Research Studies

Mentorship and Research in HIV and Addiction Prevention Among Traumatized Youth: TIPS Study

This is a pilot randomized controlled study, funded through a NIDA K24 that aims to target substance use and risky sexual behavior prevention among adolescents who have experienced trauma by using an app developed by our team called TIPS (Trauma Informed Prevention), which has been specially tailored for use with adolescents engaged in TF-CBT. Participants eligible for this study include TF-CBT trained clinicians, youth who have experienced at least one traumatic event and who are engaging in TF-CBT, and a caregiver. Clinicians are trained in how to use the TIPS app in conjunction with TF-CBT. Study participants are randomized to one of two study groups- TF-CBT as usual or TF-CBT plus the TIPS app. Data collection methods include self-administered surveys for the clinician, adolescent, and caregiver as well as brief clinical interviews with the adolescent and caregiver to be administered at several time periods during treatment.

For more information on this study, please email Nathalie Slick or call her at 843-792-6079

Charleston Resiliency Monitoring (CHARM) Study Led by the Medical University of South Carolina

Threat-related Negative Valence Systems, Child Victimization, and Anxiety[NIMH 1R01MH112209; PI: Carla Kmett Danielson, Ph.D.]

Children and adolescents who experience significant or traumatic stressors are at greater risk of developing a variety of different mental disorders throughout development, especially disorders of mood, anxiety, and stress. The CHARM project uses state-of-the-art methods (fMRI, EEG) to assess the impact of stressors on specific neural, physiological, and psychological processes that contribute to long-term stress management and resiliency. Using a prospective design, this study follows 3rd, 6th, and 9th graders over a two-year period to capture critical changes occurring throughout the transition to adolescence. A better understanding of how stressors affect neurophysiological and psychological development, and how this varies at different points in the adolescent transition, will ultimately serve to advance prevention and intervention efforts focused on reducing the negative impact of stressors on developing youth. Participating youth will complete three in-person assessments and two phone-based assessments over a two year span. Youth and their parents will complete survey-based assessments at each time point, and youth will complete neurophysiological assessments during the in-person visits to MUSC.

Visit the CHARM Project website. To speak with a staff member about participating, call or text us at 843-708-3210  or email us at

Risk Reduction through Family Therapy (RRFT)

Integrative Treatment for Teen Substance Use Problems & PTSD; NIDA R01DA031285

PI: Carla Kmett Danielson, Ph.D.

The goal of this application is to conduct a Stage II RCT to evaluate the efficacy of Risk Reduction through Family Therapy (RRFT). RRFT is an integrative treatment for adolescents who have experienced interpersonal traumatic events (ITEs). Treatment targets include reductions in substance use problems, PTSD, HIV sexual risk behaviors from pre-treatment through 18 months post-entry. ITEs are among the strongest and most consistent predictors of adolescent problems, including substance use disorders and heightened HIV risk. Remarkably, no behavioral interventions have been developed and rigorously evaluated for this population that take an integrated approach to targeting such sequelae through use of existing empirically-supported interventions, including exposure. RRFT was developed by the candidate to address this gap. RRFT is an integrative, ecologically-based treatment.1 A Stage Ia feasibility trial and a Stage Ib pilot randomized controlled trial (RCT) evaluating RRFT have been completed.2,3Preliminary findings from these studies are promising, indicating that RRFT can be readily learned and implemented with fidelity and can lead to improvements in substance use problems, PTSD symptoms, and HIV sexual risk behaviors.

The RCT follows a 2 (treatment) × 5 (timepoints) factorial design. The sample comprises 250 teens (14 to17 yrs) with a memorable ITE experience that report current substance use and ≥ 5 PTSD symptoms. Assessments with youth and caregivers are conducted at pre-treatment and 3, 6, 12, and 18 mos post study-entry. Demographics, lifetime trauma history, psychopathology, substance use, abuse (including urine drug screens), risk and resiliency factors (e.g., family environment), and gold standard treatment assessment (e.g., fidelity checklist, chart reviews) are measured. Dr. Danielson provides the therapist training and supervision of all RRFT cases. Adolescents assigned to the TAU condition receive the standard treatment typically administered in the community. All sessions in both conditions are audiotaped. Two raters are reviewing 20 percent of tapes for fidelity. Dr. Adams is a Co-I.

