Children and adolescents have unique needs when promoting their psychological wellness. Children are not simply “little adults.”

Human development is marked by periods of rapid change, especially between birth and age six. Children’s brains continue to grow and develop rapidly, and are affected by biological, social, and environmental factors – especially within the family system.

Early efforts to promote the healthy emotional and social development of children, adolescents, and their family members can have tremendous benefits for children in the long-term. These benefits include school readiness, academic success, choosing healthy behaviors, positive peer and family relationships, and positive involvement in their community.

Child and family services are available for children and adolescents ages
0 to 18, parents and caregivers, and families. Talk with our friendly administrative staff today and schedule a day and time that works for your schedule to discuss your concerns .

Clinical Problems by Developmental Phase

Infants and Toddlers 0 to 2 years
  • Developmental problems
  • Postnatal anxiety disorder and postnatal depression
Pre-school Aged Children 3 to 5 years
  • Separation anxiety
  • Phobia problems
  • Sadness, grief, trauma and loss
  • Toilet issues (encopresis and enuresis problems)
  • Family separation, divorce
  • Sleeping problems
  • Challenging behavior (tantrums, non-compliance, hyperactivity)
  • Social development
  • Anger problems
  • Obsessions and habits
  • Learning, communication or developmental difficulties
  • Clinical disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism spectrum disorder, global developmental delay, language disorders, other psychological health problems.
School Aged Children 5 to 12 years
  • Anxiety disorders or phobias
  • Sadness, grief, trauma and loss
  • Social or friendship problems
  • Sleep problems
  • Bullying, fights
  • Encopresis and Enuresis problems (bedwetting, soiling problems)
  • Educational and or academic difficulties
  • Learning problems
  • Behavior and or conduct problems (tantrums, non-compliance, hyperactivity)
  • Family separation
  • Obsessions and habits
  • Clinical disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disability, language disorders, other psychological health.
Teenage Years 13 to 18 years
  • Anxiety disorders or phobias
  • Sadness, grief, trauma and loss
  • Social or friendship problems
  • Sexual activity
  • Self-injury, cutting
  • Drugs and alcohol use
  • Educational and or academic difficulties
  • Behavior and or conduct problems (aggressiveness, bullying, non-compliance, hyperactivity)
  • Divorce, family separation
  • Clinical disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disability, language disorders, other psychological health problems.

Assessment, Therapy, and Medication Services:

Assessments can be brief or comprehensive, may include rating scales, clinical interviews, or psychological tests. Psychological assessments are used to answer clinical questions – “Does this child have ADHD?” “Does this child have learning disorders?” “Does this child have bipolar disorder or borderline personality disorder or both?”

Early childhood assessments

  • Behavior/Social Emotional
  • Communication and Language
  • Pre-Literacy & Literacy
  • Vocabulary & Concepts
  • Developmental
  • Motor Sensory
  • Observational
  • School Readiness

Childhood and adolescent assessments

  • Ability/Cognitive/Intelligence
  • Achievement
    • Basic Skills
    • Diagnostic
  • Autism
    • Behavior
    • Adaptive Behavior
    • Diagnostic
    • Functional Behavior
  • Biopsychosocial
  • Eating Disorders
  • Substance Abuse
  • Developmental
  • Executive Function/Attention
  • Learning Disabilities
    • Dyscalculia/Mathematics
    • Dysgraphia/Writing
    • Dyslexia/Reading
  • Neuropsychological
  • Psychopathology
  • School Readiness

Clinical Therapy Services

  • Family centered therapy – work with young child, parent or caregiver, and teaching and or childcare professionals to create a dynamic change for child across all settings
  • Family counseling – parents are key supports during this time and parent involvement in treatment interventions can be very powerful and effective for improving the quality of communication in families with teenagers who are experiencing challenges
  • Play based therapy – conduct counseling and teach new skills via a range of age appropriate activities; children usually find this process fun and engaging
  • Individual and group psychotherapies to treat specific psychological health problems such as anxiety, phobias, trauma, mood disturbances
  • Social skills training – to enhance a child’s social skills
  • Behavior therapy – strategies to reduce problematic or unwanted behavior (hitting, yelling, defiance, temper tantrums, biting, etc.) and to increase wanted behavior (better sleeping behavior, positive communication, and emotional regulation skills)
  • Psychotherapy for postnatal anxiety and or depression
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) – designed for children with borderline personality disorder and or emotional dysregulation and suicidal or self-injurious behavior
  • Co-parenting – for parents in the process of or who have gone through divorce or separation and experience difficulty communicating and coordinating child care and activities with each other

