South Charlotte

This duo helps children cope with anxiety

Jessica Bloomfield and Lauren King are superheroes for kids.

The clinical psychologists, armed with good humor and patience, empower children and young adults at Southeast Psych.

"We're not a sterile doctor's office," says Bloomfield. "The idea is to make it fun."

With colorful posters, a comic-book theme and a savvy Internet presence, the team spreads the word about psychology and their new program, Worry-Busters.

Worry-Busters is an anxiety-management workshop for kids grades one through five. Skills learned include deep breathing, muscle relaxation and identifying strengths. The program will be from 4-5 p.m. Jan. 17 at 6060 Piedmont Row Drive South, Suite 120. Kids are welcome to start later if needed.

Bloomfield and King first will meet with parents to ensure they reinforce their child's new skills. "Parents are big part of this," says Bloomfield.

Growing up in a family of physicians, Bloomfield "was always the person that my friends gravitated to when they needed help," she says.

In 2008, she earned her master's degree and doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Denver. She went to Bosnia for intensive graduate training in trauma management.

Today, Bloomfield specializes in trauma and anxiety. She intervenes during what she calls the "capital Ts" of trauma: rape, child abuse and natural disasters. Schools also call on her to handle bullying.

In college, King was a nanny for a child with Asperger's syndrome. This event would foreshadow her career.

In 2010, she earned her doctorate from Fuller School of Psychology. She completed her pre-doctoral and post-doctoral internship at Southeast Psych.

King, in addition to treating eating disorders, has worked with nonverbal kids with autism. Today she uses talk therapy to help kids with Asperger's.

"The big thing is early intervention," she says. "The earlier you can catch it, the more effective it is."

Bloomfield and King, both with Southeast Psych since 2008, say one of the top anxiety triggers for children is going to school.

King says kids need to face, not avoid, these fears.

"What we used to do for anxiety treatment in children was to say, 'Just stop thinking about it,' " said King. "Now we want to expose them to the thing they are most anxious about and help them manage their anxiety."

Parents must also learn how to support their kids during bouts of anxiety.

The two psychologists say they appreciate Southeast Psych's fun environment at both the clinic's Blakeney and SouthPark locations. Parents and kids can visit the "coffee shop" area and admire life-size action figures in the hallways.

King tells parents to have their kids read Southeast Psych's playful Web page biographies.

"I've had kids pick me only because I like Harry Potter," she said.

Bloomfield and King often join forces.

"We do really hard work and it's nice to feel really supported," says Bloomfield. "I can come into (King's) office, flop on her couch and talk."

They also consult each other on cases. If an eating disorder becomes the primary issue on Bloomfield's case, she talks to King. They can see the same person from different angles.

Costs for consultations with Southeast Psych vary with insurance providers and out-of-network benefits. Bloomfield says interns and fellows can see patients at reduced rates. King sees ages 4 through 30, and Bloomfield sees all ages up to 50.

King wants children to accept themselves as they cope with anxiety. "Let's not just focus on what's wrong with you, but what's right about you, too," she said.

"You've got a superhero inside of you, come find it," said Bloomfield.