The Children's Assessment Center
Internship Goals and Philosophy of Training
The mission of The Children's Assessment Center (CAC) pre-doctoral psychology internship program is to assist doctoral candidates in developing proficiency in the provision of a broad range of clinical and scholarly psychology functions, across a variety of settings, and in a manner consistent with APA Ethical Standards. Our ultimate goal is to assist the intern in learning how to act competently, respectfully, ethically, and empathically in the delivery of mental health and psychological services while being ever cognizant of the cultural and individual diversity of the clients being served. This necessarily includes an understanding of multi-cultural and under-served population issues, as well as an awareness of professional issues, standards, and consumer protection ethics.
The CAC utilizes a scientist-practitioner model of training, which emphasizes the integration of scientific inquiry in clinical thinking and decision making with the use of existing research and evidenced based treatments. Interns are exposed to a variety of theoretical approaches including: cognitive-behavioral, psychodynamic, family systems, and humanistic approaches. Training is accomplished through experiential interaction with a diverse client population, psychological assessment, crisis intervention, individual and group supervision, didactic instruction, forensic work, consultation, community training/outreach, and court testimony. Therapeutic milieus include individual, family, and group therapy, as well as a myriad of expressive therapies (i.e., play, art, animal assisted, and sand tray therapy). Clinical research is also encouraged and supported by the provision of time for research pursuits and presentations.
An internship at The CAC is a twelve-month, full-time training program for advanced pre-doctoral students in Clinical, Counseling, or School Psychology. All training time credited toward internship is post-clerkship, post-practicum, post-externship, and pre-doctorate. Interns will receive supervised experience in intakes, psychological assessment, diagnosis and treatment planning, case management, and psychotherapy with clients (age toddlers through adults) experiencing a wide variety of disorders.
In addition to developing clinical skills, this internship site seeks to assist the intern regarding the development of a professional identity. To that end, interns are encouraged to participate in educational seminars, conferences, and community outreach endeavors.
One of the primary goals of The CAC is to promote the complete healing of child victims of sexual abuse, as well as their families. Once sexual abuse has been substantiated, children needing therapeutic treatment or psychological testing are referred to The CAC’s Therapy and Psychological Services Department. The department is comprised of three Ph.D. level psychologists, six Masters level staff therapists, three staff clinical social workers, and seven contract professionals from both levels. The CAC’s Therapy and Psychological Services team is instrumental in caring for the children’s emotional needs. The program offers on-site and community-based therapy, psychological assessment, and psychiatric evaluation to child victims and their family members to assist throughout the healing process.
Fundamentally, The CAC’s goal is to always keep the needs of the children and their families as the focus. Because we recognize that different approaches and modalities will be valuable in meeting the various needs of our diverse clientele, the therapy and psychological services department consistently employs a unique, integrative approach to treatment. Clinicians utilize cognitive-behavioral, psychodynamic, humanistic, and family systems approaches when working with children and families. Additionally, experiential and expressive components may be incorporated throughout treatment such as art therapy, sandtray therapy, animal assisted therapy, etc. These treatment modalities are implemented in individual and group settings. The expressive therapies are designed to assist children discovering the connection between their feelings and their physical expressions. This discovery improves children’s ability to identify feelings in themselves and others. It also provides children with a new way to express confusing feelings. Through integration of both traditional and expressive therapies, children and families served at The CAC experience a comprehensive, team oriented approach to healing.
When children and parents give permission, individual, group, and expressive therapy sessions are videotaped. This is a useful training tool, both for improving the observation and analysis skills of The CAC’s clinicians as well as for teaching therapeutic interventions.
The CAC also offers Spanish/English bilingual clinicians for all types and formats of therapy as well as two clinicians fluent in American Sign Language. In addition, when children or their relatives have severe mental or emotional difficulties, a psychiatrist is available for evaluation, case consultation, and on-going medication management. The CAC also serves as a training site for numerous colleges and universities at both undergraduate and graduate levels.