Medication Management

  • Medications – medications are provided to target severe emotional and behavioral symptoms, often in combination with counseling or psychotherapy. Medications prescribed to children and adolescents with severe disorders are psycho-stimulants, anti-depressants, and antipsychotics.

Common Clinical Problems

Anxiety, Fear

The symptoms of fear, worry, and anxiety are commonly experienced by children and adolescents who suffer from anxiety problems and disorders. Anxiety is a negative emotion that involves feeling nervous, scared, afraid, or worried. Usually we feel anxious when we think something bad is about to happen. Although everyone experiences anxiety, some persons begin to feel anxious and or worried so much that it makes them feel really uncomfortable and starts to disrupt their lives. Clinically significant anxiety (anxiety needing clinical attention) among children and adolescents can be described as an extreme response to a situation or event that a young person perceives as threatening and is out of proportion to the actual danger. This anxious response frequently includes thoughts of impending harm or danger, heightened arousal such as increased heart rate and rapid breathing, and often the avoidance of situations or events that cause discomfort. The experience of a child or adolescent suffering from clinically significant anxiety can lead to considerable distress and interference with daily activities at school, at home, or with peers. Anxiety Disorders: generalized anxiety disorder, panic, agoraphobia, social phobia, separation anxiety disorder.

Depression, Hopelessness

Sadness, hopelessness, and depression are among the most common symptoms of child and adolescent depression and related disorders. Although it is common for most children and teenagers to feel down or sad sometimes, a smaller number of youth experience a more severe phenomenon known as depression. Such young people, who are often described as “clinically” depressed, feel sad, hopeless, or irritable for weeks or even months at a time. They may lose interest in activities that they used to enjoy (playing with friends), their sleeping and eating habits often change (they may eat or sleep either more or less than usual), and they may have trouble thinking or paying attention. Of particular concern, youths who are clinically depressed may think or talk a lot about death and some depressed children have more specific thoughts about hurting or killing themselves.  Depressive Disorders: major depressive disorder, persistent depressive disorder, complex bereavement .

Inattention and Hyperactivity

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): Persistent inattention and hyperactivity are two hallmark symptoms of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Children and adolescents with ADHD show age-inappropriate levels of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Symptoms of inattention include difficulty staying on task, distractibility, disorganization, and forgetfulness. Symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity, on the other hand, include interrupting the conversations or activities of others, acting without thinking, talking excessively, and running around when expected to sit quietly. These problems are usually apparent early in development (before age 7), are present in more than one setting (at home, at school, with peers), and typically follow a chronic course. As a result of their inattention and behavior problems, youths with ADHD often struggle academically and have difficulty getting along with their parents, teachers, and peers. Although most children and adolescents with ADHD experience problems in all three areas of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, some young people experience difficulty with sustained attention, disorganization, and forgetfulness, but do not display hyperactive or impulsive behavior. In such cases, problems can go unnoticed until middle school, when academic demands and the structure of the school day often require increased organization. A smaller number of youths (usually very young children) display hyperactive and impulsive behavior in the absence of attention problems. For these children, however, attention problems often emerge as they face increasing demands at school.

Breaking Rules, Defiance

Rule breaking, defiance, and generally “acting out” are some of the defining features of a group of disorders referred to as child and adolescent disruptive behavior problems. Children and adolescents with disruptive behavior problems may engage in various behaviors which are deemed to be inappropriate or which negatively impact their environment, such as stealing, arguing, lying, etc. These behaviors may also impede an adolescent’s or child’s ability to learn or interact successfully in society and or with peers. These problems are generally a source of great concern for parents as they often seriously disrupt family life, result in disciplinary problems at school, and even trouble with the police. Disruptive Behavior Disorders: oppositional defiant disorder, conduct disorder.

