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​Early Childhood Mental Health Trauma Treatment Center at the Matilda H. Theiss Child Development Center

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The purpose of the Early Childhood Mental Health and Trauma Treatment Center (ECMH-TTC) at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of UPMC is to provide services to children age birth to seven who have experienced trauma, along with their caregivers and/or families. This goal is achieved through the use of evidence-based practices, including Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) and Child-Parent Psychotherapy (CPP).

Funded in 2012, the Early Childhood Trauma Treatment Center was created as a Community Treatment and Services Center within the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN).

Established by Congress in 2000, the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) brings a singular and comprehensive focus to childhood trauma. NCTSN’s collaboration of frontline providers, researchers, and families is committed to raising the standard of care while increasing access to services. Combining knowledge of child development, expertise in the full range of child traumatic experiences, and dedication to evidence-based practices, the NCTSN changes the course of children’s lives by changing the course of their care.

The Network is funded by the Center for Mental Health Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, US Department of Health and Human Services through a congressional initiative: the Donald J. Cohen National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative. As of November 2009 the Network comprises 60 members. Affiliate members—sites that were formerly funded—and individuals currently or previously associated with those sites continue to be active in the Network as affiliates.

Types of Trauma

  • Children and families can experience a variety of events and experiences which may result in traumatic stress, including:
    • Violence at home, in school, or in the community
    • Medical trauma
    • Experiencing natural disasters
    • Experiencing neglect or physical abuse
    • Being separated from a parent or primary caregiver
    • The loss of a loved one
    • Sexual abuse
    • Terrorism
    • Having a family member in the military
  • Children experiencing traumatic stress may:
    • Not sleep well
    • Have difficulty concentrating or paying attention
    • Act angry, irritable, or upset
    • Not want to play with friends or do activities that were once fun
    • Hit, kick, bite, or hurt others
    • Destroy objects
    • Talk back to adults
    • Drift apart from parents or caregivers

Services Offered

Diagnostic Assessment

Prior to admission to the Theiss Center for treatment, a licensed psychologist or master’s level clinician will complete a comprehensive evaluation with the child and their parent/guardian. All diagnostic evaluations at Matilda Theiss evaluate the child in the context of the parent-child interaction. All evaluations completed through the Theiss Center consider the impact of trauma and chronic stress on children and families.

Child-Parent Psychotherapy (CPP)

Child-Parent Psychotherapy (CPP) is an empirically-supported treatment model to support young children from infancy through seven years old. CPP is a relationship-based treatment model. In other words, during CPP, the clinician engages in play and treatment with the child and parent. Evidence suggests that CPP is a culturally-sensitive treatment modality which positively impacts children’s behavioral and mental health outcomes while promoting protective factors and strengths, such as stable, warm relationships with parents.

Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT)

Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) is designed for children ages 2 through 7 years of age displaying challenging and disruptive behaviors. PCIT is designed to address the individual needs of families. PCIT is a treatment model which works with children and caregivers. PCIT is a program which requires parents to participate for one hour each week for 12-20 weeks. In addition, parents only need to dedicate 5 minutes per day at home to practice.

Child-Focused Individual Play Therapy

If deemed appropriate, play therapy will be provided by either a by a psychologist or under the supervision of a licensed psychologist. In non-directive or child-centered play therapy, the child leads the play in the session. Within sessions the child chooses how to spend their time. The play therapist offers unconditional positive regard, support, and empathy within a safe and consistent relationship with the therapist.

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