Internship Program Description
The CAC will accept at least two full-time interns for a twelve-month internship, which begins September 1st and ends August 31st. Interns will be required to complete a minimum of 1750 clock hours to be used towards licensure. At least 25 percent of their time will be devoted to direct services. Upon completion of the internship year, interns will be granted a certificate of completion signifying that all requirements have been met.
All services provided by interns are conducted on-site and incorporate collaboration with a multi-disciplinary, on-site team including CPS caseworkers, law enforcement officers, forensic interviewers and evaluators, physicians, and volunteers. Interns will be required to complete an average of 2 full psychological evaluations per month, as referrals warrant. Additional direct services will include conducting intakes, individual, family, couples, and group therapy, crisis interventions, forensic work, and consultation. Each intern will have the opportunity to participate in developing their specific goals and level of participation in the above direct services. A minimum of two hours of face-to-face individual supervision will be provided each week. In addition, one to two hours per week are reserved for supervision specifically related to psychological assessment--its administration, scoring, interpretation, and report writing.
At The CAC, interns work as part of a multi-disciplinary team where they consult with many other professionals including law enforcement, district and county attorneys, Child Protective Services staff, physicians, psychiatrists, and mental health professionals. At least two hours per week are devoted specifically to didactics, which includes discussion of case-related issues with other clinicians and staff. In addition, trainings are provided on-site and cover a wide variety of topics related primarily to sexual abuse and the assessment/treatment of children and non-offending caregivers. Examples of these seminars include, Child Centered Play Therapy, Personality Disorders, Suicide Assessment and Intervention, Ethical Considerations, and Relational Development Assessment.
The pre-doctoral psychology interns will also participate in a structured intern training with marriage and family interns, social work interns, and practicum students currently completing internships. During the first half of the year, staff clinicians will present trainings biweekly specifically tailored to meet the needs of the interns on topics such as Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dynamics of Sexual Abuse, Forensic Interviews and Evaluations, Expert Court Testimony, Play Therapy, Expressive Arts Therapies, Animal Assisted Therapy, and Marriage and Family Therapy. During the latter part of the year, the interns will meet biweekly to complete a formal case presentation to their peers as well as their clinical supervisors.
Additionally, the pre-doctoral interns will participate in a monthly collaboration with the Harris County Juvenile Probation Department. This collaboration is specifically designed to address issues and topics related to becoming a licensed psychologist. Examples of seminars include EPPP and Licensure, Private Practice, Sex Offender Treatment, and Trauma and the Brain.
Collaborating Organizations and Their Roles
The Children's Assessment Center (CAC) collaborates with hundreds of professionals from 52 Partner Agencies to provide the most effective service. Our partners include law enforcement, medical and mental health professionals, and governmental investigative entities, all with the common goal of protecting children. The following agencies are several who collaborate with The CAC to provide a comprehensive, coordinated, team response to child sexual abuse victims in Harris County:
- Child Advocates, Inc. - Provides court appointed volunteers that regularly visit children in protective custody and advocate on their behalf in criminal and family court cases;
- Crime Stoppers of Houston, Inc. - Provides a toll-free hotline where callers can report information leading to the arrest and conviction of perpetrators in child sexual abuse cases;
- Federal Bureau of Investigation - Performs investigative interviews with children relating to Internet Child Pornography and Child Sexual Exploitation cases. Evidence collected is used in the prosecution of both local and traveler pedophiles in state and federal cases;
- Harris County Attorney’s Office - Represents the State of Texas in all matters concerning the care, custody, and welfare of the children and provides legal consultation regarding the management of The CAC program;
- Harris County Protective Services for Children and Adults (CPS) - Provides investigating and on-going substitute care caseworkers and refers clients to The CAC;
- Harris County Public Health and Environmental Services – Provides information on child fatalities;
- Harris County District Attorney's Office - Evaluates cases for prosecution and provides legal consultation for law enforcement personnel;
- Harris County Sheriff's Department, Houston Police Department, Baytown Police Department, Deer Park Police Department, LaPorte Police Department, and Pasadena Police Department - Gathers information from investigative interviews of the child, collects evidence for prosecution, and provides protection during the intervention process. HPD handles approximately 60% of cases investigated by CPS sexual abuse teams;
- Houston Area Women’s Center/Children’s Court Services - Provides professional accompaniment to children on criminal court cases and assists the families with Crime Victims Compensation Fund applications;
- Memorial Hermann Healthcare System - Contributes to the program through ongoing consultation and support;
- Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (TDFPS) - Exercises their statutory responsibilities of protecting children and investigating complaints of child abuse and neglect;
The shared philosophy and resources of these partners have led to the overwhelming success of this unique collaboration. These different entities are constantly working together towards improving and expanding the services to the children and families that seek assistance from The CAC. Through regular multi-disciplinary case review meetings, the professionals involved in each child’s treatment continuously monitor the progress of the child and their family. This system has proven to be exceptional in assessing the developing needs of each individual child receiving services at The CAC. The evaluation of the effectiveness of the treatment is also conducted at these meetings.
