Health

New anxiety clinic offers help for children and teens

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With all the pressure on today’s young people, it is no surprise they might have stress and anxiety issues.

“There are increased pressures that we have with kids – a lot more striving to succeed and to achieve," said Cheryl Denz, a licensed clinical professional counselor and president and owner of Riverview Counseling Services, which has locations in St. Charles, Batavia and South Elgin. "Some of these kids are coming in here, and they work more hours than adults do between taking AP honors classes, being involved in all these activities, as well as travel sports. It really can be exhausting. We do see a lot of pressure coming in from social media and never being able to shut off. I really think we are seeing a backlash on the kids."

Riverview Counseling Services has launched a new intensive anxiety clinic for children and teens. It gives them skills to cope and manage their anxieties. It can act as a supplement for those already in therapy.

According to the 2015 Child Mind Institute Children’s Mental Health Report, 80 percent of kids with a diagnosable anxiety disorder and 60 percent of kids with diagnosable depression are not getting treatment.

“We recently set up an intensive anxiety clinic because there is a hugely growing demand in our area here," said Denz. "What it does is it really helps kids who need a little bit more than just individual therapy, but who are not ready for a hospital patient program."

The anxiety clinic is run – and was developed by – licensed psychologist Dr. Megan Schmitz. It is a twice-a-week program for 16 weeks for those in elementary school, middle school and high school.

It uses Dialectical Behavior Therapy and Acceptance Commitment Therapy.

“What it really is trying to get the kiddos to really learn is how to communicate better, to really be present in the moment and understand that being uncomfortable is OK, and to develop techniques to be able to tolerate and manage this anxiety, instead of letting it overcome and overrun them,” Denz said.

Schmitz believes the key to dealing with anxiety issues for children is to meet them head on.

“I think the problem really is the way that we facilitate avoidance," Schmitz said. "If somebody is permitted to not meet an expectation because they are anxious, they are going to continue to be anxious. That’s actually reinforcing ... the anxiety. To put it plainly, not functioning is a lot easier than functioning."

One of the ways to deal with anxiety is through distraction techniques.

“A lot of people want to continue to talk about it to figure out why the person is feeling anxious," Schmitz said. "Even to talk ... them out of being anxious, which does not work and actually keeps the anxiety in the present moment. It doesn’t help it. You need to do something to shift that energy, to sidetrack the mind long enough for them to calm down. Puzzles and games are a really effective way."

Another way to ease anxiety is by using self-soothing techniques, such as watching humorous video clips or listening to a playlist of favorite songs.

“Self soothe can be something like having a warm blanket or something that smells like home. Having their favorite candy stashed away – not to snack on all day, but just as a special treat to mindfully enjoy when they are experiencing heightened anxiety. Self soothe helps them provide comforting information to their senses in the present moment in order to bring their minds back to the present,” said Schmitz.

For more information about the intensive anxiety clinic, call 630-587-3777 or visit www.riverviewcounselingservices.com.