Does Counseling Work?

There are two clocks in his office.  Neither one works.  One is missing a hand and the other is stuck on 3:00.  I’m watching him type on his computer, wondering what time it is, wishing I wasn’t so hungry, and watching William wonder why he’s here.  I’m kind of wondering the same thing.

After going back and forth between not knowing how to go about it and just plain stalling, we finally started William in counseling. 

I can’t say that I have a lot of faith in counseling.  There’s no denying it has helped people, but I gotta admit I’m skeptical.  What I do know is that my Mom didn’t think counseling was helpful because they blamed her for all of my sister’s problems.  And, when I went to counseling because I was depressed, they offered me Prozac on the first visit.  I thought that was disturbing, but I was also in my 20’s, so I said yes.  Then, when we sent William to talk to the school counselor she bribed him with a prize for every week that he didn’t steal something.  Wait, what??

Despite all this, I know that my child has stuff in his head that I don’t understand.  And I know that my child has stuff in his head that he doesn’t understand .  Between his foster care memories and his ADHD, he has a healthy amount of angst that he tries to hide and does plenty to make us a little crazy.  Sometimes a lot crazy.  So, with this in mind, I made the appointment.

We’ve been 3 times.  A lot of the time has been spent gathering history and working on a treatment plan.  Some of the time has been spent talking about the birth parents (when he wasn’t in the room) who I would like to pretend aren’t relevent.  But, of course, they are.

I did have a personal victory, though. When he asked about William’s Daddy, I told him that it was Brian.  Before he had time to get confused, I added that I didn’t know who the birth father was, though.  He smiled with understanding and I silently praised myself for not letting the moment pass.

So, here we sit.  He asks a question.  William answers in mono-syllables or looks at him in confusion as if he’s speaking French; a response that I’ve become very familiar with.  I clarify.  He types for a few minutes.  The cycle continues.  Then he leaves the room to get the treatment plan off the printer,  When he’s gone, I tell William to relax and answer his questions.  I tell him that’s he’s not in trouble and he only wants to help.  William says ok and starts to pretend that his hand is a bomb.  Not quite what I had in mind, but, at least, he’s relaxed…  I look at the scale by the door and wonder if it would be weird if I were to hop up and weigh myself.  Because, even though, I should be focused on the situation, I’m wondering if the Publix scale that I’ve been using is accurate and I’ve been trying hard to lose weight. 

He comes back and asks a question.  William answers in a few more syllables and he types for a few minutes.  Then he leaves the room to get the revised treatment plan off the printer.  I jump up and go to the scale.  Its calibration is off and it sits at 10 pounds so I prepare for a high number.  I hop on the scale.  It goes up to 30 and stops.  So, according to this scale, I weigh 20 pounds.  I sigh and sit back down.  I tell William that he’s doing a good job, think about how hungry I am, and smile as the counselor comes back in and asks a question…

I’m trying to keep an open mind.  He tells me that you have to treat the parent to treat the child.  He says the parent has to learn how to deal with the child.  Just fix him, I irrationally scream in my head.  Despite the internal screams, I do partly agree with the concept.  I don’t have all the answers and I certainly don’t understand ADHD, even though I live with it everyday.  But, I must be kind of smart because he hasn’t told me anything yet that I don’t already know. 

Don’t yell at a child who is having a tantrum.  Don’t get frustrated when it takes him longer than it should to do something.  Don’t call it stealing when he takes food from his own kitchen but without asking.

I know these things.  I’m not going to pretend like I never broke any of these rules because, on occasion, I have.  But still I know.

I sit there, thinking that I could have read this stuff on the internet. In fact, I have read this stuff on the internet.  I wish that I was home, doing something more enjoyable on my 8th wedding anniversary. And, still wondering what my actual weight is.  But, I look at William and think about what he’s been through and what we’ve been through with him and know that I would do anything for him.  So, I remind myself to keep an open mind.  Open mind, Emily, open mind.

We sign the treatment plan. I make another appointment for the next week.  I reluctantly sign up for the parent support group. 

The support group actually sounds like a good idea and it would be interesting to meet other parents with kids who have ADHD.  But, I know I can’t reliably attend on a weekly basis.  Yet, when I told him that I didn’t know if I could commit because Brian’s schedule changes weekly and Jennice’s (unofficially my nanny/officially one of my best friends) schedule changes weekly.  So, if I can only bring William, then I don’t know if I could arrange childcare for Lizzie and Antwan every week.  Yes, my sister lives nearby but she works a lot and has a lot on her plate, already.  Yes, my parents live nearby, but the kids are a bit hard for them to handle alone.  (I know because they told me so.)  So, no, I don’t want to ask them.

But, he tells me that I should make it a priority and should just take them to my parents since it would only be a couple of hours and it’s so important. I say ok, resent the implication that I didn’t think it was important, and sign up; but have no intention of putting my parents in that position.  I just want to go home.

So, I did. 

I went home and felt a little more patient with William.  Maybe talking to the counselor helped. Maybe knowing that his behaviors are typical helped.  Maybe the fact that he said ADHD kids don’t have empathy, but my William does, helped.  Maybe knowing that I already had the right ideas about a lot of stuff helped. 

Or maybe finally getting something to eat helped. 

Regardless, we’ll go back next week and I’ll have a snack beforehand.  I’ll find a reliable scale and maybe wear a watch.  And, we’ll just see how it goes.

Because William is worth it.

Showing off his All About Me board at school.

24 thoughts on “Does Counseling Work?

  1. For me as an adult counseling has helped in the sense of looking at thing from a fresh pare of eyes, but I am not sure how I would have applied that at Williams age, but it is good that you are open to the idea.


  2. I think the comment about \”empathy\” has to do with poor impulse control, not thinking of consequences or hurting someone's feelings. My son has that problem at times. He also, at times, feels like no one else in the world has problems like his. (Not labeled ADHD, but he has impulse issues and has been emotionally distressed for years). It has helped him to go talk to someone who deals with these issues day in and day out. Counseling does help. Definitely try to see it through. We've been to psychiatrists too, and when my son started responding negatively to the first one, we got another one, a man this time. Not to be sexist, but he lacks an intelligent, firm male figure and has enough women telling him what to do…totally different from your situation though! Oh, and about the school counselor, that is about all they do in the school. I'm glad you are proactive, who knows what William has been through. Better he gets used to talking openly now, before teenage angst hits. -My best, Pam


  3. That makes sense. I will definitely try to see it through and I'm trying to keep in mind that if it's not working, it might just be a bad fit. Thanks for your insight. 🙂


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