Internship Training Model
The pre-doctoral training model at The CAC is best defined as being a Scientist-Practitioner Model. The internship year is seen as an opportunity for interns to further their integration of psychological theory and knowledge of research through clinical application. The internship’s training model emphasizes six core areas of professional competency: 1) assessment, 2) intervention, 3) application of clinical research to practice, 4) treatment planning and goals, 5) quality of care and 6) the development of a working relationship with a multidisciplinary team.
The training model holds that goals and competencies are individually developed between an intern and their supervisor at the outset of the year. These goals and competencies are further enhanced through didactic training and goal-focused supervision. The overriding objective is to assist the intern in developing clinical skills and analytical thinking that will aid the intern in progressing from a student, to a capable, autonomously functioning clinician. Upon completion of the internship, the intern should be able to critically evaluate and apply relevant theoretical and empirical literature to various clinical populations.
The CAC’s training program provides the intern with the opportunity to integrate diagnosis and application of community and therapeutic interventions, with a focus on acknowledging and incorporating clients’ individual differences and specific needs. The intern will participate in didactic training, which is designed to present them with essential clinical information to build on their previous experience and knowledge. Interns have the opportunity to apply diverse theoretical approaches to treatment within individual, family, and group therapy settings. Additionally, interns enhance their critical assessment skills by conducting psychological evaluations to address a variety of referral questions.
The goals of the internship are accomplished through the development of the intern’s knowledge, skills, and abilities in the following areas: 1) Exposure to a variety of clinical interventions including individual, family, couples, and group therapy. 2) Increased familiarity with several theoretical orientations and the ability to apply this knowledge to clinical situations. 3) The ability to develop and utilize appropriate treatment goals and plans. 4) Enhancement of interpersonal and public speaking abilities. 5) Development of a professional identity. 6) The ability to work effectively with a multi-disciplinary team and to effectively utilize community resources. 7) A firm understanding of ethical and legal issues. 8) Development of a respectful and sensitive understanding of diverse populations, cultures, and individual differences. 9) Exposure to forensic work. 10) The development of assessment competencies.
These many goals are achievable due to multi-disciplinary interaction and the integrative approach utilized by The CAC.
The client population at The CAC is composed of diverse socioeconomic backgrounds, ethnic groups, age ranges, and diagnoses. Clients include children (birth to age 17) and adults. Because The CAC utilizes an integrative approach to treatment, a variety of training milieus are offered. In addition to individual therapy we offer:
Intake Evaluations and Psychotherapy
Interns are exposed to a variety of modalities including individual, family, and couples psychotherapy. As part of the individualized treatment plan that is developed for each client, interns will be required to conduct intake evaluations that include diagnostic impressions and to formulate treatment plans.
The CAC offers a multitude of groups including process/ psychoeducational groups and expressive therapies groups. On average, there are at least 15 groups offered per week. These include groups for victims of sexual abuse, human trafficking victims, groups for non-offending caregivers, and sibling groups.
