The other day, I met with a new patient and her family for the first time. The patient’s primary problem was a personality disorder, a problem with the way she copes with stress and functions in relationships. They had dragged her to me – away from another doctor they had grown to distrust. It felt like an intervention. The new patient sat in a room full of family members, who explained why they had pulled her out of the last treatment relationship and brought her to me. Her sister summed up the reason they had come: “We didn’t like the last doctor. My sister went to him for 6 years and she thought he was great, but as far as we could tell, he didn’t help her at all.”
I had a feeling the family might end up feeling the same way about me that they had about the last doctor. For one, personality disorders don’t (usually) respond quickly and completely to treatment. There’s not a magic pill to change the way you interact with the world. But I also saw another reason the family was unlikely ultimately join my fan club: the family and the patient might not share the same treatment goals. The family wanted an easier relationship with her, whereas she probably just wants to feel better. Living with a personality disorder can be torture. She probably feels fearful and overwhelmed most of the time. Even if I can successfully help her feel better, that doesn’t necessarily improve the relationship in the ways the family is seeking.
I didn’t have time to delve into the reasons I thought they might end up mad at me, too, but here’s what I wanted that family to understand:
1. “Can you fix her” is not the same as “can you help me”
When you bring your teenager or your spouse or your sister to a mental health professional and say, “Can you ‘fix’ her?” it’s not the same thing as when you schedule and appointment for yourself and say, “Can you help me?” When you come in asking for help, you are subject and object of the treatment. Care for your loved one has a different subject from object.
2. Different end goals
For your loved one, your goals are probably behavioral. You want someone else’s actions to change, or you don’t like they decisions they make, or the way they deal with stress. If you brought yourself in with a goal of making better decisions, you’d probably get there faster.
3. She may not talk about the relationship in treatment
Your sister or daughter or spouse doesn’t necessarily sit in counseling sessions and think about how their behavior affects you. At least, they don’t do that in the majority of sessions. Most sessions are spent seeking ways to feel better. And how a person feels is not necessarily going to change their behavior toward you.
4. The solution for you may be letting go
The hardest thing for worried families is accepting that they cannot be in control. Your loved one may not change in the ways you’re envisioning- maybe not quickly, or maybe not at all. In that case, you may have to find a way to accept your difficult family member as she is.
- Apr 22, 2019 A Mindful Monday Mood
- Apr 15, 2019 Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder (Among Others) Get Worse When They Aren't Treated Early
- Apr 8, 2019 3 Quick Ways to Cope When Stress is High
- Apr 1, 2019 Social Media Is Making You Unhappy
- Mar 25, 2019 It's Up to Me to Change Things
- Mar 18, 2019 Getting Help for Someone You Love Shouldn’t Be This Hard
- Mar 11, 2019 Down Into Mindless Parenting
- Mar 4, 2019 7 Steps to a Rotten Spring Break
- Feb 25, 2019 Our Teens Have Everything And Nothing
- Feb 18, 2019 Dear Friends, This Is What I Really Think When I Read Your Political Post
- Feb 11, 2019 Steps to Getting Help for Someone You Love
- Feb 4, 2019 The Dying Art of Diagnosis: The Failure of the Magic Checklist in Psychiatry
- Jan 21, 2019 Courage
- Jan 14, 2019 Getting Back On The College Horse After Depression
- Jan 7, 2019 Resolving to Go Back
- Dec 17, 2018 Let’s Talk About Bipolar Disorder
- Dec 10, 2018 I Don’t Have to Teach My Daughter to Be Kind.
- Dec 3, 2018 It's Obvious When Others Need to Change, But Hard Changing Ourselves
- Nov 26, 2018 Grade Failures Roll in This Time of Year, and Parents Need to Get a Grip
- Nov 19, 2018 Planning Your Holiday: Which Is Preferable? Conflict or Loneliness?
- Nov 12, 2018 A Moment For #Mindfulness
- Nov 5, 2018 Burned Out, Exhausted Students Need Parent Support This Holiday
- Oct 29, 2018 “Us” and “Them” - Can We Talk Without Being Enemies?
- Oct 22, 2018 Start Your Week With #Mindfulness
- Oct 15, 2018 Doubting the Diagnosis
- Oct 8, 2018 Child Abuse Awareness Is Mental Health Awareness. Child Abuse Prevention Is Mental Health Prevention
- Oct 1, 2018 Your Joke About People Being "Triggered" Isn't Funny
- Sep 24, 2018 Screen Time Is Not As Relaxing As We Like To Think
- Sep 17, 2018 Myths Doctors (and Nurses) Still Believe About Suicide
- Sep 10, 2018 5 Things Every Child With A Depressed Parent Understands - by Guest Ally Golden
- Sep 3, 2018 GAPS in the Mental Health Care System
- Aug 27, 2018 Stop and Smell the Roses: Everyday Mindfulness
- Aug 13, 2018 Mean Behind a Screen
- Aug 6, 2018 Dissatisfied Customer: When You Take Your Loved One to a Mental Health Provider, You May Not Get What You Want
- Jul 23, 2018 9 Ways You Can Reduce Mental Health Stigma and Discrimination
- Jul 16, 2018 Substance Use and Mental Illness: The Chicken and the Egg?
