The Princess and I had family therapy yesterday morning. It wasn’t fun. This is the second session in a row she has refused to participate. She just sits there, with her arms folded, and won’t say anything other than, “I don’t know,” or “I don’t want to talk about it.” There’s a lot going on, but for her, if she doesn’t think about it, then it’s not really happening. For her, if she doesn’t deal with it, she doesn’t have to feel it. For her, those big feelings are still there whether she wants to feel them or not. So, because she will not deal with “it,” she is easily triggered and then explodes, (like she did at the zoo), or she’s constantly talking, bouncing off the walls, and using her baby voice. You see, she MUST be in control. If she lets go, if her control goes, then there’s no telling what feelings will come to the service! She’s crazy scared of what those things REALLY feel like. The fear is HUGE!
There is nothing we can do to MAKE her participate in therapy or in other community based services. Nothing. We can be there. We can offer her support and help, but if she doesn’t want to participate, we’re (therapist, social worker, SRS case manager, parents) just spinning our wheels. She’s just not ready for talk therapy right now. She’s 13 and has the shape of a young woman, but she is still about as emotionally capable as a preschooler. So, backwards we go. In therapy, we’ll deal with the preschooler.
After the $140 waste of time yesterday morning, the Princess’ therapist called to talk with me privately. We had two choices: quit for now (not an option to me) or revert back to play therapy with puppets, sand trays, play dough, and other toys (like you’d use with a much younger child). I asked the therapist to try taking her backwards and working with her as though she were in preschool. When she started therapy two years ago, these are the kinds of tools we used in our attachment therapy. She responded well then. She revealed her thoughts and feelings through play and responded well to receiving ideas for helping her to deal with situations. So now, in going back there, I am hoping she responds well again. Things have been so hard with her the last several months. I cannot imagine her (nor I) not having our therapist and HCBS (home & community-based services). I don’t want to imagine it. (I know some of you, dear readers, do not have a mental health facility near you like we do. Please forgive my whining. I know a lot of you do this on your own. I am a wuss, and God knew that when He plunked us down here. Believe it or not, I just “lucked into” finding our therapist. I didn’t even know we had a MH facility in our community when we moved here.)
When I picked The Princess up after school yesterday, I told her the therapist called me, and that we talked about adding a community-based service (someone who’d work with The Princess in the community and talk with her about family and social skills). We also talked about the need to cooperate and work in therapy. I explained we’d be going back to doing play therapy more so than talk therapy, but that she needed to do the work of dealing with the big feelings that have been bubbling up inside of her. I did not tell her about the possibility of being “fired” from therapy for not cooperating. She would seize CONTROL of THAT like a drowning man grabbing a life ring! I did tell her if she did not cooperate, we would be facing a lot more years of therapy and interventions than we could begin to imagine. (I did not elaborate.)
The Princess is not afraid of me, nor of her therapist. That’s not where her need for control rests. She trusts us. The person she doesn’t trust is herself. She doesn’t trust she’s strong enough to handle those big feelings that are festering under the surface. She’s afraid of peeling off the emotional scab and letting whatever poison out that is there, so the healing can begin. Alas, we plod on. We try to help her feel safe enough to “go there,” assuring her that developing coping tools now, while she’s young, will help her out much more effectively than waiting till she’s older to deal with things and does not have us “right there” to catch her, and help her back up.
That’s what therapeutic parenting is, you know. Plodding on.
Trauma sucks. Big time.