Are You Therapy Drunk?

by Mark Huttenlocker - Date: 2007-04-02 - Word Count: 728 Share This!

Many of the parents that come to my parent-group are therapy-drunk. What I mean is their child has been in anger-management therapy for his violent outbursts, the family has had family therapy in order to develop conflict management skills, mom and dad have had couples therapy (or marital counseling) to resolve communication problems, mom has had individual psychotherapy for her depression. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. You don't need any more therapy!

I find that when parents have a few simple parenting-tools in dealing with the out-of-control teen, they actually do a much better job of influencing him/her to change his behavior than a judge, probation officer, cop, counselor, psychotherapist, etc.

Can I give you an idea real quick? A change agent is someone who influences another person to make some improvements in his/her behavior. I show parents how to be the change agent -- and they do a much better job than others because they're the kid's parent, and they will see him/her nearly every day as long as he continues to live at home. I would only have about 4 hours of influence time if I were doing "family therapy" with you and your kid …you will have thousands of hours of influence time. Those parents who use 'effective' parenting strategies report good success and improvements at home.

You managed your child up until he/she reached puberty. Then your kid fired you as the manager and said, "I'll take over from here." The best you can do now is to be re-hired as a consultant.

You can't control your kid, but you can influence him or her. And if the parent fails to influence the child, the world will CONTROL the child -- and the world is not concerned about what is right or fair.

Know that your child WILL resist change. For a while, it may seem as though things are getting worse. This is because your child is adjusting to the changes you make. But don't be fooled!!! Your child will try very hard to make you believe that your parenting changes are not working and that your discipline has no effect.

When parents implement new parenting strategies for out-of-control teens, the change cycle looks something like this:

1. Initially, things get worse (i.e., your kid does not like your new parenting strategies and begins to act-out even more)

2. After a few weeks, problems between parent and child eventually occur less frequently, but with the same intensity (e.g., instead of five heated arguments a week, there are only two)

3. Problems between parent and child occur less frequently AND with less intensity (e.g., only one argument a week that is not very heated)

Will problems go away totally -- and stay away forever? No. But problems are likely to occur with less frequency and severity over time. And you will be able to cope better due to a reduction in your stress-level.

You literally have the toughest job in the world, because you are helping with the development of a human being (your child). And humans are the most complex things on earth - more complicated than computers (after all, humans created computers), more complicated than spacecraft (after all, humans created space craft). And humans are especially complicated when they are teenagers. So this week when you begin to doubt yourself or feel discouraged or feel overwhelmed, remind yourself that this is not an easy job for anyone.

Here's an email from one of the parents implementing the strategies in My Out-Of-Control Teen eBook:

"I remember feeling so helpless, like I could not do anything about the chaos and drama in my home. I told myself, "If you have not got the power, there is nothing you can do about your situation." Seeing myself as helpless insured paralysis and provided a powerful rationale for doing nothing. I said to myself things like, "It is not my parenting that is the problem - my kid is the problem …it is not my fault …I am the victim here." As long as it was not my fault, there was nothing in my behavior as a parent I had to look at or understand. I also pretended that things were getting better on their own, but this pretending took the place of the effort required to bring about real change. That is all over now. I am taking responsibility for my part of the problem, and my daughter will have to accept here part as well."

Related Tags: adhd, adhd child, adhd teen, odd, oppositional defiant disorder, odd child, odd teen, defiant child

Mark Huttenlocker, M.A., is a family therapist who works with teens/pre-teens experiencing emotional/behavioral problems associated with ADHD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Conduct Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Autism, etc. He works with these children and their parents - in their homes. You may visit his website here:

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