EARLY CHILDHOOD & CHILDHOOD
Significant mental health problems can and do occur in young children. Many times these problems lead to significant consequences for learning, social competence and lifelong health. Science tells us that a child’s mental health issues occur within the context of an environment of relationships that can include parents, caregivers, teachers and peers. Recently, the American Psychological Association has noted an increase in the prevalence of childhood mental illness as a whole, with estimates suggesting approximately 20% of children have symptoms of one or more disorder and 15% of American children suffer from an illness severe enough to cause some level of functional impairment.
While Diagnostic criteria for psychological disorders in young children is challenging, many children show clear characteristics of them. Our Early Childhood Specialists can help with issues such as:
ANXIETY Children with anxiety disorders tend to be very hard on themselves and strive for perfection. They may also seek constant approval or reassurance from others. Many children between ages 18 months and 3 years may experience ‘separation anxiety’ when it is normal to feel some anxiety when a parent goes out of sight. If your child is slightly older and unable to leave you or another family member, or takes longer to calm down, they might be suffering from separation anxiety, which affects 4% of children. It is most common in ages 7-9.
ATTENTION DEFICIT/HYPERACTIVITY (ADHD) With symptoms usually arising in early childhood, this disorder is a condition characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, impulsiveness or a combination. Thought to be biological and most often genetic, ADHD takes place very early in brain development. Difficulty with listening, focus, distractions, organization, restlessness and attention to detail are common.
ATTACHMENT/CONDUCT DISORDER One of the most frequently diagnosed mental disorders in children, a child with Conduct Disorder engages in repetitive, persistently deviant, impulsive and/or antisocial behavior that violates the basic rights of other people or social norms. Symptoms of conduct disorder vary with age, changing as children develop physically, cognitively and socially.
PANIC Panic disorder is diagnosed if your child suffers at least two unexplainable and sudden panic or anxiety attacks, followed by at least a month of concern about having another attack, losing control or ‘going crazy’.
DEPRESSION Symptoms of depression in children vary although many children display sadness, dejection and withdrawal similar to adults who are depressed. Other symptoms may include continuous feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness, increased sensitivity to rejection, vocal outbursts, fatigue, difficulty concentrating and changes in sleep and/or appetite.
POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS (PTSD) Children with PTSD may have intense fear and anxiety, become emotionally numb or easily irritable or avoid people, places and activities after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic or life-threatening event. Not every child will develop PTSD after such an event but the ones most at risk are those who directly witnessed, directly suffered (such as injury or death of parent), lack a strong support network and may have had problems prior to such event.
Adolescence is a particularly challenging time in life as both boys and girls experience significant, yet different, biological, social and cognitive changes. During this life stage many adolescents experiment with substance use and engage in behaviors that can affect healthy neurological and psychological development. According to the Department of Health and Human Services girls are at greatest risk for substance & alcohol abuse and depression while boys are at greatest risk for binge drinking and tobacco use.
Additionally, because adolescent brains are still developing this is a time when many mental disorders may manifest themselves.
Family Therapy is helpful in many circumstances and is a form of counseling that focuses on relationships and the ability for families to relate in more useful and comfortable ways. It can involve any combination of relationships—entire families, one parent one child, couples, etc. Circumstances in which family therapy may be helpful include:
- Blending of families
- Issues arising from parenting and discipline styles
- Need for clarification of rules, responsibilities and expectations
- Need for improved relationships and communication
- Intergenerational grief
SOME EVIDENCE-BASED PRACTICES WE UTILIZE FOR TREATMENT
MULTI MODAL THERAPY (The Columbia Model) Appropriate for children and adolescents aged 6-16 who are demonstrating behavioral difficulties. Parental involvement is strongly encouraged during this process which focuses on goal setting, decision-making skills and behavior management.
SEEKING SAFETY Used with both adolescents and adults who have experienced trauma, substance abuse issues and/or self-harming behaviors. It emphasizes goal setting, positive decision-making, coping skills, relapse prevention and identifying community supports.
AGGRESSION REPLACEMENT TREATMENT (ART) For teenagers who show aggressive behaviors, this treatment identifies risky situations, focuses on ways to reduce anger and teaches social and trouble-avoidance skills.
FAMILY PSYCHO-EDUCATION Trains families to work together as part of an overall treatment plan for family members.