Friday, June 3, 2011

Therapy- it has no idea what it is up against

Four years ago, Genea was placed in our home. At the time she was seeing a therapist, and we continued with the same person when she moved in. I think, I don't know, but I think that overlap was too much for Genea to handle. She had a visceral reaction to being in the building where her previous family had taken her for counseling. I am sure she had a clear association in her mind of being with them and coming to us, the terror of the transition  striking fear of it happening again. At any rate, she refused to cooperate with the therapist. She refused to go in without me (which was fine) but then she would not talk. Or make eye contact. Or sit on a chair. One memorable session she crawled under the table and would not come out. Eventually she fell asleep under there. It seemed like a good idea at the time, to carry on as much consistency as possible. I guess it wasn't.

Well anyway, put it on the list of things we did wrong.

We stopped going after several months. At various times I would get desperate and start calling around trying to find a new therapist for Genea which was a total bust. I started out with my list of questions, as recommended in the fancy adoption books. Are you experienced with children? Are you familiar with adoption? Are you experienced with older child adoption? How would you describe your treatment style?

Waste. It was always a big fat waste. Rarely did I get past the "do you see children" question. I discovered it was much quicker to start with this question.... "do you take our insurance". Then, "do you see children", then "do you have any openings". For three years I have not been able to get through those questions to ask anything further.

Finally I got a lead on a newly licenced psychologist about 25 miles south of here, who happened to see children AND take our insurance. You better believe after the winter of discontent and hell we had circling Dante's drain I was on the phone making an appointment!

She was on leave. For a month. FINE, I said, I'LL TAKE the first appointment she has.

I was hopeful, but a little pessimistic. A therapist who does not understand Reactive Attachment Disorder can cause devastating and long reaching damage to a child. But, the woman had come well recommended so I gave it a shot.

Our appointment came and she seemed nice. She ran through a lengthy list of possible issues and I was not happy to say, yes, we experience most of the list. Then, she asked me if I would be interested in taking a parenting class.

A parenting class?

I have spent the past 4 years beating my head against every book I could find. Watching every documentary, digging through obscure research looking for links, causes and treatments for my daughters lengthy list of problems. I have flown across the country -twice- to attend specialized training and to become a certified instructor for a parenting model for traumatized children. Sure, I think I can always use tips and suggestions. But, can we get going here first? Because I can pretty much tell you anything you want to know about the 77 things Genea has been diagnosed with and how to approach parenting her. We're not talking about a child here who won't go to time out.


Next appointment and our psychologist is unable to be there. I had pulled Genea out of school and disrupted her routine already. We had driven for a half hour to get there. When the other therapist in the office said she could see us instead I basically said, my child is going to see someone right here today and I don't care who even if it's that man changing the lightbulbs so that's fine. Let's go.

Omg. She is a student. An owner of the clinic and will have her licence in a few months, but not right now. Sigh. Whatever. Lets go do play doh for an hour since we drove all the way here. At least there are no puppets in this office. She and Genea talk and chit chat and then get to some tools to use when she gets angry. Such as, pretend you are a balloon and blow your air and it will help you calm down.

A balloon?

Then she turns to me and says, Mom, can you help  Genea with this and remind her to be a balloon?

Sure. When she goes 0 to 60 in the time it takes to clap my hands together and I have to peel her shrieking hitting kicking throwing self off the ceiling, I will most definitely remind her to "be a balloon". I have taught Genea how to regulate her own heartbeat by using what I call "biofeedback for the poor". We will try the balloon though.

The balloon fails. This is not a shock.

Next session, I talk fast for a few minutes while Genea goes to the bathroom. We've been passed off to the student therapist permanently. I describe our days. She looks unnerved. I tell her a small bit of things we have tried.

Fourth session, and we are off balloons. She recommends a two week intensive program in Colorado for Genea. It is several hours a day. And in Colorado. And, it costs upwards of $15,000. She tells me that she believes she can help Genea on a weekly basis but what she really needs is this full time treatment program with the whole family. Oh my.

Then to today. Believe it or not, I think this therapist is going to work out. She is definitely willing to learn. Genea likes her and loves to have the one on one adult attention. She saw the RAD pretty quick, which is good, and got off the "why don't you try a sticker chart" approach. Today was a good session and she interacts well with Genea.

Did I mention there is a masseuse who has an office down the hall? I have never had a massage, but they sound heavenly.

Now, don't forget to vote for The Accidental Mommy on the Top 25 Adoption Blogs! You can vote one time a day RIGHT HERE. No signing up or tricky business. Just, click click click and you are done and I am  SO grateful and happy! Thanks again to Circle of Moms for the nomination!

1. Click link to go to Circle of Moms
2. Scroll down until you see "The Accidental Mommy" button
3. In the upper right corner of the box you will see a number and a thumbs up. Click the thumbs up to vote. If it turns gray your vote has registered.
4. Check out other blogs on the site too!


  1. ...and this would be why the CLOSEST of our five service providers for Princess is 30 minutes away. I'm in the process of leaving the psychiatrist because while I was crying in his office while saying, "do you realize I FULLY EXPECT to have to send her inpatient this summer?" he said, "well, I guess we should look at attachment issues." As in, I must be doing something wrong. AREYOUKIDDINGME!!!!!? Then, last week, he suggested role playing ripping paper when she gets mad. Seriously, I could write a really thik book on what I've tried with her. Everything. I am sure it is everything. She does not learn by role-playing. Sometimes I think she just does not learn.

