Does counseling work?

Jane - posted on 01/30/2013 ( 13 moms have responded )

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We are taking our 7 yr. old son to therapy to figure out how to improve his behavior. We are not sure if the therapist is good enough though. What should we expect from the process? Our concern is that she's too mild and doesn't have an asserive attitude. We don't feel like she's actively leading us to solutions, just listening to us and speaking in ambiguous ways. She also lets our son act bratty in her office rather than insisting that he pay attention, leave things in the office alone, etc. This gets on my nerves as well. How can I find out where the good therapists who take my insurance are?

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[deleted account]

The not having a plan thing seems a little off to me. I can understand her saying she does not have a specific plan YET, as more observation and research are needed, but to say that she does not even plan to develop a plan of action in the future is odd. In my experience, therapists have spent the first several sessions gathering information. Once they have what they need to diagnose and develop a treatment plan, they present that information.

At the end of each session, she should be giving you "homework". Basically, exercises for you to do together at home. As she learns his specific problem behaviors, how you respond to them, and how he responds to you, she should equip you with methods for dealing with those behaviors that he should respond to more positively.

Also keep in mind that for a therapist, avoidance of a question is just as important as the answer to the question. By asking him questions, and allowing him to avoid them or answer them, or even answer in ways she knows are not truthful, she is learning about his mental process, what topics scare or confuse him, where he is confident, etc. It is important to let him react to her questions the way HE wants to, not the way YOU want him to.

Sarah - posted on 03/27/2013

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I would think that many therapists work the way you have described. You may be able to find a more assertive therapist but it may take a lot of tracking down. Word of mouth is the best way to find out. Ask around other parents, teachers, doctors. They may know of someone who fits the bill. However this is your son's therapy not yours. The things that get on your nerves are for your therapy. Personally I would stick it out for a little while longer and see what develops. Developing a relationship with a therapist can take a long time. It is not like going to a doctor who can diagnose after one visit, it will take a while.

Best of luck

Jane - posted on 03/26/2013

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So should I be looking for a more assertive therapist or is there really no such thing, because they all work the way I've described?

Sarah - posted on 02/27/2013

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I would be wary of changing therapist. Your son may just be learning to trust this new adult in his life. Therapy often has no game plan because it is child centered. The therapist should help your son to come to his own way of moderating his behaviour rather than imposing it upon him. That maybe why the approach appears wishy washy to you. The behaviours your son is showing are not disrespectful they are showing the therapist all sorts of ways that your son copes with different situations and that will help in his therapy.

Do you know any adult who have undergone therapy? They may be able to help describe their experience to you which may help in your decision. Best of Luck

Laura - posted on 02/25/2013

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I'm sorry, that does sound very frustrating, I would try looking up therapists from your insurance list on YELP.

Jennifer Lynn - posted on 02/23/2013

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I took my son to I believe is called a Play Therapist. She had a Masters Degree and she was excellent. The child would go on in by themselves and she would watch them play with certain things and then that would show her what was upsetting the child like in a case there was a boy who when he came home from a weekend visit with his father he would get this big aligator toy and put a small dog in his mouth. His father was very abusive verbally and would always scream. Another example there was a child who always set up up his family in one area but he was left behind alone and what happened to him was they were on a boating trip and the father accidentally ran over his younger sibling and so they were constantly at the hospital for months and they felt like he was alone because they were so worried about the other child recovering. Some kids cannot just come out and say what is bothering them... I am not sure if that helps but it workes for us.

Jane - posted on 02/21/2013

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Can someone please help? We need to make a decision soon as to whether we're going to leave this therapist.

Jane - posted on 02/19/2013

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Thanks for the feedback. We spoke to her and asked her what the game plan was. She said she doesn't have a plan! She said she's just going to talk to us on an ongoing basis to help as issues come up. Is this normal practice? It seems to me that a counselor should be able to lay out the goals, explain their methodology and take charge of each session in a way that makes the client confident that they are getting sound guidance. My wife and I really don't need to simply talk about what's going on every week. We need more than a sounding board for our problems with our son.

The problem is we don't want to struggle in the dark from one counselor to another. We have a list of local ones that our insurance will pay for but we need recommendations, because each time we have to go through the whole introduction process all over again, which is tedious and time-consuming. Can anyone help?

Kristin - posted on 02/01/2013

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Counseling does work. But you cannot fix a problem until you know what it is. She has to observe your family dynamic and parenting methods first. She has to observe how he responds to you. Does he act out only with you? Or are all authority figures run over roughshod? She may be watching for more than just average misbehavior. She maybe watching for indications of a behavioral disorder that meds and/or diet change can help with.

Perhaps you should speak to her about what your expectations are and ask her about her methodologies. If you've only been a time or two, it is good to air these issues with her now. If you've been for months and haven't seen a change, ask for a referral to other doctors. It's okay to change/ Just remember that for it to work, your child and you have to be comfortable with the professional.

As for finding therapists, call your insurance. They keep lists.

Good luck.

Vickie - posted on 02/01/2013

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Are you sure she's not observing your parenting and wondering why YOU are allowing him to act up in her office?

Also, I agree, if she is too assertive with him it will make it difficult for you, he won't open up to her and will not want to go at all. I had that experience with my son. I actually had to take him out of counseling because of it.

Make sure you are clear with her about what you are trying to get from therapy. Better behavior? Parenting skills? Insight? And if she's unable to help you I would contact your insurance and find someone else. Know what you're looking for in the initial visit so if it doesn't work for you, you can move on.

Cyndi - posted on 01/31/2013

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There aee some great ones out there call around. Ask the receptionest how they aproach things they know more than moat people think about how the dr is.

Jane - posted on 01/30/2013

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We just started. We began with a family meeting, then just my wife and I, then I took him. She spent time alone with him- about an hour, then called me in and we all talked together.

Why does it bother me that she's allowing him to act bratty? Because he's not answering her questions seriously or looking her in the eye when he speaks. He keeps trying to avoid questions by playing with the toys and objects in the room. Instead of compelling him to cooperate in some way, she keeps repeating wishy-washy stuff to him. If she were a guest, he would know he could never get away with that kind of behavior because it's rude.

In general, she has a light approach. Rather than giving us answers or at least good questions to consider she leaves us wondering what the purpose of the session was. Now if this is what most therapy will look like, fine. We'll stick with her. But if going to someone else will mean interacting with someone who has assertiveness and an attitude that inspires confidence, we should look for that person. I wonder why there wouldn't be therapists like that. You have people like that in every profession.

[deleted account]

Sounds like she's doing her job to me.
In my experience counseling is very effective, but if she tries to be firm or assertive, he will rebel against her and she'll never get anywhere with him. Therapy is a slow process. Right now, she is building a relationship with him--earning his trust and respect. Once she has his trust, he will open up to her on his own terms and she will be able to find the root cause of his behavior issues. Until she knows the root cause, she cannot give you any solutions.

Why do you care if he touches stuff in her office? It is her office, not your's and she doesn't mind him touching things, so why does it concern you? Also, by letting him "act bratty" she is observing his behavior, and she is learning a lot from the small things he does and says to her. Plus, she is teaching him that she will not reject him, no matter what he tells her--this is VERY important because often children will not tell adults what is bothering them for fear of rejection. Once she takes that fear away, he will be open about everything, but it takes quite a while to get to that point.

All in all, be patient. How long have you been going to therapy with him?

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