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  • Writer's pictureStacy Taylor, LCSW

Bad Therapy

There's a new book with a provocative name and thesis. It's called, Bad Therapy, by journalist Abigail Shreier.

The book is a harsh critique of child and teen therapy. After extensive research, she believes that therapy for youth is more harmful than helpful.

Why is it so "bad" in Shreier's eyes? Here are some of her conclusions:

--Therapy makes children weak, negative, and self-focused.

--The therapist can influence impressionable youth in ways that may not be good for the child or the family.

--By children confiding in the therapist, the parents are left out; therapy could inadvertently alienate the child from the parent.

I worked as a child and family therapist for many years. What do I think?

I agree with Shreier in some ways, but not others. Yes, if the child just talks endlessly about problems that wouldn't help matters.

But some types of short-term therapy may offer relief to both the child and the parents. If therapy is geared towards problem-solving and skill building, the youth can learn better ways to cope.

So what do you do if you have an uphappy child? If your child tantrums, is defiant and difficult, or anxious and sad? First, try to remedy the situation on your own.

Spend more time with the child; get active as a family and turn the phones off. Have family nights and meals together. Engage the child in activities that he or she enjoys and is good at. Keep a close eye on your teen's phone use and social media.

If, after all of that, a child is still suffering, then short-term therapy may help; but keep it brief and time-limited. You don't want your child to become dependent on an outside person to fix him or her.

Last, but not least, the therapy must involve the parents, at least for children and younger teens. Avoid any therapist who doesn't keep you in the loop with regular appointments and check-ins.

As the old expression goes, the proof is in the pudding. If the symptoms are improving within a reasonable amount of time (say a couple of months), then you're on the right track. If not, or if the child seems worse, you may want to look elsewhere.

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