Drug and Alcohol Use

The initiation of drug and alcohol use is most likely to occur during adolescence, and some experimentation with substances by older adolescents is common. A nationwide study on rates of substance use showed that 47% of 12th graders report having used an illicit drug at some point in their lives. Thankfully, the large majority of adolescents will phase out of drug use before it becomes problematic. Thus, although rates of overall use are high, the percentage of adolescents who meet criteria for substance abuse is significantly lower (close to 5%).  Substance abuse and dependence are each forms of problematic substance use. Signs that a person’s substance use has reached the level of abuse are that the substance use interferes with school or a job and or disrupts family relationships and friendships. Someone struggling with substance abuse may show sudden drops in academic performance and be unable to stop despite frequent conflict with family or friends. Substance dependence is more severe. Some signs that an individual’s substance use has reached the level of dependence are that drugs are repeatedly uses in a physically dangerous situation (driving under the influence), focuses on substance use to the neglect of other interests, often uses more than intended or for longer periods of time, and cannot cut down or quit if desired. Someone struggling with substance dependence may show academic failure, spend most of his or her time using alcohol or drugs, hang out exclusively with substance-using friends, and have experienced injury, illness, or legal repercussions related to substance use. Substance Abuse and Dependence Disorders:  abuse and dependence of alcohol, cocaine, amphetamines, opioids, benzodiazepines and sedatives, cannabis, hallucinogens.

Trauma, Adjustment Reaction

Trauma: Those suffering from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) develop symptoms following exposure to a traumatic event involving actual or threatened death or serious injury or harmful threats to oneself or others, or sexual violence. The child or adolescent’s response to the traumatic event involves intense fear, helplessness, horror, and or disorganized or agitated behavior. A primary feature of posttraumatic stress is that the traumatic event is persistently “re-experienced” by the person in the form of recurrent, intrusive, and frightening recollections or dreams. The child or adolescent often acts as if the event were about to reoccur through feelings of intense distress or arousal in response to symbolic cues that resemble some aspect of the event. In addition, affected youths generally avoid objects, people, or places associated with the trauma, fail to remember important details about the event, as well as tend to experience a severe loss of interest in activities, feelings of detachment, and restriction of feelings. Further, the child or adolescent will often experience associated negative symptoms such as difficulty sleeping, irritability or anger outbursts, difficulty concentrating, being overly vigilant, and/or exaggerated startle responses. The disturbance occurs for more than one month and causes marked distress for the child.  Adjustment Reaction: Sometimes youth may develop depressive symptoms after experiencing a stressful event or set of events (e.g., parents’ divorce, school failure, break-up with a boyfriend or girlfriend, natural disaster, etc.). Although it is not unusual for children or teens to feel sad, worried, angry, or upset under such circumstances, some youths may experience more distress than might be expected. For example, their anxiety and or mood may cause their grades to drop or their personal relationships to suffer. These children and teens may have a type of condition called Adjustment Disorder, which typically starts within 3 months of a stressful event and lasts no longer than 6 months. If a stressor persists over a long period of time, however, these symptoms may last for a longer period of time.

Eating, Body Image Problems

Given that many cultures combine a love of food and eating with an intense pressure to achieve and or maintain a ‘thin ideal’ (especially among females), it is perhaps unsurprising that this aspect of human behavior is subject to disorder. Although dieting to lose weight is quite common, fortunately far fewer people will suffer from eating disorders throughout their lifetimes (less than 7% of the general population). Eating disorders are characterized by abnormal eating behaviors, maladaptive and often harmful efforts to control one’s body shape or weight, and severe disturbances in one’s perceived body image. Research has suggested that the female-to-male sex ratio of the prevalence of the two principal eating disorders, anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, are approximately 10-to-1. Eating Disorders: anorexia nervosa, bulimic nervosa, binge eating, body dysmorphic.

