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Paid summer fellowships available for graduate students

Wednesday, March 28th, 2018

ITR’s fellowship program provides three graduate students with summer support to pursue collaborative research projects involving the development or expansion of evidence-based prevention or treatment interventions in children’s mental health. The program supports ITR’s interdisciplinary, team-based approach to cultivating new ways of solving problems in children’s mental health.

Types of awards: Collaborative research proposals may involve the use of secondary data or a new research proposal. Projects will not be awarded that are solely literature reviews.

Fellowship award: Students will receive a $4,000 summer stipend with an expectation to commit 20-25 hours/week (June-August 2018) to a research project under the direction of an ITR faculty member. It is expected that students will work toward a finished project, such as a conference proposal, article, or grant application. Students must attend ITR colloquia meetings during the 2018-2019 academic year, as well as give a project presentation at a fall colloquium. This is a one-time award. Students who have previously received ITR fellowships are not eligible to apply.

ITR faculty project advisor: Interested students should collaborate with and identify an ITR faculty member.

Apply: Please apply using the 2018 ITR fellowship application form and submit to Chris Bray ( by noon on April 9.

Read more about our 2017 winners here.


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Wednesday, January 17th, 2018

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Colloquium: ​Trauma in Autism Spectrum Disorder

Wednesday, January 17th, 2018

The event has passed. View the presentation slides here.


While the path from trauma exposure, to effect, to treatment is relatively well understood for typically developing children, we know much less about this path for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).

As part of ITR’s colloquium series, we are excited to host researchers Dr. Adriana Herrera and Dr. John Hoch to discuss their recent work on identifying trauma exposure and traumatic stress among children with ASD.

WHEN: Monday, February 26 | Noon to 1:30 p.m.
WHERE: ITR Offices, 1100 S Washington Avenue, Suite 102 (map)
WHO: Dr. Adriana Herrera, ITR, and Dr. John Hoch, Fraser

Free parking is available and light refreshments will be served.

Drs. Herrera and Koch looked at currently identified prevalence and risk factors for trauma
exposure in ASD in order to understand the prevalence of trauma reporting among a clinical population.

The project aimed to improve detection of trauma exposure and traumatic stress reactions in children with ASD and to better understand their risk factors and behavioral expression of trauma. The results of the research will inform treatment of trauma among children with ASD.

The research was funded by ITR’s seed grant program, which seeks to kickstart innovative ideas that have a likely chance of becoming larger, sustained research projects with external funding to improve mental health outcomes among Minnesota’s children. Learn more at

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Center for Resilient Families training underway

Friday, August 11th, 2017

ITR’s Center for Resilient Families is adapting and putting into practice five parenting interventions that have been found through rigorous testing to be effective at strengthening resilience among traumatized families. The Center’s first training, in partnership with Implementation Sciences International Inc., is training professionals who work with families in the well-researched intervention Parent Management Training – Oregon Model (PMTO). The training got underway August 7-10 and will conclude with another week-long training in September.

To learn more about the Center and future trainings it will offer, visit

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2017 Seed Grants Announced

Thursday, August 10th, 2017

We are excited to announce the recipients of the 2017 Collaborative Seed Grant Program. These grants — $20,000 or less with a one-year time frame — support small research projects that advance the use of evidence-based practices in addressing pressing issues for children’s mental health. Each project partners with community organizations in Minnesota.  The goal of the program is to kickstart innovative ideas that have a likely chance of becoming larger, sustained research projects with external funding to improve mental health outcomes among Minnesota’s children.

Our mission at the Institute for Translational Research in Children’s Mental Health (ITR) is to advance quality research, train practitioners in evidence-based practices, and disseminate information to help bridge the gap between research and practice in our field.

