HEATHER CHRISTENSEN, LCSW, RPT-S

PLAY THERAPY
AUTISM SERVICES
COUPLE THERAPY
DIVORCE/CO-PARENTING COUNSELING
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Welcome. I’m glad you are here.

I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in New Jersey (Lic#44SC05061800) and Pennsylvania (Lic#CW020372) with over 25 years of clinical experience. I am a 2001 graduate of The Harlem Family Institute where I earned a Certificate in Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy. I am a Registered Play Therapist-Supervisor, DIR Floortime Practitioner, divorce and coparenting counselor, and couple therapist. My offices are located in Englewood, NJ and Honesdale, PA.

  • PLAY THERAPY >

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    Play therapy refers to an evidenced-based treatment modality used by specifically trained masters-level professionals. Play therapy has been proven to help children who suffer from emotional, behavioral, and developmental difficulties. Play therapy utilizes the child’s innate impulses to play as a means of connecting and helping the child understand confusing feelings and cope with upsetting events, fears, worries, and conflicts.

    Using a fully equipped therapeutic playroom, I rely on play therapy and other expressive techniques to understand a child’s experience. Through observation, I am able to identify patterns and themes that emerge in play. My interactions are tailored to the child’s individual interests and preferences. In the beginning stages of forming a therapeutic relationship, I use a non-directive modality called Child-Centered Play Therapy. At times, I rely on more prescriptive and cognitive-behavioral interventions to address specific behavioral concerns.

    My therapeutic orientation is strongly influenced by Melanie Klein, Anna Freud, and D.W. Winnicott. More contemporary play therapy influences include Eliana Gil, Garry Landreth, Rise VanFleet, Charles Schaefer, David Crenshaw, and Heidi Kaduson.

    I am mindful of my responsibility to uphold a child’s confidentiality. Confidentiality is a necessary component to the therapeutic alliance and is essential to healing. I balance the child’s need for privacy with the understanding that they also need their caregiver’s involvement in the change process. Caregivers participate in ongoing consultation which offers an opportunity to be informed about the general progress of treatment, as well as address any specific parenting concerns.

    Typical Childhood Issues:
    Divorce
    Grief and loss
    Trauma
    Defiant and oppositional behavior
    Excessive fears and worries
    Anger and aggression
    Withdrawn, clingy, or overly compliant behavior
    Making friends and getting along
  • AUTISM SERVICES >

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    ASD TREATMENT

    The ability to create and sustain interactive relationships with others is a fundamental challenge that children on the autism spectrum experience. Play is a wonderful tool to help children move beyond autism’s social barriers into meaningful interactions.

    Play therapy with children on the autistic spectrum still assumes a child-centered approach. The principles remain the same, but the tools and techniques are adapted to meet the child where he or she is at. I follow the child’s natural emotional interests while challenging the child towards greater mastery of his or her social, emotional, and intellectual capacities.

    My clinical treatment is heavily influenced by Stanley Greenspan, MD, best known for the Floortime Approach.

    Greenspan states, ”The key to expanding children’s ability to be secure, calm, and regulated in the shared world is to meet them first at the level of their existing abilities and then gradually expand out from that base of security.”

    THERAPEUTIC PLAY DATES

    Your child is paired with a developmentally compatible peer who has similar and/or complimentary treatment goals. Depending on the dynamics of the dyad, play skills may include:

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    • Sharing and cooperation
    • Compromising and flexibility
    • Sportsmanship and fairness
    • Conversation and finding common interests
    • Sensory regulation
    • Conceptual processing
    • Frustration tolerance
    A TEAM APPROACH

    Play therapy serves as an essential component to a treatment team approach. Often the goals and objectives in the playroom are consistent with those of other disciplines including occupational and physical therapy, speech, and other supportive services within the school setting. With your written consent, I initiate and maintain ongoing contact with other significant professionals involved in your child’s life, including the Child Study Team.

