Family Involvement in Children’s Mental Health Services

Janet over at ocdtalk had an interesting post up on family involvement in children’s OCD treatment. She says that, while therapists know all about OCD and how to treat it, parents are the experts on their children and see them when they’re well, too. Therefore, parents need to be actively involved in treatment of their mentally ill children. Excluding parents form treatment is unethical.

Then again, parents can go too far too, when they are directing their child’s diagnosis and treatment. I mentioned a few days ago my parents taking me from one educational psychologist to another until they had the recommendation they wanted. It is a parent’s job to tell about their observations of their child, not to make a diagnosis.

For this reason, I have a hard time still involving my family in my treatment. My parents came to the acute ward twice. Once to talk to the doctor at the doctor’s invitation, and another time to allegedly take me home with them because they didn’t agree with my placement. They were speculating all about my motivations for being suicidal back then. I understand parents sometimes make observations that the (grown) child does nto agree with or like. For example, my parents were right to say that I’d made numerous suicidal threats starting in childhood. I didn’t like the connotation of manipulation or attention-seeking, but it’s a common assumption even with mental health professionals dealing with those who make repeated suicidal gestures. Janet assumes that parents usually have the child’s best interes tin mind. This was probably true in my case too, even if in retrospect I do not agree with their decisions. As I said, it’s not a parent’s job to tell the clincian whatever their (adult) child wants them to.

What is problematic is when a diagnostician or therapist and the parents don’t get along or are clearly not on the same page. It’s easy for the parents to hop to a new clinician, but please do realize that clinicians sometimes see things parents don’t. My parents didn’t particularly see or want to see my autism, yet it’s been diagnosed by three different clinicians. Parents do sometimes interpret behavior differently than a clinician would, for example because they’re used to the child’s behavior and don’t see it as much as a problem anymore. This is again a reason both parents and clinicians need to know their job in the assessmetn and treatment of struggling children.

2 thoughts on “Family Involvement in Children’s Mental Health Services

  1. You bring up a lot of good points, and I agree that it’s sometimes a fine line between parents being helpful and hurtful. Some of the comments I received on my post that you referred to were a real eye-opener for me and have given me a lot to think about. I appreciate your input and wish you all the best


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