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FALL 2008




Decoding Behavior

finding the formula for change

U s in g p i c t u r e s f o r c o mm u ni c at i o n     Ta c k l in g a u t i s m     O v e rc o min g t he s t i g m a 


editorial staff: Judy Beaupre Kelli Langdon Matt Nehmer Beth VanDyke Contributing Writers: Lukasz Konopka Design: Bates Creative Group Contributing Photographers: Amy Braswell Lura Danley Kelli Langdon Steve Murray Ben Reed Loren Santow Derrick Smith Cover illustration: James Yang


Applied Behavior Analysis has found its niche in areas that cannot be effectively addressed by other areas of psychology. You can’t talk somebody out of autism or a developmental disability. It takes a very different approach to addressing an individual’s problems.

Dr. Mike Mozzoni, regional program director, Learning Services Neurobehavioral Institute-West

President Michael Horowitz Vice President of Administration and Student Affairs Tamara Rozhon Vice President of Finance Jeff Keith Vice President of Academic Affairs Patricia Breen Vice President of Institutional Advancement Rebecca Stimson Dean, Southern California Michele Nealon-Woods Dean, Online Campus Darcy Tannehill INSIGHT is published twice annually by the Office of Marketing and Communications at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. It is mailed to alumni, faculty, staff and friends of the school. Address changes and correspondence should be sent to the Office of Institutional Publications T  he Chicago School of Professional Psychology 325 N. Wells St. Chicago, IL 60654 312.410.8998 Visit INSIGHT online at : insight_magazine

FALL 2008





22 departments 3    President’s Letter 4    On Campus While a new model of education is defined, TCS continues its evolution with new campuses, new students, and a summer of travel-abroad opportunities

8    Faculty A neuroscientist’s view; talking candidly about autism

22    Class Notes Promoting positive behavior in Chicago’s public schools

24    GIVING BACK Newly launched Cohen Institute perpetuates a daughter’s memory

25    Last page Honoring a favorite professor

18 FEATURES 12    Decoding Behavior: Finding the Formula for Change Applying behavior analysis in settings that range from disability and rehabilitation services to school, sports, and corporate America

18    Listening to the Pictures: One Woman’s Story A Chicago School intern uses picture-communication tools to break the silence of a nonverbal group-home resident

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{president’s letter}


hat I like to say about psychology is that it is about life, that it directly impacts—and is impacted by—all aspects of the human experience. This is one reason that The Chicago School can continue its rapid-fire evolution. There is no end to the possibilities before us. As much can be said about applied behavior analysis, the focus of this issue’s cover story. ABA gets a great deal of attention as a treatment for autism—the only evidence-based therapy that has been shown to eliminate the diagnostic label in children who are treated early and intensively. But, as you will read on the pages that follow, ABA is about much more than autism. It’s about education at all levels and with all populations; it’s about workplace efficiency and professional growth; it’s about improving performance in any arena, and about helping people with a vast array of injuries and disabilities. Behavior analysts like to say that anything that involves human interaction is fodder for ABA. This program, like all of our programs, exemplifies what is extraordinary about The Chicago School. We never allow ourselves to be contained by the artificial barriers of the here and now. We continue to evolve, to find new applications for the profession we love, new opportunities to use our expertise, our resources, and our vision to make a difference. I believe that we have come to a time in our three-decade history when that difference should be anything but ordinary, when our impact should be felt throughout our community, indeed around the world. When you read INSIGHT, you will get a taste of a few of the endeavors that are underway at The Chicago School. When people ask how we can move so fast, I point to all of you. I never cease to be inspired by the ground-breaking accomplishments of our alumni, or by the entrepreneurial spirit of our faculty and staff. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to look at some of their stories on our website. It has been rewarding to hear from the people who have chosen to share, with a worldwide audience, stories of their Chicago School experience. We are who we are, and where we are, because of you. Thank you, and happy holidays.

Michael Horowitz President


We’re All About Life

on campus

The Chicago School Here a nd Now



right: Business Psychology student Kevin King takes a turn at spinning silk during their recent trip to China.

cross section of Chicago School community members are engaging this academic year in a “Constitutional Convention”-scale project to define and articulate The Chicago School Model of education. Called “From Boulder to Vail to Chicago,” the initiative carries the ambitious goal of advancing the progression of psychology education from its origins of research to practice to a blend of both with an emphasis on community engagement. The Vail Model emerged in the 1970s with the creation of the National Council on Schools and Programs of Professional Psychology, and reconfigured training into a practitioner-scholar approach with an emphasis on knowledge, skills, and attitudes focused on the practice of psychology. It represented a departure from the Boulder Model, which focused on scientistpractitioner-based training and was rooted in academic research methods first, then practice. The school plans to continue this conversation locally first and then carry it to the larger academic community in years to come. Phase I has begun with working groups from every academic department as well as the areas of academic support and engagement and student affairs. Using a uniform discussion framework, the groups’ initial task is to probe the school’s values of education, innovation, service, and community, along with its learning goals, through a lens focused on individual assumptions, attitudes, actualities, and ambitions. “Our starting point was an education model that was more instinctive,” said Dr. Nancy Davis, associate vice president of academic affairs, who helped train the group facilitators. “It was not documented or explicit. We think that this process of engagement and dialogue will result in an articulated shared model.” Once working groups have completed their initial assignments, a steering committee will begin phase II—discovering alignments in values, definitions, and beliefs, and using the

common language to mold a model of education to be formally recognized by TCS. “It’s an organic exercise that will lead to a final product created by educators,” Dr. Deane Rabe, associate vice president of engagement and student affairs, said. “We’re setting out to clearly and succinctly articulate two statements: ‘this is what we do’ and ‘this is how we do it.’” Like the school’s 2007 self-study exercise for reaccreditation by the Higher Learning Commission, the model draft will work though an extensive review stage that will reengage the working groups, along with Faculty Council, CSSA, Alumni Council, and Chicago School staff. Feedback will be incorporated into a final draft to go to the school’s cabinet and board in late spring 2009.

Broadening Our Reach


he world’s most populous nation has become home to The Chicago School’s first international presence. Located in Shanghai, the new China Office works to recruit Chinese students to our campuses in the states, and forges ties with Chinese universities that can offer mutual benefits and expand the role that professional psychology plays in an increasingly global society. Yanjun Weng, whose international education company develops higher education partnerships

of Crime, Law, and Psychology in Prague, and to Germany, where Clinical Psy.D. students attended the European Summer Academy in Nuremberg. That trip was supported by a grant The Chicago School received from the German Academic Exchange Program.

