Family Therapy

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by klmno, Mar 14, 2009.

  1. klmno

    klmno Active Member

    It loooks like unless difficult child is sent to juvy, which is a very big possibility at this point, family therapy is going to be involved. Now, in the past when we have tried this it has been a disaster. I don't know if it's me expecting something different or if it's the tdocs, or if it's just because it appears since I'm a single Mom that they are treating us like this is couples therapy- like we are 2 equals instead of parent and child. I wanted to throw out how our previous experiences with this has gone and see if this is typical for parent-child family therapy. Also, I was wondering what others have gotten out of it.

    1) therapist blatantly asked difficult child how it felt to be rejected by his father. difficult child clammed up, came home and was an emotional basket case for 2-3 days. I was left trying to figure out how to make him feel better and not take it personally.

    2) therapist went in circles for 3 mos reviewing "history", tried to back me up, difficult child started running away instead of going into office. therapist tdo'd difficult child because he said he didn't know what else to do.

    3) therapist asked me my concerns re. difficult child and I told him illegal activity and not trying to do the best he could. therapist asked difficult child same about me and difficult child said I made a particualr dish for dinner too often. therapist then asked me if I could quit serving that for dinner so often and let difficult child go out with friends to do what he wanted more often. (This is when difficult child was disobeying rules- like coming home on time- every time he went out and he was on a deferred sentnece for 7 charges, 2 felonies.) I asked that therapist if he was willing to put in writing that he would accept legal responsibility and pay any resulting restitution for difficult child if he committed an illegal activity while out doing whatever he wanted if I was following his advice. Of course, he was not.

    4) Tried behavior stuff- rewards and consequences. difficult child went thru every consequence listed on chart in 2 hours.

    5) I spoke with one therapist several times before bringing difficult child into picture. Then, at first meeting/family session, therapist asked difficult child to agree that he wouldn't get mad at me. Then, in spite of the fact that I nearly had begged this therapist NOT to do this, the therapist started telling difficult child every single concern I had about him. difficult child was agreeable during session, although I called it short because of therapist betraying my trust. difficult child came home and basicly punched me all over and kicked me for about 20 mins. Oh- before the session was over, difficult child said he had done everything he had done because I come home from work and drink beer and the therapist then turned focus on me and asked about "my drinking problem".

    6) Current placement asked if I was willing to do family therapy and I said yes but they never pursued an appointment. They told me they think difficult child has major concerns about our relationship and that there is an issue with me not letting him grow up while he's becoming a teenager. I asked for specific examples- like EXACTLY what decision(s) was I making that lead them to believe this and I got no answer.

    There was one that never had a chance to get started- they told me they were going to point out to me what I might be doing that was triggering difficult child and cassuing these things. I told them that was fine, as long as it was equally acceptable for me to point out to them what they had triggered if I was left dealing with an explosion or emotional basket case after a session. I got no response on that either.

    I can't believe it's supposed to go this way, but I could not remember reading anything here about parents and difficult children going to family therapy to resolve the problems. (The above situations were all with different tdocs, by the way)
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2009
  2. JJJ

    JJJ Active Member

    Currently, we have a good family therapist. I insist that we have a goal in place for the session (eg. "accepting parental rules" or "negotiating increased sibling contact"). Then the therapist works on that.

    The therapist tries to restate things for Kanga and supports our decisions so that Kanga is faced with a unified front. She will stop Kanga when she gets disrespectful and insist she try again until she is able to talk appropriately. If therapist disagrees with one of our decisions, she calls us on the phone at another time and we discuss why we have made that decision and she states her reasons for disagreeing and what she would prefer. It we hold firm to our decision, she abides by it and tells Kanag that it is the rule. Sometimes, we agree to go her direction -- usually on issues that impact the program at the Residential Treatment Center (RTC) or on issues that aren't that big a deal with us (i.e. Kanga wearing belts at Residential Treatment Center (RTC) when it was not allowed at home because she hit people with them).