Download a brochure about RRFT (PDF) 

Selected Publications:

  1. Danielson, C. K., Adams, Z. W., McCart, M. M., Chapman, J., Sheidow, A., Walker, J., Smalling, A. & de Arellano, M. (2020). The safety and efficacy of exposure-based treatment of co-occurring substance use problems and PTSD among adolescents: A randomized clinical trial of Risk Reduction through Family Therapy (RRFT). JAMA Psychiatry. PMCJournal In Process.

  2. Danielson, C. K., Adams, Z. A., & Hanson, R. (2019). Risk Reduction through Family Therapy (RRFT): Exposure-Based Treatment for Co-Occurring PTSD and Substance Use Problems among Adolescents (pgs. 165-182). In A. A. Vujanovic & S. E. Back (Eds.), Posttraumatic stress and substance use disorders: A comprehensive clinical handbook. New York: Routledge.

  3. Danielson, C.K., McCart, M., Walsh, K., de Arellano, M.A., White, D., & Resnick, H. (2012). Reducing substance use risk and mental health problems among sexually assaulted adolescents: A pilot randomized controlled trial. Journal of Family Psychology, 26, 628-635. PMCID: PMC3419329. 

  4. Danielson, C.K., McCart, M., de Arellano, M.A., Macdonald, A., Silcott, L., Resnick, H. (2010).  Risk reduction for substance use and trauma-related psychopathology in adolescent sexual assault victims: Findings from an open trial. Child Maltreatment, 15, 261-268. PMCID: PMC3105119.

Ethnic Minority Prevenative Outreach and Web-based Education for Risk Reduction (EMPOWERR) Program

The EMPOWERR Program was created by Dr. Danielson in 2009 to address the lack of HIV prevention education in the Charleston area where HIV infection is prevalent. EMPOWERR stands for Ethnic Minority Preventative Outreach and Web-based Education for Risk Reduction. The goals of this program include: Preventing HIV/AIDS as well as drug and alcohol use in minority teens in Charleston County, helping local families find and receive quality health, mental health, and case management services and to reduce HIV/AIDS and substance abuse related problems for minorities in our community. EMPOWERR is funded by a grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Minority AIDS Initiative (1U79SP015156).

EMPOWERR uses two evidenced based curricula: Making Proud Choices (MPC) and SiHLE. MPC is for middle to high school aged kids. SiHLE (Sistas Informing Healing Living and Empowering) is catered to African- American middle to high school aged girls. Both cover relationships, condom negotiation, HIV/STD/Pregnancy prevention and everything in between. With the help of the EMPOWERR Public Health Educator these programs have been implemented in Charleston area schools and throughout the Charleston Juvenile Justice System. In the future, EMPOWERR hopes to become a well-known resource for comprehensive preventative education and a staple in the community. For more information, please visit the EMPOWERR web page.

Selected Publications:

Danielson, C. K., McCauley, J. L., Stauffacher-Gros, K., Jones, A., Barr, S., Borkman, A. L., Bryant, B. G., Ruggiero, K. J. (In press). Development and Usability of an Evidence-Based HIV/STI Prevention Website for Female African-American Adolescents. Health Informatics Journal

Danielson, C. K., Walsh, K., McCauley, J., Ruggiero, K. J., Brown, J., Sales, J., Rose, E. Wingood, G. & DiClemente, R. (2014). HIV-Related Sexual Risk Behavior among African-American Girls. Journal of Women’s Health, 23, 413-419

Davidson, T. M.*, Lopez, C. M.*, Saulson, R. Borkman, A.L., Soltis, K., Ruggiero, K. J., de Arellano, M. Wingood, G., DiClemente, R., & Danielson, C.K. (2014). Development of a behavioral HIV prevention program for Latina adolescents. Culture, Health, and Sexuality, 16, 533-546.

Danielson, C. K., McCauley, J., Jones, A., Borkman, A. O., Miller, S., & Ruggiero, K. J. (2013). Feasibility of Delivering Evidence-Based HIV/STI Prevention Programming to A Community Sample of African-American Teen Girls via the Internet. AIDS Education & Prevention, 25, 394-404.

Web-Based Intervention for Disaster-Affected Adolescents and Families; NIMH R01MH081056 ; PI: Kenneth Ruggiero, Ph.D.

Evaluation of Novel PTSD Risk Assessment Tools for Disaster-Exposed Youth; NIMH R21MH086313 ; PI: Carla Kmett Danielson, Ph.D.