Face to Face or Remote Nationwide Availability

Child Counseling Options

Counseling Overview

For over 20 years I have conducted child counseling in Tucson AZ and beyond with hundreds of children and adolescents. 

One way I distinguishes myself from others is I use evidence-based techniques using the best people science.  I help each child or teen understand how counseling can help them be in more control of their life.  This ensures they are motivated.  My clients have included junior elite athletes, child prodigies, socially awkward teens, and college students with learning disabilities. I involve parents as much as is appropriate, so I work with the family as a team.  But I also ensure each child or teen knows they have the privacy they need to be honest and open with me. 

12 Questions to ask any Counselor, Therapist, or Mentor you are thinking of working with  

More active than the typical counselor or therapist: I focus on measuring our progress meeting to meeting, so the child and I can see how they are getting better, versus what still needs to be worked on.  One way I do this is have the child fill out a quick and easy questionnaire before our meeting begins.  This allows the child to feel like I am paying close attention to what is actually going on in their life.  There are so many counselors and therapists these days, but what I find distinguishes the best from the rest is how methodical the counseling is.  Read my blog  “4 Criteria to find a Great therapist” to understand more about my thoughts about how actively I conduct therapy.     

Regularly compare parent vs child input: I also allow parents to fill out the same pre-meeting questionnaire, so I can compare what the parents have to say versus what the child or teen has to say, which is what great child therapy is about. The differences between these two stories always reveals rich information about family dynamics that the best counselors pay close attention to.               

Focus on skill-building: To be the most inspiring and cost-effective, I help each child master new skills with activities they engage in between meetings.  Too many psychologists are guilty of idle talk, and not enough focus on creating real life skill building.  But children and teens  leave my meetings with various kinds of homework to speed along progress.  As a child expert, I know how to make this work feel fun and fulfilling.  To see an example of how thorough my treatment plans are, read my blog “What to do if someone you know is diagnosed with ADHD”

Goal to unlock full potential:  Ultimately, with me your child gets to the root sources of key issues holding them back from going to their next level of performance.  This is in contrast to diagnostically  focused approaches ending with a classification category.  I go beyond just diagnosis to identify deeper factors so your child can gracefully handle future issues independently and confidently.   Read one of my most viral blogs “10 character flaws that can derail even good people” to see how even non-diagnostic problems can impair your child.  

Deep and reliable rudder: Your child’s counseling must be guided by a deep and reliable rudder , or they will will receive shallow, money wasting guidance. I have developed a uniquely innovative way of assessing the full array of child problems, as I discuss below.  Part of my approach that is the most unique is the assessment that guides counseling leads to an actual map.  This map not only reveals key impairing factors, but how those factors relate to each other.  Call us to understand the unique depth we go to, or to request a sample evaluation report.  We love to reveal how we are quite different than your typical drive by assessment.  Go to my collection of assessment related blogs to understand the commitment I have for great assessment. 

How do you know you are getting great assessment which is essential to launch great therapy?  Read my blog “4 Signs of great psychological assessment.” 

Listen to my interview with Lon Woodbury, a nationally recognized child professional,  where I discuss what great assessment looks like   

What child related assessment does Dr. Brunner do?

In addition to evaluating ADHD, Autism, and Learning Disorders (you can click on each of these to learn more), Dr. Brunner assesses the full array of problems related to children, adolescents, and their families.

Dr. Brunner is a recognized expert in assessment who, over the last 20 years, has assessed issues including the following:

  • Giftedness (see Gifted & Athletes)
  • Developmental delays
  • Sleep issues (e.g., insomnia, nightmares, night frights)
  • Medically-based problems (e.g., diabetes regimen compliance)
  • Anger, aggression, or volatility
  • Depressiveness
  • Anxiety (Including social and separation anxiety)
  • Phobias
  • Test or performance anxiety
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Obsessive compulsiveness
  • Lack of educational direction. See college guidance.
  • Lack of meaning
  • Poor performance on standardized testing
  • Schizophrenia

Expertise with child and adolescent assessment?

A very significant part of Dr. Brunner’s doctoral training in roles as a school psychologist, medical psychologist, crisis psychologist, inpatient therapist and residential therapist involved assessing children and adolescents. He has conducted hundreds of evaluations at the request of parents, pediatricians, teachers, occupational therapists and speech and language therapists. If a child is found to have problems, he has developed a network of trusted professionals he refers to if he is not the best person to treat the child.

