“Help isn’t help if it’s not helpful.” – Western Massachusetts Recovery Learning Community

Imagine this: your teenage daughter, Tammy, attends weekly therapy sessions to work on her symptoms of depression. At each appointment, you sit in during the last ten minutes of the session and talk with the therapist and your daughter. For the last few weeks, your gut told you that something wasn’t right. Finally, Tammy tells you that she is not happy with her therapist. Tammy explains that the therapist answers phone calls during appointments and talks with other clients during her session. Tammy overhears private information and is scared that the therapist could be doing the same thing to Tammy. Your daughter wants to stop seeing this therapist and prefers to find a new one. What do you do?

As parents or caregivers, it is important for you to participate in your child’s care to ensure that they receive quality and effective treatment that leads to positive outcomes. Eventually, your child will be the leader of their treatment and wellness. In order to make sure they can navigate the healthcare system as adults, parents and caregivers need to teach them the advocacy skills to do this now. Not all treatments and not all therapists work for every person. Your job is to validate any concerns expressed by your child and help them find the treatment that will get them well.

Role model these steps

  • Listen: Take time to hear the person’s concerns. Before trying to solve the problem, use reflective questions to make sure you understand the real issue.

  • Provide Support: Acknowledge the person’s concerns. Validate that the problem is real and empathize with how it feels. Remind them that you are here to help.

  • Help Plan: You may want to immediately tackle the issue, but don’t solve the problem for the person! This is where you can role model: sit down with the person and make an action plan together. First, decide on the goal. Then make small objectives that will help you meet the goal. Be sure to create a realistic timeline for the goals and objectives you create.

  • Act Together: Follow the plan that you made. Make sure the person is involved in as many steps as possible. Encourage them to take the lead and support them when they need it. Refer back to the plan after you finish each step.

  • Reflect Throughout: As you complete the plan, reflect on each step to make sure the person feels like they are making progress or are on the right path. Once you complete the action plan, discuss what worked and what could be done better next time. If you hit a road bump on one of the steps, use this reflection step to change the plan or think of alternative ways to meet the goal.

While this story focused on children and teens, these steps are useful for adults too. Remember that you and your loved one have a voice in treatment and the care being provided. If your loved one is willing, involve them as much as possible in the management of their support team. Because the decisions made do not solely rely on you, following these steps may even help reduce caregiver burnout. It’s up to you to be a role model for your loved one and that means taking care of yourself as well.

Have steps like these worked for you? We’d love to hear your story! Submit your personal or family story today.

Additional Parent and Caregiver Resources:

  • Family for Depression Awareness offers brochures, wellness guides, and workshops as tools to help you support your loved one.
  • Goingsane.org is a website and feature-length documentary that helps families recognize ineffective treatments and learn how to access better treatment.
  • FAMpod offers a Family Talk course, which teaches clinicians the Family Talk Intervention. Their new Parent Talk resource provides information about depression and resilience for children and parents.
  • Read our Care For Your Mind article “How Can Parents Help in Shared Decision Making” for more tips.