CUCARD's mission is to provide mental health services with the strongest scientific support for providing relief from disability and distress. Our clinicians may recommend that certain individuals and/or families participate in one of our specialized programs.
Please click the links below to learn more.
Throughout CUCARD’s history, Dr. Albano and her team have focused not just on reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression, but also helping patients develop skills needed to succeed in life. With the generous support of our donors, CUCARD has developed “LEAP: The Launching Emerging Adults Program". This new treatment expands on traditional cognitive-behavioral exposure therapy by integrating skills needed to help the millennial generation thrive in adulthood. The LEAP program is designed for families struggling with “failure to launch” issues including transition from high school to college, work and career problems, family conflict, limitations in friendships and romantic relationships, and limited independence. Through the LEAP program, we assist parents in letting go of their emerging adult while they take on the challenges of growing into independence.
In 2013, the LEAP model became the cornerstone psychological treatment of the New York Presbyterian Hospital's Youth Anxiety Center (YAC), a new, landmark collaborative program that focuses on the unique needs of young adults with anxiety and related disorders.
The ABC Program at CUCARD is here to help families with young children (ages 2-8) who are struggling with anxiety, behavioral challenges, or a combination of both. Unlike learning the alphabet, helping young children to face fears and regulate their emotions is a skill that is not taught in schools. Fortunately, there are evidence-based techniques available for parents in need of support. Our team of early childhood experts offers comprehensive diagnostic assessments, consultations, and treatment programs that are tailored to meet the needs of your child. All ABC evaluation and treatment services are now also available via telehealth.
The ABC Program at CUCARD teaches parents how to respond most effectively to the day-to-day, moment-to-moment challenges of raising children with anxiety and behavioral disorders. Treatments will emphasize parenting skills training and live coaching of parent-child interactions, as informed by Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT), a gold standard, empirically-supported treatment for disruptive behavior. Learn more about PCIT. The ABC program utilizes PCIT as the foundation for several treatments for a broad range of early childhood anxiety and behavioral disorders.
The ABC Program can help your child with:
Anxiety Challenges: PCIT-CALM
The CALM Program (Coaching Approach behavior and Leading by Modeling), developed at CUCARD by Jonathan Comer, Ph.D., Anthony Puliafico, Ph.D., and Anne Marie Albano, Ph.D., is an evidence-based cognitive-behavioral treatment used to address anxiety disorders in young children ages 2-7.
The CALM Program is a modification of Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT). PCIT-CALM is a specialized treatment that includes live, real-time coaching in which the therapist guides the parent via a bug-in-the-ear to respond most effectively to their child’s anxious behaviors. The CALM Program addresses the needs of young children presenting with separation anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and/or specific phobias.
The CALM Program is delivered using a behavioral parent training approach, and the therapist meets weekly with both the child and their parents. During these sessions, the therapist teaches parents specific skills to encourage and reward their child’s “brave behavior.” The CALM Program is unique in that the therapist also provides individualized, in-the-moment parent coaching to assist parents in using these skills during interactions with their anxious child. Through this program, the parents become key agents of change in supporting their child in developing coping skills and mastery over their anxiety. Length of treatment varies, but typically families in our program participate in 12-16 weekly 60-minute treatment sessions.
Treatment goals include:
Behavioral Challenges: Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT)
Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) is a specialized therapy program developed by Sheila Eyberg, PhD and Cheryl McNeil, PhD. It is designed to treat young children with behavior problems, such as defiance, aggression, or tantrums. PCIT involves working with parents and their young children to improve the quality and consistency of parent-child interactions, to improve child compliance, and to reduce disruptive behavior.
What distinguishes PCIT from other forms of treatment for disruptive behavior disorders is the active coaching component. While other forms of treatment involve education and instruction regarding effective parenting techniques, in PCIT parents practice these skills while receiving live, active coaching by their PCIT therapist.
