Bad grades.
Bad attitude.

Is your Child Failing School?


Is your Child Failing school? Try academic counseling. Academic struggles in children can have root causes in mental health. We work with kids to develop an academic mindset.

Poor Grades on Your Mind? Our Therapy Can Help with Academic Struggles

Is your child suddenly coming home from school with report cards that don’t reflect what they usually were? Does your child have (or maybe never had) poor study habits when it comes to homework and studying? Poor grades are a red flag for many parents, and us. 

One of the top concerns that parents have about their child are concerns over academics. Any parent that has hope for the child’s future understands the importance of academic success and if there is any extra help they can get to assist their child they take it. In fact, at least 20% of children have emotional and behavioral difficulties at any given point in time. Add onto that that 60-80% of children with anxiety and depression are not receiving proper treatment. Undiagnosed mental illness plays a major factor in poor academic performance. [2

We understand that often the issue isn’t low intelligence or poor teacher support, typically there is an underlying behavioral issue. Grades are most associated with intelligence and motivation (the latter is mostly behavioral) [1]. So for many students (even smart ones) lasting academic success requires a change in behavior. And as with many behavioral issues that we deal with, the earlier the intervention the better. 

A growing number of children are developing behavioral problems. As schools increase hours, move earlier and limit play/social time, children are becoming more and more stressed. On top of that, specific events at home can also trigger poor academics. Many children suffer from an adjustment disorder as they adjust to a new school after a move, death or divorce. Serious medical conditions can also abruptly change a child’s schedule and behavior. At such critical moments (and overall) it is important to keep an eye out for behaviors in your child that may develop into habits. The earlier you catch a habit the less it stays ingrained in your child’s brain. 

It’s important for parents to pay attention to their child’s behavior in schools. Many children slip through the cracks as frontline staff (teachers, coaches) don’t have comprehensive training when it comes to mental health. In fact, 99.9% of student time in school is with professionals that don’t have proper mental health training. [3] this is why it’s important for parents to be investigators and advocates for their child’s mental health, so that they don’t get overlooked. 

We can help you look out for behaviors and attitudes that should raise alarms in your mind. It is important for us that parents get all the information they need to make an informed decision for their child’s mental health.

After reading this if you are still unsure if this information is related to your child you can contact us and we may be able to better advise you.

Academic Struggles that Behavioral Therapy Addresses:

  • Not finishing homework
  • Trouble making friends
  • Acting up in class/ not paying attention
  • Frequent disciplinary action for behaviors – typically aggression or frustration displayed at school
  • Truancy/ Missing class
  • Underachievement
  • Procrastination
  • Test anxiety

My Child Has One of These Behaviors. Is Therapy Best?

It can be difficult to tell whether a child needs tutoring or behavioral work. This line of questioning may help you determine which path is best for your struggling child:

(1.) When you talk with your child’s teacher(s) do they say that your child pays attention in class (sits still, takes notes, doesn’t interrupt)?

If the answer is yes, that means that your child is trying to engage, but that just isn’t enough. She may need tutoring or academic support to better engage with the material. Other possibilities may be vision problems, a learning disorder, dyslexia, etc. 

If the answer is no, then the core of the issue is behavioral and could likely be addressed with therapy. 

(2.) If you provide your child with academic support such as a tutor, does she show up and participate fully?

Again, if the answer is no, then the core cause is likely behavioral.

A Note on Learning Disorders

Acuity is not equipped to treat and medicate learning disorders (ADD, ADHD) on our own, but we do often identify and work with partners who do handle that side of treatment. Because of this we don’t offer evaluations to qualify for 504/IEP plans and other state mandated academic support.

However you should know that many parents misdiagnose common mental health struggles that we do work on children with (anxiety, depression, etc.) as learning disorders when this is not really the case. In fact, most learning disorders have a behavioral component for which we can help.

The Acuity Approach to Academic Struggles

First session: You and your child will meet with one of our child therapists and discuss the situation. Our therapist will ask questions to really get to the heart of the issue and determine whether testing may be needed. “How often does this behavior occur? When in the week?” At this time we will also develop a basic plan with goals that can guide the next steps in therapy. “What outcome do you want to achieve from our sessions together?”

Second session: If a learning disability is suspected, we will help connect you with a testing specialist in the area. We may set a goal of completing related tests in the first few months of therapy.

Later sessions: At Acuity we use a variety of evidence based methods (including CBT) to create the perfect approach for every child. The core of all of these approaches involves getting to the core emotion that leads to the behavior in question. When it comes to academics, many kids believe that they are “stupid” perhaps from what others have told them, or from their interpretation of their situation. We work on why that is, and come up with some activities and skills to better manage those negative thoughts. Future sessions may involve reviewing the application of these skills in daily life and following up on the goals we set early on in therapy.

