Our therapists have training and experience in working with people of all ages, but we have a special competency in working with children, adolescents, and parents. Our therapists have worked in schools (general education and special needs), hospitals, clinics, and colleges, doing intensive therapy, skills groups, crisis interventions, training, consultation, and advocacy. They have experience working with children from many identities, cultures, and backgrounds, who struggle with a wide variety of problems, including anxiety, mood disorders, out-of-control behavior, poor social skills, eating disorders, impulse control disorders, psychosis, obsessive-compulsive disorder, trauma, adoption adjustment, gender and sexuality identity formation, comorbid medical conditions, and suicidality.
There are many kinds of therapy that have been shown by research to be highly effective in treating childhood psychological concerns. Our therapists use treatment programs as needed, while also mixing humor and games into each session to build trust and collaboration! Sessions typically involve work with the child alone, with the child and parent together, and with one or both parents alone. In some circumstances, work with parents is more effective than individual therapy with a child. Sessions can be conducted in person and via secure platforms online. While COVID is still an active public health concern, therapy sessions will only be conducted online, until it is safe to meet in person.
Our therapists are well-trained in Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which is a kind of therapy that helps clients—even young children—understand how their thoughts and feelings lead to and shape their behavior. CBT has extensive research behind it that shows how effective it is in helping people change.
Our therapists also draw from many other evidence-based methods as well. These include:
- Trauma-Focused Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT). TF-CBT incorporates CBT principles in a short-term format to help children and adolescents overcome the destructive outcomes of trauma. Trauma produces fear and numbing that can then distort thoughts and perceptions. Therapists use TF-CBT to help clients identify those distorted thoughts and to increase self-worth and self-confidence.
- Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). ERP is a type of behavior therapy commonly used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and other anxiety disorders. It has been well-researched and is considered a gold standard treatment for those with OCD. ERP involves exposure to a feared situation partnered with work on preventing the ritual that is typically performed when confronted with the anxiety-producing situation. This is done to prevent compulsive responses and help free people from this response cycle. Exposure work is done in a gradient fashion and can also be used to treat other anxiety conditions, as well.
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy and DBT for Children and Preadolescents (DBT and DBT-C). Poor coping with frustration and distress can cause many problems for relationships and school success. DBT teaches mindfulness, self-compassion, and strategies for tolerating distress. One goal of treatment is to form a stronger, more positive self-identity and sense of self-worth. DBT is appropriate for people ages 12 and older. DBT-C is a modification of this program, designed for kids 6-12 years old. It helps teach self-regulation skills to combat inflexible thinking and extreme feelings and behaviors.
- Mentalization-Based Therapy and MBT for Children (MBT and MBT-C). Sometimes we think we know how others are perceiving and judging us, and we can automatically react protectively and defensively against that assumed judgment—but we might be wrong! MBT is a kind of therapy helps clients better understand how others may be thinking and feeling and to stop and think through those judgments before acting. MBT-C is a modification of this program for kids 5-12 years old. MBT-C teaches children how others’ thoughts and perceptions differ from their own, how to accurately gauge how others are thinking and feeling, and how to better regulate their own reactive responses.
- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). We often spend a great deal of energy avoiding uncomfortable feelings, which actually makes the problem worse. ACT uses mindfulness to help children and adolescents understand that difficult emotions are appropriate responses to stressors and to accept these, rather than trying to control or suppress them.
Though our therapists are highly trained in these research-supported methods, they also know that the relationship between the therapist and the client is the backbone of treatment. They approach sessions with warmth and a sense of humor, with the goal of making children and teens feel heard and validated and to increase motivation to attend therapy.
Sometimes, children and adolescents learn best when in a group with others like themselves. Group therapy can help kids practice new skills in a safe space, learn from others who are dealing with similar problems, and recognize that they aren’t alone in their struggles. Our therapists lead groups with children and adolescents to help process big emotions and to learn and practice social skills.
In addition to their expertise with children, our therapists also have extensive training and experience in working with adults. Many adults feel stress stemming from their role as parents. Individual therapy may help you become the parent you’d like to be. Sometimes your own anxiety, dysregulation, trauma, and stress can get in the way of your best parenting; individual therapy like what’s described above can be extremely effective, giving you the space to parent as you’d like.
But it may be that parent training may directly help manage your child’s behavior. For some dysregulated children, treatment with parents is actually more effective than individual treatment with a child. In these cases, we utilize the following research-based programs:
- Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT). This is a specialty treatment for children (aged 2 years to 6 years, 11 months) who have out-of-control tantrums, meltdowns, and aggression. Using a structured program over the course of 12-15 weeks, our therapists observe parents interacting with their children and coach them in how to set better boundaries, avoid emotional escalation, and teach self-regulation methods to their children. Parents and children are one-on-one during this time, while the therapist observes over a video camera and provides live coaching via an earbud. This program can be adapted for use in online therapy.
- Parent Management Training (PMT). This structured program is designed to help dysregulated children between ages 3-13, with an adaptation for older teens as well. The training is conducted with only the parents and the therapist, but it’s designed to help children reduce their disruptive and out-of-control behavior. The therapist uses modeling and role-play to teach positive reinforcement to parents, who then try new strategies with their children and report back to the therapist for modification and fine-tuning. This program is also very effective when carried out online.
- Supportive Parenting for Anxious Childhood Emotions (SPACE). This program is a treatment for anxiety in children, but it is conducted solely with parents. The goal of the treatment is to help parents identify how they accommodate their children’s anxiety, and, in that way, reinforce it. Many anxious children have built up very effective means of avoiding the things that make them anxious, and this makes their anxiety more entrenched and pervasive. SPACE helps parents recognize how they’ve inadvertantly contributed to this and helps them take steps to change this, carefully and empathetically. Research shows this parent-focused method to be very effective in some family situations, even when a child is not open to therapy themselves. SPACE can be conducted online as well.