Tag Archives: Denial

Helping Teens with Their Mental Health

Therapy doesn’t come without resistance, especially when you’re dealing with a teenager.  It can be very difficult to get a teen on board with therapy because there’s usually a lot of defensiveness.  I want to discuss a handful of reasons why teens resist treatment:

1. Social stigma.  Anything associated with therapy or mental health issues is a little bit of a taboo.  Kids worry about people pointing their fingers and saying they’re crazy. 

2. Rebelliousness.  No matter what you suggest, some kids will just go against you because you’re an authority figure to knock heads with. 

3. Poor insight.  Teenagers have a limited capacity to look at themselves honestly or realistically.  They often don’t understand how their behavior or problems are affecting them.

4. Fear.  They’re afraid of being “crazy,” that others will perceive them as such, or that they can’t get better.  They also may be scared to death of having to take a deeper look at themselves or their problems.

5. Embarrassment.  They’re embarrassed that they can’t straighten themselves out, and therefore, accepting help from others can be difficult.

6.    Facing their problems may be too painful or overwhelming. 

7. Misconceptions.  Most teens don’t know how psychotherapy works, and they’re worried about what will happen if they admit to things.  They don’t know that the therapist cannot give their parents the information (therapist-patient laws prohibit that, even with minors).

8. Concealment. They don’t want to admit that they’re hiding something – cutting, abusing drugs, etc.  

9. Holding on.  This is what my book, Bad Childhood – Good Life, is all about.  They’re holding on to the drugs or other habit.  They’ve become so dependent on a way of thinking and behaving that it has become their identity.  They’re scared to death of giving up their self-protective mechanism of hiding from reality because it means they will be stripped naked in their own mind, and that’s pretty scary. 

10. Unworthiness. Some kids get so beaten down and depressed that they don’t feel like they’re worth much or that anyone would care about them. 

So, those are some of the main reasons kids resist treatment.  But the question still remains: How do I get my child to attend therapy?

First off, don’t trap them.  For example, don’t say you’re going to the mall and then drop them off at a therapist’s office.  That doesn’t work well.  There are two really good techniques I have always suggested to parents:

1. Make it a team effort.  Say something like, “You know, you and I have been fighting a lot lately, and there’s just so little happiness in the house.  So, I’m thinking if you and I went into counseling together, maybe a therapist could help us sort all this stuff out and make things better.  You’ll be happier and you’ll be able to do all the things you used to enjoy and probably miss.  I’m not sure how to make things better myself, but a therapist could help us work it out.”  That way it’s not, “You wacked-out kid, I’m putting you in therapy because I can’t stand it anymore.”  Make it about how “we” – you and me – can’t figure it out and that you need to get somebody who can help. 
2. Make a definitive statement (e.g. “I’m going to schedule the appointment so we can sort it out together”) and then talk about it in the days before the appointment.  For example, say, “Are you a little nervous about the therapy?  Because I am.”  If you tell your kid that you’re having apprehension about the therapist saying you didn’t do everything right, they are going to look at you and think, “All right, this is more even-steven. It’s not only about me.”  The fact that you are both feeling discomfort will be comforting to them. 

When they start therapy, tell your child you want them to go to four sessions, and then after that, you, your child, and the therapist will discuss if there is more to do.  During the first session, your teen will usually be angry.  I remember I used to have so many kids come in to my office and just sit there and glare at me for an hour: “Is it over yet?!”…”Is it over yet?!”…  The second time they come in, there will typically be a little less anger and more movement toward talking about their pain.  At that point, a good therapist will say, “You know, last week you were pretty angry about having to be here, and I don’t blame you.”  The kid is immediately going to be surprised: “She doesn’t blame me?!”  Being forced to do something you really don’t want to do and open up to a stranger about very painful things (which you really don’t want to do), is hard.  However, a good therapist will make your teen feel like they’re not being forced to do any of that, and instead, simply help them be happier and figure out their parents better.  Slowly but surely, by the third and fourth sessions things will be less forced and more about reducing the pain. 

While your child is in therapy, the family has to be very supportive at home.  They should never ask what happened in therapy – that’s none of their darned business!  Instead, it should be all about subtle reinforcement (e.g. “You seem more creative and relaxed right now, and I think that’s wonderful”).  Remember: a hug and a kiss can go a long way.

Why Women Stay in Bad Relationships

Why would any reasonable woman stay in a bad relationship?

Well, reasonable may or may not have anything to do with it.  I’m going to break down some of the reasons people stay in relationships they should really be leaving:

Fear of being alone.  Although it’s extremely nice to have a companion and a love in life, it is not a good experience trying to squeeze square pegs into round holes.  If you’re with a guy out of fear of being alone, then it’s not even the guy you want – it’s the avoidance of not having a guy.  If you just want to avoid not having a guy, you’ll take just about any guy who’ll line up.    It doesn’t bring peace.  (It’s also curious to me why women think a man can stand their company when they can’t, but that’s a whole other issue).

For some women it’s the devil you know vs. the devil you don’tThere’s something comfortable about staying – even in a bad relationship – because at least you know what you’re getting.

Others make the excuse that “it’s not that bad.”  I remember one woman who called in about her second husband being physically violent.  She said she knew how to deal with violent guys, and this one was less violent so it was “not that bad.”

“Not that bad?!”  It blew my mind to hear that.  It doesn’t matter what comes before the word “bad,” it’s still bad.  That’s called denial.

Some people just can’t stand the notion of having failed, especially if they have lost a marriage or a relationship in the past.  They just don’t want to acknowledge that this is a failure.  Well the way I look at it, the failure is not in leaving when the relationship doesn’t work – the failure is not leaving.   The purpose of dating is to discern whether or not the other person’s a good match.  Once you discern that they’re not a good match, hit the eject button.

Sometimes the guy has some kind of leverage over you.  You’ve done something really dumb, like shacked up with him or put down half the money for a house or condo that you’re not going to get back.  Or maybe he’s made you a kept woman and you don’t know how you’re going to survive on your own.

You believe he’ll change.  After all, he said he would.  He says he’s trying, and really it’s you that’s making him so mad.  If you only stopped making him so mad or crazy or annoyed, he’d stop doing whatever it is that bothers you.

He makes you feel special.  Even though you’re not quite good enough (in his mind), he’ll manipulate you to feel grateful that he’s with someone like you.  He says things like, “You’ll never find anybody to care about you as much as I do.”   That’s laughable.  If somebody says that to you when you know you’re in a bad relationship, just say to them, “Well thank God nobody else is going to treat me like you do.”

Some women become so absorbed with the other person and isolated from their friends and family that they don’t get feedback from anybody else.  They deny that anything’s wrong and try to hide what’s going on.

Lastly, women sometimes won’t let go of a relationship because of the time and energy they’ve invested.  However, it’s just the opposite.  The longer you stay in a bad relationship, the more time and energy you’re going to spend.

If you’re in a bad relationship, don’t just think that working harder is the solution.  If you keep having the same problems, arguments, hurt feelings, and resentments, and nothing gets resolved, end it.  If you’ve been to couples counseling and you can’t reach a place of understanding, move on.   Realize you’ve made a mistake and you’re not compatible.  Don’t go from therapist to therapist until you get someone to agree with you.

Remember that life is finite.  I think that’s one of the most important things people forget.  You only have so many days to be alive.  How do you want to spend them?  Do you really not want to face your fears and stay with what you have?