Parents ordinarily handle and resolve problems presented by their children using a combination of love, discipline, understanding and common sense. It is frustrating and worrisome when our children fail to respond to these efforts. The most common problems which I see in my practice fall into the following three broad categories.
There is excessive conflict, anger, resentment, rebelliousness and poor communication in the parent-child relationship. In this case the normal desire of the child to assert his or her individuality has taken on a distorted and conflict-ridden form. The job of the psychologist is to determine the causes of the problem and to help the family find an effective solution.
How does it happen that a loving relationship between parent and child becomes so full of conflict? Part of the answer is quite obvious. Included in your job as a parent is the responsibility for control, discipline and education of your children. This means that you may often frustrate the child's desires and impulses which may lead to anger or resentment in the child. Sometimes these feelings can be handled successfully by the family but there are many complicating factors which may prevent a successful resolution of these problems. The temperaments and personalities of the parents as well as the child, the parents' own upbringing, the child's relationships with brothers and sisters, the quality of the marriage, the impact of divorce and the influence of our changing social environment are some of the complicating factors to be examined.
The third category of problems involves alcohol or other drug abuse. In this case the problems discussed above are complicated by the destructive effects of alcohol or drug dependency or addiction. The substance abuse problem must first be addressed in order to then deal with the other problems. This type of problem is sometimes successfully handled on an outpatient basis. Sometimes a brief period of inpatient treatment is required first.
General Treatment Approach for all Categories
In the treatment of children and adolescents, most psychologists will start with a history taken from the parent about the child's development and about the family structure. The child may be seen in a format determined by the age and maturity of the child, including simply talking to the child, using play materials, using psychological testing or seeing the child with other family members. The psychologist will complete an initial evaluation and then report results and recommendations to the parents.
Effective treatment may consist of parent counseling, psychotherapy for the child, sometimes involving play materials, family therapy or a combination of the above, depending on the age of the child and the nature of the problem.
How can you decide who is the right professional person to help you with this kind of problem?