San Francisco: (877) 488-6293 | Covina: (626) 251-2300


You are inclusive of all constituencies, including families, teachers, and administration. Your comprehensive reporting, both written and oral, is extensive, thorough, and very accurate. Many, many thanks!

- Education Specialist, San Francisco Bay Area School

How to know if a child needs help


Is it “just a phase,” or do you know a child who needs the support of a mental health professional? Reviewing these signs can serve as a first step as you make this important decision.

At MCYAF, we offer assessment for a wide variety of situations, from learning difficulties to trouble fitting in and making friends. We can offer help to youth who persistently experience one or more of the following:

Academic Difficulties:

  • Struggles with reading, spelling, writing, and/or math

  • Struggles with peers and social relationships

  • Intellectual potential does not match academic performance

  • A marked difference or decline in performance at school

  • Difficulty following directions

  • Problems with memory and retaining information

  • Difficulty processing or organizing information

  • Inability to manage homework or meet deadlines

  • Problems with attention and staying focused in class

Emotional Difficulties

  • Sadness and hopelessness for no obvious reason

  • Withdrawal from friends, family, and other important relationships and activities

  • Frequently angry or irritable

  • Cries frequently or overreacts to typical experiences

  • Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, or anxiety

  • Unable to come to terms with a loss

  • Fearful or having unexplained fears

  • Excessive concerns about physical problems or appearance

  • Frightened that his/her mind is controlled or is out of control

  • Worry about being harmed, hurting others, or doing something “bad”

  • Feeling life is too hard to handle

Behavioral Signs

  • Difficulty controlling or containing impulses

  • Inability to sit still or focus attention

  • Losing interest in things once enjoyed

  • Racing thoughts that are nearly too fast to follow

  • Unexplained changes in sleeping or eating patterns

  • Persistent nightmares

  • Avoiding friends or family; frequently wanting to be alone

  • Suicidal thoughts

  • Alcohol and other drug use

  • Cutting; self-harm

  • Engaging in physical fights

  • Eating excessive amounts of food and then purging; abusing laxatives; or restricting food intake

  • Unnecessary dieting and/or exercising obsessively

  • Engaging in risky, life threatening activities

  • Washing, cleaning, or performing certain routines numerous times per day

What To Expect

To ensure that youth and families receive the treatment best suited to their needs, our intake process is designed to provide a detailed and well-informed impression of each child and family. Here is an overview of what a family can expect once you refer them to us.

A large number of families that come to MCYAF are referred by a teacher or educator who feels that an assessment would provide clarity to the child’s situation and/or challenges. Teachers often call ahead to let us know about a potential incoming case or referral; however, in order to formally begin the intake process, families must contact MCYAF directly.

Once a family begins the intake process and signs our release forms, our team will collaborate and interview designated teachers and other support systems closely involved with the child. We work directly with these adults to build a detailed and nuanced understanding of the child.

Following the intake process, our clinical team will meet to determine whether or not a comprehensive or targeted assessment is needed. If a comprehensive assessment with MCYAF is recommended as the best next step, our team will contact the family to schedule a meeting with one of our assessment psychologists. If the child has already recently undergone testing, or if we do not deem an assessment advisable for the child’s specific needs, our staff may offer a referral to an outside resource or professional for continued help.

At MCYAF, we offer both comprehensive and targeted assessments. If a child’s treatment plan includes a comprehensive assessment, one of our assessment psychologists will administer thorough and cross-disciplinary testing over three consecutive mornings. A targeted assessment will address a specific area of concern and will be administered in a single three-hour session. Areas of evaluation will include:

  • Academic ability
  • Cognition
  • Social-emotional functioning
  • Coping operations
  • Behavior
  • Neuropsychological functioning

Each assessment is tailored specifically to the individual youth and is based on the child’s age, ability, and the identified areas of concern. Some tests are more formal, while others are similar to play or conversation.

After the assessments, all of the information that has been gathered will be discussed by the multidisciplinary team. They will formulate a diagnostic impression that they will use to determine a proposal for treatment that will specifically address the needs of the individual youth and family.

Next, the family will meet with our clinical team for a feedback session. Our team will explain what we have learned and any treatment recommendations. After the session, we will send a confidential written report to the family and, if requested, an appropriate version to the child’s school.

All assessments include the option for an in-person meeting with educators at the child’s school. Whether a school meeting will take place depends on the recommendations of our clinical team and the wishes of the parents.

We offer a variety of in-house therapy options for families who can benefit from continued treatment. These options may include family therapy, couples therapy, individual or group therapy for the child, educational therapy, individual therapy for another family member, or a combination of these services.

If a child is experiencing learning disabilities or other learning challenges, their treatment plan may include educational therapy. Educational therapists seek to understand clients’ emotional constitution and academic needs in the context of their school, family, and community. Educational therapy clients will receive an individualized instructional plan that will address the root of their learning challenges and help them draw upon existing strengths to develop skills in problem areas.

All services at MCYAF, including therapy, are offered on a sliding scale. Each treatment is determined according to the family’s unique needs. Treatment will end at the point when both the client and therapist feel it is appropriate.

In some cases, we offer referrals to outside resources and professionals for continued help. This direction is common for families that do not live locally, or have needs that we determine can be better served elsewhere.

In an effort to achieve a far-reaching understanding of each child’s progress, testing is repeated one year after the completion of treatment.