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 the 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.
At Pinnacle Counseling and Testing Center, we are one of the only counseling centers south of Los Angeles that specialize in SM. For our treatment, we use Parent-Child Interaction Therapy for Selective Mutism (PCIT-SM) which is a counseling technique created by Dr. Steven Kurtz. This technique 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.