We had a visit last night at the treatment house, and a chance to meet T's therapist. The visit started out with a little "talk" that began "T is having some problems..." We heard about a food fight in the dining room, some talking out of turn in class, and some belligerence toward another kids. Then she said what we've heard so often from school administrators - she told him that he's on the verge of getting kicked out.
After that, she asked us to fill in some gaps in his history. Thanks to his social worker, who had to manage his intake at the treatment house for legal reasons, they have no history on him. All they know is that we've been trying to adopt him. So she asked me about his early childhood. As T and I walked her through it, she struggled to absorb the story. She kept asking about his birth mom. Finally, T said to her "I went into foster care at birth." She looked shocked. She asked if he was born drug addicted, and seemed surprised when we said yes. She asked the usual questions about childhood abuse, and the answer to every question was yes. I offered to draw her a timeline. I showed her how many placements he had, and the abuse that happened at various points along the timeline. I asked T's permission to speak freely about his history, which he granted, because he has always been frank and open about it. As the therapist listened, she teared up and could hardly talk. She told him how sorry she was with tears in her eyes. She saw what one always sees when one looks at the trajectory of T's early childhood: this is not supposed to happen.
This is the third or fourth time we've tried to get up to speed with a new therapist, only to find that they shy away from his history or have trouble absorbing the full force of its chaos and tragedy. This therapist has already diagnosed him and prescribed medicine on the basis of a few initial meetings. And yet she didn't know anything about his upbringing. She began the session by lecturing him about how he needed to try harder in the classroom, and yet she didn't know enough about his early childhood to understand why impulse control might be so challenging for him, or why it might be the case that he learned early on that negative attention is better than nothing. She let him know that he might be kicked out of the residential program, without understanding what that feels like to a kid who's lived in sixteen homes in his young life.
All this said, I like the treatment house and so does T. He is really doing the hard work there now, trying to learn to manage his behavior in the clear light of sobriety. He has good people on his side, and most important, he has other kids whom he supports and who support him in a true community. For as long as it lasts, it's a great gift and he knows it and he's making the most of it. He is open and aware in a way he's never been before.
But a part of me has sort of given up on therapy. I don't know why it is so hard to find a therapist who can be as frank and as open as he is about his abuse history. Until we do, he has other supports and he has formidable internal resources and he may just get what he needs through methods other than therapy. I used to put a lot of faith in therapy, but I don't anymore. Behavioral coaching, support groups, strong friendships, and connection to us have an obvious healing power. Therapy, so far, not so much. I am sure there are very able, knowledgeable therapists out there, but in my experience they're exceedingly hard to find and few programs are equipped for a child of his age and background. I've come to look at therapy as one method among many for healing, and, in the absence of a highly skilled and experienced practitioner, often not the best or most accessible.
Today Is A Gift
4 days ago