If you want to be part of the process, look for a therapist who will value your contribution
I have a child who has needed therapy since a young age. She’s been to a number of therapists with little, if any, real change.
I wonder if the therapy would be more effective if I would sit in on a session so that I can incorporate the information into her everyday life. I asked a few of the therapists if I can listen in, but they always respond that they don’t work that way and make me feel like a controlling mother for wanting to know what’s happening in the session.
I don’t see how this therapy model works. The therapists just play or talk with my daughter, without accountability or carryover. Is this how therapy is supposed to be?
I completely understand your frustration. As a parent, you want to know what’s happening in your child’s inner world so that you can be of most assistance. Does your daughter hold distorted views of her family life? Perhaps you can help clarify the facts for the therapist so she can best help the child. Is she holding unexpressed anger or resentment that, once you know about it, can address and resolve? Does she need something from you that — when clarified — would be so easy and pleasurable for you to provide?
You’re not just a curious onlooker wanting to pry into the subconscious mind of your child for voyeuristic entertainment; you’re a parent who wants to help. When the therapist won’t include you as a partner in the healing process, your hands are tied.
To add insult to injury, your desire to help is seen as a negative. Instead of being appreciated for the caring, involved, and loving parent that you are, you feel yourself cast into the mold of an intrusive and controlling mother.
An additional frustration is that you may be paying a high price for therapeutic services. Why isn’t the therapist obligated to reveal her professional feedback, therapeutic strategy, and methodology? As there has been no apparent change in your daughter, how are you to know whether something legitimate is actually going on? When can you expect to see results? What results can you expect to see? Why is all this a mystery to YOU, the one who is paying for “professional services”? Don’t you have a right to know what you’re paying for and what you should expect for your money? Even if the service is somehow funded, you’re the one who must bring your daughter and arrange your life around these appointments. You deserve to know whether the inconvenience is a reasonable investment in her well-being.
All of these concerns are legitimate. That’s why many therapists who work with children will insist that parental involvement is not only permitted, but is actually required. Such therapists recognize that a weekly therapeutic hour is no replacement for the minute-by-minute opportunities for healing that parents can provide. They intentionally include parents in the therapy, usually meeting with them separately from time to time in order to discuss the child’s issues and progress, the aims and tools of therapy, and the steps they themselves can take at home to reinforce or contribute to the change process.
This model isn’t the same as “family therapy,” in which the entire family meets at once, but it may include occasional family sessions as well.
So why have you encountered therapists who maintain the child’s privacy? These professionals are respecting the legal right of children of a certain age (that age varies from location to location) to confidentiality, or they feel that children of any age benefit from a “safe therapeutic place” where the child can trust that nothing she reveals will get reported back to parents. This way of working can help children open up securely without fear of negative repercussions at home and, in some cases, would clearly be required for the child’s benefit.
Mental health professionals who include parents in the work don’t override the law; they let the child know that they’ll want to share material with parents when they feel it will make things better for the child. Children who are old enough to do so sign a legal waiver explicitly allowing information to be shared with parents. In the case of younger children, the law gives the therapist legal discretion to share with parents as is deemed appropriate for the child’s benefit.
Therefore, if you want to be part of the process, look for a therapist who will value your contribution.
Have a question for Mrs. Radcliffe? Send your queries about parenting or personal growth to firstname.lastname@example.org
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 761)
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