The Florida FIRST program offers teen therapy for mental health research

Emily Stewart

The Florida First program, which is based in the College of Nursing at Florida State University, is now offering therapy to teens. Dr. Victor Buitron was hired this past year into the Florida FIRST program as a clinical psychologist and Assistant Professor of Psychology in research for his study on mental health amongst teens. To further his research on mental health, Dr. Buitron created The Youth Resilience Program which offers telehealth cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) based treatment for adolescents.

“Our goal with this therapy program is to provide ongoing services that are resource efficient and reach under-resourced families that typically would not have access to services,” said Dr. Buitron.

Florida FIRST is an NIH funded research grant that aims to transform institutional culture at Florida State University to generate a self-sustaining scientific community dedicated to inclusive excellence. The program recruits new tenure-track assistant professors, like Dr. Buitron, from diverse backgrounds and invests in the development, mentorship, advancement, and retention of new faculty in two broad domains of research excellence: (1) chronic disease prevention and management; and (2) mental health.

Based on Dr. Buitron prior work, major depression and social anxiety were commonly part of the diagnostic profile of teens who qualified for the program. His research aims to examine the role of youth interpersonal and cognitive development in the causation of suicide-related cognition and self-injurious behavior. Dr. Buitron has considerable clinical expertise informing his research, including experience providing individual/group inpatient treatment, intensive outpatient treatment, case management, hospital-based evaluations, and bilingual clinical care.

The Youth resilience Program is available for eligible teens, ages 14-17, who are struggling with their mental health and frequent negative thoughts. More specifically, they have a broad range of symptoms (e.g., anxiety, depression), experience negative thoughts, and whose families are under-resourced. The CBT-based treatment is administered by clinical psychologists in telehealth group and text messaging modalities and provides daily support from therapists to participating teens. These messages can include CBT strategies, Discussion of assigned CBT homework, or crisis intervention. In addition, teens will participate in group sessions which are led by trainees in the clinical psychology doctoral program at FSU.

As for parents of the participating teens, the program provides “parent group” which involves supportive therapy, problem solving and gratitude activity. It is just as important for parents to be involved and supported by the program as much as it is for the child to be supported so they can thrive in treatment.

This program is sponsored by the Center for Translational Behavioral Science (CTBS) and the Center of Population Sciences for Health Equity (CPSHE), both being affiliates of the Florida FIRST program. The founder and director of the CTBS, Dr. Sylvie Naar is a strong sponsor and mentor for Dr. Buitron and his study. Prior to coming to FSU, Dr. Naar was Director of the Division of Behavioral Sciences in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health Sciences at Wayne State University, a division with seven female faculty. She has worked extensively with the NIH designing workshops for early phase behavioral translational science and leads the implementation of science core for the NIH Adolescent Trials Network. She is also a Co-investigator on the Faculty Development Core of the Florida FIRST program. Dr. Buitron has a full team of mentors, including Dr. Naar, and resources aiding him in his research and the building of the Youth Resilience Program.

“The program is an amazing resource as we have limited access to quality mental health services right now considering how the waitlists are huge and there are insurance barriers. My goal is to support his community engagement and recruitment efforts as his other mentors have the content expertise.” said Dr. Naar.

The youth resilience program is ongoing and is open to teens and parents across the whole state of Florida. As of now, there is no waitlist, and the recruitment is ongoing. It is important to note that teens who need intensive and restrictive care (e.g., inpatient/partial hospitalization) would not be a good fit for this program.


Please click here to learn more and register for the Youth Resilience Program.