Treating selective mutism

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Treating selective mutism

Selective Mutism is the most extreme form of social anxiety. About 15 years ago, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, which was then in it's third revised edition, it changed the name. It used to be called Elective Mutism, but they changed the name to Selective Mutism because it was thought that these children that were so phobic to speak in public places were actually electing not to speak. They were mislabeled as oppositional, resistent. What we realize today is that these kids are only able to speak in select places and, at times, with select persons. There are many ways to help these children. The most common kind of interventions include cognitive behavioral approaches, developmental strategies, social skills groups, as well as, anti-anxiety medications. But let me be very clear, if you are going to go the direction of medication, please be sure that you work with a physician that understands, not only kids and anxiety, but psychotropic medication for children.

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Esther Hess, PhD

Pediatric Psychologist

Dr. Esther Hess is a developmental psychologist. She specializes in the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of children with developmental delays, regulatory disorders and language impairment, specifically autism, Asperger’s Disorder and Pervasive Developmental Disorder, not otherwise specified.  In addition, she treats various psychological ailments including, affective disorders, selective mutism, school phobias, attention deficit disorder, non-verbal learning disorders and difficulties as related to childhood response to parental divorce. Her expertise is in the utilization and application of a developmentally based psychotherapy (the DIR model) as devised by Dr. Stanley Greenspan. This model, conceptualized as Floor Time, takes into consideration the various underlying elements that may be impeding the child including where he/she is at developmentally, various biological constraints, and the relationship between the child and the parent. 

In addition to working with the impacted person, Dr. Hess interfaces with the entire family and coordinates the efforts of the various members of team specialists who assist in boosting the impacted individual’s developmental lag.  She is currently one of Dr. Greenspan’s Senior Clinicians on the West Coast, certified in  D.I.R./Floor Time and has trained parents, interventionists and clinicians both nationally and internationally in the developmental/relational method known as Floor Time.  Dr. Hess is the executive director of a multidisciplinary treatment facility in West Los Angeles, Center for the Developing Mind.

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