Has counseling helped your difficult child?

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Christy, May 7, 2008.

  1. Christy

    Christy New Member

    We attend weekly counseling sessions with a therapist in addition to seeing a psychiatrist. difficult child does not seem to mind going, he usually makes an art project or plays a game with the counselor while we all talk. I really don't think it makes an impact on his behavior. He does not access any on his anger management techniques or the ideas we talk about when he is upst. Has anyone found counseling to be helpful with their difficult child?
  2. trinityroyal

    trinityroyal Well-Known Member

    We have had mixed results with therapy for our difficult child over the years.

    Much of the time difficult child isn't willing to participate, and the process is frustrating. In many cases, psychiatrists and tdocs haven't known what to do with difficult child and his complex diagnoses and other issues. Even in the Residential Treatment Center (RTC), where difficult child has an intensive treatment program, he is sort of being dragged along without actively doing anything to help himself.

    That being said, with the latest adjustments in difficult child's medications, he seems to be participating a little more in his therapy. I get the feeling that as the medications get closer and closer to the right combination and dosage for him, he's at last able to turn his mind to it and focus enough to think about it without having it flooded out by the flight of ideas he used to experience all the time.

    Time will tell.

  3. BestICan

    BestICan This community rocks.

    Yes, it has for us. However, I think we hit the therapist jackpot! I'm guessing that's pretty rare.

    My difficult child has a lot of impulse control issues and as a result tends to get in trouble in the classroom setting. Our therapist is a retired school teacher in addition to being a therapist. He's come to school meetings with us and has given us sound advice on dealing within the school system.

    therapist is extremely, EXTREMELY practical with his advice. I'm used to tdocs for adults doing a lot of validating and listening, but this guy is a little different. He certainly makes you feel validated, but he is more interested in telling you about practical strategies: things to say, ways to frame the conversation, ways to discuss things with the school staff.

    When he talks with difficult child, he's friendly but very persistent. He doesn't allow difficult child to sidestep questions, or be so silly during sessions that nothing gets accomplished. difficult child's favorite board games happen AFTER they've had a significant conversation, and difficult child knows it so he's motivated to participate. He is good with squirmy, defensive little boys, and will follow difficult child around the room as he squirms from the sofa to the floor, under the sofa cushions, etc. Without making a big deal, therapist just plants himself on the floor near difficult child and keeps talking.

    He's big on letting difficult child realize things for himself, and find his own motivation for improvement. He's big on accentuating the positive but calling him out on the negative. He's big on setting goals for the future rather than analyzing what's happened to death (which is my tendency). Most importantly for me, he helps us set reasonable consequences for difficult child. I am constantly having to re-learn that impulsive misbehavior isn't effectively punished with long lectures or drawn-out punishments. We work a lot on "You screwed up. What do you do now?" instead of the less effective, "You screwed up. You should be punished."

    I think this only works because difficult child adores therapist, and is also very gregarious by nature. I don't have any idea what would happen if difficult child shut down and decided not to talk, for example.

    Just my $0.02. If anybody needs a great therapist in the Los Angeles area, PM me!
  4. janebrain

    janebrain New Member

    I have had mixed results with therapy. For difficult child 1 (who started therapy when she was about 7 when her dad was gravely ill) it really didn't seem productive til she went to her Residential Treatment Center (RTC) at age 16 and had a fabulous therapist. He used a lot of the techniques from dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) which seems to be the best type of therapy for people with borderline personality disorder (she had many traits of it at that time). Before that she saw several different therapists and they didn't know what to do with her. It really was a waste of time and money, especially the one she had before going to the Residential Treatment Center (RTC)--she was really incompetent.

    For difficult child 2 therapy has been a lifesaver. Her therapist took the time to create trust and didn't jump to any diagnoses til he'd been seeing her for over a year. At that time they actually came up with the diagnosis together (she was nearly 16). He is using EMDR to help her process her past trauma and he has helped me understand what she is going through and how best to help her.

    Good thread!

  5. witzend

    witzend Well-Known Member

    It's been a long time, but I think I at least have some hindsight on this topic. I don't know that counseling ever helped either of my difficult child's because they weren't invested in it. In fact, for M, when he was around the age of 16 and needed it the most (in Residential Treatment Center (RTC)) he very successfully manipulated the counselors in a way that was detrimental to all of us. He totally triangulated the counselors against us.

    On the other hand, I will say that at a younger age, husband and I got some very useful tools and insight when the whole family participated in counseling. But in the long run it was like beating the dead horse.
  6. JJJ

    JJJ Active Member

    We've had mixed results here. The biggest plus is that you have "proof" that you are trying to help your difficult child.

