By David Joel Miller.
Forcing your child to therapy.
There are times when no matter how firmly you believe that there is something the matter with your child you are making a mistake forcing them to go for therapy.
Most of these reasons fall under the heading of they are thinking or doing something you do not approve of and you want them to go for therapy to convince them to see things your way.
In a previous post, I wrote about the practical aspects of “Can you force a child to go for therapy.” The older they get the harder it gets to make them do much of anything. By 17 or 18, they either agree with you or not. You can get them to follow your rules but not to agree with your views.
There are a few things that are so important that whether a child or an adult wants to go they will be required to go for counseling. Suicidal actions are one reason. Drug use that results in illegal behavior is another. If your child’s life is at stake the need help whether they want it or not.
If a child has been abused or there has been violence in the family, therapy may be offered and sometimes it may be required.
In yesterday’s post we looked at some of the times you need to be a parent and insist your child see someone professional.
But there are times when you really wish your child would change. You know they are going to ruin their life and still, you should not make them go for therapy.
Here are some of these reasons. (Tongue-in-cheek so as to offend no one or everyone.)
Your child favors a political party you think is evil.
Some parents are frightened when their love child comes home spouting Republican doctrine. Sorry folks, the sixties are over and we have to make peace with the Republicans. Regardless of your political leanings, a therapist should not be trying to force a child to agree with their parent’s political leanings.
Political indoctrination is something that is practiced in totalitarian countries. We therapist types have codes of ethics that keep us or should keep us, from trying to force people to change these sorts of beliefs.
Your child has picked a girlfriend or boyfriend and you are sure this person will ruin their life.
It is unlikely that any therapist can talk your love-sick teen out of loving the one they are madly in lust for just now. What we might be able to do is help them learn about healthy and unhealthy relationships and then if they begin to show some doubts explore those doubts and what they are learning.
This bad-person-for-you problem is often coupled with that person your child fell in love with being a member of the wrong race or religion.
There is a difference between an unhealthy relationship and getting together with someone who is different from you.
What we need to be able to do is help children see the possible negatives as well and possibly convince them to make no irrevocable changes like getting pregnant or running off to Antarctica.
Your child rejects your religion or adopts one you do not agree with.
You are firmly convinced the way to salvation is to shave your head, wear robes and spend your days handing out flowers in the airport. Your child decides to grow out their hair, discard the robe and become a Lutheran.
Please do not look for a counselor who advertises that he specializes in getting apostate robe wears back to the airport.
Counselors, most of us, would consider this sort of practice as unethical. This even includes counselors who self-identify as being of the religion in question.
What a “Robed-Bare-headed-flower-airport child” Therapist would be willing to do is work with this child on their spiritual doubts, what do they believe and why. What we should not do is collude with the parents to convert this child back to wearing their robes.
The parent of this child becomes upset when I tell them I will not help them convince their child they are following the wrong religion.
“Those Lutherans are a cult” that parent says. Maybe so. Maybe all Christians are cult followers, but that still does not justify me ganging up on that child and forcing them back into the robes.
Aren’t there some cults that can harm people and that we need to help children avoid? Probably so. My way of seeing this is that if the group seems to be taking a departure from reality then I think some good old fashion reality testing therapy is in order.
What kind of cults are a problem?
If the group bases their practices on unquestioning devotion to a living leader then I get really worried. Try to live up to the ideals of Buddha or Jesus; I’m good with those kinds of faith. Turn your will and your life over to the control of William Bernard Esquire III and you are getting me worried. That rule about having living leaders who think too much of themselves applies also to groups that give one or a very few people the right to decide what the dead leader meant.
Then again that worry about one person misinterpreting scripture may just be a part of my protestant hangover showing.
If this leader starts telling you to do things that are illegal or most people think is harmful be very suspicious.
This post has gotten a tad more sarcastic than most but I hope you get my point. Therapy should not be a way of trying to get children to change their thinking and agree with the parent’s preferences, even deeply held preferences.
Part of growing up is trying new things, new behaviors and new beliefs. Kids need to take some risks to grow up and parents can’t protect them from everything.
What you can do is try to help them when they fall and scrape their knees. Sometimes you have to bear the brunt of the pain and hope they will eventually get it, but that is part of the parent’s job.
Staying connected with David Joel Miller
Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!
You can recover. Your cruising along the road of life and then wham, something knocks you in the ditch. If you have gone through a divorce, break up, or lost a job your life may have gotten off track. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.
Casino Robbery is a novel that explores the world of a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page or my Facebook author’s page, David Joel Miller. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.