Emotional & Behavioral Assessment

Children are meant to be successful in school and to be happy, productive members of their families. They should have positive and meaningful relationships with peers and adults, including their parents. It is a myth that adolescence is a time when children and parents are destined to fight due to the rebellious nature of teens. In truth, most children, including most teenagers, are happy, successful in school, and have positive, loving relationships with their parents. If your child's life experience is different, it is for a reason. Understanding that reason is critical to helping your child.

The emotional and behavioral problems presented by children and adolescents are often easy to describe and complex to understand. Many behaviors, such as inattention, irritability, or moodiness can result from a variety of causes. If, for example, a child has an attentional deficit, stimulant medication and classroom accommodations may be appropriate. If however, the same attention-deficit symptoms are the result of a mood or anxiety-based disorder, very different treatment is called for; knowing the cause is critical to making good treatment decisions.

Some children act out in angry ways toward the world. In some children, this anger is seen only at home and teachers report no difficulty in the classroom. Some children react to specific triggers, while others seem to over-react to everything and nothing. Children act out for reasons, not because they are "bad."

At Dutch Fork Psychological Services we utilize state-of-the-art tests and measures to analyze behavior and diagnose causes. Test data are always balanced with old-fashioned common sense. We spend time with parents to collect a careful history and we observe the child and listen carefully to what he or she has to say. We contact other professionals who know the child to obtain their observations. Finally, we are sensitive to families in crisis and teens who are unhappy and often acting out in destructive ways.

When making a diagnosis about a child's or adolescent's behavioral and emotional functioning, it is critical to eliminate all potential differential diagnoses, that is, other mental health disorders which may often masquerade as a look-a-like set of behaviors. Only the most careful and thorough psychological evaluation can do this; at Dutch Fork Psychological Services this is one of our specialties. When appropriate, we make thoughtful referrals to other specialists in psychiatry, endocrinology, pediatrics, nutrition, and educational consulting.

Deciding to treat your child without first determining a complete and correct diagnosis really puts the cart before the horse. Many competent therapists, psychiatrists, teachers, and parents in the Columbia area refer their children and adolescents to us for a thorough assessment before recommending a course of treatment. This guarantees that the critical resources of time and money are put to optimal use.

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