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Parenting & Family Issues

We all want the best for our families. Getting there can be…complicated. It’s important to remember that you don’t have to confront parenting and family difficulties alone. In fact, you probably shouldn’t confront those challenges alone. 

For assistance with behavioral management or parenting, we invite you to schedule a session with one of our experts. We will help you to develop specific tools and strategies designed for your individual child and your unique family. These sessions are scheduled on an as-needed basis, and often in conjunction with other types of services, such as therapy/counseling, or evaluations.

In addition, we are proud to offer a one-of-a-kind parenting support and education class for parents of bright kids who are diagnosed with mild autism spectrum disorder (ASD). We are passionate that you are your child’s best teacher, advocate, and support person. Our program provides the education and support you need to have the information and energy to be your best self and bring out the strengths of your child—so they aren’t known merely by their diagnosis. Watch our Parenting Video today to learn more about your bright child with ASD and find out why parent education and knowledge is the key to your child’s long-term success.

Most clients begin with an initial 50-minute intake with one of our specialists. This is your opportunity to share your concerns, ask questions, and provide any documents or other information you feel would help us get to know your situation. Parents are welcome to bring their child with them to the appointment if they wish, as appropriate, but this is not required. By the end of the session, we have made a tentative plan about next steps.

Screenings can sometimes take the place of an initial intake appointment. Screenings are 50-minute appointments during which one of our specialists briefly screens your child for developmental, social, emotional, or behavioral concerns. Screenings are preferable to parent-only initial appointments when you are seeking our impressions based on observations or interactions with your child. A screening does not allow sufficient opportunity for diagnostic conclusions to be made, but can lead concrete and specific recommendations. In addition, screenings can determine whether or not further evaluation or intervention is warranted. Developmental screenings are offered for infants as young as 3 months.

Our formal evaluations are tailored to suit the needs of each client. No two evaluations are alike. We aim to be comprehensive, while eliminating extraneous tests that would not prove useful for diagnostic clarity. The nature and content of the evaluation varies based on the question/concern and age of the client. Evaluations may include: interviews, standardized tests, questionnaires, behavioral observations, feedback sessions and written reports. All Evaluations result in an Action Plan, which is a set of specific and concrete recommendations.

Consultations are 50-minute sessions with one of our specialists to address concerns. Many individuals have all their questions and concerns sufficiently addressed within a single appointment, while others may choose to have subsequent consultative visits.

These sessions are scheduled with one of our experts to develop specific tools and strategies designed for the individual child and family. These sessions can be scheduled as needed, and often in conjunction with other types of services, such as therapy/counseling or evaluations.

Elementary, middle, and high school children and their families may participate in individually tailored sessions with one of our experts to improve academic and organizational skills. Areas of focus include homework/task completion, study skills and strategies, problem solving, decision making, academic planning, goal setting, improving peer relations, improving frustration tolerance, and developing healthy self-confidence and self-esteem. Appointments for these services are available in-home to maximize your child/teen’s progress.

We provide a one-of-a-kind parenting support and education class for parents of bright kids who are diagnosed with mild autism spectrum disorder (ASD). We are passionate that you are your child’s best teacher, advocate, and support person. Our Bright Stars video parenting course provides the education and support you need to have the information and energy to be your best self, and to bring out the strengths of your child. Your child is not merely a diagnosis!

Therapy/Counseling consists of 50-minute meetings with one of our specialists. Therapy sessions can be for individual children, teens, or adults, couples or families. Who is included in therapy sessions can change throughout the course of therapy. The frequency of therapy sessions depends on the circumstances of the client and their concerns. We are results-oriented therapists, and tailor our work to each individual situation to yield maximal gains in the shortest amount of time.

Based on expressed community needs, we have designed and implemented group sessions and workshops for select audiences and concerns. Our Social Stars program supports social skill-building within distinct groups for boys and girls, preschool through teen. The Social Stars group dovetails with the curriculum of our Bright Stars video parenting course. In addition, we offer two weekly group therapy program for girls and women: Together We Rise!, which helps women develop key coping skills and take strides towards fulfillment; and Strong Together!, which help teens develop their own skills for grappling with the myriad demands of adolescence. Please don’t hesitate to share your ideas for additional group sessions and workshops!

