How A Psychological Assessment Can Benefit Your Child

Children's Center Now OpenChildren are referred for a psychological assessment for many reasons. They may have attention or behavior problems at home or in school, be subjected to bullying, be depressed or anxious, or have a learning disorder. Often when kids are struggling in school or seem to be behind their peers developmentally, a counselor or teacher will suggest the child undergo a psychological assessment.

The findings from this type of evaluation will let us know where the child excels and which areas he or she might need to address (for example: an undiagnosed learning disability).  Dr. Ryan Seidman, the Clinical Director at our Children’s Center notes that, “Having your child evaluated can promote improvement in academic and emotional functioning.”

Who Performs a Psychological Assessment?

Psychological assessments are done by highly trained child psychologists who are specialists in their fields. These mental health professionals evaluate the child’s strengths and weaknesses, then work with parents and teachers to come up with an approach that will help the child progress.

How is a Child Psychology Test Done?

These assessments aren’t like “actual” tests can be and they aren’t something the child can study for. In fact, it is best if the child is relaxed during the evaluation, so the assessment isn’t a “pass or fail” test.

During a psychological assessment, the psychologist will:

  • Talk with the child (and later with their parents) to learn more about their behaviors and emotional skills. They will also look at the child’s neurological functioning in areas such as spatial processing. In some cases, they may also talk to the child’s teachers or others who know the child well.
  • Observe the child during the evaluation. Depending on the reason for the assessment, the child psychologist may also visit the child at home or at school to further gauge their interactions with others.
  • Have the child complete a standardized test. These tests have been taken by many different people and will allow the psychologist to compare your child’s results with those of others in order to evaluate a range of abilities. The psychologists want to know how the child functions in areas such as movement (dexterity) or behavior and in subjects like reading, writing and math.
  • May review school records, medical records, or test interview or the child’s parents or teachers in order to learn more about the child.

Psychological testing isn’t a quick assessment. The evaluation will likely takes several hours to complete and often involves more than one session to be certain the psychologist has all the details about a child. By putting this information together, the child psychologist comes to an understanding of where a child needs assistance and can develop strategies to help them reach their full potential.

The Results of a Psychological Assessment

When the testing is complete, the child psychologist will go over the results with the child’s parents. Keep in mind that the outcomes do not reveal everything about a child’s potential, abilities or skills. Rather, the evaluation is used as a way to learn about their “present functioning level” emotionally, in their school and home environments, how they learn, and their strengths and weaknesses.

The child psychologist will discuss areas in which the child does well and offer suggestions to help them improve in areas that need to be addressed. If the child is diagnosed with a learning disability, or a behavioral or emotional issue, recommendations will be made for ways to help the child manage that specific concern or problem.

By evaluating and understanding where the child has issues, child psychologists can provide positive coping strategies, reduce the child’s stress and enrich their competence and well being.

Learn More about Children’s Psychological Assessment

For more information about how our child psychologists can help your child with a psychological assessment, contact The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida or call us today at 561-496-1094.

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Help your Child Defend against School Bullying

October is National Bullying Prevention month. Organizations and schools use this month to raise awareness of school bullying, while working to prevent its impact on children.

School bullying is defined as the use of power to control another person. Bullying always intends to harm the targeted child – usually psychologically, but sometimes physically, as well. Additionally, bullying is carried out by the same person or the same group of people who repeatedly go after the same child. A child who is being bullied might be either unable to fight back against attacks or might have a hard time defending themselves.

The kids most at risk of being bullied are those who:

  • Are less popular than others
  • Have few friends
  • Are depressed or anxious
  • Have low self-esteem

Bullies typically:

  • Like to dominate others
  • Have social power
  • Are aggressive and often act impulsively
  • Are concerned about their popularity
  • Often also have issues with low self-esteem
  • Are easily pressured by their peers

About 1 in 4 children report having been verbally or socially bullied at school and most bullying happens in middle school, although it can occur at any grade level.

