Therapist South Florida Psychologist Family Marriage Couples Counseling Dr. Lisa Saponaro


Watch Dr. Saponaro describe different services offered at her practice here.

Psychological Testing

Psychological Testing is an evaluation that may be useful to clarify or provide additional information to diagnoses. Psychological Testing may be sought for a number of reasons.

Testing services include:

  • Giftedness / IQ / Cognitive Ability
  • Psychoeducational Testing
  • Attention-Deficit Disorder  / ADHD
  • Pervasive Development Disorders / Autism Spectrum
  • Social & Emotional Well-being
  • Personality Testing
  • Ability to Parent
  • Career Readiness/Fit

Giftedness testing, or IQ testing, consists of a test of cognitive ability such as the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, Fourth Edition (WISC-IV) or the Standford Binet Intelligence Test, Fifth Edition (SB-5).  This type of testing may be used to determine if your child is eligible to receive advanced or gifted programing.  Tests of cognitive ability reveal an individual's specific learning strengths and weaknesses, which may be useful in creating a learning program.

Psychoeducational testing is often recommended when a child is struggling to keep up with academic demands, has been retained, or appears to have unusual difficulty with a specific subject.  Psychoeducational testing is used to diagnose learning disabilities and provide recommendations for educational planning and special testing accommodations.  Psychoeducational testing generally consists of a test of cognitive ability, an achievement test, and an evaluation of emotional and behavioral functioning.

ADHD testing is useful when determining if a student's academic difficulties are the result of an attention problem, behavioral problem or underlying emotional issue.  ADHD testing may include parent and teacher questionnaires, self-report measures, tests of attention, and personality inventories.  This type of testing is often conducted in conjunction with some psychoeducational testing so that a more thorough and individually tailored academic plan can be recommended.

Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD), also known as Autism Spectrum Disorders, are generally present from an early age and affect one's ability to relate to others and/or their environment normally.  Testing for these disorders generally includes an in-depth interview with parents and teachers, a measure of adaptive functioning, standardized parent and teacher questionnaires, and often portions of the psychoeducational battery.  Research demonstrates that early diagnosis and intervention with PDD results in better long term prognosis.

Social and emotional testing, as well as personality testing can be useful when making diagnoses, understanding underlying factors contributing to problems, and making appropriate treatment recommendations.  Personality testing is also used by employers to determine appropriateness for certain type of jobs, and by courts when determining ability to parent and competency issues.

Have confidence that you will receive accurate test results conveyed in a meaningful fashion with appropriate recommendations. All testing is conducted with the most recent versions of tests available.  Each test used meets the local school board requirements of an outside evaluator. Individuals may wish to have the evaluator discuss testing results with outside parties (e.g., schools, teachers, etc) in order to assist with academic planning.  Confidentiality is maintained except where provided by law and results will not be disseminated to outside parties without your express written permission or as required by law.

There are occasions when psychological testing may be court ordered or requested of you by a third party (e.g., school, employer, etc.).

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Individual Therapy

Pain, discomfort, and general dissatisfaction are the greatest motivators for change and generally are what lead people to seek psychotherapy in the first place. According to the American Psychological Association (1998), the most common reasons individuals seek treatment are suicidality, addiction, and eating disorders. However, individual therapy has been shown to be effective for a number of emotional, behavioral, and social problems.  Depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, anger, past trauma, career difficulties, and life and spiritual crises can all be effectively improved with psychotherapy.
According to the American Psychological Association (1998), approximately half of all patients improve after eight sessions, and more than 75% improve by the end of six months of treatment. On average, individuals spend between 13 and 26 weeks in therapy, with a range of several weeks to several years.  A good rule of thumb is the more lasting the problem has been, the greater time that is required to overcome obstacles and create lasting change.  Typically sessions are held once per week; however, during periods of crises the frequency of sessions may increase. While the initial sessions are usually one time per week, frequently people transition from problem management to personal growth at a more infrequent rate of visitation.

