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The Making and Unmaking of a Criminal

Psychology’s role in addressing the causes and treatment of criminal behavior

B e h i n d t h e b u l l y i n g e p i d e m i c     a p r i m e r f o r h o s t a g e n e g o t i a t i o n s     h e l p i n g f a m i l i e s RE u n i t e 


 hroughout the past 30 or 40 years most criminologists T couldn’t say the word ‘genetics’ without spitting. Today the most compelling modern theories of crime and violence weave social and biological themes together. Terrie E. Moffitt, Behavioral Scientist, Duke University

editorial staff: Judy Beaupre Lindsay Beller Design: Bates Creative Group Contributing Photographers: Judy Beaupre Amy Braswell Aaron Brownlee Scott Kallstrand Loren Santow Bryony Shearmur Nancy Zarse

President Michele Nealon-Woods, Psy.D. ’01 President Washington, D.C. Campus Orlando Taylor, Ph.D. Interim President Chicago Campus Patricia Breen, Ph.D. INSIGHT is published twice annually by the Department of Marketing at TCS Education System. It is mailed to alumni, faculty, staff and friends of The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Address changes and correspondence should be sent to: Visit INSIGHT online at :


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24 departments 3  President’s Letter 4  On Campus In Chicago, Patrick Kennedy addresses grads, while in D.C. and Westwood visiting Fulbright Lecturer talks of trauma response in Rwanda.

8  Faculty Faculty debate the causes and challenges of recidivism: What can psychologists do to stem the tide of offenders returning to prison?

26  ALUMNI Meet alumni who live the mission: A priestpsychologist honored as our 2011 Distinguished Alumnus, a former LAPD officer who reinvented himself with the help of a forensic psychology degree, and two graduates dedicated to reuniting splintered families.

20 29  Last page Psychology around the world: International experiences provide Chicago School students with a wealth of hands-on learning opportunities.

FEATURES 14  The Making and Unmaking of a Criminal The ongoing nature vs. nurture debate: Is it biology or the web of past experience that sets an individual on a path of crime?

20  Teens Who Torment Although bullies have stalked school corridors for decades, empirical research is just now beginning to shed light on the long-term consequences—for victims and for the bullies themselves.

24  We Have a Hostage Situation A class teaches forensic psychology students how to conduct hostage negotiations through a real-world training experience complete with FBI agents and a SWAT team.

LOOKING to Get Involved? Alumni can give back to The Chicago School by volunteering their time and talents. Alumni Relations and Career Services are looking for alumni to mentor current students as part of the new LINK Alumni Mentoring Program. • Alumni mentors can be a valuable resource • By sharing insights and connections, mentors to students as they navigate school, career can help students learn the importance of transitions, and/or licensure. professional growth and networking.

• This program is flexible, fits with your schedule and does not require a large time commitment.

For more information, contact Aisha Ghori, Director of Career Services, at or Terese Molinaro, Assistant Director of Alumni Relations, at Other departments and programs that would benefit from alumni volunteers including Applied Professional Practice, Alumni Referral Network (ARN), Alumni Relations, Career Services, Community Engagement and Recruitment.

To learn more about these programs and express your interest, visit

{president’s letter} INSIGHT MAGAZINE SUMMER 2011 3

Gaining Perspective


he changing world we live in today requires not only new skills, but a new way of thinking. A struggling economy and increased global competition are just some of the factors accelerating the need for a more innovative, interdisciplinary approach to addressing economic, social, political, and personal challenges. The innovators who will become our future leaders will be able to look at an issue from a variety of perspectives, unencumbered by the narrow constraints of a single discipline or system. The collective wisdom of The Chicago School faculty, staff, administrators, and alumni reflected in the institution’s new strategic plan recognizes that a more interdisciplinary approach will foster important new competencies in our graduates. So it is only fitting that this issue of Insight focus on the intersection of psychology with another major discipline: the law. We see evidence of the interpenetration of these two disciplines everywhere: in business settings and employee relations, in clinical settings, in global conflicts and trauma, and, of course, in the criminal arena. Through an exploration of the criminal mind and the factors that lead to criminality, a

thought-provoking faculty conversation about recidivism, and an up-close look at our innovative forensic psychology programs, this issue spotlights just a few of the areas in which our faculty and students are changing the game— both gaining and contributing to the critical body of knowledge and expertise at the intersection of psychology and law. As The Chicago School continues to innovate—through creative extracurricular programs that bring drama and storytelling into the clinical training mix; to international trips that incorporate art, history and modern practice; to interdisciplinary concentrations and degrees— we hope you too will be inspired to explore your career, your community, and the world with a broader lens. Please keep in touch and bring us back your ideas, your experiences, and learning. As always, your insight informs and improves all of ours.

Michele Nealon-Woods, Psy.D. President

on campus

T he Chicago S chool Here and No w

Patrick Kennedy accepts his honorary doctoral diploma from D.C. Campus President Orlando Taylor and Trustee Paul Dillon.

Kennedy to 2011 Grads:

“Separate but equal is unequal”


aking center stage at The Chicago School’s 2011 Commencement Ceremony, the Honorable Patrick J. Kennedy encouraged graduates to take active roles in “a new civil rights movement” to ensure mental health care for every American citizen. Evoking President Kennedy’s inaugural address 50 years ago, Kennedy challenged graduates to serve not only as psychology practitioners, but as “guardians and advocates for our country’s attitudes toward mental illness,” leading the fight against the stigma that he noted had marginalized many Americans suffering from traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other psychological and neurological disorders. He also stressed the need for incorporating mental health care into an overall approach to health care. “Just as we can’t have colored water fountains, we can’t have a system that is only for mental health,” he told the 3,000 degree candidates and guests who filled the Civic Opera House on June 10. “We need a (healthcare) system that has mental health as part of it. History

Center for African Psychology Expands Reach with Fulbright Scholar Lecture


he Center for African Psychology opened at the D.C. Campus last year to educate the campus community and the general public about mental health issues on the African continent and the role that The Chicago School is playing to address those issues.

gressman from Rhode Island—received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree, which recognized his work in passing the Mental Health Parity Law of 2008. Kennedy is also co-founder of the

It took a step toward realizing that goal by hosting a lecture in April from Rwandan trauma expert Dr. Vincent Sezibera, a joint Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence at The Chicago School’s Chicago Campus and Harold Washington College, who delivered the talk, “Psychological Consequences of Genocide: From Trauma to Resilience.” A senior lecturer in the department of clinical psychology at the National University of Rwanda, he has studied post-traumatic stress disorder and child and adolescent traumatic grief, including among young survivors of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. “I am particularly interested in how social and economic programs and networks impact resiliency post-trauma,” Dr. Sezibera said. “Thankfully, Rwandans start with a culture and social cognitions that are based in hope and optimism. Yet

it is the social and economic support that not only helps the survivors of genocide to sustain hope, but actually develop internal resiliency. And that has implications for trauma survivors across the world.” The lecture—which Dr. Sezibera also delivered at The Chicago School’s Westwood Campus in June—was an opportunity to get students interested in the international arena, said D.C. Campus President Dr. Orlando Taylor. “It’s easy to focus on things that affect you day to day, but this talk pushed us to broaden our horizons beyond D.C. and the United States.” It also “opened the doors” to a conversation about joint academic degree or certificate programs between the National University of Rwanda and The Chicago School. “For long-term sustainability, Rwanda has to produce its own work force,” Dr. Taylor said. “It’s not


is upon us and we must answer the call. ‘Separate but equal’ is unequal.” Prior to delivering the commencement address, Kennedy—son of the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy and a former Con-

One Mind for Research Campaign, which has brought together prominent neuroscientists, governmental representatives, advocacy groups, and the pharmaceutical industry to improve funding for brain science research. More than 500 doctoral, master’s, and education specialist candidates crossed the stage for The Chicago Campus’ 27th annual Commencement, accepting diplomas from President Michele Nealon-Woods, a 2001 graduate herself, and being hooded by members of their respective academic departments. The Rev. Dr. Thomas N. Pelton (Psy.D. ’91) was honored by the Alumni Council with the 2011 Distinguished Alumnus Award. Presented by Dr. Susanne Francis-Thornton (Psy.D. ‘03), Council chair, the honor recognizes Dr. Pelton’s work with cancer and AIDS patients in Chicago’s Hispanic neighborhood of West Humboldt Park. (See page 26 for an alumni profile of Dr. Pelton.)

on campus

T he Chicago S chool Here and No w

“The feedback we get on this conference is from psychologists who say, ‘This is the only conference I know where my client can go and receive services and information that is tailored to a general population.’” realistic for their students to all come over here, so we talked about the possibility of their students beginning their work through a joint degree program, and their students might come here for a semester or a year.” In addition to hosting the lecture, the center is about to launch a new partnership with Teach With Africa, a San Francisco-based organization that works to alleviate a teacher shortage in South Africa by sending U.S. teachers to LEAP Science and Maths Schools. LEAP Schools focus on providing academic, social, and emotional support to disadvantaged black youth, and have seen improvements in the number of graduating students who qualify for university. Chicago School students will provide mental health and psychosocial support services to students through LEAP’s Life Orientation Program, which helps students address family issues, emotional concerns, and other issues that may distract them from school.

