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Project BEST Planning Team

roster of professionals


Project Best

M. Elizabeth Ralson, Ph.D.M. Elizabeth Ralston, Ph.D.
Project BEST Co-Director

M. Elizabeth Ralston, Ph.D. is the founding director of the Dee Norton Lowcountry Children's Center (DNLCC), an accredited Children’s Advocacy Center located in Charleston, SC.  She is on the clinical faculty of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at the Medical University of South Carolina. Dr. Ralston serves on the Board of Directors of the National Children’s Alliance and participates on the National Child Traumatic Stress Network Child Welfare committee.  She has served on the board of Directors of Voices for South Carolina’s Children, was on the founding board and served as president of the SC Chapter of the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children, is a past president of the SC Chapter of Children’s Advocacy Centers, serves on the Citizens Review Panel for the Lowcountry of South Carolina, and is a member of the SC Children’s Justice Act Task Force. Dr. Ralston is the co-director of Project BEST, a community based learning collaborative coordinated through Children’s Advocacy Centers and funded by The Duke Endowment. The goal of Project Best is to increase the availability of Trauma Focused-Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to the children of South Carolina by training community mental health professionals in the delivery of TF-CBT and training community treatment brokers to do evidence based treatment planning and case management.  Dr. Ralston also provides training, consultation, expert testimony and technical assistance regarding child maltreatment at the local and state level as well as national and international level.

Benjamin E. Saunders, Ph.D.Benjamin E. Saunders, Ph.D.
Project BEST Co-Director, Broker Track Coordinator

Dr. Ben Saunders is a Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, South Carolina.  There he serves as Director of the Family and Child Program of the National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center.  Dr. Saunders received his Ph.D. in clinical social work from Florida State University and holds a masters degree in marriage and family therapy from Virginia Tech.  He is a Licensed Independent Social Worker-Clinical Practice.  His research, training, and clinical interests include the initial and long term impact of violence and abuse on children and adolescents; the epidemiology of trauma, violence, and abuse; treatment approaches for abused children and their families; and, effective methods for disseminating evidence-based practices.  His work has been funded by several federal agencies, including the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Institute on Child Health and Human Development, the National Institute of Justice, the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the Office for Victims of Crime, and the U.S. Department of the Navy.  In 2001, Dr. Saunders received the Research Career Achievement Award from the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children.   He was the Co-Director for the first learning collaborative on TF-CBT conducted by the NCTSN, is the Co-Director of Project BEST, and the director of the Trauma Learning Collaborative for Washington, DC (TLC for DC), a citywide dissemination project on TF-CBT.  He is Co-Course Director for two web-based learning courses on TF-CBT, TF-CBTWeb and CTGWeb.   In addition to his research and teaching activities, Dr. Saunders maintains a consulting practice, and often is called as an expert witness in legal cases.

Rochelle HansonRochelle F. Hanson, Ph.D.
Clinical Track Coordinator

Dr. Rochelle Hanson is a Professor and Director of Clinical Operations at the National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center (NCVC), Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Medical University of South Carolina. She is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist specializing in the treatment of abused and traumatized children and youth. Her research focuses on the prevalence and effects of trauma exposure as well as dissemination of evidence-based practices for trauma-exposed youth. Dr. Hanson received a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Florida State University and completed an NIMH post-doctoral research fellowship in Sexual Assault Research at the NCVC.  She has served as a co-investigator on several federally-funded projects investigating violence exposure among children and adolescents. She is currently the principal investigator on an NIMH-funded grant examining the best ways to transport empirically-supported trauma-focused treatments into community-based settings. Dr. Hanson is a former board member of the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children. She is the Co-Director of Project BEST, a state-wide initiative to ensure that all South Carolina children and their families, who are identified as having experienced abuse and resulting trauma, receive appropriate, empirically supported mental health assessment and psychosocial treatment services.  Dr. Hanson maintains a clinical practice, providing treatment to children and adults.

