Xiao DingXiao Ding is a doctoral candidate in the Steve Hicks School of Social Work at the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin). Her dissertation is titled, “Taking Charge-CR: A School-Based Solution-Focused Tier 2 Crisis Group Intervention to Promote Youth Mental Health and Educational Outcomes.” Her study will provide insight into the development of high school-based crisis intervention programs to improve youths’ mental well-being, solution-building skills, and academic outcomes.

Since its establishment in 1995, the Harry E. and Bernice M. Moore Fellowship has been awarded to support doctoral students conducting research at UT Austin. Scholarships are awarded to students with a primary research interest in the human experience during crises, including natural or other major disasters or, more broadly, stress and adversity. Fellowship winners receive a one-time, unrestricted award of $20,000.

We spoke to Xiao about her research.

Tell us about yourself. When did you decide to pursue this line of research, and what influenced that decision?

I have always wanted to serve children and families dealing with mental health challenges. As a school-based social worker, I experienced the disproportion of service providers (e.g., counselors, psychologists, social workers) to students and the high need for mental health services among children and families. Further, I realized that many mental health problems are first detected in school settings, and for BIPOC students or those from rural, low-income households, school is most likely to be the primary and sole venue to provide mental health services.

Because brief, empirically supported school crisis prevention and early intervention strategies are lacking in school mental health services, I plan to develop a solution-focused group intervention (i.e. Tier 2 services) in response to the public health crisis in youth mental health exacerbated by the pandemic.

Your dissertation is titled “Taking Charge-CR: A School-Based Solution-Focused Tier 2 Crisis Group Intervention to Promote Youth Mental Health and Educational Outcomes.” What questions are you trying to answer with this work?

My dissertation builds upon my previous work on solution-focused interventions that address the human experience of crisis and the latest evidence on the characteristics and effectiveness of Solution Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) in community settings.

First, it features a systematic review and meta-analysis of the psychosocial interventions working with “at-risk” youth and adolescents in alternative high school settings. I aim to investigate the characteristics and operation processes of these settings, the demographics of the served student body, and the overall effectiveness of past psychosocial interventions.

Next, it presents the adaptation and development of a school-based solution-focused Tier 2 crisis group treatment manual, Taking Charge-CR (Franklin & Harris, 2008).

Finally, it tests the implementation and feasibility of this manual, and measures students’ pre- and post-program participation outcomes considering psychological distress, social-emotional well-being, hope, solution-focused building skills, and academic motivation in response to the impact of life crises.

What gap in the literature will be filled by your study? Who stands to benefit from it?

This study aims to develop an intervention that can be useful in high school settings to prevent mental health crises, including alternative schools that educate students at high risk for mental and behavioral health conditions. This study’s findings will uniquely contribute to the school mental health field and offer practical implications for addressing the pandemic-related youth mental health crisis.

How do you think your research methods and approach will help you to answer the questions that you’re posing?

A systematic review with meta-analysis is a suitable research method to examine what has been previously accomplished and to synthesize and test the treatment effect size of the psychosocial interventions with youth in alternative high school settings. Content analysis of the treatment manual will determine the presence of themes and concepts that aid its ongoing development. And a mixed-methods study will quantitatively measure students’ pre-test, post-test, and follow-up psychosocial and academic outcomes and feature qualitative discourse analysis and themes that lead to changes identified by practitioners and student participants.

Are there any suggested readings you can recommend for those who might be interested in learning more about the topic?

  • Ding, X., Lightfoot, E., Berkowitz, R., Guz., S., Franklin, C., & DiNitto, D. M. (2023). Characteristics and effectiveness of the practice of school social worker: A scoping review of published evidence 2000-2022. School Mental Health. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12310-023-09584-z
  • Ding, X., Faulkner, M., Franklin, C., Gerlach, B., Beer, M., Calbow, E., & Nulu, S. (2022). Assessing Texas School Social Work Practice: Findings from the First Statewide Conference Survey. International Journal of School Social Work, 8(1), 1. https://doi.org/10.4148/2161-4148.1088
  • Franklin, C., Ding, X., Kim, J., Zhang, A., Hai, A. H., Jones, K., … & O’Connor, A. (2023). Solution-Focused Brief Therapy in Community-Based Services: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Studies. Research on Social Work Practice, https://doi.org/10.1177/10497315231162611.
  • Franklin, C., Streeter, C. L., Webb, L., & Guz, S. (2018). Solution focused brief therapy in alternative schools: ensuring student success and preventing dropout. Routledge.
  • Greene, G. J., Lee, M. Y., Trask, R., & Rheinscheld, J. (2005). How to work with clients’ strengths in crisis intervention: A solution-focused approach. Crisis intervention handbook: Assessment, treatment, and research, 3, 64-89.
  • Hopson, L. M., & Kim, J. S. (2004). A solution-focused approach to crisis intervention with adolescents. Journal of Evidence-Based Social Work, 1(2-3), 93-110. https://doi.org/10.1300/J394v01n02_07

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