Sunday, November 9, 2014

Helping Children Manage Their Worries

It is common for children to have worries.  Children can get nervous, fearful, or even “stressed out”—just as adults do.  Fears or worries may result from new experiences, such as moving to a new town, starting a new school, going to a first sleepover, or preparing for a new sibling.  Experiencing these feelings in response to new or challenging situations is typical and very appropriate for children.

However, when worries and fears occur on a more frequent basis, and, most importantly, if these feelings are significant enough to interfere with a child’s daily functioning, additional support may be warranted.

Recognizing a child is suffering from anxiety can be difficult.  Although some children are at the age and skill level to effectively express their tendencies to worry, others struggle to identify their feelings and/or communicate them clearly.  Signs of anxiety in children include separation anxiety, wanting to avoid school, social isolation, extreme sensitivity to rejection, and significant changes in eating and sleeping habits.

So what are parents to do if they note increased tendencies to worry in their children?  Children are often highly sensitive to their parents’ emotions, including parents’ own stress and anxiety.  By taking steps to manage their own level of stress, parents can help reduce their children’s anxiety.

Additionally, by modeling relaxation strategies (i.e. calm breathing, visualization, and meditation), talking through challenging feelings instead of internalizing them, allowing downtime with minimal stimulation, and simplifying daily schedules, parents can play a critical role in helping their children live effectively and fully, even with worries.

By Kate Dryden, Ph.D; Psychologist at Grew, Morter & Hartye in Raleigh, NC.  Dr. Dryden works with toddlers, children, and adolescents and specializes in the evaluation and treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Psychological Testing is to Psychology as Blood Work is to Medicine

You see your primary care physician because you are experiencing low energy, joint pain, and weight gain.  Your physician knows that these symptoms could be indicative of several medical diagnoses. And so to confirm a diagnosis, and to rule-out other diagnoses, your physician orders a series of tests, starting with blood work.  The results of the blood work not only clarify the problem, but ultimately direct the course of treatment.

This process is analogous to how psychologists approach the treatment of emotional difficulties.  After a careful screen of a person’s current symptoms, health history, and general functioning, psychologists conduct diagnostic testing to confirm the presence of a diagnosis, and to rule-out other diagnoses.  The results of these tests also highlight the optimal course of treatment, and assist the clinician and client in developing an individualized treatment plan that will be both efficient and effective.

In general, psychological testing examines aspects of personality, relationship functioning, information processing, and approaches toward coping.   When the client has educationally-related questions (such as the presence of ADHD or learning disabilities), additional testing may be warranted, including tests to assess working memory, intelligence, and academic achievement.

In general, psychological testing can be very much like a road map.  It gives you and your clinician a sense of your starting point, your ending point, and directions for how to most efficiently and effectively get to where you’re wanting to go!

By Amy Quinn, Psy.D; Psychologist at Grew, Morter, & Hartye, P.A.  in Raleigh, NC. She has been in practice since 2004 and conducts psychological testing and psychotherapy with individual adults.
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