PCIT is conducted in two phases. During the first phase, called Child-Directed Interaction, parents learn and then subsequently practice play therapy skills which are designed to enhance the parent-child relationship, improve children’s social skills, and encourage positive behaviors, all while decreasing attention-seeking behaviors. The second phase, Parent-Directed Interactions, involves learning and practicing structured and effective techniques for disciplining child misbehavior. During this phase, parents learn how to give commands, use time-out as an effective punishment, and enforce the rules of their home.
PCIT is often a short-term treatment, with some families requiring as few as twelve 60-minute treatment sessions. Numerous research studies have shown strong evidence supporting PCIT as an effective and efficient treatment for children with disruptive behavior, with child behavior improvement remaining long after treatment has ended.
Treatment goals include:
Combined Anxiety & Behavioral Challenges: Brave START
Brave START (Skills Training & Anxiety Reduction Treatment), developed by Steve Mazza, PhD, Phyllis Ohr, PhD, and Anne Marie Albano, PhD, was specifically designed to help children that exhibit a combination of anxiety and disruptive behavior. Brave START synthesizes the most important elements of Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) and the CALM program (Coaching Approach behaviors by Leading and Modeling). It is the first transdiagnostic, modular, PCIT-informed treatment for children aged 2-7.
As with PCIT and CALM, Brave START is a behavioral parent training program in which the therapist meets weekly with the child and parents together. During these sessions, the therapist coaches parents to use specific skills to encourage and reward their child’s brave and respectful behavior, without inadvertently rewarding anxious and disruptive behavior. Brave START was designed to treat children presenting with separation anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, selective mutism, obsessive compulsive disorder, specific phobias, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and oppositional defiant disorder.
Whereas PCIT and CALM have two phases of treatment each, Brave START has three: a Child-Directed Interaction phase (in which basic skills are taught and the parent-child relationship is strengthened), a Bravery-Directed Interaction phase (in which anxiety is targeted), and a Parent-Directed Interaction phase (in which oppositional behavior is targeted).
Because Brave START is a modular program, the focus and sequence of treatment modules is flexible and dependent on each child’s unique presentation. This highly individualized approach teaches parents the skills necessary to help their child face their fears while also setting limits when appropriate. Optional modules can also be implemented to focus on various manifestations of anxiety, including perfectionism, excessive worrying and reassurance seeking, in-school interventions, and more.
Treatment goals include:
ABC Telehealth Services
All ABC evaluation and treatment programs are available via telehealth. Internet-based treatments provide several benefits to families, including improved convenience and increased "ecological validity" (the ability to generalize clinic-based research findings to real-world settings). Telehealth services enable families to learn and apply new skills and behaviors in the setting that often matters most: the home.
Parent Skills Training with Supplemental Live Coaching
Some challenges of early childhood are best treated with parent skills training, in which parents participate in most sessions without their child present. This is particularly appropriate when the behavioral challenges are mild or difficult to reproduce within the clinic setting (e.g., hair-pulling, skin-picking, picky eating, and behaviorally-based sleep disturbances). When applicable, live coaching of parent-child interactions can occur within the clinic on an as-needed basis or from clinic-to-home via telehealth video conferences. With the rise of telehealth, ABC now offers live "homework coaching" to parents who struggle to keep their children engaged and focused during academic tasks.
ABC Early Childhood Parenting Group
This weekly group, for parents of children aged 3-8, teaches parents to address the Anxiety & Behavioral Challenges (ABC's) of early childhood. Parents learn to respond effectively to a variety of childhood difficulties, including anxious, attention-seeking behaviors, and oppositional behavior. Caretakers learn parenting principles and evidence-based strategies that apply across a broad range of concerns, including tantrums, emotional sensitivity, noncompliance, and anxious avoidance. The ABC Parenting Group prepares parents to handle the various day-to-day and big-picture challenges that arise during the formative years of early childhood.
