Family Learning Program marks 30 years of community service


MELBOURNE, FL. – A Florida Tech program providing psychological services to children and families who have experienced sexual abuse and also providing graduate students with powerful and practical educational opportunities in clinical training and evidence-based treatment marks a milestone this year: 30 years of service.

The Family Learning Program Sexual Abuse Treatment Program has provided treatment services to surviving children and adolescents ages 3 to 17, their siblings, and non-abusive caregivers through Florida Tech since its founding in 1991. It is one of only 14 Florida Department of Sexual Abuse Treatment Programs in Florida and the only DOH sponsored program in Brevard County.

The program‘s grant-funded services, which are offered free of charge to participating families, are provided by doctoral students in clinical psychology under the supervision of Demara Bennett, Psy.D., a registered psychologist and associate professor of clinical psychology who has directed the program. since 2012.

The program currently has 11 clinical students and five volunteers, all from Florida Tech’s psychology doctoral program. Work experience in the family apprenticeship program has become a sought-after component for many psychology students, which often helps them land competitive undergraduate placements, said Bennett, who has supervised 84 psychology doctoral students and 20 undergraduate interns during his nine years as director of the FLP.

Demara Bennett

For doctoral students Katie Glauner and Courtney Kalmanson, who have spent the past three years as clinicians and associate directors for the Family Learning Program, the experience has been invaluable.

“FLP has been the most influential program I have participated in since I began my studies at Florida Tech,” said Glauner. “It has allowed me to develop myself as a trauma-aware clinician because of the many training opportunities the program offers me, as well as the extensive clinical supervision from Dr. Bennett. “

Kalmanson said, “FLP has given me experience working with survivors of childhood sexual abuse, including learning the importance of trauma-informed care. I received excellent supervision and mentorship from Dr. Bennett, which made me a better leader and clinician. “

The Family Learning Program was founded by psychology professor Juanita Baker, who served as its director until her retirement in 2007. She said it was an essential way for Florida Tech to use the science of psychology to reach and help the community.

“When you start a program that has not yet been done but sees it as important and necessary, you never know if it will be successful,” said Baker, now professor emeritus. “The FLP in a clinical academic setting, with great expertise like Florida Tech’s School of Psychology, is ideal because it has not only helped so many children and families, but it has also provided excellent training for many students. in Clinical Psychology as well as brought millions of dollars to Florida Tech in the State of Florida, which is essential to the functioning of the FLP program and to the benefit of so many students / future professionals as well as so many clients and families at the over the years.

The Sexual Abuse Treatment Program uses trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy and other evidence-based, evidence-supported treatments implemented as part of a Family Systems Treatment Model. It is guided by four core values: community awareness, intervention, collaboration and prevention.

Services are tailored to meet the specific needs of each family and typically include individual, group, and family therapy and safety planning. The program’s emphasis on treating the whole family makes it one of the few to take this approach.

“Most programs incorporate caregivers at some point in the treatment of child victims, but for us, this is deliberate treatment for the whole family,” Bennett said. “We understand that family dynamics are such that it is important to deal with them when sexual abuse has occurred, and we understand that sexual abuse of a family member affects all family members from different manners. By treating the whole family, we also have better treatment efficiency with victims and reduce the risk of re-victimization. The families we serve benefit the most when we all work together.

Baker, the founding director, added, “So many families have appreciated and grown because of FLP’s presence for them.”

There is also growth for those who work within the program.

Kaci Garcia, a post-doctoral fellow at the Segel Psychological Center in Coconut Creek, Fla. Who earned her doctorate in psychology from Florida Tech, said her experience at the FLP was educational.

“The family learning program really works as a team and with this experience I was able to learn valuable lessons in clinical, supervisory and administrative work,” she said. “This program and Dr. Bennett have helped shape my career, and I am eternally grateful.

The impact of the family learning program goes beyond its families and staff. Bennett and others are working with community organizations to provide education and training services, working with law enforcement, Brevard Public Schools, the Brevard Health Alliance and other groups. “The training is usually about child sexual abuse, and sometimes they ask us to provide more information about the program,” Bennett said.

The success and longevity of the family learning program is a testament to Bennett, as well as the recognition by Florida Tech executives of the value of the program, Baker added.

“The FLP has helped so many families of boys and girls who have been sexually abused,” she said. “And even after 30 years, the public needs education and understanding to help abused youth cope with the trauma they may still face and work to end sexual abuse.”

For more information on the Family Learning Program, please visit, email [email protected], or call 321-604-5898.


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