What to Expect When Bringing Your Child to a Therapist

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Your child is struggling with their emotions and behaviors and you would like them to see a therapist. What should you expect?

Shawna Croaker, the Director of Community Based Services and licensed therapist at PATH, gives pointers on what to expect when starting the process.

Legal Paperwork: When starting therapy, you will need to sign paperwork indicating you understand your privacy, responsibility, and confidentiality rights; complete consents for treatment; and provide insurance information. Releases of information need to be signed for anyone you want your therapist to get information from or collaborate with, such as teachers or medical providers. Make sure to ask questions and request copies of these releases if you would like them.

Thorough Assessment: Expect your therapist to ask many questions. They will need history, family, medical, social, educational, behavioral, and functioning information to determine how to best help your child and family. Depending on your child’s age and concerns, your therapist may have you or your child’s teacher complete some additional assessment forms or questionnaires to gather more information.

Diagnosis: Your therapist is gathering information to identify needs and goals, but also to determine a diagnosis. A diagnosis helps guide treatment and is required by insurance companies for reimbursement. A diagnosis may be long-term, as with physical diagnosis, but also may be short-term and discontinued as functioning improves and symptoms decrease.

Explanation and Overview of the Treatment Model and Expected Length of Time for Therapy: The assessment process determines the treatment model used. Some models typically used for children are: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Parent-Child Interaction Therapy, Solution Focused Therapy, Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, among others.

Therapeutic Activities that are Appropriate for your Child’s Age and Development: Most children do not benefit from “talk therapy” alone. We know play and interesting activities help children learn, adopt skills, and process trauma and stress. Sometimes things discussed in therapy can be upsetting for a child, so therapists often try to end the session with a brief, fun activity, such as a game, to help ease the transition back to their other environments.

Caregiver Involvement: For therapy to be most effective, research indicates it is important that caregivers are involved to help support the child and guide them through skills learned in session. This helps to translate skills to other environments, as well as improve the relationship with the main caregiver. Caregivers should be involved in all aspects of therapy, from assessment, treatment, and discharge planning.

It is important to remember that therapy is not a magic fix and it can take some time to see progress. In addition to supporting the child individually, it is also helpful for adults to learn new ways to respond to their children’s big emotions and behaviors, and ways to enhance the relationship. Building this relationship is also part of the role of the therapist and will create lasting positive impact.

Nexus has two locations, Gerard Academy in Austin, MN and PATH in Fargo, ND, that offer Outpatient Services. The locations offer services from trained professionals that can assist with the stress of life that can lead to problems at home, work, school, or in the community.

This blog post was originally written for the Nexus blog and used with permission. Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash


Having trouble finding a therapist in our rural state?  Contact post adopt staff at postadopt@pathinc.org for referrals and recommendations!

 

 

You Are Not Alone

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This post has been submitted by guest blogger, Randy Haaland, a rockstar foster and adoptive dad in North Dakota.

Image result for bear trap ranch

We learned about Road Trip for Dad’s at Camp Connect 2017, which was a summer camp for adoptive parents that was put on by the ND Post Adopt Network.  Mike Berry was the speaker at the camp and he mentioned it during one of his sessions.  When he described it, a few dad’s seemed interested in making the trip, but after the camp was over everyone parted ways.  A month before road trip was to start I was contacted by one of the other dad’s that attended the summer camp to see if I would be interested in road tripping to Colorado to attend Road Trip for Dad’s.  I was a bit hesitant, but was encouraged to go by my wife, which we later found out was a very common occurrence.  After giving it a lot of thought, I decided to go along and give it a try.

We met in Casselton on a Saturday morning and then headed to Bismarck to pick up another dad after that we were on our way to Bear Trap Ranch by Colorado Springs.  One of the dads had planned out our trip because he had experience traveling the route that we were taking.  We shared a lot of experiences on our drive.  We also made some pit stops to sightsee and hit up a couple microbreweries in Deadwood, SD.  He had made reservations at a neat little cook shack called High Plains Homestead in Nebraska.  We ended up spending the night at a small bed and breakfast just down the road.  A couple of the rooms were in a barn, which was comical when we told our wives and kids, but they were actually really nice rooms.  After a good night’s rest, we woke up to a great homemade breakfast from the very interesting and down to earth owner of the bed and breakfast and then we were on our way.  The conversations we had on our road trip were well worth the 14 hour car ride.  I would highly recommend taking the time to actually road trip to Road Trip for Dad’s for anyone looking to attend it.

Arriving at Bear Trap Ranch on Sunday, no one really knew what to expect.  We checked in and claimed our beds in rooms that had two to three bunk beds each.  That night at supper there was a speaker that talked about his experience with adoption, which was really eye-opening to the amount of trauma our kids can come from.  It definitely helped me realize that instead of trying to fix our kid’s problems, sometimes we have to change ourselves and the way we discipline and teach our kids.  That night there was a campfire where we all got to introduce ourselves and learn about each other’s stories.  That night by the campfire really opened my eyes to realize that we are not alone in the parenting of our kids.

The next two days we really had to ourselves to do whatever we wanted.  We did some hiking around the area.   A few dads did some fly fishing one day, another group went up to Pike’s Peak, and of course we went down the mountain to a couple microbreweries.  I would say the most rewarding experience was going on a hike with a large group of dads through a couple old train tunnels.  Just walking through the mountains and seeing all the beauty in the mountains was breathtaking.  It really allowed me to reflect on my past with the kids we have had as foster kids and our kids that we have adopted.  I was able to just sit and think of things I could do differently from the conversations I had with other dads.  I was also able to think about all the ways I could improve on my relationship with my kids and wife.  Over those two days, it really helped me realize that we are not alone in our fight for our kids to be able to have as normal of a life as we can provide them.

