A new clinic at Kennesaw State University will connect Cobb families who have children with behavioral disorders with evidence-based treatment — that does not necessarily include medication.

KSU’s Center for Conflict Management and psychology department have launched the Children and Family Programs unit that will offer programs for both children and parents starting this January, said Allison Garefino, the unit’s clinical director.

The new clinic will be in the math and statistics building on the Kennesaw campus.

The program will offer group and individual therapy services that will focus on behavioral strategies to help children with behavioral disorders — such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder — through changing their behavior instead of medicating the child, said Garefino.

She said the center’s individual and group therapy will focus on children with anxiety, depression and academic failure.

“They don’t exactly need a diagnosis, but our goal is to offer evidenced-based interventions that are appropriate,” she said.

The center plans to work with both the child and their parents to improve the child’s behavior before consulting a physician for medication needs.

“If we can treat these kids with behavioral interventions, those are the ones that cost much less to the parents, much less for the doctors’ time and can have much more long-term positive results,” Garefino said.


The center will start hosting weekly parenting workshops in February for parents of children 5 to 12 years old with behavioral disorders.

She stressed that parents with children who have behavioral disorders are not doing anything wrong, but they might have to modify their parenting skills to help their child.

The six-week behavioral parenting strategies workshop will help parents learn ways to focus and reinforce their child’s positive behavior as well as tips to make direct requests to their children in a way the child can understand, Garefino said.

“The earlier the intervention, the better,” she said.

With its doors opening in January, Garefino has high hopes for the Children and Family Programs unit.

In addition to expanding to other locations throughout Cobb County, she said she hopes the center develops into a research center and will offer professional development services to teachers and schools.

The new center will also help KSU students experience working on a clinical psychology setting. Garefino said two undergraduate students, one doctoral student, Daniel Niederjohn — a psychology professor — and herself are set to work in the Children and Family Programs unit next semester.

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