Mood Swings, Anger and Rage

Severe mood swings and bursts of rage are two hallmark symptoms of child and adolescent bipolar disorder. Bipolar Disorder (BPD) is characterized by extreme changes in mood that range from depressive “lows” to manic “highs” (typified by feelings of excessive happiness or rage). It is important to note that these moods exceed normal responses to life events, represent a change from the person’s normal functioning, and cause problems in daily activities – for instance, in getting along with family, friends and teachers, or in completing schoolwork. Depressive symptoms of BPD often include sadness, irritability, an inability to enjoy one’s usual activities, changes in appetite or weight, and or sleeping more than normal or having difficulty falling or staying asleep even when tired. Manic symptoms of BPD may include the following: inflated or unrealistic self-esteem; needing less sleep than normal and still feeling energetic; talking more/faster than normal; changing the topic of conversation so quickly/often that it interferes with communication; feeling that one’s thoughts are “racing”; increased distractibility; difficulty sitting still; an unusual drive to engage in activities or pursue goals (excessive cleaning, making clearly unrealistic plans); and engaging in risky or dangerous behaviors (riding a bike on the highway; inappropriate sexual behaviors). Identifying BPD in youth is challenging. Bipolar Disorders: bipolar I and II disorders, cyclothymic disorder.

Autism and Related Disorders

Autism and related disorders are often referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) because they describe a broad category of psychological disorders which include Autistic Disorder and Asperger’s Disorder. ASDs are considered to belong to the category of pervasive developmental disorders because they begin during the first 3 years of life and have life-long implications. Although it is important to note that manifestations of ASD may vary greatly depending on the person, their developmental level, and a variety of other factors, the most common features are represented by the following three domains: 1) Impairments in social interaction. These may include problems in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors to regulate social interaction (making eye contact, appropriate facial expressions), failure to develop peer relationships at the appropriate developmental level, a lack of the spontaneous desire or ability to share enjoyment, interest, or achievements with other people, and difficulties understanding social or emotional reciprocity (turn-taking during conversation or play). 2) Impairments in communication. Marked and sustained impairment in communication often includes either a delay in or lack of the development of spoken language, problems with the ability to initiate or sustain conversations, stereotyped and repetitive use of language, and lack of spontaneous, make believe, or social-imitative play. In those who develop speech, often the pitch, intonation, rate, rhythm, or stress maybe abnormal. 3) Narrow, restrictive behaviors. A child may be tend to be completely absorbed or preoccupied with one or more stereotyped or restricted patterns of interest (machines with motors). In addition, a child may rigidly perform certain behaviors, rituals, or routines (counting steps, separating food by colors), exhibit repetitive motor mannerisms (hand flapping), and present a persistent preoccupation with parts of object.

Self-injury, Self-harm

Self-injurious thoughts and behaviors are relatively rare in childhood but increase dramatically during the transition to adolescence. It is estimated that each year approximately 16% of adolescents will seriously consider killing themselves and 8% will attempt suicide. Non-suicidal self-injury is even more common among youth: around 18% of adolescents report engaging in these behaviors. Self-injurious thoughts and behaviors refers to thinking about intentionally hurting oneself or engaging in actions that are directly harmful to the self. This broad class is divided into two subcategories. Suicidal self-injury (or suicidal behavior) refers to intentional, self-inflicted injuries where an individual has at least some intent to die (suicide attempts). Suicide ideation (or suicidal thoughts) are thoughts about killing oneself. Non-suicidal self-injury refers to self-inflicted injuries where a person has NO intent to die. The most common forms are skin-cutting, burning, scratching, and banging or hitting oneself. These non-suicidal forms of self-injury are most often used to reduce unpleasant emotional experiences such as sadness, anxiety, and anger.

Weight Problems

Childhood overweight is defined as a body mass index (BMI) greater than the 85th percentile for age and gender, and obesity is defined as a BMI greater than the 95th percentile. Approximately one third of youth in the United States currently fall into one of these categories. Overweight and obesity in childhood and adolescence tends to remain consistent into adulthood and is associated with significant psychosocial and medical comorbidities, including cardiovascular problems, greater risk for the development of eating disorders, poorer quality of life, and increased depression. Furthermore, obesity in youth poses a significant economic burden to society, with over 14 billion dollars estimated to be spent on this annually, with rates expected to increase as youth who are overweight or obese become adults who are overweight or obese.