    You seem to really like your therapist. Would she be willing to do the family therapy?
  3. WSM

    WSM New Member

    We had very bad experience with family therapy too, with two exceptions.

    Most of the time it's like a negotiation: these are the things difficult child wants, what is it going to take for us to give it to him. And some of the things he wasn't going to get if he was a perfect kid: in our opinion, no 9 year old needs a cell phone. No. Nor is he going to go to expensive camps. No. And he's not going to Orlando with a family we've never met. No. And he's not going to move in with his crazy grandmother who has a tube in her head and cries every day. No. And he doesn't get his own computer, ipod, phone, another bike, a tv in his room, etc...

    Family therapy was never about what he could do about his behavior. It was the therapist advocating for him and making us the bad guys because we weren't giving him all sorts of privileges and spending lots of money on him and letting him pretty much dictate dinner selection, bedtimes, budget, time management, family policy. When difficult child is around professionals he gets them to feel sorry for him (co dependency RAGES in the child psychiatric field) and gets them to believe that the only reason he doesn't behave is because he (like all the other kids in the house) doesn't have a tv in his room...if only he had a tv, or got to go to such and such $5K a summer camp, or got horse back riding lessons...well then all the problems would go away.

    There have been two exceptions: both the counsellors spent relatively little time with him and a lot of time with us. One was referred to us by the school when we had a suddenly crisis. She talked to him and husband a couple times, then spent the rest of the time on us while he sat in the waiting room. She was EXCELLENT. She had five kids, some hers, some her husbands, some together and a couple adopted. She knew about family blending and her oldest son was as she said a psychopath (he was about 28). She interrupted the cycle of difficult child being able to play husband and me against one another.

    Unfortunately, she could only see us shortterm, she was for crisis, and had to refer us to someone else, who didn't do well.

    The one we have now also sees us mostly and difficult child once every four months or so, and sees us altogether all three once every four months as well. Mostly, she's helping us to parent a difficult child. And it works. It isn't improving him, but it's improving the lives of everyone else around him. There's more balance in the family, the other kids aren't being neglected or swept into the chaos that difficult child creates, and most importantly, difficult child cannot play any of us off against any of the others of us, which he was a master at up until even last July.

    So it may be worth considering a family counsellor who works more with the parents than the difficult child; it seems counter intuitive, but it's worked for us.

    Just an idea.
  4. klmno

    klmno Active Member

    JJJ, You seem to have a good solution. I was all for family therapy under the circumstances that difficult child was in Residential Treatment Center (RTC) and not in the home. My guess is that my therapist would, however, she only takes morning and early afternoon appts, which is enough of a problem for me alone and won't work with difficult child in school if he was to be sent home. I can't keep this up long term either (those hours). We had initially planned for difficult child to see his therapist and me see mine and once I had some of this figured out with therapist, she would discuss it with difficult child's therapist and he would be the one to give us family therapy. He takes later appts and difficult child and I both were comfortable with him. Anyway, before it got to that point, we were having one crisis after another. I have been told that tdocs doing family therapy are not allowed to discuss anything with me that difficult child doesn't know because that would be a conflict of interest. However, they seem to have no problem discussing things with difficult child that I do not know and if he's in there giving them a skewed view of things, I would have no way to address it.

    Oh- if difficult child gets sent home, it would be with court-ordered family therapy and PO overseeing it so if I didn't follow a suggestion, I would be found in non-compliance with court ordered treatment. If I tell the judge at court that I'm simply not willing to allow this scenario, she'll probably either commit difficult child to state juvy or turn him over to dss. I still want "Plan A" which is difficult child going to Residential Treatment Center (RTC), but since I don't have that zipped up, I don't know what to expect or even ask for as a Plan B. I just can't find any of those answers acceptable. Even if I was ok with juvy, difficult child would get out then we'd be right back to where we started from-0 they don't let kids out of juvy without being on probation (if it's local) or parole (if it's state juvy). If he got tyurned over to dss instead of me being able to make a parental placement thru them into Residential Treatment Center (RTC), dss would send difficult child to my bro for a family placement.