Some common outcomes of individual therapy include:

  • Achieving a higher self-esteem
  • Developing a more positive self-image
  • Managing stress more effectively
  • Eliminating problem behaviors and learning about their triggers
  • Changing self-defeating patterns
  • Gaining insight into root causes of problem behaviors
  • Enhancing the quality of interpersonal relationships
  • Becoming a more effective communicator
  • Overcoming addiction
  • Adjusting to life transitions

One of the more curative factors of therapy is the relationship that is developed between the therapist and the client. As individuals make progress towards accomplishing the initial problems that led them to therapy, some find the process of therapy rewarding and elect to continue on a path of personal growth.   This form of therapy can be extremely life enriching by helping you to uncover a greater understanding of oneself, develop more conscious living and live a more peaceful and balanced existence.  I offer guidance, support and thoughtfulness for this type of self-discovery and personal growth.

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Couples Counseling

Maintaining a healthy and long lasting relationship requires work and effort in the form of compromise for both parties involved.  The goal of couples counseling is to help couples understand and resolve their conflicts and improve their relationships.  Couples therapy may be sought during any phase of the relationship from pre-marital to dissolution. During sessions, the couple is provided with tools to communicate and problem solve more effectively.  Efforts are made to restore trust, rebuild respect and appreciation, and recover intimacy for one another while helping each partner get their needs met. In the case of divorce counseling, couples are directed towards a peaceful and respectful separation.  When children are involved, their needs are considered and foremost.
Unfortunately, most relationships aren't perfect.  Each person brings his or her own ideas, values, opinions and personal history into a relationship, and they don't always match their partners'.  Despite these differences, relationships can be one of the most rewarding aspects of a person's life.  In fact, connection to others, and the ultimate connection of a loving relationship, is commonly considered to be a core factor in determining happiness.

Couples therapy provides a neutral third party to assist a couple in understanding and resolving their conflicts in order to improve the relationship. This type of therapy may vary in length from a few sessions to several months, and the amount of work will be directly proportional to the perceived perception and duration of the problem.

Couples therapy can be effective at helping you cope with:

  • Chronic Arguments
  • Anger
  • Unmet expectations
  • Infidelity
  • Divorce
  • Blended families
  • Substance Abuse
  • Physical or mental conditions
  • Same-sex relationship issues
  • Cultural differences
  • Finances
  • Role changes such as retirement or unemployment
  • Sexual difficulties
  • Infertility

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Family Therapy

There may be times when a family changes in dynamics or seems to be stuck in a pattern of reacting to one another that is counterproductive.  Sometimes children can present with issues that are found to have their roots in family issues, or a family may be affected by a child's illness or disability, here a combination of individual and family therapy may be useful.

All families have strengths that they can use to overcome their areas of difficulty. The goal of family therapy is to direct the family to finding their own solutions.  During the sessions, family members reveal their methods of interaction with one another.  This provides rich opportunity to give and receive feedback in a safe and supportive atmosphere.   Family members learn new communication skills and identify patterns in former communication styles that served as triggers to escalate family difficulties.

We may explore family roles, values, rules and behavior patterns in order to identify areas that contribute to conflict.  Together, we will identify the family's and the member's positive attributes and utilize these strengths to work through the problem areas.

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Group Therapy

Groups Now Open! Click here for more information! 

Group therapy is a powerful and highly effective method of addressing interpersonal issues. Problems that are well-suited to group therapy include: patterns of relationship dysfunction, social skills and communication enhancement, and issues related to intimacy and trust. When people enter group therapy and interact freely with other group members, they often recreate the difficulties that brought them to therapy in the first place. While interpersonal issues are often initially addressed during individual therapy, group therapy offers multiple relationships to assist the individual in further growth and problem solving.

People who make good candidates for group therapy may have:

  • Desire for personal growth
  • Shyness
  • Interpersonal difficulties
  • Social anxiety
  • Have problems "fitting in"
  • Problematic behaviors
  • Conflict with coworkers or peers
  • Difficulties with assertiveness
  • Feel misunderstood by others
  • Frequent feelings of anger
  • Patterns of family or relationship problems
  • Problems with trust and intimacy
  • Existential concerns

Group therapy provides the unique opportunity to observe and reflect on your own and others' interpersonal skills and to give and receive feedback in an interpersonal context that more accurately reflects real life.  Under the skilled direction of the therapist, the group is able to give support, offer alternatives, or gently confront the person.  Through this process, insight is gained, alternative behaviors are learned, and the person develops new and more effective ways of relating to others.