    With Kanga, huge triangulation but now that it has been identified and is in her chart, we are seeing some very mild, very slow progress.

    With Eeyore, he likes it because he says it helps him learn to tell people how he is feeling and to calm down.

    Tigger will only go to therapy randomly and sometimes he just plays but sometimes he does use her to work through a problem.
  7. Star*

    Star* call 911........call 911

    Well I'm a vote FOR therapy, but with the right therapist.

    Over the years we've tried to stay CONSISTANT which is a word that is forever engrained on my brain regarding difficult child's. Imagine my surprise and disappointment after 10 years of therapy and counseling with difficult child to be told - it's a waste of my time.

    Fact is - if therapy is going to work a few things have to come together in the recipe for success. And not all have to be strong, in my humble opinion but they have to be there.

    The first would be a therapist you trust and that you feel speaks your same language as a parent. People are different as night and day so a therapist I would recommend to you may not be someone you see eye to eye with or have the same goals and values that you would. We have had SEVERAL (too many to count) over the last 12 years, and psychologists, and counselors, and MLSW's, and psychiatrists and some I liked some, I detested from the get go, some were seemingly good but not invested and would quit, move, move up in status leaving clients behind, change careers (I actually get that logic) or grow weary waiting for a pension. So finding someone you feel comfy with and that you trust is important.

    Next would be - the length of time you plan to invest in CBT (cognitive behavior therapy). In my mind when we started (laughing at it now) I thought - Okay - find a counselor, go for hmmm 3 months should OVER do it actually, and then we'll all be dandy fine, keen, swell....NOT. Depending on the severity of your childs emotional disability - it can take YEARS and I'm talking start at 4, 5 or 6 with play therapy and WORK each week with a trained clinical psychologist who understands and has gotten to know your child - with our son we're on year 12, and JUST STARTING to see some improvement. Trying to jump in and treat someone you don't know or offer suggestions for emotional management is like frosting the bottom of a cake pan. It would be there - but....
    So time is an important factor, and things change. Plus you have to figure that this person is not living with your child - they get at best 45 minutes or less a week to watch, observe, and formulate treatment. It's not one size fits all. If it were - everyone would have the same kid as I do and we'd all likely be in a nut house. So figuring 1 hour a week or 2 like you said you all go for family therapy (WHICH I APPLAUD YOU) because when we had 1 hour with Dude's time - I spent 40 minutes going on and on to the doctor about YOU HAVE NO IDEA, YOU WON'T BELIEVE THIS STORY, ALL WEEK HE'S HYPER, LYING, STEALING...and little got solved. So it was suggested we take an extra hour - sometimes back to back - sometimes different days. But it helped ME and DF like nothing else. Cross my little heart....it was the best relationship saver. Because it was like - the secret society of HOW ARE WE going to GET ONE OVER and stay ONE STEP AHEAD???? I loved those meetings. It was nice just to blow it out my nose or talk about nothing sometimes other than current events - but it gave the doctor the opportunity to meet with us, and evaluate the stress levels in our home, which was helpful when Dude needed to be placed outside our home or got into trouble. It was like a SAFE house in theory. Nothing I said went any further - even when I said "I can't stand my own son." It went no further.

    The other key to good therapy is finding the KIND of therapy that works for behavior changes. There are several types out there, some therapists/psychologists practice them but we found that Cognitive Behavior Therapy LONG TERM - like until maybe Dude is 25 years old. It's the only thing that Dude feels out of ALL the other things we did that has helped. And belive me - in the beginning? WE HAD TO LITERALLY PUT HIM IN THE CAR. He HATED going to see the doctor. But once we got him there - it was explained that he has to be willing to participate. YOU have a good handle on that with your kid. THe other benefit of going every week - is that it creates a habit - a GOOD habit. It took 2 years of shoving him in a car, arguing and saying YOU ARE GOING....to get him to the place where he just got in the car. And a lot of times - since I'm not smarter than the psychiatrist - he would dissarm Dude and they actually would have a FANTASTIC session and we'd chit chat all the way home with Dude in a good mood. More times than not that was the case. Some parents dont' feel like pushing or forcing kids to go - and that's their choice. I don't make any bones about it. But for us? It was that ONE THING that BY GOD I was going to be the parent and YOU ARE GOING....eventually like I said - 2 years of struggle paid off because he finally said 'ARE we going to Dr. X tonight?" and I'd say "yeap." and He would say "Just like every Thursday." So it created a touch stone for Dude - a pattern if you will, something he could count on - and as lame as that sounds - he eventually started planning how or what he wanted to tell the doctor ahead of time - so it was win win - it set him up to succeed and he didn't even know it.