Mindfulness Training for Juvenile Diversion Youth

Community Principal Investigator: Hal Pickett, Director of Client Services, Headway Emotional Health Services

ITR Principal Investigator: Timothy Piehler, Assistant Professor, UMN Department of Family Social Science

This exciting project aims to reduce conduct disorder among adolescents in juvenile justice diversion programs. The study seeks to adapt a mindfulness-focused intervention called Learning to Breathe for this audience in order to improve adolescent self control. The project will use an experimental design known as a “microtrial” to gauge specific effects of the intervention, which could be a precursor to a full randomized control trial.

Excerpt from the abstract:

“Juvenile diversion programs serve as an important gateway in identifying youth at high risk for escalations in conduct problems. However, the vast majority of diversion programming currently being provided is not evidence-based, in part because there are few evidence-based programs developed specifically for this population and setting…The proposed research seeks to innovate conduct disorder prevention in the context of juvenile diversion through several strategies…The proposed microtrial will evaluate the ability of mindfulness-based skills training to impact self-control within an adolescent diversion population. …

The proposed research project represents a collaboration between a University of Minnesota research team and Headway Emotional Health Services, a community mental health agency that provides pre-court juvenile diversion services for youth offenders. The study will involve a randomized trial investigating an evidence-based mindfulness intervention (Learning to Breathe; LTB) for juvenile diversion-referred youth.”

Read the full abstract here.

Foundational Research for a Parenting Mobile App with Biofeedback for Latine Parents

Community Principal Investigator: Roxana Linares, Executive Director, Centro Tyrone Guzman and Veronica Svetaz, Medical Director, Aqui Para Ti

ITR Principal Investigator: Jennifer Doty, Postdoctoral Fellow, UMN Department of Pediatrics

This project will build and test a mobile app version of Padres Informados, a skills-based parenting intervention for Latine immigrants. The work will lay the groundwork for a robust app that includes wearable technology to provide biofeedback to parents as they go through the program.

Excerpt from the abstract:

“The long-term goal of this research is to reduce depression, anxiety, and substance use among Latino adolescents through a mobile application with parenting content and personal biofeedback. The goal of this proposal is to build and test a baseline mobile application with a skills-based parenting curriculum for Latine immigrants, Padres Informados. …

The first aim is to build the baseline application and test the prototype that has already been developed in interviews with 20-30 parents who completed an earlier survey. … The second aim is to assess the functionality of the baseline mobile app and the acceptability of using a wearable.

The mobile app will have the potential of increasing community accessibility to evidence-based parenting programs and enhancing existing delivery of the program by providing mobile supplementary information and goal tracking capabilities.”

Read the full abstract here.

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National Children’s Alliance highlights Center for Resilient Families

Monday, June 19th, 2017

The National Children’s Alliance recently featured Dr. Abi Gewirtz, Director of ITR and the Center for Resilient Families Director, discussing the Center’s work to reach children through their parents.

From Dr. Gewirtz’s post:

It’s no great surprise that much of our work in advocating for the well-being of children focuses on, well, the children—how to interact with them, how to help them manage stress and trauma, how to recognize symptoms and identify treatments.

However, a large body of evidence shows that intervening with parents to strengthen parenting can have enormously positive effects for the entire family, and that those beneficial effects only grow over time. This insight has had a strong influence on me, and I’ve spent much of my career developing, adapting, and disseminating tools to help parents become more effective in order to improve mental health outcomes for children.

It was a native of my adopted home, Minnesota, who really pioneered the idea that improving parenting is one of the most effective ways to improve children’s wellbeing. Dr. Gerald Patterson returned from service in World War II with an acute interest in how families get into trouble, and particularly what circumstances lead to delinquency in young people. He took a rigorous scientific approach to the problem and, unlike many other researchers of his day, didn’t just rely on what parents told him about how they parented. Over his career Patterson and his teams videotaped and meticulously analyzed thousands of hours of parent-child interactions to understand what leads children astray. Later, Patterson, together with his life partner Marion Forgatch and other colleagues at Oregon Social Learning Center, used that information to develop a model for more effective parenting.

