Medical and Dental Desensitization Program

A parent and child talking with a psychologist

Many children with sensory issues or anxiety have trouble going for medical care.

Fear of needles and painful procedures can get worse if left untreated. For kids who missed medical and dental appointments all during the COVID shutdown, the return to the doctor or dentist can be a big challenge. We can help.

How Does it Work?

Charlie was a curious and outgoing 8-year-old boy who began experiencing anxiety regarding dental visits at the age of three. His mother had done her best to make the visits fun for him but Charlie became extremely upset when he sat in the exam chair, yelling, kicking, and hitting until he needed to be restrained. The dentist had recommended the parents consider medication to help alleviate his distress during the visits.

Through parent coaching and systematic exposure to dental stimuli and procedures, Charlie showed a significant improvement in his feelings toward the dentist which greatly reduced his anxiety during appointments.

His mother was actively involved in the sessions and was able to carry out the plan herself when it came time for his next dental visit. Charlie successfully completed his exam with a much more positive experience for all involved and no need for medication.

What Can We Help With?

Do you know a child who has fear of or challenging behavior related to medical appointments? We offer treatment that can help with:

  • Routine medical or dental exams
  • Immunizations
  • Blood draws
  • Throat cultures (strep test)
  • EEG
  • EKG
  • MRI/CT
  • Polysomnography (sleep study)
  • Pill swallowing
  • Medication administration
  • Other medical exams or procedures

Our Program

Dr. Ehlers is one of the only local clinical psychologists specializing in medical and dental desensitization counseling. You can expect to work alongside Dr. Ehlers, who successfully uses proven treatment methods. This is short-term counseling that will teach practical skills that can be applied by both parent and child to future experiences. Optional visits to the medical provider’s office are often included.

Using parent coaching, you will learn:

  • Effective distraction techniques
  • Developmentally appropriate descriptions
  • How to prepare your child for procedures
  • Ways to model a positive and relaxed attitude
  • How to provide praise and rewards

What Will My Child Experience?

Dr. Ehlers will utilize desensitization by gradually increasing the length and intensity of the simulated procedure while assisting your child in feeling relaxed by using the strategies they’ve learned, including:

  • Progressive muscle relaxation
  • Deep breathing
  • Visualization
  • Pain management techniques

Contact us today to learn more about how we can help or to schedule an appointment.




For specific questions contact our Directors of Psychotherapy:

Portrait of Simone Schwager

Simone Schwager

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