Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Oppositional Defiant Disorder and ADHD

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Therapy Ain't Workin'


Thank you for the recent report on ODD and ADHD. There is no question that this is what my son suffers from. We were assigned to AB3632 last year. He was almost expelled and having a lot of issues at school. We started a med last April, which has really made a difference in school. He is 13 almost 14. He is in SDC at school and is having a much better year behaviorally then last year. We are still struggling at home, but there is some improvement. The more structured and busy he is the better. Summer will be a little more difficult, but we are making plans to keep him as busy as possible.

We have 2 hours of services available each week through the AB3632 program. They continue to do "therapy" and my son is frustrated and refusing to go. For him it is a waste of time and I can't disagree. The therapist has not been able to make a connection with him. We were doing behavior modification, which was having some impact, but that person left the program. Now they have assigned a drug/alcohol counselor also. I think they were hoping as a male he could connect. Both are trying to engage him in talk therapy and failing. I have spoken to them several times and requested programs for anger-management and skill building …practical things that could help. At this point the therapy sessions are causing him to be more angry and frustrated. Although they agree with me, we continue down the same path. I feel that they are expecting me to make my son want to work with them and I can't do that. You said you deal with the behavior side. What do you suggest?



Hi D.,

Counseling is just another traditional parenting strategy that has little or no effect. Thus, as you know, you are not making much headway with “therapy” (and maybe making a bad problem worse).

Are you using the strategies outlined in “My Out-of-Control Teen” eBook? If so, do you have a specific question regarding how to implement any particular strategy?

If I were you, I would try to find your son a mentor (e.g., a big brother from the Big Brother/Big Sister Organization). He needs someone to talk to “on his level” (i.e., someone who is interested in him as an individual, not someone who is attempting some sort of behavior modification). When I do therapy with a child, he rarely perceives it as a “therapy session” because I recruit him as a ‘partner in problem solving’ – he does the work. You can see an example of a session here ==> The Art of Schmoozing.

None of us know why we behave the way we do, so if a therapist tells the kid that he is doing something for some reason and this is a good reason, the kid is inclined to believe it. If he is angry or negative with the therapist, but the therapist responds with positive reframing (i.e., turning a 'negative' into a 'positive'), then the kid is likely to get confused. Here the kid is trying to be obnoxious and distance himself from the therapist, but the therapist is saying lots of nice things the kid likes to hear!

The difference between how men and women behave can be illustrated by how they deal with an angry dog. A man would say, 'Good dog! Good dog!' while he looked around for a big stick. A woman on the other hand would say, 'Good dog! Good Dog!' until it actually believed it was a good dog! I don't believe that this represents a sex difference --it's just good psychology. When you reframe, you are telling the kid what a good doggy he is until he believes it! And it works. It works because at heart, that's what we all are (i.e., GOOD). No matter how foolish our behavior, our intentions are always good.

Mark Hutten, M.A.


Thanks for your response Mark.

This is confirmation on counsel we received from a pastor friend. We are in process of working with our youth leaders to identify a good mentor. Someone in college and closer to Matt's age. I agree that we need to focus on the positives and believe that success is possible. This seems to be more difficult for my husband. He really struggles with the language and impulsive response's from my son. Things like "stupid", "shut up" and "dumb butt".

My husband advised me today that it is more difficult for men than woman to tolerate this type of action. My feeling that he shouldn't tolerate it, but punish him immediately. Maybe we should chat sometime.


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