A Dual Distinction: The First and the Largest


ften cited as the world’s leading independent graduate school devoted exclusively to training in psychology and related behavioral sciences, The Chicago School has taken on another distinction. It is not only the largest, but—through its newly forged affiliation with the California Graduate Institute (CGI)—it now qualifies as the first such school in the country. CGI became part of The Chicago School early in the fall semester, when Presidents Michael Horowitz and Marvin Koven signed a formal affiliation, merging their two institutions. The result is a more robust West Coast presence for TCS as CGI campuses in Irvine and Westwood, Calif., join the recently opened Los Angeles Campus in providing educational opportunities for graduate psychology students. At the start of this fall, CGI enrollment stood at more than 350 students in six degree programs and 14 certificates. “The intent of this partnership is to unite the strengths of both organizations,” said TCS President Michael Horowitz in his announcement to students, faculty, and staff. “As a result of the TCS-CGI affiliation, we can now stake claim to being the first and largest independent nonprofit school devoted exclusively to graduate psychology and related behavioral sciences education in the world.” In addition to its locations and experience with offering training for the Marriage and Family Therapy licensure, CGI also brings to TCS one of California’s largest and most successful counseling centers. The CGI Counseling Center provides psychotherapy and counseling services that are affordable and accessible. In turn, The Chicago School brings to CGI a growing national and international reputation; additional resources in the areas of community engagement and student services; experience with regional and programmatic accreditation; and program diversity. more »


spanning the globe, serves as the office’s Chief Representative, working to coordinate international recruitment and study-abroad opportunities, faculty and student exchanges, and the creation of joint degree and certificate programs. “Five years from now, I would like The Chicago School to be recognized as the best name in psychology education in China,” Weng says, adding that his anticipation of success is based on the school’s innovative culture. Collaboration with Fudan University, consistently ranked as one of Asia’s leading universities, represents The Chicago School’s first official partnership in China. Students from both institutions have already taken advantage of exchange opportunities, sharing perspectives on how psychology is practiced in their respective countries. Similar relationships are being developed with Zhejiang University and Jiangxi Normal. Most recently, six students from The Chicago School’s Business Psy.D. program completed a two-week education and cultural immersion experience in Shanghai, where they explored organizational psychology from an international perspective. A highlight of their trip was a visit to the Shanghai Futures Exchange, where they gave a presentation to employees on business process re-engineering and discussed ways to use business psychology to increase efficiency at the exchange. According to Weng, such collaborations hold enormous potential for improving the professional practice of psychology in China. Because the Ministry of Labor oversees all professional training programs for psychologists and counselors, Yanjun says, there is no reliable means of accrediting programs or licensing counselors. He adds that he hopes that increased collaboration between the East and the West will address this problem. “We will use a lot of creativity to customize our programs to address cultural differences and to meet the need for psychologists in China,” Weng says. The school’s international efforts are not limited to China, or even to Asia. Initiatives are also underway to develop other global educational opportunities for students and faculty. Summer 2008 saw Chicago School groups travel to the Czech Republic, where Forensic Psychology students attended a week-long Summer School

on campus

The Chicago School Here a nd Now

Plans to integrate the institutions originated when The Chicago School Board of Trustees initiated efforts to expand TCS to new geographies. At the same time, Dr. Marvin Koven, began thinking about strategies to ensure the future of CGI. Dr. Koven will remain active at the Irvine and Westwood campuses as chancellor and professor. Drs. Horowitz and Koven agree that the potential is high for alumni of both organizations to be among the chief beneficiaries of the affiliation. “Graduates will soon have access to a larger network of psychology professionals, employment opportunities, career services, and new locations and programs should you wish to continue your education,” they said in a joint letter to the CGI community.

Dr. Mantegna Sends 2008 Grads on Their Way


Actor Joe Mantegna receives his honorary doctoral hood at Commencement 2008.

e started the 20th century with aspirin and penicillin,” Tony-Award winning actor Joe Mantegna told Chicago School graduates at their June 13 Commencement ceremony. “We started the 21st century with stem cell research, organ transplants, and genetic coding. With all the wonderful things that are happening in the world come new problems, new stresses, and new anxieties…as psychology graduates, you have big jobs ahead of you.” Mantegna’s delivery of the commencement address—which mixed words of encouragement and inspiration with memories of his own years

growing up in Chicago—followed the moment when he became The Chicago School’s newest honorary Doctor of Psychology. In accepting the degree, he joined other high-profile personalities—including former U.S. Senator Adlai Stephenson III, award-winning journalist Alex Kotlowitz, and Tipper Gore—who have addressed past graduating classes. Mantegna was recognized for his work in raising awareness of autism, a disorder that affects thousands of children, including his daughter. He is active with Autism Speaks, Actors for Autism, and HOME Ownership Made Easy, an organization that offers affordable housing opportunities to individuals with disabilities. More than 350 Chicago School graduates picked up master’s or doctoral diplomas at the annual Commencement exercises, which was held for the second consecutive year at the Civic Opera House. Some 3,000 friends and family members were on hand for the event.

The Spirit Catches TCS Readers


true-life account of intercultural miscommunication—and its dire ramifications on a refugee family and a California community— has The Chicago School community talking. At the heart of the conversation is Anne Fadiman’s The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures, which relates the true story of Lia Lee and her battle with epilepsy. As

2,000 Students and Counting Chicago School enrollment surpassed the 2,000 mark this fall as the Los Angeles Campus welcomed its first cohort of students, online enrollment surged, and many Chicago Campus programs saw steady increases. Admission efforts for online and on-ground programs brought in 945 new students during the fall semester, resulting in a total student headcount of 2,009, a 51 percent increase over fall 2007. Contributing to the increase are the addition of a Psy.D. program in Applied Behavior Analysis, several online M.A. in Psychology degrees, and a new suburban Chicago site in Grayslake, Ill., for students in the Clinical Counseling Specialization and the School Psychology program. The West Coast campus achieved its first-year goal with 118 incoming students in four degree programs. Students enrolled at the newly affiliated California Graduate Institute campuses in Irvine and Westwood, Calif., will become part of the official Chicago School census beginning in spring 2009. To accommodate enrollment growth in Chicago, some 11,000 square feet of new space with another 36,000 of adjacent space for continued growth was acquired in the Merchandise Mart. It houses the new Utigard/Transwestern Treatment and Observation Room, which now functions as the practice arm of the Forensic Psychology program.


Grabbing the gold INSIGHT, the magazine for alumni and friends of The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, has been recognized by the magazine industry as the best new magazine published by a nonprofit organization in 2008. The Ozzie Awards are presented annually for excellence in magazine design by Folio:, the leading publication for magazine professionals. It represents the largest competition in magazine publishing. INSIGHT, which is produced by The Chicago School Office of Marketing and Communication and designed by the Bates Creative Group in Silver Spring, Md., won the gold award in its category. Winners were announced September 22 at the Folio national show and convention in Chicago. In accepting its Ozzie, INSIGHT joins such publications as Bon Appetit, Fortune, Travel & Leisure, Entertainment Weekly, and Field & Stream magazines, all of which won gold or silver Ozzies in their categories. INSIGHT was launched in October 2007 as a semiannual publication for Chicago School alumni, friends, and professionals in the field of psychology. 2008

this year’s Book of the Year, it has spawned discussions on—and raised questions about—the dilemma of cross-cultural communication, made particularly critical when a life is at stake. The activity supports the school’s deep-rooted focus on diversity and multiculturalism and is intended to foster intercultural understanding and engage the academic community in an ongoing conversation about psychological well-being and behavioral consequences around the globe.

