Psychology grad students get first-hand experience on how families deal with trauma

Eye Live Training

Associate Professor of Psychology, Dr. Ediza Garcia, led a two-day training for graduate students pursing a Master’s degree on Counseling Psychology and clinicians from the TAMIU Student Counseling Center.

The session was meant to train students on a family intervention model called FOCUS (Families Overcoming Under Stress).

“This is an intervention that works with families. What it does is in eight sessions we promote resilience through developing a family narrative, through teaching emotional regulation skills, and teaching communication,” Garcia said.

The intervention model was created for families that are at risk or that have experienced a significant stress or trauma. “We have used it with a lot of military and veteran families that have under gone the wear and tear of multiple separations and deployments,” Garcia said.

According to Garcia, during the first two sessions the parents are provided with developmental guidance, on how to do effective parenting, how to promote family closeness, and they tell the story about what’s been happening with their families. Then, two other sessions are done with the children only, educating them on how to tell their stories. On session five, the counselors meet with the parents again to prepare them on how to respond adequately when they hear their kids talk about their problems. In the last two sessions the entire family comes together.

During the trainings they work with families in foster care, families in which the child has a pediatric illness like cancer or a heart transplant, and deportation.

The model was implemented through UCLA. Garcia received a grant, which allowed her permission to train actual students for the first time.

“We trained students here, who are working on their Master’s in Counseling Psychology. We have clinicians from the Student Counseling Center that I invited to participate in the training as well,” Garcia said. In total 27 persons participated in the training, including 19 graduate students.

Garcia mentioned the training gives graduate students skills to know what to do when a family goes in for treatment. During the training, participants learned fundamental first-hand information about trauma and its impact on family resilience.

The students who attended the training can start implementing a group supervision or model consultation, which Garcia will lead for everybody interested in getting a certification on the FOCUS model.

According to Garcia, once the students have seen five families under group supervision they can get their certification and use it on their own practice.

Garcia is currently starting an IRB process to study the effects of the intervention model on local families. “My goal is to do a study of the intervention with the Laredo community families and I know that there’s a lot of adversity and stress that all families face, but some particularly specific things that occur here in Laredo,” she explained.