Interns are required to complete an average of 2 full batteries per month throughout the training year. Interns will gain competence in the evaluation of children and adults. Additionally, interns will become proficient in diagnostic skills, writing evaluations, and making pertinent recommendations. Clients are referred for assessment due to a myriad of presenting problems, including concerns about intellectual functioning, concerns about characterological pathology, and concerns related to behavioral symptomatology. The CAC uses a wide variety of assessment instruments including intellectual, achievement, objective, and projective measures. Interns are encouraged to enhance their knowledge of the many instruments available to them. A Ph.D. psychologist provides supervision directly related to psychological evaluations for one to two hours each week.
As the primary clinician for many clients, interns may consult with schools, medical personnel, attorneys, and other mental health staff regarding that client. Through consultation, the intern is able to discuss the clinical progress of the client and is often able to gain more information to make appropriate decisions related to treatment. Interns participate in case-conferences, multidisciplinary staffings, and Permanency Planning Team meetings in relation to CPS cases. Interns may provide consultative feedback about testing cases to the family and other agencies. At times, interns are also asked to consult with the courts regarding therapy and testing cases. There are frequent opportunities to make presentations in the community regarding various issues related to sexual abuse.
Interns participate in weekly case conferences with other staff members. Two hours a week is devoted to discussing case concerns and case-related issues. The pre-doctoral psychology interns will also participate in a structured intern training with marriage and family interns, social work interns, and practicum students currently completing internships. During the first half of the year, staff clinicians will present trainings biweekly specifically tailored to meet the needs of the interns. During the latter part of the year, the interns will meet biweekly to complete a formal case presentation to their peers as well as their clinical supervisors. Additionally, the pre-doctoral interns will participate in a monthly collaboration with the Harris County Juvenile Probation Department. This collaboration is specifically designed to address issues and topics related to becoming a licensed psychologist. Examples of seminars include EPPP and Licensure, Private Practice, Sex Offender Treatment, and Trauma and the Brain.
Clinical Supervision for Interns
Supervision is a major emphasis of the internship program at The CAC. Supervision is a primary form of training and evaluation for the development of skill proficiency. Supervision is intended to provide both depth and breadth in clinical application, research, and assessment. To enhance the supervision process, interns may be asked to videotape sessions with clients. This can be a helpful tool for assessing the client and discussing methods of treatment. All supervision is provided face-to-face and consists of a minimum of two hours of individual supervision, one hour of group supervision, and one to two hours of testing supervision by licensed, clinical psychologists. In keeping with our integrated approach, interdisciplinary consultation is utilized with LMSW-ACPs, LMFTs, and LPCs providing supervision as appropriate.
Full-time licensed Psychologists on staff provide primary supervision for interns.
Lawrence Thompson, Jr., Ph.D., Director of Therapy & Psychological Services at The CAC, received his doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology from The University of Michigan in 2000. Dr. Thompson is a Licensed Psychologist in the state of Texas. Dr. Thompson oversees the provision of mental health services at The CAC. This oversight includes the supervision of clinical staff and clinicians in training, consultation with CAC partner agencies, and various administrative responsibilities. Dr. Thompson also provides some direct psychological services, including psychotherapy and crisis intervention. His most pronounced expertise is in the area of trauma and personality disorders. Dr. Thompson also serves as an expert witness in court proceedings and regularly presents on the topics of trauma, psychotherapy and mental health.
Carlo A. Villarreal, Ph.D., Bilingual Psychologist at The CAC, received his doctoral degree in School Psychology from Texas A & M University in 2005. Dr. Villarreal is a Licensed Psychologist and a Licensed Specialist in School Psychology in the state of Texas. In 2004, Dr. Villarreal completed an internship in Clinical Child and Pediatric Psychology at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles where he was trained in trauma focused therapy and assessment. Dr. Villarreal is also trained in bilingual assessment and is responsible for conducting psychological evaluations in both English and Spanish. As a member of the Bilingual Clinical Team, Dr. Villarreal provides individual, group, and family therapy services to the Spanish-speaking population served at the CAC.
