Our Specialties

We specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of children, adolescents, and adults with neuro-developmental disorders, including:

  • Adolescent Mental Health
  • Anxiety
  • Attachment Issues
  • Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
  • Autism and Asperger’s Disorder
  • Behavior changes after medical illness or injury
  • Chemical Abuse and Dependency
  • Depression or Grief
  • Developmental-Behavioral Services
  • Family, Couples and Individual Therapy
  • Habit and Tic Disorders of Childhood
  • Interdisciplinary Treatment Planning
  • Learning and school problems, school refusal
  • Medications for Children
  • Mind-Body Medicine and Hypnotherapy
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Oppositional and Conduct Disorders
  • Pervasive Developmental Disorders
  • Play Therapy
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Tourette’s Syndrome

Diagnosis Using the Domains Model

Bluestem Center focuses on understanding and treating behavior and emotional problems in children by looking at the child in the context of their family. We are serious about wanting to work with the family and to form a treatment relationship with the child and family for the long haul. This means that we take enough time and work in enough depth during the evaluation to understand the many aspects of a child’s life that are involved in the development of problems. These same areas can be used as assets in developing a treatment plan.

We believe that our evaluation process is uniquely efficient and thorough. The assessment is organized into seven Domains:

  • The current problem and its impact on the child’s function, including previous attempts at treatment and the outcome, and results of current symptom reviews and clinical interview
  • The development of the brain and nervous system, including the child’s ability to accurately perceive and process information
  • The child’s emotional and relational development, as shown by their attachment, history of traumatic events and responses, and the child’s level of moral and spiritual development
  • The child’s personality or temperament, including preferred activities and interests, degree of insight and motivation for treatment
  • Health and lifestyle
  • Family structure and lifestyle; inherited vulnerabilities for mental illnesses
  • Community supports and utilization by the child and family

Adolescent Mental Health Anxiety

Many stages of parenting are challenging. Even the most skilled parent is often frustrated with the emotional mood swings and behaviors of their children as they move through adolescence.

A primary developmental task for an adolescent is to experiment with different personality traits, values and friendships. At times these experiments are not in line with the family values and practices. To complicate the situation, many adolescents prefer the company of their peers, who they believe are comrades in the struggle to be autonomous, interesting and special individuals. This is an all consuming task for the adolescent. Particular family circumstances, such as, mental health, grief, and loss issues, and chemical dependency may contribute additional stress. The adolescent’s ability to cope and the families’ ability to respond appropriately is complicated.

It is "normal" adolescent behavior to react impulsively, over react to emotional situations, and think of their own needs, or their friend’s needs, before their family. It is important for parents to respond in a concrete, matter-a-fact manner when teaching new social skills or attempting to eliminate undesirable behavior. Modulating our own emotional state, and maintaining consistency and routine helps settle an adolescent.

Counseling is often helpful and necessary when additional stressors are present in the family. In choosing a therapist, it must be someone the adolescent likes. Confidentiality guidelines should be discussed and followed. The therapist should be knowledgeable of adolescent development. In this way the counselor can help both the adolescent and their parent successfully navigate this challenging stage.

Attachment Issues

We offer psychotherapy based on attachment theory and research. Our therapists allow a child the safety necessary in exploring and resolving experiences of terror and shame.

Through the intersubjective process of therapeutic attunement, affective/reflective dialogue, and interactive repair of the relationship, the child becomes able to define and integrate aspects of self and other that had previously been nameless, overlooked, terrifying or disowned.

Therapy includes the therapist, one or both parents (or foster parents) and the child. The primary intersubjective stance is one of acceptance and curiosity, empathy and/or playfulness, all the while committed to remaining emotionally engaged and available to the child. It emphasizes: co-regulation of affect, and co-construction of non-shaming meaning to life experiences – a new life narrative.

Chemical Dependency

Chemical dependency is a family disease. It affects EVERYONE – not just the addict. The alcohol/drugs create stressors within the family. The disease does not allow the addict to respond to the needs of the family unit. The family members experience deep pain and learn it is not safe to talk, to trust or to feel, as a way of coping. This keeps the family functioning. The progression of the disease and the progression of family chaos will continue until all learn new ways to respond.

Chemical dependency is a primary, progressive, chronic, fatal disease. It affects one’s entire life and being - physically, socially, emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually. It wrecks havoc on one’s life and those with whom one loves. The addict’s life has become unmanageable and he/she has lost the power to choose. The disease overtakes one’s life until it is interrupted with proper treatment.

Services offered:

  • Assessments for adults/adolescents
  • Assistance in obtaining treatment
  • Relapse prevention after treatment
  • Therapy for families
  • Therapy for individuals after treatment
  • Therapy for individuals who have grown up in chemically dependent homes

Christian Counseling

Christian counseling services are offered spanning the full spectrum of psychological problems. Faith based counseling at Bluestem Center incorporates professionally licensed counselors using the tools of the mental health profession, Scriptural truths of the Christian faith, and wisdom of life experience to help those in need.

