|New UNC psychology clinic offers affordable services to children, teens and families|
|Thursday, April 10, 2008|
Children, teens and their families can now obtain psychotherapy and evaluation services at affordable rates through a new community clinic operated by expert psychologists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The Child and Family Community Clinic is the newest of several community clinics operated by UNC’s psychology department in the College of Arts and Sciences. The others serve adults and couples.
Children and adolescents may experience a range of emotional, psychological and learning difficulties, such as anger, anxiety, sadness, stress, inattentiveness, hyperactivity and mood swings, said Mitch Prinstein, associate professor and director of the psychology department’s clinical program. Such problems may interfere with relationships at home, in school and with friends, making it difficult for a young person to succeed academically and socially, he said.
Young people who struggle with these kinds of problems must be evaluated and diagnosed before they can receive special academic services at school. UNC’s clinic offers both diagnostic evaluation and therapy services to the public on a sliding-fee scale based on household income.
In addition, educational assessment services available at the clinic are helpful for parents who wish to determine whether it is appropriate for their child to enroll in early-entry kindergarten or advanced placement classes, or find out whether they qualify for educational plans to address learning disabilities or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
The clinic’s diagnostic assessment services help determine accurate diagnoses and the best courses of treatment for a range of disorders including ADHD, bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety and conduct disorder. The clinic has a specialty in pediatric mood disorder assessment.
“These disorders can be tricky to differentiate from each other and many youths have more than one issue affecting them,” said Jen Youngstrom, clinical associate professor and director of child and family services. “Thorough and evidence-based evaluations are the first step in understanding the problems and picking the most effective solutions.”
The clinic also provides psychotherapy to help children and their families understand and address these problems so that the children can succeed at school and at home.
By working with parents and school personnel, the UNC therapists can also help coordinate psychological and academic services for their young clients, said Youngstrom.
Private therapy and testing can be expensive, especially for clients who do not have health insurance to cover mental health services.
UNC charges about $20 to $75 per hour for therapy and $500 to $1,400 for an evaluation, depending on family income and whether a trainee or fully licensed psychologist conducts the evaluation. (Private practitioners charge about $100 to $150 an hour for therapy and $1,500 to $3,000 for an evaluation.)
UNC can charge lower fees because the clinic is a research and training center for advanced doctoral students in clinical psychology. The graduate student therapists work with clients under the direct supervision of nationally recognized and licensed expert psychologists on the UNC faculty.
“We’re pleased that our research and training can serve the public in this way by offering valuable services to the community at very affordable rates,” Prinstein said.
The UNC clinics use cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT), a practical approach designed to help clients learn to replace negative, self-defeating thinking with more positive, constructive thoughts and actions, said Youngstrom.
“For example, people who are experiencing sadness don’t always realize that they don’t have to look at the world through dark colored lenses,” said Prinstein. “We show them how to take off the dark glasses by replacing sad or negative thoughts with different, more positive thoughts. Soon they learn to do it for themselves and their thoughts and feelings improve.”
Similarly, children and adolescents can be taught new routines to help them overcome learning difficulties and new thinking strategies to overcome anxieties and sadness. The clinic also teaches parents new ways to use positive rewards and consequences to change children’s patterns of behavior and to enjoy more positive time with their children.
“This kind of therapy is effective and it’s not scary. It’s about solutions,” said Youngstrom. “Together, we generate alternate solutions for children and their families, and help them try these out for themselves.”
Clinics are open for daytime and evening appointments at 212 Finley Golf Course Road, a convenient off-campus location with plenty of parking. To learn more or make an appointment, call (919) 962-6906. Information is available online at http://psychologyclinic.unc.edu .