Additional Professional Staff
In addition to the supervisors noted above, there are a number of Masters level and Doctoral level staff and contract staff who provide psychological services to the clients at The CAC.
Evaluation of Intern Performance
Interns will be evaluated at mid-year and at the conclusion of their internship by their supervisors. The site has devised an evaluation form that will be completed with the intern and reviewed in terms of competencies. This form contains objectives and competencies and is scored on a Likert rating scale. At the beginning of the training year, interns will be asked to evaluate their current level of clinical skills on a variety of dimensions utilizing this form. This self-rating process will be utilized to establish a baseline and to assist the intern in developing professional goals to address during the internship year. Each supervision process is based on the individual needs of the intern and goals are developed with this in mind.
Evaluation of Supervision
Interns will also be given the opportunity to evaluate their supervision. This will occur at mid-year and at the conclusion of their internship. This is designed to ensure a process of mutual interaction between the intern and the supervisor(s).
A full grievance, due process, and appeals policy has been established to address intern or agency concerns and is made available to every intern upon entry into the internship program. Copies are available prior to acceptance, if requested.
Stipend and Benefits
Compensation for the one year, full-time internship is $21,000.00 plus benefits. Benefits include vacation time (based on accrued comp time), sick leave, one "flex" day each week, medical insurance, flexibility to participate in professional enhancement endeavors, and research support in the form of 4 hours a week reserved for dissertation or other research work. Interns also are invited to participate in various CAC social activities including The Spirit of Spring Fashion Show, Golf Tournament, and the Children’s Holiday Program.
History and Mission of The Children's Assessment Center
The CAC is a non-profit enterprise founded in 1991 in Houston, Texas, to serve the needs of sexually abused children across Harris County, the largest metropolitan area in the state. It is a collaborative public/private partnership bringing together social workers, physicians, attorneys, and law enforcement professionals in one central location to provide a continuum of critical, coordinated services. Each year, The CAC and its 16 partner agencies serve thousands of Harris County children through a variety of programs. The CAC’s mission is to provide a professional, compassionate and coordinated approach to the treatment of sexually abused children and their families and to serve as an advocate for all children in our community.
In the late 1980’s a group of social workers, physicians, attorneys, and law enforcement officers joined together to address the issue of child sexual abuse. Each of these professionals recognized that sexual abuse victims were being further traumatized by the systems in place to help them. At that time, when children made an outcry, they were subjected to repetitive interviews with caseworkers, police officers and attorneys in various locations all over Harris County. They were taken to a county hospital or
Emergency room for sexual assault examinations and forced to wait in an often times unfriendly environment for hours among critically injured and impatient adults. Physicians conducting the examination were most often general practitioners, who were not specifically trained to conduct sexual assault examinations and preserve physical evidence for prosecution. Under this chaotic system, investigations were poorly conducted, children did not receive appropriate care, and prosecution of offenders was extremely difficult.
Today, The CAC is housed in a 56,000 square foot, child-friendly facility where sexually abused children can feel safe and secure and receive the services they need to heal. Using a multi-disciplinary and coordinated approach in handling sexual abuse cases, The Children’s Assessment Center co-houses law enforcement, district and county attorneys, Children’s Protective Services, medical professionals, and mental health professionals who collaborate on every aspect of the investigation, treatment, and prosecution of sexual abuse. Ultimately, the goal of The CAC is to promote the complete healing of child victims of sexual abuse and their families by providing them with the necessary resources to effectively cope with their trauma and lead normal and productive lives. The CAC is able to accomplish this goal by providing: 1) a videotaped forensic interview of a child’s statement reducing the need for multiple interviews by the various entities involved in a child sexual abuse case, 2) a sexual assault examination using video and digital colposcopy, which is non-invasive and conducted by trained pediatricians and a nurse practitioner, 3) ongoing basic healthcare services, 4) therapy and psychological services to help child sexual abuse victims and their families heal, 5) expert testimony in civil and criminal court cases, and 6) advocacy for children as the children and families make their way through the various systems they will encounter.
