After a lengthy 2-hour session and a series of questions asked of both mother and teenaged son, the psychiatrist wrote: “the mother is over exaggerating her son’s behavior. He can’t possibly have all the symptoms she describes.” Later, the mother said, “I was completely ignored; this doctor affirmed [my son’s] disrespect for me, in front of me, and [my son] got the idea I was full of it and didn’t need to take his meds.” With the mother’s authority undermined, she lost an opportunity to get treatment for her son sooner. He was eventually diagnosed with schizophrenia, and hospitalized several times.
“Parents’ distress is exacerbated by their need for expertise, but from those who don’t take their concerns seriously.”
Harden, J, 2005. Qualitative Health Research, 15(2), 207-223.
Don’t accept being treated as anything less than a full partner.
Insist that the whole family get time with the psychiatrist, without the troubled child or teen, to check-in and see how everyone is doing. Make the appointment and tell the doctor why. Your family needs to say things they wouldn’t ordinarily say when the child is around. They need to open up secrets and let out difficult feelings without the fear of setting off an explosion later. The doctor needs a full picture of the child’s life at home, and use this as an opportunity to help the family work through challenges in ways that support everyone’s well being.
Insist on being told what to expect. Another common experience is that parents are not told what to expect from treatment or why. You need to know everything they know, even if the professionals are still unclear about a diagnosis or treatment approach. Your child may have many physiological or psychological tests, expensive medications, or visits to many different kinds of ‘ologists’, and you may still not be clear on where the inquiry is going, why, and what the doctors or therapists are looking for.
Insist that they consider your daily experiences. Since a psychiatrist observes your child only during an appointment, they aren’t fully aware of the types of situations that aggravate your child’s behavior. You are the expert on your child and their behavior patterns; you are the expert on what drives them, and on what drives them crazy. You know that, behind-the-scenes, much of what your child does is easily missed by a psychologist, psychiatrist, or therapist. An experienced professional will listen to you and ask more questions. You should expect them to seek clarity on your child instead of assuming they already know everything about them and your family.
Team up. It takes both you and the psychiatrist working together, in partnership, to identify all the symptoms that lead to a working diagnosis. You and the psychiatrist are a team that works together to do what’s best for your child. And don’t forget, since you have all the responsibilities, your needs must always be considered when a doctor is developing a treatment plan.
What have your experiences been? Your comments inform others who read this article.