Parents and caretakers learn the following skills:
The Program for ADHD & Behavioral Disorders at CUCARD offers a multi-modal treatment approach for children, comprised of a combination of a comprehensive diagnostic evaluation, parent training, school consultation, medication consultation, and cognitive behavioral therapy.
Comprehensive Diagnostic Evaluations
Children with behavioral disorders often present with underlying disorders that can be identified with specialized and comprehensive diagnostic evaluations. Our expert diagnosticians gather pertinent information in an effort to arrive at the most accurate diagnosis that will guide the most effective evidence-based treatments.
Parent Training programs have been shown through research to be the most effective treatments for child behavioral disorders. Parents learn specific skills on how to respond to their children in an effective manner, including:
We offer the following parent training interventions:
Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT)
PCIT is a gold-standard treatment for young children with disruptive behaviors. PCIT provides parents with live coaching to adapt their parenting skills.
Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) is a specialized therapy program designed to treat young children with behavior problems, such as defiance, aggression, or tantrums. PCIT involves working with parents and their young children to learn more effective ways of positively interacting, improve child compliance, and reduce disruptive behavior.
What separates PCIT from other forms of child treatment is the active coaching component. While other forms of treatment involve education and instruction regarding effective parenting techniques, in PCIT parents practice these skills while receiving live, active coaching by their PCIT therapist.
PCIT is conducted in two phases. During the first phase, Child-Directed Interactions, parents learn and then subsequently practice play therapy skills which are designed to enhance the parent-child relationship, improve child social skills, and encourage good behavior, while simultaneously cultivating parent attention as a powerful reward. The second phase, Parent-Directed Interactions, involves learning and practicing structured and effective techniques for disciplining child misbehavior. During this phase, parents learn how to give commands, use time-out as an effective punishment, and enforce the rules of their home.
PCIT is often a short-term treatment, with some families requiring as few as 12 treatment sessions. Numerous research studies have shown strong evidence supporting PCIT as an effective and efficient treatment for children with disruptive behavior, with child behavior improvement remaining long after treatment has ended.
At CUCARD, we also offer the CALM program, an adaptation of PCIT for families with young, anxious children ages 3 to 8 years of age. The Coaching Approach behavior and Leading through Modeling program was developed by CUCARD staff and is appropriate for families with children presenting with separation anxiety, extreme shyness and social anxiety, fears of specific situations (e.g., the dark, animals, doctors, clowns), selective mutism (refusal to speak outside of the home), and other anxiety conditions.
Parent Management Training (PMT)
PMT is an evidence-based treatment for disruptive and explosive children ages 3-14. PMT can be offered in individual and group session formats.
Parent Management Training (PMT) is an evidence-based treatment for disruptive, non-compliant, aggressive, and oppositional children between the ages of 3-14. It teaches parents specific behavioral skills designed to increase appropriate behaviors and reduce negative behaviors in disruptive children. Research shows that when these steps are applied, it results in improved behavioral compliance, arguing, tantrums, and parent-child interaction.
PMT is a skill-based treatment that gives parents concrete tools to deal more effectively with their disruptive child. Each PMT session focuses on teaching a new skill that parents can utilize toward their children right away. Time is spent during each session discussing why coercive parenting methods are ineffective, explaining how PMT skills work, and then actually practicing these skills in session.
What are the specific skills taught?
Length of treatment depend on several factors. Some parents experiencing mild non-compliance with their children can see significant improvements within 10 sessions. Parents whose children present with more significant non-compliance and aggression tend to require longer treatment. The decision to end PMT will be made collaboratively with the therapist and parents when the parents feel comfortable with implementing the skills consistently and the child’s behavior has improved.
It is important to note that parents are the primary focus in treatment in PMT. This means that, although we may try to incorporate your child during specific sessions, your child does not necessarily have to be seen during the course of treatment. In fact, research shows that PMT can be just as effective without the child ever being present as if he or she is routinely involved in sessions. The decision to include your child in treatment in addition to PMT will be discussed between parents and the therapist.
