Belmont Psychological Services is one of the few groups in the area with clinicians who provide a full range of psychological services to children of all ages. Our expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of mental health disorders in children is recognized throughout Southern California and we collaborate regularly with pediatricians to ensure that the children we treat receive the highest standard of care.
The psychologists at Belmont Psych have specialized training in the treatment of mental health problems in children and adolescents. Many individuals have heard that Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is the treatment of choice for adults with mental health problems. But most are unaware that CBT is also the treatment of choice for the majority of the problems and disorders that children experience. And while the concepts of CBT remain the same, the application of CBT to children requires extensive training. CBT, at its core, is about learning and practicing new skills that allow us to think, feel and act differently. The skills we learn in CBT help us to feel good and to make our life experience better. And as it turns out, children can be the most brilliant participants in CBT! They are often far more open to the idea of learning a new skill or trying out a new behavior than adults. But children require a different style of therapy because they learn differently. As such, it is essential that therapists be specifically trained to provide CBT for children.
Treatment of children is a unique specialty within the field of psychology. Although many therapists may advertise themselves as child psychologists, few clinicians have actually been trained to work with this vulnerable population. Children may be unable to identify whether or not they are receiving appropriate mental health treatment. At Belmont Psych, there will be no guessing about your child's treatment. We work closely with parents and track children's progress through the use of standardized measures to make sure that your child is getting better and meeting treatment goals. And for older kids and teens who may desire greater confidentiality in their treatment, the use of objective tests and measurements to track progress allows parents to obtain regular updates on treatment progress while respecting the teen's privacy.
Please note that due to the high demand for after school treatment times, our therapists' afternoons are typically booked many weeks in advance. We are currently in the process of recruiting a new child specialist to reduce the wait times for the children who are referred into the practice. We apologize for any delays in scheduling that may occur as we work to select the best clinician to join our group.
Helping Parents to Help Children While most of the treatment we do with children involves parents (either to a greater or lesser degree), there are times at which the treatment almost exclusively involves the parents. This is sometimes the case for very young children (under 5) or in situations in which a child or teen has refused to participate in treatment. Additionally, children who have very minimal symptoms may be helped by parents who are trained to act as their "coach." Parents can be effectively educated to help their child with a number of mental health symptoms without ever bringing their child to therapy.
As a parent, it is often hard to know what to do when our kids are having a problem. And the books, opinions, lectures and advice all seem to all say something different! The good news is that when all of the details and specifics of the parenting manuals and "expert" opinions are put aside, certain general principles emerge that help us to understand which parenting strategies are likely to work best with kids. Three of our top general principles of parenting are discussed below.
It is important to praise children for the behaviors we want to see repeated
People might be thinking--this is obvious!--of course parents would want to praise the behaviors they want to see repeated! But parents might be surprised to learn that even the most patient, calm, and engaged parents may not actually be praising their children for the behaviors they want to see repeated. While most parents quite naturally praise their children, they are often praising them for behaviors or attributes that they are not concerned about. In the meantime, they are ignoring the behaviors that they would most like to see repeated. For example, parents often praise a child for running fast ("Look how fast you are!") but then fail to praise a child for sitting still. Or parents may be exceedingly complimentary of a child who learns the alphabet and say, "You are so smart!", but then fail to praise the child for working carefully on their schoolwork. And parents, grandparents and even total strangers may remark on how "cute" a child is or say "what a nice smile!". Imagine how powerful the impact would be if suddenly everyone was praising the child for being quiet in the grocery store instead of praising them for their cuteness? This bears repeating....We must praise children for the behaviors we want them to repeat.