Types of Bullying

While bullying can be verbal (teasing, name-calling, threatening someone) or physical (for example: hitting, fighting, or forcing a person to do something they don’t want to do), today’s children also face social bullying:

  • Cyber bullying – Kids practically live on social media, but this has created an environment in which the bully can be anonymous. Since they don’t have to face their target or witness the effects of their bullying, they have little empathy for the pain they cause. Texting and social media allows the bully free reign to post embarrassing pictures, make rude comments, or post humiliating videos almost instantly and without recourse.
  • Slut shaming – censuring a female’s character in sexual terms in order to embarrass, humiliate, or intimidate her for actions that are a normal part of female sexuality. For example: a male teen may be praised for his sexual experimentation, however a girl may be bullied and called a slut. This scenario has been explored in Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why show (you can read our Children’s Center article about it here ). In the show, the girl who is slut-shamed ends up committing suicide.
  • Social Alienation – In social bullying, the idea is to damage someone’s reputation, get them excluded from social activities, and to get others to avoid them. This can often be accomplished by cyber bullying.

What are the Effects of School Bullying?

The symptoms of school bullying can be both physical and emotional. Your child may experience:

  • School refusal
  • Headaches, stomachaches or other aches or pains throughout their body
  • Weight loss
  • Nightmares and/or sleeplessness

A child who is bullied may avoid situations and interactions with others that could actually be positive for them. The effects of school bullying can create depression and anxiety disorders in the child who is being attacked. Often this depression and anxiety will stay with the youth and follow them into adulthood. In fact, someone who was bullied in school is more likely to be the target of workplace harassment as an adult.

Fight Back against Bullying

In all cases of school bullying, it’s important to seek help and report the incident as soon as possible. Ignoring the issue often makes it worse because the bully begins to think it is okay to continue hurting others. Additionally, the targeted child sometimes begins to believe what is being said about them.

StopBullying.gov offers the following suggestions to help stop school bullying. They say:

  • Look at the kid bullying you and tell him or her to stop in a calm, clear voice. You can also try to laugh it off. This works best if joking is easy for you. It could catch the kid bullying you off guard.
  • If speaking up seems too hard or not safe, walk away and stay away. Don’t fight back. Find an adult to stop the bullying on the spot.

StopBullying.gov also lists things your child can do to stay safe in the future:

  • Talk to an adult you trust. Don’t keep your feelings inside. Telling someone can help you feel less alone. They can help you make a plan to stop the bullying.
  • Stay away from places where bullying happens.
  • Stay near adults and other kids. Most bullying happens when adults aren’t around.
  • Stand up for others When you see bullying, there are safe things you can do to make it stop.
  • Talk to a parent, teacher, or another adult you trust. Adults need to know when bad things happen so they can help.
  • Be kind to the kid being bullied. Show them that you care by trying to include them. Sit with them at lunch or on the bus, talk to them at school, or invite them to do something. Just hanging out with them will help them know they aren’t alone.

Additionally, child psychologists, such as the professionals here at The Anxiety Center, can work with your child to develop coping techniques that will teach them how to react in particular situations. Child psychologists can also help bullying victims rebuild their self-esteem and confidence so that future harassment can be avoided.

We Can Help

For more information about how we can help your child learn to defend against school bullying, contact the Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, or call us today at 561-496-1094.

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Resilience and Optimism Can Predict Trauma Response

How much of a part does resilience play when it comes to dealing with emotional or psychological trauma? As it turns out, quite a lot. Resilience is the inner strength that allows you to adapt when you’ve been exposed to trauma or adversity. This characteristic is strengthened by optimism, which is the extent to which people feel positive and encouraged about their future. Studies have shown that those who are resilient and optimistic feel a higher degree of psychological well-being and are able to recover more quickly from disturbing events. These individuals are able to process stressful situations without becoming overwhelmed and can move through them without turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as substance abuse.

