Why I Created a Practice That Focuses on The Parent-Child Relationship
Written by the owner and creator of UpliftME Attachment-Based Therapy.
Where It Started
I used to work the graveyard shift, 10 pm to 7 am. I used to work at a facility called the Juvenile Assessment Center (JAC). This was a place where police could bring pre-teens and teens, whom they had come into contact with for various reasons during the night, to wait until their parents could be reached to pick them up. We also completed assessments and provided resources.
Sometimes, we would have parents come to our door in the middle of the night with their teenager, their packed bags, and a sleeping bag. They would explain that they were done; that they didn’t want their kid anymore. It was heartbreaking.
Actually, a lot of the parents we contacted were upset and angry at us, at their child, or at a system that they felt was failing them. They didn’t know what else they could do and they would say “someone should do something.”
It always made me wonder when these parents felt like they lost the authority to be the person who does something. Why did they feel so helpless in parenting a teenager who oftentimes was adrift, testing the limits of the world and angry and depressed themselves? There were a lot of parents who expressed relief that their child was ok and felt confident they could handle the challenges the night had presented, but there were many who simply expressed there was nothing they could do.
The Difficult Part for Parents (Stress and Trauma)
And so, after years of this experience, I began an internship as a graduate social work student. I would provide in-home mental health therapy to families with children from birth to 12 years old. Many of these families had countless stresses and challenges. They were in social programs for homelessness, child safety concerns, or food insecurity. They were struggling but trying their hardest to be good parents. It was an experience that shifted my view of the world.
It made sense to me then, that in order to help the teenager and parent that showed up at the JAC when the kid was 15, we had to help the kid and their parent before they hit this crisis point – often many, many years before. Even with all of the stressors and traumas that parents and children experience early on, they could have a happy and healthy long-term relationship with support, but how do we do this?
Barriers with Using Insurance
Unfortunately, our mental health system is currently set up to address symptoms you can see in individuals, and individuals only. There is not an insurance company that will pay for services that look at symptoms of difficult relationships or struggling families – only if there is an individual with a mental health diagnosis and that person participates in family therapy will they cover therapy. But what if nobody has a mental health diagnosis and it is really just the relationship that needs help? What if parents of young children simply want to feel more confident and connected to their children? What if a teenager looks, on paper, to be functioning very well, but is struggling with loneliness or difficult behavior at home? It made me think, what if we can address challenges in relationships without having to think about someone having a mental illness?
This is the space I have been in for most of my career as a mental health professional – trying to figure out how to get young children and babies support without having to have a mental health diagnosis present, trying to think about all of the stuff that sits between a teenager and their parent that is preventing everyone from feeling happy and loved but doesn’t meet any criteria of a mental health diagnosis.
It’s a shift for most of our society, a shift that requires we begin to think bigger about how we can improve the lives of those we love, as well as our own lives. We need to think about our relationships instead of our symptoms. We have to begin to wonder about how we relate to one another and how this impacts our own feelings and our reactions, as well as children’s feelings and their reactions.
You Don’t Have To Wait!
The good news is you don’t have to wait until there is a crisis, a substance abuse disorder, or a chronic attachment wound that re-enacts itself in all of your adult relationships before you get help. By providing parent-child therapy our practice can help you and your child now. We can help without having to think about there being an illness or a justified reason for seeking mental health therapy. We can focus on the things that will help improve the relationship without having to identify one single person as having the problem, essentially removing the shame and blame that can be present when therapy is only justified from a mental illness perspective. And, if someone does happen to have a mental health diagnosis, we can still help!
With several of our therapists able to provide a sliding scale that ranges from $15 to $150 per session, we are an affordable option for therapy. Clients with Medicaid also have the option of working with a student intern for $0.
Call us today if you’d like to have a happier and healthier relationship with your child. You don’t have to wait!