Our goal in working therapeutically with children and adolescents is to provide them with coping strategies that will last a lifetime.
Our first step is to determine the need for therapy based on the youngster's problems, developmental level, and his or her ability to cooperate with treatment. We help children and teenagers to become more self-aware and to better understand their thoughts and feelings. We help them to learn new solutions to address continuing problems. Goals for therapy may be specific (such as change in behavior, improved relationships), or more general (decrease anxiety levels, improve self-esteem). The length of treatment depends on the complexity and severity of the presenting problems.
As needed, we also provide emotional support and parent education/training as part of your child's treatment.
Some common child/adolescent treatment issues include:
- ANXIETY: Children face daily academic and social challenges. Sometimes this generates extreme, unrealistic worries that may or not be based on reality. These children are often very self-conscious, rigid, and have frequent somatic complaints -- such as headaches and stomach aches -- that don't seem to have a physical basis. At The Center For Psychology, we provide treatment that can help youngsters become aware of the sources of their anxiety and develop adaptive coping strategies such as learning how to change negative thought patterns to positive ones.
- DEPRESSION: Diagnoses of childhood and adolescent depression have skyrocketed in recent years. Younger children -- who don't have sophisticated communications skills -- are likely to manifest their depression through physical complaints and behavioral problems. Adolescents may start experiencing academic problems, social isolation, irritability and/or self-destructive behavior. A variety of psychotherapeutic techniques have been shown to be effective in treating juvenile depression. For example, Cognitive behavioral therapy and supportive therapy help youngsters examine and correct negative thought patterns and self-image.
- ATTENTION DEFICIT/HYPERACTIVITY DISORDER: Children and adolescents who have ADHD have trouble paying attention in school and at home and are typically much more active and/or impulsive than others of the same age. These behaviors contribute to significant problems in relationships, learning, and behavior. ADHD affects as many as 12% of all school-age children. It is more common in boys than in girls.
Common symptoms exhibited by children with ADHD include:
It is believed that ADHD is caused by the inability to produce enough chemicals in areas in the brain that are responsible for organizing thought. Research shows that ADHD is more common in children who have close relatives with the disorder. Often times ADHD medication may be warranted as an adjunct to psychotherapy. Communication between your therapist and pediatrician or psychiatrist can be helpful in making these decisions and monitoring your child's progress.
- poor impulse control
- frequently losing things
- difficulty listening and following directions
- poor organization and time management
- trouble making plans
- forgets things
- being easily distracted
- ASPERGER'S SYNDROME: Asperger's Disorder, as it's known diagnostically, is a mild form of autism. Children with Asperger's are often socially isolated and tend to have idiosyncrasies or quirks. Many of these youngsters have difficulties with change in their routines and may become preoccupied with and/or particularly knowledgeable about a subject area of interest. Children with Asperger's have trouble interpreting non-verbal cues and are often overly sensitive to tastes, sounds and textures. The psychologists at The Center For Psychology work closely with these children on developing social skills and adaptability to help them better understand and navigate the social world.
- BODY IMAGE PROBLEMS/EATING DISORDERS: The most common types of eating disorders are Anorexia (starving oneself) and Bulimia (eating and purging). These disorders seem to revolve around a distorted body image and issues of control. Therapy is a key part of treating eating disorders, along with monitoring by a medical professional. Parents and other family members are important in helping a person become more accepting of their body shape/size and to encourage healthy eating habits.
- ANGER MANAGEMENT: Angry outbursts or tantrums are fairly common for younger children and this behavior often disappears as they grow older. However, when youngsters remain angry and oppositional, it creates serious challenges for parents. We work with these children to improve their self-control and communication skills so that they can talk about how they feel and know that they are being heard, thereby diminishing their frustration. We work with parents to develop appropriate behavioral plans at home to promote positive parenting and effective discipline.
- PERFORMANCE ANXIETY: It can happen in the classroom, on the ball field or on stage -- a child becomes immobilized out of a fear that he or she will do something wrong. Performance anxiety can lead to under-performing in school and missing out on important developmental experiences. It is important to build the confidence and self-esteem of these children, as well as to help them eliminate negative thought patterns.
- PHOBIAS: Some amount of fear and anxiety is common to everyone. For example, young children are often afraid of the dark or of large animals. These fears often fade as they get older. However when fears become irrational and/or get in the way of normal activities, they can develop into phobias. Phobias are fears of particular situations or things that are not inherently dangerous and which most people do not find troublesome. Therapy helps children understand their fears and learn to cope rather than developing patterns of avoidance or other maladaptive reactions.
- SHYNESS: Shy children tend to avoid unfamiliar situations and often have difficulty in social interactions. Their anxiety might increase when they feel they are "on display", such as when meeting someone new or having to speak in front of others. A shy child is much more comfortable watching the action from the sidelines rather than joining in. Most children feel shy from time to time, but in some children these tendencies intensify with age and can develop into an anxiety disorder. Parents can help by providing children with opportunities to interact with their peers and by role modeling appropriate social behavior. It may be helpful to consult with a professional if you have concerns about shyness and whether or not your child may be suffering from anxiety.
- SLEEP PROBLEMS: Sleep problems of childhood can include difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep that are often associated with separation fears or fear of the dark. The key to addressing sleep problems is identifying the specific thoughts/fears that are preoccupying your child. It is important that children and adolescents get the proper amount of sleep that they require for growth and development (insert statistics here?) Poor sleeping habits are linked to many psychological problems and can increase feelings of irritability or tantrum behavior.
- REPETITIVE BEHAVIOR: Like so many other childhood issues, bad habits (such as biting nails, thumb-sucking and hair pulling) are common and may continue into adulthood. However when the habit becomes unhealthy, harmful, or excessive - psychological intervention may be warranted. Often these behaviors have their root in anxiety and addressing these underlying clinical issues in the context of psychotherapy can be helpful in resolving these behaviors. Children can also benefit from learning positive coping strategies to help them when they face future challenges/stressors.
- TOILETING PROBLEMS: Children who are at least 5 years old and continue to wet their bed or clothes should be evaluated by the pediatrician to rule out medical conditions. Sometimes high levels of stress or other psychological issues can contribute to bathroom accidents or withholding. Your psychologist can work with you and your child to deal with these behaviors and promote healthy habits.