Specializing in the treatment of anxiety based disorders, developmental disorders, trauma and attachment related problems.
Anxiety based disorders are occurring at epidemic levels. This of course begs the question, what is happening in our culture that is responsible for this? Technology, the demands placed on their parents, the absence of resources, the lack of support, increasing expectations, our political environment, crises faced locally, nationally, and globally.. problems in the larger social context...the list goes on and on and the truth is that yes all of these are having an impact. Children and adolescents are particularly vulnerable as the world around them changes at such a rapid pace. They are ill equipped to deal with these rapid changes, and the world is not sensitive to the needs of children.
Due to the unique challenges faced, treatment is dependent upon individual needs. Treatment is tailed to each client and may include the following: Play therapy, mindfulness based practices, parental consultation, Coping Cat, exposure and response prevention, and cognitive behavior therapy.
Children are being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at increasingly high rates. Depending upon the research referenced as many as 1 in 69 children are impacted by autism. Other less well known developmental disorders share some common vulnerabilities with autism, most notably difficulty with social skills and relationships and difficulties with sensory processing. Generally speaking children with a developmental disorder suffer from an approximate 30% developmental lag. Therefore if you are making considerations for your 16 year old, you should think of them as being closer to the development of a 12 year old child. While these differences seem signifcant at this age, it is much more difficult to discern this lag at younger ages. As your child ages you may find the gap between your child and peers growing ever wider. Most interventions are designed to meet children at their developmental level with the goal of providing the appropriate scaffolding so that your child will continue to grow and develop.
Treatment is individually tailored to meet the needs of the child and his/her family. Approaches include: play therapy, Floortime/DIR, the ALERT program, the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics, Theraplay, mindfulness and CBT based interventions, parenting, and family therapy. Parents often also need help navigating the special education system and making decisions about adjunctive treatment approaches. Dr. Vander Dussen will help you navigate educational and other therapy needs.
Trauma and Attachment Related Problems
The first question asked is why are trauma and attached related problems grouped together here? This speaks to the trauma and attachment informed approach Dr. Vander Dussen takes to assessment, conceptualization, and treatment. Attachment difficulties are best understood and conceptualized as relational trauma. While all attachment problems are not the product of trauma between the caregiver and the child, the most severe manifestations of difficulties with attachment are. Families who have adopted children from foster care, internationally, or through assuming responsibility for the children of extended family are often left unprepared for how traumatized their child is by the caregiving relationship. It is often difficult to understand how challenging the caregiving relationship can be for a child with attachment difficulties. The best analogy is to think of the child as the child having been mauled by a dog, but rather than actually being mauled by a dog, they have been mauled by the caregiving relationship and have developed a phobia accordingly. While this is an overly simplistic explanation of attachment problems, it does provide an easy metaphor for understanding the difficulties.
Less severe forms of attachment difficulties can be found when a mother has suffered from something like post partum depression, a parent has suffered a chronic illness or traumatic injury, or other major life stressors. Unfortunately for these families there have been unintended impacts on the parent child relationship. Fortunately treatment has come quite far in helping children and families remediate attachment challenges. Based on the needs of the child and his/her family treatment may involve Play Therapy, Theraplay, EMDR, The Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics, parenting and parental consultation, and family therapy.
Selective mutism is an anxiety based disorder that is characterized by a child's difficulty to speak and communicate in social settings such as school. Children are able to communicate fully and effective in environments where they feel safe and secure. It is important that those working and caring with these children to understand the disorder and that these struggles are not willful defiance. As it is an anxiety based problem interventions are similar to those for other anxiety based problems with some important exceptions. Often children need some scaffolding, an amount of adult support to help them master speaking in select social settings. Naturally a highly collaborative relationship with parents, teachers, and other involved adults improves success significantly. Treatments may involve play therapy, CBT and behavior modification approaches, parent consultation, mindfulness based practice, Coping Cat, and collaboration with your child's school.
In today's culture adolescents are struggling. They face increasing academic pressure, social pressure brought on by social media, a changing economic environment that impacts their decisions about their future, in addition to the normal tasks of adolescence that involve consolidating their identity and increasing independence. While the common refrain of adults is that it was stressful when we were teenagers, that response is short sighted. For most parents, when they left school at the end of the day, they had a reprieve from the demands of the social world. If they were left out of something with a group of friends they found out about it after the fact, not live on SnapChat or Instagram. Adolescents are done a disservice when adults minimize the impact of the social world. Problems with self concept and social comparison abound and parents are left struggling to preserve their child's sense of self worth. Compounding issues tied to drug use and abuse, dating behavior, and school failure often requires intervention that includes psychotherapy. As the challenges stack up for your youth, the stress does for you as well. In psychotherapy with adolescents a variety of approaches may be utilized, including mindfulness based approaches, individual, and family therapy approaches may be utilized.
Psychotherapy with Adults
Difficulties with work relationships, family relationships, romantic relationships, parenting, and role strain are a significant source of stress for adults. Individuals often seek the support of a therapist to help them navigate the impacts of these issues. They may be unsure about how to manage work conflicts, struggle with managing their children, feel stressed by caring for elderly parents while raising children, and so on. Psychotherapy for these issues will be tailored to individual needs and may involve everything from insight oriented approaches to mindfulness based practices for managing mood.