    Each meeting I kept a note book of the weeks events so I wouldnt' forget and just got into a habit of handing it to the doctor. Then he'd know which way to go with Dude. With us - we were trying to overcome hideous abuse. Both Dude and I were abused by my x. And there are some places that they just didn't go back to in therapy - but I was told to think of therapy like a pastry dough. You have to peel back layers of bad behavior and skewed thinking/logic, and self coping skills before you can actually start to work on and deal with things. And that can take years to chance.

    If you get a chance or care to understand more - I suggest reading Mapping - by Wilton Hellams, Ph.d - it is a fascinating look at the brain of a person like our kids and what it takes to fix it and how long to plan for something to repair. It blew me away really. I think that man is a genius.

    I hope this helps.
    oh and a ps. My DF who is about as free-will and wild as they came pshawed the family therapy for nearly a year. And I'm talking 'hard core' don't talk about your feelings man. - the 2nd year - he went with us and after the first visit - he never missed another appointment. He understood that it is the whole family that is affected by the behaviors in the house and not JUST the kid - how we feel we are treated as parents, our expectations, emotions are ALL part of the house. After therapy I can tell you there was a MARKED improvement in how we (parents) handled Dude. (secret society club info.) to the rescue. The more we handled things in a way that got little to NO reaction from Dude? The better off WE were and the MORE Dude talked to the therapist about his parents who "didn't care" in other words - he was getting no reaction from us - but we had to learn how, and in order to do that? We went to more therapy. (Still call it date night)
  8. KTMom91

    KTMom91 Well-Known Member

    I didn't think it helped with Miss KT. She wasn't very cooperative, and we didn't seem to get anywhere. However, as JJJ said, it's another thing you've tried to help your child.
  9. Andy

    Andy Active Member

    Is definately helping us. We have been fortunate to find a therapist that is a good fit. I really believe that this is one area that the patient must feel comfortable with and look up to the doctor.

    Each week, I complete a form and once in awhile will write a sentence or two of a concern I have. I was beginning to wonder if the psychiatrist was actually looking at what I wrote but he is. These last two weeks when I go back, he will refer to something I wrote and we would talk about it with difficult child.

    My difficult child does work on implementing strategies brought up during counseling sessions. difficult child needs to be motivated to change or it will be all talk and no action. Our school is also committed to helping whereever possible. If difficult child gets very upset at school, staff know some of his strategies and he is encouraged to talk to his homeroom teacher whenever there is a problem. There is one teacher who was looking for an immediate apology and difficult child's homeroom teacher came to his defense in explaining to the other teacher that difficult child needs time to process through before he is ready to apologize. And it often is a 24hr period.

    easy child also had a good counselor for one year. With her, we were told it would probably only need one year of counseling - I thought, "How can you tell?" But as the year came to an end, so did her need for counseling. I think difficult child will be longer - I have not been told otherwise.

    As a parent, I think we have to trust our instincts and hearts. If it doesn't feel helpful, it may be time for a change. Maybe a new therapist - after all, personality matches are important and your child also has to feel that the goal is being met.

    Our therapist is a great source of literature and is also accepting of materials I bring in. We are working as a team to figure out what is best for difficult child. This would not work if I felt belittled or if I felt my input was not important. I love to hear, "difficult child, your mom is absolutely correct." "difficult child, you need to trust your parents."
  10. Martie

    Martie Moderator

    I just HAD to post---from the been there done that perspective.

    I agree with much of what Star said...It depends on so many things, but MAINLY the right t-doctor with the right approach for the particular difficult child. I had the unusual situation with a BOY who was an internalizer and had needs at a very young age...In fact, he was too old for play therapy and too young for talk therapy at the time of his first major depression. Fortunately, I found a therapist who COULD talk to a 7 year old boy and make progress...

    Some people have kids who need help with external behaviors, and that is the easier (but not easy) type of therapy to obtain. If a child has an inner life that is very distorted and troubling, it literally takes YEARS for therapy to be effective. In my son's case, it was, and he is now not in therapy. However, he has a very good attitude toward therapy, and I think he would sek therapy on his own if he thought he needed it.

    Since he has had two major depression (prior to age 15) therapy (and appropriate medications) literally save his life.

    by the way, today is his 21st birthday...He MADE it to adulthood when I thought he would not live to see his 15th birthday!

    I am very thankful for all the appropriate therapy he had, and do not dwell on the false strts and incompetents, and there were some.

  11. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    Therapy was most useful for us, in that it helped us figure out new ways to handle difficult child. For difficult child, it taught him ALL the right words to say to a counselor/psychiatrist/hospital person to make them think what he wanted them to think and to triangulate against us.

    I really don't know if it was worth the time, energy or gas $$ to take difficult child. Jess benefits greatly from therapy, and it has helped husband and I. thank you thinks it is strange.

