Psychological support

creative-illustration-of-intellection_fJ-Wr08_Our Psychologists specialise in the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of a range of emotional and behavioural difficulties experienced by children, adolescents and their families. We conduct a comprehensive assessment of the many factors that could be triggering and/or maintaining the current concerns. Our support recommendations are tailored to each child’s and family’s unique circumstances. We work collaboratively with our clients to determine whether interventions are best delivered by support of the parents and child separately or as a family unit.

Annie’s Centre Psychologists have received the ideal training for working with mental illness, learning difficulties, behaviour disorders and developmental difficulties: a specific and comprehensive six or eight year training, respectively, in the evidence-based prevention, early identification, assessment, case formulation, diagnosis, treatment and evaluation of mental illness and cognitive problems across the entire lifespan and range of complexity and severity. No other discipline apart from Psychiatry can lay claim to such specific and comprehensive training.

At Annie’s Centre, we offer focused psychological strategies based on Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), Family Therapy, Narrative Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Positive Psychology.
We offer the very best in professional guidance and support including:

Please contact our Centre for further details about or to register your interest in psychological support services.

Referrals are not required to access psychological support. However you may wish to consider whether you are entitled to rebates or benefits from government programs or private health insurers to offset your expenses.

Assessment and support of children with AD/HD

While the possibility of an AD/HD diagnosis seems to be frequently suggested, it is in fact a complex process as difficulties with concentration, social engagement and behaviour and emotional regulation can stem from a variety of causes. Cognitive and learning difficulties, social deficits, defiance, general or situation-specific anxiety, depression and many medical conditions can all contribute to difficulties with staying on task and distractibility. Our Clinical Psychologists undertake a comprehensive assessment to explore the possible contributors to the noted behaviours that includes information from parents and the school, behaviour observations in school and in-clinic and, if warranted, other assessment processes (ie to explore possible learning or social communication difficulties).

When a diagnosis of AD/HD is warranted or has been provided by another qualified professional, a multi-disciplinary support process is encouraged that includes both behaviour support strategies from our Clinical Psychologists and, if required and consented to, medical support from the child’s doctor.

Managing challenging or oppositional behaviour

Many parents call for assistance with children who are, for one reason or another, demonstrating challenging behaviours at home and/or at school. Despite their best intentions, many caregivers slip into a combative pattern with these children or find themselves ‘giving-in’ to avoid conflict, and needing help to get back on track. Our Psychologist’s job is to untangle the reasons for the child’s behaviour and, in the process, consider why what has been tried is not working. We work with the family or school, as the case may be, to create an evidence-based plan of action. We aim to create a more positive and connected relationship between adult and child while at the same time helping the child to behave in a more cooperative and compliant manner. When challenging behaviour arises due to the child’s inability to communicate distress and seek appropriate help, we will also work directly with the child to teach more adaptive strategies.

Assessment of learning difficulties

The source of a learning difficulty is a complex issue that requires an examination of both the specific abilities in question and the many supporting factors that contribute to a child’s ability to learn. Cognitive weaknesses, inattention, disruptive behaviour, anxiety and low self-esteem can all influence learning. Therefore, we believe that a responsible and comprehensive assessment needs to consider all these factors.

Conducted by our Psychologists , assessment includes interviews and standardised checklists completed with the parents, child and teacher, school or pre-school observation, review of current schoolwork and professional reports and evidence-based standardised/ psychometric testing. Parents receive a detailed written report summarising the findings and describing recommendations for school and home. Recommendations are practical and are designed to work within the available resources of the child, family and school. We also offer post-assessment consultation to schools to assist them in implementing recommendations for the child in the classroom and/or on the playground.

Assessment for “Gifted and Talented” students

We provide assessments for high-achieving students to identify giftedness and provide recommendations designed to help families and school extend their learning.

Conducted by our Psychologists, assessment includes interviews and standardised checklists completed with the parents, child and teacher, school observation, review of current schoolwork and professional reports and evidence-based standardised/ psychometric testing. Parents receive a written report summarising the findings and describing recommendations for school and home. Recommendations are practical and are designed to work within the available resources of the child, family and school. We also offer post-assessment consultation to schools to assist them in implementing recommendations for the child in the classroom and/or on the playground.

