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Options available for child therapy

Dial Help program deals with issues

November 3, 2011
By STEPHEN ANDERSON - DMG writer ( , The Daily Mining Gazette

HOUGHTON - People of all ages go through traumatic situations, but it takes a unique approach to provide proper treatment for a child who has experienced trauma.

That's where Dial Help's child therapy program comes in. The Houghton-based crisis center boasts a counselor at the forefront of child therapy research and practice: Dr. Donald Mattson. He is a Chassell native who received his doctorate from Florida State University in art therapy, with an emphasis in community counseling. He is a limited license professional counselor, registered art therapist and soon-to-be registered play therapist.

"A lot of issues typically seen in adults, such as depression, are not necessarily as obvious in a child,"?Mattson said. "They manifest themselves in other ways, so using processing methods, such as expressive art, give us a better picture of what's going on. In play therapy, toys are children's words, and play is their language. That kind of sums it up."

Article Photos

Stephen Anderson/Daily Mining Gazette
Dr. Donald Mattson, a counselor for Dial Help’s child therapy program, stands in the playroom for the program.

For example, a child may use a dollhouse to process a traumatic experience in the home, or illustrate an issue through drawing or painting. Mattson is also at the forefront of research to computerize artwork to help extract information. Multiple methods are used to validate findings.

"Children often lag behind in verbal expression, which is why modalities of art and play are so fitting to express their mental health issues," Mattson said.

He often works with children, generally ages 4 and older, who have experienced trauma such as child abuse, divorce or bullying, or children with Attention Deficit Disorder, mood disorders, autism, anxiety or adjustment disorders.

"We come to find out that you don't need to face a life-and-death situation to experience trauma,"?Mattson said. "I think most of us carry around some trauma."

When a family seeks Mattson's help, he has an initial meeting to develop specific, quantifiable goals, such as reducing five tantrums per day down to none. Several follow-up sessions are held to build rapport and implement a tailored treatment process.

Mattson has openings available and accepts UPHP and Aetna insurance with Magellan and United Healthcare in the works. For those without insurance, he has an elaborate sliding scale based on income and number in the family.

"It's my philosophy not to turn anyone away,"?Mattson said. "We do take issues rather seriously."

Dial Help continues to explore future endeavors such as creating a Child Advocacy Center to aid in the prosecution of offenders, which "offers a gentle approach to interviewing a child," according to Mattson. While that service is a few years away, several other services are currently offered at the Dial Help Center.

"If a family comes in and they're in need of other resources, we have a host of them. Everything is sort of a network," he said.

Dial Help, and Dr. Mattson, can be reached by calling 482-9077 or by visiting



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