Sunday, August 26, 2012

Giving Our Therapist a Second Chance

You may be surprised by the title of this post after what happened with our therapist—to be honest, I’m surprised too!

Last week I called our therapist to cancel our routine Friday appointment because we felt that we needed a little distance after her threats to send our son to a group home. And more importantly, our son was doing so good now that he was back in school and we didn’t want to do anything to disturb that.

When I spoke with our therapist I expressed how upset we were after the last appointment. I explained that my husband and I were very angry with her bringing up a group home for the first time in front of our son and other children without first discussing the idea with us. I let her know that she scared our son with her threats and that he no longer trusted her, in fact he no longer wanted to talk to her again. I also explained that my middle son was in tears and terrified because he thought that she wanted to take his big brother away from us.

As I downloaded our feelings, I was surprised by her reaction. She was sincerely sorry. She immediately admitted that she had made a terrible mistake, in fact she described it as a “major bomb!” She explained that just like medications, in therapy you try different things to see what will work and sometimes it works and sometimes it fails miserably. She said that she never intend to cause the disruption that occurred and never did she want to harm our family. In fact, she said that she really cared for our family and feels sick to her stomach to think about how our son was dealing with what happened. She explained that she already recognized that he was dealing with some deep issues over being rejected by a childhood friend and now she was worried that she would be perceived as another rejection in his life. She then explained that once the trust is broken, it would need to be repaired immediately because time won’t heal it, only solidify it. Instead, she was desperately asking me to allow her to see my son one more time to repair the damage she had done and apologize to him and explain that even therapists make mistakes. She wanted to tell him how much she cared for him and that she would not give up on him. Then if we decided to end the relationship, she would accept that.

I was moved by her sincere apology. After all these years and all our doctors, we’ve come across a lot of bad decisions by those in charge of his treatment, and never have we received an apology, that is until now. I think that shows a lot of character and responsibility. I also recognize that this process has no road map, what works for one kid doesn’t work for another and sometimes we can make a wrong turn. Until now, she has made a lot of good decisions. But more than anything I agreed with her prediction that if we didn’t allow her to apologize, this experience could do more damage in the long run by discouraging him to ever trust another therapist or even worse, feel rejected by another person he thought he could trust with his illness.

So I agreed we would meet with her.

In order to make this as easy as possible for our son, she suggested that we meet at a local donut shop near her office where she could treat the boys to a donut while keeping them away from her office where they may feel uncomfortable. My son agreed to go after I explained that he didn’t have to talk to her and that we could leave after only five minutes if he wanted to.

The meeting went better than I expected. As our therapist took the kids to the counter to pick out their donuts she immediately pulled my son aside and began apologizing in depth. As she spoke I saw his defensive stance melt away and before I knew it, she was hugging him and he was laughing. After that, she spent most of the time visiting with him like an old friend, I could tell that my son had forgiven her as he shared all about his day and first week of school. At one point, she even turned to my other kids and acknowledged that she had scared them too and that she was so sorry for doing that, asking for their forgiveness. Towards the end of the meeting she pulled the three boys together and told them that she learned something special about our family. She said, “I learned that no matter what happens, your family will always stick together, I really admire that!

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In case you missed my weekend post, Starting Middle School, check it out here:


  1. Oh this is wonderful news! She sounds like a rare breed of therapist that will be able to give your son the validation and confidence he needs in dealing with all of his obstacles. Even if she has created one of the obstacles. I am so happy you gave her a second chance.

    A group home is a last resort kind of thing and I honestly don't believe you and your family will ever have to utilize such a thing. More power to you.

    Oh and about the bullying from the last post: It may be beneficial to approach this from the angle of the bully having issues that therapy could help with if only the bully and his parents could commit to getting their son help as you have gotten yours help. Praise your son for not wanting to be a bully, for always trying to better himself, and for using his intellect instead of anger to deal with the bully. You guys are doing great it seems. Keep up the hard work!

    1. Thanks for the encouragement In The Pink! I agree with you about he bully, my son and I discussed that as a way of understanding what was going on with him. My son even said, “Maybe he should see a therapist!” : )

  2. That is great news about the therapist. An apology can have such power. I am so happy for your family!

  3. Great news. She is learning from her patient and his family--good for you for telling her the honest reason for not wanting to return. Perhaps she can now create a questionnaire on how families want a crisis or long term solution handled so she won't have such a "bomb" to others again... because your son reacted positively to the donut shop meeting, she could consider having a walk or a walk to a soda vending machine etc. as part of the therapy session. He might feel less anxious in a casual setting, like walking around the block where the office is, etc. This could be beneficial for working out his problems and eliminating the office-created anxiety if he has it.

  4. I couldn't be happier to read this post, and the one before. We ask our kids to step up and take responsibility for their mistakes, and I commend this therapist for doing the same.

    I hope these are the first of many happy posts to come as your boy navigates middle school and the relationships along the way.

  5. I'm glad to hear this. And if he and the therapist do repair the relationship and go forward, it is a great lesson in how to be responsible for your actions and that mistakes aren't the end of the world.

    (I'm also glad because I know you thought highly of this therapist before the "bomb" and that it is so difficult to find a therapist for boys this age.)