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Los Angeles




Riding the Wave of Change {by Dr. Luk asz Konopk a} Professor of Clinical Psychology


wave of change is surging through the field of behavioral science, expanding our understanding of brain function and its relationship to mental illness. Where we once relied on our carefully honed observation skills to identify and define psychological disorders, we now have available to us a variety of advanced technologies that can be used to explain brain functions long considered mysteries. The use of neuroimaging—including tools such as EEGs—represents a prime example of how far we have come in understanding behavior. In the early days, we found it impossible to define functional brain networks and their role in the expression of behavior. Only now can we relate brain function to normal and pathological states. As a result, we enter a new era where behavioral correlates can be defined by our understanding of normal and abnormal brain function. It is an approach that “Without knowing the biological requires us to look at each patient and to design highly underpinning of a disorder, our individualized treatment plans, rather than using a one-sizetherapeutic approaches become  fits-all therapy plan. I offer the example of two patients with clinical depression and identical depression measure scores. Although they appear clinically similar, we still may find they have different biological abnormalities that produce distinct responses to the same therapeutic interventions. Without knowing the biological underpinning of a disorder, we cannot know what we are treating: our therapeutic approaches become no more precise than a shot in the dark or the flip of a coin. It is not surprising then that for a number of clinically

no more precise than a shot in the dark or the flip of a coin.”

defined populations, published data reports significant pharmacological treatment failures and placebo responses. Consider the issue of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which was long conceptualized as a behavioral-psychological disorder without biological underpinnings. True, the work of a few researchers, such as Douglas Bremner, shed some light on the physiological manifestations of PTSD. Bremner used MRIs to identify changes that occurred in the region of the brain that plays a central role in memory, PTSD patients. However, the changes that he noted—specifically, a shrinking of the brain tissue, which could be correlated with a loss of memory—bear similarities to those noted in patients diagnosed with depression, making it impossible to use this single physiological factor as a basis for PTSD diagnosis. While the use of imaging has helped us take great strides in diagnosis and treatment, more research is needed to use these technologies to their greatest advantage. During the years I spent as director of clinical neuroscience at Hines VA Hospital, my colleagues and I learned a great deal about PTSD using neuroimaging technologies. We learned, for example, that patients on the PTSD spectrum have unique electrophysiological measures (EEGs) that can be helpful in deciding on a course of treatment that will be effective. Another imaging technology—Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT)—was used to identify blood flow patterns. SPECT data provided us with a wealth of new information; we could use the patterns to predict the success of electroconvulsive therapy in patients whose depression had thus far been resistant to treatment and, in another study, we used the information to identify patient subpopulations with cocaine abuse histories. These findings open a number of new pathways for us; by becoming increasingly aware of various patient subpopulations, we will be able to design more precise treatments for them. With some frustration, one might view these new technologies as the more accurate way to define and treat specific psychological problems;


they may ask why we cannot just rely on biology instead of the more traditional observation methods. I believe the fundamental issue is that the development of the diagnostic classifications that are widely used today came about long before the availability of brain imaging, and well before discoveries in the fields of behavioral neurology, biological psychiatry, neuropsychiatry, and clinical neuroscience. By their very nature, these classifications lack the precision necessary to describe exactly what is happening the brain. So the brain-to-behavior approach that is driving my work—and the work of other neuropsychologists—is far more complicated than simply reversing the process. We have a long way to go in bringing the fields of biology and psychology together, but the potential is great. We must be prepared to ride the wave of change that is redefining behavioral science. I strongly believe we must shift our thinking and

train clinician-scholars in the field of psychology by exposing them to sound scientific inquiry and brain-related sciences. We should also expose students to objective clinical research that relies on the scientific approach and struggles with data that relate brain function to behavior. To this end, I am very excited by our new Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) program with its rigorous assessments and precisely measured outcomes; I see tremendous opportunities for research collaboration among imaging, biomarker-based approaches, and ABA. ABA trains careful observers with a keen eye for behavior quantification and outcome measurement. One can imagine how well clinicians could develop patient-specific therapies when using careful therapeutic evaluation, imaging, and acute behavioral interventions. With this approach, we could design interventions that target dysfunctional networks while using the patient’s existing strengths.

F ac u lt y I n the News Dr. Jaleel Abdul-Adil, associate professor of clinical psychology, was quoted in a Daily Journal story about the influence of hip-hop music on children (6/24). Dr. Ellis Copeland, chair of the Department of School Psychology, was quoted in a Chicago Parent magazine story titled “Taking the Stress Out of School” (7/25). Dr. Nancy Davis, associate vice president of academic affairs, offered commentary for a story about people who embellish on their resumes. The story also ran in the Sydney Morning Herald (6/11). Dr. Todd Dubose, assistant professor of clinical psychology, appeared on the National Geographic Channel

program “The Final Report.” Dr. Dubose discussed the psychology of cults, particularly the story behind the Heaven’s Gate cult from the late ‘90s (9/29). Dr. Michael Fogel, chair of the Forensic Psychology Department, was quoted in The Daily Journal about a criminal case in Will County (5/24). Dr. Evan Harrington, associate professor of clinical psychology, contributed to an EDGE Boston story titled “Gay Panic Defense Fading in Murder Cases” (7/17). Dr. Christoph Leonhard, professor of clinical psychology, was quoted in a Chicago Tribune story about people who compulsively collect recipes (6/4). The story also appeared in the Lincoln (Neb.) Journal Star (7/16).

The Chicago School received mention on the WBEZ Chicago Public Radio program Worldview in a segment featuring Fr. Paul Satkunanayagam, S.J. Fr. Paul talked about his work to deliver counseling services to people in Sri Lanka and about his work with Dr. Michael McNulty, a Chicago School faculty member. Dr. Daniela Schreier, assistant professor of clinical counseling, discussed stress and economic anxiety for a Medill News Service story (10/7). She also was quoted in a Dallas Morning News story about people losing weight after a painful divorce (10/6). Dr. Hector Torres, Center for Latino Mental Health coordinator, appeared on WBEW FM-89.5 to discuss the center and The Chicago School’s Latino mental health initiative (9/11).

The center was profiled in the Columbia Chronicle, a South Loop weekly (9/15). Dr. Debra Warner, assistant professor of forensic psychology, contributed to an article about negative self talk that appeared on, a website dedicated to mental health (10/8). She also was quoted in a Therapy Times article about political correctness and the patient-therapist bond (9/15). Dr. Nancy Zarse, associate professor of forensic psychology, was interviewed by ABC7’s Kevin Roy for a feature story about campus shootings (8/17).



ith diagnoses of autism continuing their alarming ascent, parents across the country are turning to behavior analysts to help their children master the communication and social interaction skills that are critical to the successful navigation of everyday life. We invited faculty from The Chicago School’s Applied Behavior Analysis Department to discuss how ABA is used in treating this disorder, what challenges face families struggling with autism, and what hopes they have for their clients. Joining Dr. Traci Cihon and Dr. John Smagner for this dialogue was Ann Sturtz, a second-year student in the program.

Dr .Tr ac i c i h o n

Dr . J o hn smag ne r

INSIGHT: What do you think is the greatest myth about the autism diagnosis? sturtz: One of the things that people ask me about the kiddos that I work with is ‘Can they play the piano really well?’ or ‘Can you ask them what this date was in 1570?’ One of the greatest myths is that people with autism are very similar to one another. People assume that they all do the same things, and can’t do the same things… they go back to the Rainman analogy. I find that surprising because of the amount of media attention and the increase in programs that address autism.

Dr. Smagner: There is a common misconception that children are not social and that they don’t like to be touched. I have never personally worked with a child with autism that didn’t like to be touched, though I do believe they exist. Dr. Cihon: Or that they don’t like other people…that they don’t know that other people exist. Dr. Smagner: You know, the nature of the disorder is that they have social skill deficits but they are not naturally avoidant or unsocial. Dr. Cihon: I guess the bigger misconception that I come in contact with is not specific to autism, but specific to ABA. The one that I’m responding to quite frequently is, ‘Isn’t ABA just for autism?’ And I have to respond, obviously ‘No, behavior analysis applies to any behavior that an individual exhibits. Autism is getting a lot more attention in the media now and ABA is the most effective intervention that we have empirical support for.

