Help for the ADD Individual’s Significant Others: Parents, Spouses, and Partners

photo courtesy of Glyn Lowe

At The Being Well Center we embrace the whole person diagnostically and therapeutically.  That means we always put significant others (parents, spouses, partners) into the mix.  The nature and intensity of this involvement varies on a case-by-case basis.  The following are some of the ways our comprehensive approach involves significant others

The Problem Definition Appointment

On occasions, parents and significant others aren’t sure whether the BWC is the right place to meet their needs.  Sometimes the identified patient (i.e. child, adolescent, young adult, or older adult) isn’t ready to get help, but the significant others are at wits end trying to figure out what to do next.

Our Problem Definition Appointment is the ideal answer for these types of situations. During this 1-1/2 hour appointment with Dr. Liden or a senior member of our team, significant others are provided with a non-judgmental environment where they can openly and honestly express all of their concerns.  We guide them to tell their story and share all aspects of the difficulties they have been experiencing.  We explore the efforts they have made to address their concerns and begin to uncover what did work, what didn’t, and why.

We are particularly adept at getting to know significant others quickly, including their temperament, attitudes, values, hopes and fears.

At the end of the session, we suggest what seems to be the best next step.  This might mean further involvement at the BWC or, when appropriate, referral to another resource that we feel will better meet their needs.

We give preliminary tips, suggestions, and guidance that they can start using right away and we work hard to instill confidence in them that “things can get better!”

Ongoing Supportive Counseling

After the problem definition appointment, when an identified patient (child, adolescent, young adult, etc.) is resistive to some type of evaluation or other intervention, we provide ongoing supportive counseling to significant others.

The goals of this type of support include:

  • Facilitating an understanding of the whole individual and the fact that problems are never the result of one factor, but always the result of a multiplicity of factors interacting together.  This helps reduce much of the guilt that significant others normally carry with them.
  • Helping significant others identify and manage any co-dependent or enabling behaviors that could stand in the way of moving forward.  We try to help parents get out of the “you’re dammed if you do and dammed if you don’t” bind.
  • Helping significant others become more self-aware of their role in the problems they are experiencing and empowering them to take steps to exert better self-control over their actions.  We have found that taking charge of yourself is the best way to begin changing a bad situation.  The only thing you really can control is you, so we try and help parents successfully do it.
  • Assisting significant others to take some action steps, including establishing more appropriate expectations for their child, setting up clear “house-rules” to be followed, and defining meaningful and appropriate consequences when expectations and rules aren’t met.  We help significant others present these changes to their child and we’re there to provide ongoing support to help them follow through and stick with their action plans.
  • Providing support to parents while their children are away at a distant program and aftercare support when they return.

We have found that when we help empower parents to “change the game” then the child, adolescent or young adult by necessity has to make some type of change as well.  We hope that change becomes getting involved with the BWC for help with their problems.

Implementing Success Plans

We always include significant others in the implementation of our success plan for their child, adolescent or young adult who has gotten involved with the BWC.  When a child, adolescent, young adult or spouse chooses to get involved with the BWC, the first step is a Discovery Session where we look at the problems from everyone’s perspective: the child’s, parents’, schools’, other professionals’, etc.  We call it “simultaneous sampling” . . . looking at the same issues from a variety of perspectives helps us make sure we’re getting an accurate picture.  We use a series of comprehensive questionnaires and structured interview formats to achieve this goal.

Once a success plan is developed, significant others always have some role . . .

  • We help them learn how to become a supportive part of the success plan without taking away the child’s, adolescents or young adult’s responsibility.
  • We facilitate understanding and acceptance of the individual differences of all family members and use this to improve family communication patterns and dynamics.
  • We help all parents refine their parenting skills . . . we don’t take children into a room and shrink their heads while the parents sit in a waiting room.  Rather, we do very directive counseling and always find a way to help parents find a role in facilitating their child’s success.
  • We regularly meet with parents to get their perspective on “how things are going”.  We try to tease out the reasons a parent and child would see behaviors differently and try to get them on the same page.
  • We advocate for our patients needs at all levels of school and will support parents at meetings.  We contribute to the development of 504 agreements and IEP’s.

Supportive Relationships for Life Concerns

The relationships we develop with parents and significant others over time are special . . . partly because of our unique philosophy and mainly because of the type of people who are on the BWC staff.  Over time parents/significant others feel a sense of trust and competency that makes them feel comfortable asking us about almost everything . . . their mom’s cancer, their financial struggles, their personal development, whose a good doctor, what should they should do with their lives.  We feel humbled by the trust patients and families put in us and work hard every day to be worthy of it.

Many of these services for significant others can be provided by our innovative GuideU appointments that employ creative use of video conferencing technology.  Tight schedules, bad weather, and distance never have to be barriers to getting BWC support.  We are currently working on implementing the same innovative technology to conduct virtual support groups for parents with shared issues.

At the BWC, we’re always one step ahead!