Support for children having difficulty with emotional regulation

Some children are highly reactive to stress, and seem to go from 0 to 100km/h in a manner of seconds. While some children are like this in general, others can have an unpredictable pattern, adding to their parents’ frustration. Parents are often unclear as to how to help their child given this small window of opportunity, and as a result may avoid more and more situations to prevent these kinds of unmanageable outbursts. In many instances, parents describe that they themselves become very agitated, which makes being supporting all the more challenging. Once our Psychologist has a good sense of what is contributing to the child’s difficulty, they will work with the child to develop an ‘emotional literacy’ so that he or she can begin to identify early feelings of distress and start the process of self-regulation. Parents will receive support to teach them how to respond to these outbursts in a way that creates a window of connection in which they can support their child in using these new strategies.

Assessment and treatment of anxiety and depression

Our Psychologists are experienced in the treatment of anxiety and depression in children, including those with co-occurring diagnoses such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or Learning Disorders.
We use a variety of evidence-based approaches based on the child’s level of insight and learning style (e.g., Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), Family Therapy, Narrative Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Positive Psychology). We often conduct therapy using a variety of playful strategies that might include doll and game play, role playing, and story-telling. While this can look like ‘play’ from the outside, the content is in fact carefully constructed and founded in an evidence-based approach to treatment.

Even though it is the child who is experiencing difficulty, parent involvement is critical to the child’s progress because they are with the child on a regular basis and will have the most opportunities to help the child practice their emerging coping skills. We help parents understand why their child is responding the way they are, teach them the strategies being introduced to their child and help them develop the skills needed to support their child as he or she attempts to put the strategies in place. In some circumstances, there are elements of the parent-child dynamic that are contributing to these symptoms that also warrant additional support.

Interventions for management of school refusal

School refusal can present as a sudden, flat-out refusal to attend or as a more gradual reluctance to separate from parents. In either situation, our Psychologists will work with the parents and the child to figure out what is triggering the refusal and design an intervention and support program that encourages re-engagement. Depending on the situation, our Psychologists might liaise with school personnel to address social and/or learning concerns, work with the child and parents to address the source of any fears or concerns, or recommend additional cognitive assessments to determine whether an underlying learning issue is contributing to the child’s frustration.

Support for low self-esteem and resilience building

Some parents find that their child appears to feel ‘down’ frequently and might overhear their child saying things to themselves that suggests that he or she is experiencing low self-esteem. These children might start to avoid certain situations, hang back rather than persist in their efforts or require a lot of parent and teacher support to move on after a set-back. Our Psychologists will work with the parents, child and school, if required, to better understand the child’s presentation and identify if other symptoms are present that require a more intensive approach. For children who experience minor resilience issues, we work with the child to build social and assertiveness skills, if necessary, and help construct an approach to challenge that lets them move past the initial negative self-talk and experience the possibility of success and pleasure. We work with parents to help them understand the strategies being taught and to encourage them to set up opportunities for their child to experience success with these strategies outside the Centre.

Support for difficulties with interpersonal relationships

Children can have difficulty initiating and maintaining friendships for a number of reasons. Some children may struggle to pick up on social cues that allow them to integrate into a dynamic ‘to and fro’ play situation. Others may experience anxiety about approaching new children or fear rejection from a group. Psychologists will consider the circumstances that are contributing to the child’s difficulty and address them using a combination of approaches that could include development of social skills and assertiveness, working with parents and school to create circumstances that motivate social engagement and allow the child to practice these new skills, and building an awareness of, and support strategies to help them cope with, any social anxiety that they could be experiencing.

Support for children who are victims of bullying

Being bullied – either in person or in social media – can leave an emotional scar that affects a child’s self-esteem and willingness to put him or herself ‘out there’ to experience more positive and fulfilling relationships. Our Psychologists will work carefully to build a supportive rapport with the bullied child and help draw the child’s attention to his or her strengths and assets. This process may be supplemented with social skill development and assertiveness training. If required, the Psychologist can help the child revisit the experience(s) to ‘replay’ it with different problem solving initiatives. The Psychologist will also work with parents and the school, if required, to help generalise new skills and perspectives to the relevant setting.

Parent survival skills

Our Psychologists support parents who want help with specific parenting challenges such as managing disruptive behaviour, sibling rivalry, toilet training, managing the evening routine or just stopping all the ‘yelling’. If you are not sure whether you need a crash-course in a specific area of parenting or whether your child has some needs of their own that require addressing, our Psychologists can help you untangle the issues and recommend a path that meets your family’s needs.