10 Years Later, a Message of Hope


People magazine cover that features actress Catherine Zeta-Jones going public with her bipolar disorder declaring, “I’m not ashamed” provided the latest sign of progress in the battle to

reduce the stigma of mental illness. The cover was referenced at the 10th Annual Community Mental Health Conference, held June 5 by the Naomi Ruth Cohen Institute for Mental Health Education, which was created to reduce stigma and educate others about mental illness. “There’s still a long road ahead of us, but you only have to look at how society and the media are accepting mental illness to see how far we’ve come,” said Dr. Nancy Curotto, executive director of the Cohen Institute. “It’s one example of how our society is accepting that mental illness is like any other issue.” Ten years after the Cohen Institute held its first community mental health conference, “Understanding Manic Depressive (Bipolar) Illness,” the message at this milestone event was one of hope. With a return to the original topic of bipolar disorder, the conference was titled, “Bipolar Disorder: Progress and Promise,” and drew its largest crowd ever—with more than 300 attendees and 40 vendors. “The theme throughout all the lectures

was hope, which I think is the message that is missing from decreasing the impact of stigma on self-esteem, self-worth, and self-image at an individual, familial, and societal level,” Dr. Curotto said. Past conferences have addressed topics such as substance abuse, aging, seniors, and women, and remains one of the few conferences that not only draws mental health providers, but specifically targets individuals who suffer from mental illness, their families, and the general public. “The feedback we get on this conference is from psychologists who say, ‘This is the only conference I know where my client can go and receive services and information that is tailored to a general population,’” Dr. Curotto said. The Cohen Institute is already planning next year’s conference, as well as several outreach initiatives in the greater Chicago area with the Latino and AfricanAmerican communities and collaborations with other departments at The Chicago School to explore stigma and educate high school students about mental illness.

Watch the keynote panel presentation

by Dr. Paul E. Keck Jr., Dr. Mark Reinecke, and Nanette Larson


Dr. Michele Nealon-Woods, president of The Chicago School (left), listens to the discussion with Maj. Gen. William Enyart, adjutant general of the Illinois National Guard, and Dr. Jill Biden, second lady of the United States.

At Issue: Deployment’s Impact on Mental Health


r. Jill Biden, second lady of the United States, visited The Chicago School’s Chicago Campus June 16, meeting with representatives of the Illinois National Guard, The Chicago School, and the community to discuss the emotional and psychological impact that military deployment has on armed services personnel and their families. The event was part of the Joining Forces Initiative, led by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Biden to mobilize all sectors of society to give service members and their families the opportunities and support they have earned. Dr. Biden participated in a roundtable dialogue that included high school teachers and community partners involved in educational outreach, church

pastors, community college representatives, and private foundations that support veterans’ initiatives. The group discussed services that are available to service members and veterans in Illinois, including the Home Again Project that The Chicago School—in collaboration with the Institute for Therapy Through the Arts and the National Guard—developed to provide support for children whose parents had recently returned from overseas deployment. Through Home Again, graduate psychology students worked with expressive arts therapists, using music, art and drama to help children deal with their anxieties and fears. The project was developed and overseen by the late Dr. Ted Rubenstein, a Chicago School alumnus and member of the Clinical Psychology faculty.



Presentations, Publications, and Praise Dogs in the Classroom: An Effective Literacy Intervention


ong touted as “man’s best friend,” dogs may be playing an even more important role in the lives of academically at-risk inner-city children in Chicago. Dr. Robert Clark’s research shows that pet canines may be improving literacy skills, school attendance, and behavior for students aged 7 to 9 in under-performing schools throughout the city.

The research, which was copresented by Dr. Clark, professor of school psychology at the Chicago Campus, and Dr. Corinne Smith, a school psychology adjunct faculty member, at the annual conference of the Midwest Psychological Association. in May, reported on work being undertaken by SitStayRead, a Chicago nonprofit dedicated to improving literacy in academically underserved children. “Animals have been used in therapeutic situations for years,” Dr. Clark says. “Traditionally they were used with traumatized populations, but SitStayRead introduced them into classrooms as facilitators for academic instruction. What we found is that they definitely have a calming effect: children behave better, their

attendance improves, and their reading improves over comparison groups who don’t have the interaction with dogs.” School psychology has taken the lead in program evaluation for the project, which is a relatively new approach to literacy. As executive secretary of the International School Psychology Association, which has its headquarters office at The Chicago School, Dr. Clark has played an integral role in that research. “Many of the children who live in the inner city don’t have pets of their own; dogs are a novelty for them,” Dr. Clark says. “SitStayRead is a very structured program that requires children to behave and perform in a certain way. Often these kids will do for dogs what they won’t do for us.”

PRESENTATIONS Dr. Claude Barbre, associate professor, Clinical Psychology, Chicago, presented “The Artists Appoints Herself Artist: Otto Rank and Existential–Humanistic Therapies: at the national conference of APA’s Society for Humanistic Psychology in April. He also presented “The Background of Music of Being: On Listening” at the national conference of the Philosophy of Education Society in St. Louis in March 2011. Dr. Michael A. Barr, associate professor, Business Psychology, Online, copresented a paper, “Measuring Outcomes of Orthognathic Surgery From a Multidisciplinary Perspective,” at the 68th Annual Meeting of the American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Dr. Robert Clark, professor, School Psychology, Chicago, gave the keynote

address at the Second International Conference on School Psychology in Vietnam, and presented a paper, “International Accreditation Standards for School Psychology,” in Hue, Vietnam.

a Measuring World” at the International Federation for Daseinsanalysis General Assembly in Athens, Greece, in February 2011.

Dr. Ellis Copeland, dean of academic affairs, Chicago, spoke in April 2011 at Arizona State University’s TEDx ASU West event on Redefining Video Games at the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences.

Dr. Eleazar Cruz Eusebio, assistant professor, School Psychology, Chicago, was invited to present a paper, “Incidental Effects of Students Simulation of Tic Behaviors on Working Memory and Comprehension,” at the International Learning and the Brain Conference May 6 in Chicago.

Dr. Todd DuBose, associate professor, Clinical Psychology, Chicago, served as a moderator for a panel discussion on Medard Boss and the First Systematic Approach to Existential Psychotherapy at the fourth annual Society for Humanistic Psychology Conference, Division 32, of the American Psychological Association in Chicago. He also presented on “Immeasurable Dasein in

Dr. Robert Foltz, assistant professor, Clinical Psychology, Chicago, presented on “Adolescent Subjective Experience of Treatment” at the National Conference of the American Association of Children’s Residential Centers in April 2011, in Seattle. He also presented “The Teen’s Perspective of the Residential Treatment Experience” at Reclaiming Youth International, Black Hills

Seminar in June 2011. Dr. Noelle K. Newhouse, associate professor, Industrial/Organizational Psychology, Online, will present on “Development of the Thurstone Mental Alertness (TMATM) Express” at the annual convention of the Association for Psychological Science in Washington, D.C. Dr. Donald Schultz, associate professor, Marital and Family Therapy, Los Angeles, presented on “Successful Aging: Life Transitions and Finding Fulfillment in Your Later Years” at the Food For Thought Speakers Program, presented as a community service by the Santa Monica Co-Opportunity community organization in March 2011. Dr. Sandra Siegel, associate professor, and Dr. Linda Robinson, both Counseling,


Dr. Eleazar Cruz Eusebio recently co-authored “Assessment and Intervention Practices for Children with ADHD and Other Frontal-Striatal Circuit Disorders” in the first edition of Best Practices in School Neuropsychology.

Dr. Nancy Zarse, associate professor, Forensic Psychology, Chicago received the Distinguished Faculty: Excellence in Public Service award at graduation, in June 2011. For the second consecutive year, Dr. Zarse was also named a Carnegie Scholar by the Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, recognizing her ongoing work using role play as a teaching technique through the Hostage Negotiation course she teaches for the Chicago Campus’ Forensic Psychology Department.

Dr. Elaine Fletcher-Janzen, professor, School Psychology, Chicago, has served as co-editor of the Encyclopedia of Special Education for the past 27 years. She is currently editing and authoring the fourth edition of the work. The Encyclopedia is used in university libraries in over 27 countries. Dr, Robert Foltz recently published “Principles in Evidence-Based Standards” in the Winter 2011 issue of Reclaiming Children and Youth.

Analyzing ‘Psycho’


our decades after Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 thriller “Psycho” began captivating and horrifying audiences, Dr. Jim Iaccino has put a name to the forensic psychology classification that he believes defined Norman Bates, the motherobsessed serial killer at the center of 109 minutes of suspense and blood-letting. An associate professor of forensic

Chicago, presented a paper, “Understanding the History of Chicago’s West Side African American Community: Clinical Implications,” at the Illinois Association of Multicultural Counseling/Division of Illinois Counseling Association. Dr. Richard Sinacola, associate professor, Clinical Psychology, Los Angeles, presented an “Update on Psychopharmacology: The Latest Medications for Depression, Anxiety and Psychotic Conditions” at the California Association of Marital and Family Therapists 47th Annual Conference in San Francisco in May 2011. Dr. Orlando Taylor, president, Washington, D.C., presented a paper, “Utilizing the Intersection of Race and Gender to Promote Minority Success in Higher Education: Preparing Critical Faculty for the Future,”

psychology at the Chicago Campus, Dr. Iaccino has begun presenting his findings, most recently at the American Popular Culture Association Conference in San Antonio, Texas, in April, where he spoke on “Applying a Serial Killer Typology to the Psycho Franchise: Norman Bates as a Visionary Killer on a Mission.” The title of his presentation offers a clue into his conclusions—that Bates actually falls into two serial killer classifications: the visionary and the mission-oriented killer. “The visionary is someone who typically explodes, leaving a mess—and clues—behind, while the mission-oriented killer takes it upon himself to rid the world of people who possess an undesirable trait—in Norman’s case these were people who remind him of his mother,” Dr. Iaccino says. He explains that the opportunity for dual diagnosis arises

Dr. Claude Barbre received the Margaret Morgan Lawrence Award from the Harlem Family Institute in recognition of his contributions to HFI as executive director and his 20 years of clinical services to children and families in Harlem and New York City.

when the entire four-film series is viewed, showing Bates as a disorganized, impulsive killer in Hitchcock’s original movie and as a mission-driven murderer who in later “Psycho” films continually targets people with “mother” characteristics. “Can a person shift from a visionary to a mission killer? I don’t know why not,” he says, adding that he thinks a lot can be learned from viewing and analyzing films. He notes that while little research has been done in the area of analyzing serial killers portrayed on film, it is an area that has recently gained traction with the American Psychological Association through its Division on Media Psychology. “’Psycho’ remains a classic in horror films—one that offers a very good portrayal of the types of killers out there,” he says.

at the European Access Network 20th Anniversary Conference for Student Diversity in Higher Education: Conflicting Realities in Amsterdam in June 2011.