How Mental Health Affects Grades

When a child is struggling with a mental condition, the majority of their mental state is focused on creating, processing and fighting negative thoughts. When they spend most of their mental energy on this perpetual fight, they get worn out and have less energy to engage in class. This is why it is common to see children with anxiety and depression getting frequent headaches and low energy levels. Both of which further distract from learning.  

When it comes to depressed kids, they often think “I can’t succeed at schoolwork so why even try? And who cares?” It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that because they can’t succeed, they won’t try and therefore fail. If you have heard such concerns from your child then know that these are major red flags. We work with kids on the many root causes of depression that lead to lower grades. You can read more about our approach to depression in children here.

On the other hand, children with anxiety often think “It’s too overwhelming to do this homework and study. I should avoid it.” Often these children are extreme procrastinators. If you child has said these things when questioned about their procrastination, that is a major red flag for anxiety.

Children with social anxiety or separation anxiety will go to extreme lengths to avoid attending school (such as faking sickness every morning). While children with test or presentation anxieties are hindered during the school day. 

Children that have experienced trauma (even on more “mild” forms like bullying) often have poor conceptions of their self worth. If they don’t believe they are worthy of approval or good grades they don’t seek this out. This also often shows up in a “who cares attitude” and avoidance of school. It can be a component of both depression and anxiety in children. Learn more about how we approach child trauma here.

What Parents Can Do On Their Own

Before you pursue therapy there are a few things that you can try to be certain that a behavioral intervention is best.

  1. Create an environment supportive of learning. If your student is supposed to be doing homework then you need to limit the distractions available to them while they do it. This means no TV or music “in the background.”
  2. Talk to your child about their thoughts and feelings. Push a bit deeper past “I hate school”, but understand that especially in the teenage years children don’t want to share much with their parents. Provide support and encouragement as best you can, but expect some privacy from children in terms of their relationship with you. 
  3. Get to know your child’s peers. As children grow they begin to respect and follow their peers more than their parents. Understanding what your child’s social group is like is important when it comes to academic success. 
  4. Encourage holistic health. Proper sleep, nutrition and exercise are important (though indirect) factors that are involved with academic performance. The neurotransmitters in the brain that regulate mood are built from certain chemicals in our diet. For example, amino acids like tryptophan are important in the regulation of mood. Tryptophan can be found in poultry, fish oil, beans, nuts and seeds 
  5. Talk with your child’s teacher to get a betterer picture of what your child’s classroom behavior is like. Taking notes at that meeting that can be shared with your child’s mental health support network is important for us to guide best practices.

Frequently Asked Questions for Children Struggling with Academics

Do you prescribe medication for children?

We typically suggest that parents start with talk therapy before jumping into medication. Once we have a good grasp on what the situation is, we connect parents with psychopharmacologists in the area who can prescribe appropriate medications. Generally, we listen to the cues of parents on this. Some parents avoid medicating their child and we can work with a more naturalistic approach (but we will advise what we think may be best as well).

Will you disagree with my parenting?

We won’t criticise your parenting, but will follow your lead. However, issues in families and in children typically are related to the family system.That means that the best results happen when there is significant parental involvement and buy-in. We will suggest certain actions you can take in terms of your parenting, but we understand that ultimately the responsibility lies in your methods

Do you work with divorced parents?

We do work with divorced parents. We will collaborate primarily with whatever parent is bringing the child to therapy. If you have joint custody that may mean we work with parents on alternatinating weeks. If the parents can be civil then they can both be included in group sessions when needed. In any case, we don’t take sides between parental conflicts, and prefer to have a parenting plan in place when it comes to implementation of therapy solutions. Please note that our therapists are mandated court reporters. We must report any instances of abuse, hurt, neglect, financial exploitation or serious threats children make to others or themselves.

Which therapist is right for us?

Let us help you find the right therapist. Many of our therapists specialize in anxiety, so view our profiles online to learn more about specific counselors specializing in anxiety treatment or speak with our Client Care Coordinator, who can help you with a personalized match to the right therapist for your needs. 

Finding the RIGHT therapist is the most important piece of reaching your goals.

How long does Therapy take?

Counseling works best within the framework of a safe and trusted therapeutic alliance. Since it takes time to build this relationship with your therapist, we recommend committing to weekly sessions for at least 8 weeks. Research shows that consistency adds to the positive outcomes of therapy. Once you reach your 8-week goal, you and your therapist can discuss a frequency of sessions that will support your continued success.

