Diane Selinger, PhD ; Clinical Psychologist
As a clinical psychologist and mental health specialist Dr. Diane Selinger has worked with children and families with diverse challenges from a developmental perspective. Currently Dr. Selinger specializes in the treatment of Autism Spectrum and Regulatory disorders with special interests integrating parents and siblings in work with children and adolescents. As senior faculty at the Profectum Academy, she teaches advanced certificate courses in DIR-FCD and mentors candidates in reflective practice. In addition to her private practice, Dr. Diane Selinger is a mental health consultant and supervisor.
Questions and Answers with Diane Selinger, PhD
Q: Where are you located?
A: Skokie, in the northern suburbs of Chicago.
Q: Where did you go to school?
A: Northwestern University, 1986
Q: How long have you been DIR Faculty?
A: I have been a faculty member of the DIR® Summer Institute since 2002.
Q: How did you come to work with developmental challenges?
A: Serendipity! A younger colleague working with me at a psychodynamic child and family center, who had prior DIR® supervision in California, gently showed me how much I did not know. Luckily, she pointed me in the right direction to DIR® supervision.
Q: Was there a particular child or family that opened your door to DIR?
A: At the same time, I began to work with an autistic child from a very devoted family. I was at a loss, and they started me on my education. My training had not prepared me for this challenge.
Q: What are some of the most important things you integrated into your work from other disciplines?
A: I have been lucky enough to have many wonderful SLP and OT Profectum Faculty colleagues in Chicago: Beth Osten, Sherri Cawn, Michele Ricamato, Linda Cervenka. My office is in Beth Osten’s multidisciplinary clinic. As we know from DIR, there is no learning without relationships. I have absorbed from my colleagues so much experiential knowledge about the body and language that I can no longer separate my own specialty. I have integrated using all forms of non-verbal communication and the appropriate developmental language, as well as noticing the child’s availability for interaction depending on regulation, posture, etc.
Q: What do you feel you contribute most as a psychologist?
A: Acceptance and understanding of parent’s feelings and point of view, including loving and not so loving feelings, guilt, incompetence and inadequacy. By helping parents attune to and understand their own as well as their children’s feelings, I can help them engage, interact and connect more intimately with their children.
Q: Do you have a specific special area of interest in your field?
A: Siblings of children with special needs.
Q: What three suggestions would you give parents and professionals on this topic?
- If possible, try to spend time alone with the sibling, focusing on the sibling’s interests. This could be doing floortime with the sibling.
- I encourage parents to help siblings express a full range of feelings in regard to having a brother or sister with special needs. This may need to be done in private. Notice if the sibling may be expressing feelings about the situation in their behavior, including over compliance or continual opposition.
- Help the sibling understand the child’s behavior, which can often be confusing and frightening. The behavior often needs to be interpreted and explained at the appropriate developmental level to the sibling.
Q: Describe what a typical work day is like for you?
A: I typically treat adults or parents with young children in the morning, and older children, teenagers and working adults after school hours. I supervise therapists of all disciplines and consult weekly to Soaring Eagle Academy.
Q: How has your work most impacted you? Impacted your understanding of yourself?
A: I feel lucky to be in a profession that allows for creativity and personal growth. Many of the children have bravely faced numerous challenges and frightening feelings. In playing with them, I have been privileged to share in their experiences, and have learned face the remnants of such feelings in myself. Witnessing the drive to grow and develop in the children, as well as the love and sacrifice in so many parents is inspirational.
Q: What are your most recent favorite books, articles, activities, games for children, etc?
A: My current favorite book for children is MY WORRIES ARE LIKE A TORNADO by Profectum Faculty member Michele Ricamato.
Q: What recent book have you read that you would suggest to others?
A: NeuroTribes by Steve Silberman and Elana Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet.
Q: What books/resources do you most recommend to parents?
A: It varies on the needs of parents. I recommend Dr. Greenspan’s book, The Growth of the Mind, for parents who are wondering about how DIR can help their child educationally, an often asked question.
Q: What do you tell parents about screen time?
A: I especially tell parents of younger children who need to play, interact and learn from experience, that it is worth the fight, as well as help them through it. However, I also encourage parents to use screens when they need a break, rather than make them feel guilty for using them.
I try to help parents of older children understand why their children may be overusing or addicted to screens. In instances where we can discover the reasons, the child is able to shift his behavior and use them not to the exclusion of interaction and other activities.
Q: Can you share a moment in your work you will never forget – funny or otherwise?
A: I had played with a boy for many years, when all of a sudden in a moment of insight, he yelled, with a shocked expression on his face, “You’re a shrink?”
Q: Is there anything else you would you like people to know about you?
A: Although I had worked with children, I was trained in graduate school as an adult psychotherapist. I increasingly began to work with children and families. The children grew up, many requiring individual psychotherapy and I found that parents often wanted their own treatment from me. I pursued psychoanalytic training, and am almost finished. I am currently writing about gender development in autistic children.
Q: How can you be contacted?