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Karen Cameron Wells

Associate Professor Emeritus in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Psychiatry, Child & Family Mental Health & Community Psychiatry
Box 3527MED Ctr, Durham, NC 27710
2608 Erwin Road Lakeview Pavi, Durham, NC 27705


I am the PI on an NIDA funded grant studying the incremental effectiveness of family therapy when applied in the context of an outpatient substance abuse treatment program for adolescent substance abusers. Subject/families are randomly assigned to one of two treatment conditions: Standard Outpatient Treatment or Standard Outpatient Treatment plus Family therapy. The family therapy intervention is based on a system/structural model of family functioning with specific focus on the content issues and family dynamics involved in substance abuse. Subject/families are assessed at baseline, immediate post intervention, and at a 6 month follow-up period. the study is of experimental significance because it addresses the question of whether changing family processes empirically identified as associated with substance abuse, results in changes in risk factors for substance abuse and actual substance use. The study is of public health significance because it addresses the added benefit of family therapy in substance abuse treatment program for adolescents. Although most theoreticians call for family therapy for this population, fewer than 25% of treatment programs across the country include family therapy as a component of treatment.

I am also Co-PI on a NIDA funded study of the secondary prevention effects of cognitive behavioral intervention and behavioral parent training intervention on high risk aggressive boys. This is a school/community based secondary prevention program in which 4th and 5th grade boys, identified as at risk for later substance abuse by relatively high levels of aggressive/disruptive behavior in the school and home, are randomly assigned to receive cognitive behavior therapy alone, or the combination of cognitive behavioral therapy puls behavioral parent training, or a control condition of routine school based service. A normal (i.e., non-aggressive) control group is also being followed for comparison purposes. Subjects and their families are assessed at baseline and then reassessed at several follow-up intervals. We intended to follow these boys into middle school and high school to assess the impact of an early risk based prevention program on later substance use and abuse. the interventions consist of well researched single tretments for aggression, but their combinatory effects have not been well evaluated prior to this study.

I am Co-PI on a large NIMH funded, multi-site trial investigating multi-modality treatment for attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). This is a clinic-based intervention program for 7-9 year old, ADHD boys and girls. Subjects are randomly assigned to receive, Psychosocial Treatment Alone (consisting of Parent Training, A summer Treatment Program and Classroom Behavioral Intervention); Medication alone; their combination; or a community comparison group. The intervention occurs over a 13 month period and subjects are followed for two years. Hypotheses relate to both the short and long term effects of single versus multi-modality treatments for ADHD. Secondary hypotheses have to do with child's co-morbidity status (i.e., presence of secondary diagnoses such as Oppositional Defiant Disorder or Anxiety disorder) and its relationship to outcome. I developed and is responsible for the fidelity and integrity of the Parent Training Intervention for this large-scale, nationally visible project.

I am Co-PI on a NIDA funded grant of a study to develop treatment manuals for depressed, substance abusing adolescents. Dr. Curry is developing a manual for group treatment of the adolescents, and I am developing a coordinated manual for family treatment. The manuals will be based on cognitive-behavioral models of interpersonal and family functioning, and will be tested on a small N in this project. Once the manuals are developed, a proposal to test the efficacy of the combined model will be submitted to NIDA as a RO1 grant application.

Current Appointments & Affiliations

Associate Professor Emeritus in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences · 2019 - Present Psychiatry, Child & Family Mental Health & Community Psychiatry, Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences

Education, Training & Certifications

University of Georgia · 1978 Ph.D.
University Health Service · 0000 M.S.