December 19, 2005
Recognizing that children who have been traumatized are often
more difficult to manage than others, and curious as to why that is
and how it could be addressed, Associate Professor of Psychology
Elissa J. Brown of St. John’s University’s Department
of Psychology designed a program to provide and evaluate
different forms of therapy for children who have been traumatized
and their parents.
The Prevention of Adverse Reactions To Negative Events and
Related Stress (PARTNERS) program, inaugurated in 2001, helps
parents learn effective ways to manage difficult behavior and, at
the same time, helps children and adolescents learn strategies to
handle their symptoms of anxiety, depression, and anger.
Because of her expertise in this area, Professor Brown was
recently awarded a $1.6 million grant from the Substance Abuse and
Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) of the U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services to provide and train staff
in pediatric and psychiatric departments throughout Queens and
Eastern Brooklyn to screen, evaluate, and treat traumatized
children and adolescents using state-of-the-art techniques. Along
with co-investigators at MediSys (which includes Flushing and
Jamaica Hospital Medical Centers, Brookdale University Hospital and
Medical Center, and a number of satellite clinics), PARTNERS will
become a community-based site in the National Child Traumatic
Stress Network, establishing the program on the local and national
According to Professor Brown, the children served by the
PARTNERS Program have been traumatized by abuse, domestic violence,
community violence, disasters and war/terrorism. Her goal for
the SAMHSA project is “to take evaluation and treatment services
that have a lot of empirical support to an inner city, culturally
diverse community who might not other have access to cutting-edge
services.” She intends to make “cultural adaptations so we can
properly serve the Asian, African, Caribbean and Latino
The psychology professor, a licensed clinical psychologist who
teaches on the graduate level in St. John’s College of Arts and
Sciences, has made the treatment of traumatized children her life’s
work. In 2001, she received a 5-year grant from the National
Institute of Mental Health to compare different types of therapy
for abused children and their caregivers. After the tragic
events of September 11th, 2001, she created a 9/11 Bereavement
Project that provided and tested therapies for children whose
fathers were killed in the line of duty (firefighters, Port
Authority workers, police officers, emergency medical services
workers) during the World Trade Center attacks on September 11th,
2001. Additionally, she has received funding from the New York
State Office of Mental Health to examine therapies for adolescent
trauma-survivors in an inpatient psychiatric hospital.
Almost 20 undergraduate and graduate students and post-doctoral
fellows are currently involved in the PARTNERS Program at St.
John’s. There will be opportunities for additional personnel as the
SAMHSA study rolls out. For example, undergraduate students will
have a critical role in engaging families of multicultural
backgrounds. All PARTNERS Program staff receive “comprehensive
training” and, according to Professor Brown, beyond the clinical
experience they’ll gain, students will also be mentored about
research, advocacy and real world application of her work.
For further information about the PARTNERS Program, Professor
Brown can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.