Intelligence and achievement testing are necessary for helping families and schools develop a full picture of a student to determine if he or she may need special services or resources (for example, for gifted and talented students or students with learning disabilities). These tests can also be helpful in clarifying whether ADHD (attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder) or other diagnoses most accurately characterize an individual student. For children with behavior problems at home or school, additional testing that involves the participation of parents and teachers (usually by completing behavioral questionnaires about the student) is invaluable in arriving at or refining a diagnosis of ADHD or ODD (oppositional defiant disorder). In my testing, however, I strive to go beyond handing out diagnostic labels to help parents and schools understand with greater depth the needs of a student and the best treatment and educational options available.
Personality testing is extremely important in helping to gain insight about a number of dimensions of functioning, including emotional, behavioral, and interpersonal. It goes beyond diagnostic labels to reveal, with depth and complexity, how and why symptoms operate in a person’s life. Personality testing can help move psychotherapy in the right direction, shed light on difficulties at home, school, and work, and help people feel less confused about and more in control of their most distressing symptoms and behavior.
For families in conflict, the completion of family assessments will help reveal family members’ different perspectives of family functioning, strengths, and weaknesses. These assessments guide treatment by establishing a starting point for understanding the conflicts and by helping individual family members articulate their unique experiences within the family system.
Many students need extra assistance at one time or another with a particular subject or school project—after all, each of us has strengths and weaknesses when it comes to academics. In these cases, short-term tutoring with a bright college student or a corporate tutoring service can be helpful.
However, some students, as a result of learning, behavioral, or emotional problems, find themselves struggling consistently. Such consistent academic difficulties can have a harmful effect on the student’s grades and relationship with teachers, not to mention his or her self-esteem, sense of overall competency, and relationship with parents. Every homework assignment, project, and exam has the potential to be an emotional or behavioral crisis—or even a family battleground.
For these pervasive, persistent school difficulties, I offer therapeutic tutoring. While I help students complete their academic tasks in a timely manner, using traditional tutoring methods, I also help the family understand how they can re-structure their daily patterns and rituals to prevent the most harmful and frustrating school-related interactions. I help students develop sound methods—tailored to their specific strengths and weaknesses, temperament, and personality—for studying, organizing, critical thinking, and self-advocacy that will serve them across subjects and throughout their school career. Additionally, I use psychotherapy techniques to help students and parents process their thoughts and feelings about school. Finally, I teach parents valuable methods for managing relationships with teachers, school counselors, and school administrators in order to be successful advocates for their children.
For college-bound students, the college application process can be fraught with anxiety. It is a monumental task to juggle studying for the SAT, deciding where to apply, writing good essays, and staying on top of a demanding academic and extracurricular schedule. Often, even the best school-affiliated college counselors are overworked and under-resourced; their feedback alone may not be enough to foster the level of insight, introspection, and verbal excellence required of the best application essays. Therapeutic tutoring provides college applicants with a safe space to reflect usefully and introspectively about their life experiences, using application essay prompts as a starting point. I also help students navigate college and departmental websites to develop accurate and meaningful statements about why they wish to attend a particular school. My background as an English teacher and writer, moreover, is invaluable when it comes to helping students hone the aesthetic quality of their essays and prepare for the verbal portions of the SAT.
Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy
I have experience treating children and adolescents whose problems include, but are not limited to:
- ADHD (attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder)
- ODD (oppositional defiant disorder)
- anxiety (including school and separation anxiety)
- attachment disorders
- sexual abuse
- adjustment to divorce
- parent-child conflict
- peer rejection and/or bullying
- sleep problems
When working with younger children, I employ a number of techniques depending on the issues at hand, but play therapy is my preferred method. Children usually find it easy to play, and they are less guarded about their feelings, fears, and fantasies when they explore them in this manner.
I use a combination of talk therapy and other techniques when working with adolescents, depending on the nature of the presenting concern and the adolescent’s level of maturity. I like to incorporate discussion of goals when working with adolescents, because adolescence is an intensely goal-oriented life stage. Adolescents frequently experience symptoms when they feel they are not achieving their goals or that their parents or peers do not support their goals.
A healthy parent-child relationship is key to the child’s recovery, so my ultimate goal is for parents to be able to take an active role in the therapy, though this usually occurs after I have met individually with the child or adolescent for a number of sessions and may occur with increasing frequency towards the end of treatment. Some younger children, conversely, are nervous about meeting with a stranger and play more comfortably with a parent in the room until they have a level of familiarity with me.
I have experience treating adults with problems including, but not limited to:
- grief and bereavement
- post-traumatic stress disorder (related to military service, child abuse, domestic violence, and sexual abuse)
- personality disorders
- marital and relationship difficulties
- parent-child relationship difficulties
- difficulties arising from immigration and acculturation
- life stress relating to major transitions (such as divorce, serious illness, children leaving home or elderly parents developing dementia)
- life stress related to sexual and gender identity crises (such as coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender)
Though I work with adults primarily from the psychodynamic perspective, which emphasizes relationships (including the client-therapist relationship), I use cognitive and behavioral techniques for symptom reduction when appropriate.
When one family member has psychological symptoms (this person is often termed the “identified client” because his or her symptoms trigger the search for treatment), it usually affects the rest of the family and impacts the dynamic of the group as a whole. The identified client’s symptoms may also be a reaction to conflict or distress throughout the family. If all family members are willing and able, I have found that it is often helpful to work with the family as a group. Research, and my own clinical experience, has shown that working in this fashion can be as effective as individual treatment.
I believe that a satisfying intimate partnership is a primary drive of human beings, and difficulties or conflict in our partnerships often lead to feelings of sadness, anger, and fear. These are very appropriate reasons for seeking couple’s therapy. When I work with couples, I employ techniques that help to improve communication and increase joy and pleasure in the relationship. I also use techniques common to family systems therapy designed to help people change patterns of interaction that have developed over time.