Why Isn’t My Son Getting Better? part III of III

By Dr. James Feinberg,
Child Clinical Psychologist

In part I, I addressed how an inadequate psychological/psychiatric evaluation often results in boys not benefitting from mental health treatment. In part II, I addressed how other mental health provider (“MHP”) factors can contribute to treatment failures. In this last segment, common parental mistakes, leading to complications in treatment, are addressed. Typically, at the root of these mistakes, is a lack of information about the mental health field and the treatment process. For example:

Over the years, I have encountered many parents who mistakenly believed that all MHP’s were created equal and that any MHP could treat their son. Wrong! Child and adolescent MHP’s are highly educated as well as extensively trained in treating these specific populations. So, choose very carefully who treats your son.

Whereas, other parents believed that briefly consulting a MHP whenever a crisis arose was sufficient. The inherent problem with this “crisis oriented approach” is that the symptom may temporarily improve but the underlying cause was not addressed, never mind resolved. Consequently, additional crises continue to occur until you do so.

Along, those same lines, I have encountered other parents who believed that boys could be treated in 6 appointments or less. Although insurance companies may perpetuate this myth, this really isn’t possible because of what’s involved in establishing rapport, getting the lay of the land, and then facilitating change. In my 25+ years of experience, the greater the emotional distress of the boy, the more serious the problem(s), and/or the longer duration of the problem(s), the longer it will take for that boy to make significant as well as lasting changes. Typical duration of treatment for boys under my care ranges from 6 months – 2 years. So, sticking with treatment, getting to the root of the problem, and then resolving it is definitely in the best interest of your son as well as family.

Yet, other parents I have interacted with initially didn’t understand how frequently changing MHP’s was actually counterproductive. Obviously, the inherent problem with this approach is that you’re starting all over again every time you consult a new MHP.
However, because children and teens develop a close relationship with MHP’s who help them solve problems, these kids and teens often have difficulty transitioning to a new MHP. Consequently, if you change MHP’s too many times, your son will quickly learn not to invest in future MHP’s as well as in the treatment process.

So, be proactive. Research whom you consult and how they conduct business, as well as examine the treatment decisions you make as a parent so that your son’s struggles are short-lived and his future is bright!

For additional information, you may contact Dr. James Feinberg, child clinical psychologist, and his therapy dog extraordinaire, Grace, at 314-966-0880 or at www.stlouischildpsychologist.com.