  • Mental health tools include counseling skills, assessment tools, psychological testing and individual and family counseling.
  • Scriptural truths relate to Biblical teachings that address our relationship with God and one another. Though we are guided by these teachings, we do not impose our views on our patients but rather meet them where they are.
  • Wisdom of life experience is what both the counselor and patient bring to the counseling session to aid in the process of change.

Couple and Family Therapy

Bluestem has Marriage and Family Therapists who help couples and families find solutions for a number of problems. We work with parents to adjust their parenting styles to meet the needs of children with special needs and mental disorders. Our therapists have had training in parenting strategies such as Love and Logic, Nurtured Heart, Collaborative Problem Solving, and Barkley’s. We strive to help parents gain insight to impact of their family’s of origin on their parenting styles and to encourage them to become a parenting team.

Bluestem helps couples to work through conflicts, to improve communication, and to help them find a healthy balance between togetherness and independence. Sometimes the couple’s relationship has gotten to the place where divorce is being considered. We help couples to work through the many issues involved in such a decision, often using both individual and couple therapy.

We provide a safe place for entire families to sit down together and discuss ways to move toward constructive communication and creative problem solving. We work with issues of emancipation, power and control, expression of emotions, family climate, cohesion/togetherness, healing from abuse and neglect, grief, adjustment to family stage of life, adoption, chemical dependency and more. When the family can agree together to make positive and healthy changes then the mental health of everyone improves. Our team facilitates that process.

Developmental-Behavioral Services

Bluestem provides evaluation and management services for developmental and behavioral problems for children and adolescents and some young adults. Areas we work with include concerns for academic learning, social skills, attention deficits (with or without hyperactivity), disruptive behaviors, autism spectrum disorders as well as mood, anxiety and habit disorders.

We begin with a comprehensive evaluation looking for each patient’s unique strengths as well as a thorough clarification of the concerns. This process includes gathering and analysis of complete past medical, developmental, educational, social and family histories as well as direct interview of patient and appropriate family members. We share the results of our assessment with patient and family, then work together to develop and individualized treatment and management plan.

For behavioral and relationship concerns, we provide individualized coaching utilizing proven strategies selected from a number of sources including but not limited to Parenting with Love & Logic, the Collaborative Problem Solving Approach, and the Nurtured Heart Approach. If appropriate, options are also available for Mind-Body Medicine (see separate Area of Excellence) and for medication assessment and management. Our lead staff member in this area is A. W. Atkinson, MD who is Board Certified in Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics.

Interdisciplinary Treatment Planning

The staff of Bluestem Center believes in treating the child in the context of their family and community. We engage the family from the beginning with our assessment and evaluation process. We then involve them further in the treatment. Many children benefit from having their parents instructed in a treatment method that they can use in the home. We believe this has more lasting and powerful impact than simply having the child meet alone with a therapist. Often, we will combine several methods. It is not unusual for a treatment plan to include individual therapy with the child; combined parent and child therapy or family therapy; parental guidance counseling with one or both parents; medications; along with advocacy with the child’s school and other outside support services. We frequently ask parents to assist by charting their child’s symptoms or completing symptom checklists periodically to be sure that we are making steady progress. When cases involve more than one professional, we maintain close communication through weekly staff meetings, internal communications, and by use of the same patient record.

Medications for Children

Psychiatric medications are rapidly advancing in safety and effectiveness. Many medications can be used safely in children. Medications are prescribed only after a thorough evaluation, including a search for any possible medical problems that could be responsible for the child’s difficulties (for example, lead poisoning or thyroid disease). Medications are prescribed within the context of a holistic treatment plan that generally includes therapy, parental guidance, and school accommodations. Symptom checklists are used to demonstrate conclusively whether or not medications are effective. Medicines are selected based on proven efficacy, safety, lack of potential for addiction, and low potential for harmful side effects. All of our treating professionals are expected to maintain current licensure and education in the use of medications for children, in accordance with published research results and best practice standards. Each child is evaluated as an individual, and parents are educated about the available choices. The family physician is kept informed of prescribed medicines and the child is referred to their family physician for monitoring laboratories if any are required.

Mind-Body Medicine Services

"Mind-body medicine focuses on the interactions among the brain, mind, body, and behavior, and on the powerful ways in which emotional, mental, social, spiritual, and behavioral factors can directly affect health."* We serve as your coach or guide in learning and applying mind-body techniques to enhance personal growth and transformation. These approaches may be particularly useful for stress management, improving self-control of anxiety, mood, habit, and tic disorders, and for control over recurrent symptoms such as bed-wetting and veritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and pain syndromes, such as migraine headaches not otherwise well controlled medically.

