A Family Systems approach

In a practice that focuses on children with learning challenges, a family systems approach provides a more holistic view of the supports and strains the family is going through and therefore a more customized approach to treatment.  Traditionally, psychology has focused on the developmental needs of an individual with little attention as to how the influences of the family affects and are affected by the individual.  Causations of a problem are traditionally looked at in a linear model.  However, a family systems theory is different.  It recognized the circular causality of events and that changes in one individual affect the family as a whole.  When a child is diagnosed with dyslexia, the whole family system is impacted, including parent-child relationships, spousal relationships, sibling relationships, and even grandparent relationships. Financial, time, and energy constraints are common.  Changes in social and educational systems have to be navigated.  It is a period of stress for the entire family.

When we look at just the child with dyslexia, we know that they experience a great deal of stress that is secondary to their dyslexia.  They have questions about why learning is so hard for them.  They face negative feedback from teachers, peers, siblings, etc.  These micro-stresses have an accumulative effect.  Children with dyslexia experience higher rates of anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem that can end up being a bigger issue than their dyslexia.  This is also true for children with ADHD, except that they get in trouble much more often, resulting in even lower self-esteem.   Short-term, individual therapy can be helpful in explaining the biology of these diagnoses, changing the paradigm that children view their challenges through, and learning tools to help cope with the extra stresses they face.  Most children with learning challenges secretly fear they are "stupid".  No matter how many times parents tell them they are not, it may take someone impartial to get that point across. 

Additionally, parents face their own challenge in raising children with learning challenges.  They are often faced with misinformation about diagnoses and minimal support from family, friends, and educational systems.  The emotional toll on parents is significant.  Parent of children with learning differences have higher rates of anxiety and depression.  They have feelings of guilt, failure, disappointment, and higher rates of stress.  They frequently feel alone coping with this major life event and often wish for more support.  Added to this stress, the way that mothers and fathers experience raising a child with learning differences can vary significantly.  Parents can often benefit from short-term sessions to learn about the science behind their child's diagnosis, develop skills to deal with these new parenting challenges, and talk through how fathers and mothers handle parenting differently.  Integrating and adapting parenting practices can decrease stress in the family.

Please let us know if talking to our dyslexia specialist and counselor would be helpful for your family.



One Size Does not Fit All

We use an individualized approach to therapy, depending on the client.  However, we believe  the most important part of treatment is a client-centered approach.  The American Psychological Association notes that the therapeutic relationship is the single most important aspect in determining the effectiveness of psychotherapy, more than the type of psychotherapy chosen.  However, the best therapists develop a therapeutic relationship AND pick the best psychotherapy for the client!

For adults and teens, we often use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).  CBT is an empirically validated, short-term, psychotherapy treatment that focuses on practical problem-solving.  CBT works  by correcting thoughts, feelings, or behaviors that are negativing impacting emotions.  It is used to treat a wide range of issues including anxiety and depression.  

For younger clients, we often use a combination of CBT and sand tray therapy.  Children have less developed cognitive reasoning, making CBT less effective in some cases, but sand tray is fun and very effective for our right brain learners.  Children, especially with dyslexia, may have trouble verbalizing what is worrying them.  By using sand tray pictures, people are able to tap into their unconscious and create scenes that are metaphors for current struggles.  These pictures are created in the right hemisphere of the brain.  When children are then asked to tell the therapist about their sand tray, this verbalization activities the left hemisphere of the brain, where language is located.  This cross-brain integration helps children verbalize what they had difficulty accessing previously and helps with processing the struggles the individual is facing.  This is a fun and effective way of getting to the heart of the issue.  At his point, skills can be taught to better deal cope with these i.


For your review

Below is our therapist's, Kelly Arnold,  Professional Disclosure Statement.  It will tell you a bit about her training, licensing, philosophy and approach.