Clinical Forensic Internship Training Program

The Dorothy B. Hersh Child Protection Center (DBH-CPC) is a child maltreatment program associated with Saint Peter’s University Hospital and provides internship training to pre-doctoral psychology students.  The center offers children and families with medical evaluations and psychological treatment related to child abuse concerns, which includes medical, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse.  The staff at the DBH-CPC is a multidisciplinary team of culturally diverse health care professionals including pediatricians, registered nurses, psychologists, and social workers.  The goal of the internship program at DBH-CPC is to provide interns with supervised direct service training in pediatric and clinical child psychology in order to prepare them for entry-level psychology practice.  Interns completing a pre-doctoral internship year at the Center develop advanced skills in assessment, case conceptualization, and psychotherapy techniques used. Interns participate in training and educational seminars, and are supervised by experienced psychologists, to enhance their skills related to the evaluation and treatment of children, adolescents, and adults.  Interns are trained to diagnose and treat trauma in cases of family violence.  Interns spend 40 hours each week participating in program activities.  Activities include conducting evaluations of children, parents or family members where abuse is suspected or substantiated as well as participating in the planning of psychotherapy and treatment, and interaction with child protective services, the state prosecutor, and numerous collateral agencies.  The interns additionally have many opportunities for further learning through weekly individual and group supervision, didactic presentations, in-services, and pediatric rounds.

The priority of the training program at the Center is to provide outstanding clinical opportunities for doctoral students seeking to learn about child maltreatment.  Particularly, it is the intent of the program that interns who complete it will understand the dynamics of child maltreatment and apply the knowledge when conducting evaluative and treatment services to families, within the community.   DBH-CPC is one of four legislatively supported regional diagnostic and treatment centers for child maltreatment and family violence in the state of New Jersey.  The training program is intended to provide clinical experiences to the interns at a level at which they are most comfortable.  That is, the interns initially learn principles of forensic evaluation and treatment by observing evaluations conducted by a licensed psychologist or through video recording.  The intern the goes on to participate in evaluations with a licensed psychologist and subsequently conducts independent evaluations once the intern’s supervisor determines the intern is sufficiently prepared to do so.  The emphasis for the interns is enhance clinical skills so they are best prepared for licensed practice.

Cultural Diversity
The DBH-CPC provides evaluation and treatment services to seven diverse counties in central New Jersey. The populations served within our catchment region are diverse in many ways including race, religion, ethnicity, and socio-economic status.  It is of paramount importance that each child, adolescent, and adult who seeks service at the DBH-CPC receives the highest quality care and respect.  As such, interns learn about the diverse populations with whom they interact.  Emphases on exploring the impact of issues related to cultural diversity are explored during individual and group supervision with each client who interacts with the interns. The interns are challenged to explore how the client, as well as the intern’s own cultural differences, impact the therapeutic experience.  Interns also learn about the impact culture has on issues related to child maltreatment during educational seminars and rounds with the medical residence.  Each intern is required to present a therapy or evaluation case presentation on at least two occasions during their internship training. During the case presentations the interns are required to identify and discuss how culture impacted the reason for referral, the client’s response to the trauma, and its impact on the therapy process.  Focused explorations of the dynamics that are identified during the case presentations are discussed during individual and group supervision prior to the presentation.

Interns at the center will be supervised throughout the training year.  The interns will receive direct individual supervision for therapy and evaluation cases.  The individual therapy is provided prior to meeting with children and families, concurrent with therapeutic services, and subsequent to terminating the treatment or evaluations. A minimum of two hours of individual supervision will be provided to interns each week.  Although the interns will meet with a designated supervisor, the DBH-CPC prides itself on creating a welcoming learning environment and therefore, trained licensed psychologists are available to the interns at all times.  In addition to individual supervision, weekly group supervision is provided during which the interns, externs, and supervising clinical staff will meet to discuss topics including theory, current treatment and/or evaluation needs, as well as career and licensing.  

Expanded Training
Aware of the importance of establishing a theoretic underpinning to clinical work, many opportunities are provided to interns to enhance their fund of knowledge.  Expanded training will be provided through weekly didactics taught by professionals within the DBH-CPC staff, Saint Peter’s University Hospital, and outside agencies including other treatment centers, law enforcement, and child protective service agencies.  Didactics are scheduled each week and include topics such as cultural diversity, assessment of risk, varied treatment modalities, vicarious trauma, the legal process, and legislation related to child maltreatment.  In addition to weekly didactics, interns have the opportunity to attend weekly pediatric grand rounds with the medical residents and attending physicians.  During April, which is child abuse prevention month, interns will present at ground rounds on topics relative to child maltreatment. In appreciation of the importance of enhanced learning experiences, the interns are encouraged to participate in conferences and trainings they identify and find are relevant to their future professional work.  Finally, interns attend "Finding Words New Jersey", a weeklong training program, which provides the theoretical foundation for forensic evaluations.  During the training students will work with team members from the state child protective service agencies and county prosecutor’s office to learn how to conduct child-focused forensic interviews.

Caseload Description
Throughout the training year, interns will maintain approximately 15-20 hours of direct patient services each week. Services include evaluations and treatment of children and families who have experienced maltreatment.  The interns have the opportunity to conduct several types of evaluations which would include comprehensive exploration of  the impact of maltreatment, identify factors of resiliency, and develop recommendations for treatment. Evaluations will additionally serve to delineate risk factors which must be addressed to ensure child safety and well-being.  Other evaluations are provided for children who were recently removed from their caregivers and are intended to identify the child’s immediate emotional needs in response to the maltreatment and removal. The intern will also be asked to assess the child’s adjustment to the placement at the time of the evaluation.  

In addition to the evaluations, interns will conduct individual therapy and/or group therapy with children and their supportive caregivers.  Typically, interns maintain a caseload of six weekly therapy clients.  The interns are also encouraged to participate in group therapy services.  While the interns are encouraged to explore therapeutic modalities of diverse orientation, all treatment is empirically validated.   Interns interested in collecting data and conducting research associated with evaluation or treatment service are welcome to do so.  Trauma-focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) is taught and frequently utilized at the center in individual and group modalities.

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