When kids show signs of emotional or behavioral troubles they may be sent to a mental health professional who suggests that a “chemical imbalance” is the problem. Here’s what can happen when the family, not just the child, becomes the patient. The side-effects are good.
All families have Rule Systems, but they may not even know it. In this case story, psychiatrist/family therapist Dave Keith treats a family with a child diagnosed with ADHD. Watch how he disrupts the Family Rule system. Good things happen for the child.
Dave: I have to take a moment to applaud my good friend and muse, Amy Begel, who has a splendid
Parenting advice often describes ways to “manage” a child’s temper tantrums. But temper tantrums, or defiant behavior in kids contain important messages for the parents. Often, without meaning to, kids are responding to underlying tensions in the family. They react in the only way they know how: through their behavior. The message: HELP!
We’re revisiting a past article by Dr. Allen Frances, a prominent psychiatric “insider” who now spends his time railing against the overprescribing of psychiatric medications. Here he talks about the New York Times article which connected the proliferation of “ADHD” in kids to the profiteering by the drug companies. This is a wake up call to parents and professionals alike. Frances says, “as it stands now, we are doing an uncontrolled experiment on our kids with no clue about the long term effects of the meds on their brains and behavior.”
“Chemical Imbalance” has become a generally accepted way to think about psychological conditions like depression and anxiety. But David Keith offers another perspective: In fact, emotional problems may be a sign of mental health.
These days kids are reflexively and routinely given stimulants like Ritalin if they are designated as having ADHD. Dave Keith offers an alternative perspective: He works with the family relationship patterns in order to treat the child. The side effects are good.
Good physicians take a clinical history in the interest of arriving at a diagnosis. While the clinical history is a review of ‘facts’, there are in fact, few ‘facts’ about human experience. Different examiners will get different histories depending upon what they ask about. Different family members give different reports of the same set of events. In my view clinical histories are a form of fiction pretending to be ‘objective’.
Kids instinctively “worry”, that is, feel responsible for their families. Don’t forget that. Children worry about their families. They are trying to help the parents become not only better parents but better people. But their therapeutic methods get diagnosed as mental illness.
For Amy and Dave, common psychiatric “disorders” are part of relational patterns, usually embedded in the dynamics of the family. You just have to know how to look.