My work with children, teens, and parents draws from psychodynamic understandings of human development, in particular, the importance of healthy attachment. Secure attachments to caretakers are crucial in the development of youth, therefore my work with children and teens centers on fostering repair in ruptured/fractured emotional bonds to significant people in the youth’s life-orbit.
Other sources of inspiration include the work of Dr. Harvey Karp and his emphasis on honoring children’s emotions while modeling and setting limits to how those emotions are expressed.
It is not uncommon for me to ask parents to partake in sessions with children even when the youth is the identified client, as therapeutic progress with children typically hinges on all family members learning to approach and relate to each other with new skills and understandings. Family (parent) participation is therefore a central part in my work with youth.
My work with youth and their parent(s) centers on finding healthy ways of relating. Based on my experience, difficult behaviors are altered not through punitive consequences or sweeping conflictual material under the rug, but through learning to validate the youth’s emotions while carefully guiding and setting limits on how the emotions are expressed. In this process the parent(s) or caretaker may also have strong feelings, and keeping an eye on the feelings of the parent(s) and making sure that the parent(s) have the support to manage their own feelings in ways that leave space for the youth’s emotions and needs, is often an important first step, though each family is unique and there is no telling how the therapeutic process will exactly unfold with a given family.
Some parents want their child or teen to engage in extensive homework, complete worksheets, and other assignments. Though I would certainly be happy to look into doing that type of work if it seems productive, my therapeutic bias is, more often than not, to address real-time behaviors between parent and youth, and address obstacles to a healthy connection where everyone feels heard and respected and parent(s) learn to clarify their natural authority in ways that stress that the best interest of the youth is what is guiding the parent(s) thinking.
It is natural for parent(s) to have strong hopes and agendas for their children, and I will certainly consider these agendas, but my main focus is the youth and the youth’s own point of view in regards to what they want to work on.
I do not conduct formal psychological evaluations or tests with children, nor do I involve myself with legal disputes, except in cases where I am mandated to report abuse.
All parties with custody rights need to agree to the child’s treatment and all parties with legal custody rights need to be involved in the youth’s treatment. I am not accepting cases where there is an active custody battle or cases where parents of the youth are divorced, share custody rights, and are not willing to see me together. I am open to meeting with divorced parents to work on a co-parenting plan so that both parents can participate in the youth’s treatment.
In cases where divorced parents are willing to work with me and jointly participate in the treatment of the youth, communication from me is always to both parents – I do not communicate separately with divorced parents as that often leads to confusion and miscommunications.