Other Programs of The Children’s Assessment Center
The CAC provides many of the services listed above through four other distinctive departments in addition to the Therapy and Psychological Services Department. These are: Forensic Services, Medical Services, Children’s Services, and Community Outreach.
In the Forensic Services Department, Forensic Interviewers, who are specifically trained in working with sexually abused children and skilled in obtaining information necessary for law enforcement and prosecution, interview children using the digital recording system. The taped interviews allow The CAC staff, law enforcement personnel, the District Attorney’s office, and other partner staff to view a child’s disclosure and initial reactions without having to further traumatize him or her with repetitive interviews.
Additionally, The CAC recognized that many sexually abused children were not receiving services because CPS is mandated by law to provide case management and on-going services only to children who have been abused in their home, or by someone living with them. Thus, in order to extend our services to all children who have been impacted by this crime in Harris County, we have expanded the Assessment Services Department to include Clinical Social Workers for children who have been molested by a non-relative. One social worker serves as the Criminal Case Liaison between The CAC’s staff, District Attorney’s office and partner agency representatives. The other is the Emergency Funds Manager providing a contact person and resources for clients in need of basic life provisions.
If a child requires a sexual assault examination and assessment they are referred to our on-site Medical Services Department. The CAC’s sexual abuse examinations are conducted by using video and digital colposcopy, a non-invasive and technologically advanced procedure. The medical clinic also makes available basic, preventive healthcare services to ensure the complete recovery of child victims of sexual abuse.
The Children’s Services department ensures that The CAC offers more than medical and mental health treatment of child sexual abuse. The specially trained volunteer caregivers in The CAC’s Playroom exemplify this program’s goal to provide the children with a caring and child-friendly atmosphere. This program also allows us to provide the children with outlets to entertain or learn more about themselves. The children are treated to various activities throughout the year, including the opportunity to attend a week of the YMCA’s Camp Cullen in Trinity, Texas. Additionally, they receive necessary resources, such as food, clothing, toys, and toiletries.
Finally, The CAC strives to increase public awareness of child sexual abuse through our Community Outreach Department. The CAC staff and volunteers are frequently invited to make presentations to schools, civic organizations, religious centers, and other social service agencies to help professionals and parents learn about issues related to child sexual abuse.
How Success is Defined and Measured
The overall success of The CAC program is defined by the abilities of The CAC’s staff to provide comprehensive and coordinated services to young victims of child sexual abuse. The measurement of The CAC’s success is directly related to the continued partnerships of all of the agencies involved with the assessment, investigation, prosecution, and treatment of these child sexual abuse cases. Our daily activities must be in compliance with the mandates of the Texas Family Code. The CAC also meets the stringent guidelines of the Children’s Advocacy Centers of Texas and the National Children’s Alliance in order to maintain its membership in both. The CAC’s Therapy and Psychological Services team is dedicated to measuring the program’s effectiveness, and routinely evaluates all of the program services through client input documented in a client satisfaction survey and a case tracking system database that records each service provided to children and their family. These methods are extremely beneficial to the mental health team, because the therapists and psychologists rely on both short-term and long-term data to measure the effectiveness of the treatment protocol.
Checklist of Required Application and Supporting Materials
___ Complete APPIC application available at: http://www.appic.org
___ Curriculum Vitae with current telephone number
___ Three letters of recommendation
___ An official graduate transcript
___ Two complete psychological assessment reports with interpretations (supplemental materials to be submitted through APPIC)
The application and supplemental materials should be submitted through AAPI online. Documentation that is mailed directly to this department will not be accepted.
Contact Dr. Lawrence Thompson Jr. with questions via email (email@example.com) or phone at: 713-986-3458.