by Kris Brightbill, LPC, of Turning Tide Transitions
“Advice from friends is like the weather. Some of it is good; some of it is bad” – Arnold Lobel
We all consult friends, colleagues and neighbors for advice, recipes, encouragement and the latest news. But it is not our recommendation that parents go to their friends or neighbors for advice around therapeutic options for their children.
That claim is based on three pillars of truth. First pillar: objectivity. While neighbors or friends might have some familiarity with parents and their struggling, troubled child, they lack objectivity. That lack of objectivity can be clouded by prejudice (inadvertent presuppositions around a parenting style), judgment (of the child or his/her behaviors and struggles), and lack of a comprehensive understanding about the child’s true emotional, academic and relational journey.
The second pillar is around availability. Sometimes your neighbors or friend’s door is open but often times it’s closed. Drive around most suburban neighborhood these days and you’ll see decorated front doors, but closed garage doors. No one is mingling or meeting in the street. While friends or neighbors may proclaim availability, (i.e. “I’m here if you need anything, really just ask.”) the reality may be far more limited. The truth is the availability that parents will need throughout a journey of securing and supporting their son or daughter in a therapeutic program can be expansive. Kind offerings and well-intentioned support can quickly be depleted. Parents need to have access and dependability on a trusted resource and support throughout the whole journey, no matter how long it may be.
The third pillar is expertise. Well intended neighbors or friends have minimal, accurate or updated information about programs. Sure, it’s helpful to find a friend who is empathic or sympathetic toward these experiences and struggles. Often parents themselves have reported that they’ve experienced judgment, ostracization and unavailability from other parents whom they once may have experienced support and care. Parents probably know somebody whose son or daughter “has been to a program” in a familiar geographic location, and that “they had a good experience” there but most often than not, that is the limit of their expertise. Parents are much better served by the professionalism and ethical commitment from therapeutic consultants to explore and secure best treatment options for their child based on his/ her particular needs.
Including and incorporating a therapeutic consultant in the process affords the family many things including but not limited to; engagement, evaluation, coordination of services, a sympathetic and attentive professional, understanding, familiarity with the process, advocacy, provision of concierge service, customized plan and expertise on resources and availability of programs.
It is for these reasons that we believe that families are better served by seeking advice and guidance from professionals rather than their neighbors. Allow friends to be friends. The forecast may be cloudy and cumbersome; it is better to rely on good, professional guidance than risk being unprepared or caught in a storm.