I’m a mom. I also happen to be a psychologist. I’ve worked with children, teens and families for a long time. My husband and I are raising two young men. Having children is the most humbling experience I’ve ever had. Before I had children, I taught parenting classes to parents of preschoolers. After my first son was born and I returned to the clinic I worked in, I asked the office manager if she could please call every parent I’d ever worked with so that I could tell them, “I’m sorry. I didn’t understand.”
I once had a parent of two teenagers tell me, “When your kids are teenagers, I want you to write a book about parenting teens. Then I can read how to do it the right way – how a psychologist does it.”
I replied, “Are you kidding? When my kids are teens, I’m calling you to ask for help.”
Being a child therapist does not make you immune to struggles in your family. Sometimes, it actually makes you feel a little more like you’re under the microscope when things do go wrong. A number of years ago, my husband and I realized that our then 7-year-old son had Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). I knew what it was for several months before we sought treatment. I kept hoping that I was wrong or that it would go away. It didn’t – and I didn’t know how to help.
I felt incredibly ashamed when I made that first call for help. I was sure that I was going to hear that it was all my fault – which shows how little I really understood about OCD at the time. Luckily, we were directed to a wonderful therapist who provided the whole family with an education. The tables were turned now, and I was the one on the other side of the therapy office. I had a whole lot of learning (and unlearning) to do.
Before my son was diagnosed with OCD, I never treated a single case. I knew that I didn’t know enough to help. As my son got better, though, I developed a reputation for being the person to go to for information. And then the requests started coming in.
“Please, won’t you consider seeing this one case?”
I realized that I knew too much to say, “No.” I got myself back into training with top experts in the country to learn how to do this treatment well. Now, my practice is primarily people with OCD or related disorders. It’s probably the most satisfying work I’ve ever done.
My son is a teenager now and OCD together with teenage hormones makes for an interesting mix. We live it at home. I live it at work. My husband would sometimes like to escape from it all. I’m writing this blog to find an outlet for all the experiences that are running around my head and need a place to live. Hopefully, what I experience will touch others.
* Note: All names used in this blog are pseudonyms to allow for privacy.