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Exploring Community Empowerment Lab (EXCEL)

The primary focus of the Exploring Community Empowerment Lab (EXCEL) is to utilize developmental, treatment, and training research to examine family and parenting dynamics among diverse community populations. Specifically, our lab focuses on understanding the development and maintenance of substance use disorders among women and mothers, in order to identify mechanisms of family-centered prevention, treatment, and recovery support. Much of our current research examines family and parenting relationships among mothers and pregnant and postpartum women with substance use disorders. Other research investigates program development, implementation, and outcomes for women and mothers enrolled in gender-specific treatment.

The EXCEL lab also explores immigrant and refugee migration trajectories to understand family dynamics and parenting practices from pre- to post-migration. Our current research focuses on transnational living and family dynamics among resettled immigrants and refugees living in the United States.

Lastly, in this lab we are examining couple/marriage and family therapists training experiences in an effort to understand and support workforce development. Currently we are studying C/MFT's training experience in substance use among families to identify exposure and preparedness for therapists working with families impacted by addiction.

Principal Investigator

Jessica Chou

Jessica L. Chou, PhD, LPC
Assistant Professor - Counseling and Family Therapy

Health Sciences Building, Room 11W25
60 N. 36th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104

Phone: 267.359.5524

Motherhood and Substance Abuse

  1. The qualitative study collected data on the experience of motherhood before and during substance abuse treatment. In total, N=10 mothers who had their children with them in treatment, completed interviews exploring their experience of motherhood and addiction as well as motherhood and treatment.
  2. The quantitative developmental study is utilizing secondary data analysis to examine parenting self-efficacy and family functioning for pregnant and postpartum women (PPW) with substance abuse disorders. Baseline data was collected for N=78 PPW entering a gender-specific treatment facility. We are examining factors of social support, family empowerment and substance abuse severity related to parenting self-efficacy and family functioning.

C/MFT Training Exposure

The presence of substance use training among the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COMAFTE) accredited programs remains unstudied. COAMFTE is the national accrediting body for marriage and family therapy programs in the United States and represents the highest standard of competency in the family therapy field. COAMFTE encourages education related to substance abuse in couple and family therapy training programs, drawing from the Marriage and Family Therapy Core Competencies developed by the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) and the key tasks and knowledge areas required for the national marriage and family therapy licensing exam. However, the parameters of this education and how effective it is at preparing couple and family therapists to work with substance abuse issues in the field has yet to be determined. The goal of the present study is to explore the level of substance use training exposure and preparedness among couple/marriage and family therapists (C/MFTs). Specific aims of the study include: 1. What type of training exposure occurs in COAMFTE accredited MA level programs for working with substance abuse populations? 2. Do master level C/MFT's who are trained in COAMFTE accredited programs feel adequately prepared to enter the workforce with substance abuse populations?

Family-Centered Opioid Behavioral Intervention

This pilot study is aimed at developing a family-centered behavioral intervention manual targeted for women with opioid use disorders (OUDs) to increase treatment adherence to medication assisted treatment (MAT). Mixed methodology will be used to conduct focus groups for women enrolled in treatment for OUDs, their family members, and professionals in the field for manual development. Study aims include:

  1. Use focus group data to develop a family-centered behavioral intervention manual targeted for women with OUDs to increase treatment adherence to MAT.
  2. Pilot the feasibility, acceptability, and efficacy of the family-centered behavioral intervention among a sample of 10 women with OUDs receiving MAT.