Bridges in the Academy: Culture-Centered Pedagogy,” at the biennial International Conference on The Teaching of Psychology in Vancouver, Canada.

Dr. Héctor L. Torres, assistant professor, Counseling, Chicago, has been invited to present a paper, “An Educational Model for the Integration of Culture and Psychology,” at the 38th Congress for Teaching and Research in Psychology in Mexico City. He also copresented on “Teaching Latino/a Style: Addressing Challenges and Strengths of U.S. Latino/a Graduate Students,” at the 33rd Congress of International Psychology in Medellin, Colombia.

Dr. Debra Warner, associate professor, Forensic Psychology, Los Angeles, and Dr. Loren Hill, manager, Forensic Training Institute in Los Angeles, will present “How Women Expand Personal Comfort Zones of Community/Gang Intervention Training in Los Angeles: Focus Group Findings” at the Institute on Violence Abuse and Trauma (IVAT) Conference in San Diego, September 14, 2011.

Drs. Hector Torres, Fahmida Zaman, Hector Adames, and Nayeli Chavez co-presented a paper, “Collectively Building

Dr. Fahmida Zaman assistant professor, Clinical Counseling, Chicago, will co-presented two papers at the American Psychological Assn. in Washington, D.C. in August: “Mastering the Climb: Minority Student Mentorship at the Master’s Level,”

and “Lifting As We Climb: Mentoring Diverse Students Across Educational Levels.” He will also present a symposium, “Mentoring Diverse Students Across Educational Levels” at the APA Conference. Dr. Nancy Zarse, associate professor, Forensic Psychology, Chicago, presented at the FBI’s statewide conference on Campus Safety and School Violence in April 2011. Dr Zarse addressed Risk Factors and Warning Indicators for Violence. Dr Zarse also presented her project, “Holding the Classroom Hostage: The Use of a Role Play as an Experiential Teaching Technique,” at the international Scholarship of Teaching and Learning conference in May 2011. Dr. Zarse co-presented on “Extremist Groups in Prisons” at the national Mental Health in Corrections Conference in April 2011.





Q&A Can We Reduce Recidivism?

literature as actuarial risk assessment. With most categories of sexual offenders we can run their numbers and determine right at the front end: here’s the probability of re-offense in the next five years, in the next 10 years. The research that’s been done over the years shows that treatment absolutely does make a difference. If you have two people with the same offense, but one goes to the Department of Corrections and one goes directly to probation, their recidivism rate is already lower. They know that the moment this person gets sent to the Department of Corrections, their potential to re-offend goes up. I think their transition out, the complications


D r . D AV i S O N

D r . K E L LY

INSIGHT: A recent report issued by the Pew Center on the States found recidivism rates have remained consistent, around 40 percent, despite a massive increase in corrections spending. Why aren’t we seeing improvements in recidivism rates? DR. BARTH: I think that a lot of our system is not based on rehabilitation and education and opportunity for psychological growth. It’s based a lot on punishment. DR. DAVISON: We’ve gotten a whole lot better at determining at the front end who we’re working with, and what risk level there is. We can do different kinds of assessment procedures, including what’s referred to in the

in their life, putting their life back together, employment, housing, financially—they just have extra layers of difficulties, which certainly are going to contribute to distress, which probably is going to impact the recidivism rates for sure. DR. KELLY: Speaking from a school perspective, we don’t spend enough money on prevention and early intervention, especially for targeting at-risk children who live in poverty and have other risk factors. We know there are some great programs that work. They’re really expensive, but there have been lots of cost-benefit analyses that show that we get our money back threefold if we put the money in when they’re little kiddos. We see a reduction in crime, juvenile arrest, and things like that. DR. ZARSE: The research seems to indicate that we’re spending the money in the wrong places. Where we’re spending the money is in corrections, and we’re spending an inordinate amount of money there.



ecidivism rates have remained steady, despite increases in corrections spending. We gathered four Chicago School faculty to discuss issues around recidivism, from why it happens to the role of our criminal justice system to what kinds of treatment work (and what don’t). From the Chicago Campus, Dr. Kristy Kohler Kelly, assistant professor of school psychology, and Dr. Nancy Zarse, associate professor of forensic psychology. From the Westwood Campus, Dr. Jill Model Barth, associate professor of psychology, and from the Online/ Blended Program, Dr. Michael Davison, assistant professor of forensic psychology.


“We don’t spend enough money on prevention and early intervention, especially for targeting at-risk children who live in poverty and have other risk factors.” But that’s not necessarily what the research is showing us would be the most effective use for our money. What the evidence would indicate is that if we target our money in accordance with the Risk-NeedsResponsivity (RNR) principle—which is much more about rehabilitation—we would see more of a return for our investments. INSIGHT: With a criminal justice system that is more punitive than rehabilitative, how does this impact recidivism rates? DR. DAVISON: I think that the correctional system in the United States could really learn a lot from the Canadian system. One thing we know from that is that there are certain categories of offenders that are very, very responsive to treatment and interventions. There was some research that was done in the 80s, and they had a uniform set of data for everyone coming into the Department of Corrections, which we don’t have in the United States. There’s an instrument called the Hare Psychopathy Checklist. They take people who are high on this scale, put them to the side, re-run the numbers relative to a population that’s below a certain threshold, and you go, wow, you really do make a difference—we do reduce recidivism, if we target our treatment services to the right person. In the Canadian system, if somebody is very low risk, don’t provide intervention. If they have a super high recidivism rate, don’t bother treating them, because if they’re high on this construct of

psychopathy, not only do our interventions not seem to make a difference, there’s some indication that they actually may increase recidivism rates. So if we put our treatment dollars towards that middle group, it does make a difference. DR. ZARSE: What we are finding is that if you take the higher-risk inmates and address criminogenic needs, and then address for individual differences, that’s where we see the difference. It feels counterintuitive, because for instance, early in my career, they were thinking, let’s put a lot of money into low-risk, first-time offenders, and they won’t come back. What the research shows is the odds are they wouldn’t have come back anyway. So that was a waste of money. But if you go for the higher risk individuals, treat them on the parts that actually relate to their criminal activity, that’s where we’ll receive the return. DR. BARTH: I would also like to add a comment about the relationship between criminal recidivism and the high correlation with psychopathy. The psychopath in analytic research is defined by the uninhibited gratification, and criminal, sexual, or graphic impulses. It’s the inability to learn from past mistakes. So when we think about treatment, we have to tap into which criminals are guided by a strong repetition compulsion model. We can figure out a way to break a historical repetition compulsion by going inside and looking at the gain of the repetition.

DR. ZARSE: And I would certainly agree, if you don’t go quite so psychoanalytic, it still touches on this very popular principle these days of the RNR. What you’re getting at there is “What are the needs? What needs does this crime serve, and how else can we adjust those needs?” And also the responsivity to a specific nature. How do we address that which ties into crime as opposed to some of the things that we thought: “Well, let’s just improve their self-esteem.” If you increase the self-esteem of a psychopath, and that’s all you’re doing, you’re making for a more confident criminal. You’re not reducing crime. So that’s why you want to tie all these things together to the crime. DR. BARTH: Well, yes, I think that a cognitive approach can be very helpful in reducing recidivism rates, but meanwhile I just picked up the most recent recidivism rate that was posted on the BBC in September 2005. In the United States it’s 60 percent, not 40 percent. And they talked about a very high percentage among robbers, burglars, and arsonists. I think that you’re right, that a multitude of rehabilitative measures need to be made, but if we’re targeting the wrong issues, we’re in trouble. DR. ZARSE: We know punishment is most effective when it’s immediate. Well, punishment in our society is not necessarily immediate, and in between the crime and an incarceration you may have had several other crimes that they didn’t get caught for that they made money on. DR. DAVISON: With sexual offenders, the recidivism rate overall is nowhere near 60 percent. But there may be a specific individual that you do a risk assessment, and it’s not a question of if they’ll re-offend, it’s a matter of when they’ll re-offend. It’s better to



“The research is indicating that a much more cognitivebehavioral focus that looks at criminogenic needs, that looks at the values, that looks at things like pro-social criminal attitudes are where we’re seeing the progress and the gains from treatment.” think about them more individualized. Last night I wrote up a risk assessment on a person who is civilly committed under the Sexually Violent Persons Commitment Act in the State of Illinois, and there we have a good database that we can tap into to look at the recidivism rates with high-risk offenders specific to certain variables. The guy I assessed had male victims, he had female victims, he had younger victims, he had a little bit older-child victims, child victims, he had victims that were within his family, victims that were outside of his family. In addition to the fact that he hasn’t been in treatment in the last year, he made it real easy for me to complete this risk assessment. It’s just as high as it was a year ago, and he hasn’t done anything to mitigate any risk factors. Given the level of psychopathy I’m not sure that going to treatment would do a whole lot to reduce his recidivism rate, given the fact that he’s offended complete strangers in a public setting, all the way to family members in a very private, intimate setting. INSIGHT: Why do some offenders re-offend? DR. DAVISON: If somebody doesn’t have adequate educational or employment resources, we do know that that’s a factor that can increase recidivism. It makes them more dependent on the system, it makes them more overwhelmed, more vulnerable. If they don’t have the resources to manage and regulate those stresses, their risk is going to continue to be elevated. DR. BARTH: From a psychoanalytic treatment perspective, there are three

issues that I’d like to raise. The first is something that you said earlier, about regular, healthy longings. These are people who have dependency longings. And the idea, perhaps, too, of being re-incarcerated is an experience where, even though it’s a bad way to be taken care of, there’s somebody at least that is in charge. So the idea is perhaps based on healthy needs, but in an unhealthy manner of how to achieve that. The second is about the repetition compulsion, when the person just wants to repeat over and over again, especially if the outcome at the beginning is a faulty outcome. There is a wish to act out the crime over and over again, with the fantasy that this time there’s going to be some good outcome: unlimited wealth, the idea of getting away with something. And the third issue is the idea about identification with the aggressor. In that, the only way, sometimes, that a child can identify and feel connected with early parental values and mores is to connect to some aspect of their past and identify with what punishment was done to them, then they project it onto others. And this is somebody who has very limited superego. So coming up with a treatment plan whereby guilt is unknown to these people, it’s very difficult to treat. DR. KELLY: When we talk about children that are at risk of recommitting or committing crimes, we look at things like how early their first crime was committed—they’re more at risk if it’s at an earlier age— if they are using substances, or have some mental health issues. A crime that is more severe in nature, they’re more likely to commit another crime.

