A child first, a diagnosis second. Treating anxiety in children.

A child first, a diagnosis second. Treating anxiety in children.

April 28, 2015 - 8:00 am
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Psychologist with experience in treating anxiety in children, says today’s children are stressed in this complex and sophisticated world while the development of children tries to remain the same.


I had the chance to speak with child psychologist Dorothy L. Price, M.A., L. Psych. Dorothy completed her undergraduate degree at Mount Alison University. While she thought she would become a nurse or work in public relations; she became interested in the concept of development over the lifespan and decided to study psychology for her graduate degree.

Through the influence of mentors she became fascinated by child development, although adult clinic practice was more popular amongst her peers at the time.

Dorothy started her psychology internship in 1983 and became licensed in 1987. She now works at Barb Gibson and Associates where she focuses on helping children, typically from ages 2 to 13. Many children come to see her by parent self-referral, although family physicians, pediatricians, health and education practitioners do refer as well.

Dorothy sees children who may be struggling with unexpected life experiences such as the loss of a family member, parental separation as well as children who are adjusting to changes such as moving or changing schools.

Dorothy helps children with psychological symptoms such as anxiety or depression and also works extensively with children who have a developmental disability such as autism, Asperger's or a learning disability. She works with children who have experienced trauma or who have a critical illness.


Dorothy helps children with learning related difficulties, who she says are often very capable children but who need specific strategies to become successful learners. She provides assessment, child-centred therapy as well as parental consultation. Dorothy does not favour treating children in isolation. Parents "do a lot of the therapy" during their daily interactions with their children, she says. She may also consult with a parent when an adolescent is a reluctant participant in therapy or when rapport is not readily

Child psychologist Dorothy Price says 'I have the learned the most from children.'

What did I learn from child psychologist Dorothy Price? She honours the privilege, granted by parents, of being invited into their lives and the lives of their children. Dorothy exemplifies that this is always a child first, and a challenge, a worry or a diagnosis second.

Dorothy says that over the course of her 18 years in private practice, the issues of children have changed. Nowadays, more children have anxiety-related concerns including childhood depression. She says, "Children are stressed in this complex and sophisticated world while the development of children tries to remain the same."

She sees many more young children with learning difficulties and at a much younger age. In particular, with the advent of formal learning in kindergarten, Dorothy says that young children struggle in school when teaching or learning is not developmentally sensitive.

The shift over the last decades to drive self-esteem has sometimes created an illusion for children that success can always be achieved. In real life children need to explore frustration and disappointment. Dorothy helps children to navigate the bumps in life. She says that resiliency is a critical skill.

Dorothy shared a humbling experience she had on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic. She had the opportunity to work with abandoned children from Haiti at a medical clinic. These children experienced significant developmental trauma at a young age. Their daily life was focused on survival. They did not have the luxury of emotions such as excitement, disappointment or even anger. Their only emotion was resounding fear. Yet, Dorothy observed they still had a glimmer of hopefulness. These children had true resiliency.

Dorothy relays such a strong sense of gratitude for her work. She says "I have learned the most from children."

Of her son she says, laughingly, "He has taught me humility and, of course, joy!"

Dorothy said that while her hardworking, self-taught father was pleased with her professional accomplishments, he taught her to be respectful, hardworking and to only take a vacation for one week each year (and then only if absolutely necessary). Those lessons resonate throughout her work with children and their families.

What did I learn from child psychologist Dorothy Price?

She honours the privilege, granted by parents, of being invited into their lives and the lives of their children.

Dorothy exemplifies that this is always a child first, and a challenge, a worry or a diagnosis second.


If you ever wonder if occupational therapy can help your child, I have written two FREE eBooks you can download, the first describes when occupational therapy can help pre-schoolers and the second when occupational therapy can help school-age children. -OT Christel Seeberger


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