In 2007, Carmen Tumialan Lynas, Ph.D. became aware of the lack of knowledge about selective mutism when she was treating a 3-yr-old with the condition. At the time, very little research on empirically-validated treatments existed. Selective mutism was considered a rare condition of early childhood; few people knew about it, and even fewer knew how to treat it. Since there was a lack of treatment research for selective mutism, Dr. Lynas relied on her knowledge of treating phobias and applied a phobia treatment protocol to address the toddler’s fear of speaking. Using systematic, gradual desensitization delivered within a play-based model, the toddler transferred her speaking from her parent to Dr. Lynas, and then Dr. Lynas fostered generalization of speaking across people, places, and activities using exposure therapy. Soon, providers were referring more selective mutism cases her way, and eventually, an overwhelming waiting list began. Waiting is the last thing to do when a child needs treatment; early intervention is key.
In 2010, Dr. Lynas heard Dr. Steven Kurtz’s presentation of his Brave Buddies group treatment at the Selective Mutism Association conference. A light bulb went off – if she can run a group exposure therapy, then all the kids on her waiting list can receive treatment now rather than waiting. Furthermore, Dr. Kurtz’s intensive 1-week treatment model within a school-like environment appeared ideal for treatment effectiveness and carryover into the school setting. In 2011, Adventure Camp Intensive Group Treatment for Selective Mutism was born. Dr. Lynas continued to run Adventure Camp for yearly intensive group treatment and Advanced Therapeutic Solutions for year-round care.
Since 2011, Advanced Therapeutic Solutions has grown from treating just selective mutism to a range of anxiety conditions and adjustment issues. As word spread about ATS’ exposure therapy and effective treatments, the scope of services offered has broadened. Much of the outpatient treatment provided is inspired by Adventure Camp, including taking treatment outside of the clinic and into the home, school, and community settings, and delivering intense doses of up to six hours per day. Individual, group, and intensive outpatient services have grown. Schools started contracting with ATS to provide in-service trainings, professional development, and individual consultations to assist educators on how to effectively address the educational needs of anxious students, ranging from early education through high school. Adults have sought treatment at ATS to help them evaluate if they are living out their goals, or if they are being held back by their fears—if they are approach-coping or stuck in anxious avoidance.
Currently, ATS treats children, adolescents, and adults, and has become Advanced Therapeutic Solutions for Anxiety, treating the spectrum of anxiety disorders.
And it all began when a 3-yr-old needed help finding her brave.