But children who go to detention do far worse than those who do not. So this concept of peer deviancy training and when you plunk together students in a classroom that have behavioral disorders or emotional disorders, there is some sort of cumulative effect when you learn other behaviors from people that may be struggling with the same thing. When we talk about a child perspective, you think about what are the predictive factors for them recommitting, and how we teach those. DR. ZARSE: What are the things that would mitigate the likelihood that they would commit a crime, and how can we strengthen those? So certainly education, we know employment, we know even strong families and strong marriages, or strong partnerships, also are factors that mitigate the likelihood. Some mental illnesses are more likely to contribute to the offending than others, but—is there treatment, and are they compliant with that treatment? And then in terms of specific treatments, the research has shown that cognitive-behavioral treatment is the most effective, which isn’t necessarily what any of us would prefer—I know that I was much more inclined to be psychodynamic, but the research is not supporting that. The research in re-offending and recidivism points to cognitive behavioral treatment. INSIGHT: Let’s talk about treatment. You said that you’d prefer a psychodynamic approach? DR. ZARSE: Psychodynamic is a little bit more that you’re looking at multiple facets, but you’re also looking at, you know, childhood experiences, you’re looking at more of the interpretation, and working with that in therapy. But the research is indicating that a much more cognitive-behavioral focus that looks at criminogenic needs, that looks at the values, that looks at things like pro-social criminal attitudes are

That warm supportive relationship is found to be a piece of the treatment. So it’s not just that it’s cognitive-behavioral and then we don’t have to worry about what kind of relationship that is. It’s also shown that that clinical relationship is important. Once you’ve identified the treatment program, still continue to provide the training for the therapist, including support groups for the therapist. DR. BARTH: It’s the transference dynamic that occurs between the patient or the inmate or the client—whatever term you use—and the therapist, which really counts for a lot of the correction. There’s a lot of role modeling that goes on and to that, a lot of repair in terms of early history and damage. The problem is that oftentimes the psychodynamic model is not efficient in that it certainly takes longer and there isn’t enough staff to have a long-term therapeutic relationship. If we look though at criminality that keeps getting repeated, we do have to take into account the possibility that the more superficial cognitive-behavioral approaches may not be enough to get at some of the underlying, deep, painful issues. It would be very, very interesting to have a study which included both short-term and longer-term treatment and to see if there was any difference in recidivism rates. DR. KELLY: We know that the most effective programs for kids are combination programs—those that target both the child and the family system, or the child and multiple systems, because we know that children, developmentally, don’t take care of all their needs. We know that we need to access other components that the child

might need support with, whether it’s the school system or whatever, but they should have multi-systems in place. INSIGHT: What can psychologists do, or do more of, to affect recidivism rates? DR. DAVISON: Good data-based-assessments. Knowing what the literature says about working with this person that’s right in front of me, and I think the only way we can design the right interventions is by doing a really good front-end assessment. DR. KELLY: I think that finding and identifying interventions that will work for students are really important, but also using data, making decisions about students with data, by screening for a risk factor that identifies the students that need more support in school settings, and then disseminating that information. One of the most helpful ways to disseminate that information is to do cost-benefit analyses. Because in this political climate, and in the climate that we don’t have a lot of money right now, we need to figure out where do we put the money, which prevention programs work well, and in what settings do they work? DR. ZARSE: I think psychologists can educate. I think that we can be part of the voice that speaks to the value not just of incarceration but the value of rehabilitation, the value of treatment, the value of appropriate supervision. DR. KELLY: I think stigma with mental health still plays a really big factor in why a lot of people don’t access support, and especially at an earlier age where they might be more useful or preventative. DR. ZARSE: And along those same lines of destigmatizing is we tend to globalize, and we think mental illness in and of itself is a risk factor, for violence, for re-offending— and it’s not! So part of it is also educating as to which parts are the risk factors. And again, address those with treatment. LISTEN TO THE COMPLETE INTERVIEW AND ADD YOUR COMMENTS ONLINE. QA-Summer2011


where we’re seeing the progress and the gains from treatment. DR. KELLY: I come from more of a prevention focus, so a lot of my work has been in early-childhood prevention and then also school-based prevention efforts. What we really look for as far as prevention of those types of behaviors is any kind of socialemotional learning programs, so something that’s going to target social competence in children. We know that children have better social skills, peer relationships, they can make healthy decisions, they have good problem-solving skills, conflict-resolution skills—those are the types of interventions that we try to put into place with children that are most at risk. There are specific risk factors that we look for, but it’s really about building social competence before they even commit a crime. Once delinquency has happened, or there has been some sort of issue for a child, it is a little bit more protective than adult populations. DR. DAVISON: In the online/blended program, we have an applied research project to emphasize the mindset of knowing what the literature says, being up to date on that in your area of expertise, designing your treatment plans, your interventions, your programs based on what the literature suggests, and then also having the courage to do research as well. So you can not only develop a program but you can track the effectiveness of the program. I think that’s a mindset that’s needed in our culture right now so we can know where we should put our money, what works with who, and when, and how. I know with the offenders that I work with, accountability is huge. The Mennonite Church has implemented these programs they call Circles of Accountability, COSAS, and I use that with my sexual offenders. You need a team of people around you, people who are not only there to love you and support you but also to hold you accountable, somebody that’s going to ask you the tough questions. DR. ZARSE: The research has shown that the relationship with the therapist, regardless of the kind of therapy, is still valuable.

“If we look at criminality that keeps getting repeated, we have to take into account the possibility that the more superficial cognitivebehavioral approaches may not be enough to get at some of the underlying, deep, painful issues.”


The Making

and Unmaking of a Criminal


ometimes it is easy to deduce what led someone to commit a crime. Take the woman who, traumatized by prior sexual assault, severely reacts to an unwanted advance and finds herself charged with attempted murder. Or the man who was raised in an abusive home and is later arrested for beating his own children. In other cases, the reasons are much less clear. Why does a successful executive, who makes a good paycheck and leads a happy life, risk it all by committing a white-collar crime? How does a person from a lawabiding family grow up to shock his neighbors and loved ones when it is discovered that he is the serial killer who has been terrorizing his community? Did something happen earlier in these people’s lives that we simply don’t know about, or are their brains hardwired for criminal activity? The causes of criminal behavior have long been up for debate, and today there are still more questions than answers. Are criminals born prone to a life of aggression and anti-social behavior? Are they products of their environment? Is it a combination of both nature and nurture? Research indicates that genetics is responsible for about 50 percent of criminal behavior and that environment

Psychology’s role in addressing the causes and treatment of criminal behavior

{By Lindsay Beller}

accounts for the rest. Many experts argue that inheriting a particular gene doesn’t necessarily predispose someone to a life of crime—but add in an abusive or violent childhood or another negative environmental factor and that risk greatly increases. What Role Does Environment Play? Complicating the equation is the notion that while many of those charged with criminal acts share a common set of personality and behavioral traits— such as impulsivity and the need for immediate gratification—the wide range of offenders and offenses makes generalization difficult. Ask Dr. Michael Fogel what causes criminal behavior and his answer is, “It depends.” “There is no 100 percent certainty that an individual who possesses certain characteristics will engage in a crime. Life gets in the way,” said Dr. Fogel, associate professor of forensic psychology at The Chicago School’s Chicago Campus. “When you understand where the individual came from, what they were exposed to, and the environment in which they grew up, you can understand why they engaged in the behavior that they did.” Researchers have long studied the idea that the nurturing an individual does or doesn’t receive

The Making

and Unmaking of a Criminal

influences behavioral development, and found environmental factors such as coercive parenting styles, physical and sexual abuse, neglect, and family conflict are related to antisocial behavior. For example, research has shown that trauma during childhood can lead to aggressive or even criminal

Many experts argue that inheriting a particular gene doesn’t necessarily predispose someone to a life of crime— but add in an abusive or violent childhood or another negative environmental factor and that risk greatly increases. behavior. Dr. Kendell Coker, assistant professor of forensic psychology at The Chicago School, has conducted research on the relationship between trauma and delinquent behavior among inner-city minority youth. In one study that explored the association between these two concepts, he found youth who are exposed to more trauma have poorer social problem-solving skills, which in turn is related to higher delinquency. “Trauma has been shown to have a large impact on youth, and it can also lead to criminal behavior, but not because the kid all of a sudden sees something bad and they go bad,” Dr. Coker said. “It’s because they start to see the world as a hostile place and their source of protection wasn’t there when they needed it, so they feel like they need to protect themselves. A lot of juvenile misconduct happens in social situations. Juveniles are more susceptible to peer

pressure and they don’t think about the consequences of their actions.” In an effort to understand the extent to which both environment and genetics impact antisocial behavior, numerous twin and adoption studies have looked at the traits and personalities of identical and fraternal twins raised in the same and separate environments (identical twins share all of their genes while fraternal twins share 50 percent of them). Studies also looked at adoptees, and whether they exhibited similar traits to their adopted parents. Results have varied. Some research found evidence that genetics determined antisocial behavior while other studies concluded environmental factors played a stronger role. Still other research has found that an interaction between genes and environment predicts criminal behavior. British psychologist Francis Galton initiated the first twin studies in the late 19th century. Considered a pioneer of behavioral genetics, Galton’s research led to the exploration of the nature vs. nurture debate. His interest in heredity was inspired by his cousin Charles Darwin’s book about evolution, The Origin of Species, as well as his belief that intelligence and other “human mental abilities and personality traits” were passed down through heredity. His ideas represented the beginnings of the eugenics movement, which aimed to remove “undesirable” people from the gene pool—a movement that gained popularity in the United States in the early 20th century, but ultimately hindered research into the links between biology and criminal behavior. Are Genetics to Blame? Spurred in part by racist attitudes toward large waves of immigrants arriving from Asia and Southern and Eastern Europe, eugenics researchers believed if they could control which human genes were passed on, they could eradicate conditions and traits including mental retardation and learning disabilities

