Why the Therapist Thinks it's Mom's Fault...

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by DaisyFace, Mar 3, 2009.

  1. DaisyFace

    DaisyFace Love me...Love me not

    Hello All!

    How many times have you gone to meet with a new psychiatrist, therapist, school counselor, social worker or other professional...and come away from that meeting upset to learn that the professional thinks difficult child is an angel and any problem is obviously the parent?

    I just finished reading a couple of books that might shed some light on this phenomenon. The first is called "First Impressions" and the second is entitled "Don't Believe Everything You Think". In a nutshell, the books explain what people think and why they think it.

    Apparantly, because the human brain cannot easily absorb tons of statistics and random information...we generalize. And this is especially true during a first impression. Secondly, because we all like to think that we are smart...once we've made a decision about something we seek to confirm that we are correct--and are not as quick to look for dissenting information.

    So, if you have ever gone into to one of these meetings feeling anxious, upset, stressed, guarded, confrontational or otherwise feeling negatively--the person you meet makes a generalization that obviously, you are an anxious, stressed, guarded, confrontational and otherwise negative person.

    Add that to the fact that difficult child is putting on the "angel" act--behaving perfectly well and responding to every question with an air of innocence and disbelief--well, it's no wonder the therapist (or whomever) gets it wrong. Believing that difficult child really IS the angel and Mom really IS a problem.

    And once we've made this impression upon someone...it takes forever for them to learn that their first impression was in error.

    So I guess the trick is to go into one of these meetings looking like the "perfect" Mom....

    Any idea how one might accomplish that?

  2. crazymama30

    crazymama30 Active Member

    The trick is to ignore those who think there is such a thing as a perfect mom.

    I think that what you mention is very hard, and that people do not realize that home vs public behaviors are very different. I know some members have videotaped meltdowns and such to have proof of how the difficult child acts in the home.
  3. ML

    ML Guest

    Very interesting and it makes a lot of sense. You'd like to think professionals are aware of such phenomena but I guess they aren't.
  4. bran155

    bran155 Guest

    Good topic! I would love to read those books. I really haven't had the experience of getting blamed for my difficult child's behavior but I think this subject applies to everyday life as well. I have been very lucky in that regard. I am sure people who don't know me but know my daughter have their opinions but I have never gotten that from any of the docs or schools.

    Thanks for the info. :)
  5. smallworld

    smallworld Moderator

    Interesting theory. Even when my son didn't behave like an angel -- he was completely shut down and wouldn't answer the therapist's questions -- our parenting was blamed because the therapist believed we weren't setting enough limits with our son. Ha ha.

    What has worked better for us more recently is to find professionals who will do a thorough evaluation before jumping to conclusions. J's current psychiatrist met with us for an hour first, then J for two different hour-long appointments and then us again before giving us any inkling of what he thought was going on. The psychiatrist then met with J for six more sessions (each an hour long) with us providing weekly, if not daily, email reports of what was going on in the house before deciding to prescribe J's first medication. And never once were we as parents blamed for J's out-of-control manic behavior. In fact, the psychiatrist complimented us for handling a very difficult situation well.
  6. DaisyFace

    DaisyFace Love me...Love me not

    Apparantly...some mental health professionals think they know so much about human nature that they can "trust their gut" moreso than other people. The book "Don't Believe Everything You Think" shared an experiment where psychiatrists were asked to identify homosexuals vs hetoerosexuals based upon the results of Rorschach (ink blot) Tests.

    The psychiatrists scored worse than members of the general public.


  7. DaisyFace

    DaisyFace Love me...Love me not

    Wow, Smallworld!

    What an excellent idea! It sounds like you have found some really great people to work with!!

  8. Star*

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

    Here's something that's the opposite side of the coin - because I try to keep an open mind in all situations and I think that saying most times the parents are NOT to blame can be lethal to a family healing.

    When your child is in crisis - your entire family is in crisis. Not just the child that is misbehaving or having emotional or cognitive behavior. This behaviors affects EVERY SINGLE FAMILY MEMBER right down to the dog.

    I'm bringing this to light because when we went to our first meeting with psychiatrists and tdocs I was a single mom, I had just left a bad relationship, I was on my own, no support, and NO idea how to really help my son who was not just acting out - his behaviors were his coping skills towards life.

    Had I taken the "It's not me" approach at that time? It would not have helped anyone in my family. To a point? I did. I did not need ONE more person "insulting" me or putting ME down or putting my parenting skills (or rather lack of them) down. I needed to hear - Good job, way to go - gosh you're doing well. But honestly? I wasn't.

