Get IN Chicago worked with Lurie Children’s Hospital to provide technical assistance for cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) programs over the past year.  Lurie experts worked alongside therapists and program managers to learn about the strengths, challenges, and opportunities of each CBT program funded by Get IN Chicago.  Their work included needs assessments, progress monitoring, and coordinating Professional Learning Collaborative (PLC) meetings, where service providers learned new skills and exchanged ideas.

Surveys conducted by Lurie showed that the PLCs were appreciated and successful.  Of the nine PLCs over the course of the year, five of the six programs had near-perfect attendance – quite a feat for therapists also working multiple sites across the city.  Additionally, 90% of participants rated the PLC content as very good or excellent.

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At the CBT Year End Expo, staff members had high compliments for the Lurie team.  “Working with Lurie allowed us to boost our clinical piece,” noted A.J. Watson, Program Director at Youth Guidance.  “They helped us brainstorm how to quantify the secret sauce of B.A.M.: the relationship between counselors and participants.”

Other speakers appreciated the opportunity for reflection and improvement that the sessions provided, especially during the Illinois budget crisis.  Youth Guidance’s W.O.W. program used Lurie assistance to flesh out the therapeutic content of its socio-emotional learning sessions, strengthen their selection criteria, and develop progress monitoring tools.  At Primo Center, support helped the team balance the core components of CBT with the needs of their high-need youth.

“Given that the curricula that we utilize were not normed on urban youth, we made necessary adaptations to meet the youth where they are,” said Dr. Kimberly Lewis, Program Director at Primo. “This helped us help our youth, but it also impacted our organizational environment and institutions.”

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Organizations noted challenges associated with working in school settings.  Healthcare Alternative Systems, for example, shared that while their youth were highly engaged (initial numbers suggested 98% retention), working at school made it difficult to contact youth during critical after school or summer hours.  And while initial measurement suggested that Chicago School of Professional Psychology’s program reduced suspensions and increased graduation rates, staff mentioned that the school environment posed obstacles to family involvement and referrals.

Get IN Chicago took the feedback, observations, and reports from therapists, program staff, Lurie team, and additional partners the past year into account when creating an updated plan for the coming year.  As a result, Get IN Chicago will work with five CBT organizations to train staff and implement community-based SPARCS programs this fall.  SPARCS is a promising intervention that aims to reduce trauma and aggression in adolescents experiencing chronic stress.

Last year, Children’s Home + Aid used SPARCS in Englewood and West Englewood and found that their youth responded well to the concrete problem-solving and communication exercises embedded in the curriculum.  Additionally, SPARCS has shown demonstrated impacts on justice-involved and foster care youth, making it an excellent candidate for impact with Get IN Chicago’s core group of acutely high-risk youth. We look forward to sharing more updates about the CBT cohort’s next steps in the coming months.

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