“We are different than a lot of other practices due to our truly personalized and individual approach to therapy,” says Laura McLaughlin (M.Ed., LPC, RPT), founder of HeadFirst Counseling, a private counseling center located in Oak Lawn. A child and adolescent therapist, McLaughlin started her career working with child victims of domestic violence and other abuse. She founded HeadFirst in 2016 after looking—but not finding—a private therapy practice in Dallas where clients would “feel like home and part of the family.”
As families get ready to go back to school, we asked McLaughlin more about HeadFirst and what parents should be on the lookout for when it comes to counseling and their kids.
Park Cities Lifestyle: What makes HeadFirst stand apart from other counseling services?
Laura McLaughlin: We take a very holistic approach when it comes to treatment and regularly work in tandem with occupational therapists, speech therapists, Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapists, psychiatrists, neuropsychologists, and nutritionists. This holistic view means we don’t put as much emphasis on diagnosing as other practices might, as our belief is that sometimes focusing on treating just one diagnosis can lead to tunnel vision and missing other significant factors contributing to the problem.
PCL: What is the approach to medication at HeadFirst?
LM: In some cases, medication can be part of a comprehensive treatment plan, but it is not our first referral or recommendation. Getting your child evaluated for medication to treat mental health concerns is a very personal decision, one which most families do not take lightly. Our goal is to focus on comprehensive therapeutic treatment first and exhaust all other resources before referring for medication.
PCL: When should a parent call HeadFirst?
LM: Post-COVID, we have seen a strong resurgence of parents looking to get their child into therapy. Some of the major red flags to look out for are any changes in behavior: children that previously went to bed on their own and now are insisting on sleeping with parents each night; tearful separations that were previously smooth; or extreme behavioral outbursts and meltdowns. Many childhood disorders present as anger and behavioral problems, which is usually the reason parents initially call us.
PCL: Do your clients improve in regards to their self-worth and independence?
LM: Utilizing evidence-based techniques and incorporating brain development research leads to highly positive outcomes for most children at our practice. Many children are able to develop skills to self-manage their anxiety or depression and have the coping mechanisms to increase flexibility, confidence, social skills, and adapting when things do not go as expected. When a child feels in control of their emotions and behaviors through utilizing these skills, it leads to a significant improvement in confidence and self-worth as they start to view themselves as capable and competent to manage life.