Child/Adolescent assessment author and trainer

Dr. Brunner has published numerous peer-reviewed book chapters and journal articles discussing best practices with child and adolescent assessment, some of them alongside leading experts. He has helped train psychiatry residents, and given talks at many research institutions regarding child assessment issues. He has been certified as a legal expert in the area of child and adolescent issues, and has a long track record of completing evaluations for children at the request of judges or lawyers.

What problems indicate a child or adolescent assessment is necessary?

The child or adolescent…

  • is more often sad than happy
  • emotionally shuts down rather than talking about their problems
  • refuses to go to school
  • performs well with homework but does not perform well with tests
  • is regularly oppositional with parents
  • has consistent trouble getting along with other children
  • is excessively dramatic and or burns through friendships
  • has social awkwardness undermining their ability to make friends
  • upon awakening looks exhausted
  • low self-esteem and/or generally depressive
  • does not enjoy things they used to enjoy doing
  • has no passions that bring them joy

What a child or adolescent assessment clarifies?

What a child or adolescent assessment clarifies?

  • what set of factors are contributing to the problems
  • what type of psychological tendencies or diagnoses need to be addressed?
  • the severity of the symptoms and how to correct them
  • what parenting tactics or tendencies may be worsening the problems?
  • what parents can do to help their child improve?
  • what factors in the family environment are contributing to the problems?
  • what attitudinal changes that the child needs to make
  • what combination of intervention tactics and techniques need to be used
  • what lifestyle changes that the child or family need to make
  • does the child have any delays or deficits with their cognitive intelligence?
  • does the child have any delays or deficits with their emotional intelligence (EQ)?

What are the hidden realities of child or adolescent problems and disorders?

After conducting research and practicing in the trenches for over 20 years, we want to share some “insider information” about the camouflaged realities disorders in children:

  • Often, a child’s surface problems (e.g., anxiety) camouflage the root of the problem (e.g., trauma, social conflict, or depression).
  • Some of the most common issues (e.g., anger) are ultimately rooted in different problems that are hidden. An example would be a child presenting anger, when the root is anxiety or depression.
  • Many children or adolescents are misdiagnosed. It is very common for youth coming to my office to come in with a diagnosis that I find was superficially given. Many people experience what I call a “drive-by” evaluation.
  • Many problems significantly impairing a child or adolescent do not fall into a specific diagnostic category.

How we go beyond generic diagnosis?

Many clinicians narrowly focus on diagnosis and forget that a child’s emotional, behavioral or social issues are individualized to their unique personality. Using our unique, personality-driven assessment model, we focus on helping the child and their parents clearly and confidently grasp exactly how the psychological issues are affecting them. Additionally, we make sure the child and their parents understand what family strengths, and what personality strengths of the child can be used to combat the psychological issues so they can be conquered. Read Dr. Brunner’s blog: Great psychological assessment goes far beyond diagnosis.

Evidence of expertise: Dr. Brunner has worked closely with many fellow child experts over the last 20 years, Including pediatricians, tutors, speech and language pathologists, teachers, and coaches. He is also recognized expert among child focused attorneys. He is highly regarded by school districts and pediatricians around Tucson and beyond.

How do we assess for child and adolescent problems?

Very methodically and carefully. Too many healthcare practices make you feel like you are on a conveyor belt, where you receive what I call a “drive-by” evaluation. Read Dr. Brunner’s blog, “2 key reasons parents are unhappy with their child’s emotional or behavioral evaluation”. We offer you the opposite experience. For example, we build into our assessment system numerous checks and balances to ensure our ultimate diagnosis is accurate. After having evaluated over a thousand people in the last 20 years, we know there is an incredible amount of misdiagnosis. Read my blogs below to understand this further.

What are the elements of our assessment process?

  1. Methodically gathering historical information the following categories: family history, birth, development, medical, neurological, educational, learning, emotional, behavioral, social, and academic or work performance.

  2. Asking you to create a chronological timeline of important events to ensure we understand the life of the person being evaluated as a series of different stages. This is critical to get a nuanced, in-depth understanding for the person we are evaluating.

  3. Reviewing this information together during the intake appointment, and beginning to develop hypotheses that we will scientifically review by collecting data.

  4. Interviewing the people who have the most intimate knowledge of the day-to-day functioning of the person being evaluated. Unlike practitioners who only collect information from the person being evaluated, or only their parents, we believe that collecting this additional perspectives is vital to establishing a confident and credible diagnosis.

  5. Choosing a tailored group of measurements that include self-report questionnaires, intelligence or cognitive tests, and personality measures that identify your child’s predominating characteristics.

  6. Rigorously testing different hypotheses designed to play devils advocate to test our perception of the situation, and following up with questions to either the person being evaluated or those who know the person best.