    ASD SCREENING AND REFERRAL

    Because there is no specific medical test to identify autism, it is best to get a diagnosis from a physician or psychologist who specializes in developmental disabilities and has experience diagnosing Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). The diagnosis of ASD is made by taking into account the child’s complete medical and behavioral history, observing the child’s behavior, and ruling out other problems that may cause some of the same symptoms.

    The evaluation process can be a long and costly process that puts undue strain on a child. Before this process is undertaken, parents opt for the SCQ as a tool to make a more informed decision about whether or not to proceed with the evaluation process.

    I utilize a formal screening device known as The Social Communication Questionnaire (SCQ). The screening identifies individuals who are likely to be on the autism spectrum and for whom more extensive evaluations should be undertaken.

    In the event that the SCQ results indicate further testing, I will extend every effort to assist in the referral process. This may involve negotiating the school system within your town or possibly seeking out services through private insurance. In either case, a formal written report is provided*. The report is individualized based on the referral requirements, and include the following information:


    • SCQ results, including the sub-scores, parallel the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R): Qualitative Abnormalities in Communication; and Restrictive, Repetitive, and Stereotyped Patterns of Behavior. This information is pertinent to the referral for a more complete diagnostic workup.

    • Pertinent history

    • A summary of my direct clinical observations with your child in the therapeutic playroom over the course of the agreed upon number of sessions. The summary will include a description of your child’s use of the therapist and therapeutic space, emerging play themes, as well as engagement and intensity of play, both imaginative and imitative play.

    • Current assessment of child’s social, interpersonal, emotional, physical and cognitive functioning

    • Diagnostic Impressions

    • Treatment recommendations

  • COUPLE THERAPY >

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    I work with romantic relationships of all kinds. All relationship configurations are welcome. I am LGBTQIA, kink, poly, all genders, post/null-gender, and religious/spiritual friendly. No topic is taboo in therapy. My style is warm, collaborative, and conversational. I work with couples to understand the origins of unwanted feelings and reactions and gently challenge patterns that get in the way of their happiness and connection to each other.

    I am currently a candidate of the Integrative Psychoanalytic Couple Therapy Certificate Program co-sponsored by the Chicago Psychoanalytic Institute and the Institute for Clinical Social Work in Chicago. This intensive program hosts to an impressive group of professionals from all over the world. I am learning from masters in the field of couple therapy, including Arthur C. Nielsen, MD, Carla Leone, PhD, and Karen Bloomberg, PhD.
  • CHILD-CENTERED DIVORCE COUNSELING >

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    “I used to think my dad was wrong. But now I’m starting to think my mom is wrong too. I don’t know who to trust. Who should I trust, Heather?”
    ~ Client, age 8


    “My (litigious) divorce has cost me my children’s college tuitions.”
    ~ Client, father of three children

    In my role as helper, I have witnessed the painful effects on children from long, drawn-out, ugly divorces, and it inspired me to pursue training in divorce mediation from the Conflict Resolution Training Program in 2017.

    Divorce, in itself, does not harm children! However, exposure to conflict, disrespect and disfunction does. Ending a marriage is hard enough without having to endure the additional trauma caused by an adversarial divorce.

    My mediation approach emphasizes the child’s best interest. Using the child’s best interest as a guiding principle makes decisions and compromises much easier to make. My skills as a psychotherapist are especially helpful when creating individualized parenting plans that takes into consideration the developmental, social and emotional needs of each unique child.

    I offer a framework for divorcing parents to commit to engaging in doing what is truly best and right for the children despite the anger they might feel toward one another. A child-centered divorce gives parents an opportunity to model healthy conflict-resolution to their children. The mediation process in itself lays the foundation for a new family structure based on integrity and respect. Moreover, it ensures that the child’s voice is included in the forming of a new family structure.

    In addition to separation and divorce counseling, I mediate for post-divorce disputes, parenting plan modifications and other co-parenting issues.


2 SERVICE LOCATIONS:

163 Engle Street, 3rd Floor
Englewood, NJ 07631

742 Main Street, 2nd Floor
Honesdale, PA 18431

(201) 527-5305

* Most Insurance Plans Accepted.

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