Staff Bios

Learn More About SAFE Staff


Director

David J. Kolko, PhD

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David Kolko, Ph.D., is a Professor of Psychiatry, Psychology, and Pediatrics, at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. He is board certified in Child and Adolescent Psychology by the American Board of Professional Psychology and a fellow of the American Psychological Association. At UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital, he directs the Special Services Unit, a program devoted to the development and dissemination of evidence-based treatments for use in diverse community settings and systems serving children, youth, and families, including pediatric primary care, juvenile justice, child welfare, and mental health. He is also director of Services for Adolescent and Family Enrichment (SAFE), a treatment program that collaborates with probation officers from the Juvenile Court to serve adolescents adjudicated of problematic sexual behavior. He developed Abuse-Focused CBT for child physical abuse which has now been expanded into Alternatives for Families: A Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (AF-CBT) for use with families involved in conflict, coercion, and/or physical aggression/abuse. His books include Assessing and treating physically abused children and their families: A cognitive-behavioral approach (2002, Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA) and the Handbook on Firesetting in Children and Youth (2002, Academic Press). A sample of Dr. Kolko’s clinical-research activities and articles may be found online.

Program Manager and
Clinical Coordinator

Eunice Torres, MS

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Eunice has been a member of the SAFE Program since 2000. Eunice is the diagnostician, clinical supervisor, and SAFE Program Manager. She has advanced clinical training and experience in diagnostic assessment and in the treatment of children and adolescents exhibiting problematic sexual behaviors and other behavior problems as well as affective symptoms including ADHD, ODD, CD, Depression and Anxiety. She conducts training seminars and workshops in Pittsburgh and surrounding areas. Eunice is a native from Puerto Rico and is fully bilingual (Spanish/English). She completed her undergraduate degree in psychology and sociology at The University of Puerto Rico (UPR).

Eunice is a culturally skilled clinician who has demonstrated effectiveness in working with culturally different populations. She understands how race, ethnicity and culture can affect help seeking behavior, the expression of psychological disorders, personality formation, and the appropriateness or inappropriateness of counseling interventions. Her research and clinical interests are in the assessment of children and adolescents who have engaged in problematic sexual behaviors, the utilization of assessment results for the identification of treatment targets, and for the development of sound treatment plans, the incorporation of a strengths based approach to the assessment and treatment of children and adolescents who have engaged in problematic sexual behaviors, the use of an ecological framework which require paying attention to the multiple forces that shape children and adolescent’s adaptation and development and the developmental progression of child and adolescent problem behaviors as well as the desistance of problem behaviors. After graduating from UPR she moved to Pittsburgh where she completed her Masters Degree in the Child and Family Development Program at the School of Social Work in the University of Pittsburgh. Ms. Torres completed four years of coursework in the Doctoral Program of the Developmental Psychology Program at the University of Pittsburgh.


Medical Director

Kristen Eckstrand, MD, PhD

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Dr. Eckstrand is a board-certified child and adolescent psychiatrist and Clinical Assistant Professor at the Western Psychiatric Hospital of UPMC. Dr. Eckstrand holds an M.D. and Ph.D. in neuroscience from Vanderbilt University, and is internationally recognized for their leadership supporting the health of LGBTQ communities. Dr. Eckstrand has published four textbooks and numerous peer-reviewed papers on the mental and physical health needs of LGBTQ communities, including the training of healthcare professionals to provide affirming and responsible care to LGBTQ individuals. Dr. Eckstrand founded the Vanderbilt Program for LGBTQ Health, the second LGBTQ-focused program at an academic health center in the country, co-directs the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine’s LGBTQ Health elective, and speaks nationally on the importance of diversity and identity in health. Dr. Eckstrand’s clinical work and neuroimaging research focuses on the neuropsychiatric underpinnings of trauma and resilience in adolescents, with an emphasis on minority communities and vulnerable populations. Dr. Eckstrand’s research has been published in top-tier journals such as JAMA Psychiatry, and been recognized by Honorary Membership in the World Psychiatric Association and awards from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, American Psychiatric Association, and Society for Biological Psychiatry. Dr. Eckstrand’s commitment to diversity has been recognized through awards from the American Medical Association, American Medical Student Association, the Association of American Medical Colleges, and the Tennessee Medical Association.


