In my practice, I provide individual, family, and  couples therapy in both Russian and English languages, using the most currently known and scientifically based treatment approaches. For example, to help a child who suffers from anxiety problems, such as trouble separating from their parents or being in social situations, I offer an evidence-based treatment approach that involves both child and parent and focuses on (1) Cognitive Restructuring to help the child identify and change  anxiety-producing  automatic thoughts and (2) Behavioral Modification to help the child change anxious or avoiding behaviors by exposing the child to  feared  situations in a gradual, step-by-step manner. By doing so, the child faces his or her fears and learns that there is nothing to be afraid of.

The treatment starts with an intake diagnostic interview to (1) determine the precise nature of a child’s psychological problem and (2) collaborate with the child and his/her parents on the specific steps towards successful treatment outcome. Working with the child’s parents is very important as they sometimes can inadvertently cause or perpetuate their child’s anxiety and worries. How is that possible?

image1Every parent has a natural desire to so anything they possibly can to protect their child from things that make them feel distressed. When a child is affected by anxiety issues, it can be particularly difficult for parents to see their child feeling uncomfortable when s/he encounters feared situations. In an effort to somehow make their child’s life better, some parents engage in overprotective behaviors. These may include providing reassurance, stepping in too quickly to decrease the level of distress by doing things for your child, promoting avoidance of anxiety-provoking situations, doing homework or school projects for your child when their anxiety makes these difficult or making excuses for your child so that the natural consequences of their avoidant behaviors do not occur.

Allowing a child to avoid feared situations might in the short run appear to be the best thing to do as it does provide both a parent and a child an immediate relief from anxiety related stress. In the long run, however, it can lead the child into what therapists call a “Protection Trap” as it might reinforce the child’s misperceptions that s/he is unable to cope on their own, which in turn strengthen his or her anxiety ever further.

As such, parents, who tend to overprotect, unintentionally and unknowingly reinforce their children’s anxiety and associated with it avoidant behavior.  Parents stop or “protect” their children from facing a feared situation — an approach that is necessary to learn that there is nothing to be afraid of.

If you suspect that your child suffers from an anxiety disorder and you as a parent have become very involved in the overprotective behaviors described above, contact me to schedule an appointment for your child’s evaluation and treatment. Together we can discuss what you or your loved one needs and determine how I might be of help. If you are not ready to make an appointment, no problem; click HERE to request a FREE confidential 10-minute consultation via phone or Skype.

As a parent, you may think that involving your child, who is already suffering, in a “facing-fear” exposure therapy might seem extreme as it can make your child even more unhappy and anxious. However, allowing your child to engage in the gradual, step-by-step exposure tasks is the best and — most importantly — research-based way to learn how to manage and eventually overcome his or her fears and anxiety.

My academic and professional credentials have been verified by Psychology Today.

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Written on June 11th, 2011

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Dr. Irina Fredericks

Licensed Mental Health Counselor