I’ve never done therapy before...What can I expect in my sessions?

The unknown of anything new can make it scary. Especially if you’ve never been to counseling before. Let us show you the “roadmap” so you know what to expect:

1st Session:
This first meeting is an introduction for both you and your counselor. Your therapist will explain the therapy process and go over the specifics of informed consent. From there, your therapist will gather additional information about your history, current circumstances, as well as struggles and personal strengths, which will help them to define a treatment plan that aligns with your goals. 

This is also the chance for you to learn more about your therapist. We encourage you to ask questions and get to know them; the relationship you build with your therapist will be the most important part of your work together. 

2nd Session and Future sessions:
In your weekly sessions, you and your therapist will use evidenced based therapies such as CBT, Mindfulness or ACT, to help you address your symptoms of worry, stress and anxiety. For anxiety rooted in trauma, or related to obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), your therapist may recommend treatment with EMDR.

Closing Sessions:
Our goal is for you to find relief from your anxiety and be ready to “graduate” from therapy. In the last few sessions with your therapist, you will review your initial goals, the progress you have made, and solidify your new skills for managing anxiety in your life. At your last meeting together, you’ll have the time for the meaningful goodbye with your therapist.

How much does Counseling cost?

We strive to create access to high quality mental healthcare for everyone. Our therapists’ rates vary by experience and specialized training. We will make every effort to find the right therapist for you. 

Acuity Counseling also accepts health insurance and offers both in-network and out-of-network coverage. 

We are in-network partners with: 



First Choice

Premera Blue Cross

* We do not participate in EAP plans

Why don’t you only use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?

While we use CBT as an aspect of our therapeutic approaches, we know that every individual is different. No one responds to any method perfectly, so by employing many techniques we are able to provide the most personalized support. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is talked about in relation to mental health so often because it has a large body of research behind it and is easy to replicate across all cases. This is why you may hear it called “evidence based,” which it certainly is. However, we use other evidence based therapies in conjunction with CBT in our therapies.

How can I evaluate whether therapy is working?

Acuity is unique because we use research backed questionnaires to assess your mood, goals and progress. From time to time we may share with you your progress on these reports, “you report being angry 30% less days than when you started therapy,” and then ask what your goals for the future may be. We have found that by having clients set their own goals and following up regularly we can achieve better results.

Is medication used in conjunction with your therapy?

Some conditions for some people are best treated with the help of medication. If we find it necessary after our initial assessments, we will discuss types of medication, your comfort with it, and the pros and cons of medication with you. If you so choose, we can refer you to the appropriate psychopharmacologist in the area. If you are already on medication, we will coordinate treatment with your primary provider.

How long does therapy take?

Counseling works best within the framework of a safe and trusted therapeutic alliance. Since it takes time to build this relationship with your therapist, we recommend committing to weekly sessions for at least 8 weeks. Research shows that consistency adds to the positive outcomes of therapy. Once you reach your 8-week goal, you and your therapist can discuss a frequency of sessions that will support your continued success.

Break-free and begin your journey to

Your best

There is a future life where trauma does not control your day. Imagine yourself feeling calm, confident and ready to handle new situations with ease. The tools to living the life you have always envisioned are here, at your fingertips.

Acuity Counseling can help.


Schedule your therapy session online

Reach out directly to our Client Care Coordinator for questions, matching, and scheduling:

Online Counseling

Our services are also available online through Zoom. Telehealth/Online counseling gives you the opportunity to explore your challenges in life without complicating your daily schedule.


If you have questions and would like to talk about any of our counseling services, please reach out for a complimentary phone consultation or send us an email.

First Session Within 72 Hours of Calling

We book you an appointment within 24 hours of contacting us (usually less) and make sure your first appointment is soon after.

Seattle: 206-922-2376

Bellevue: 425-549-3242

Bothell/Woodinville: 206-910-9476

for Billing questions call:



Use our Online Scheduling Tool or call our office to schedule your appointment, or for any changes regarding scheduling.

Schedule by phone: 206-910-9476


Counseling services are often covered in full or in part by your health insurance company. Acuity Counseling proudly accepts most major health insurance plans.


First Choice





Sound Health & Wellness

We do not participate
in EAP Plans

Acuity Counseling Locations




Falcon View
12900 NE 180th St, Suite 160
Bothell, WA 98011
(206) 910-9476

Plaza 600 Building
600 Stewart St, Suite 1228
Seattle WA 98101
(206) 910-9476

–Coming Fall 2021–
221 N Wall St.
Spokane WA 99201

(206) 910-9476

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