INSIGHT: A child with autism has been referred to you for treatment. Walk me through the mechanics in creating an ABA program for this child. Dr. Cihon: The first thing I’m

ann S T U r tz


going to do is gather information. I’m going to talk to people, in particular parents, other individuals involved in the child’s life. Then I’m going to see what is going on in the environment, what the child is doing, and what happens before particular behaviors and what happens after particular behaviors occur. I am going to look for patterns in what I’m recording. I’ll look at the trends before we do anything, before there’s an intervention in place, and then I’m going to try something–not just something I pull out of the air, but that’s been empirically researched and supported, and that I know has this particular effect on the behavior. I am going to watch and see what happens to make sure that the child has the change that we like to see. And if that doesn’t work, I’m going to make a change. Dr. Smagner: We think about autism and all the deficits associated with it. I would say the fundamental deficit is language; so when I go into a new home, I want to assess the child’s imitation skills, because I think language development necessitates an imitative repertoire. I’m going to access receptive language, do they follow instructions… very simple instructions… instructions that in the natural environment would keep the child safe, like saying to the child ‘Come here.’ Dr. Cihon: The other thing I’d want to know is, how are they getting their wants and needs met? Are they looking, are they reaching, are they pulling someone over? Dr. Smagner: Are they tantruming?

analysis….[can make a child with autism] indistinguishable from peers, though there are those who have critiqued that line of research on methodological grounds.” Dr. Cihon: Right, what things are going on and what’s happening afterwards? Dr. Smagner: More often than not, the parent will tell me that the child pulls or tantrums. Sometimes the children will point. But I need to know all that. Dr. Cihon: I think it also depends on where you’re coming in and the range of interventions that have been tried. If it’s a child who’s received some early intervention or is coming in a little later in the game, oftentimes we see some very different skill sets. Sometimes kids are already talking. sturtz: The programming doesn’t have to do with the chronological age of the child. You can have an individual who is 9 or 2, and they do the same things…they communicate in the same way, they have the same toileting skills, the same reading level, communication, feeding skills, ability to dress themselves. Their history can make it more challenging—the longer you’ve had things going on, the harder it is to break the habit or the pattern. But I’ve worked with individuals who are 30 who have less functional communication than kiddos that I work with that are 3 or 4. Dr. Cihon: We look at what skills are appropriate for an individual of that age, and the environment that they are in. A 3-year-old may be in a preschool setting. A 21-year-old may be in

a functional skills curriculum/ high school setting getting ready to shift into employment. We look at what the natural contingencies of reinforcement and the environment are, and then make sure that the behaviors that we are teaching are going to be maintained. Dr. Smagner: A lot of parents feel it’s very important that children go to school to be exposed to their typical peers. And once they start going to school, then they’re not available for treatment as much. And that has sort of driven some of the decisions that I’ve made, like working only with very young children. Dr. Cihon: It’s not necessarily the more time we have, the more progress the child is going to make. It’s what you do with that time. But given that it’s so important to arrange the environmental contingencies in such a way that it’s going to evoke and maintain the behaviors that we want to see, it is easier to do that when there are fewer people involved. And it’s also easier to do that before that long learning history. So, in some respects, it’s easier to start early, and you see more rapid gains more quickly. But I’m interested in also helping the kids who the system has failed.

INSIGHT: Does the potential exist for the autism diagnosis to be removed as a result of ABA treatment? Dr. Smagner: There is some

convincing data showing that intensive applied behavior analysis….[can make a child with autism] indistinguishable from peers, though there are those who have critiqued that line of research on methodological grounds. I have to say that I am a hopeful person, and so when I enter a home, my goal is for recovery. Dr. Cihon: I have a child right now, we started with him when he was 3 and he didn’t communicate much verbally, he threw tantrums, didn’t stay on task, just moved around in a fury. And now, I can’t pinpoint a new skill to teach him. He is behaving similarly to other 3-year-olds in terms of verbal behavior, as well as pre-academic skills, small group skills. He is going to preschool and is doing fine. In that particular situation, the family doesn’t want to have him reevaluated to determine whether he does or does not have autism. He is still very young, and while that diagnosis doesn’t drive services, it does in a lot of ways. So if you drop the autism diagnosis, then you have to fight again to get speech therapy services, occupational therapy services, applied behavior analytic services. There are a lot of large jumps in skills that are necessary to survive in preschool to kindergarten, from kindergarten to first grade, from fourth grade into fifth and sixth grade, and so on. sturtz: I have a similar story. I had a kiddo who started

(ABA therapy) when he was 18 months and by his third birthday had mastered out of all of the programs that were written for his age. He probably spoke more clearly and more often than many of the 3-year-olds he was going to school with.

INSIGHT: Is there a common life cycle of treatment? Dr. Cihon: My goal is to work myself out of a job as quickly as possible. It varies, it varies on what the needs of the family are, what the needs of the child are. I have cases that I’ve been involved with since 2001 and I’ve had cases for six months and it wasn’t a good fit, or I had to move…so there are a variety of different variables that can influence it. There are varying levels of involvement too, I think. We’ll fade ourselves out after a while. But every now and then I still get a phone call or an email so there’s still sometimes that level of involvement. sturtz: However many hours you spend talking about it, you are never going to get all of the information you want. The more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know. I think it’s important to remember that you’re not going to have all of the answers, and you just have to take one step at a time with one individual at a time. Have an idea for faculty Q&A? Email


“There is some convincing data showing that intensive applied behavior

Decoding Behavior finding the formula for change


THEY ARE TWO PATIENTS DR. MIKE MOZZONI WILL ALWAYS REMEMBER: a stroke victim and the survivor of a cataclysmic automobile accident. Both had emerged from their life-shattering events with traumatic dominant-side brain injury. Unable to dress themselves, or to handle many of the tasks that are critical to self-care and daily living, they faced lives of around-the-clock dependency.


raditionally, this might not have been seen as a job for a psychologist. A physical therapist, yes; an occupational therapist, definitely. While psychology would have played a crucial role in helping the patients deal with the emotional aftermath of their circumstances, the challenge of relearning skills might more typically have been left to the purview of other rehabilitation therapists. Dr. Mozzoni, a psychologist with degrees from Harvard and Florida State, used applied behavior analysis techniques to reteach the functional motor

skills known in the profession as the Big Six Plus Six—reach, point, touch, grasp, place, release and twist, pull, push, tap, squeeze, shake. The results, which he published, were significant: both patients progressed from a total inability to dress themselves to being able to perform all the dominant and nondominant-side functions needed to button, zip, and pull themselves into their clothing. “ABA has found its niche in areas that cannot be effectively addressed by other areas of psychology,” Dr. Mozzoni, regional program director for the Learning Services Neurobehavioral Institute in Colorado, says.

“You can’t talk somebody out of autism or a developmental disability. It takes a very different approach to addressing an individual’s problems.” The therapy he provides involves breaking down complex activities into small discrete tasks and helping patients master each task individually, guiding brain injury survivors through the process of relearning skills lost to accident or illness. “It’s a matter of focusing on one task at a time so they can experience success with each one, and then putting them all back together so they function in an everyday environment,” Dr. Mozzoni says.

Applied behavior analysis, or ABA as it is called by those who practice it, is a rapidly growing discipline that uses a natural science approach to bring about socially significant changes in an individual’s life and in the world at large. The field’s strength lies in the systematic collection and analysis of data to validate incremental improvements in observable behavior.

