Getting Started

School Aged Children

First, we conduct the first session with the parents alone. The purpose of this meeting is for us to listen to you thoughtfully in order to fully understand your concerns.  We will ask questions regarding development, family, medical history and if appropriate, academic functioning. Our goal is to understand what the problems are, how they have been handled in past, and what you expect to achieve in order to successfully move forward.  This is an important first step for you as a parent to gain trust in our ability to help.

The second session will be conducted with your child and geared to his or her level of development.  The focus will be on interactions with your child.  Depending on the age of the child, the parent may or may not be present in the room.  We will provide a comfortable and at ease environment for your child to express his/her difficulty so we can gain a deeper understanding.  This is the time when trust between your child and the treatment provider is established.

Third, coming full circle, once this assessment phase is completed, we will discuss with parents privately our impressions and what we think will be most beneficial moving forward. Together, we can create an effective plan, outlining what to expect and what may be accomplished during a designated time frame. Additionally, we may suggest reading materials to help you further understand the problem and direction that is chosen.  In some cases, we may even recommend other child specialists to become involved if there are concerns beyond our areas of expertise.  It is our job to understand your child’s development inside and out so we can best guide you in every aspect of your child’s functioning.

Preschool Aged Children

A preschool child’s world expands to include relationships with playmate peers and teachers.  Young children have learned to master symbolic play, and it is through this play that they communicate their interests, pleasures, worries, disappointments, anger, and general understanding of themselves and others.  Whereas adults communicate primarily through words, young children communicate best through play.  Utilizing play can support your child in working through a range of feelings that are contributing to concerning behaviors, as well as enhancing their perspective taking and social/emotional development.


This developmental stage presents behavioral challenges as the child learns to assert their needs, protest their dislikes, and venture away from their parents in order to function more independently.  During this development phase, feelings of insecurity and ambivalence can arise in both the toddler and parents.  We work with parents to set appropriate limits for the child, while balancing the toddler’s circle of security:  allowing the toddler to confidently venture away from their parents and seek comfort from them when needed.  At this stage some parents start to wonder if their child is delayed.  Part of our work with parents is determining whether there is a need for further evaluation, and then providing the parents with appropriate referrals.


Difficulty with sleep, feeding difficulty, and extreme crying can lead a new parent to feel overwhelmed, ineffective and helpless. At Tompkins and Associates, we work with mothers and fathers to build their confidence in parenting as they help their infant to sleep, feed, and self-regulate. We guide parents in understanding their infant’s cues, and to work through a myriad of feelings that come with being a parent. We explore the parents’ family and cultural values, build on their strengths, and develop new strategies to further support them. We also process Ghosts and Angels in the Nursery, which are adults from their past (e.g., their parents, extended family member, neighbor, teacher) that either seem to hinder or foster their parenting now with their own child.

Once the assessment is completed and treatment starts

You will recognize that all of our sessions follow a pattern. First we communicate with parents to see how the period between sessions has gone, then we meet with the child to work on an identified area of concern, and lastly, we circle back to parents again to summarize strategies learned and the next week’s focus for child and parent. As the sessions proceed, problem behaviors begin to fade and more healthful, positive functioning and parent/child relationship grows. As a parent you will feel stronger, competent, and successful.

Due to age differences and developmental course, treatment with adolescents usually takes a different course. For more information on this area of treatment please refer to Adolescents.