Child psychologist: extended concussion symptoms / headache management

My 8-year old son received a concussion three months ago and has lingering headache symptoms. His excellent doctor and physical therapist at Oakland Children's recommend we talk to a psychologist about post-concussion syndrome. I am wondering if anyone has dealt with this particular issue, or just has a wonderful child psychologist they recommend, who can get us pointed in the right direction.

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I recommend you look up Eric Freitag, PhD. We found him very helpful. He’s a psychologist who specializes in concussions and children.  

You might talk to Dr Arrillaga to see if he'd be a fit. Concussion was the main reason my teen sought his care. He also does neuro testing.

This might not be what you're looking for, but have you considered a DO who does cranial osteopathy?  If my child suffered from a concussion that's the first place I would go.  You can learn more here:

This is additional training that DOs (Doctors of Osteopathy) take (and very different from sacral-cranial therapists, who have only 24 hrs of training). DOs, like MDs, have unlimited medical license to practice.  You can learn more about osteopathy here: We took our son to Dr Sorrel when she was in the Bay Area (she's now in Santa Rosa) and I believe it helped.  If a blow to the head isn't a good thing it stands to reason that any gentle work to help the skull bones "reset" to their proper place can help with healing: reduce the inflammatory response, allow for draining (scientists have discovered the brain has a lymphatic system, and cranial osteos are well trained to aid in promoting needed drainage).  It's a biomechanical response to a biomechanical injury.  At the least, it won't do any harm- the manual manipulation is very gentle- feels like a light massage.

More on osteopathy and concussions: for a 2nd study.


Hi, I have personally experienced post-concussion syndrome, and still have some lingering effects. I can't recommend a pediatric specialist, but I can recommend an excellent, empathic  neurologist--Dr Selena Ellis. And an exceptionally smart and empathetic neuropsychologist--Tom Van Vleet (tomvanvleet [at] would be the best way to reach him)--whose research and practice is in TBI and post-concussion effects. They have been very helpful for me. I also used a speech therapist and an occupational therapist through Alta Bates for a short time. Tom is really only available Wednesdays, and he does not take insurance, but he can bill you and you can submit bills to your insurance if they take out-of-network providers.

I can go on ad nauseam about how difficult PCS and related symptoms can be, and how other symptoms can be linked. Dr. Ellis will evaluate him thoroughly (she helped me understand all that I was experiencing). If your son's only lingering symptom is headache, I can guess that he probably needs more cognitive rest--in the form of naps, more sleep, no electronics, and maybe just time in a (darkened) room with no noise or other stimulation, trying not to think. All the professionals I saw told me that if I experienced symptoms (e.g., confusion, drowsiness, headaches), it was because I had already overtaxed my brain and should have stopped to rest already. So any neuro-professional may give your son similar advice. Cognitive rest is really the only way to recover. 

Tom & Dr Ellis would be helpful in fully assessing and advising him. If they don't take children as patients, I'm sure they can refer you to someone else.

The only other thing I can offer, if you're still looking for more, is that the daughter of a friend of mine suffered a concussion playing soccer. Her club had the right protocol (this is how I first learned that I'd been given bad advice from the ER). She's in the south bay, but I could ask her if she took her daughter to a neurologist or other specialist, and whether she went to a pediatric specialist. Her daughter was on a very limited school schedule for about 3 months, and I think it was a month or more before she was allowed to listen to music or watch TV. 

Good luck. Tell him he will likely start feeling better soon, especially if he rests!! The first 3-6 months can be the most difficult. I'm told recovery is quicker with kids, but for me the first 3 months were horrible, and I didn't see any real improvement until about 6 months. My headaches began to diminish in about 6 months, and it was about a year before I could say my head didn't hurt most or much of the time. The rest I forced myself to take was the most helpful; probably good if your son can get as much as possible before school starts. It's surprising what can be exhausting, so the need for rest can be subtle. The first day I went back into the office, just seeing and talking to people was so exhausting I went home and slept 18 hours! (I'm normally an extrovert and an insomniac.)

I hope this helps. Please contact the moderator if you'd like me to talk to you further.

Hi again, just wanted to provide some more direct information. The therapist who has been helping is Alissa Blackman MFT on 66th and Telegraph. Johanna's contact is johanna.ortis [at] and 510.303.3197. She can explain more why at this stage it has been an MFT who has helped the most, and the other approaches and therapies they tried along the way. All the best, Elizabeth

I really appreciate these specific and thorough recommendations.

The symptoms seem to have resolved for the moment, but I am keeping all of this information on file for the time being.

Many thanks!!!