Therapy for My Child with Mental Illness

December 8, 2014 Christina Halli

My son Bob began talk therapy at age eight after he knocked over a heavy wrought-iron barstool that ripped the back of my upholstered couch as it fell. Next he went upstairs and slammed the door to his room, putting a hole in the wall. Bob's behavior got worse despite my best parenting efforts. He was a sweet kid, but his moods changed rapidly, resulting in damage and destruction. I didn't know what to do, so I asked one of my mom friends for a referral.

The First Therapist for My Mentally Ill Child

Dr. Wooten was a child psychologist. She spent two sessions evaluating Bob. Then she met with my husband and me to explain the results. She diagnosed our son with social phobia and recommended cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Finding the right therapist for your child with mental illness can be difficult. Read about the right, and wrong, therapists for children with mental illnesses.

Bob did CBT with Dr. Wooten for six months and made a lot of progress. First Bob played with toys while Dr. Wooten spoke to me. Though extremely shy, Bob listened to the conversation, taking it all in. After a few weeks, Bob came out of his shell and Dr. Wooten gave him some ideas of ways he could think differently.

We said goodbye to Dr. Wooten when my husband's job moved us across the country.

A year later Bob cried a lot and wouldn't eat. I got Mr. Walters' name from the school. He was a licensed counselor, with a gentle spirit. He met with Bob weekly while I sat in the waiting room. Soon Mr. Walters told me not to come back. While he enjoyed talking with Bob about sports, Bob was unwilling to open up about anything else.

Therapy for Children in Crisis

One day Bob screamed, "I'm going to kill myself!" The next day I stumbled upon the local crisis center number. I took Bob in for an evaluation. They released him to me with a safety contract and a referral for another therapist.

Bob quickly mastered the biofeedback computer game in Thad's office. Unfortunately, the skills did not transfer to the real world. Bob's anxiety got worse and Bob soon fell into a deep depression. Thad referred us to Dr. G, a psychiatrist, who eventually diagnosed Bob with bipolar disorder.

By the time Bob's moods were stable, his anxiety was worse than ever. Bob spent a whole summer in is room watching movies. He wouldn't go to camps, the mall or the pool. Desperate, I found a therapist who specialized in adolescents with anxiety.

Getting Bob to his first appointment with Amy was literally a wrestling match. Somehow I got him out of his room, into the car and to her office. Bob went in with the demand that Amy was not to address him, talk to him or look at him. She agreed, explaining social anxiety disorder to my husband and me, while Bob sat behind her staring at his phone.

Therapy Teaches Coping Skills to Teens with Mental Illness

Amy has been working with Bob for over four years now. The progress Bob has made with her tutelage is unbelievable. She has given him tools for pushing through severe school refusal and dealing with major depression.

Recently Bob freaked out at a college visit because his anxiety got the best of him. After he settled down, he asked if Amy can help him manage the anxiety he is sure to experience when he leaves for college -- truly remarkable.

I learned long ago it takes a village to parent a child with mental illness. One of the key players is my child's therapist. Finding the right therapist is no easy task. But once you do, it's priceless.

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APA Reference
Halli, C. (2014, December 8). Therapy for My Child with Mental Illness, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 20 from

Author: Christina Halli

April, 29 2015 at 2:07 pm

I ran across your blog by coincidence searching for info on places I can send my six year old to. Her behavior is out of control. she's lazy, whiny, smartmouthed, spiteful, doesn't want to do homework, doesn't listen at school, doesn't listen to babysitters, and gets easily sidetracked. I feel like I'm at my wits end and don't know what else to do. After reading some of your entries I'm hoping you can help me. At least give some ideas of what to try. She's never been tested for any kind of disorder or anything. Up until now I have just been trying to deal with her. Anything you can tell me will be helpful.

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