    Another question- when a therapist sits there and says "try sending him to his room" am I supposed to tell him in front of difficult child that sometimes that might work, but sometimes difficult child just refuses to go? difficult child is bigger and much stronger than me- I can't make him do anything that he isn't agreeable to. And if we go thru the motions of this until he knows that he's being reported for non-compliance, he might kill me or himself, or both, next time before I have a chance to call cops or before they get here.

    You know, it was bad enough that over the past 3 years when difficult child has been in trouble legally (and I have not, I might add), no one in Department of Juvenile Justice has asked what I was willing to do- I was ordered right along with difficult child as his guardian and had to take legal responsibility, including paying restitution. But, now that he's in there for whipping this knife on me, you would think they could have asked how I felt about thjings and what I was willing to do about him coming home, etc. I just wish I had moved out of this jurisdiction last summer when I was thinking about it.
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2009
  5. JJJ

    JJJ Active Member

    Here is my suggestion (note only a suggestion, you will not hurt my feelings if you tell me I'm way off)

    IF you can't get Residential Treatment Center (RTC) locked up, then allow him to do his time in Department of Juvenile Justice rather than risk him being sent to your brother. While he is in Department of Juvenile Justice, move to another area of your state (get out of that school district, into a different county and away from that POs territory). Get a job there, set up tdocs for yourself and difficult child. I know we have other Virginians on the board, maybe some of them can steer you towards the better areas in Virgina to find mental health services. You are not under court order. When he is released, it should be to your custody where you live then. You won't have a "fresh start" in terms of your son not having a mental illness; but you will have a fresh start with new professionals. The key is to leave the emotional baggage related to this crop of nincompoops behind and give a positive impression to the new pros.
  6. klmno

    klmno Active Member

    That's somewhat what I'm thinking- if I can get out of there witthout a court order. If she sends him home with us requiring so many hours/week of therapy by their tdocs (who call the hours and days), I'll never be able to work full time or get out of here. I tried to explain this to PO's super, but he told me he didn't care.

    Plus, difficult child and I both continuously deteriorated with this PO in our lives. She will never let him offf probation and will not give any criteria or means to get off. difficult child's therapist said this made difficult child hopeless and give up- which made me crazy because I couldn't get him to do anything. Then, he started refusing to listen to me at all and didn't care what he did because he knew PO would come down on me instead of him. It's like there is no way out.

    'I don't want it to be state juvy though, because it would be too much of a dettriment to difficult child. He would still come out on probation, but if I could get in an area that actually allowed a kid to get out of the system within a reasonable amount of time, it would do us a lot of good.

    Something interesting- I found on line that this judge had advocated to get a law passed so kids in legal trouble could claim "not guilty due to insanity or menttal illness" so that juvenile judges could access more treatment instead of juvy. She hasn't won this yet, but it tells me my gut has been right- the problem isn't the judge. Although I still beleive that she could force the Residential Treatment Center (RTC)- by ordering the PO to do her job- just liike a judge can order inpatient substance abuse programs. Anyway- the problem is the people between the judge and the family. They don't know what they are doing, they don't care, they don't make enough effort, and they are too interested in blaming the family and CYA themselves than they are really getting help or prevention. But how to get the judge to see that without really stepping out of line is a different story.

    It should help if GAL does what she said she was going to- ttell the judge that dss never called her back or took any steps and that PO could have gotten the county team to get difficult child into Residential Treatment Center (RTC) but didn't. Plus, the GAL knows this so-called mental health cm could have done it but didn't. Now, I also think GAL should have been agressively advocaating for difficult child this past 3 weeks and she was not. And, I think it SHOULD show the judge something for gal to be in there talking about what everyone else could have done but didn't, but she didn't do anything either.

