Anxiety and school avoidance treatment in Richmond, Virginia

A fear of going to school is very stressful for a child, but it can also be stressful for their parents. Dominion Hospital's teen and child behavioral health programs can help. They offer several treatment options that are rooted in a model of individualized, clinically driven and evidence-based care. Our multidisciplinary teams will work with you and your child to develop a personalized plan of care designed to address and treat whatever is causing your child's school phobia.

If you think your child may have school anxiety, you can receive a free, confidential assessment by contacting our First Step counselors 24/7 at (703) 538-2872.

What is school anxiety?

School anxiety may also be referred to as school refusal or school avoidance. It is a real psychological condition in which kids experience extreme distress about going to or staying in school. Some reasons this occurs include:

  • Anxiety or embarrassment from not understanding their coursework
  • As a means to pursue tangible rewards
  • Fear of a negative evaluation from a teacher or other educator
  • Not wanting to be separated from parents or caregivers
  • To avoid school-based stimuli
  • To avoid social situations with peers, such as bullying or a conflict with a friend

What are the symptoms of school anxiety?

Every child is different, but common signs they have a fear of going to school include:

  • Complaints of a physical issue that resolve when the child is allowed to stay at home
  • Inconsistency with school attendance
  • Panic attacks or crying spells
  • Other physical symptoms before or during school

How do you help a child who is afraid to go school?

Whether it manifests as obsessive compulsive disorder or the development of new phobias, we help ease children into going back to school by:

  • Developing school- and anxiety-based coping skills
  • Building social skills
  • Decreasing social anxiety
  • Changing negative thinking patterns
  • Improving executive functioning skills
  • Teaching parents to address non-compliant behaviors
  • Empowering parents to better support their child
  • Reducing family conflict
  • Increasing rewards for going to school
  • Decreasing rewards for missing school

School Refusal Program

The primary goal of our School Refusal Program is to reintroduce a child to the academic setting, achieve full-time attendance and help parents learn how to help a child with anxiety about school. We follow a school avoidance curriculum, which is available through our children's behavioral health and adolescent behavioral health programs.

Specifically, the School Refusal Program involves:

  • Alternative therapy
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) skills training
  • Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) skills training
  • Exposure therapy
  • Mindfulness
  • Parent training
  • Psychoeducation
  • Therapeutic homework and logbooks

Choices Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)

Our Choices IOP offers a Back-to-School Training Camp. It is designed to help children and teens develop critical skills for managing symptoms of anxiety and depression related to school. This training camp also aims to improve communication at home.

Where can children get help with school anxiety?

You can find our programs at two locations:

Choices Adolescent Outpatient Program—Chantilly
14501 George Carter Way
Chantilly, VA 20151

Phone: (703) 227-8180

Choices Adolescent Outpatient Program—Falls Church
6565 Arlington Blvd.
Falls Church, VA 22042

Phone: (703) 720-5527