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Individual and Couples Therapy

Most of the issues that can impact a child or a teen can also impact an adult. In fact, many adults only receive diagnoses and proper professional assistance in adulthood for issues that began much earlier in their lives. San Diego Therapy First is prepared to help with expert, experienced therapy and support for:

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • ADHD
  • Mood & Emotional Disorders
  • Anxiety
  • Eating Disorders
  • Trauma (including EMDR therapy)
  • Relationship Issues

Most clients begin with an initial 50-minute intake with one of our specialists. This is your opportunity to share your concerns, ask questions, and provide any documents or other information you feel would help us get to know your situation. Parents are welcome to bring their child with them to the appointment if they wish, as appropriate, but this is not required. By the end of the session, we have made a tentative plan about next steps.

Our formal evaluations are tailored to suit the needs of each client. No two evaluations are alike. We aim to be comprehensive, while eliminating extraneous tests that would not prove useful for diagnostic clarity. The nature and content of the evaluation varies based on the question/concern and age of the client. Evaluations may include: interviews, standardized tests, questionnaires, behavioral observations, feedback sessions and written reports. All Evaluations result in an Action Plan, which is a set of specific and concrete recommendations.

Consultations are 50-minute sessions with one of our specialists to address concerns. Many individuals have all their questions and concerns sufficiently addressed within a single appointment, while others may choose to have subsequent consultative visits.

Elementary, middle, and high school children and their families may participate in individually tailored sessions with one of our experts to improve academic and organizational skills. Areas of focus include homework/task completion, study skills and strategies, problem solving, decision making, academic planning, goal setting, improving peer relations, improving frustration tolerance, and developing healthy self-confidence and self-esteem. Appointments for these services are available in-home to maximize your child/teen’s progress.

Therapy/Counseling consists of 50-minute meetings with one of our specialists. Therapy sessions can be for individual children, teens, or adults, couples or families. Who is included in therapy sessions can change throughout the course of therapy. The frequency of therapy sessions depends on the circumstances of the client and their concerns. We are results-oriented therapists, and tailor our work to each individual situation to yield maximal gains in the shortest amount of time.

Based on expressed community needs, we have designed and implemented group sessions and workshops for select audiences and concerns. Our Social Stars program supports social skill-building within distinct groups for boys and girls, preschool through teen. The Social Stars group dovetails with the curriculum of our Bright Stars video parenting course. In addition, we offer two weekly group therapy program for girls and women: Together We Rise!, which helps women develop key coping skills and take strides towards fulfillment; and Strong Together!, which help teens develop their own skills for grappling with the myriad demands of adolescence. Please don’t hesitate to share your ideas for additional group sessions and workshops!

Make An Appointment

Are you ready for help? We’re ready to start you on your journey to maximize the developmental, social, emotional, behavioral, and academic potential of your child, teen, and/or family.

What Others Say About Us

I am a general pediatrician with a special interest in ADHD, spending about 20% of my clinical time caring for ADHD patients. I have known Dr Pontillo since 2005 and have an enormous respect for her clinical skills and insights. She is my “go to” psychologist for more complicated developmental issues and for diagnosis of subtle high functioning disabilities. Dr. Pontillo’s interest in her patients and her ability to clearly delineate developmental problems allows parents to move forward with establishing a treatment plan. She is an invaluable resource to the San Diego Pediatric community.

Nicholas Levy, MD, Medical Director, El Camino Pediatrics, V. Asst Clinical Professor, School of Medicine, UCSD

Dr. Pontillo is an exceptional, and one-of-a-kind child psychologist. I have referred many children of my patients to Dr. Pontillo and she has always given them the best care and attention. Referring a patient to another professional is a big responsibility. I always look for a colleague who is efficient, professional, experienced and one who is able to come up with a clear diagnosis. I keep referring to Dr. Pontillo because of her expertise, efficiency and especially her warm and caring personality that is extremely necessary when dealing with children. I very highly recommend Deborah Pontillo, Ph.D as a child diagnostician, developmental and behavioral specialist, and therapist.

David Kravetz, M.D., Professor of Clinical Medicine, School of Medicine, UCSD

I’ve been referring my patients to Dr. Pontillo for the past several years with the utmost confidence that she will care and understand their developmental needs. Dr. Pontillo always provided them with a balanced and age appropriate intervention to help not only the child but the family as a whole.

Chrystal de Freitas M.D., Pediatrician Carmel Valley Pediatrics