The model was based on the idea of “coercive parenting”—an unhealthy and unproductive way of interacting with children. For a simple example, imagine a stressed-out mother returns from work to find her child playing video games instead of doing homework. The mother asks why the child isn’t doing homework, the child responds that there is no homework, the mother escalates the situation, yells at the child, and the child yells back at the mother. The conflict might end with one party yelling louder and the other giving up. Patterson found a strong correlation between the level of coercive parenting and subsequent poor child outcomes like substance abuse, arrests, and poor school performance.

Patterson, Forgatch, and their teams developed a set of parenting techniques that avoid coercion—like positive reinforcement or small, non-physical punishments like time-out or privilege removal—and found through research that training parents in these techniques yielded positive outcomes among children. This work resulted in the Parent Management Training – Oregon model (PMTO), a landmark evidence-based parenting intervention that teaches parents productive and healthy ways to be their children’s best teachers. PMTO has been adopted throughout the world and has been adapted by other researchers to serve more specific audiences, including military parents, Latinx immigrants, and parents of traumatized children.

Yet despite the widespread evidence of the effectiveness of PMTO and other parent-focused interventions, these evidence-based practices are not as widely used as they should be. I am excited to lead a new center funded by SAMHSA’s National Child Traumatic Stress Network, dedicated to putting trauma-informed PTMO and several other parent-focused interventions into the hands of practitioners throughout the country who can use them to improve parenting to support families affected by traumatic stressors. The Center for Resilient Families will put five leading parent-focused interventions into practice by providing tuition-free training to mental health practitioners around the country.

Read the full post here.

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Ambit Network Fall Conference: The importance of parenting in highly stressed children and families

Tuesday, June 13th, 2017

A growing body of research has shown how working with parents can improve mental health outcomes for children exposed to traumatic stress, and an upcoming half-day conference from the University of Minnesota’s Ambit Network and Center for Resilient Families will highlight cutting edge work in this field. Reserve your spot at

The conference will take place the morning of Friday, Sept. 15, at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Titled The importance of parenting in highly stressed children and families, it will feature keynote presenter Dr. Marion Forgatch, a key developer of Parent Management Training – the Oregon Model (PMTO), a landmark evidence-based prevention intervention that has been implemented around the world. Center for Resilient Families Director Abi Gewirtz and clinical psychologist Dr. BraVada Garrett-Akinsanya will also present.

Dr. Forgatch and her life partner, Minnesota-native Dr. Gerald Patterson, developed PMTO based on analysis of thousands of hours of footage documenting parent-child interactions to understand what leads children astray. PMTO is based on 40 years of research and has been shared with more than 50,000 families from all socioeconomic backgrounds, cultures, and family types throughout the world. It has been adapted by other researchers to serve more specific audiences, including military parents, Latinx immigrants, and parents of traumatized children. Dr. Forgatch is Senior Scientist Emerita at Oregon Social Learning Center and founder of Implementation Sciences International, Inc.

Dr. Abi Gewirtz, director of both Ambit Network and Center for Resilient Families, is one of the many researchers influenced by PMTO and is the lead developer of After Deployment: Adaptive Parenting Tools, a PMTO-based prevention intervention for military families. Dr. Gewirtz will present on her use of mindfulness research in parenting prevention interventions.

Dr. BraVada Garrett-Akinsanya, a licensed clinical psychologist and Executive Director of the African American Child Wellness Institute, will present on an innovative culturally-specific parenting program she is involved in. The program, called Project Murua:  A Pre-meditated Parenting Boot Camp, is a 10-week intensive Afrocentric violence prevention and wellness promotion parent education and training program.

Minnesota Department of Human Services Commissioner Emily Piper will make opening remarks.

