Vernon Hills psychologist uses ancient knowledge for children with Asperger’s
Dr. Michael Clatch stands in front of a Beatles mural that is in his office, which he said was inspired by the Lennon Wall in Prague, and which he decided to do because of the work he does with art therapy. | Alyssa Schueneman~Sun-Times Media
WHAT: Courage to Connect Therapeutic Center
WHERE: 2400 Ravine Way, suite 600, Glenview
WHAT: general therapy and counseling, with a speciality in Asperger’s syndrome
Updated: September 17, 2012 6:07AM
“The journey from boyhood to becoming a young man isn’t easy,” said Michael Clatch, a Vernon Hills resident who’s a psychologist and therapist who recently opened Courage to Connect Therapeutic Center in Glenview.
“For those faced with Asperger’s syndrome, finding a sense of belonging and acceptance among peers can be that much more difficult.”
For that reason, Clatch created the Circle of Courage at the center, a support group that enables boys and young men with Asperger’s to gain a stronger sense of self through positive youth development.
Interestingly, he based the therapy model on indigenous tribal cultures that used one guiding principal to improve.
“That all youth have four universal human needs necessary to be emotionally healthy — belonging, mastery, independence and generosity,” said Clatch.
“I have incorporated this methodology with my expertise in the area of Asperger’s syndrome.”
Robin Raef’s son has been attending Circle of Courage’s meetings once a month.
“I think there’s a need for these support groups for kids with Asperger’s to be successful. The challenge for them is be socially interactive, which is something they can bring with them into certain situations,” said Raef, of Buffalo Grove.
“I’m not there at the meetings, but (Clatch) explores how other kids might be feeling, and he asks questions about their feelings,” she said, explaining people with Asperger’s often do not recognize the thoughts or concerns of others.
‘Think the same’
“It’s hard for them for to envision that people may feel differently than they do. They assume people feel or think the same as they do,” she said.
Clatch said the Circle of Courage was one of three elements that set his program apart from other centers for children with the syndrome.
First, he focused on a person’s strengths.
“Instead of viewing them as having deficits that must be addressed, I work with my clients to identify their strengths and figure out how these strengths can be used in all aspects of their lives,” he said, adding his approach differed from many models now used.
“They need to feel good about themselves and the strengths-based approach helps to achieve that end.”
His second element was individualized treatment.
“If you want to help a child reach his or her fullest potential, you cannot use a standardized approach to treatment that follows the same formula.
“You need to recognize the therapy that is provided must be as unique as the child you are treating,” said Clatch, who earned a master’s degree in psychology from National-Louis University, Chicago, and his doctorate in clinical psychology from Midwestern University, Downers Grove.
His Asperger’s program was for ages 5 to 21 years old, and he has learned most children with the syndrome have “innate strengths.”
“They are often high functioning and have average or above average intelligence. Unlike children who have more severe autism spectrum disorders, children with AS are able to interact socially and communicate with others,” he said.
Further, he said by recognizing a child’s strengths, it was possible “to create a foundation for moving the child beyond his or her current environment to connect with others,” such as parents, friends and teachers.
Clatch offered several therapeutic services at his Glenview office, 2400 Ravine Way, suite 600.
In addition to Asperger’s syndrome, he also treated grief and loss, anxiety and depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and issues in-self esteem and adolescent relationships, among others.
For Gigi Ramis, an advocate for people with Asperger’s syndrome, Clatch’s many services were needed in Chicago’s north and northwest suburbs.
“Often, parents have to drive their children to many therapies from private psychologists and support groups. At the Courage to Connect Therapeutic Center, the services are all under one roof,” said Ramis, of Deerfield.
Clatch said, “I do offer several different services all under the same roof, because for children and adolescents I believe that many of these issues are interconnected.
“For instance, in addition to offering services for children and adolescents with Asperger’s syndrome, I also offer services for issues that are unique to boys and young men.
“Male clients that have Asperger’s syndrome will experience many of these guy issues as they mature,” he explained.
Ramis said his Asperger’s programs were for many ages, whereas others usually were designed for a particular age.
“That’s also what makes his center unique,” she said.