Collaborating with whole families to support and empower children: "We know that tweens and teens are sometimes the toughest to understand and can be the hardest to help, so that's why we partner with parents to learn exactly what the pain points are," affirms Katie Zuverink, LPC-S, founder of New Roots Counseling, newly opened in Frisco at 5665 Dallas Parkway, #150.
Katie says they provide therapy for youths and coaching for parents to determine the best ways of supporting everyone involved. In addition to Katie, on staff are a parenting specialist (Meagan Jackson); therapists (Katy Branchflower, Sabrina Henderson, Abigail Scallan, Avery Clement); and a life coach (Ashley Williams).
Additionally, New Roots professionals offer services in couples counseling, family counseling and adult counseling for anxiety, depression and other issues, such as career development. Katie also is a mediator and collaborative divorce facilitator.
The New Roots professionals indicate the most frequent challenge presently affecting families is anxiety, which as a clinical condition, occurs when a person has excessive worry and feelings of fear, dread, terror and uneasiness. Other symptoms may include panic attacks, sweating, restlessness, irritability, fatigue, poor concentration, trouble sleeping, trouble breathing, a fast heartbeat and dizziness.
While the national percentage of youths officially diagnosed with anxiety disorders before the COVID-19 pandemic was 5-10%, Katie says the current percentage is 20-30%.
Meagan says while some nervousness among all youths is typical, and even beneficial, under new circumstances, such as changing schools or starting a new extracurricular activity, it's time to further explore a child's mindset when anxiety suddenly surrounds pre-established activities. "For example, children may be used to going to swim club sessions three days a week, and therefore already know what to expect. And so far, they've handled it well, and seemed to have enjoyed it," she explains. "But then, they push back and state things like, 'coach always makes me do (fill in the blank).' They may not voice that it's really not about the coach. It's actually their anxiety kicking in, and that can cause them not to participate."
Another example usually occurs as related to social factors, and it's when a child previously liked or loved playing at another child's house, and then firmly doesn't, or voices they hate to do so now, adds Meagan. "It's about routine things they pull away from, and it helps to know if they're just changing preferences as they age or if it's something deeper."
The counselors at New Roots indicate signs that teenagers may need help include:
- Constantly seeming or feeling sad, hopeless, worried, fearful, anxious or angry
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Changing their sleeping/eating habits
- Having difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- Abandoning activities/hobbies they once enjoyed
- Experiencing a sudden drop in performance
- Feeling restless; unable to settle down or focus
- Engaging in self-harm behaviors (cutting, hitting)
- Talking about death or expressing suicidal thoughts
- Abusing alcohol or drugs
Meagan says parents often make therapy appointments, sharing that they have no idea what's causing stress in their children and that they don't know how to address their situations.
Some parents, in the process of assisting their children to learn life lessons, encourage them to 'buck up,' summon their courage and handle situations. And, Meagan agrees that people "can't let anxiety always win."
She suggests that parents can support their children by saying something to the effect of: "I can tell you're really worried. We can deal with this, though. How can I help you?"
However, Meagan adds that it’s important to know if a child is in an emotional place where the 'get back in there' direction is helpful, or if they need more skills and tools before asking them to jump back into specific activities or situations.
A recent area that's been causing anxiety in teenagers is driving and securing a driver's license. Meagan says it's usually due to teens recognizing the risks and responsibilities of driving, and saying 'no thank you' to the opportunity. In those cases, she recommends parents tell their children that they believe their child can handle those responsibilities and follow up with some tools to help with it.
"In these cases, we assist parents with how to coach their children through such challenges when they're outside the therapy room," Meagan says.
Regarding younger children, Katie says "the littlest kiddos can have the biggest feelings," so again, their therapy plans are based on realistic but compassionate support.
New Roots Counseling specialists have been trained in a specific therapy geared just toward children between the ages of 3 to 8 years. Because children of this age don’t yet have the vocabulary needed to share their feelings, their worries or their confusion about what’s going on in their world, Katie says kids communicate through play. "Our therapists use an evidence-based treatment called Play Therapy to work with children."
Play Therapy is a way of interacting with children that honors their unique developmental levels and looks for ways of helping in the “language” of children, which is play. Licensed mental health professionals therapeutically use play to help their clients, most often children ages 3 to 12 years old, to better express themselves and resolve their problems.
Play therapy works best when a safe relationship is created between the therapist and client, one in which the latter may freely and naturally express both what pleases and bothers them.
"Through our approaches, children gain empathy, problem-solving skills, self-control, social maturity and resilience," explains Katie. "While parents gain the ability to understand their child's behavior and what it means, confidence in how to respond, and how to develop a better overall relationship with their child or children."
Katie says they know when factors in someone's house start to spin out of control, those families' entire worlds can start to feel off-center. "We can help get them back on firm footing. We do offer immediate openings to assist with urgent situations, and we take some popular insurance plans."
She adds that their experts also are happy to work with school counselors, pediatricians, occupational therapists, or whoever is the "whole care team" for individual children.
The New Roots specialists remind that specialized training is essential regarding therapy for children, and that the youth-oriented therapy process and treatment is not the same as with adults.