The conference will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the Hyundai Club room at U.S. Bank Stadium in downtown Minneapolis. Accessible parking is available near the stadium. Refreshments will be served and an optional stadium tour will take place afterward. The registration fee is $25 and space is limited – reserve your spot today at

The conference is part of the Center for Resilient Families’ mission to implement parent-focused interventions and raise awareness about the importance of parenting in children’s mental health. Both the Center for Resilient Families and the Ambit Network are part of the Institute for Translational Research in Children’s Mental Health at the University of Minnesota. Learn more at

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Exciting news from ITR & Family Innovations

Monday, June 13th, 2016

The Institute for Translational Research in Children’s Mental Health (ITR) is excited to announce an affiliation between the University of Minnesota and the Family Innovations Counseling and Training Center, which will be located at ITR. This affiliation will allow for the provision of evidence-based mental health services for children and families in a convenient location while providing hands-on training for students preparing for a career in mental health.

The affiliation with the clinic serves ITR’s goals of translating discoveries in children’s mental health research into practice, and providing training in evidence-based practices that students often have difficulty finding for their practicum experience.

Family Innovations is excited to announce the opening of a new counseling and training center in Minneapolis. Located on University of Minnesota property on Washington Avenue, just blocks off of Interstate 35-W, with free parking and with a bus stop directly in front of the clinic, it is easily accessible to people living or working in downtown Minneapolis, and in the surrounding communities. With its location on the corner of Washington Avenue and 11th Avenue, just three blocks north of the new US Bank Stadium, near the Depot, and only blocks from the Hennepin County Government Center, it is convenient for commuters coming into or leaving downtown Minneapolis before or after work, students at the University of Minnesota, and for families and individuals living in and around this area. Daytime and evening appointments are available.

Family Innovations has been providing quality mental health care in the Twin Cities area since 2001. We currently have eleven outpatient clinics in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. We also serve the nine county metropolitan area with home based mental health services to children and families, and for adults.  Family Innovations is known for its excellent care to clients of all ages, including children, families, and to those with relationship concerns.

Our Minneapolis clinic will have fully licensed mental health therapists to work with individuals and families, including children, teenagers, and adults. Additionally, through an affiliation agreement with the University of Minnesota, it provides clinical training for University students enrolled in health sciences programs in the College of Human Education and Development. Their work will typically be observed and supported by other experienced and licensed professionals. Therapists at Family Innovations are highly trained, and many have additional expertise in a variety of Evidence-Based Practices for either children or adults.  A core service provided at the Minneapolis clinic will be therapy for trauma exposed children and teenagers.

Serving clients with genuine concern and compassion are hallmarks of Family Innovations’ therapists, stemming from a deep-seated belief that all persons have unique value and intrinsic worth.

With a commitment to continually improve in all areas of client service and experience, Family Innovations strives to fulfill its mission: to restore hope and healing to those who seek our help to be stronger, healthier individuals and families.

Contact the clinic:

Family Innovations Counseling and Training Center
1100 S. Washington Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55415

Phone: 612-314-0349
Fax: 612-314-0350

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ITR Summer Fellowships Available! Apply by 3/31/16

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016

The Institute for Translational Research in Children’s Mental Health (ITR) is pleased to partner with the Center for Personalized Prevention Research (CPPR) to provide three graduate students with summer support to pursue collaborative research projects involving the development or expansion of evidence-based prevention or treatment interventions in children’s mental health.

Please apply using the CPPR Summer Fellowship application and indicate whether you’re interested in working on a CPPR project or ITR Project. Submit your application materials to CPPR Administrative Director, Nicole Morrell at by noon on March 31st.

For complete information, see the full announcement. Questions about the ITR summer fellowship can be directed to Chris Bray at

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Practice Notes Winter 2015

Monday, December 21st, 2015

PracticeNotes25The latest issue of Practice Notes, focusing on Resilience in Maltreated Children, is now available. Practice Notes is published by the Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare (CASCW), School of Social Work, College of Education and Human Development, University of Minnesota.


Practice Notes Issue 25

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