Michael de Arellano, Ph.D.
Clinical Track and Cultural Adaptation Faculty

Dr. Michael de Arellano is an Associate Professor and a Licensed Clinical Psychologist at the National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center (NCVC), Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Medical University of South Carolina.  He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 1996 with a degree in Clinical Psychology, and he completed an NIMH-Funded post-doctoral fellowship in Violence and Traumatic Stress Research at the NCVC.  Dr. de Arellano's clinical work and research focus on developing and evaluating treatment services for child victims of traumatic events from traditionally underserved population groups (e.g., rural, economically disadvantaged, Latino, African-American).  He is the director and founder of the NCVC Hispanic Outreach Program - Esperanza (HOPE) and the Community Outreach Program - Esperanza (COPE) Clinics, which provide community-based clinical services, advocacy, and intensive case management to underserved children and families who have been victimized by crime or other traumatic events.  Currently, Dr. de Arellano's research focuses on assessing victimization and its consequences, including potential factors (e.g., spirituality, familismo, machismo) that may mediate or moderate the effects of victimization among immigrant Mexican and Mexican American families.  His research and clinical work also have focused on evaluating and adapting evidence-based interventions for use with Latino child victims of traumatic events.

Rachael Garrett, LMSW
Broker Track Faculty

Rachael Garrett is the Director of Community Services at the Dee Norton Lowcountry Children’s Center (DNLCC), an accredited children’s advocacy center in Charleston, SC.   Prior to earning her Masters degree in Social Work from The Catholic University of America she lived and worked with children exposed to violence in Honduras, Central America.  She joined the staff at DNLCC in 2008 as the bilingual forensic interviewer where, in addition to assisting in child abuse investigations as a part of the multidisciplinary team (MDT), she also regularly provided trauma-focused, evidence-based treatments to children and families.  As the Director of Community Services, Rachael now is responsible for maintaining DNLCC’s multidisciplinary response to children and families through partnering with community agencies to ensure a collaborated community response to child abuse.  She coordinates trainings for professionals and for the general public on child abuse, the impact of trauma on children, and evidence-based services available in the community.  Rachael is a member of the faculty of Project BEST, a community-based training and implementation model for TF-CBT, disseminated across South Carolina through children’s advocacy centers and their MDTs.  She is a past board chair of the South Carolina Network of Children’s Advocacy Centers.

Angela Moreland, Ph. D.

Angela Moreland, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor at the National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center (NCVC) at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC). She earned her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Purdue University in 2009 and completed her pre-doctoral clinical internship and post-doctoral research fellowship at the NCVC. Dr. Moreland’s research interests focus on primary and secondary prevention of child abuse and risk factors for maltreatment among parents of young children, with particular focus on high-risk, disadvantaged families. She is currently collecting pilot data for larger prevention projects in local Headstart centers and in disadvantaged rural areas throughout South Carolina, which include programs targeting the Hispanic population. Dr. Moreland also examines the link between early victimization and high-risk behaviors, such as substance use and delinquency, among adolescents. She serves as the evaluator of the Program on Adolescent Traumatic Stress (PATS), through the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, as well as serving a primary role on several other projects focused on exposure to violence among adolescents, and associated consequences and high risk behaviors. In addition, Dr. Moreland held a leadership role on a policy project entitled Vision 21 through the Office of Victims of Crime at the Department of Justice, which focuses on transforming victim services to better meet the needs of trauma victims and their families.

Janis S. Koenig, M.Ed.Janis S. Koenig, M.Ed.
Program Coordinator

Jan Koenig is the Program Coordinator for the Family and Child Program of the National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center (NCVC), Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Medical University of South Carolina. She received a B.A. degree from Florida Atlantic University and holds a M.Ed. from the Citadel Graduate College. Ms. Koenig has been employed at the Medical University for over 30 years, holding various administrative positions in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, the Department of Biometry and Epidemiology, and Environmental BioSciences.  She is the administrative program coordinator for two learning projects, Project BEST and PATS, concerned with implementing evidence supported treatments for abused and traumatized children.