(or “feeblemindedness,” as it was called), physical disabilities, criminality, epilepsy, and alcoholism, which were considered a drain on public resources. At the time, a limited scientific understanding of heredity was based on research of dominant and recessive genes in plants, and the notion that if animal breeders could select desirable traits for their livestock, the same idea could apply to humans. The Eugenics Record Office was founded to compile genetic information from families, but the data was ambiguous and collected by many individuals who had their own prejudices about what made someone fit to reproduce. While no scientific data confirmed the heritability of most traits, there was widespread support for the movement that led to institutionalization policies and forced sterilization laws. In 1907, Indiana became the first of 30 states to legalize involuntary sterilization. Although the eugenics movement was scientifically discredited after revelations of Nazi experiments on Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, and other groups during World War II, the last state law was not repealed until 1981. In that time, estimates of up to 70,000 men and women underwent forced sterilizations and thousands were institutionalized against their will. Despite the declining credibility of eugenics, researchers continued efforts to link biology and criminality, and some unethical research practices persisted in the 1960s and 1970s. For example, the “Supermale” syndrome posited that men with an XYY chromosome pattern were thought to exhibit aggressive and antisocial behavior. Although subsequent research invalidated this idea, many newborns, juvenile delinquents, and prisoners were screened for the extra chromosome without consent, leading to further stigmatization for a condition that ultimately had no scientific basis. But since the completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003,

they committed crimes as adults. To measure their level of anticipatory fear, the children wore headphones and listened to a neutral sound followed a few seconds later by a harsh noise. This was repeated several times, so the children knew that the unpleasant sound would always follow the first

one. If the child’s “sweat rate” increased while anticipating the second noise, this suggested a normally functioning amygdala. The follow-up study revealed that many of the children who had not shown anticipatory fear during that test had become convicted criminals. Despite his observation that “bad

Our Brains and the Law The U.S. legal system—which is based on the belief that people are responsible for their actions—has hardly embraced the idea that an abnormal brain should excuse criminal behavior. But two decades ago, improvements in brain-imaging technology sparked the growth of neuroscience, leading to more research on whether the brain predisposes someone to commit a crime. Many criminal defense lawyers, particularly in death penalty cases, are increasingly trying to use these scans as evidence that their clients had no control over their actions. The implications of this nascent research on the legal system are still unfolding, and not without controversy. In most criminal trials, judges have not allowed brain scans to be admitted, citing unreliable research. But neurological evidence has been used in pre-trial plea bargaining sessions and during sentencing, and has led to reduced sentences. Proponents of this growing field of neurolaw, which sits at the intersection between neuroscience and the law, say that such evidence could one day predict future criminal behavior, and detect lies and bias during legal proceedings, while opponents fear the use of the technology could violate such civil liberties as privacy. Some noteworthy cases include: • After John Hinckley Jr. tried to assassinate President Ronald Reagan in 1981, his defense team submitted a CT scan of his brain that suggested schizophrenia during his trial, and the jury eventually found him not guilty by reason of insanity. Following a public outcry, several states limited the use of the insanity defense, making it harder for defendants to argue that their mental state caused their criminal behavior. • In what’s considered the earliest example of how the emerging field neuroscience could impact American law, retired executive Herbert Weinstein was charged with strangling his wife and throwing her out the window of their 12th-floor apartment to make it look like a suicide. During a pre-trial plea bargaining session in 1992, his lawyers argued brain scans showed an abnormal cyst, causing the violent behavior. Fearing the jury’s reaction to the scans, the prosecution agreed to a guilty plea in exchange for a reduced charge of manslaughter. • For the first time brain scans produced by functional magnetic resonance images (fMRI)— which shows the areas of the brain are or aren’t working properly—were used in the 2009 trial of Brian Dugan, who admitted kidnapping, raping, and murdering a 10-year-old girl more than 25 years after the crime occurred. During the trial, the judge did not allow images of Dugan’s brain to be presented to the jury, but did allow a forensic psychologist to describe them. The evidence was submitted during the sentencing phase but the jury still convicted Dugan and sentenced him to death. • After a drunk Bradley Waldroup brutally murdered his wife and her friend in front of his four children, his lawyers argued that he had no control over his actions because he has a defective MAOA gene, which is linked to violence. Despite an admission of guilt and graphic evidence showing a bloody crime scene, the genetic evidence helped convince the jury to convict him of voluntary manslaughter and attempted second-degree murder rather than murder, which carried the death penalty. He was sentenced to 32 years in prison.


which identified thousands of new genes, there has been a renewed, yet cautious, interest in the link between biology and criminal behavior, and the research has only recently begun to gain a fragile credibility. Certain genes, like one that regulates the production of the MAOA enzyme, for example, have been linked to aggressive and impulsive behavior. But while about 100 studies have shown a link between genes and crime, many researchers reject the theory of biological determinism—that our genes determine our personalities and who we become—and say that environment plays an important role in whether and how a gene is expressed. The brain has become the latest frontier in the quest to understand criminal behavior, particularly of psychopaths and violent offenders. In the growing field of neurocriminology, which is the application of neuroscience to criminology, researchers have documented differences between the criminal brain and the “normal” brain. Dr. Adrian Raine, a psychologist at University of Pennsylvania, has conducted studies that show a correlation between criminal behavior and the amygdala—“the guardian angel of behavior” as he described it to an audience at the University of Missouri. The amygdala is located in the prefrontal cortex and is associated with emotion and fear—the idea being the less fear someone has, the less likely he is to have a conscience guide his behavior. In one study, he found an 18 percent volume reduction in the amygdala of psychopaths compared to non-psychopaths. Dr. Raine was also part of a longitudinal study that examined the fear-conditioning response of 3-year-olds in the island nation of Mauritius. Based on the theory that a dysfunctional amygdala leads to poor fear conditioning and increases the risk of criminal behavior, his team examined children early in life and, 20 years later, gathered information on whether

The Making

and Unmaking of a Criminal

Changing the Way We Think Dr. Samenow identified numerous thinking errors that can lead to negative or antisocial behavior. Cognitive behavioral therapy can help an offender change the way he thinks and thus make positive changes in behavior. Some examples of thinking errors or distorted thinking include: • Immature or developmentally arrested thoughts. • Poor problem solving and decision making. • An inability to consider the effects of one’s behavior. • An egocentric viewpoint with a negative view or lack of trust in other people. • A hampered ability to reason and accept blame for wrongdoing. • A mistaken belief of entitlement, including an inability to delay gratification, confusing wants and needs, and ignoring the rights of other people. • A tendency to act on impulse, including a lack of self-control and empathy. • An inability to manage feelings of anger. • The use of force and violence as a means to achieve goals. Sources: NIJ Journal, Issue No. 265; The Criminal Personality, Volume 1: A Profile for Change by S. Yochelson, and S.E. Samenow; The Criminal Lifestyle: Patterns of Serious Criminal Conduct by G. Walters

brains lead to bad behavior,” Dr. Raine shares the belief with many other researchers that one’s environment can still impact whether someone becomes a criminal. “It’s not biology versus environment. It’s biology plus environment,” he told The Times of London in a 2010 interview. At least one psychologist rejects the notions that biology or environment leads to criminal behavior. In his book, Inside the Criminal Mind, Dr. Stanton E. Samenow argued that regardless of their background, criminals think differently than non-criminals—that they make a choice to commit a crime, and should be held fully responsible for their actions. Blaming one’s environment or even a mental illness paints the offender as a victim, he writes, and research on genetic links to criminality has been inconclusive. Instead criminal patterns such as lying and breaking rules begin during early childhood and culminate into a life of crime. “The person who makes crime a way of life has a radically different way of thinking from the individual who behaves responsibly,” he wrote in

the book. “The two mentalities are so different, it’s as though the criminals were a different breed.” Based on this theory, Dr. Samenow— who collaborated with and built on work started by his mentor, Dr. Samuel Yochelson, in the 1960s—proposed that the only way to rehabilitate a criminal was for him to change the way he thinks, which would lead to better behavior. In their 1977 book The Criminal Personality, the authors identified 52 “thinking errors,” such as poor decision making, failure to consider injury to others, and lack of trust. The notion that criminals demonstrate errors in their thinking has become a critical element in cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), which is considered the most effective treatment to keep offenders from committing further crimes. What Treatments Work? Advances in treating offenders have come a long way since 1974 when sociologist Robert Martinson reviewed 231 studies that evaluated the impact of rehabilitation programs and found they had little

impact on recidivism. The media seized on the message that “nothing works,” repudiating the criminal justice system’s focus on the rehabilitation of criminals. The findings, splashed on magazine covers and in newspaper articles, contributed to the rise to the “get tough on crime” approach in the United States. But in the decades that followed, even as the criminal justice system became more punitive, cognitive behavioral therapy emerged as the treatment with the greatest impact in reducing the recurrence of criminal behavior in juveniles and adults, and in decreasing the incidence of depression and substance abuse. One 2005 study found that CBT reduced recidivism by an average of 25 percent, with some programs finding reductions of more than 50 percent. Even high-risk offenders were responsive to the treatment. CBT—a blend of cognitive theory and its focus on internal thought processes with behavioral theory and its emphasis on external behaviors—teaches offenders to identify distortions in their thinking and understand that altering the way