Changing Lives Sue, a profoundly mentally retarded woman who has spent her life in an institution, is another client who has benefited from behavior analysis therapy. At 35, she spent her days engaged in self-injurious behavior and appeared most comfortable when she was physically restrained. Dr. David Pyles, who serves as chief of behavior analysis for

“It’s an area with endless applications... It can and should be used in any aspect of life that involves human interaction. Any time that behavior is important

and change is valued, ABA is the way to go.” Known best, and practiced most, as a treatment for individuals diagnosed with autism, ABA has found a home in fields as disparate as the brain injury rehabilitation that Dr. Mozzoni practices, sport psychology, organizational management, regular and special education, gerontology, health and fitness, gambling addiction, crime and delinquency, sex therapy, neuroscience, animal behavior, and more. “It’s an area with endless applications,” Dr. Joe Layng, senior scientist and co-founder of Headsprout, a Seattle-based company that has used ABA techniques to make dramatic improvements in the fundamental academic skills of some 300,000 children, says. “It can and should be used in any aspect of life that involves human interaction. Any time that behavior is important and change is valued, ABA is the way to go.”

the Illinois Division of Developmental Disabilities, used an ABA technique called fading (gradually removing a desired stimulus) to bring about the behavioral changes he sought. He replaced constraints with wrist weights, which he only allowed Sue to wear when she was not inflicting injury on herself. “It took a while but she eventually learned that when she just cooled her jets she could enjoy wearing the weights, which evidently provided a stimulus that she liked,” Dr. Pyles says. He then began reducing the size of the weights and eventually replaced them with a sweat band, which in turn gave way to a bracelet. He describes it as a classic ABA scenario that ended Sue’s self injuring and her need for restraints. Although behavior analysis has roots deeply entrenched in psychology (psychologist B.F.

Skinner developed the set of principles that frame behaviorism), ABA differentiates itself from the social science base of its mother discipline. ABA practitioners agree that the precision with which they collect and analyze data that documents behavioral changes makes the field more analogous to the “hard” sciences such as biology, physics, or chemistry. A common criticism of the field involves the perception that behavior analysts don’t share their clinical psychology colleagues’ interest in what a client feels. “We get a bad rap for ignoring emotions and feelings,” Dr. Rachel Tarbox, associate professor of Applied Behavior Analysis at The Chicago School, says. “We don’t ignore them, though. We treat feelings and emotions as behaviors.” Behavior analysts, she explains, take the perspective that prevailing environmental conditions need to be analyzed with respect to their effects on human behavior. “By manipulating these behavior-environment contingencies, we can bring about robust behavioral changes, which in turn, lead to individuals living happier and more productive lives,” Dr. Tarbox says. As lead ABA faculty at The Chicago School’s Los Angeles Campus, Dr. Tarbox finds that many of her students have entered the field with the goal of working with children with autism. It is as a therapy for this disorder that applied behavior analysis has received the most attention. “ABA techniques, when provided consistently and intensively as early intervention, can—and do—virtually eliminate the diagnosis of autism


in young children,” she says. “As dramatic as that sounds, for those of us who do this every day, it’s just an accepted fact. To question it as an overstatement would be like questioning whether penicillin really cures ear infections.” One distinction that separates behavior analysis from traditional psychology is what Dr. Chuck Merbitz, chair of The Chicago School’s Applied Behavior Analysis program, describes in terms of the inductive versus deductive model of determining treatment plans. “Even though I value the opportunity to work closely with colleagues in other areas of psychology, I sometimes feel that we’re more like engineers than social scientists,” Dr. Merbitz says. “Psychologists typically use a hypothetical, deductive model of statistical analysis to decide a course of treatment. Behavior analysts use an inductive model; we pile up facts about a certain person and evolve individualized procedures based on those facts.” Dr. Tarbox agrees.“We stay away from statistical analyses because what is statistically significant may not be socially significant.” She offers the example of an individual suffering from depression who experiences a 10 percent decrease in symptoms while on a certain medication. “That result can be considered statistically significant. But the patient is still depressed 85 percent of the time so the results aren’t socially significant. As a behavior analyst, I would want to make changes in the patient’s environment to try to address the source of her feelings.”

The Many Faces of ABA ABA receives the most attention for its use as a treatment for autism and developmental disabilities. It might surprise you to know some of its other applications. Gy mnastics }

A clicker system of positive reinforcement can help a gymnast perfect her handstand by individually fine-tuning each movement.

Golf }

A golfer can improve his score by using ABA techniques to improve his preshot routine.

Zoo Management }

Aggressive behavior by elephants in captivity can be significantly reduced when feeding routines are incrementally changed to encourage elephants to return to foraging behaviors used in the wild.

Animal Behav ior }

Clicker training can be used to train horses to stand still for shoeing, self load into trailers, and perfect movements for show perfomances.

Ga mbling Addiction } ABA can improve impulse control in pathological gamblers.

Safe Tr ay Carry ing }

ABA techniques can be used successfully to teach cocktail servers to adjust their tray-carrying positions, thereby reducing their risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders.

W eight-Loss Progr a ms }

Many popular weight-loss regimens are built on ABA techniques that incorporate strict routines and meticulous record keeping.

Gerontology }

Nursing facility staff can use ABA to reteach residents with dementia the skills needed to dress.

(OBM) Organizational Behav ior Management }

OBM is an application of ABA, which is widely used in the workplace to: • improve the telephone courtesy of customer service staff • reduce absenteeism • improve time management • reduce medical errors • reduce waste and rejects in manufacturing

below: Erika Wilhelm, a second-year ABA student, relies on her clipboard to record behavioral changes in a play-based setting.

A 75-year-old discipline Tracing its roots back to the 1930s and Skinner’s work with operant conditioning, ABA developed from the experimental psychologist’s fascination with the intersection of environment and behavior. All human actions, he came to believe, occur in the presence of environmental stimuli and can be altered by varying those stimuli.

“ABA techniques, when provided consistently and intensively as early intervention, can—and do—virtually eliminate the diagnosis of autism in young children... As dramatic as that sounds, for those of us who do this every day, it’s just an accepted fact.”

The concept of behavior analysis—or radical behaviorism, as Skinner termed it—represented a departure from prevailing psychological theory, which attributed actions instead to internal factors such as emotions and feelings. Fast forward to the 21st century, when 135 universities— including 28 outside the United States—have approved course sequences to prepare behavior analysts, and a national organization oversees the certification of the approximately 6,000 board-certified behavior analysts (BCBAs) and associate behavior analysts (BCABAs). It is a rapidly growing profession that has doubled its number of certificants in the past five years, from 2,838 in 2003 to 5,948 in 2008. Although the field’s growth can be attributed largely to increasing demand for skilled professionals, Dr. Gerald Shook, chief executive officer of the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) admits that there is not a way to accurately quantify the need. “There is no doubt that we need more BCBAs but exactly how many is a hard question to answer—except to say that there are more people interested in the profession, more people getting certified, and more schools introducing programs to train them. And every single graduate gets a job,” Dr. Shook says. One area of shortage is in the specialty that Dr. Mozzoni practices. Every year, 99,000 Americans receive brain injuries that result in lasting disability; this includes combat veterans (the Veterans Administration estimates that TBI affects 22

percent of military personnel who have been wounded in action) and survivors of motor vehicle accidents, strokes, heart attacks, and near drowning. “There are only between 50 and 100 of us who have been trained specifically to work with brain injury in this country,” Dr. Mozzoni says. “Although more and more people are going into ABA every year, the majority are going in it to work with autism— that’s the area that is getting the most public attention.” One indicator that ABA is receiving increasing recognition as an effective treatment for some areas of disability is changing health insurance laws. “A number of states are now requiring that treatment by a BCBA—particularly for autism and other developmental disabilities—be included among services eligible for insurance coverage,” Dr. Shook says. He cites TRICARE, the health plan that covers military families, which now pays for ABA services for children with autism, as long as providers are BACB certified. One Field, Many Applications One does not need to be institutionalized or disabled to benefit from behavior analysis, which is now used throughout the world. (BACB data shows that the organization certifies professionals in 28 countries and on five continents.) It is used by Fortune 500 companies to improve workplace environment, and by organizations of all kinds to solve management problems. Its use in sports, health, and fitness, which dates back at least to the 1970s, has helped improve golf swings,