As we can see, this is a very basic principle that nearly every parenting manual and expert would likely agree on. So why don't more parents do this? Our experience is that parents today are overwhelmed by the huge amount of advice and information they receive. They are inundated with "expert" opinions. The messages and opinions about parenting come at us as on social media, they are sent home as newsletters, and they are advertised on the radio, tv and internet. We see pictures of happy children captioned with little tidbits of information that generally just make us feel terrible--like we aren't doing a very good job. But as we try to read the parenting books and apply different strategies, it is easy to get bogged down. We become overwhelmed with sticker charts, we struggle to keep consistent consequences, we wrestle with children's compliance with doing chores, and we end up barking orders at our kids and then feel guilty because everyone says that we should be giving our children choices. It is no wonder that the most basic principles often slip right by us! So ask yourself, are you praising your kids for the behaviors that you want to see repeated?
Parents are the most powerful behavior models for children
Again, this seems so obvious! And it is likely that if we asked 100 experts, they'd probably all agree with this concept. Since we know that children model the behavior of their parents, we must all be stellar role models, right? Well, unfortunately, it is often just not that easy. In fact, it is often exceedingly difficult. The reasons for why it is so hard are far too numerous to list, but most parents will have some ideas about why it is hard for them. One frequent issue that derails our efforts at being role models is the conflicts that may exist between the parents. Couples who are engaged in frequent emotionally charged arguments are likely to have a difficult time with modeling good behavior for their kids. Parents in conflict might yell, name call, interrupt each other, slam doors and not listen (or even worse). In these situations, parents may find that it is nearly impossible to get their kids to follow directions, talk quietly, disagree appropriately, or cope with frustration. As such, it may not be that the child needs treatment or even that the parents need help with parenting. It may be that the best way to help the child with their behavior is for the parents to learn how to manage their conflicts differently. This is but one example of the many reasons why it might be hard for us to model appropriate behavior for our children. At times, our therapists will meet with the child's parents alone and work to identify the stressors and issues that may be inhibiting parents from acting as the role models they would like to be.
Understanding children's developmental level helps parents set their expectations appropriately
There is a wide range of what is considered "normal" development at any given age. Parents often get frustrated with kids when they see other children of the same age behaving differently. But the truth of the matter is that, irrespective of parenting style, children are born with their own temperaments and their own unique strengths and weaknesses. The timing at which a child reaches a particular developmental milestone is frequently not within the parent's control. While there are some things that parents can do to encourage a child's development, many children will have areas of development that come at a slower pace, irrespective of parental involvement. Parents often have the mistaken belief that if their child is intelligent then he or she will reach developmental milestones more quickly. But in fact, it is not at all uncommon for extremely bright children to have areas of their development that seem immature! Helping parents to understand their child's developmental level sometimes makes all of the difference in improving the parent-child interaction.
As an example, parents are often concerned that there is something wrong with their child if their child does not stay seated and still during a performance. Parents of a squirmy and rambunctious 4-year-old may find their child nearly impossible to manage when they take the child to a play. They see other 4-year-olds sitting quietly and they become frustrated and worry that something is wrong with their child. But this sort of squirmy behavior is not at all uncommon for a 4 year old! While we as adults may be able to pay attention to what is happening on the stage, a 4-year-old is often curious and attentive to other things. They may be interested in the people around them, curious about the way the theater seat folds, excited about sitting in the dark, or thinking about the snacks that Mom has in her purse. And while the parents may feel frustrated to have to wrangle their child during the play, if they understand that the behavior is completely normal, it helps to reduce some of the angst and allows them to consider different strategies for handling the situation.
Therapy Is More Than A Conversation Some critics of psychotherapy have likened the role of the therapist to a friend who is paid to sit and chit chat with clients about their lives or just listen while people complain. And while some therapists do perhaps provide little more than emotional support, the role of the Cognitive Behavior Therapist is different. CBT involves providing a great deal of education, helping clients to remember and use that education, teaching concrete skills, and tracking progress to confirm that patients are benefitting. It is our hope that that by reviewing the information provided on this website, that anyone who is interested in our services, or in any therapist's services for that matter, is able to appreciate the difference it makes to work with well-trained Cognitive Behavior Therapists.