    Of course, I won't be loooking good because I didn't take the stupid personal;ity test. But at least I can explain my reasons- if judge cares to listen. Given that the judge KNOWS I have been difficult child's onlly real advocate and I was agressive about it, I hope she will listen. My gut tellls me that she trusts me- at least up until now. Plus, she looked shocked when the CA requested a psychiatric evaluation for me and asked the GAL what she thought. If the GAL had said she didn't think it was necessary, the judge would not have ordered it. But it didn't turn out that way. The GAL should have thought thru this- if she gets me found "nuts" and therefore, people like PO are listening to me even less, difficult child has NO effective advocate at all. The CA wasn't there last year when I testified to my previous therapy, depression/anxiety, etc so would not have known my history. I understand that- but I think it was the PO who put these doubts in the CA's mind right before we went in the courtroom. GAL was there last year and should have not agreed that a psychiatric evaluation for me was necessary. You can bet I will be reminding them on Mon that I testified a year ago about my issues.

    You can bet, I've been a thorn in the side of many people in this county by pushing them to address difficult child's needs and comply with the law. They would love nothing more than to know I have a diagnosis, court ordered therapy, and medications I have to take.
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2009
  7. Janna

    Janna New Member

    I don't know why you'd WANT him off probation. Even if the P.O. is a bonehead (been there done that, we JUST took B off a week ago), you have SOME type of protection if difficult child would beat you up (that's a violation), go out and get in more trouble (that's a violation), etc. I will tell you, we had a heck of a time with B. This is what happened with him: he worked at Wal Mart, stole out of the register, 8 times for a total of $600. That got him put on probation. So, a WEEK later, LOLOL, we're at Sears getting our family portraits done, he steals again - hahahaha, pair of headphones, gets picked up. I tell P.O., hey, that's a violation, you're gonna lock him up, right? Nope. I let it go. We go to court, judge tells him, do it again, you're getting yanked out of home. So, 4 days later (I'm telling you, I couldn't write this for a story book), he takes SO's keys, jumps in the car (no permit, no license) and runs it through a turf farm, as* ends into a tree. Totals it. I call P.O. You know what kind of FIGHT I had to get to have B put away for that? I'm thinking, this is ridiculous, you SAID if he did anything else......but no. I had to fight tooth and nail.

    And yes, the Juvenille Justice System is the pitts. No doubt, but at least with probation - you have SOMETHING. No WAY would I let difficult child live with me, with a concern of getting beaten up, without something. NO way.

    So...anyway - sorry. Family therapy. Yeah, did it, probably 8 times. Even did Family Based where they send two people to your house to work with the family, say once or twice a week. I liked having people here, because difficult child's at home are usually more laid back, see? My kids acted like they normally would here, and the therapist's could see more behaviors. In an office for 60 minutes, they see nothing. difficult child's are sitting, quietly, anxious, don't want to talk. I'm not a fan, but some are.

    Sorry he's getting sent home. I hope something good happens here for you.
  8. Wiped Out

    Wiped Out Well-Known Member Staff Member

    husband or I are often in on difficult child's therapy (don't know if it's technically family therapy but close enough). We are lucky in that the therapists (he has an in home and an out of home one) are all on the same page as we are and they are very supportive.

    I hate that you have had such bad experiences. I also hate that you haven't been able to get a different PO. Hugs and continued prayers.
  9. CrazyinVA

    CrazyinVA Well-Known Member Staff Member

    The key to any kind of therapy is the therapist... and it sounds like you got some morons when you did family therapy before. It's a pain, but sometimes you have to shop around for a therapist. Get recommendations from friends, call the therapist and ask them about their technique before you even get in there. With Oldest, I can't even remember how many therapists we went through before I found one that worked for us.. with Youngest, I was luckier, and only went through one that didn't work.. 2nd was on the money.

    This in no way a "defense" for the GA.... but they are court-appointed and are overburdened with cases sometimes as much as the social workers, P.O.s etc., are. I'm not *that* surprised she isn't being more aggressive. Once again, it's the luck of the draw.. sometimes you get a great one, sometimes you get one of the ones that is too burned out and overloaded with cases to put my effort into it.