Managing separation or divorce

Our Psychologists can assist families in the process of separation or divorce who want to create a more consistent, ’getting on the same page ’co-parenting approach. The research is clear that a collaborative and consistent parenting approach is a significant protective factor when it comes to the child’s emotional and behavioural adjustment. A consistent approach results in less exposure to conflict, greater security in both parent-child relationships, a clearer sense of family values, and a better response to behaviour management and emotional support strategies when required. We accomplish this through working with parents together to identify their parenting values and any differences in approach, make recommendations based on our assessment of the child’s current needs, and work with both parents to create a common and relatively detailed parenting approach that allows them to parent their children consistently. We also support parents with the early stages of a communication process that lets them regularly evaluate the strategies and their child’s needs and identify when a new or adjusted approach is warranted.

As part of this process we will meet with your child to evaluate how they are coping with the transition. If needed, we can help your child by giving them a neutral space to explore their emotions and, whenever possible, helping the child address these concerns with his or her parents. We are also able to pick up on symptoms of emerging anxiety or depression and can recommend evidence-based strategies to reduce distress.

Sleep difficulties

Many children have problems falling asleep, maintaining sleep, or both. Sleep difficulties have a number of different overlapping causes, medical and psychological, which can make treatment a complex process. For example, some children experience difficulties because the quieter hours give rise to feelings of worry and distress about things in their life that are bothering them. Others may experience night time separation anxiety and a fear of bad dreams or the dark. Sometimes children have difficulty ‘turning off’ and transitioning to a calm state. Often these difficulties will give rise to ‘bedtime battles’ between parent and child, which requires support in and of itself. What is clear is that a lack of sleep has a dramatic effect on the child’s emotional resilience and daytime behaviour.

For this reason, our approach requires a comprehensive assessment – with information from both parent and child – to understand what is causing the sleep difficulties. Because sleep difficulties can have medical underpinnings, we generally recommend that you, either prior to or concurrent with your appointment with an Annie’s Centre Psychologist, see your family doctor to rule out any underlying medical causes that can be addressed by your doctor or specialist, and provide this information to your Psychologist. Once Psychologists have a complete understanding of the issues surrounding the sleep difficulties, we work with the child and parents to create a more functional sleep routine and, if necessary, address other related areas of difficulty that are feeding this problem.

Specialist services for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Our Psychologists offer specialist services for individuals who are suspected of having or diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) at any point on their journey. Whether families require a formal diagnosis, assistance identifying support priorities where the diagnosis is new, or ongoing therapy, our team can offer accurate, credible and effective care.

Assessment and diagnosis

Our Psychologists are experienced in assessing Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) in children 12 months of age and older. They have all undergone specific training in the “gold standard” assessment tools. Our comprehensive assessments follow the international best practice model of structured parent interview using the ADI-R, structured observation of the child using the ADOS-2, observation of the child in day care, pre-school or school settings or through natural play with parents, standardised checklists completed with parents, teachers and/or other professionals working with the child as relevant and interviews with teachers and any other health professionals involved in the child’s care. Parents receive a thorough written report outlining the assessment results and containing practical recommendations moving forward. Recommendations are designed to work within the available resources of the child, family and day care/ pre-school/school. We also offer post-assessment consultation to day cares, pre-schools and schools to assist them in implementing recommendations for the child in that setting.

Therapy

Our Psychologists are experienced in providing the most evidence based support for the ongoing behaviour or mental health challenges often experienced by people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

We meet with parents to determine the family’s goals for their child and work collaboratively with the family and child to establish the best therapeutic intervention for them. Common areas that might be addressed include: managing challenging behaviour at home, managing strong emotions (emotion regulation), combating anxiety or low self- esteem, developing social skills, and consulting to schools to plan learning support.

School support

Our Psychologists are experienced in working closely with teachers, school counsellors, learning/pastoral support and school leadership to extend your child’s in-clinic work and/or make recommendations for additional support needs in the school environment. In situations where school and learning are the key areas of concern, we recommend a school observation to obtain additional information about how your child is functioning in the school environment (socially, behaviourally and academically) and their ability to make use of any existing school-based strategies. We are able to consult with families and schools to assist in planning meetings for students. We can set up resources for parents or teachers to assist children to reach their full potential in the classroom or playground environment including visual supports, behaviour management programs, social skills support, learning support aides.