- Jul 9, 2018 Summer Camp: A Little Independence Away from Over-Supervised Childhood
- Jul 2, 2018 It Seems Half Of Young People In Their 20’s Are Labeled With (Or Label Themselves With) A Mental Disorder. How Did We Get Here?
- Jun 25, 2018 Mental Health Symptoms May Spark from Neurobiology in The Brain, But That’s Never the Whole Story
- Jun 11, 2018 Responsible Reporting of Suicide Saves Lives
- May 28, 2018 #MemorialDay #ThankYou
- May 21, 2018 Growing Up in the Era of School Shootings
- May 14, 2018 A Mental Health Tragedy Unfolds and the System Doesn’t Have an Answer
- May 7, 2018 The Smartphones Have Taken Our Teens
- Apr 30, 2018 College Parenting on Summer Break
- Apr 23, 2018 Is It Useful To Ground A Twenty-Year-Old?
- Apr 16, 2018 The Questions Everybody Wants To Ask About My Urgent Care Clinic
- Apr 9, 2018 Q & A with Dr. D
- Apr 2, 2018 “Why Must My Daughter Go Against Everything I’ve Taught Her?”
- Mar 26, 2018 The Gut-Brain and Young Adult Depression
- Mar 5, 2018 Hiding Vulnerabilities and Imperfections
- Feb 26, 2018 Helping Someone Who Doesn’t Want Help
- Feb 19, 2018 Oh, the Things Teens Can Teach Us: Laughing at Trolls
- Feb 12, 2018 To the 21-Year-Old Living at Home with Controlling Parents
- Feb 5, 2018 Lies Your Chronic Illness Tells You
- Jan 28, 2018 “OMG, She Is So Bipolar!” There's a Better Way to Say It
- Jan 22, 2018 By Michelle Mata, Guest: The Journey to Recovery
- Jan 15, 2018 Advocacy, Integrity, and MLKDay on My Anniversary
- Jan 8, 2018 Lost at Sea: Mental Health Crisis in the Young Adult Years
- Jan 1, 2018 For a Happier 2018, Change Just One Thing: Your Expectations
- Dec 18, 2017 After Mental Health Crisis, Well-Being Is Possible Again, But It’s Probably Not Going To Come From A Prescription Pill
- Dec 11, 2017 When Our Kids Fail
- Dec 4, 2017 Cousins Getting Along in the Holidays-- 8 Reminders for Kids
- Nov 27, 2017 Mental Health in the Holidays
- Nov 20, 2017 This Thanksgiving, Be Mindful
- Nov 13, 2017 “He just stays up in his room watching Netflix. Is that depression?”
- Oct 30, 2017 #MentalHealthAwareness is Great, But Where’s the Help?
- Oct 23, 2017 9 Tough Conversations Parents Need to Initiate
- Oct 16, 2017 Have Parenting Practices Become “Too Good” for the Good of Our Kids?
- Oct 9, 2017 Why Meds Aren’t Enough
- Oct 2, 2017 3 Questions to Ask if Your Child Is Having a Rough Start This Semester
- Sep 25, 2017 Doctor, I Know You’re Rushed, But Patients Need Reassurance
- Sep 18, 2017 5 Reasons You Need Psychosocial Rehab After a Mental Health Crisis
- Sep 11, 2017 Is It Possible To Advocate For More Mental Healthcare And Less At The Same Time?
- Sep 4, 2017 8 Problems in Teens and Young Adults That Mimic a Mental Health Condition, But Aren’t
- Aug 28, 2017 Does Advice on “Finding Joy” Help or Harm People with Depression?
- Aug 21, 2017 Can the Solar Eclipse Bring Us Hope for Transformational Change?
- Aug 14, 2017 Families Belong on the #MentalHealthCare Treatment Team!
- Aug 7, 2017 Questions You May Have Always Wanted to Ask A Psychiatrist
- Jul 31, 2017 Grit and Mental Wellness
- Jul 24, 2017 12 Reasons Parents Are Worried About Their 20-Something Kids
- Jul 17, 2017 8 Things Every 20 Year Old Needs to Know
- Jul 10, 2017 8 Things Teens Need to Learn by 16/Driving Age
- Jul 3, 2017 8 Things Kids Need to Master By Age 13
- Jun 12, 2017 Parents: Start Off Summer Right (And Then Relax)
- May 29, 2017 Get Some Memorial Day Quiet Time
- May 22, 2017 Adult-Child Returning Home This Summer? Make Sure You Have a Plan
- May 15, 2017 #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth
- May 8, 2017 The Month of May is Stressful. 12 Ways to Cope:
- May 1, 2017 Adolescence: A Built in Second Chance for the Brain
- Apr 24, 2017 Why I Want to Hear From Your Mom
- Apr 17, 2017 Cyberbullying: Not Your Dad’s Schoolyard Fisticuffs
- Apr 10, 2017 The Secrets Inside Someone Else’s House
- Mar 27, 2017 Yes, Antidepressants Work Differently in Teen Brains
- Mar 20, 2017 Casting Light
- Mar 13, 2017 Gratitude
- Mar 6, 2017 FAQ’s: Mental Health Urgent Care
- Feb 27, 2017 10 Reasons to Stay Out of the Psychiatrist’s Office
- Feb 20, 2017 When Mom or Dad Has a Mental Illness
- Feb 13, 2017 When An Adult Child is Diagnosed With Mental Illness: A Parent’s Role