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Narcissistic Abuse – Healing and Recovery

Are you in a relationship with a person who thinks they are far superior to you and to everyone around them? Or maybe your parent ran your life, expecting nothing less than excellence from you and being envious of your achievements – so much so that they found a way to make your triumphs all about them. Perhaps you are married to someone who is “difficult” – they demand all your attention, have an inflated ego, and are frequently critical of you because things are always “your fault.” If you have a difficult, selfish, and unemotionally available loved one and feel like you have less self-confidence, have less independence, or have given up your family, friends, hobbies, or a career for this person, you may be dealing with narcissistic abuse.

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Post-Traumatic Growth

Emotional trauma or psychological trauma is a reaction to an experience or event that is deeply distressing or disturbing to the individual. Trauma can be the result of things such as going through a natural disaster, being involved in a car accident, living through a major event, such as war or abuse, or having been the victim of a crime. A trauma response will be similar no matter what caused it.

When people experience a psychological trauma, it often shakes them to their core, especially if they felt they had little to no control over the event. They are left feeling helpless and they may experience flashbacks or have a persistent fear that something bad will happen to them again.

Even though these emotional responses are part of a normal reaction, trauma changes patterns in your brain, causing you to carry the burden of distress long after the events have passed. However, by working with a mental health professional who specializes in trauma, you can experience trauma recovery and learn to feel safe again.

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What is Trauma

In general, trauma can be defined as a psychological, emotional response to an event or an experience that is deeply distressing or disturbing. When loosely applied, this trauma definition can refer to something upsetting, such as being involved in an accident, having an illness or injury, losing a loved one, or going through a divorce. However, it can also encompass the far extreme and include experiences that are severely damaging, such as rape or torture.

Because events are viewed subjectively, this broad trauma definition is more of a guideline. Everyone processes a traumatic event differently because we all face them through the lens of prior experiences in our lives. For example: one person might be upset and fearful after going through a hurricane, but someone else might have lost family and barely escaped from a flooded home during Hurricane Katrina. In this case, a minor Category One hurricane may bring up traumatic flashbacks of their terrifying experience.

Because trauma reactions fall across a wide spectrum, psychologists have developed categories as a way to differentiate between types of trauma. Among them are complex trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and developmental trauma disorder.

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Coping With Suicide and the Loss of a Loved One

Suicide is devastating to the ones left behind. It brings up a myriad of powerful emotions: among other things, you must deal with feelings of shock, anger, guilt, and overwhelming grief. The survivor is left wondering if they could have done something to prevent the person from taking their life. They are often furious at the deceased person for leaving them or for putting them through this heart-wrenching experience. And, the survivor must learn about the grieving process when it comes to coping with suicide so they can continue on with their own life.

*If you are grieving a loved one, please be gentle with yourself during this devastating time and know that you could not have done anything to prevent this suicide. More than ninety percent of the time, suicide happens because the person was deeply depressed or facing another form of mental illness. Depression and mental illnesses are caused by chemical imbalances in the brain, which keep the person from seeing their situation clearly. In their mind, they believed there was no other way to deal with their pain.

Also, if you are facing the loss of a loved one through suicide, please know that you do not have to go through these intense emotions alone. Talk with your family, join one of the suicide support groups in your area, turn to the clergy or supportive friends, or speak with a therapist who specializes in trauma and grief counseling.

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Complex Trauma Disorder

Trauma can come in many forms. The soldier returning from active duty in a war zone, the child who lives with physical, sexual, or emotional abuse or neglect, the first responder who must deal with human suffering on a daily basis, and the adult who endures domestic abuse all are experiencing trauma. Complex trauma occurs repeatedly and often involves direct harm to the victim. Its effects are cumulative and generally transpire in a specific setting and, frequently, within a particular time frame or within a specific relationship.

Going through trauma can make an individual experience intense feelings of guilt, as if they are somehow responsible for the event(s) that are so terrifying to them. This altered sense of shame and painful self-perception is crippling. It can make the person feel isolated and hopeless, and as if they are no longer in charge of themselves.

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