STEPHEN MESSER, PH.D.

Dr. Messer has extensive training and experience working with school-aged children in a multitude of settings, from Head Start classes to academic medical center inpatient units and specialty outpatient clinics. He understands the many potential sources of stressors and difficulties confronting children and continues to learn more with every client and family, as well through his commitment to life-long professional education. Most importantly for his clients, Dr. Messer has a keen appreciation and respect for how each child is unique and special, developing in a complicated world. This often means challenging relationships with families and friends, teachers and schools, and sometimes involves experiencing painful experiences, even traumatic events. However, he also knows and respects that often the most effective resources and strongest supporters of children are the adults in the very homes, schools, and communities in which they struggle to adapt, learn, and grow. Working together is usually the most powerful way toward success. This means teaming-up with the adults who genuinely love, encourage, and support them. Dr. Messer enjoys working with children, eager to explore their worlds, striving to understand how to best make friends and get along with others, and learning how to navigate rules and boundaries at home and school, and enjoy close family relationships and activities. He is committed to devoting as much of his time and energy as feasible, helping children and youth feel better as quickly as possible while supporting and guiding their plans, goals, and dreams for the future. 

Dr. Messer utilizes a variety of techniques to assess, support, and intervene in the psychological lives of children and families. Practically, he engages significant time with children individually (in partial or full sessions) to sensitively assess their expectations and understanding of therapy and the kinds of activities that define the work we will be doing together, and the good feelings and changes that come from therapy. Dr. Messer also will meet with parents, sometimes individually, usually with their children, to discuss the strengths of the family and facilitate a developmentally attuned understanding of the problems and concerns confronting the child, parents, and the whole family. Dr. Messer will develop and share a personalized therapeutic approach, one that is tailored to the presenting problems and most likely to result in successful outcomes. For children with emotional (e.g., anxiety, depression) or behavioral (e.g., defiance, distractibility, impulsivity) problems, he will apply techniques to help the child identify and express their current feelings, their thoughts and beliefs about why they feel and react in particular ways and certain situations, and reflect upon the consequences of their behaviors and interactions with others. Parental engagement is critical to most all problems and the particular strategies will vary depending on the issues. For example, with children experiencing emotional problems, parents may be asked to practice skills to facilitate the expression of their child’s feelings and thoughts, and to develop even stronger listening skills and empathic responding. For children with behavioral problems, parents may be asked to participate even more in sessions, practicing parenting skills including positive discipline and encouragement, through rehearsal, practice, and the provision of feedback. Dr. Messer utilizes an integrative therapy approach with children and families, guided by research-informed strategies when available, particularly the therapeutic models of cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT) with children’s emotional problems (e.g., Dr. Kendall and Coping Cat Therapy), and social-cognitive and learning models with behavioral problems (e.g., Drs. Kazdin and Barkley’s Parent Management Training). The aim is to flexibly use the most appropriate strategy and techniques, at particular times in therapy, that will result in the most positive outcomes possible for the unique child and their family.