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Child psychology research and internship opportunities

Credit: Delaware Valley University. Dr. Allison Buskirk-Cohen.

Apr 09, 2015

Dr. Allison Buskirk-Cohen, a Delaware Valley University associate professor of counseling psychology, conducted a study, which was published in the March 2015 issue of the Journal of Creativity in Mental Health, evaluating a summer camp. The way in which the study was conducted speaks to DelVal’s mission.

The study, “Effectiveness of a Creative Arts Summer Camp: Benefits of a Short-Term, Intensive Program on Children’s Social Behaviors and Relationships,” evaluated whether a creative arts therapy program, Camp L.O.T.U.S., delivered through a two-week summer day camp improved children’s
 support networks and their general wellness. The program is offered by AHA! Studio for Integrated Therapies in Silverdale, Pennsylvania, which continues to serve creative kids as a year round social skills program, the L.O.T.U.S. CLUBS.

Camp staff completed ratings on the behavior of 11 children. Parents also completed ratings on their children’s behavior. The study used surveys to collect data. Results demonstrated that the camp staff observed the most significant improvement in children’s behaviors and relationships. The results of the study indicate that a social skills therapy program delivered through a creative arts summer camp can be beneficial to young children.

In March 2011, Dr. Buskirk-Cohen invited the camp’s founder and director Karen DeHaven, a creative arts therapist, to guest lecture for one of her classes. DeHaven needed an intern so, Dr. Buskirk-Cohen matched her with Heather Haas ’13, of Warrington, Pennsylvania, who was an undergraduate counseling psychology student at DelVal at the time.

DeHaven and Dr. Buskirk-Cohen kept in touch and a year later, she asked Dr. Buskirk-Cohen to evaluate her summer camp, Camp L.O.T.U.S. Haas, who is now a graduate counseling psychology student at DelVal, DeHaven and Dr. Buskirk-Cohen have all stayed in touch. The connections that started with a guest speaker have created opportunities for teaching, research and experiential learning.

“I have loved meeting Allison and finding how easily accessible she was,” said DeHaven. “She invited me into her classroom to talk about integrating creative arts therapy into the therapeutic process and I’ve continued to be included as a business community member with invitations to connect with the students. I was also able to get an intern who helped me out with the camp. It was very much a mutually supportive relationship. I felt like I was receiving as much as I was offering from the internship.”

The study will help the camp look at what specific goals can be best worked on in such a short, intensive approach.

“We’re continuing our dialogue to see what further research might be possible,” said DeHaven. “I want all the programs to be research based.”