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  • Ralph Thurman

Child Guidance Resource Center: Providing Children and Families with Mental Health Care

Mental health care is integral to a healthy lifestyle, especially for those struggling with trauma and mental illnesses. Both adults and children can benefit from speaking with a licensed therapist. Unfortunately, millions of Americans who could benefit from mental health care lack access to these services. This is especially prevalent in low-income communities, as regular therapy appointments can be costly.

The nonprofit organization Child Guidance Resource Centers (CGRC) is working to provide mental health care to children and families across the greater Philadelphia area. The organization’s diverse selection of programs addresses a wide range of common mental healthcare needs. The following is an overview of how CGRC is making a major mental health impact in the Philadelphia area.

Applied Behavior Analysis Services

Children with autism and other developmental delays can benefit from a wide range of therapies. Beginning these therapies at an early age can significantly improve the child’s chances for success later in life.

CRCG’s Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) program is designed to help these children reach their full potential by developing a variety of skills, such as communication skills, following directions, social skills, and living skills. Participants are also taught adaptive skills like feeding and dressing. In addition, ABA staff members help participants reduce undesired behaviors like aggression.

The ABA program uses the following methods to cultivate these skills:

  • Communication through pictures, sounds, and signs

  • Reward-centered teaching

  • Involving parents in the process so that skills can be taught and practiced at home



  • Regularly collecting and analyzing data to improve treatment strategies for each child

  • Relying on teamwork between behavior analysts, consultants, and behavior technicians

Family First

All children require a happy and stable home life to thrive. CGRC’s Family First is a community-focused program that helps promote healing, growth, and prosperity for all members of the family.

Therapists visit families at home and work to understand the struggles of the children living in the home. They also provide support for the parents or guardians in the household.

Family First is a 32-week program. A team of two clinicians is assigned to each family and works closely with them in their home life, school life, and community. Their goal is not just to understand the child’s emotional difficulties, but the overarching systemic issues that contribute to these struggles.

After the therapists understand the needs of the family, they employ a wide range of therapy techniques designed to help the family heal and grow. These techniques include, but are not limited to:

  • Family therapy

  • Individual counseling



  • Family support

  • Case management

  • Parent education

  • 24/7 on-call support

Multi-Systemic Therapy

Multi-Systemic Therapy (MST) is an intervention system designed for youth ages 12 to 17 who have problems with chronic delinquent behavior or serious emotional issues. Over three to five months, this evidence-based program provides support and solutions for these behaviors and helps both the child and their family get on to a more positive life trajectory.

This program is based on teaching the child’s caregiver to become the driving force for change. Caregivers are empowered and taught how to provide natural support systems, as well as how to set expectations for the children under their care. According to data from CGRC, over 85 percent of MST participants stay in school or at their jobs and 87 percent of parents feel more confident in their parenting abilities after finishing the program.

Intensive Behavioral Health Services

Intensive Behavioral Health Services (IBHS) is a comprehensive behavioral program that works with children and families in their homes, schools, and communities. This program helps parents learn how to handle the challenges of raising a child with developmental or behavioral difficulties.

IBHS is open to children and adolescents from ages 3 to 21 who have been diagnosed with mild to severe behavioral or emotional disorders or developmental delays. Some qualifiers for participation in the IBHS program include:

  • Autism that requires additional supports

  • Difficulties with daily tasks



  • Acting out

  • Trouble with transitions

  • Difficulty with healthy behaviors

Each participant is assigned a team of professionals, which may include:

  • Behavioral Consultant - The leader of the team, behavioral consultants have master’s degrees and are in charge of creating and implementing a plan tailored to the unique needs of each child. They also track the progress of the plan.

  • Mobile Therapist - These master’s-level mental health clinicians meet with the child and their families in their homes and help boost self-esteem and improve social skills.

  • Behavioral Health Technician - A bachelor’s-level clinician, the behavioral health technician is responsible for helping caregivers cultivate child-raising skills and demonstrating behaviors for the child.


The goal is to help the child become independent and self-sufficient by working with the whole family in all facets of their everyday lives. This program is funded by the PA Medical Assistance System, which means that IBHS is available to any child who requires it for a mental health diagnosis or disability.

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