SPARC Training Seminar at Island University Provides Tools to Help Children Diagnosed with Anxiety

May 24, 2017

SPARC Training Seminar at Island University Provides Tools to Help Children Diagnosed with Anxiety

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Approximately 25 percent of children and adolescents experience clinically relevant symptoms of anxiety, per Dr. Stephen Lenz, Assistant Professor of Counseling at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. In response to this statistic, the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Department of Counseling and Counseling Education hosted a training event on childhood anxiety and treatment at the Michael and Karen O’Connor Building on May 6, as part of the Supporting Pediatric Adjustment and Resilience through Counseling (SPARC) training series. The SPARC Program educates counselors in training and promotes the work of local professionals specializing in child and adolescent behavioral health in the Coastal Bend.

The seminar entailed three segments spanning four hours. During the first segment, Dr. Kendra Saxvik, Clinical Pharmacy Specialist for the Veteran Affairs Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System, addressed psychotropic medications used in treating children with anxiety disorders. During the second segment, Kate Hilliard, Registered Dietician with the Food Bank of Corpus Christi, discussed certain foods that may decrease symptoms of anxiety. Both guests emphasized the need for mental health practitioners to be aware of medications prescribed to younger clients in tandem with their nutritional intake, as both factors impact anxiety. 

In the last segment, Lenz noted the difference between stress and anxiety. He explained that stress is often a healthy response to stimuli, whereas anxiety is a long-endured syndrome that can include disproportionate fear, anticipation of a real or imagined future threat or may be related to some sort of behavioral disturbance that affects a child’s physical and intellectual development.

“When childhood factors come together in a supportive way, we develop functional and adaptive rules, attitudes and schemas that support our day-to-day functioning,” said Lenz. “When supportive factors are not there, we develop attitudes and actions to approach the complexities of life that may be functional or helpful for the moment, but are not adaptive or helpful in the long term.”

Lenz further addressed that treating anxious children must involve their parents, so that information covered in a session with a counselor or treatment team can be translated to the child’s home environment. Lenz explained the core lesson for all teachers, counselors and administrators is that breakthroughs achieved during sessions can become diminished or lost by events at home. 

“Childhood anxiety is often paired with academic underperformance, social skill deficits, victimization, bullying, and low self-esteem,” said Lenz. “We also have to be mindful that, as professionals, we are not always treating the causes of anxiety, but symptoms such as negative thoughts.”  

SPARC will host two more events this year on Saturday, June 3 and Saturday, July 8 on trauma/grief and depression, respectively. Both are free and open to educators, counselors, administrators and social workers, and will be in the O’Connor Building, room 117, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

For more information on the SPARC training series, contact Dr. Stephen Lenz at 361.825.3467 or click HERE for treatment manuals and materials.