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Clinical psychology doctoral student Casha Kaufer, M.A., combines empathy and science to help victims of trauma and prevent teen suicide

Casha has in-depth knowledge and understanding of how to effectively apply theory to individuals served.

This is how Program Director Jennifer Young, L.C.S.W. of the Homeless Outreach Program Integrated Care System (HOPICS) describes Casha Kaufer. Casha, a TCSPP clinical psychology doctoral student at the Los Angeles Campus, works with Young as a student trainee at the Trauma Resource Center (TRC), a Special Service for Groups under the Division of HOPICS.

Located in Los Angeles, TRC offers therapeutic and psychiatric services, and care coordination for victims of crime and their families. A goal of TRC is to support clients in multiple areas, including system navigation, social and case management, and mental health treatment. In her work as a student trainee, Casha, under clinical supervision, conducts individual and group therapy sessions with children and adults. She also does psychological testing, program outreach, and consulting.

“The problems that children face pull at my heartstrings,” Casha says. “But I know it is not enough just to be empathetic. Any attempt to help or treat must be bolstered by scientific research.”

Having earned her master’s degree in The Chicago School’s Marital and Family Therapy Program, Casha says she appreciates the ability to further research her areas of interest through program and outreach consultation afforded her by her position at TRC, and is gaining a wealth of experience.

“Here at the Trauma Recovery Center, Casha has been able to work with targeted clients, who have been victimized from crime related trauma,” said Young when asked how she feels working at TRC has benefitted Casha. “In addition, Casha has been able to work with diverse populations, servicing underserved and un-served individuals within Los Angeles County and surrounding cities.”

“In life and in session, I strive to accomplish the wholeness that comes from truly understanding how each part functions and relates. Working for the Trauma Resource Center provides me with this benefit both professionally and personally,” Casha says.

Her desire to help and understand has driven Casha to work with other organizations, including the Interagency Council of Child Abuse and Neglect (ICAN). Its mission is to improve the lives of abused, neglected and at-risk children through multidisciplinary efforts that support the identification, prevention and treatment of child abuse and neglect. The agency provides advocacy and leadership within Los Angeles County and on a state and national basis.

As a student member of ICAN, Casha says she helps facilitate research relevant to the prevention and reduction of issues faced by families who receive help from the organization.

“My goal as a future psychologist is to provide useful research in the areas of suicide prevention and risk factors in youth.”

Casha’s work with ICAN prompted an invitation from the Child and Adolescent Suicide Review Team (CASRT) for her to participate as a student researcher. In an effort to increase the understanding, and to prevent other children from choosing suicide, CASRT studies each case in order to identify additional risk factors.

“This opportunity afforded me the ability to research suicide prevention strategies gained from the review of prior suicides in the Los Angeles County area. At CASRT, collaborative work is accomplished by the participation of the police department, school officials and teachers, social workers, the Department of Child and Family Services, the coroner’s office, social networks and records, and parents and friends of the deceased.”

Casha joined ICAN after discussing her research goals and professional development with her professor, Michael Pines, Ph.D., clinical supervisor at TCSPP’s Los Angeles Campus, and co-chair at the Los Angeles County CASRT. He made the suggestion that she participate as a student member in ICAN, which eventually led her to CASRT, for which she is still an active student researcher.

“Casha’s maturity, empathy and dedication have been a model for other research team students,” Dr. Pines said. “CASRT team members from various agencies have recognized Casha as a psychological consultant who understands their needs. This outstanding student is always quick to volunteer whenever help is needed.”

“My work as a student researcher for CASRT influenced my choice of further studying the development of suicide risk factors in youth as the subject of my dissertation research.”  Casha worked with the Alhambra Unified School District-Gateway to Success (AUSD-Gateway to Success) program for her dissertation data.

Additionally, as a founding member and president of the Pediatric Health Research Group (P.H.R.G.), Casha has worked diligently in the community to raise awareness and further research the areas of child obesity as related to parenting styles, school reintegration of youth diagnosed with chronic health issues, and chronic pain in youth. The Group’s research done on the relationship between pediatric obesity and parenting styles was presented by colleagues at the APA convention in Hawaii in 2013. This exposure aided them in increasing the awareness between physical and emotional health as well as the increasing future potential for health psychologists in the community.

Casha will complete her academic work, practicum work with TRC, and dissertation by July 2015. She will start her California Psychology Internship Council (CAPIC) internship in the fall with Children, Youth and Family Services Consortium, Alliant International University. Casha says that she looks forward to continuing her work with youth as a pre-doctoral intern with Alliant International University and the AUSD-Gateway to Success program.

“TCSPP has influenced my work with individuals, families, couples, and youth at the Trauma Resource Center, in both education and experience. Having the educational and practicum experience from TCSPP in marital and family therapy, and clinical psychology, I am fortunate to have been exposed to different theories in which to conceptualize clients and utilize different interventions in treatment.”