equate ABA with electric shock therapy and similar painful, or humiliating, responses. “There are people who criticize us for being overly harsh,” Dr. Adams says. “While there were early researchers who incorporated mild punishers into their research, we use a much softer approach now—with children, it’s always play based. It incorporates the natural environment and is based on positive reinforcement.” Dr. Tarbox puts it more simply. “ABA is all about getting the good stuff and avoiding the bad stuff,” she says. The bottom line, behavior analysts agree, is that ABA works. Its focus on collecting and analyzing precise measurements at every juncture ensures that if a change in environmental stimulus is not working, it can be changed immediately. “We can often tell within three days if a procedure is working,” Dr. Merbitz says. “The last thing we want to do is to prolong an ineffective treatment. When our data tells us that we’re not achieving the results we want, we make changes and continue to record our data points. Our decision-making is based, at every step along the way, on the behavior we observe in the person we’re treating.” Dr. Merbitz, a former tenured professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology, joined The Chicago School in 2003 to spearhead the institution’s response to the mounting need for ABA professionals. The M.A. in Clinical Psychology Applied Behavior Analysis Specialization, which was launched the following year, is one of only two approved


fine-tune ballet movements, see thousands through popular weight-loss regimens, and serve as the springboard for workplace wellness programs. “It’s more of a blended area than other ABA applications are,” says Dr. Amanda Adams, who teaches in California State University-Fresno’s behavior analysis program and is active in the Sports, Health and Fitness Special Interest Group of the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI). “It’s incorporated into many areas but the people who practice it most often do it as a hobby—maybe coaching a child’s soccer team.” She adds that no university programs offer a specialization in this application of ABA. “When you see the techniques used in gyms and wellness programs, they’re usually not overseen by someone who has been trained specifically in ABA. A workplace wellness program is probably run by a registered dietician—it would be great if you could find someone who was both a dietician and a BCBA, but that doesn’t happen very often,” says Dr. Adams, who, as a certified yoga and kick-boxing instructor, has used her skills to increase compliance in exercise routines. Despite the proliferation of ABA applications, it is a science that struggles with misconceptions and, occasionally, controversy. The fallacy that behavior analysts cite most frequently is the belief that it is a treatment that is grounded in negative—and sometimes harmful—punishment techniques. There are those, they claim, who

ABA By the Numbers • I n eight years, the number of Board-Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) has increased more than ten-fold: from 535 to 5,951. • 9  5 % of BCBA certificate holders live in the United States. • 1  92 ABA programs are offered by 136 universities, including 29 outside the U.S. • Behavior analysts with BCBA certification currently practice in 27 non-U.S. countries.

university- or professional schoolbased master’s-level programs in Illinois, and enrolls about 50 new students each year. A companion doctoral program, introduced in fall 2008, is the only one of its kind in the state. Both degree options are also offered at The Chicago School’s Los Angeles Campus where the Psy.D. program has the distinction of being the only ABA doctoral program in the world designed for fulltime working professionals. There seems to be little doubt that ABA will continue to grow as an area of expertise. As the need increases—and the alarming ascent in autism diagnoses is just one factor contributing to this trend—there will be an escalating demand for BCBAs. Concurrently, behavior analysts are finding new potential for application of their skills in every corner of life. “The sky’s the limit,” Dr. Pyles says. “The world is a big place for us. We can’t fix everything with ABA but we won’t stop trying.

As an ABA intern, Jaime Rische successfully brought down communication barricades that had long stood between Marie and the rest of the world.

to the

{ one woman’s story }


hat woman doesn’t like being told that she’s wearing great shoes? Marie is no exception. In more than 40 years, however, it’s a compliment that rarely came her way—until she met Jaime Rische. Marie is an adult whose life has been defined by severe developmental disabilities. Rische is a 2008 graduate of The Chicago School’s Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) program who, as a student therapist, brought about significant and unexpected change in her client. Admiring Marie’s shoes, her sparkly sunglasses, and her purplypink room décor contributed to Rische’s success. So did the unwavering interest, patience, and understanding that she showed her client, whom she treated as much like a friend as a patient. But it was her training as a behavior analyst, and her ability to put the lessons learned in class to practical and effective use that was the key to what Marie’s residential care staff term a “breakthrough.” “We’re talking about people with significant limitations and, for Marie, Jaime was a difference maker,” Anthony DiVittorio, executive director of Blue Cap, the

Blue Island agency that has cared for Marie for decades, says. “But the success goes beyond Marie. Our staff was so impressed with what Jaime was able to accomplish with the techniques she used that they have asked to be trained themselves so that they can use the same methods with other people they care for.” The technique DiVittorio cites is the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), an intervention designed by a behavior analyst to help nonverbal clients communicate through the use of picture cards. Using PECS, Rische was able to teach Marie to make her needs and feelings known—a radical change from the behavior that had long been characteristic for her. “Before I started working with her, Marie was without functional communication and intensely aggressive toward her surroundings and toward herself,” Rische says. “Human contact was a big problem; touching her could result in furniture being thrown or she would destroy the part of her skin that was touched.” She adds that when she initially reviewed Marie’s records, she found that frequent

incidents of self injury had a been a pattern as far back as the ‘80s. “It was the only way she knew to get attention,” Rische says. Mental health experts say that mental retardation (MR) and selfinjury often go hand in hand, a correlation that is also noted in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Evidence suggests that the behavior is particularly prevalent among nonverbal patients and is often a result of not having learned to identify or express difficult feelings in a healthy way. For individuals like Marie— who spent her childhood in an institution—the lack of early intervention or experiences with positive interactions contributed to the solitary path her life would take. After completing a functional behavioral analysis, Rische was able to determine that the selfinjurious behaviors Marie used to get attention were, essentially, learned behaviors—behaviors that might have developed differently in another environment. Today, infants identified with cognitive impairments receive immediate and intensive services designed to develop the individual’s potential to its fullest and to teach,

more »


listening pictures

During a recent return visit, Rische reunited with Marie and picked up where they had left off in their friendship.

among other things, the social skills that can help the person function as normally as possible. It is that level of early intervention that Marie missed out on, Rische says. But the sense of what might have been didn’t stop her from designing the program that would, as DiVittorio says, become a “difference maker in Marie’s life.” That difference began with a relationship. “I realized what Marie needed was a girlfriend; it was the kind of attention she had never had,”

Then, once PECS was introduced, Marie’s progress exploded. Armed with a book of picture cards held in place by Velcro, Marie learned to ask for coffee, to specify cream or sugar, and—for the first time in her life—to make verbal sounds such as “c-c-c” for “coffee.” Developed a decade ago as a way of helping children with autism learn to communicate, PECS is widely used with children and adults with an array of communicative, cognitive, and physical disabilities. It

“Our staff was so impressed with what Jaime was able to accomplish with the techniques she used that they have asked to be trained themselves so that they can use the same methods with other people they care for.” Rische says. She began by showing Marie that it could be fun to have a friend to sit with, to share a cup of coffee with, to be silly with. She complimented her clothes, brought her fun hats to wear, and danced to Beach Boys music with her. In a few weeks, Marie began seeking Rische out.

