Dr. Joseph D. White - Clinical Child and Pediatric Psychology
About Dr. White
Dr. Joseph White earned his doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia, a program that has been named "Outstanding Clinical Child Psychology Program" by the American Psychological Association. At the Medical College of Virginia, Dr. White also completed a program in the assessment and treatment of childhood neurodevelopmental disabilities. Dr. White's pre-doctoral internship in clinical child psychology was completed at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center and his post-doctoral fellowship at Scott and White Clinic. Dr. White is a member of the American Psychological Association and the Society of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology. He recognized by the National Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology, and is Board Certified in Sexual Abuse by the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress. Dr. White has presented training workshops to other psychologists and therapists at the American Psychological Association, Texas Psychological Association and other conferences, and served on Austin Mayor Will Wynn’s Mental Health Task Force. 


Research in mental health and medicine has shown us that our thoughts, feelings, behaviors, physical symptoms, and social support system are all interconnected. Changing one of these variables can often have an impact on the others. Psychologists and other mental health professionals have sometimes been criticized for ignoring this fact, often preferring to treat an individual’s feelings and thoughts without regard to these other important variables. The biopsychosocial model of assessment and treatment involves paying attention to the interconnection between the biological, psychological, and social systems of the person and using all of these variables in treatment. This model was developed by psychiatrist George Engel at the University of Rochester, and first published in a 1977 article in the journal Science. Since that time, more and more mental health experts have adopted a biopsychosocial model, especially since outcome research in psychotherapy indicates that this approach is highly effective. 


The biological component of biopsychosocial assessment in child mental health settings may involve gathering information about medical history and current symptoms from the patient, his or her parents, or the patient’s primary care physician. For clinicians that are trained and qualified to do so, it may also involve measuring current vital signs and physical symptoms and characteristics such as heart rate, blood pressure, height, and weight. These and other physical symptoms and characteristics can be indicators of emotional stress or indicators of physical processes, such as disease, that can lead to psychological problems, such as disturbance of mood. The biological component of treatment may include recommending physical exercise or muscle relaxation, dietary changes, or medications that would assist in treatment. Any medical or dietary interventions should be discussed and carried out only with consultation with the appropriate medical or allied health professional. Biofeedback is another commonly used treatment related to physical processes. Biofeedback is a well- established method of providing individuals with information about what is going on inside their bodies. It involves using special equipment to measure specific physiological functions (e.g. muscle tension, heart rate). Through the use of biofeedback, individuals can become more aware of what happens in their bodies when they get stressed (e.g., changes in heart rate, temperature, muscle tension and breathing) and learn to calm themselves down. This is especially helpful for children, who sometimes don’t know when they are relaxed and when they are not.

Psychological components of child assessment include gathering information about the child’s feelings and behavior. It may also involve finding out kinds of thoughts the childhas when he or she feels worried, depressed, or angry. The psychological components of treatment may include generating positive thoughts to substitute for unhelpful, negative ones, allowing the child to express feelings of grief, sadness, or anger through words, play, or art projects, and practicing new behaviors through role playing and therapeutic games. 


Social components of child assessment focus on the people with whom the child interacts. Social components of assessment may involve gathering information about the child’s relationship with significant persons in his or her life, talking with other family members about the child’s behavior, or observation of the child’s interactions with family members. Because the school setting is such a large component of a child’s environment, social assessment may also involve gathering information on the child’s behavior from teachers or other school personnel or observation of the child at school, particularly if the child is coming to therapy for school behavioral problems. Any contact with school personnel or other individuals in the child’s life is made only with the parents’ permission. Social components of treatment may include working with the parent or other caretakers on ways to help the child in his or her everyday environments, making recommendations to teachers, and therapy activities that include parents or siblings. 

The Biopsychosocial Approach: 
Treating the Whole Child 

There is increasing appreciation for the idea that our mind, body, and social interactions are related and must be seen in context. For this reason, more and more psychologists and other therapists using a biopsychosocial approach to the assessment and treatment of children. They know that “for healing to happen, you have to treat the
whole child.”

Dr. White's play therapy office
Services available include developmental screening for your children (e.g., kindergarten readiness screening, assessment of developmental delay or disability), neuropsychological assessment, screening for learning disabilities, assessment of behavioral and emotional functioning, biofeedback-assisted relaxation training, and coping skills training. After Dr. White’s initial assessment, an individualized treatment plan is developed in collaboration with parents. Because play is the language of children, treatment techniques may include therapeutic games, toys, art projects, puppets, and other activities. But while therapy is almost always fun for the child, it’s more than “fun and games.” Dr. White is trained in the cognitive-behavioral approach to therapy, recognized for it’s effectiveness in helping children and youth make real changes in their feelings and behavior in as short a time as possible. So while therapy activities may seem like play, they are carefully planned, with the parent’s input, to help the child make changes in how he or she thinks, feels, learns and behaves. Dr. White meets with parents as part of each session, and ongoing progress is carefully monitored to make sure therapy is helpful. Developmental appropriateness, family collaboration, and techniques that have been shown to work — that’s what good therapy for children is all about!
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