At Bluestem we offer the mind-body approaches of hypnotherapy and related relaxation/mental imagery techniques, a variety of cognitive-behavioral strategies including positive emotion re-focusing approaches, as well as heart rate variability (coherence) bio-feedback. We begin with a thorough interview which includes history of your concerns as well as a detailed review of medical and developmental factors. Once we have a full understanding of the problem we take the time needed to explain and discuss what we have learned. Together we explore options for mind-body techniques that may be most useful for you. Most often, mind-body techniques can be taught and mastered in 6 sessions or less. When requested, we offer ongoing follow-up and booster-coaching. Most of our staff routinely offer one or more mind-body approaches in their work with patients. Please call if you wish to know more about our work with any particular technique. Contact person: A. W. (Buddy) Atkinson, MD.

* National Center for Complimentary & Alternative Medicine, National Institutes of Health http://nccam.nih.gov/health/backgrounds/mindbody.htm

Individualized Parent Coaching and Behavior Management

Bluestem Center offers help with the difficult job of parenting. Whether through parenting classes or within the context of your child or adolescent’s therapy, Bluestem offers research-backed techniques and methods to help with the parent-child interaction. Below is a synopsis of some of the concepts we use and national thought leaders who have proposed them.

Russell Barkley, Ph.D. has taught us much about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. He feels that the hyperactive subtype of ADHD, which represents the majority of children and adolescents with the disorder, is actually a disorder of impulsivity and self-control, not of attention. In other words, Dr. Barkley helps us to understand that the "executive functions" that most people develop to privately manage their emotions, actions, and internal language is delayed in some of our kids. We use Dr. Barkley’s ideas to help you, as parents, deal with this lag.

Love and Logic, a philosophy pioneered by Foster Cline, MD and Jim Fay (school teacher/principal), is a way of raising and teaching children which allows parents (and teachers) to be happier, empowered, and more skilled in their interactions with children. It teaches how to coach children in thinking about their behaviors and thereby learning through their mistakes and to live with the consequences of their choices. Love and Logic is a way of working with children that puts parents back in control, teaches children to be responsible, and prepares young people to live in the real world, with its many choices and consequences.

The Nurtured Heart approach, outlined by Howard Glasser, M.A., teaches parents how to energize their child’s experiences of success while not accidentally energizing his or her negative behavior. Traditional approaches for parenting and teaching can easily backfire with highly intense children: they inadvertently reward children by providing more energy, involvement and animation when things are going wrong. Challenging children wind up perceiving a high level of incentive for pushing the limits and for negative behaviors and little incentive to make successful choices. The Nurtured Heart approach is designed to turn the challenging child around to a new pattern of success. The approach has also been found to be successful in helping the average child flourish at higher-than-expected levels of functioning.

The Collaborative Problem Solving (CPS) approach takes a unique view of challenging kids- it is not that they are attention-seeking, manipulative or unmotivated. Rather that they lack crucial skills for solving problems, handling frustration and being flexible. And that these skills can be taught using Collaborative Problem Solving. CPS represents a novel, contemporary, practical, compassionate, and highly effective approach for understanding and helping these children and their caretakers. It was first articulated in the book, The Explosive Child, by Dr. Ross Greene and subsequently in the book, Treating Explosive Kids, by Drs. Ross Greene and Stuart Ablon.

Play Therapy

Play is the natural medium of children for expressing their experiences as well as their feelings about themselves. Children encounter their world at an experiential rather than cognitive level. They must disclose their emotions in more primitive ways than verbal communication. They must communicate through their own medium – play.

As a result of trauma, many children lose the type of play opportunity needed for cognitive development. Our playroom is set up with the tools (toys) necessary to integrate life experiences and to attain certain levels of competence in order to advance to the next developmental stage. We provide children with a safe place to confront their emotional pain experientially through play with the help of their therapist.

Psychological Testing

Bluestem Center focuses on the individualized treatment of each patient. This is accomplished by a comprehensive evaluation determining how Bluestem Center can best serve you and your family. We start with an initial interview to learn about your developmental, medical, academic, social, and family history. After reviewing all information gathered we will assess what steps are to be taken next. Psychological testing will focus on the appropriate personality, intelligence, neuropsychological, adaptive behavioral or academic achievement, as well as specific screening for ADHD and autism spectrum disorders. We look for specific areas of strength and difficulty for your child as well as assess for specific learning disorders. Once testing has been completed and all data gathered, we will meet with you to go over results. Recommendations will then be given to you as we help meet your or your child’s individual needs.

Sexual Abuse

Bluestem Center for Children and Family Development has employed a number of therapists that have extensive training and experience in working with children, adolescent, and adult victims of sexual abuse. Therapists will work with the victim and the family. Therapists will utilize a number of different techniques when working with abuse victims, such as, Theraplay, play therapy, EMDR, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and other trauma treatment techniques. Therapists can assess the effects of the abuse and help in the healing and repair. Therapists can also work with juvenile sex offenders. Therapists can provide assessment and individual treatment for juveniles and their families.