The decision to seek mental health assistance is a tough one for many parents. Here is what you can expect.
1. Therapy is work. You are seeking help because you are feeling overwhelmed and want someone to really appreciate your situation. I’m going to ask lots of questions to help me understand what’s going on. I don’t need as much detail as you want to offer, so don’t be upset if I interrupt you to focus on the information that is really essential.
You and your child will likely leave my office with work to complete. Therapy is not just talking about how you feel. It’s about changing how you behave and think. If you are unable to complete these tasks because you are too busy or overwhelmed, don’t waste your time seeking help.
2. Therapy is about change. “I’ve tried everything with her, and nothing works” is perhaps the most common comment I hear in my office. Therapy will be successful only if you are willing to try something different. Your child’s behavior is more likely to change when you do. If my suggestions are always met by “that won’t work,” I’ve got to wonder why you are seeking help.
While every child and family are unique in some ways, I can share with you the wisdom of parents and others who have successfully solved the problems you are trying to manage. Please be positive, be willing to try different approaches and have confidence in the process.
3. I am not your friend. I love my job. It’s really hard for me not to get attached to your kids, and to you. However, my success as a therapist depends upon my staying emotionally distant from you. I’ve had lots of training in how to do this, but it’s still really difficult.
Please understand if I don’t attend your child’s graduation or share lots of personal information about my family. You don’t want me as your friend. Once I cross that boundary line, I am no longer an objective, helpful therapist.
4. Your child will relapse. After a while, you’ll see some very significant changes in your child. We’ll meet less frequently, but a time may come when your child’s behavior will again be problematic. Don’t be overly concerned. We’ll talk about why this happens, and what you can do about it.
5. My goal is to make myself unnecessary. Our goal is for you to be confident and comfortable in managing your child’s behavior. I know I’ve done a good job when you come into my office and say you no longer need me.
Next week: The value of reminiscing.
Dr. Ramey is the executive director of Dayton Children’s Hospital’s Pediatric Center for Mental Health Resources and can be contacted at Rameyg@childrensdayton.org.