My friend Angie over at OCD in The Family recently asked her readers about their thoughts on parental involvement in their children’s treatment team. About a year ago, I wrote about some of my family’s disappointments in this area when my son Dan was at a residential treatment program. I think it’s an important topic that’s worth revisiting.
What I wrote to Angie, and what I firmly believe, is that parents are the experts on their children. Of course each situation is unique, and there are certainly exceptions, but in my opinion there are rarely people who know our children as well as we do. We take our children to psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers, who see our children suffering, often in the worst condition of their lives. Good clinicians know how to treat OCD and other mental health disorders, but there is no way they can really know our children. That’s where I believe parents can be an invaluable resource, giving insight into who their children are when they are well; what makes them tick. This knowledge can go a long way in helping providers who are formulating a treatment plan.
Angie brought up an issue that is at the opposite end of the spectrum. Many parents automatically defer to the “experts,” assuming that they themselves have nothing to contribute. After all, these professionals deal with OCD all the time. What could they possibly tell them that they don’t already know?
What is needed, and what is most helpful, is collaboration. Therapists need to take parents seriously, and listen to what they have to say. Indeed, parents should be encouraged to be involved, even if they are inclined to “defer to the experts.” Another important ingredient in this mix is respect. I have heard from too many parents who have felt unwelcome in their own children’s treatment. This is unacceptable. What we all have to realize is that each of us comes into the treatment process with our own expertise. The therapist knows OCD and the parents know, and love, their child. Working together will likely culminate in the best possible outcome for the OCD sufferer. And really, isn’t that the goal?