has proven particularly valuable—a claim backed up by extensive research—in encouraging nonverbal patients to initiate conversation and to express their desires and feelings. Marie’s book, which Rische compiled based on PECS protocols, includes pictures that represent many of the

things that are part of her everyday life: banana, Reese’s Pieces candy, chair, shoes, car, hug. It has been instrumental in bridging the communication gap between her and the staff who care for her. The story of Rische’s success with Marie has not been met with surprise by faculty at The Chicago School. Breakthroughs of this type are what the field of applied behavior analysis is all about. Sometimes considered painstakingly laborious by those who are looking for quick fixes for complex behavior issues, the data—which meticulously tracks responses to minute changes in environmental stimuli—offers indisputable evidence of what works and what doesn’t work. Marie is what Rische refers to as “a shining example” of the effectiveness that behavior analysis can have on those with other developmental disabilities. Born with severe cognitive impairments, she was institutionalized in early infancy, and remained in that setting until the deinstitutionalization movement of the late 1970s. At her current home, Blue Cap, she lives in a Community-Integrated Liv-

at the agency, was quick to take her up on it. A graduate of the University of Nevada-Reno ABA program, he understood what Rische wanted to do and believed she could bring about a positive change in Marie’s behavior. “Before I came, many of the services provided here were basically day care,” he said. “Our board had expressed an interest in going in a more clinical direction. Jaime was one of those pockets of quality that we already had available to us—she had done great work in our adult classroom—so this was an opportunity to let her really make a difference.” During the time Marie and Rische spent together—almost

Discover Central & Northern Thailand From formal Bangkok traditions to mystical Lanna (northern) Thai & Animist Tribal Cultures A Chicago School Travel Experience, May 16 – 24, 2009 $1,424 land-only, per person, double occupancy Join Chicago School alumni, faculty, staff and students on a journey to Thailand in celebration of the 2009 Book of the Year. During the trip you will visit the tribal village

every day for close to a year—the accomplishments mounted. Marie abandoned her horror of being touched, came to love gaudy costume jewelry used to reinforce not harming herself, and learned to use her PECS book to order a hamburger and french fries at McDonald’s. Most importantly, she delighted in the friend she had in Rische—a relationship that, sadly, couldn’t last forever. Rische graduated in May and, armed with a new master’s degree, moved to California. Blue Cap staff recount the parting, which they say tugged at a fair share of heartstrings. But the breakthrough had been made and, although DiVittorio

people of the Karen, whose ancestors originated in Tibet. By witnessing authentic daily life, you will gain a better understanding of this unique culture. The trip supports our Book of the Year, Anne Fadiman’s The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, which deals with the massive displacement of the Hmong people of Laos. The archetypal myths of this culture have never assimilated well with the practices of western medicine or religion.

Highlights In Bangkok, you will immerse yourself in Thai culture at the Bangkok Origin Art University; learn from masters, and participate in lessons

acknowledges ups and downs in the wake of Rische’s departure, Marie now has a way to communicate. She and her PECS book are never far apart. “The difference has been remarkable,” DiVittorio observes. “Behavior analysts are known for the data they collect but in this case, if I want data, all I need to do is look at Marie’s arms.” The lingering scars that he references were still apparent when Rische returned from California recently for a visit with her old friend. But they are no longer the angry wounds that speak of freshly inflicted rage and frustration. Faded and healed, they are reminders that change can happen.

on Thai etiquette, dance, flower arrangement, and design. Chiang Mai: Explore the city center with a trip to Doi Suthep Mountain and the 600-year-old temple, Wat Phra Doi Suthep. Chiang Ra: Join in a service-learning experience at Baan Nana in Mae Sai, an organization devoted to taking care of displaced children; visit a local hill tribe village. Please visit http://ego.thechicagoschool. edu/upcomingtrips for a complete itinerary For more information: 312.467.2510 or Space is limited.


ing Arrangement (CILA) group home, and attends an adult day services program that includes classes in daily living skills. She also works part time on an assembly line, sorting flashlight components and building supplies. It was in the Blue Cap adult classroom, during her Chicago School internship, that Rische first encountered Marie. After observing her low frustration threshold, aggressive outbursts, and repeated self-injurious behavior, Rische proposed using her recently acquired ABA skills to work with Marie in a oneon-one setting. DiVittorio, who had just assumed the executive directorship

class notes


Meet the 2008 Alumnus of the Year


he Class of 2008 was challenged to preserve the traditions of The Chicago School’s early years through their work with underserved populations at the June 13 Commencement Exercises. Offering the remarks was this year’s Distinguished Alumnus, Dr. John Garlick (Psy.D. ’89), who represents the first decade of graduates from the school. “We need more mental health courts and stronger community programs to meet the needs of the seriously mentally ill,” Dr.

Garlick told the crowd of 3,000, who gathered at the Civic Opera House. “Most of all, we need you, the new graduates of The Chicago School, to nurture and preserve the school’s early traditions by supporting and working in arenas that treat the underserved mentally ill in our society.” A clinical psychologist who has spent more than three decades delivering mental health services in Illinois correctional facilities, Dr. Garlick was chosen by the Alumni Council to receive the 2008 Alumnus of the Year Award. Council President Elizabeth “Scottie” presented the plaque and recognized his 34 years of service working with adolescent sexual and substance abuse offenders.

alum n i p r o f i le :

Making Positive Behavior a Way of Life at CPS Lorena Arévalo (M.A.’06) It is no secret that Byrne Elementary School is going for the gold these days. Students from kindergarten to 8th grade are collecting “gold bars,” which can be traded for prizes and special privileges. And the bars are stacking up fast. It’s all part of a schoolwide Positive Behavior Intervention and Support (PBIS) program overseen by Chicago School alumna Lorena Arévalo (M.A.’06), who recently began work as citywide PBIS coach for the Chicago Public Schools (CPS). In the few months that she has been on the job, the improvements in behavior—gauged in part by the number of referrals to the principal’s office—have been reduced significantly. Arévalo, who graduated from The Chicago School’s Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) program and learned the ABA-based PBIS program as part of her master’s-level work, has the job of coordinating the 16-school effort. She works with administrators, staff, and teachers to provide school-based training, assist individual schools in sustaining PBIS once it has been implemented, and collect data that is fundamental to the project. As a bilingual Latina, her combination of ABA expertise and language skills in a heavily Spanish-speaking area is particularly welcomed. Historically, PBIS has a track record of improving school culture by emphasizing behavioral expectations, clear consequences, and positive reinforcement.

Clinical Psychology


Chris Merchant (M.A. ‘07) is currently at the

Chicago VA Hospital in his practicum for the Chicago School’s Psy.D. Program. Chris is also in the army through their scholarship program and applying to army internship sites for next year. Clinical counseling:


Jie Qian (M.A. ‘08) after graduating from TCS last May, Qian returned to Shanghai, China to be reunited with her mom and husband. Qian works for TCS as a consultant in its China Office. She also works in a local counseling center.