Some of the benefits of group therapy may include:

  • Hope
  • Guidance
  • Social skills building
  • Catharsis
  • Existential factors
  • Interpersonal learning
  • Resolution of family issues
  • Altruism

While most people have some fear of opening up to others, after a few sessions members usually find that they are able to open up in the group. Members learn through active participation as well as observation.  Typically groups consist of 6 to 10 members that meet weekly for 90 minutes. Groups range in duration, from 10 weeks to one year. A minimum of one individual evaluation session is required of all candidates for group therapy in order to determine if group therapy could be an effective approach and which group would be most beneficial to the specific goals of the client. Individuals who are suicidal, homicidal, psychotic, or in the midst of a major crisis are typically not good candidates for group therapy until their emotional and behavior states have stabilized.

Groups Now Open! Click here for more information!

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Parental Planning

Divorce can be a particularly stressful period for families as each member learns the new rules and boundaries governing old relationships.  Numerous studies demonstrate that parental cooperation versus parental conflict minimizes the negative effects of divorce on children.  As a psychologist, with specialized training in Family Mediation, and more than a decade of experience working with children and families, I am able to facilitate all steps of a marital dissolution, particularly the factors related to co-parenting.  In my experience, most parents love their children and wish to cause their children the least amount of harm as a result of divorce.  Commitment to the needs of the children provides the common ground necessary in order to create a successful parenting plan.

Effective October 1, 2008, Florida statutes require that all parties filing for divorce complete a parenting plan. According to the statutes (Ch. 2008-61 section 13), "Parenting plan means a document created to govern the relationship between the parties relating to the decisions that must be made regarding the minor child and shall contain a time-sharing schedule for the parents and child.  The issues concerning the minor child may include, but are not limited to, the child's education, health care, and physical, social, and emotional well-being.  In creating the plan, all circumstances between the parties, including the parties' historic relationship, domestic violence, and other factors must be taken into consideration.  The parenting plan shall be developed and agreed to by the parents and approved by the court or, if the parents can not agree, established by the court."

As a psychologist, I may make parenting plan recommendations; however, these recommendations are non-binding and must be agreed on by both parties and approved by a court of law.  When making recommendations, the best interests of the child(ren) are my primary consideration.  Remember, you know your children best.  As a professional, it is my job to help you and your spouse find a mutually agreeable way to transition from a spousal relationship to a parenting partnership in a manner that best meets your children's specific needs.

Additional fee applied.

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Bariatric Evaluations

As part of the preparation process for bariatric surgery, patients are usually required to complete a psychological evaluation. This assessment aims to identify psychosocial risk factors and make recommendations to both the client and surgical group that are aimed at facilitating the best possible outcome for the patient.

Patients are typically faced with initial dietary restrictions, permanent changes in eating and dietary habits, altered body sensations and experiences, shifting body image and self care behaviors, new cognitions and feelings, and an emerging and different lifestyle. In addition, they may realize sometimes unexpected and significant changes in relationships that may result in marked stress. Bariatric surgery is a highly effective procedure that not only reconfigures and/or restricts a patient’s stomach, but significantly affects their psyche as well. Generally patients will need a secure identity, sound psychological resources, resiliency, effective coping strategies, and willingness to access meaningful support from others.

When problematic pre-surgery psychosocial factors are identified, the clinician is able to alert the treatment team and the patient, and make appropriate recommendations. Recommendations may include pharmacological interventions, psycho-education, and psychotherapy.  to address potential post surgery stumbling blocks, nutritional consultation, close aftercare monitoring, and/or bariatric surgery support group attendance.

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Eating Disorder Evaluations

More than 11 million people suffer from eating disorders including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder. Eating disorders frequently appear during the teen years or young adulthood but may also develop during childhood or later in life. Sufferers often exhibit warning signs and symptoms such as obsessions with food, weight and appearance. These obsessions can be strong enough to disrupt an individual’s daily activities, relationships and physical health.

If you are concerned that you, a friend, or family member may have an eating disorder, you should consider scheduling a consultation with a mental health expert who can help you navigate symptoms and treatment.

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Animal-Assisted Therapy

 Meet Aggie and Phil, who can join you in your journey toward wellness.

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