Most parents seeking a treatment solution for their son or daughter are themselves in crisis, struggling with a combination of sorrow, fear, anger, and guilt. Add to this the confusing myriad of treatment options available, and it’s enough to push most parents to desperation. With the right support, however, you can make a treatment choice that’s based not on desperation, but on an understanding of your child’s unique set of issues and the best available treatment options.
There are several steps you can take to ensure that, even in this time of crisis and confusion, you make a rational and appropriate treatment choice for your child.
The best initial sources of advice regarding placement are educational consultants and mental health professionals. It’s worth the cost of these services to ensure that you have the objective support, guidance, and advocacy you need to make a sound treatment choice. Many educational consultants will also provide third-party guidance and advocacy throughout the treatment process.
If your adolescent or young adult will comply, it’s a good idea to have a full battery of psycho-educational assessments conducted to gain insight into the nature of your child’s struggle. With the support of an educational consultant or mental health professional, this information can help you make a better placement choice. If your child is not compliant prior to treatment, however, these assessments can also be conducted during placement. You should check with your mental health professional for his or her recommendation.
Once you’ve identified a program that seems promising, request to speak with parents. While these parents are likely to be handpicked because they have had a positive experience, those are really the parents you want to talk to! They can offer you program insight, a compassionate ear, and hope!
Always visit your top picks and use both your brain and your gut to make your decision. Insist on talking with students, staff from every department, and the program director. You should be allowed to tour the entire facility and ask questions freely. It’s smart to come with a list of questions prepared; program visits can be taxing and it’s easy to forget what to ask while you’re touring. It’s also important to listen to your gut when you visit a program; the program you select will be your child’s home for a period of time, and no one knows your child like you do.
Not only is picking a treatment program for your adolescent or young adult stressful, but that level of stress can actually temporarily decrease your cognitive functioning, making a difficult decision even more difficult. It’s important to have the support of friends and family during this time both to soothe your emotions and to help you process information and think through options. This is not the time for isolation or secrecy. This is a time to reach out for support.
The first step in any healing process is telling your story. Whether to a friend, family member, member of the clergy, mental health professional, or program representative, telling your family’s story is a critical part of really understanding it, and understanding it is critical to finding a solution. It’s also just therapeutic to tell your story during a time of crisis, so don’t try to go it alone if your child and family are suffering.
It’s important to check the credentials of the programs and the staff they employ. Some basic credentials to look for include: