“The Berent Treatment Method utilizes the leverage of the parents to nurture
the child through the insidious, complex, and ingrained avoidance-dependence dynamic”.
Selective mutism is a specific example of social phobia and a variation of obsessive compulsive disorder. The Berent Method of treatment is parent focused. The treatment goal is resolution of the core issue; therefore, therapy integrates technique with core work. You can access treatment from anywhere by telephone or Skype. (read more)
Selective Mutism: Free Seminar with Professional Baseball Player
Kirk Rueter was a pitcher in the major leagues for 13 years. He won the most games as a lefthander for the San Francisco Giants. He and his wife Karla had two wonderful children. One had selective mutism. In this stimulating, realistic, and frank interview, the Rueters describe, in detail, their treatment experience. After non-productive encounters with previous therapists, which is very common, therapy with Jonathan was initiated via telephone as the Rueters lived in the Midwest and Jonathan is on Long Island, New York. Their process included parenting team work, implementing non-enabling strategies, helping the child identify thoughts and feelings, and implementing the therapeutic strategy within the school setting. Especially important is the process of parents managing their own emotions and anxieties in order to facilitate healing.
Physician Describes How 5-Year-Old Daughter Resolved Selective Mutism.
“It was like a miracle.”
This interview highlights a comprehensive treatment process, which occurred via telephone and skype. The father describes the steps of The Berent Methodology including; productive diagnostics, empowering parenting, “processing”, which is the challenging, but profoundly important task of helping the child identify thoughts, feelings, and reasoning skills at age appropriate levels. This process empowered the social intelligence and social skills of child who was previously “imprisoned” by selective mutism. In addition, the cycle of pharmaceutical intervention is described.
Mom Teaches Vocabulary Word “Anxiety” to 5 Yr. Old
This interview showcases the wonderful creativity of a mother. Teaching emotional vocabulary is an important component of treatment. All too often “anxiety” is a dirty word! Positioning the term functionally is crucial for facilitating healing and an age appropriate “high performance mind”. Teaching an emotional vocabulary enhances emotional intelligence. While many selectively mute children have high, and often gifted intellect, their emotional intelligence is at risk. An example of this is the possible learned delusion that the world will continue to over-adapt to their needs. The longer this belief is intact, the more there is potential for ongoing and toxic avoidance and over-dependence.
Mom Resolves “Break Your Heart Syndrome” to “Cure” Selective Mutism
Think of the last time someone tried to engage your child verbally and there was no response. As a loving parent you want to rescue your child from the stress of this kind of encounter. You probably experienced your own discomfort and anxiety, which typically results in the reflex of rescuing your child (and yourself) by talking or thinking for the child. The “freeze the moment” technique is employed to break the reflex of the child automatically thinking that rescuing will take place. With insight and courage, the mother of this 5 yr. old with selective mutism describes how she managed her own anxiety as a crucial component for non-enabling and healing.
Selective Mutism: 7-year-old “Cured”: “ It’s A Whole New World”
Lynn was told that her clingy, selectively mute (for 3 years) six-year-old daughter, would “grow out of it” by the family pediatrician, teachers, and other well intentioned professionals. The problem continued to worsen with time. “Sidney” would only talk to her parents and brother and a couple of children in school. In every other possible verbal interaction she would “shut down”. While the parents were looking for guidance from the school; the teachers did not know what to do, and were frustrated as they were not able to assess the student’s academic functioning due to the void of verbal performance. This interview highlights the power of corrective parenting for the child with selective mutism.
“Processing” with SM 7 year old: Identifying Thoughts & Feelings
The most difficult and the most productive component of The Berent Treatment Method for Selective Mutism is the process of nurturing the child into attachment and identification of thoughts and feelings concurrent with age appropriate reasoning skills. In this dramatic interview a father demonstrates his resolve and technique. It’s crucial to understand the obsessive compulsive dynamics at play. The mutism is a compulsive verbal shutdown. Obsessive refers to the thoughts and worries that the child has. The more these thoughts can be identified, the more potential for healing there is. Typically, another compulsion is present; the detach or disconnect from thoughts and feelings. Therefore; an aspect of nurturing is facilitating attachment or connecting to this content. It is very difficult. It is profoundly important! “Processing” enhances emotional intelligence. It helps the child access neural pathways which have been under developed due to anxiety.
Teaching Parents to be Therapists: 10 Yr Old
“We feel we gave birth to a whole new person”
“Sophie” never talked in school until 4th grade. No one heard her voice besides parents, grand- parents, and sister. Mom said “we would do anything to set her free; nothing worked”. Now it’s “overwhelmingly positive”. This interview highlights the reality that in most cases one to one counseling with a young child with selective mutism is unproductive. Think about it. The child has no initiative (motivation) for healing, and the therapist most often goes into enabling mode when the child is mute in session. (Of course there’s an exception to every rule). The Berent Treatment Method utilizes the leverage of the parents to nurture the child through the complex, insidious, and ingrained avoidance-dependence dynamic.
Dad said Selective Mutism “100%” resolved. Mom said “99%”: 7 Yr. Old
Sarah did not speak in school, which was the primary parental concern. She also did not participate in group activities. A speech therapist provided an evaluation and diagnosed the selective mutism. Parents describe previous therapy with a social worker who did one to one counseling and play therapy; “we had no idea what the therapist was doing; she did not provide us with direction”.