    But, of course, the therapist/pediatrician who just got licensed in early childhood trauma brain development 45 minutes away has a two-week wait for new patients TO GET THEIR PHONE CALL RETURNED, so we'll be there awhile. Ripping paper.

    After I get my Masters, this is for sure the area of my future career.

  2. Yes, if your insurance pays for babysitting (what it really is) then keep going while you go get a massage (or go for coffee, or get your grocery shopping done, whatever.) Oy.

  3. I've got you ladies beat - 200+ miles! Yes, indeedy, Lansing to the far side of Chicago. Any surprise I've been too tired to blog about it?

    Seriously, Essie - I'm not so sure about this. House Calls, the place that did the AMAZING conference I went to, is on "your" end of the Chicago area - they are SO flexible. Realizing we were coming from so far, Billy gave us an entire afternoon! Three hours of his preious time AND - this is worth the hefty price of admission (i.e. not covered by our pathetic insurance) - you can call him ANY TIME! ANY TIME. I'm chasing Anastasia down the street at ten at night in the rain, and on my cell - "Billy, what should I do?" INCREDIBLE...... And NOT a student, who will in ten years be lecturing on the mistakes she made with her first clients. I mean I was reading the other day about Dan Hughes' early it is no reflection on her potential brilliance.....only on the er, uh, "challenge level" you bring with you. (Like not jumping at the idea of going to their parenting class - come on!)

    Seriously, girl, the entire practice is ATTACHMENT oriented.

  4. This was a bit of a roller coaster to read. 'Ah, this is going to be terrible, no it's okay, no, terrible, no okay!'

    My question for you is around the biofeedback for the poor. Can you give me some info? There's a few of us here that could use biofeedback and I cannot afford it.

  5. Hi, I'm new here. We recently started therapy with our son, and while the therapist was super nice, he didn't accomplish anything with our son! I got to do a lot of venting, which was great, but my son played Legos and the doctor just kind of tread lightly around him for an hour at a time. At the last session, he kind of asked me where I saw this going and told me he thought we should try again when Matthew is more verbal. Hello, that's part of our problem. He is 4 and makes it a choice not to communicate unless it is on his terms. I am here because when I try to talk to my child, he stares into space and says, "what, what, what, what" over and over. So I guess we need to find someone else. All that to say, I feel your pain.

  6. I did the routine with questions a few times and then I got on line and found a local therapist with attachment experience. We pay out of pocket, but we have had some real help, not just sticker charts. Still, therapy's not a miracle treatment by any means because kids have to want to change at least a little. Our therapist works on that side of it by suggesting things that will nudge our kid towards wanting to change.

  7. interesting. i probably wouldn't go to the colorado thing but thats just me but the one on one sounds good and promising.

  8. You make me LOL. I totally hear you on the trying to find a therapist thing. One of the main reasons I held off for so darn long was that I did NOT want one that was going to try to convince me to do a sticker chart for my RAD kid with whom positive feedback DOES NOT WORK. We've luckily found one who's been moderately helpful. The main benefit for me is to have someone say "Oh yeah, she would do that." rather than "Oh, all kids do that."

  9. We have been through so many therapists, I've lost count. The why-don't-you-try-parent-training comment is usually the kiss of death for them. If they only knew, half of us could teach the parent training classes, they would take that one out of their play books.

    Glad things are going better. Also, what place in Colorado was she talking about? If you need more info, I could always look into it for you.

  10. a PARENTING CLASS?????

    Um, yeah, that's definitely going to be the silver bullet.

  11. If ANYONE told me to take a parenting class on our first meeting I would give them an earful. Good luck with the therapy.

  12. Love how you snuck in the vote thing at the end.... ;-)

  13. I have been reading RAD blogs for a few months now and it seems so many stories are basically the same - the struggle. Against the grain. On everything. Inclusive of the finding a therapist who not just gets it, but can then offer words of true wisdom and guidance.

    We are in the "getting aquainted stage" with a new therapist here. Crossing fingers that this one is better than the last who only played chess for 30 minutes with my RADish every 7-10 days to "teach him to slow down." I SO rolled my eyes over that one. When he needed another acute stay secondary to increased violence and homocidal ideations - well, the only input that last therapist could offer to the hospital was that he had learned to play chess. She was did not know anything about him being homocidal or violent as that and parent involvement was not a portion of his treatment.

    Wishing you much luck with your "newbie."

  14. Chess Becky? CHESS? I'm assuming that's the game with projectiles? Yikes. Likewise, YIKES to 2 WEEKS to get a CALL returned and legos- as- therapy. The Wonderful- that sounds just how Genea was when she was 4 also, part of the reason we stopped going.
    The Colorado center she recommended is Evergreen. I ordered their book, it's good but it's basically material I covered ages ago.
    Annie- I'm SO glad something is working for you and A! I'm sure the drive there emphasizes the seriousness of it with her. 200 miles, I think that's about our distance to Chicago too. If he does house calls maybe he would meet you (or us)halfway ha ha.

    Tova- my "biofeedback" method boils down to feeling for your heartrate and changing your thinking deliberately until you feel it slow down. Genea has been amazed with it, she probably loves learning another way to control something. With her though it really only actually works if we know something is coming up, we practice ahead of time and do it regularly throughout the event. And I do the prompting to change her thinking. All very tricky but when we do it right it works great.


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