  7. Writing a report tailored to the exact needs of the situation. We specialize in customizing your report to address different situations, such as the need for workplace or educational accommodations.

  8. Conducting a feedback meeting in our conference room where we use a dry erase board to visually show you the important factors causing your child’s problems. We call this our cognitive map, and it serves as a user-friendly roadmap. You can take a picture of and always have your child’s roadmap with you for guidance.

  9. During the feedback meeting, we clarify the diagnostic conditions at play, the non-diagnostic but critical factors contributing to problems, and give you bullet-point, user-friendly recommendations, organized into thematic groups. We clarify what professionals can best serve you and your child, and save you the most money and time.

  10. After this feedback meeting, we follow-up with you to make sure that our work has met your expectations, and/or to provide further consultations to make sure our work is resulting in the life changes you are seeking.

Worried your child will feel “analyzed”, “tested”, stressed out or will be misdiagnosed?

It can sound scary for parents to think about having their child go through psychological assessment. Parents may wonder, “Will my child feel they are being “tested”, “analyzed”’, or “Will this stress them out?”

When children and adolescents walk out of my office, they most often feel their time with me was fun, and they understand everything we do is focused on making their life easier, on helping them reach their potential. My goal is to help your child feel more in control of themselves, so they can reach their True Potential. I use assessment tools that help your child’s inner – and often hidden – thoughts and feelings come out, and they feel less stress.

I never tell a child they are being tested! On the contrary, I consider this assessment process to be “evaluation”, not “testing”. No “grades” are given, and children are never made to feel as if they are being critically evaluated. What I do is measure critical aspects of the child’s functioning that relate to the problem. After the critical aspects of the problem are measured, I sit down with parents and go over the results. I will often use my dry erase board in order to draw a map of how all the important variables relate to each other. That way, parents have a visual map of the problem, and often feel very relieved to find out there are solutions. Often the children I work with are so comfortable in our office that parents will end up wanting me to also have a separate meeting with the child to go over the results in a very easy-going and supportive manner, so the child can realize that the problems they are having are solvable.

My process with child and adolescent assessment is to first ensure that I have a very strong rapport with the child so they feel very comfortable. At the beginning of the intake, before even meeting with the parents, I walk the child back to my office and I ask them what they would like to get out of the process. I also talk to them about how they feel about being in my office. I show each child that I am focused on making sure they get what they need so they feel in control of their life and destiny. My style is to be down to earth, accepting, and nonjudgmental.

I always ask a child or adolescent to make a list of the problems or questions they want to get answered by my process. Children and adolescents are not used to having people ask them for this type of thing, and this is one of many techniques I use to ensure the child feels completely comfortable in my office. All of their questions are answered before we begin this assessment process. Often, I will use this time to allow the child to feel like they can ask questions about my background so they feel like I am a real person, just like them! We talk about whatever they are interested in, whether it is sports, their favorite video game, their favorite pet, or what they are currently doing that they are most enjoying.

Since I also do quite a bit of gifted assessment, I’m very good at helping a child perform at their very best on any measures of intellectual or cognitive functioning. We will take breaks whenever the child wants to, and often these short breaks can involve something fun so the child feels like their time with me is relaxed.

Parents should also know that we are happy to write a doctor’s note to avoid their child having an unexcused absence. My ultimate goal is always to have the child walk out of my office thinking that I truly care about them, and that even if some of the tasks they did with me were challenging, I made it as fun as possible. Many children report they even learned something during the process.

What Does the Feedback Look Like?

Once the assessment is completed, I sit down with parents and go over the results in a user-friendly manner where I visually map out how problems relate to each other on my wall-sized dry erase board. People LOVE this because together we walk through exactly how problems relate to each other. I also provide a comprehensive, but concise, list of user-friendly bullet points that are the plan-of-action parents can follow to reliably solve the problems.

After I do this with parents it is common for me to do a separate meeting with the child or adolescent also do a visual diagram of the key factors that relate to each of their problems. Children and adolescents also truly love being able to see what is going on inside of them, and this meeting is highly motivational for the child or adolescent.

I find parents feel relieved once they have gone through this assessment and feedback process, as they learn that their child has problems that are treatable, and which, once treated, allow the child to be able to realize their True Potential.

Still not sure if you want to use my services?

I am happy to share a few example dry erase drawings, or we can send you 3-5 examples of reports (sanitized) I have written so you can see me in action! Remember, I am always willing to get on the phone and talk with you about your situation. Since I have a low-volume high-quality practice, my focus is make sure that you feel like all your questions have been answered before you make any important decisions.

Read Dr. Brunner’s child assessment Blogs: