July 22, 2011
Diagnosis Fads and Trends

I felt so compelled to respond to your comments on the current "trend" or "fad" of diagnosing "out of control kids" with Bipolar Disorder. You said (I am paraphrasing) it is far better for a kid who is acting out to go into FAMILY therapy than get on medication or individual counseling. I could not agree more.

I worked in the community mental health system for 8 years before becoming a stay-at-home mom. My absolute favorite job for 5 of those years was as an in-home family therapist for kids and their families in crisis. Schools, other community programs, and psychiatrists could refer families to our program but there was always an "identified patient", a child who is acting out, to bring us into the home since the program was technically a "children's service."

LET ME TELL YOU, 99.9% of the time the "out of control kid" (kid with a diagnosis) was the healthiest member of the family! Their acting out was just a SYMPTOM of a problem within the whole family system. Like when a bruise on your body throbs to let you know there is something wrong, these "bad kids" are running around throbbing.

This family therapy program was so fascinating, we were brought into the home because little Johnny was out stealing in the community or acting out violently, or using alcohol/drugs. Family therapy would always reveal problems within the FAMILY UNIT (domestic violence, past trauma, bad parenting, etc.) Parents rarely ever wanted to look inward because they were so invested in the "symptom bearer" being the bad seed or the problem. But every now and then, we would get people who were willing to face the truth about their parenting and we made beautiful changes.

I now make my contribution to society by staying home and raising my kids. I don't know if I would like to go back to community mental health later in life because the whole system is set up very poorly. There are sooooo many mothers who drop their little kids off for individual counseling for years on end! Family therapy should be mandated for these people who allow psychiatrists to label the kids and throw them on heavy duty meds.

Even if crazy aliens came down from the sky, kidnapped a kid, and did some serious psychological damage to the kid in isolation of the family-it would still be best practice to put the child in FAMILY counseling not individual counseling because everyone still lives with some kind of family unit... No one exists in a vacuum!

Dr. Laura, I know you already know all of this about family therapy but it wouldn't hurt for your listeners to hear it from someone who has spent years in the living rooms of the "bad kids" in the community.



P.S. "Surviving a Shark Attack on Land" is OUTSTANDING!

Posted by Staff at 12:00 AM