An Attempt at “Magic”
“Talking in 5 Sessions”
Zachary did not talk to his mother. He talked only to father and sister. No other person. He was totally shut down. Dad described his son as his “little butterfly”. Mom said her son “broke the glass door” that trapped her son verbally. Typically, effective treatment requires hard and sustained work. Each family has their individual learning curve. This case was exceptional.
Special Needs” Selective Mutism: 12 Yr. Old
Mom describes how “Jessica” age 12 struggled with selective mutism since age 8. In addition, profound developmental and social challenges were present. “Jessica” developed a system of body language to replace her own voice. Teachers were unable to test for IQ or reading level. She totally shut down with her speech therapist. She was bullied! She took her rage out on Mom who was her “entertainment center”.
Adolescent Selective Mutism Resolved
The older the child, the more that selective mutism becomes ingrained into the personality and lifestyle. It can evolve into a developmental challenge as many aspects of maturation are impacted. In this case avoidant personality disorder was in full swing concurrent with an underlying depression. This was driven by social anxiety. In this case, the teenager was a B student who was on the high school golf team. He was an excellent golfer! He never talked in school until his sophomore year. The parents describe, in very productive and empowering detail, the intensity and complexity of a successful treatment experience.
Adult Selective Mutism
This is the perfect interview for people who think and wish that the young child will simply outgrow selective mutism. “Mike”, a 35-year old with SM and social anxiety describes his “avoidance of talking” because he thought “he had nothing to say”. He eventually learned this was not true as his belief and behavior were manifestations of obsessive compulsive disorder . Mike describes how the insidious nature of selective mutsim became a long term addiction to the avoidance of talking. While he was a B + student in high school he did not go to college because of his mutism. His social life was basically non-existent. He was depressed due to overwhelming social anxiety. The story has a happy ending.
Note from a 9 yr. Old
View 2 hrs + of state of the art and science treatment for selective mutism.
- A Child’s Silent Scream
- Mental Health Issues for the SM Child Within School Setting
- Selective Mutism: Clinical Issues for School Personnel
- A 13 year-old with SM was beaten up in day camp
- Thoughts about Adult Selective Mutism
- The Selective Mutism – Public Speaking Anxiety Paradigm
- The Clinical Reality of Social Anxiety
- When Public Speaking is an Anxiety Disorder
Self Help and Treatment Options
- Free Introductory CD
- “Social Anxiety the Untold Story”: Comprehensive Self-Help for Sufferers and Families
- The book, “Beyond Shyness: How to Conquer Social Anxieties” (Simon & Schuster)
- Therapy worldwide via telephone or Skype
- Therapy in Great Neck, New York Office
- Selective Mutism Seminar on Audio CD
- “Parenting The Selectively Mute Child”: Self-therapy Audio CD Program
- Free social-ability questionnaire
- Subscribe to the Tip of the Month Club
- Free “Parent Addiction” quiz
- AskJonathan: Get your questions about social anxiety answered
- Selective mutism is a social anxiety disorder characterized by not speaking to specific people or in specific venues. It is a specific variation of obsessive compulsive disorder. “Obsessive” refers to the conscious and non-conscious worrying. “Compulsive” refers to the verbal shutdown. The problem varies in degrees of severity. In addition to children many adolescents and adults are affected.
- The condition is relatively easy to diagnose. If you know that the individual can speak normally but refuses to do so in specific situations, selective mutism is present. To rule out other disorders, however, it is important to assess if “processing” challenges are present.
- Selective mutism is not a speech disorder. Speech therapy and traditional individual therapy for the child are in fact typically non-productive.
- Selective mutism can be considered an “addiction” to the avoidance of speaking, or a phobia of speaking.
- Selective mutism in childhood is an example of social phobia as anxiety has resulted in verbal avoidance in performance scenarios.
- If not addressed and corrected, Selective mutism can cause avoidant and dependent personality disorders. Anxiety worsens with time as it integrates insidiously into the personality.
- Productive treatment is primarily based on a multi-dimensional methodology founded on “empowering” parenting. In most cases, for school interventions to be successful, re-parenting strategies must be in effect at home and working. If not, there is much potential for “fragmentation” of care-giving which worsens the problem.
- The biggest mistake made regarding selective mutism in children is the belief that “the child will grow out of the problem”.
- The second biggest mistake is the incorrect use of medication, which typically worsens the problem.
- There are very few therapists anywhere in the world who have demonstrated clinical productivity and expertise for treating this condition.
The Berent Method: High Performance Therapy for Selective Mutism
Jonathan has pioneered psychotherapy for social anxiety, public speaking anxiety, selective mutism, and performance anxiety since 1978. He has worked with thousands of individuals of all ages in individual, family, and group therapy. He is the author of “Beyond Shyness: How to Conquer Social Anxieties” (Simon & Schuster) and “Work Makes Me Nervous: Overcome Anxiety and Build the Confidence to Succeed” (John Wiley &Sons, Inc.) Jonathan is an expert in media performance having been featured extensively on television, radio, and in print. This experience includes Oprah, NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, FOX, The New York Times, Newsday, The Chicago Tribune, and The Boston Globe. Listen to him on WFAN SPORTS RADIO. Jonathan has extensively researched and developed clinical programs for the avoidant and dependent personality. He is a “diplomate” in clinical social work and is certified in New York State. In addition, he is certified by The Association of Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback. To view Jonathan Berent‘s pioneering work with Social Phobia, view the 1988 Sally Jessy Rafael Show by clicking here. To view jonathan talking about Workplace Anxiety on Long Island News Jobline, click here.