has failed to have significant impact on changing the thinking, attitudes, and behaviors of offenders.” As CBT became the widely accepted treatment for offenders, an evolution in risk assessments has resulted in more accurate evaluations and treatment plans. At first professional judgment was used to predict criminal behavior until the 1970s, when psychologists recognized that risk assessments needed to more evidence behind them. They began to consider such factors as the history of criminality, substance abuse, past employment, violent behavior, social networks, and age, which improved accuracy and credibility. Assessments further evolved to consider factors like the offender’s current situation resulting in more targeted interventions. In the last few years, a supervision component has helped ensure that offenders are compliant with their treatment, which reduces their risk of further criminal behavior. As risk assessments improved, psychologists D.A. Andrews and James Bonta developed the riskneed-responsivity (RNR) model of offender rehabilitation. First used in Canada, the model is considered the most effective way to assess and treat criminals, especially higher-risk offenders who traditionally weren’t as likely to receive rehabilitation services as low-risk offenders. The RNR model is based on three principles that guide interventions: the offender’s level of risk, the services that address criminogenic needs, and the types of treatment programs to provide. Providing interventions that target the offender’s criminogenic needs is considered critical to overall success. As opposed to static risk factors linked to criminal behavior, such as one’s history of violence, criminogenic needs are dynamic risk factors that can be altered to bring about more positive outcomes. For example, if all of an offender’s friends are criminals, a treatment program would encourage him to avoid bad


they think will lead to positive changes in behavior. Offenders might be taught coping or problem-solving skills. Dr. Nancy Zarse, associate professor of forensic psychology at The Chicago School, explained how the treatment worked for an inmate she treated during a 16-week cognitive behavioral therapy program. When asked to describe the crime that he had committed—from start to finish—the offender told of a midnight visit from an acquaintance inviting him to help steal $800 tires from a car that had broken down. “We walked through, from that moment on, how many thinking errors he had and how many rationalizations there were between him leaving that house and getting to the actual car,” she said. “Part of what I wanted to help him see was at how many different points he could have made a different choice and not gone to the crime scene. Because once you’re there, what’s the likelihood that you’re going to turn away?” When the program concluded, the inmate told her that the exercise was the most valuable part of his treatment. “For him, that’s when he realized, wow, that’s what I’ve been doing,” Dr. Zarse said. “Part of what you want to teach in cognitive behavioral treatment is those earlier decisions, those earlier thinking errors and cognitive distortions, that have a pro-criminal influence as opposed to a pro-social influence.” Other treatments such as behavioral therapy and psychotherapy show little evidence of being as effective as cognitive behavioral therapy in treating criminals. One study that found that CBT programs were 30 percent more effective than behavioral ones, while a 2007 report from the National Institute of Corrections stated, “Traditional psychotherapy is egocentric; it helps individuals solve their personal problems, feel better about themselves, and fulfill their inner goals and expectations. This egocentric psychotherapy, in and of itself,

Cognitive behavioral therapy emerged as the treatment with the greatest impact in reducing the recurrence of criminal behavior in juveniles and adults. influences. Or if the offender has too much time on his hands—time that typically gets him into trouble—a treatment program might introduce a new activity and support participation. Although research is producing evidence-based treatments that have a positive impact on recidivism, such advances alone often aren’t enough to magically turn prior offenders into law-abiding citizens. Such programs cost money to implement, and lack of funding is an ever-present impediment. In 2009, there were more than 1.6 million incarcerated in state or federal prisons, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, but the recession has led to budget cuts in rehabilitation programs. Last year, California cut 36 percent in funding for such initiatives, and numerous other states have made or are considering cuts, including Texas, Kansas, Indiana, and Pennsylvania. “Psychological factors play significant roles in criminal behavior, but it takes time to treat them, and oftentimes there aren’t resources to do so,” Dr. Fogel said. “How much rehabilitation can occur when there isn’t money provided for programs?”

Teens Who Torment Behind the bullying epidemic in schools and on the web

{By Judy Beaupre}


KIDS WILL BE KIDS. We’ve been saying it for years, sometimes as an explanation for actions that defy adult understanding, occasionally to dismiss or downplay the need for personal accountability, and—perhaps way too often—to convince ourselves that the sometimes-alarming behavior we witness in the young people around us is “normal.”

ake bullying. Once seen as a “rite of passage,” bullying was a label for such innocuous behavior as taping a “call me stupid” sign to the new kid’s back, hiding earthworms in a classmate’s lunchbox, or—as depicted repeatedly in the musical comedy series, Glee—tossing a slushie in someone’s face. Messy, uncomfortable, embarrassing—but not all that damaging in the long run. That has changed, or at least our recognition of the sometimes-dire consequences that can accompany bullying has. Today’s version of peer-to-peer torment has captured media attention as a far more disturbing trend—one that transcends hurt feelings and strawberry-stained clothing, instead being blamed for suicides, catastrophic acts of mass revenge, and long-term mental health consequences for victims, perpetrators, witnesses, and family members. “Between 15 and 30 percent of students in today’s schools are involved with regularity in bullying—and often with negative consequences,” says Dr. Dan Olweus, a professor of psychology at the University of Bergen in Norway, who has devoted more than 40 years to bullying research and is recognized as an international authority on the subject. “Victims suffer from anxiety, depression, poor self-esteem—they view the rejection by their peer group as too hard to handle.” Others put the prevalence of bullying far higher than Olweus’ estimate. Research published in 2009 in the Journal of Adolescent Health reported that, while only 20 percent of students reported involvement in physical

bullying—either as a victim or a bully—more than half were involved in social bullying (defined as social exclusion or spreading rumors) and even more—54 percent—were on the giving or receiving end of verbal bullying. The most recent addition to the bully’s arsenal—cyberbullying—is the fastest growing, accounting for an ever-increasing portion of teen harassment cases. This 21st-century twist on the age-old practice of picking on classmates encompasses the rampant use of the Internet, email, and texting to demean or harass others. Cyberbullying is, in some ways, the most dangerous; it extends the bully’s timeframe for making a peer’s life miserable from school hours to 24/7, and vastly expands the reach of ugly rumors, innuendo, and compromising or humiliating photos. While bullying has been around for decades—if not centuries—social scientists have only recently gathered enough empirical data to draw conclusions about the phenomenon’s long-term psychological effects. According to researchers, students who have been repeatedly intimidated or persecuted are far more likely to be emotionally distressed and twice as likely as their non-involved peers to experience psychosomatic symptoms such as headaches and abdominal pain. Most alarming of all is the connection that has been suggested between bullying and suicidal ideation. During the past year alone, news media have been peppered with the stories of children and teens who became victims of what is sometimes referred to as bullycide.

Teens Who Torment

Bullying by the Numbers

2 9 to


Bullying victims are 2 to 9 times more likely to consider suicide than nonvictims.


students stay home from school every day to avoid bullying.


Students who describe themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender are 5 times more likely to miss school because of feeling unsafe.

60 %

of American teens witness bullying at least once a day.


of students victimized by bullying report that they are targeted because of their race or religion.


of school shooting incidents are linked to harassment and bullying. Yale University School of Medicine Child Study Center, National Crime Prevention Council, U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Secret Service, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

In Massachusetts, a 15-year-old high school girl whose family had recently moved to the United States from Ireland was taunted with cultural slurs—and physically harassed as she walked home from school—until she hanged herself in the stairwell of her home. In Minnesota, two eighth-grade girls fulfilled a suicide pact after repeatedly indicating that they were ostracized and bullied by classmates. And in New Jersey, an 18-year-old Rutgers University student jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge after classmates secretly shot video of him in an intimate encounter with another male student and streamed it online. While the reasons students are targeted for harassment are many, “being different” leads the list. Few groups are singled out more frequently than students who are—or who are perceived to be—gay. One study produced in 2010 by Iowa State University researchers showed that more than half of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth had been cyberbullied in the 30 days preceding the survey. For many, this led to depression and—for 26 percent—thoughts of suicide. “There’s a saying that we’ve now changed to read, ‘Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can kill,’” Warren Blumenfeld, an assistant professor who co-authored the study, told the ScienceDaily website. “Pre-adolescence through adolescence is a time when peer influences are paramount in a young person’s life. If one is ostracized and attacked, that can have devastating

Bystanders... Bullying victims—those on the receiving end of their tormenters’ intentional, often-vicious mistreatment—aren’t the only ones left with psychological baggage. Research published in 2009 in School Psychology Quarterly suggested that students who watch their friends endure intimidation and humiliation at the hands—or keyboards—of school bullies may become as psychologically distressed—and sometimes more so—than the victims themselves. They may be more likely to take drugs and drink alcohol and face mental health risks even greater than those for students who were bullying victims. The reasons, researchers say, may include the fact that the witness has been bullied previoiusly and may be experiencing revictimization—or may fear receiving the same treatment in the future. Alternatively, the bystander may feel guilty that he did not intervene and come to the aid of the peer being bullied. "Witnessing bullying is in itself a social experience in which children directly learn fundamental lessons about power, authority, empathy, injustice, social responsibility, and courage or the lack of it," psychologist Linda Jeffrey reported in a recent issue of The Prevention Researcher. She cited

consequences—not only physically, but on their emotional health for the rest of their life.” Recent research published this year in the Journal of School Health supports Blumenfeld’s contention. According to the study, LGBT young adults who had been victimized during adolescence were more than five times as likely to report having attempted suicide and more than twice as likely to report clinical levels of depression. “We now have evidence of the lasting personal and social cost of failing to make our schools safe for all students,” said University of Arizona professor Stephen Russell, the study’s lead author. “In our study, we see the effects of school victimization up to a decade later or more.” Tackling the Problem Teen angst is nothing new, and has long provided a steady stream of clients for mental health professionals who work with this population—child and adolescent psychologists, clinical counselors, school psychologists, and marital and family therapists. The growing recognition of bullying’s long-term impact, however, has caused professionals to take a closer look at causes and consequences, and to develop more proactive approaches to curbing the practice’s most egregious forms and teaching victims resilience strategies. Dr. Olweus, the international bullying authority quoted earlier in this story, used his four decades of research to develop the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, which has been implemented in elementary, middle, and junior high schools across

research showing that while 85 percent of bullying episodes take place with peers present, bystanders intervene in only 10 percent of cases. ... and Bullies Bullies themselves demonstrate characteristics that lead to—and result from—habitual mistreatment of others. Dr. Dan Olweus, an international authority on teen bullying, found that many youths who follow this path acquire their view of violence and intimidation at home—often in dysfunctional families where bullying is used as a power-assertive child-rearing technique—and from the aggressive actions they see on television or through video games. Children who grow up in this environment, Olweus says, have a need to dominate, to be in control, and have little interest in negotiating. Without intervention, bullies are likely to carry the ramifications of their actions well into adulthood. Research shows that they are prone to mental health problems such as conduct disorder, depression, and anxiety, and to continued aggressive behavior, delinquency and gang involvement. Olweus found that, by the age of 24, about 60 percent of boys who had bullied others in grades 6 to 9 had been convicted of a criminal offense.

