With COVID-19, teletherapy went from a niche service to a widespread practice in the therapy world. Given such a significant change, I thought it helpful to share a few tips on how clients can get the most out of their teletherapy sessions.
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This blog is written by the clinicians at Jonah Green and Associates, a mental health practice based in Kensington, MD that provides quality services for children, teens, families, and adults. It is intended as a resource for families who are seeking to expand their knowledge about mental health and mental health services, and also as a resource for families who are seeking quality mental health services, especially in the mid-Atlantic region. Please feel free to post questions and comments on any of the entries as well as on any topics or articles from our companion web site www.childandfamilymentalhealth.com.
Therapists, coaches, and “how-to” books offer a lot of excellent communication advice for conflict resolution. One recommendation is to use “I” rather than “you” statements: “I feel hurt” rather than “you’re so mean”. Another suggestion is to acknowledge the other’s point of view, with statements such as “I get how you would feel that way”. Additional skills include paraphrasing the other’s words, being specific with complaints rather than making blanket statements such as “always” or “never”, and avoiding “mind reading” (“I know you’re doing that just to manipulate me”).
When I meet a parent and family whose teen is engaging in self harming behaviors the revelation is almost always met with high anxiety, sadness, and a whole lot of fear. It makes sense that finding out your child has been harming themselves would lead to a great deal of confusion and concern for most parents. However, learning how to talk about this painful subject is one of the most effective strategies adults can use to reduce shame, end stigma, and help their adolescents to find a healthier way to cope with negative emotions. But the question remains: How do we talk about self-harm?
“You’re completely ridiculous, Dad—you don’t know anything”
“Why do you have to use the computer right now?! Let me use it!”
“You’re the reason I did so bad on that test, because you made me go to that dumb “event”!”
If you are a parent, the above quotes may feel uncomfortably familiar. Of all the difficulties today’s parents face, the shockingly disrespectful way in which their children often address them may be the most challenging. Children whom they love dearly disparage them in sarcastic or demeaning tones, or refuse to respond to simple directions. Parents may feel hurt and powerless, and if the behavior becomes a pattern, they might even grow resentful.
Couples and family members who enter therapy to improve their relationships have usually endured long periods of harsh conflict. Couples might be caught in repetitive cycles of criticism and defensiveness; parents and teens might be trapped in power struggles; siblings may find themselves in escalating rivalries. Anguished to stop destructive arguments, people usually begin therapy focused on containing their conflicts. Therapists can help clients to manage their conflicts by helping them engage in respectful communication focused on thoughts and feelings, and avoiding excessive blame, criticism, and stonewalling. With improved communication, power struggles can become more manageable, and conflicts can more easily resolve.