California Association of School Psychologists (CASP) Annual Convention

Dr. Kierce at CASP’s 70th Annual Convention

Dr. Kierce joined school psychologists throughout California in Long Beach this week for the 70th Annual CASP Convention. She presented on a topic that combined her passion for children, externalizing challenges, and resiliency with her knowledge of school psychology, clinical psychology, and psychoanalytic theory. Rooted in her doctoral dissertation, Adult Perceptions of Resiliency in Adolescents with Externalizing Problems, she aimed to provide school psychologists with a renewed perspective about working with children who struggle with externalizing problems.

Highlights from the presentation include the identification of externalizing disorders and the impact on psychological functioning and major life domains, as well as assessing severity utilizing the Psychodynamic Diagnostic Manual, Second Edition (PDM-2). Research indicating the complexity of interactions between genetics and environmental factors on resilient outcomes was also discussed. Interventions focused upon the importance of creativity, relationships, action-oriented communication to refute pathogenic beliefs, and mentalization.

Dr. Kierce truly enjoyed getting back to her school psychology roots and appreciated the enthusiasm from her fellow school psychologist colleagues!

Briefing: The House of Representatives Dyslexia Caucus

Drs. Kierce and Forchelli spent yesterday afternoon at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC with U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman, stakeholders, and community advocates for children with learning disabilities. The purpose of the briefing was to bring increased awareness to congress regarding the impact of learning disabilities on children, families, and society. Check out the video below! Dr. Forchelli spoke at 12 minutes, 45 seconds. Dr. Kierce spoke at 1:07:30.

Meditation Changes Your Brain!

From Box Breathing to Insight Timer, I am sure at some point you have heard me mention the importance of meditation and mindfulness! Here is a great article explaining the science behind such practices. This article suggests functional and structural changes to the brain as a result of meditation, as well as differences in behavior and moment-to-moment experiences.

Different Types Of Meditation Change Different Areas Of The Brain, Study Finds




Walton, A. (2019, March). Different Types Of Meditation Change Different Areas Of The Brain, Study Finds. Retrieved from


Too Much Screen Time Can Have Lasting Consequences for Young Children’s Brains

According to researcher Sheri Madigan, children who spent more time using TV or computers showed poorer performance on developmental tasks with regard to memory, attention, language and communication skills, social interactions, and problem solving than children who had limited access to technology. Recommended use for children is one hour per day for quality educational programs.

The full article can be accessed here.



Park, A. (2019, February). Too much screen time can have lasting consequences for young children’s brains. Retrieved from



“Box Breathing” Method and Application for Smart Phones

Box breathing is a powerful, yet simple, relaxation technique that aims to return breathing to its normal rhythm. This breathing exercise may help to clear the mind, relax the body, and improve focus. It is a simple technique that a person can do anywhere, including at a work desk or in a cafe. Before starting, people should sit with their back supported in a comfortable chair and their feet on the floor.

  1. Close your eyes. Breathe in through your nose while counting to four slowly. Feel the air enter your lungs.
  2. Hold your breath inside while counting slowly to four. Try not to clamp your mouth or nose shut. Simply avoid inhaling or exhaling for 4 seconds.
  3. Begin to slowly exhale for 4 seconds.
  4. Repeat steps 1 to 3 at least three times. Ideally, repeat the three steps for 4 minutes, or until calm returns.

If someone finds the technique challenging to begin with, they can try counting to three instead of four. Once someone is used to the technique, they may choose to count to five or six.

For more information, click on this link.

To download the smart phone application, click here.



Legg, T. (2019, February). What is box breathing? Retrieved from

PBS Parents: Nine Ways to Reduce Challenging Behavior

PBS Parents is also another great resource! I would encourage all to explore this site. I found a great article regarding the facilitation of reducing challenging behavior in children. Follow the subsequent link to the article:

Reducing Challenging Behavior

Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning

If you are a parent struggling with a child who has difficulty with emotional awareness and/or compliance, you are not alone. I recently found a resource that might be of interest to you. I hope you find this information useful!

The Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning (CSEFEL) is a national resource center for disseminating research and evidence-based practices to early childhood programs across the country. CSEFEL is focused on promoting young children’s social emotional competence and preventing and addressing challenging behavior via evidenced-based practices. Please click on the link below to explore the website:

Center for Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning

Despite the focus of CSEFEL being children aged zero to five, the following articles were of particular interest and relevance to many parents in my practice with children and adolescents:

Teaching Your Child to Cooperate

Teaching Your Child to Identify and Express Emotions



Rules of Thumb for Change Agents

I was barely 23 years old when I began my career as a school psychologist. I probably looked like I was sixteen. Aside from that, I was working in Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS), the fourth largest school district, one of the most politically charged and ethnically diverse systems in the United States.