Forensic Psychology :


Michelle Progar (M.A. ‘06) began her dissertation in the Clinical Psy.D. program at The Chicago School in fall 2008. She is designing a program to teach parents how

“By defining and publicizing rules so that every student knows what is expected, we set the students up to be successful,” Arévalo says. A walk through the building confirms the emphasis on expectations, which are posted—and color coded—in every room and on every corridor wall: “Be Responsible. Be Respectful. Be Safe. Do Your Best.” To carry out the theme, teachers and staff wear the symbolic red, yellow, blue, and green on “true color days,” which occur at least once a week. The expectations are discussed in class and in assemblies and every day begins with a rendition of Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors” emanating from the P.A. system. Higher and more clearly articulated expectations are paying off. The “gold bars”—in reality, nothing more than coupons printed on goldenrod paper—amassed by students pile up in the cubicles of teachers who will distribute them, publicly acknowledging the good work and positive behavior of recipients. Parents, too, appreciate the fact that their children are treated with dignity by being recognized for positive achievements. Principal Robert Deckinga underscores the difference that the PBIS program and Arévalo’s efforts have made. Not only are the need for punitive measures down, he says, but attendance has increased and the number of parent volunteers has reached a record high. “Parents serve with administrators, teachers, support staff, and security guards on PBIS committees, and are very engaged in the project,” Arevalo says. Deckinga agrees, pointing to the across-the-board buy-in PBIS has received from teachers, staff, and parents that has made the project so successful.

to facilitate social and emotional development in their young children. She currently works as a therapist at Kids Hope United with adolescents with sexual behavior problems and children and parents involved in the child welfare system. | Ryan Trudeau (M.A. ‘06) is a family therapist practicing Functional Family Therapy (FFT). Dr. Trudeau provides in-home therapy to families with juveniles on probation.


Jeremy Karpen (M.A. ‘07) is a Licensed Professional Counselor currently working as a therapist for at-risk boys at Mercy Home for Boys and Girls and volunteers as a Partner Abuse Intervention Facilitator at West Side Domestic Abuse Project. Karpen ran for State Representative in the 39th District of Illinois. As a therapist and community activist, Karpen believes

access to quality healthcare, quality education, and safe and affordable housing are human rights.


Jeff Short (M.A. ‘08) recently moved to Las Vegas, for a position as a federal probation officer. Jeff has brought many of things he learned at TCS to the federal probation field for the District of Nevada. The district is moving in the evidence-based practices realm, and changing its focus when dealing with ex-offenders.

Industrial and Organizational Psychology:


Jennifer Gruening (M.A. ‘05) is now the director of institutional improvement for Bradley University in Peoria, Ill.

“You can only accomplish things if the personnel are willing to put themselves into it,” he says. “What we wanted to do just made sense. We weren’t asking teachers to do more; we just asked them to use a different approach. As a result, more than 80 percent of Area 11 administrators voted to implement PBIS.” While changes in attitudes and better articulation of expectations may be at the heart of what PBIS is all about, it is the ABA focus on data collection and analysis that ensures its success. “We’re looking for systemic change, unlike many ABA interventions that focus on individual behavior, Arévalo says. “We’re tracking everything from attendance to office referrals to incidents of students not showing respect for each other. We record data daily and review it weekly. It helps us figure out what kinds of changes to make. We never make decisions on a hunch.” One way the school uses the data is to examine patterns of minor problem behaviors and to identify students who need additional supports to prevent the behavior from escalating. “It’s a tremendously rewarding experience,” Arévalo says. “We’re seeing positive changes take place in a very short period of time.”


Dr. Garlick is currently Director of Mental Health at the Pontiac Correctional Center and a strong supporter of increasing the access that incarcerated individuals have to psychological services. In addition to his years with the Illinois Department of Corrections, Dr. Garlick has worked with the Kane County Diagnostic Center and MHM Services Inc. He is the 18th Chicago School graduate to receive the Distinguished Alumnus of the Year Award. His name will be added to a plaque that hangs outside the Student Lounge at Chicago’s 325 N. Wells Street building.

giving back


Overcoming the Stigma of Mental Illness


aomi Ruth Cohen was a daughter any parent would cherish and celebrate: a gifted artist, a skilled geriatrics counselor, a selfless volunteer, an accomplished professional who reveled in the rewards of a life shared with family and friends. The passion with which she approached life made her illness, when diagnosed at age 30, all the more difficult to accept or understand. For two long years, a virulent form of bipolar disorder —characterized by frequent and intense mood swings—made steady inroads on her life, robbing her of her career, her marriage, and much of the joy that had long defined her nature. In May 2000, this littleunderstood illness wielded its final blow to the family when Naomi took her own life. The Naomi Ruth Cohen Charitable Foundation, which her parents founded shortly afterwards, was created with a single goal: to educate the public about the stigma

of mental illness. It represented Larry and Marilyn Cohen’s way of dealing with their grief and creating a permanent memory of their daughter. Once developed, however, the foundation became more than a memorial and a catharsis; it became a beacon, shedding light into some of the darkest corners of mental illness. “So many people are afraid to talk about mental illness, or to acknowledge the shame and embarrassment they feel when it touches their families,” Larry Cohen says. “This was our initial reaction too— to keep it private. But we came to realize that if we didn’t speak up, people wouldn’t understand who Naomi really was. They would not understand the consequences of mental illness.” The Cohens’ decision to “go public” resulted not only in the establishment of the foundation, but in a series of community mental health conferences that have, to date, provided information to more

than 2,000 people—practitioners, consumers, family members, and the general public—about the devastating effects of bipolar disorder, depression, and other manifestations of mental illness. It has reached, and given voice to, people who had suffered too long in isolation. “Most rewarding are the calls I receive from people who have attended the conferences or heard about us,” Cohen says. “People are

the establishment of the Naomi Ruth Cohen Institute for Mental Health Education was announced to trustees at the school’s October board meeting. In its new home, the institute will continue to fulfill its educational mission through conferences, workshops, the perpetuation of an annual fellowship for a TCS clinical psychology student, and a variety of other educational activities. “This gift is an indication that others in the community share The Chicago School vision and understand that, working together, we can accomplish so much more,” President Michael Horowitz said in acknowledging the Cohens’ gift. “We are grateful to Larry and Marilyn for entrusting us with the foundation they have created, and for joining with us in the ongoing challenges of addressing mental illness.” Larry and Marilyn Cohen will be active in the newly created institute, serving as chair and vice chair respectively. Jill Randell, who has

Once developed, the foundation became more than a memorial and a catharsis; it became a beacon, shedding light into some of the darkest corners of mental illness. so grateful to be able to talk about how mental illness had impacted their families, and to get information about where to turn, or who to talk to. It means so much to know that someone else won’t have to go through what we went through.” In October, the Cohens made another decision—to integrate the foundation with the resources of The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. The family’s gift of all foundation assets, the largest ever received by the school, and

served as administrator of the foundation since its inception, will continue as executive director. “We talk about the ripples one little pebble can create,” Larry Cohen said. “Our hope is that this gift and this partnership will result in ripples that can help many people dealing with the realities of mental illness.”

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The John Benitez Scholarship Fund Two decades of Chicago School alumni have the opportunity to honor a professor who has taught and mentored hundreds of clinical psychology students, all the while modeling our commitment to community engagement. The John Benitez Scholarship Fund is being established to honor Dr. Benitez’s work not only in the classroom, but at Erie Neighborhood House, where he serves as clinical director. Due largely to his efforts, Erie House became TCS’ first high-impact partner, providing Chicago School students with a wide range of internship, practicum and community service opportunities. The scholarship fund, which was launched at a November 13 reception, will provide financial support for a Chicago School student who interns at Erie House, or who formerly benefited from Erie House programs. To contribute to The John Benitez Scholarship Fund, you may send a check to the Office of Institutional Advancement, The Chicago School. 325 N. Wells St., Chicago, IL 60654, or make an online gift at

Thank you, Class of 2008.

The Class of 2008 became the second group of graduates to collect funds for a gift to present to The Chicago School. Announced at the June 13 Commencement, this year’s presentation came in the form of banners that represent each of the school’s six academic departments. The banners were carried in this year’s procession and will be become a permanent fixture at future graduations.

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Insight, Volume 2, Issue 1  

Volume 2, Issue 1

Insight, Volume 2, Issue 1  

Volume 2, Issue 1