Treatment Clinician
Jessica Gahr, MA

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Jessica Gahr is a treatment clinician at the SAFE program. She received her undergraduate degree in psychology from the University of Arkansas. Jessica attained her Master of Arts degree in clinical psychology from the University of Toledo. She completed an internship at the University of Toledo Children's Hospital, The Cullen Center, where she provided treatment to children who have experienced trauma. Jessica has experience using evidence-based treatments for a variety of clinical issues such as trauma, anxiety, and problematic behaviors. She values open communication and family-involvement when providing services. In addition, she strives to understand a child's symptoms within the greater environmental context.


Treatment Clinician
Patrick McCormick, MA

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Patrick McCormick is a treatment clinician at the SAFE program. He received his undergraduate degree in psychology from Duquesne University and his Master of Arts degree in forensic psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. He completed a clinician internship in the Forensic Diagnostic Unit at Downstate Correctional Facility. Patrick has been a member of the WPIC community since 2014, transitioning into the SAFE team from WPIC Acute Adolescent Partial Hospitalization and Re:Solve Crisis Center. Patrick has experience using evidence-based treatments for a variety of clinical issues such as trauma, anxiety, depression, lethality and problematic behaviors. Patrick is also a member of the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals (ATAP).


Treatment Clinician
Michelle Hernandez, LSW

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Michelle Hernandez is a treatment clinician at the SAFE program. She received her undergraduate degree in Psychology and Political Science from Stony Brook University and her Master of Social Work from Fordham University. She is a native from New York City (NYC) and fluent in English and Spanish.

During her time in NYC, she worked as a case manager at HELP USA’s supportive housing program providing services and advocacy to adults with mental health and substance abuse issues, as well as their respective families. Additionally, she completed two internships at the Association to Benefit Children, interning for their Mobile School-Based Response Team and outpatient mental health clinic. As a first-year intern at the school-based response team, she provided brief counseling to middle school aged students, crisis intervention, behavioral management, and classroom support. As a second-year intern, she provided individual psychotherapy to young children and adolescents struggling with mental health issues and complex traumas. Michelle has experience using evidence-based treatments for an assortment of issues such as depression, anxiety, trauma, and behavioral issues. She is currently a licensed social worker in the state of Pennsylvania.


Treatment Clinician
Caroline Barensfeld, MA

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Caroline Barensfeld is a treatment clinician at the SAFE Program. She received her undergraduate degree in Philosophy from Barnard College of Columbia University. Caroline received her graduate degree in Counseling Psychology with a focus in Community Mental Health from the California Institute of Integral Studies. She completed an internship at Citywide Case Management, a division of University of California San Francisco’s Department of Psychiatry, as a mobile social work intern, outreaching clients who struggle with severe mental illness, substance use, and homelessness. Caroline completed a second year-long internship at The Clinic Without Walls in San Francisco, providing therapy to children, families, adults, and couples. Caroline’s most recent work engagement prior to the SAFE Program was working as a social work associate at a supportive housing site in San Francisco where she provided counseling and case management to the residents. Caroline has experience using evidence-based practices and believes in a strengths-based and collaborative approach when working with clients.


Research Associate
Madeline Seel, MA

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Madeline Seel is the Research Associate for the PFE, SAFE, and SAFETY programs. She received her undergraduate degree in psychology from the University of Pittsburgh and her Master of Arts degree in psychology from Carlow University. Madeline has worked in youth injury prevention, creating programming for high school and middle school students across the country on the topics of traffic safety, substance abuse, and personal health and safety. She also worked on the general adult and behavioral health ICU inpatient psychiatric unit at Western Psychiatric Hospital. Madeline completed an undergraduate research experience on the emotional and personality development in youth and a graduate practicum in forensic psychology.