I made my share of naive mistakes, because as any young person does, I thought I knew it all. That is, until I knew I didn’t. I worked hard, networked, and volunteered my time. I listened, took responsibility for my mistakes, and stayed true to what meant most to me..the kids. By the end of my first year, I was asked to join a committee with the Assistant Superintendent in writing the new eligibility criteria for Specific Learning Disabilities. A new federal law was enacted in 2010 and school districts across the United States were watching to see how M-DCPS handled the changes. By my second year, I was elected President of the Date Association of School Psychologists. Not before long, I realized that I wanted to be on the other side of the school system advocating for children.

Advocacy has been challenging this school year. Out of a dozen IEP meetings, two have gone smoothly. I have found myself reflecting on my days as a school psychologist and digging up my “oldie, but goodie” research articles. This article is of special importance to me. My first, and probably most influential mentor, Dr. Peter Caproni, a Licensed Psychologist and Professor at Nova Southeastern University, shared this with me when I was a rookie. It helped me manage the politics of the system, and of course, gave he and I a reason to laugh after “playing God a little.”

If you are navigating any political system, this article applies to you. If you are a parent with children in the school system, find an advocate and remember….Stay Alive…Never Work Uphill…and Play God a Little…

Rules of Thumb for Change Agents

By: Herbert Shepard

Anna Freud Centre for Children and Families: Empowering young people to make informed decisions about their mental health

Greetings! I was lucky enough to visit the Anna Freud Centre for Children and Families when I was in London last year. Ms. Freud pioneered the Centre just a few houses down from where she lived with her Father, Sigmund Freud, after fleeing Vienna during the Nazi regime. At that time, she took the lead in creating a psychoanalytic framework for understanding and treating children. Today, the Centre is a cutting edge facility directed by Dr. Peter Fonagy, an innovative researcher of mentalization, in collaboration with Yale Child Study Center. My work with children and families has been very much influenced by the Anna Freud school of thought.  Here are a few pictures from my visit!

On My Mind via Anna Freud Centre for Children and Families

By: Michelle Cunliffe

A new initiative has launched today to help young people have more engagement in mental health support and to give them a greater say in the treatment they receive and the outcomes they desire.

On My Mind is a new website developed by the Anna Freud Centre that provides young people the opportunity to make informed decisions about their own mental health and wellbeing.

On My Mind is an easy and safe way for young people to access clinically-approved information online. The pages have been co-produced by young people, including the Centre’s Young Champions, to help other young people.

The new website has nine digital resources, seven of which have gone live today with the other two following in November. These resources include:

These new resources come at a time of increased concern about the mental health of young people with figures showing the number of adolescents reporting long-term mental health problems has increased tenfold since 1995.

Professor Miranda Wolpert, Co-director of the Evidence Based Practice Unit at the Anna Freud Centre said: “This site is a place where young people can get information and advice and can take part in shaping new interventions. In particular there is very little research evidence on what we are calling ‘self or community approaches’ to addressing mental health problems. As part of the launch of On My Mind  we are inviting young people to let us know their views on which work for them and which we should prioritise for rigorous future research by answering our brief ‘Help us help others’ survey.

Research shows that 50% of mental health problems are established by age 14 and 75% by age 24 and that’s why it’s so important to provide extra help at this stage.

The new pages are targeted at children and young people between the ages of 11-25, but it is also a resource for GPs, teachers or parents who can signpost young people to the website.

On My Mind – Home Page

On My Mind – Resources Page


Cunliffe, M. (2018, October). Empowering young people to make informed decisions about their mental health. Retrieved from

The Long Conversation

I remember feeling deeply impacted after reading this article while I was a graduate student. There is something very special about psychoanalytic treatment, and in my opinion, it resides in the therapeutic relationship.

The Long Conversation – The New York Times

Special Education: A Basic Guide for Parents

The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) is a professional organization that represents school psychologists and works to advance and promote practices that improve children’s learning, behavioral, and mental health. Check out the NASP website for more information about mental health in schools.

The subsequent article provides a general overview of the special education and IEP (Individualized Educational Program) process.

NASP Special Education_A Basic Guide for Parents


I am excited to share that I am beginning a resources page! I am passionate about the practice of psychology and hope to empower you with knowledge to successfully and fruitfully manage daily challenges of life, work, relationships, and raising children.  From assessment and psychoanalytic theory to the itty bitty kiddies and adults in my practice, I am eager to keep up with innovative literature and practices!

Rather than sending emails, I figured that streamlining the process with a blog would be more efficient and tailored to those who are interested. It will provide an opportunity for you to access information that might only be available via professional organizations or regarding a topic of interest unbeknown to you. I intend to share about topics associated with parenting, navigating school systems, being aware of federal and state laws regarding education, locating support groups, resiliency, development over the lifespan, mentalization, neurodevelopmental disorders (ADHD, Autism, Learning Disabilities), psychological health, and much more! I really hope you will find the information useful.


Dr. Kierce