difficult child needs therapy but refuses, don't know how to approach it

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by alldone, Oct 30, 2009.

  1. alldone

    alldone New Member

    So my difficult child is 10 now. She had some individual therapy when she was 7, for anxiety. When she was 8 we did family therapy (really, just me and her dad in there trying to figure out how to parent her better) for awhile. Last fall when she was 9, she had a few sessions of therapy to get her through a rough time (I think she went in 3 times?). By the last session she was refusing to go into the therapist's office, and it was a difficult hour. Wouldn't talk even when we got her in there. But anyway, things were good for awhile. She really was doing better.

    Now I think she really needs the therapy. I think she may need medication. I mean, things are better than two years ago but for the last few months she's just been difficult. She is just so moody, so mean to all of us, so defiant about everything. I think her anxiety is increasing again (though it's hard to tell, she doesn't exactly express that directly...so frustrating). And though we've learned a lot about how to respond to her it's just still so difficult to live with her. And she is miserable. So a couple of times I've brought up the idea of therapy as gently and positively as I could, even pointing out that my youngest is in therapy and liking it, and she is just adamantly opposed to the idea. I have visions of trying to get her into the office and her having a huge meltdown in the waiting room. That wouldn't be all bad, it would let any therapist see what we deal with. But I'm concerned that she will refuse to willingly participate.

    I'm babbling. I guess what I'd like to know is how any of you have gone about handling a difficult child's refusal to cooperate with therapy. I am so done battling with her, my instinct right now is to just not fight this battle. I don't know what to do.

    I just want to enjoy my kids. I'm so tired of living like this.
  2. flutterby

    flutterby Fly away!

    I lived the same thing with my daughter. Bottom line is if the child is not willing to participate, then it's a waste of your time and the therapists time.

    You could try to continue to approach it - gently and you'll feel like a broken record - without really forcing the issue. She needs to feel like it's her choice/decision. Those with anxiety feel like they have very little control over their environment, so it's very important, in my humble opinion, for her to feel like this is something she has a choice in.

    That doesn't mean you completely leave the issue alone. It's more a matter of timing. I don't know what your daughter does, but my daughter would have these marathon "angst sessions", as I called them, where she would go on for hours about how miserable she was. I would exhaust all of my knowledge and ability to help, and when that wasn't enough would broach the therapist subject. Like I said, broken record. The more it went on, the less help I offered because it was the same thing over and over again and she rejected it all. It was also incredibly frustrating and draining.

    I didn't enjoy my child for a long, long time. It took a very long time, but she finally realized that therapy was the best option. Once she bought into it, she was completely into it. We still have a long way to go, but I actually have a lot of moments where I enjoy my daughter again.

    It was an incredibly long process and I wish I had found a better way to circumvent it. For my daughter, this is what it took. She had to buy into therapy or it would be a waste of time. And we had already wasted years on therapy she wasn't really participating in and wasn't buying into at all. in my opinion, if you force a child into therapy who isn't willing, you're setting up a situation where the child where dig in her heels and may never be willing to try therapy again.

    Hang in there. It's a long road. And make sure to carve out time for yourself.

  3. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    You could bring her. However, you can't make her talk or accept it. Therapy is hard work...I"ve been in it. It's a lot like school. If you refuse to learn or attend to it, you don't get much out of it. And it's more expensive than school.
  4. flutterby

    flutterby Fly away!

    One more thing I wanted to add - every therapist we've ever seen has said if the child is not willing to participate, not to force her.

    A big part of it is finding a therapist that you feel will really 'get' difficult child and will be compatible. You might try scoping some out in the meantime.
  5. smallworld

    smallworld Moderator

    Sometimes when kids feel better from medication, they are more willing to access therapy. So you could have her evaluated by a child psychiatrist to see if she needs medications and then approach the therapy piece when she's more stable moodwise.

    With my own kids, therapy and medications have always gone hand-in-hand.
  6. alldone

    alldone New Member

    Yeah, I think she needs to want to go to therapy. The last therapist said "you can't force it." I know. I just want her to want it. I'll just keep presenting it as an option now and then, I guess. I'll try to find out if people around here can recommend some therapists she might click with, in the meantime. We can't go back to the old therapist, because of insurance.

