Does Family Therapy Work? Especially if Stepparents are involved?
The current team working with SD at a mental health facility has recommended family therapy with DH, me and SD together using video conferencing (SD is in another state).
I’ve taken SD to therapy appointments, but never participated. DH doesn’t see therapy as useful. Has this worked for other people?
Is having a stepmom involved helpful? I’m not disengaged, but I think of myself as being as non-emotionally involved in what’s going on with SD as possible. She hates me and I don’t particularly like her. I feel very guilty about this and don’t want a therapist to put pressure on me to do more with SD or blame me for her problems.
Long story short: SD is almost 16. We’ve had her full time for 4 years. BM is in jail and has a long history of drug issues. SD has history of mental illness: suicide attempt, anxiety, depression, ODD, ADHD. SD was sent to an out of state residential treatment center but that failed miserably and she attempted suicide while there, so she needed an even higher level of care. Now SD is refusing to speak to DH and doesn’t want to come home. DH and SD simply don’t get along. They are complete opposites.
DH wants doctors to fix SD like she has a broken arm. He understands depression and anxiety as a chemical imbalance in the brain that can be corrected with medication (or possibly electroshock therapy).
He doesn’t believe talking to a therapist can fix a chemical imbalance in the brain. He blames BM and her drug use and drinking alcohol while pregnant for messing up SD’s brain chemistry and thinks doctors aren’t doing enough to fix this damage.
His conclusion is any type of therapy (talk therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy) is a huge waste of time and money. He wants doctors to concentrate on fixing the chemical imbalances in SD’s brain instead – and if the medication isn’t working then he wants them to use shock therapy which he’s read about online that works in cases where medication can’t. (This isn't done in minors and SD is scared to death of doing shock therapy. She also has a heart condition that increases the risks involved.)
Part of the reason he’s so against this is that it simply hasn’t work. He’s wasted a lot of money sending SD to therapy. SD has gone to talk therapy twice a month for over 4 years. And things have gotten far worse, not better. She’s had worksheets and workbooks trying to change how she thinks and she doesn’t do them. She still has the same dysfunctional thought patterns. Her IQ definitely is well below average and I’m not sure she has the intelligence to really understand what her therapists have told her.
SD is still refusing to talk to DH and there’s been several phone calls where it was 10 minutes of DH trying to talk to her and SD not saying a word or humming loudly so she couldn’t hear him. And DH has to pay for this.
DH’s grandparents were all immigrants from SE Asia and he was raised in a very traditional Asian culture that values hard work. Kids are expected to obey their parents without question. They are expected to do very well in school and want to make their parents proud.
SD is incredibly lazy. She’s developmentally delayed. She has Oppositional Defiance Disorder (the best example of this is DH tells SD her shoe is untied and to tie her shoe. She refuses on simple principle that she won’t do anything DH wants. DH tries to tie SD’s shoe and she literally walks away. The next day, both shoe laces are untied as if she’s daring DH to start the fight again. Literally, there is a war between them over tying shoes and she is 15 years old). Everything about her drives DH crazy. The therapist asked him to name one thing he liked about SD and he was at a loss of words.
DH usually goes for tough love over being incredibly supporting or more like a mom. For example, if SD is whining about not feeling good because of her hives and doesn’t want to get out of bed, DH encourages her that getting up and doing something will distract her and she’ll feel better rather than doing more of the mom thing and letting her stay in bed and making her soup or something.
When SD doesn’t do what her dad says, he does lose his temper. He does a lot of yelling at her, but has never raised his voice to our 4 year old daughter.
SD’s self-esteem on a scale from 0-10 is a -10. But there’s no way DH can really praise her since she refuses to do even simple things.
DH isn’t from a family that was at all physically affectionate. He’s more affectionate with our 4 year old daughter, but with SD being a teenager, he’s far more of the “dad” than a substitute mom. And I don’t think he’s equipped to do that at all. SD does lack emotional support.
Is there any point to DH and I doing this family therapy? Does it work? DH is telling them he isn’t interested and won’t pay for it. I know the family dynamic is messed up but I’m not sure any counseling is going to fix it.
How do therapists react to stepmoms who are disengaged? I'm worried I'm going to be pressured to be the substitute mom for SD or say something that makes SD feel even worse. I don't like her. I know that doesn't help her mental condition, but there's nothing I can do to make myself feel differently about her unless her behavior changes.