SRI International, in partnership with University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and Stanford University, is leading a three-year study of Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools (CBITS), a school-based program that helps children cope with stress caused by exposure to trauma. The study will focus on sixth-grade students enrolled in the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD).

"School-based mental health services are increasingly focused on the well-being and academic success of student populations.  We know that traumatic experiences, such as violence, can have profound effects on physical health, mental health, learning, and overall development of children," said Michelle Woodbridge, Ph.D., senior research analyst at SRI and a principal investigator on the study.  "To date, few scientific studies have examined the academic needs of students exposed to acute or chronic trauma. Our goal is to strengthen the knowledge base and inform policy makers, educators, and parents about how to best meet the needs of children dealing with the effect of trauma in their young lives."

At the start of the academic year, all sixth graders at participating schools with parental consent will be screened by SRI researchers via a questionnaire that will measure students' trauma symptoms and experiences. Those students showing elevated trauma symptoms will be invited to participate in the study.

Study Design

To allow researchers to compare CBITS with usually available services, half of participating students will be randomly assigned to the CBITS group. SFUSD's school-based mental health clinicians will be trained by UCLA's CBITS developers on how to best implement the program, and UCLA staff will consult with SFUSD on how to best reach students and encourage parental involvement.  CBITS clinicians will be supported and supervised by Shashank Joshi, M.D., a child psychiatrist from Stanford University.

For the purposes of this study, a traumatic event is defined as a sudden and unexpected occurrence that causes intense fear and may involve a threat of physical harm. It includes events such as a natural disaster, life-threatening illness, abuse, death of a loved one, accident, war, and immigration-related trauma.

Each year, more than 5 million children in the United States (about 7 percent) experience an extreme traumatic event, and 3 million (5 percent) are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder as a result.   Between 15 and 37 million (20-50 percent) of children in the United States are victims or witnesses of violence.

Behavior Therapy Focused on Early Intervention

CBITS is a structured, symptom-focused group therapy provided by mental health professionals in school settings for students suffering the effects of trauma. It uses cognitive behavior therapy, a type of mental health counseling, at a stage when children are developmentally ready to respond to such a therapeutic intervention. The early intervention approach also includes relaxation techniques and problem-solving to combat anger and impulsivity. It was originally developed and implemented in Los Angeles Unified School District's inner-city schools and has been used in diverse school districts across the United States and internationally.

This project is a 4-year $3,383,527 grant funded by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Special Education Research in the Institute of Education Sciences, grant number R324A110027.

About SRI's Center for Education and Human Services

The Center for Education and Human Services evaluates outcomes of policies and programs, from community services and school partnerships to statewide early childhood programs and federal special education and disability policies.

About SRI International

Silicon Valley-based SRI International, a nonprofit research and development organization, performs sponsored R&D for governments, businesses, and foundations. SRI brings its innovations to the marketplace through technology licensing, new products, and spin-off ventures. Commemorating its 65th anniversary in 2011, SRI is known for world-changing innovations in computing, health and pharmaceuticals, chemistry and materials, sensing, energy, education, national defense, and more.

SOURCE SRI International