VET YOUR CHILD’S THERAPIST
by Gretchen Stockman, MA, LMFT
In recent years, I have started seeing a lot of parents with grave concerns about one or more of their children. I also work specifically with parent-child estrangement, which often begins while a minor child is still living at home. Unfortunately, from what I am hearing out in the field and in parent support groups, licensed professional therapists are often part of the problem. Most parents take their child to a professional counselor out of deep love and concern when the child reports distress or they observe signs of it. But what is happening with alarming frequency is that “therapy” results in blaming the child’s challenges and failures on parent flaws and parent-inflicted “traumas” and deepening or even creating parent-child wedges. In some cases this blows up into a complete rupture of the relationship between the child and one or both parents, or the entire family. Estrangement, or a total physical and emotional cut-off, is the final play when the child either runs away, emancipates, or moves out as an adult.
NOTE: Parents have always been flawed since time immemorial. Parents have problems too, sometimes serious ones. Many people have spent years overcoming pain birthed in childhood…yet with intact families. Ask yourself what is going on now that is different? Too much for the scope of this post!
Culture and parenting styles have shifted, as they always do. Not only do we have child-centered families but the problems associated with that are magnified by child-centered therapy. Everything is a “trauma” and our children are being made FRAGILE. And do you know that insurance companies essentially force therapists to give a diagnosis in order for services to be covered? That means that the counselor is going to find a problem, and the problem is going to be inflated, if necessary, to justify a diagnosis—such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, PTSD, etc. I’m not saying these diagnoses don’t exist, or that they aren’t ever warranted. But the system in place does not promote accuracy or truthfulness, in my opinion.
And I can’t forget to mention that young developing brains (and older brains too!) are over-stimulated by technology and screens. Our youth are often deprived of real intimacy and social connection on a deep, personal, and trusting level, living in a superficial, contrived universe that is increasingly emotionally dangerous. The information gushing from social media trumps just about any other source of education and influence in modern society. And just as with the government education system, the mental health field has become targeted and infiltrated by activists with nefarious values and agendas. So many therapists have become validation-heavy and in some sort of competition to be the most tolerant and promoting of all things edgy, woke, and fringe. The family seems to have decreasing value and is replaced with the pseudo-family of one's own making. Emotional cutoffs are championed as “healthy boundaries” and the harder work of forgiveness and relationship repair is often not encouraged or even considered. I am aghast! And did you know in the state of Washington a therapist can collude with the state in hiding your child from you if you don’t blithely support and celebrate your child’s identity crisis? You may even be charged with child abuse! And the child’s doctor and therapist risk harsh consequences if they don’t play along. Truth has become illegal!
All that is not to say that there aren’t good, trustworthy counselors out there. I believe I am one! But you MUST vet, or interview, any counselor you consider hiring for either your child or yourself. A Christian label is unfortunately MEANINGLESS, in that the term can mean anything or nothing. Ask questions! Pore over the website, if he or she has one. If the counselor is for your child, take the first appointment for yourself and bring a list of questions. I cannot over-emphasize the importance of this. Therapists, like doctors, lawyers, teachers, police officers, etc. are authority figures and they are being given the opportunity to inspire, persuade, teach, and otherwise influence the perceptions, beliefs, and choices of the client—to speak into his or her life. This is not a small thing!
It is not uncommon for a child to refuse the therapist choice of the parent, and you might be tempted to think some therapy is better than no therapy at all. That may or may not be true. What if the counselor sews a weed into your child's heart that takes a lifetime to dig up and destroy? And it may feel like a no-win situation, and that indeed may be the case. As a parent, you will be judged, and sometimes convicted and hanged. By your child. And possibly by your spouse, your own parents, extended family, friends, neighbors, health professionals, etc. But you can always turn to your Lord and Savior and to the trusted counsel of the Holy Spirit living in you. Sometimes, the most important thing you can do is let go of control, and hand the whole mess over to Him. It was your occupation for a handful of years to pour into your child what you could, to govern, to lead and to guide, to shape and to mold, to love and to nurture….but there comes a time when you simply must zoom out and observe that there is a bigger picture, and your child is on his or her very own path….just like you have been. It may be time for Jesus to take over—the Savior who leaves the 99 to go after the one—your “one” -- and you must let that unfold the way it needs to unfold. Because He knows how to do it. And your prayers are a conduit.
There is help and there is hope!
“The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous mom or dad avails much!” James 5:16