Brave Buddies FAQ

Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the Brave Buddies Program and what to expect if your child participates.

Who is eligible to participate in Brave Buddies?

Children diagnosed with selective mutism (SM) between the ages of three and eight are invited to join the Brave Buddies℠ program. Multi-day programs are open to current, former and new patients who have been determined to be eligible by the clinical team at the Child Mind Institute. Daylong sessions are for current and former patients only.

For new out-of-town families, a screening evaluation by phone with one of our Brave Buddies staff will help determine if Brave Buddies is appropriate for your child. Your child does not need to be a current or prior patient at the Child Mind Institute to participate in the Brave Buddies weeklong program. Please be advised that the spaces reserved for new out-of-town families typically fill up quickly. We can coordinate care with your other providers.

Do you treat children older than eight?

Yes, we absolutely do. Please call us to discuss the treatments we offer, which include traditional individual treatment, intensive treatments, and school consultations. Our clinicians will develop a tailored treatment plan to address your child’s individual needs.

Is financial aid available?

Yes, qualifying families may be eligible for financial aid. Please request a separate Child Mind Institute Financial Aid Application. We will review your completed application and then establish your fee based on demonstrated financial need. Awards are made on a first-applied, first-served basis.

Will insurance cover the fees?

The Child Mind Institute does not participate as an in-network provider for any specific health insurance plan. Most insurance companies will cover a portion of the fees under “out-of-network, outpatient mental health benefits.” We will provide you with a detailed statement of services provided for you to submit your claim directly to your insurance carrier. We suggest consulting your insurance carrier in advance for the specific benefits of your plan.

Who are the staff and what is the ratio of counselors to children?

The staff consists of licensed psychologists and associate psychologists. In addition, we intensively train volunteers in our evidence-based approaches so they can help support the program as counselors. Each child has his own counselor who works closely with him.

What is a typical day like at Brave Buddies?

Brave Buddies is designed to simulate a typical school day, allowing children many opportunities to practice real-life challenges including morning meetings; choice time; show and tell; field trips to places such as the library, ice cream store, and Central Park Children’s Zoo; guests to interact with such as police officers and firefighters; and the always-popular daily trip to the Brave Buddies prize store — a simulated store where children can purchase prizes with the points they’ve earned for brave talking throughout the day.

How will you work with my child to “Brave Talk”?

Brave Buddies is based on evidence that behavioral therapy for children with selective mutism works best when kids get intense practice at brave talking, and practice their skills across as many different settings and activities as possible. Using behavioral therapy techniques, psychologists and counselors will work with your child to gradually and systematically approach the situations in which she cannot speak, building her confidence one situation at a time. She will never be pressured to speak, and will always encouraged with positive reinforcement.

What is the purpose of lead-in sessions?

Lead-in sessions or “lead-ins” are an opportunity for your child to practice his or her brave talking before participating in the Brave Buddies group program. These sessions also allow your child to meet other Brave Buddies participants and counselors before the program begins. As several variables are different at Brave Buddies (a new location, a group setting) the lead-ins are a way to improve the likelihood of your child’s success in the program. Additionally, these sessions allow the Brave Buddies leaders to better determine initial counselor matches for your child.

We talk about the importance of changing one variable at a time (people, place or activity) but we know Day 1 of Brave Buddies involves changing ALL variables at once and in an intense way. This is why lead-ins are so important. We use lead-ins to reduce this stress by letting your child get familiar with our counselors and the other kids and practicing Brave Talking in a larger format.

When are lead-ins and where do they take place?

Lead-ins take place at the Child Mind Institute on the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday before the Brave Buddies program. Brave Buddies participants typically attend lead-ins for several hours during one or more visits.

Note: If you are registered for an upcoming Brave Buddies session we have likely offered you “windows of time” for lead-ins, and we ask you to be flexible. For example, we may suggest you come for three hours on the Thursday before your Brave Buddies session. If your child transitions well he or she may not end up needing the full three hours. However, your child may need need to use the full three hours. We ask parents to practice distress tolerance as we navigate the dynamics of the kids, the kids within a larger group and with the counselors.

What will my child and I be doing during lead-ins?

During lead-ins your child will be given an opportunity to verbalize with several different individuals and will start to practice verbalizing in a group setting. Parents are not typically involved in these sessions, however it is important that you remain in the waiting room in case you are needed during the fade-in process.

I would like to enroll my child in Brave Buddies and I am new to the Child Mind Institute. What do I need to do?

Please call us at (212) 308-3118 or email BraveBuddies@childmind.org. An intake coordinator will guide you through a description of our Selective Mutism Service and help you determine whether Brave Buddies is appropriate for your child.

All children must be thoroughly evaluated to determine their clinical diagnosis and identify the most appropriate treatment recommendations. The evaluation for selective mutism includes an interview with parents and caregivers and a special observational process of the child. Following the evaluation, your clinician will discuss treatment recommendations which may include Brave Buddies or a number of other treatment options such as one-on-one behavioral intervention, teacher coaching and training, parent coaching and peer group sessions.