Six reasons individual therapy doesn’t work for children who are adopted — and maybe not for any child.
1. Therapy for children needs to be in a family context. Children are not always accurate reporters of their behavior. And it is hard to fix a problem if you don’t have an accurate indication to begin with. Like going to the doctor and telling them it hurts a little bit when you have been up crying in pain the whole night before.
2. One hour a week is not enough. Children don’t have the capacity to fix themselves without the ongoing help of an adult. When parents participate in therapy, they can continue the work at home.
3. Children who have had early histories of abuse or neglect can have difficulty appropriately attaching to a caregiver. The best way to ensure a healthy future is to teach them how to do this with the parent in the room. Having a child spend time attaching to a therapist might feel great to the therapist but it is a waste of time and money.
4. Parents need to understand the inner world of their child, especially when their child is in pain, to parent them appropriately. A child recently told me that he lets the feelings slide off him when they are too big — and this made his mother’s eyes fill with tears because she had mistakenly (but understandably) misinterpreted this behavior as callousness.
5. Parents are the key to good mental health for children and they need to be trained and supported if the child has come from difficult circumstances or just happens to be a one of those more difficult than average children to parent.
6. It is cruel to let children carry their early histories of pain around by themselves. They need to know their parents know it all, share their sadness and don’t view them as diminished human beings.
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