The last morning we walked up the mountain to have a cowboy wrangler’s breakfast.  It was an amazing breakfast and it was great to be able to reflect on the past couple days with everyone one last time.  After breakfast we packed up and left.  Leaving was one of the hardest things to do, because it was such an amazing experience, but I was definitely ready to get home and share my experience with the wife and kids.  It is hard to put into words how the trip changed me, but I feel like attending Road Trip for Dads helped me become a better dad.  I have realized over the years of doing foster care that no amount of classes and training can help you deal with some of the issues that our kids come from.  The best training is learning from other families and hearing their stories.  When you listen to someone tell their story and everything starts clicking and you realize that they are talking about exactly what you are going through, it really helps knowing that you are not alone in the battle of raising our kids who came from trauma.

Randy Haaland

 

Click here for more information on Road Trip for Dads!

The Heat of the Moment

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Parents,

You’re in an argument with your child. Their behavior was out of control, they wouldn’t listen, you lost your cool, and the situation intensified. By the time you realize what has happened, it’s done.  How do you save face? How do you handle the next disagreement?

This is a common topic, one that leave parents feeling shame, regret, thinking the “I should haves”, and coming up with the “next times”.  You are not alone in this!  Remember:

  1. You cannot fix what is already done. Whatever happened, big or small, the words have been said, the actions have been completed. The past is the past and no amount of rehashing or self-punishment is going to change it or make you feel better about the situation.
  2. An apology can go a long way. You are human and no human is perfect. Own up to your mistakes! Often, kids can be taken by surprise by an adult saying “I’m sorry for losing my temper. Today has been really tough for all of us, hasn’t it?” Kids are often expected to apologize for things they have done, but do we adults always follow through on that expectation? Offering an apology is not only a great teachable moment for your kids, but it also shows your kids it is safe to make yourself vulnerable within your family.
  3. Move on. Give yourself permission to move on. As human beings, we all do things we aren’t always proud of.  Ruminating on these situations does nothing but makes our brains stay in those negative, gunky feelings.  Give yourself some grace.

So, how do you handle the next behavior issue?

First of all, DO NOT take things personally!  Kids are not in control of their behavior when they are mad. If you personalize this situation, kids then lose their stability in the moment and may feel that you are not a safe place to bring their problems to.  It’s not about you. In the heat of the moment, their brains are firing from a different place- a place full of body memories from their past. As parents, you have to help them bear their storm.  They need you to help them get back into control.

I’m sure we’ve all had situations where we know reprimanding during the behavior is not going to go well.  Sit with them at their level. Breathe. Demonstrate what you want their body language to be. Wait until it is done, then ask “what do we need to do to make this better?” or “how can we help you fix this?” Maybe it’s an apology or replacing a broken item. Have your kid help identity an appropriate consequence for the behavior.

Feel free to share your insight on this. What has worked for you? What hasn’t gone so well? Remember, go easy on yourself.  You aren’t alone in this!

 

 

 

What Do Our Children Need From Us?

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March 22, 2017 | Morgan Nerat, LSW

When parenting children who have been traumatized, or parenting a child who grew up in hard places, it’s often hard to communicate with them or know what they need from us. We are not mind readers, but maybe some of these hints will help you parent your children.

A Set Schedule
Some of the children in the AASK program were raised in a birth home that was not consistent, where things could change in a matter of minutes, and no one knew what the schedule was. Some of the children in the AASK program have moved to foster home to foster home or treatment facility to foster home too many times. Children need predictability due to their past experiences. Many of our children do not do well with sudden change, because it may bring back old memories or cause unnecessary anxiety. For example, when there is an activity coming up, have a talk with your kiddo and prepare them for this upcoming change or about expectations.

Figure Out What They Are Hinting at
Some children don’t know what they want and if they don’t know what they want, how are they going to tell you what they want? Have you ever had your child follow you around the house or maybe stare at you? You ask if they need something, ask if they need to tell you about their day, or you ask if they’re hungry, and their answer is ‘no’. You play a guessing game, but you are losing because you don’t know what they want. Try asking if they would like to play a board game. Try asking if they need a hug. Maybe they need reassurance that you want to spend time with them. Maybe they want a positive physical touch but do not know how to ask for it.

Reassurance
Have any of your adoptive kiddos repeatedly said your name over and over again? When you finally ask what they need, they might pause and attempt to come up with a clever question, because they did not know what to ask you when they started calling for you. Try saying, “if you are asking if I love you, the answer is yes”.

Privacy
You adopted your child/sibling group and you want them to feel part of the family, because they are now part of your family. Therefore, please do not tell everyone about your child’s birth history, how they entered foster care, or why their birth parent’s parental rights were terminated. Don’t be that person who overshares! If your child wants to tell other’s about their story, that is their decision and you can be there to support your child; however, also teach your child about privacy. We all know those people who want to be a bit nosy. Stop them in their tracks and instead, brag about all of your child’s victories and their accomplishments.

Claim Your Child
Oftentimes, I work with children who are looking for someone to claim them. You can make  little comments such as, “I’m so glad our family is complete”, “Our family is blessed to have each other”, “I am so happy to be your dad”, “I’m so glad I can call you my son”.  A family I recently worked with told me a student at their daughter’s school asked if he was her dad. He said, “Yes I am her dad”, and the look on their daughter’s face was pure joy!

 

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