It is amazing to me how many even well informed, highly educated, and generally well-meaning parents either do not pick up on or ignore serious problems their children are having.
FACT: in a majority of over the 1,000 families I have worked with over the years, when I ask parents if they were aware that there was a serious problem, the answers indicated they were aware of something 3 to 5 years previously. What makes this even scarier is, as a common scenario, when I ask the child of those parents when they were aware of a serious issue their answer is one to three years ago. That means that the typical delay from the time the problem began until there was professional help is 5-8 years.
There are many reasons for this. Sometimes it is because the problems are so subtle that no one can detect them for a long time. But in the majority of cases, the reasons have more to do with the invisible yet powerful negative mythology surrounding the idea of getting professional help for emotional or behavioral problems.
As I list off the elements of this negative mythology, why don’t you see how many apply to you?
1. If your kid needs to see a therapist, that means they are weak or lack courage to face things on their own
This begs the question what is “courage”? The most accurate definition of courage is not the absence of anxiety but the mastery of it. I’ve worked with many members of the military, including those in Elite groups such as Special Forces. All of them say the same thing about the “toughest” guys and females: they are not the ones who ignore any distress they might experience before or during the mission, but they are the ones who have learned to catch it early on and handle it efficiently. Reflect on that.
2. We can do this on our own, if we just try harder…
We would all agree that athletes represent some of the people who try the hardest, right? Chew on this: nearly every professional sports team now has a performance or sports psychologist on their staff. These teams, that are extremely performance driven, recognize that psychologists are technical experts who use Great People Science (GPS). The most important GPS.
3. Bringing your kid to a counselor or therapist means you are not a good parent
There is no credible evidence behind this assumption, and some of the best parents I have ever met have brought their kids to see a counselor at critical junctures of their development
4. “Talk” Therapy does not really help
Over 30 years of behavioral science literature confirms that for a wide variety of conditions psychological Evidence Based Treatments (EBT’s) are the suggested first line of treatment, even before medication in many cases.
5. If you don’t talk about or recognize a problem, it will go away.
This is one of the most pervasive myths around. This is a dangerously naïve perspective and most often leads to serious deterioration in your child. Ignoring the problem can lead to things as serious as substance abuse, sexual abuse, or suicide.
6. If you bring your kid to a therapist, it will ruin their self-esteem or make them think that they are “crazy”
Actually, the opposite is true: even if kids come into my office very unhappy to be there at first, it is very rare that they do not end up actually truly enjoying and growing from the process and in the end thanking their parents for having initiated such a growth-inducing process.
How many of these mythological statements do you agree with? If there are any, critically evaluate how they might minimize the chances that if your child has a real problem you will bring them to a professional. And not find it in the years after a real problem began.