Every so often, a wealth of expertise finds its culmination in a body of work.
With the help of Health Forward Foundation, MOCSA is proud to report that, in early 2019, Rene McCreary, MOCSA’s Director of Counseling, did precisely this. After years of dedicated work, Rene has completed a handbook for mental health providers titled Youth with Sexual Behavior Problems: A Practical Guide for Therapists Working with Youth and Their Families.
This accessible, easy-to-read resource is intended for both new and seasoned therapists working with youth with sexually problematic behaviors (SPBs) and their families, and it was published nationally this year by NEARI Press, of the New England Adolescent Research Institute.
But the origins of the book reach farther back.
In fact, the treatment protocol outlined in the book is based on work catalyzed by a grant from the (then) Health Care Foundation — to initiate a program at MOCSA to provide a research-based treatment for youth with problematic sexual behaviors (YPSB). Children who act out sexually are often acting in response to trauma in their lives, and kids aged 6–14 in this “at risk” population are often mislabeled as “sex offenders.” Yet research shows they differ greatly: they can benefit substantially from counseling, and youth who receive treatment have extremely low recidivism rates.
At the same time, families, caregivers, first responders, and even service providers are often at a loss when responding to these youth, and they are often uniformed about how or where to get help.
As the Kansas City metro’s only sexual violence response center, MOCSA sought partnership with Health Forward in 2008 to begin providing treatment for YPSB locally. Health Forward provided the capacity, flexibility, and encouragement to seek and implement evidence-based methods with fidelity, while innovating and adapting the program to meet the needs and constraints of local families.
Together, MOCSA’s Counseling Department and Health Forward explored new ways to serve youth and their families, and inform other service providers in their response.
And it worked.
Over the course of a decade, the program has achieved local results and received national attention. With support from federal funding, MOCSA created a Jackson County multidisciplinary team to respond to youth, and we became a pilot center to test the University of Oklahoma’s Problematic Sexual Behavior Cognitive Behavioral therapy (PSB-CBT) protocol — the only evidence-based treatment program at the time to serve these youth.
MOCSA’s leadership also provided insights to the Missouri governor’s Task Force on the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse. The work also helped inspire the implementation of Missouri Senate Bill 341 in 2015, establishing guidelines for the Children’s Division in conducting family assessments and services for reports of juveniles with problem sexual behaviors.
In 2017 and 2018, the Missouri Children’s Justice Act program asked MOCSA to help replicate this model across the state, by providing training to juvenile officers and therapists in Missouri on developing multidisciplinary teams to address YPSB. In 2018, our work with the national Raliance partnership to expand YPSB services in the foster system was recognized by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.
At the core of this growth — and the book — was the programming honed at MOCSA. Over the last 10 years, the treatment protocol developed in-house drew on cutting-edge research regarding the most effective therapeutic interventions for treating youth with SPBs.
MOCSA implemented the OU-PSB-CBT model with fidelity, incorporated practical skills training for both youth and caregivers, and developed key evaluation metrics to measure children’s success. McCreary’s Practical Guide outlines the treatment methods, and it also provides practical activities for reducing SPBs, strengthening family interactions, and improving parents’ supervision and communication practices — all to help therapists feel more equipped to support and treat these families and youth, and to help children heal.
Between the multidisciplinary team approach pioneered by MOCSA and the Kansas City community, and the treatment method outlined in the book, our community is now at the center of a national movement to respond effectively to children who exhibit problematic sexual behaviors and get them the help they and their families need.
Behind all of this was Health Forward Foundation: providing the initial funding, the ongoing support, and the communicative openness that let MOCSA find powerful ways to reach a misunderstood population.
As a partner invested not just in the stewardship of funding but in the lives of people in our community, Health Forward has enhanced MOCSA’s ability to remain on the forefront of research and provide evidence-based treatments to clients.
As the YPSB program continues to make an impact for countless families and youth locally, this newly published book captures the successes we have made together in Kansas City—now making the impact achievable for therapists, service providers, and health care funders everywhere.