What is Selective Mutism?
The Selective Mutism Association defines SM as "a childhood anxiety disorder characterized by a child or adolescent’s inability to speak in one or more social settings (e.g., at school, in public places, with adults) despite being able to speak comfortably in other settings (e.g., at home with family)."
Children with SM have a strong understanding of their spoken language, but are so overcome with their anxiety that they are unable to speak in public places such as school or restaurants. SM differs from shyness in that it impairs the child's ability to function in school or social situations. SM differs from an Autism Spectrum Disorder in that SM symptoms tend to “disappear” when the child is in a comfortable environment with familiar people, such as being at home with family.
Selective Mutism can be difficult for both the child and their families. Children with SM have described anxiety as feeling like they have tape over their mouths and bricks on their feet. Left untreated, symptoms can worsen into a lifetime habit of mutism that lasts into adulthood and becomes much more difficult to treat.
How we treat Selective Mutism
At Pinnacle Counseling and Testing Center, we are one of the only counseling centers in southern California that specialize in the treatment of Selective Mutism. For our treatment, we use a a combination of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Exposure Therapy, and Parent-Child Interaction Therapy for Selective Mutism (PCIT-SM) skills. PCIT-SM is a counseling technique created by Dr. Steven Kurtz which involves the counselor building a strong and trusting relationship with the client in order to promote "Brave Talking." Advanced sessions often include "exposure therapy," where the therapist accompanies the client to a public place, such as school or a store, where they can practice their brave talking in order to generalize their skills and reduce their anxiety.
Our counselors have received specialized training in the treatment of clients with SM and have a talent and passion for working with them. Our clients regularly experience drastic improvement in their Selective Mutism symptoms after treatment with our counselors.