step in what eventually becomes more overt acts of violence. Turning to Violence In 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who were widely reported to have been bullied in school, went on a shooting rampage at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., killing 13 including themselves, and injuring 21 others. Seung-Hui Cho was 23 when he opened fire at Virginia Tech, killing 32 before taking his own life, but authorities said that much of his anger could be traced to his high school days, when fellow students had made fun of his shyness and accent. Dr. James Shaw, assistant professor of forensic psychology at The Chicago School’s Los Angeles Campus, has spent years studying the causes of teen violence. His book, Jack and Jill and Why They Kill: Saving Our Children, Saving Ourselves, shares the stories of 13 adolescents serving time in state youth prisons for murder. His insights were the subject of a keynote address he gave at the first commemoration of the Columbine tragedy. While the juvenile inmates he interviewed did not necessarily point to bullying as a cause for their rage, all articulated feelings of alienation, isolation, and being unloved and unlovable. They expressed disappointment in a person they trusted and with whom they had a connection. “There is no uniform behavior or set of symptoms for children who turn to violence, although the news media would like to have everyone fit into a formula,” Dr. Shaw said. “The closest I can come is to say all were unhealthy children psychologically and emotionally, and all felt some level of betrayal.” An important thing to recognize, he emphasized, is that “these are kids, not fully formed, and not completely matured psychologically.” He added that the majority did not understand the gravity of what they had done until their court appearance, when they realized the impact their actions had had on family members and the community. In an effort to counteract teen violence, Dr. Shaw has founded the B.R.A.V.E. (Be Resilient Avoid Violence Everywhere) program, through which he helps children recognize and resist the pressure to engage in any form of violence or bullying as a means of problem-solving. The project

has taken off, gaining recognition throughout the criminal justice system, and has been cited by the Philadelphia Regional Office of the FBI as “an example of best community practices.” Dr. Shaw contends that while parents have responsibility for bringing up children who can readily distinguish right from wrong, schools need to do a better job of addressing aggressive activities. “We need a violence-prevention curriculum that is taught side by side with social studies and English,” he says. “If we can mandate driver’s education, why can’t we require this too? Social driving—social navigation—is as important as anything else we teach in school.”

The 21st century bully: online, not in your face While physical bullying has steadily decreased since 2003, it is a trend that has been eclipsed by a relentless increase in cyberbullying. In a survey completed last year by the National Crime Prevention Council, more than 43 percent of teens reported having been a victim of cyberbullying—through email, texting, and websites such as Facebook and YouTube. This trend has reversed the profile of the typical bully and victim. Once the stereotypical domain of boys—both as aggressors and targets—bullies are now more likely to be female, as are those on the receiving end of their torment. According to research by Dr. Robin Kowalski at Clemson University, 13 percent of girls reported that they had used electronic media to harass others, while 9 percent of boys did. Similarly, one in four girls reported having been cyberbullied, while only one in 10 boys reported having been targeted. Dr. Kowalski’s research pointed to instant messaging as the weapon of choice for many cyberbullies, with more than two-thirds of students reporting harassment that took this form. Students also reported cyberbullying that took place through chat rooms (25 percent), email (24 percent), web postings (24 percent) and text messaging (15 percent). Cyberbullying can be more toxic than traditional bullying, the Cyberbullying Research Center reports, because of its potential for anonymity, its ability to go viral within minutes—reaching thousands of others—and its ease of access, using technology that most adolescents have at their fingertips.


the country and claims to have reduced bullying by up to 70 percent in some schools. Its focus is on improving school climate, training teachers and staff to recognize and deal with bullying incidents, and involving parents in conversations about how best to support their children. Dr. Dan Koonce, associate professor of school psychology at The Chicago School’s Chicago Campus, is a strong believer in using Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS), a systems approach to creating a positive social climate in schools, as a weapon against bullying. Rather than focusing solely on discipline, PBIS incorporates proactive strategies for defining, teaching, and supporting appropriate student behaviors. It is a two-part approach, he says, involving both a teacher-training component and direct instruction of all students in how to identify bullying and how to respond—as a victim or as a bystander. “Some teachers are not fully aware of what’s happening—especially when relational aggression is taking place,” Dr. Koonce says. “Texting can be just as dangerous as more outward forms of bullying, and teachers have to know how to identify and address it.” Unfortunately, addressing the issue on a schoolwide or even communitywide level is often not enough. All 50 states have enacted some form of anti-bullying legislation—many specifically targeting cyberstalking, cyberharassment, and cyberbullying. In March 2011, President and Mrs. Obama hosted a White House Conference on Bullying Prevention, which included leaders from the American Psychological Association, educators, politicians, and mental health professionals. Participants discussed ways to empower students to come to the aid of classmates who are being victimized, and how to involve family members in teaching their children more respectful ways of interacting with their peers. Too often, bullying incidents become a matter for the legal system, typically when they lead to violence. Both adults and juveniles have faced charges when their harassment activities resulted in attempted suicide or other injuries, and victims have been known to lash out, taking revenge on those who have tormented them. Sometimes, too, verbal taunting or cyberbullying is just the first

2 1



t’s a scene guaranteed to set hearts racing, hands trembling, and blood pressure soaring—a worstnightmare-come-true setting that has already lasted several hours too many. In one small room, a handful of terrorized individuals, held at gunpoint by an abductor making impossible demands in exchange for their release. In other areas, negotiators, who communicate with the offender via a crackling “throw phone,” and a command center staffed by FBI agents and a SWAT team specially trained to deal with high-risk crisis incidents.

It’s real-world learning at its best: a two-credit class called Hostage Negotiations, offered as a capstone to students in The Chicago School’s Forensic Psychology program. The course teaches skills and communication techniques needed to de-escalate critical situations, as well as an understanding perpetrators’ psychological profiles and the ability to manage stress. Dr. Nancy Zarse (Psy.D. ’89), associate professor, developed the program based on training she received through the Bureau of Prisons. It is the only known program of its kind offered by an educational institution.






Forensic Psychology students role play as hostages while the offender holds them at gunpoint. With survival strategies as part of their curriculum, they must demonstrate that they can manage stress and resist antagonizing their abductor. In a second session later in the day, they will have the opportunity to play members of the negotiation team.


Student Martinette Zeeman negotiates with the hostage taker. Her goals are to use active listening skills to calm the perpetrator, while also gathering information and assessing his psychological state. What she learns will determine the team’s approach.


Lisa Britton, Travis Ickes, and Nydia Gonzalez work as a team to organize information they have gathered and develop strategies for negotiating the safe release of the hostages.


Kristin Collins fills the role as primary negotiator while Roman Grubbs coaches her. The use of a “throw phone” (thrown in to the hostage taker as a means of communication) allows the coach to hear the conversation and make suggestions to facilitate the negotiations.


The tactical team leader, an FBI agent on the SWAT team, reviews the intelligence gathered to date, and seeks additional information necessary to form command decisions. The involvement of law enforcement professionals adds a realistic flavor to the role play.


Students successfully negotiate the surrender of the hostage taker, who is arrested upon release. Andrew Austin (M.A. ‘10), in handcuffs, is a graduate of the hostage negotiation course and the Forensic Psychology master’s program. Currently in the U.S. Army’s Officer Candidate School, Andrew returned as a volunteer for the role play.