School Teacher Behavioral Consultation
Given that children with behavioral disorders often exhibit symptoms in school, it is at times necessary to target these behaviors directly. Our team consults directly with teachers to offer effective behavior management skills, including a positive behavior system.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
CBT for children with anger, impulsive aggression, and other disruptive behaviors, when combined with parent training, can produce long- term improvement, especially for children over 8 years of age. In CBT, greater emphasis is placed on teaching the child skills to cope with his/her emotions more appropriately. Typical skills taught in CBT to reduce anger are:
What Would Treatment Look Like for Your Child?
School refusal behavior is defined as a child or adolescent's refusal to attend classes or difficulty remaining in school for an entire day. Children often refuse school due to strong feelings of anxiety, such as fears of separating from their parents or caregivers or fear of negative evaluation by others, or due to feelings of depression or sadness that may or may not be linked to a specific stressor or event.
The School Refusal Program offers an accelerated treatment program for children and adolescents who are struggling to attend school consistently due to anxiety. The School Refusal Program begins with a clinical psychologist interviewing the child and parents in order to determine the nature of the child's problems. Next, depending on the history of the child's problem with the school, a review of the child's school records as well as a consultation with the child's school may occur. Next, our staff psychologist will consult with the school refusal clinical team to review all of the information together and make the determination as to whether the School Refusal Program would be appropriate for the child and family as a treatment option. At times, referrals for neuropsychological or psychoeducational evaluation may be requested, if there is a suspicion of a specific learning issue affecting the child's ability to attend school comfortably.
Treatment is tailored to match the child's specific needs, with the immediate goal of returning the child to school as quickly as possible. Youth will attend weekly individual therapy sessions targeting consistent school attendance. Depending on the child's concerns, individual treatment may involve gradual exposure to feared situations, skills training, anxiety management training, or behavioral activation to combat depression. Parents are also involved in sessions as necessary to learn strategies for supporting their child’s progress.
In CUCARD Westchester’s School Refusal Program, parents attend weekly parenting workshops to learn the tools and behavior management skills necessary to facilitate their child’s school attendance. The program offers also additional support to families including school consultation, school visits, and individual case support. Clinicians are available “on-call” to provide phone coaching to families on school mornings (7:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.), and participating youth are able to complete schoolwork in the clinic with guidance from CUCARD Westchester staff if they are unable to attend school on any given day.
Medication is used as first-line and adjunctive evidence-based treatment for anxiety, depressive and mood disorders. Research studies in children and adolescents, as well as adults, have shown that for some disorders the combination of medication and CBT is the most effective treatment. The Columbia University Clinic for Anxiety and Related Disorders (CUCARD) provides medication consultation, management, and expert second opinion evaluations.
CUCARD has partnered with a technology startup company, Headset Health, to develop a novel immersive virtual reality (VR) program. Our program, among the first of its kind, was designed for use with adolescents and emerging adults struggling with social anxiety and/or the transition the college. Our virtual scenarios allow for skill-building and exposure to a range of anxiety-provoking situations that are otherwise challenging to recreate in the clinic.
Current VR scenarios include:
Skills targeted include:
CUCARD clinicians are currently using VR during both the assessment and treatment process, in both individual and group formats. Our VR scenarios are customizable, allowing for variation in difficulty level and overall experience. Thus, patients and therapists can work together to tailor the virtual experience based on current skill level, degree of anxiety, and/or current treatment goals.
While we are one of the first clinics in the area to use VR for social anxiety and college transition issues, virtual reality-based exposure therapy has been extensively researched and found to be beneficial for a range of anxiety disorders, including:
For more information, please contact Dr. Lauren Hoffman at 212-342-0969.
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Give us a call at 212-342-3800, or visit our contact page for more information.
Find out what you need to know as a first-time visitor to the Columbia University Clinic for Anxiety and Related Disorders (CUCARD).