    The waiting is almost over... let's hope you get some resolution one way or the other, in court.
  10. ML

    ML Guest

    I hate that you've had so many bad experiences. I liked the suggestion about moving out of the jurisdiction. I know that's easier said than done.

    You've been through enormous obstacles these past several years. What you've endured is enough to break a "normal" person. Your strength and determination to advocate for your son and for yourself is amazing.

    It's not my place to say "don't give up" but that's what I want to say. I am praying that something shifts in the universe and you find support and sanity where none existed before.


  11. klmno

    klmno Active Member

    Thank you all! I'm not so sure the judge will send him home- my guess is that he'll get detention, of some sort. I think he would have been sent home if I had taken that psychiatric test. He would be coming home with no change in status- I, on the other hand, would have a diagnosis based on nothing but one personality test (no oraal interview/assessment of history or experiences), a court ordered treatment plan and medications. And PO blaming me more, Bwitching at me more, and monitoring more, and threatening to take me before judge more. That's EXACTLY why I did not do it. It would have been worse to break thosse court orders than this one and I knew that if I did nnot agreee with that diagnosis, I would in no way comply with that treatment plan and I would not have taken any medications based on it. And I hate to think what things would have been like between difficult child and me- with him coming home being lead to believe that all this happened because of my issues.
  12. JJJ

    JJJ Active Member

    After family therapy today, Kanga's therapist said that we need to understand that it is a family problem and cannot lay all the blame at Kanga's feet. I told her "wanna make a bet. No one else in this home tried to kill anyone else, no one else threatens violence when they don't get their way. Yes, Kanga is the problem. No one in this family deserves her violence by any action or inaction they may have taken. On the other hand, if you are trying to say that the entire family may learn some techniques to support Kanga as she learns to control her issues, I'm with you there."

    therapist backpedaled a bit but I really think they are trained to assume that the parents are always part of the problem.
  13. klmno

    klmno Active Member

    Well, it seems to me that it's tdocs and others trying to lay blame somewhere to begin with. The way I look at it, as far as the mental illness and underlying problems, they are no one's fault- not mine or difficult child's. It is his responsibility to learn that he can't handle these things by becoming violent or doing illegal things or suicide or self-destruction. I am more than willing to try different approaches, disciplines, whatever. But ultimately, someday I will not be here and it will do no good for difficult child to have learned to just blame me or anyone else and not have learned how to do what is in his own best interest.

    To me, blame is a way to justify never doing any better and I don't want to teach him that. I KNOW that it isn't all his fault. Learning how to make good decisions for yourself is the means to having a better life, in spite of whatever bad odds you had to deal with, in my humble opinion. And if tdocs are spending their time in typical parenting stuff and blame, it leads me to think that they have no clue how to help difficult child or they would be doing it.

    But, JJJ- I'm glad you did what you did with therapist. They need to see how this sends such confusing messages. At least they do to me. If we are supposed to teach our kids to live in mainstream and not have a dysfunctional family, how can we go deeper and deeper into revolving every decision around a family member that is not living in mainstream?
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2009
  14. Allan-Matlem

    Allan-Matlem Active Member

    I am sorry things are tough at the moment. I am a big one for family therapy despite not a good experience with it.

    I believe the first step is simply to learn how to problem solve , resolve conflicts using non emotive examples. Once we understand the process , it will be easier for the therapist to facilitate problem solving.

    I like using CPS - colaborative problem solving - Ross Greene , because the focus is putting ' concerns' on the table before discussing solutions. Often people present their concerns in terms of solutions - I want ... . When solutions are presented without addressing concerns we end up negotiating or dueling solutions rather than trying to reach mutually satisfying solutions.

    I would also share this check list with the therapist so we could work on missing skills and unsolved problems

    I agree that he should have a PO , I would try for a mentor or older brother. Having decent friends and peers is also important , maybe a peer mentor