Volunteer-Child Interaction Training: Exploring the Effects of a Modified Child-Directed Interaction with Volunteers
Type of Degreedissertation
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Community service and the involvement of volunteers are prevalent in a variety of contexts. Community service programs requiring interactions with youth typically do not emphasize particular therapeutic skills related to positive interactions between volunteers and children. Though studies indicate some effectiveness of the interactions and development of relationships between volunteers and the children they serve (i.e., DeWit, Lipman, Manzano-Munguia, Bisanz, Graham, Offord, et al., 2006; DuBois & Silverthorn, 2005), no study, as of yet, has incorporated components of play therapy into volunteer training. The present study provides a preliminary step into effectiveness research for a modified Child-Directed Interaction (CDI) component of Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) as provided to community service volunteers. The goal of the project was to develop more positive interactions between undergraduate volunteers and the youth they serve. Results from this present study provide preliminary information for the effectiveness and transportability of the CDI component of PCIT, particularly as it relates to the teaching and in-vivo coaching formats implemented in the community. Results provide mixed support for the Volunteer-Child Interaction Training program (VCIT) implemented in this study. With regard to the long-term in-vivo training, although some support was found through the multiple-baseline design, most of the participants did not demonstrate consistent increases in the use of PRiDE (Praise, Reflect, Describe, Enthusiasm) skills or consistent decreases in the use of negative verbalizations during the training and maintenance periods of observation. There was also limited support for a positive relationship between participant motivation and verbal behavior during coded observations. Participants from both groups (Individual VCIT versus Group VCIT) were equally satisfied with the training provided. Notably, those participants who volunteered on their own initiative reported more interest in volunteering relative to undergraduates who were volunteering at the community agency as part of a course requirement. Although many findings did not support the initial hypotheses, this study provided a first step in the development of a teaching and training program that could be used to provide information to volunteers (service learning and otherwise) about skills to develop a more positive relationship with youth. This study also provided evidence to suggest that, on a short-term basis, it was feasible to teach volunteers the basic concepts of play therapy as used in PCIT as participants did demonstrate change in PCIT knowledge immediately following the training.