The debriefing session and afteraction review is a critical component in the day’s role play. What went right? What went wrong? Now in its fifth year, the training model has evolved over the years. “I learned after one of these role plays that students needed to talk about what they were feeling,” Dr. Zarse says. “I have now incorporated a longer after-action session that allows time for that.”


alumni news


2011 Distinguished Alumnus Rev. DR. Thomas N. Pelton, M.Ed., S.T.L., Psy.D. (Psy.D. ’91)

The Wounded Healer

Dr. Pelton addresses graduates at the 2011 Commencement.


o his parish in the Hispanic Chicago neighborhood of West Humboldt Park, he is known as Father Tom. But to patients at Saints Mary and Elizabeth Medical Center, where he works with cancer and AIDS patients as coordinator of the Supportive Care Program, he goes by Doctor Tom. The different monikers underscore the dual roles that the Rev. Dr. Thomas N. Pelton balances as a priest and psychologist. Named the 2011 Distinguished Alumnus of the Year at The Chicago School’s Commencement Ceremony on June 10 for embodying the values of engagement, diversity, and social justice, he reflected that his two divergent professional paths have helped his practice as a “wounded healer.” “In both professions we practice the healing arts and disciplines, albeit wounded ourselves,” he said. “Mysteriously and powerfully, many of us discover that the healing of others takes place in

parallel with our own healing, that our wounds can become a blessing as they inspire our wisdom and compassion for the wounds in others.” Dr. Pelton’s own path to religion began while growing up in a strong faith-filled family on the Southwest Side of Chicago. He was ordained by the Archdiocese of Chicago in 1966 and has served in 10 parishes around the city, from East Englewood on the South Side to East Rogers Park on the far North Side to his current position at Maternity BVM Parish on the West Side, where he has been for 15 years. But a desire to increase his options and become more independent—along with conversations with fellow priests and Chicago School alumni Rev. Drs. John Keenan (Psy.D. ’83) and John Lynch (Psy.D. ’82), and the first dean Allan Rosenwald—led him to pursue a Psy.D. in clinical psychology and join the school’s

founding class in 1979. “I had a drive for more self-understanding and more understanding of what was going on in the world around me,” he said. After graduating in 1991, he worked at Loretto Hospital’s Addiction Center and completed his post-doctoral internship at St. Elizabeth Hospital. For the past 17 years he has worked at Saints Mary and Elizabeth Medical Center, where he focuses on palliative care. “It’s not just end-of-life care though,” he said. “We’re dealing with patients from the onset of diagnosis. That fits well with ministry. Some patients are desirous of a religious component and others are not. In the parish, I’m able to do referrals for psychological services, so my work has broadened both professions.” With his parish confronting issues like immigration, gang violence, and affordable housing, Dr. Pelton draws on his deep social justice roots to work with nonprofit organizations to help meet the needs of the community—he cofounded the precursor to the Interfaith Leadership Group of Cicero, Berwyn, and Stickney; walked in the Equal Rights March; protested the segregation of the Lewis Towers swimming pool in the 1960s; and has participated in several other demonstrations and rallies through the years. But Dr. Pelton doesn’t always find it easy to navigate between his two worlds, with patients, colleagues, and parishioners. “If I go into a room (at the hospital) with a drug patient who has HIV, he’ll turn away from me. But if I tell him I’m a priest, it can open him up. It works the other way too. Both have powerful projections. “Historically, there was a great antipathy between the two professions,” he adds. “Psychologists thought religion and spirituality were delusional and pathological. And it can be, but in more contemporary times, there are groups in both professions that see an affinity between the two.


However, there are still people in the field who don’t have trust in the other.” He also encounters many people who believe the two professions fit well

together and ultimately values the axiom that “grace builds on nature.” “To live a fuller psychological life, one needs to deal with the eternal

questions and universal energies and relationships,” he said. “To live a fuller spiritual life, one needs to deal with one’s psychological demons and potentialities.”

Ralph Barrera (M.A. ’10)

Vice Cop Turned Youth Advocate


alph Barrera was a sergeant in the Los Angeles Police Department when a bullet changed his life. Fired in the line of duty in accordance with his training and police department regulations, the bullet took the life of an offender—but it also took a toll on Barrera, who embarked on a decade-long battle with post-traumatic stress disorder and eventually confronted the reality that it was time for a career change. As a PTSD patient, he says, he began to think about the role that mental health issues play in law enforcement—issues that affect not only the offender, but victims and police professionals as well. It was this new perspective that led to the next chapter in his life—leaving his 14-year LAPD career, returning home to Florida, earning a master’s degree through The Chicago School’s online Applied Forensic Psychology Services program, and becoming a youth advocate and court liaison. “Having been diagnosed with severe and persistent mental illness myself, I have a great deal of insight into what my clients are going through,” he says. “When I advocate for a defendant in Felony Mental Health Court, my goal is to find a balance between the need to keep

the community safe and the need to find the appropriate placement of my client back in the community.” Barrera’s Chicago School degree brought together a growing interest in psychology with his extensive police experience, which included years as an undercover officer and assignments to vice and anti-gang units. In his current job with Archways Mental Health Inc., in Broward County, Fla., he advocates for youth who have committed felonies, makes sure his clients “don’t fall between the cracks” of the legal and mental health systems, and works with Archways’ eight case managers to recommend and follow placements for the youth assigned to him. “I monitor the case of every defendant, tracking his progress through the

system, and alerting the judge when I see a placement isn’t working out as planned,” he says. “I’m not there to take sides, or to work for a conviction or to have the case thrown out of court. Whether my client is a 23-year-old billionaire arrested for possession or an indigent alcoholic who thinks he lives in the Eiffel Tower, I’m just there to make sure that everything that’s supposed to happen happens.” He credits The Chicago School’s online degree program with giving him the confidence to reinvent his career in a way that took advantage of his experience and interests, and provided him with the skills to combine the two. “In some ways, it’s not so different from what I did as a police officer,” he says. “It’s a softer approach to helping people.”

Important Information about Your Chicago School Email Account Your Chicago School email account is maintained for life. This summer, all alumni accounts that were created prior to fall 2008 will be moved to the Google Mail platform, which will offer you more space and better ease of use.

How This Affects You • Your email address will change from to • You will need a new password to gain access to your account. • Stay tuned for further instructions and your new password this summer. Questions? Contact

alumni news


Working Toward Family Reunification Stephanie Agost (right) coaches student Kristina Lenz through a PCIT session.

“You’re coloring the balloon red.” Description. “You’re doing a great job following the rules.” Praise. “I’m having SO much fun with you.” Enthusiasm. While all are common phrases in the world of parenting, they are less so for mothers whose histories of poverty, neglect and abuse have landed them in the charge of the Department of Child and Family Services and resulted in their children’s placement in foster care. Typically, DCFS requires that families remanded to its supervision complete parenting training before being reunited with their children. In Chicago, such parents are often referred to Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT), a program run by The Chicago School Forensic Center. The program’s goal, says project coordinator Stephanie Agost (M.A. ’08), is to alter the negative patterns of interaction between parents and children while enhancing the parent-child relationship and decreasing parenting stress and child behavior problems. Working under the supervision of faculty and staff, students coach parents or caregivers through the process of learning positive communication strategies with their children. They use the acronym PRIDE (praise, reflection, imitation, description, enthusiasm) to teach mothers—and the occasional participating dad—to break the cycle of negative reinforcement and abusive practices that has been passed down, sometimes for generations. Student coaches observe client interactions through a one-way window and communicate with the parents through a bug-in-the-ear technology system. “PCIT combines behavior therapy principles

with traditional child play therapy skills and translates these aspects of intervention into a mode of working with families to bring about healthy, nurturing relationships,” says Dr. Laura Benton (Psy.D. ’98). A Chicago School alumna who returned as a faculty member in the forensic psychology department, Dr. Benton is one of three who train and supervise students in PCIT. Together, they help parents master the skills that can take a potentially volatile exchange between an ill-tempered child and an exasperated mom or dad and turn it into a carefully orchestrated give-andtake that helps the parent remain calm while teaching the child about limits and consequences. “The strongest advantage that this program has over other parenting programs is that the therapy is conducted with the parent and child in the room together,” Dr. Benton says. “It’s much more powerful when they can witness the changes actually

taking place in their relationship with their child.” National data gathered by the U.S. Administration for Children and Families offers evidence of PCIT effectiveness. According to the ACF website, physically abusive parents who participate in PCIT are far less likely to have re-reports of child abuse (19 percent as compared with 49 percent who had not been referred to PCIT). The Chicago School’s program typically serves between eight and 12 families a year, each through individual appointments. Parents and children show up for weekly sessions, which are held in a cozy, toy-filled room in the Forensic Center. For the kids, it’s a time to have mom’s undivided attention while coloring or reading stories. But it’s also time to learn the rules. Tantrums don’t elicit attention, but good behavior brings praise and hugs. When a parent’s patience starts to run thin, the reassuring voice of a student coach—coming steadily through the unobtrusive earpiece she wears—reminds her not to raise her voice, to turn negative statements into positive, and to tell her children how much she enjoys spending time with them. As kids respond positively, so does mom, demonstrating confidence in her own parenting abilities. Both Agost and Dr. Benton were trained in PCIT—Agost as a student and Dr. Benton as a new member of the Forensic Psychology faculty—by Dr. Tiffany Masson, who introduced the program to The Chicago School when she joined the faculty in 2006. When launched, it was the only program of its kind in the area, but as empirical evidence became available to validate the program’s efficacy, the use of PCIT has expanded rapidly. It is now taught and practiced at universities and family counseling centers throughout the country, as well as in several countries in Europe and Asia.

PRIDE in Parenting Families master PRIDE skills to communicate more effectively with their children.

Praise for good behavior

“Great job playing gentle!”

Reflect appropriate talk and noises

“Yes, that is the red crayon.”

Imitate appropriate play

“I’m going to cook with you.”

Describe appropriate behavior

“You are building a tower.”


“I LOVE playing with you!”

last page

Principal Ross greets children and parents as GPPA opened its doors.



3 4 Experiential Tr aining Around the World


Affirming The Chicago School’s commitment to preparing our students for work in an increasingly diverse world by providing international service learning and field work opportunities, nearly 170 students studied abroad in the 2010-2011 academic year— the most in our history—through faculty-led academic courses in countries that spanned the globe. Their experiences included providing assessment services and recommending interventions to orphans in Peru (photos 1 & 2), training childcare workers in Rwanda and Zambia to counsel young victims of trauma (photos 3 & 4), and presenting neuroscience research at an international conference in Prague (photo 5). Students also studied in Israel and the West Bank, Vienna, London, St. Croix, Brazil, and Mexico.

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Upcoming Alumni Events September 12 – Psychology Careers in the Military (Chicago and Webinar) September 16 – Annual Softball/Volleyball Picnic (Chicago) September 17 – Cultivating Wellness: Helping You Help Your Children sponsored by The Naomi Ruth Cohen Institute (Chicago) September 24 – Doctor of Clinical Psychology Reunion (Chicago) September 27 – Networking Breakfast (Chicago)

October 4 – Army Internships and International Careers (Chicago and Webinar)

October 12 – Alumni Reception (New York City) October 13 – Alumni Reception (Boston) October 15 – Graduation Celebration & Alumni Reception (Los Angeles) November TBA– CEU Opportunity (Chicago) For more information and to register, visit


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