Services for Adolescents

Assessment, Therapy, and Support

Success at school and home, and general resilience in life go hand-in-hand with good health in mental, emotional, physical and social areas. Teachers, parents, members of the health care team, professionals in the media and communication fields, and everyone in our community must work together to support adolescents. The services I provide in assessment, therapy and support are designed with specific goals in mind that enable teenagers to resolve the particular mental health concerns that bring them to my office, to become active problem-solvers, and to achieve success and happiness.

What will we do in the first session?

I typically meet with the teenage client and one or both parents in the first diagnostic session, and we discuss reasons for coming to see me, and how I can help. Following the clinical interview, I ask the student to complete a battery of tests including the Personal Problems Checklist, Health Problems Checklist, Incomplete Sentences Blank, Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), Eating Disorder Inventory (if applicable), an assessment of character strengths, and other self-report inventories. Nearly all of these assessment tools are available only to licensed clinical psychologists, and are provided at no additional cost to you.

What do you learn from the assessment tools?

The results of testing, including graphs, are reviewed in subsequent meetings, and form the basis for treatment goals and planning. For example, the visual graph from the MMPI test identifies elevations in areas including depression, anxiety, need for attention, somatic concerns, reality testing, interpersonal trust, energy level, and relative tendency toward introversion or extraversion. The Eating Disorder Inventory, given to clients who express concerns about eating and/or body image, identifies problems in the following areas: preoccupation with restrictive dieting, uncontrollable overeating, concern about overall shape, global measures of eating and weight concerns, low self esteem, emotional emptiness, interpersonal insecurity, lack of trust in relationships, tendency towards mood instability, perfectionism, self sacrifice, and maturity fears. I also review previous testing, which may include intelligence, achievement and personality testing; standardized tests and Standards of Learning Tests (SOLs) given at school; report cards; and other information provided by parents.

Character strengths assessments and interest tests such as the Strong Interest Inventory help me to identify the client's strengths, interests, and passions, and to begin a dialog about ways to recognize and build on core strengths, talents and abilities. The "positive psychology" approach is also applied to challenges such as dealing with depression, anxiety, or an eating disorder.

How does psychological testing provide a basis for establishing treatment goals?

Awareness of strengths and problem areas identified in the assessment phase of treatment forms a basis for answering the kind of questions that matter so much to teenagers and college students: How do I manage problems during school years in the best way? How do I become more self assured and confident? Who am I? How do I use "my voice" in order to convey who I am to others? What steps can I take to be successful and happy in relationships with others including friends of the same sex and opposite sex, and family members? How do I handle the transitions from one school level to another? How can I find success and happiness at home and in school, and later in life in my job, career, and place in society? These are examples of questions that may be addressed in treatment.

What are typical treatment goals and what therapy techniques do you use?

The general goals of this assessment, treatment and support model include building self esteem and competence, identity and self determination, maturity, and connections with others. Academic and social functioning in the school and home environments is highlighted in treatment. Depending on the specific presenting problems and diagnoses, particular cognitive, behavioral and insight-oriented techniques are employed to address these specific problems.

Problem solving, self-regulation, study skills, organization, eating practices, nutrition and diet, exercise, sleep hygiene, stress management, body image, independence, and social relationships at school, home and in the community are commonly discussed. Social relationships are explored within the framework of understanding how particular self-views, views of others, cognitive beliefs, perceptions of threat and vulnerabilities, strategies, and affect have an impact on the way in which people interact with one another.

Coping, decision-making, and interpersonal skills are reinforced in order to

  • resist peer pressure
  • find constructive ways to deal with conflict
  • identify bullying behavior or harassment
  • determine when it is and is not feasible to exert control in a particular situation
  • reduce risky behavior
  • reduce self defeating behaviors
  • connect with others.

I may work with an adolescent and parent in some of the sessions in order to set and enforce limits; address the needs of other siblings or family members; build family respect, warmth, and support; and open up channels of communication.

The "positive psychology" approach enables students to use unique talents, abilities, character strengths, and insight gained through our collaboration to resolve problems, and achieve greater fulfillment and happiness in life. Contacts with family members, educators, and the health care team are critical, all important links in a chain of community support for children, pre-teens and adolescents.