As a Behavioral Counselor at the Child Mind Institute, my first fieldwork experience in psychology has been the most fulfilling one to date. Initially intimidated about making mistakes while working with children with ADHD and autism, I began training on June 28th, where I learned specific techniques and methods for setting children up for success. The Summer Program format is based on the Summer Treatment Program (STP) model, an intensive summer day treatment program for children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and related disorders, which has been in existence since 1980 and is now running in about 14 universities and other settings throughout North America and Japan. As a Behavioral Counselor, my job is to implement the treatment!
By providing intensive treatment in a natural setting, the STP effectively evaluates and treats children’s difficulties in peer relationships. The program offers 120 hours of treatment in four weeks, which is more than a child with ADHD would receive in two years of typical outpatient treatment. After completing two weeks of training, including team bonding, ADHD education, and learning about standardized and individual treatment plans, I began working with the campers on July 10th. I immediately observed positive behavior modification as a result of the training. The Summer Program uses many forms of positive reinforcement throughout the day to shape behavior. We use the point system, parental rewards for positive daily report cards, and social reinforcement given by staff and parents. Staff members employ ubiquitous social reinforcement in the form of praise and public recognition to provide a positive, supportive atmosphere for the children. I attempt to shape appropriate behavior by issuing effective commands in ways that are known to maximize compliance in children with ADHD. I also lead training in social skills for the children provided in brief sessions at the beginning of each day and reviewed before each recreational activity. Sessions include direct instruction, modeling, role-playing, and practice in the key concepts of communication, participation, cooperation, and social reinforcement. Children’s use of social skills is prompted and reinforced through the point system and individualized programs throughout treatment. The blending together of all of these components focused on improving peer relationships is a key part of enhancing change and generalization to the natural environment. A summer treatment program, such as Child Mind’s Summer Program, is one of the few settings in which all these approaches can be practically integrated into a context that is a close approximation to the child’s natural environment, and I am absolutely honored to be a part of it.
The World of Work differs vastly from my academic life. Though my coursework briefly covered psychology topics, working directly with students has allowed me to fully immerse myself in the subject matter. I find it incredibly fulfilling to develop children’s problem-solving abilities, social skills, and social awareness to help them better get along with others. Throughout the day, I use a reward system in which children receive points for appropriate behavior and lose points for inappropriate behavior. While I learned about positive reinforcement and active ignoring in my psychology courses, carrying it out has been even more satisfying. This experience has taught me that I want to establish a career in psychology. It is the discipline I want to pursue in my future career plans and any future involvement. I am building such a rich and fulfilling foundation for my career in psychology, and I could not be more grateful for this fellowship to help me pursue my goals.