Children are brought in for treatment for many reasons. The most common of which are the following:
- School difficulties including academic underachievement and/or disciplinary problems
- Emotional difficulties including depression, anxiety and anger
- Behavioral difficulties including disobeying rules, illegal behavior, substance involvement and/or aggression or violence towards others
- Other difficulties – social difficulties, low self-esteem, poor body image, impulse control disorders
The most common causes of these difficulties are the following:
Mood Regulation Disorders – depression, anxiety
- Attention/Behavior Regulation Disorders – ADHD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder
- Learning Disabilities
- Substance Abuse or Addictions
- Personality Traits/Disorders
- Life Stressors
- Medical Conditions
- Other Psychiatric Disorders
Your child’s treatment at Strength for Change will begin with a comprehensive mental health assessment. The goals of the assessment are to determine what is causing your child’s difficulties and to develop a trusting and collaborative relationship with your child. Both goals are crucial to successfully treating your child. The specific cause of the difficulties determines the most appropriate (effective) treatment plan to implement. The trusting and collaborative relationship enables your therapist to encourage and influence your child to cooperate with the implementation of the treatment plan. Failure in one or both of these goals will greatly diminish the likelihood of a successful treatment outcome.
During the assessment stage, your therapist will obtain information about your child using multiple instruments including many of the following:
- Semi-Structured Life History Interview:
- Symptom Interview
- Depression, Anxiety & Symptom Questionnaires
- Amen Mood Behavior Questionnaire
- Personality Interview and/or Questionnaire
- Parent Intake Packet
- Parent Symptom Questionnaire
- School Behavioral Checklist (Parent needs to sign release of information)
- School Contact/Feedback – Prior Treatment Provider Contact/Feedback
The reason we use so many assessment instruments is because we want to obtain a large pool of data thereby increasing our capacity to cross-reference information and improve the accuracy of our analysis. Parents fill out several forms including a parent intake packet that provides us with detailed information regarding their child’s life and symptom history.
ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS YOU MIGHT HAVE ABOUT THE ASSESSMENT STAGE:
- Why do you meet with the child (and not the parent) first?
Many children feel a high level of anxiety and/or distrust (believing that the parent(s) and therapist are in cahoots) about attending therapy. Rather than risk feeding their negative feelings by having closed door meetings with their parent(s), we meet with the children first so that we can (as quickly as possible) put their minds at ease and start developing a positive rapport.
- How will you know what is really going on with my child if he/she is not telling you the truth?
We are aware that the information reported by your child may not match the facts about what is really going on. This is why we will not make any clinical judgments based solely on what your child reports. As part of your child’s intake, you will fill out a lengthy and detailed intake packet and sign releases (if you choose) enabling us to contact your child’s school and others involved in your child’s care. It is the combination of information from several relevant sources (including the most important source – you) that will enable us to understand your child and his/her treatment needs.
Even if your child presents information that is inaccurate, the information is helpful in that it provides insight to your child’s level of honesty, life prospective, communication style, level of self-awareness, readiness for therapy and other key treatment factors.
- Why does it take 3-8 sessions?
If our only goal for the assessment stage was to obtain the information necessary for an accurate diagnosis, we could get through all the assessment questions in 1-2 sessions. Because we also have the second goal of developing a collaborative and trusting working relationship with your child, the format we use takes longer because of its’ emphasis on interacting with your child in way that creates a positive rapport. The format reflects over 20 years of clinical experience working with children.
We can always understand why a parent would be eager for us to move quickly from the assessment to the treatment stage of therapy. In response, we must emphasis that successfully achieving the two goals of the assessment stage is just as relevant (if not more so) to a successful treatment outcome as any skill or strategy that is taught during the treatment stage.
- When will I find out what is going on with my child?
The assessment stage will conclude with you coming in for an hour and a half long assessment review session. Your therapist will report to you the assessment findings including a diagnosis (if applicable) and individualized treatment plan. Your child’s treatment plan will reflect his/her individual needs along with research-based treatment recommendations.
Following the assessment review session, if you agree with our assessment findings and individualized treatment plan, we will begin the treatment stage of therapy. During the treatment stage, our primary focus will be to assist your child (or you and other family members) in developing the skills and strategies necessary to overcome the presenting life difficulties.
As you wait for the assessment stage to be completed, you may want to get a jump-start on learning about the nature of your child’s difficulties and some of the skills and strategies that your therapist might present to you. Below is a bibliography of several books that we have found to be helpful to parents. Please read over the list and, either, select the title that best addresses the difficulties your child is having or ask your therapist for a recommendation. The more educated you become about your child’s difficulties, the more effective parent and advocate you can be for your child.