    The term they used with us was enmeshed. My son and I had come to depend on each other for the feeding frenzy of emotions, we were each other's best friend, we were each others comfort and source of irritation. Had our relationship continued on? Had I not said "You know what? You may be right - I may need some counseling to help me with this?" My son would most likely be in a gang, prison or dead.

    I will be interested to read these books and even more interested to research about the people that wrote them, because while they are an interesting read - for some it could be an "out". A newbie could come here and read this and thing - OMG - yes- SEE? Nothing wrong with me, I'm a good parent. So there - and never seek help or be offended by therapists that recommend help.

    When I went to therapy the first time for family therapy? I honestly went to prove them wrong. I figured if I went - and spoke, all of those DOUBTERS would be proven wrong. What I found is that I DID need help. I did have issues I needed to deal with from my childhood as an adoptee that I didn't even know I had, from my marriage - and I'm glad I didn't take the stand that I NEED NO HELP -I"M FINE - and assume that it's ALL the kids fault, problem or behaviors.

    Even now? I'm learning to deal and how to speak to Dude as a grown teen. With all my knowledge and learning and therapy? I'm still no where near being able to completely shut down, walk away or tune him out - but thanks to therapy I'm really a lot better person and thus a much better parent.

    Just wanted to bring that to light - because yes, there are people out there in professional positions that are WAY off base, and have no clue. I've sat with a lot of them - but I also know a lot of therapist who HAVE therapists and never considered that either. lol

    I think today - if someone came to me and said "You need XXX based on XXX" I would say - "What do you recommend?" and then I would say "I'll seek out my own therapist, would you please write a brief description in your professional hand of what you feel our problem areas are so I can address these with a professional counselor?" Then I would go - talk and if I had those problems? I'd certainly want to improve myself - if I didn't then I'd get the therapist to write a letter back in his professional hand and end it for once and for all.

    Sorry you have to go through this - I remember the days. Just wanted to point out that there are a lot of parents and families out there that could benefit from therapy.

  9. klmno

    klmno Active Member

    I think some of it depends on the therapist's own philosophy, too. Just like some psychiatrists believe any hyper kid has adhd and automatically starts treating that, some therapist's get stuck in one way of thinking.

    Star, I think you have a good point. It sounds like you could have really used a good therapist in your life at that point in time whether or not you would have had a child. Having Dude on top of your other unresolved issues must have really left you feeling pretty bad. I am glad you got help. Keep in mind though, everyone taking a difficult child to therapy isn't in the same situation.

    The first time I noticed my son/we were having issues, I took him to a family therapist because I thought it was a family problem and I had already gone through the therapy to get over my deamons many years earlier. The family therapist ended up pulling me aside and telling me he thought the problem was out of his league and that I should take difficult child to a psychiatrist. I wonder sometimes if it's just the nature of a therapist to see what the parent presents as the problem and automatically want to change the parent's perception. Maybe they look at it like if the parent's perception of the problem was correct, the parent wouldn't be consulting a therapist??

    That being said, it is very frustrating when the profs make assumptions (or stereotype) instead of learning more about the family first. Even if they are correct that the problems are manifestating themselves in the kid, it would be nice if they would concentrate on how and what's underneath it instead of just judging, whether it's their intention or not. After all, it IS therapist's job to analyze it.

    Another one that drives me bananas: when you have a therapist who doesn't belkieve you. I'm not talking about not believing you when you say something that's open to interpretation, but if you tell them a FACT of something that happened and they want to convince you that it couldn't be true.:faint:
  10. DaisyFace

    DaisyFace Love me...Love me not


    You make some really excellent points. So true...no ONE family member is affected--if one is suffering, that the entire family is suffering.

  11. DaisyFace

    DaisyFace Love me...Love me not


  12. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I agree in the whole family thing.

    No matter where my son was...in my home, in group homes, in any other placements...we always had some sort of family therapy going on. We learned many things about parenting during those years. I have been in one form of therapy or another with that child since he was 4 years old....blah. By the time I quit with him I had started with my own...lmao.
  13. klmno

    klmno Active Member

    Maybe I misinterpreted the point of the original post. I didn't think it was a question of whether or not the entire family is effected or involved- I thought it was about whether or not it all the parents' fault or that the kid has no problem but the parent does, as an automatic assumption by the professionals.
  14. aeroeng

    aeroeng Mom of Three

    First of all I believe the best news in the world would be that it is my fault, and that I am a bad parent. This would be wonderful because if the issue was me, then it would be something which I could change. Unfortunately it is not.

