By Linda C. Neumann.
Citation: First Published in the SENGVine, April 2011.
If you’re raising a highly able athlete or musician, it’s assumed that you’ll rely on people with special expertise to help your child develop his or her talents. Specialized teachers, athletic coaches, trainers, physical therapists, and sports medicine doctors are examples of the types of professionals who can make up the support team for a child who excels in sports or music.
When it comes to raising a child with exceptional intellectual abilities, on the other hand, we’re not so quick to call in professionals to guide us. As a result, parents of intellectually gifted kids can find themselves feeling overwhelmed – like they just don’t have the energy and expertise to do all that it takes to raise their high-ability son or daughter. Perhaps the parents of athletes and musicians have something to teach us – that we don’t necessarily have to do it alone. Borrowing from a well-known phrase, it takes a team to raise a gifted child, especially if that child faces social, emotional, or learning challenges, as many gifted and twice-exceptional children do.
Who might be part of a support team for a gifted child? At the top of the list might be mental health professionals who can do IQ testing and can address mental health issues like perfectionism, stress, anxiety, or depression. These professionals can also help ease friction between parent and child, and make the family function more effectively and efficiently.
To choose the right mental health professional for your family’s situation, it helps to understand how they differ in focus and expertise. Here is an overview of the type of help that mental health professionals can provide.
Mental Health Counselors:
Qualifications: At least a master's degree in professional counseling or related field. State licensing.
Types of Services Provided: Work with individuals, families, and groups to treat mental, behavioral, and emotional problems and disorders. Services include: -Assessing and diagnosing mental health problems -Providing therapeutic counseling -Crisis intervention
Clinical Social Workers:
Qualifications: At least a master’s degree in social work. Advanced training and state licensing to provide mental health services.
Types of Services Provided: Address problems related to physical, psychological, and social functioning. Services include: -Counseling children and facilitating groups for those with similar behavioral or emotional issues -Participating in the IEP process -Offering teachers guidance on dealing with difficult children -Coaching parents in effective parenting
Qualifications: At least a master’s degree. In most states, additional training that leads to a specialist degree or its equivalent. State licensing.
Types of Services Provided: Collaborate with parents, teachers, and other school personnel to identify appropriate teaching/learning strategies for gifted students and those with learning or behavior problems. Services include: -Evaluating effectiveness of school services -Participating in the IEP process -Counseling students and families -Crisis intervention
Qualifications: At least a master’s degree in psychology. Often have a doctoral degree. State licensing.
Types of Services Provided: Counsel emotionally and mentally distressed individuals or those with physical illnesses/injuries. Services include: -Conducting assessments -Diagnosing and treating mental disorders -Providing individual and group psychotherapy
Qualifications: Either a medical doctor (M.D.) or a doctor of osteopathy (O.D.). At least four more years of training focusing on mental illness diagnosis, treatment, and prevention