    I'm just having a really bad day. One of those days where I just want us to be able to enjoy each other. Where I just want to see her happy, and not screaming at her siblings or me. Where I just want to be a normal mom with a normal family, doing and enjoying normal things the way I imagine normal families do. You know. Sad. Pity party and all that. Having a good cry before they all come home from school. Have to do that sometimes.

    Thank you all for your responses. Thank you for being here. I don't post much at all, but I do come here to read when I need to know I'm not alone. It means so much to me to know that.
  7. bby31288

    bby31288 Active Member

    You are not alone. My difficult child will be 17 tomorrow, and she refuses therapy. She flat out refuses to speak. She says its no ones business. We have tried many thru the years, but none worked.
  8. rlsnights

    rlsnights New Member

    I'm not sure I'd say they have to want to go, more that they can't be adamantly opposed to it.

    I second the idea of focusing on medications first and if you see improvement then re-considering therapy. But I would be VERY careful about choosing a therapist this time. I would make sure it is someone with lots of experience with adolescents (she'll be there before you know it) and older children who would play games with a kid of 10 instead of trying to do traditional talk therapy.

    Art therapy is another great avenue with kids that's not threatening but still allows some interaction and therapeutic exchange whether the kid knows it or not.

    One thing that worked with my anxious and sometimes very irritating daughter who didn't want to do therapy was finding a therapist with a therapy dog. Broke the ice big time and they went for walks with the dog and just talked about helping the dog learn to obey commands etc but they were ideas about self-control and discipline that also applied to managing anxiety and becoming an adult.
  9. tictoc

    tictoc New Member

    Have you tried play therapy? We haven't tried it (yet), but we have friends who are having good luck with it for their 7 yo son.

    My difficult child also is resistant to therapy. We tried CBT for a while, but Bug is just too young. He really doesn't want to talk about his anxiety. I find that bringing things up in small doses while in the car is the best approach for us.

    We also get a lot of help from Bug's occupational therapist. She is fun and playful and he opens up to her in ways he doesn't with other people. I learn a lot about his world while watching his Occupational Therapist (OT).
  10. emotionallybankrupt

    emotionallybankrupt New Member

    How often have your instincts been wrong? It sounds to me like you know exactly what to do for right now. Meanwhile, checking out alternatives for therapists and types of therapy will put you on ready for when the time is right.
  11. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    I don't fully agree. I truly never cared if my kids wanted to go to therapy, a doctor, get vaccines, or most any other form of health care. I can guarantee that at age 10 even Wiz knew not to push me too hard on it.

    You cannot make her participate. This is true. You can offer incentives. Sometimes that helps.

    Often the child cannot see how it will help and why bother. A good therapist will gain insight even when the child refuses to talk. Most, esp at her age, should make some other activity or game be the "focus". Then therapy happens during the game. At one point I did tell Wiz that if he refused to go to the therapist then he had best get used to a room with nothing but a bed, a blanket, a pillow and a light. And no clothing choices - clothing would be handed out to him each day. MY choice of clothing.

    I rarely went that hard at anything, but we were approaching a crisis and he NEEDED the therapy. If she doesn't want to talk, she can sit their and listen to you and the therapist talk, or sit in the waiting room while you and teh therapist chat.

    That way the therapist can get to know more about her, help you parent, and at some point hopefully begin to participate.

    My kids didn't balk too often because they KNEW that I felt it was in their best interest and they KNEW that I would do exactly what I said I would do. Every last bit of it.

    I am NOT saying that what I did would work for you. Though I do strongly feel that if you can get her there, esp if she can listen to you and the therapist talk, she might join in. It is not a sure bet, but it is possible. Esp if you can distract her by playing cards or whatever with her and the doctor.

    EVERY therapist who approached one of my kids to sit and talk back and forth failed. The ones who succeeded were the ones who went slow and used a game or activity to build a relationship.

    Just in my humble opinion. I realize that each difficult child and family is different, so this might be a disaster for you.

    I hope you can find the help she needs.