Bronx, New York 10461


The main objective of this project is to conduct a study of RFP-C for children with disruptive behaviors. Regulation Focused Psychotherapy for Children (RFP-C) is a twice a week, play therapy intervention.

Study summary:

Background/Significance Currently, there are no empirically supported, manualized psychodynamic treatments for children and adolescents with disruptive behavior problems. Many barriers exist to providing effective treatment, including the large dropout rates in child psychotherapy, especially when multiple risk factors are present, such as maternal stress, greater symptom severity, and lower socioeconomic status. In order to remain viable and competitive, clinicians and researchers must demonstrate that psychodynamic approaches are valuable in terms of positive clinical outcomes, cost-effectiveness, and ease of implementation across a range of settings and disciplines. Externalizing behaviors are common in a wide range of child mental health problems, including oppositional defiant disorder, disruptive mood dysregulation disorder, and conduct disorder. These behaviors have high prevalence rates, ranging from 15 to 34 percent. These problems frequently result in the referral of young children to mental health providers and they are costly to the healthcare system overall . The current approach to these types of problems is to provide behavioral parent management training (PMT) to parents of the child in distress. These programs include Parent-Child Interaction Therapy, Triple P-Positive Parenting Program, or The Incredible Years. Behavioral parent training programs are widely used because the evidence shows they are efficacious for children with externalizing behaviors. PMT relies on traditional cognitive behavioral strategies in working with the parent, including behavioral modeling, rewards, reinforcement, and punishment. The parent is taught to set limits for the child and to direct and to shape behavior. A significant limitation associated with behavioral parent programs (and psychotherapy with children and adolescents in general) is elevated attrition rates for vulnerable populations due to factors such as low socioeconomic status, ethnic minority status, parental functioning, maternal stress, low parental motivation, and child symptom severity. Parental attrition in behavioral parent training is also due to parental attribution about where the problem resides - within the child. PMT is directed at the parent, which contradicts the parent's understanding of the cause and nature of the problem, thus sometimes further reducing motivation to seek and complete treatment. Regulation Focused Psychotherapy for Children (RFP-C) is a novel, manualized, time-limited psychodynamic treatment approach for children who manifest disruptive behaviors and emotional dysregulation. RFP-C conceptualizes children's externalizing behaviors as expressions of maladaptive defenses or impaired emotion regulation (ER). The child's behaviors are understood as products of developmental delays in implicit ER. This system has defined neurofunctional correlates which permit a targeting of the therapeutic work to brain-based deficits in the child's normative development. Externalizing behaviors are thus conceptualized both as biologically-driven products and as functional attempts to defend against painful emotions by protecting the child from disturbing feelings such as sadness, shame, and guilt. RFP-C relies heavily on the child being able to experience distressing affects through play and through the relationship with the therapist. Throughout the 16 sessions of play therapy and several parent meetings, the clinician works with the parents and the child to increase understanding that all behavior, even disruptive behavior, has meaning in the service of emotional and behavioral regulation. This insight leads to a decreased need and reliance to act on the distressing emotions (e.g. less need for disruptive behaviors) and an increased ability to tolerate, work through, and talk about the feelings that previously needed to be warded off. This 16-session (plus four parent sessions) psychotherapy method operationalizes individual play therapy approaches for children with externalizing behaviors, including oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). Play therapy has long been the mainstay of community mental health with children and adolescents and has demonstrated efficacy, though no one has developed a play-based manualized treatment for children to date. Through iteratively addressing a child's disruptive behaviors as strategies to avoid painful affect, RFP-C is hypothesized to address developmental immaturity of the implicit ER system. Rationale There is a critical need for the development, evaluation, and implementation of evidence-based psychodynamic treatments for children and adolescents. Regulation Focused Psychotherapy for Children is a novel, manualized, time-limited psychodynamic treatment approach for children who manifest disruptive behaviors and emotional dysregulation. To date, we have only conducted a small pilot study of the RFP-C method. No clinical trial has been conducted to determine the outcomes associated with RFP-C in a larger sample. The immediate objective of this proposal is to conduct a randomized controlled trial with 20 children in order to evaluate comparable efficacy to a waitlist control group.


Inclusion Criteria: - Experiencing symptoms of ODD - Fluent in English - Not diagnosed with severe autism spectrum disorder - Able to attend therapy twice a week for 10 weeks in the Bronx - No concurrent therapy services (psychosocial groups and Individualized Education Plan supports are acceptable) Exclusion Criteria: - Active Administration for Children's Services (ACS)/Child Protective Services (CPS) involvement - Severe autism spectrum disorder



Primary Contact:

Principal Investigator
Tracy A. Prout, PhD
Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology

Tracy A Prout, PhD
Phone: 646.592.4367

Backup Contact:


Location Contact:

Bronx, New York 10461
United States

Tracy A Prout, PhD
Phone: 646-592-4367

Site Status: Recruiting

Data Source:

Date Processed: February 04, 2019

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