    For me, I believe several things help:

    - Many of the professionals I deal with have seen the child's tense, red face which is about to explode and understand that even though he can be an angle that anger is there.

    - When the conversation does tend to point towards me, I take the attitude. "Wonderful. Something I can work on! Give me more!. Well yes I tried that this happened ... Tried that too... he did .... Let me show you what happens when we do that ...

    Does not take long for them to give up.

    - Start explaining of what things I have learned. Explain the explosive child instructions ect. (I'm and engineer. We tend to get very detailed and can be quite annoying.)

    - Some times I walk away and find a different professional
  15. klmno

    klmno Active Member

    Jumping Occupational Therapist (OT) just a sec- I have been wondering, when you tell therapist things like this, do you do it in the middle of a family therapy session, with difficult child right there? I have tried it both ways and neither one worked well.
  16. DaisyFace

    DaisyFace Love me...Love me not

    Hi K--

    I have been trying to work on improving my social skills...I am always so shy and nervous when meeting new people, but I never realized that I was coming across as "snobby" or "aloof" until someone mentioned it to me. So I actually went to the library and checked out a stack of "self-help" books. I was really surprised to learn that my body signals of "nervous", "shy", or "anxious" could be mis-interpreted as B*tchy...but I guess that's how it works.

    I got to thinking about the impression I might be making whenever I have to take difficult child to an appointment. I never gave much thought before, as to how I was presenting myself--but if I think about it, I am usually a little anxious, I am guarded, I don't smile, and I try to get in as much information as time allows. So I do, most likely, come across as an uptight, controlling, anxiety-driven person.

    No wonder my kids would be acting out!

    So I just thought that I would put this information out there to see what anyone else thought...

    I am always happy to read everyone's opinions...even if they do take the thread a different direction than was originally intended. (Because unlike the first impression I make, I am really very easy-going about a lot of things and I try to be non-confrontational whenever possible.)

    Last edited: Mar 3, 2009
  17. Star - I think you are so right about the impact on the whole family. Just ask my poor dog who has found himself the subject of profound interest for the last 3 weeks; including time spent on the kitchen counter and as a daily dance partner for difficult child. I'm wondering if the poor animal will need therapy:)
  18. Star*

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

    There are books to help me not be :censored2:? :tongue:

    Can I buy them through the Amazon site here? ;)

    Daisyface - I think your post is a really good one. Just goes to show that we all have our minds on different things when someone says what they say and have different experiences we share to try and help.

    We talked about this one night and someone did a little experiment - a word was to be said and everyone had to write down the first word that came to mind or some thought about that word. It was interesting to hear how many different answers were given from a group of like minded people, but at that time there were nearly 12 different answers.

    The word was GOAT. Some said hairy, horns, smelly, two people said cheese, someone said devil, I can't tell you what I wrote but it got a laugh. It was interesting to see that only 2 wrote cheese and the rest out of 12 were different.

    I've learned invaluable lessons from others here. It's a great place to get advice and share our experiences. A lot of times what someone wrote for someone else in a post I read and thought HUH- I can try that or I can do that. We're all different and I'm so glad. I'm really glad you are a part of the board.

    Hugs -
  19. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    I think what helped our case when difficult child 2 got suspended for bringing a knife to school, was my overall calm and detachment from the situation when we met with the crisis intervention guys from the district. I think everyone was looking for me to flip out and get hysterical, but I didn't. I brought in my 4-inch binder with difficult child 2's medical history, school reports, evaluations, report cards, etc., looking very on top of things and calmly explained that while yes, he has issues and we are working on them, I had no idea why he would say the threatening things he said to the other student and was equally concerned about figuring out why and ensuring that it never happened again. I think they came away viewing me as a member of their "team" and not an adversary. I think that helped a lot.
  20. Apologies in advance, I didn't mean to be flip about the dog earlier - my dog is actually my best therapist. Perfect Dog (we have no easy child for them here) is great at his job.

    But I really do think this is a great discussion because it reminds me that I need to let others get to a certain point with difficult child; or anything else. And perhaps (this is for me only) I need to shut-up and listen; not answer my own questions.

    For someone like my boss who is actually smarter than the rest of us (me) and is usually thinking at a different level then others, I'm finding that sometimes just telling him that no I don't understand changes the tone of the conversation for the better. He didn't know and wasn't necessarily trying to be a jerk. I wonder how often I do this to others unknowingly.