  12. everywoman

    everywoman Active Member

    I think that the child or adult really wants to improve. If not, it's just a waste of time and money. difficult child learned what to say to manipulate others. That's it. He has always thought he was "smarter than the average bear" anyway, so when someone is that ego-centered its hard.
  13. trinityroyal

    trinityroyal Well-Known Member

    Susie and Everywoman, I think you've hit upon the key.

    Therapy and counselling can be very helpful if the person is willing to buy into and participate in the process. If someone just wants to manipulate the system, or is being frog-marched to the therapist's office, then it will not likely be successful.
  14. Loving Abbey 2

    Loving Abbey 2 Not really a Newbie

    difficult child had a couple of therapists who really didn't do much. difficult child has this clinical social worker at school, for the last 4 yrs. SW does a social skills group and individual tx (for any issues not just school related ones). difficult child has really made improvements with peers. Aside from that, it shows that difficult child is actually listening to me and values what I am saying, because she frequently tells the SW mom said..... so that's what I'm going to try to do. Now difficult child NEVER says that to me in fact she usually acts annoyed when I talk with her about things.

    We will be starting office based family tx and individual (difficult child) home based this week. For difficult child, she needs to gain some coping skills, work out some of her anxiety, and deal with the upcoming divorce. I need some back up on parenting difficult child--this part, i am less inclined to belive that will happend. But, hey I'm going to try. I really hope all the stars line up and these therapists are a good match for us both as far as thier views, approach, personality and commitment. I'm going to keep trying until I find it.

    PS I'm a research kind of lady and all the research I have read shows that a combo of medication's and a good theraputic relationship is the best option.
  15. meowbunny

    meowbunny New Member

    I don't think it particularly helped my daughter. What it did do was help me. I could discuss particular problems and her therapist would come up with some very concrete suggestions. I could also vent, whine, cry, etc. to him.

    For my daughter, it was just another place to play -- she absolutely refused to talk about anything that was even remotely negative concerning her behavior.

    When she hit her teens, I think it did help her on some issues, mainly on how to treat her friends and how to judge when they were truly friends and when she was being used. That made it worth its weight in gold to my mind.

    She did decide to quit therapy although I do think it would have been useful as she hit adulthood. As she said, she's been in therapy most of her life and it was time for her to try living without that crutch. She has not shut the door on therapy, just put it to the side for now.
  16. Steely

    Steely Active Member

    I have not read all of the posts here - but I just wanted to throw in my 2 cents.
    NOPE. It helped nada.
    However, it could just be my son. I would never give up hope, even on this. It is just that he has had therapy since he was 4, and at age 16 with no results, I gave up. Perhaps another era in difficult children life it will be applicable.

    Go with your gut.
  17. wakeupcall

    wakeupcall Well-Known Member

    My difficult child has had some kind of therapy since age four (he's almost 13). The last two years he's gone once a week. Has it helped? No. He was just responsible for explaining his actions to one more adult.....and he thought, "Big deal..", like he does any other time. About a month ago I stopped it for the time being. I'm like the rest of you, if he doesn't want to participate and apply what he learns, what's the point? We're wasting time, money and gouging insurance for little of nothing.
  18. timer lady

    timer lady Queen of Hearts

    We've had 7 years of counseling sessions ~ mostly attachment based or behavior cognitive therapy. Both kt & wm have in home tdocs as well; they both attend the attachment based sessions & then help kt & wm transfer it home. It's been the best idea yet. We, the parents aren't the bad guys reminding the tweedles of the skills & such learned in counseling.

    I have to say that many times I've been ready to quit but now am glad I didn't. I'm seeing changes in both of the tweedles. I know that part of it is pure maturity. I'm convinced a great deal of it is the counseling. Now, while kt & wm are receptive, the counseling sessions have increased in number.

    It has been a long painful process. We have had to be patient & willing to take the time, spend the money before we saw any significant changes. Plus we've had an incredible treatment team working to support the counseling & a psychiatrist directing that team.
  19. LittleDudesMom

    LittleDudesMom Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Yes. difficult child has had the same therapist on this journey. We were extremely lucky to "stumble" upon her. difficult child adores her and really talks and shares with her. It has been part of his success.

  20. Shari

    Shari IsItFridayYet?

    I can't say that I know it helped difficult child 1 in the end. However, I do know that while he "wasted his time" with his counselor thru the years, he was in less trouble than the years he wasn't attending counseling.

    He is also able to identify his own feelings well, which I attribute to the counseling.

    At this stage in the game, tho, is he a better person because of it? Probably not. Does he have a better shot at life cause his counselor seemed to keep him closer to the straight and narrow along the way? Heck yeah. And I'd do it again.