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How to Find A Good Child Therapist For Your Kid’s Anxiety

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We’re a few weeks into the school year, and it’s time to do a check in. We’ll discuss the best ways parents can support their learners from kindergarten to college. And Lynn answers one of the most frequently asked questions wherever she speaks. How do you find a good child therapist? She’ll break it down for you on what to look for and when to say no thanks.

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Show Notes

1:13 We’re going to do a progress report for students this fall.

4:04 HOW TO SUPPORT YOUNG LEARNERS THIS FALL

7:15 MIDDLE SCHOOLERS AND REMOTE LEARNING

13:01  HIGH SCHOOL, COLLEGE, and ACADEMIC PRESSURE

17:56 Our affiliate link will get you $20 off a Circle to manage your kids’ screen time at home.

18:22  A LISTENER QUESTION: THE CHILD THERAPIST RELATIONSHIP

“I have a 17 year old daughter with general and social anxiety that is seeing a licensed mental health professional for about nine months now. I’ve now realized this professional is not making any headway with my daughter’s anxiety. How do I end the relationship with this therapist? My daughter does like her, and 1) find a new therapist that can truly help my daughter and 2) not cause my daughter’s anxiety to go into a tailspin with a new therapist and possibly damage our relationship.”

24:59 WHAT TO ASK A CHILD THERAPIST FOR ANXIETY

Lynn goes over the questions parents should ask any potential therapist for their child. She goes over recommended approaches for anxiety and OCD.

27:36 Robin and Lynn discuss their obsession with watching Masterclass  lessons.

33:22 Join the Facebook group so that you can ask Lynn your question on future episodes.

child therapist for anxiety

Episode Transcript

Robin Hutson  0:00 

We’re a few weeks into the school year and it’s time to do a check in. We’ll discuss the best ways parents can support their learners from kindergarten to college.

Lynn Lyons  0:08 

And I answer one of the most frequently asked questions wherever I go and speak. How do I find a good therapist for my kid? I’ll break it down for you what to look for, and when to say No, thank you.

Robin Hutson  0:20 

Welcome to Flusterclux, where we talk worry and other big feelings with Lynn Lyons. You’re here because your family has some anxiety issues, or you want to prevent them. I’m your co-host and Lynn’s sister-in-law, Robin. I’m a mom of two who’s had a front row seat to Lynn’s approach to emotionally intelligent parenting. And I’m here to ask your questions.

Lynn Lyons  0:41 

And hi, I’m Lynn Lyons. I’m an anxiety expert, speaker, mom, and author. And I’ve been a therapist for 30 years. Parenting can be a Flusterclux, and I will help you find your way.

Hi, Robin

Robin Hutson  0:54 

Hi Lynn.

How We Can Support Our Remote Learners

Lynn Lyons  0:55 

So, we’re going to just sort of check in on how school is going because most schools have been open for a little while. But we’re just going to do a little check in to see what’s happening with remote learning, how that’s challenging for parents, what are they discovering about this? Now that we’re sort of in part two.

Robin Hutson  1:13 

We’re going to do a progress report for our mental health, both the parents and the students.

Lynn Lyons  1:18 

Just to see how we’re doing. First of all, maybe I should ask you because you are right in the middle of this, what have you discovered as school has sort of been open for a few weeks.

Robin Hutson  1:28 

There are bad days. And it’s just really good to step back and realize it takes a couple bad days. And sometimes they just sort themselves out. Then other times, you can notice that the bad days keep reoccurring, and then you might want to intervene a little bit more.

Lynn Lyons  1:42 

And I think that’s a really good point. Because anxious people, anxious parents, tend to do that. There’s a spiraling that happens, right? Because remember, there’s the catastrophic thinking, and you go to the worst case scenario. So, your child has a rough day, and you’re imagining that it’s going to continue to get worse, you start imagining now they’re not going to go to school, and you start What if-ing: what if they refuse to do this or this? And then they sort of get out of it.

So, I think that’s really good advice is to make sure that you just do a little observing of your own catastrophizing, what-ifing going to the terrible place, because that doesn’t help.

Robin Hutson  2:09 

Can we just say, though, seriously, if any parent isn’t going to catastrophic places, we have to be aware that we’re processing all sorts of things— with our families, with our news, with our work — really differently right now than we would have before.

Lynn Lyons  2:35 

Yeah, yeah. So, it’s not like you’re not going to go to the catastrophic place, just don’t believe the trip to the catastrophic place. The problem with anxiety and the problem with when you’re a worrier, the problem is not that you go to the catastrophic place, or that the catastrophic thoughts pop up. It’s that you believe them. You get sucked into them, and then you can’t get out of them.

How many times have I said, and I’ll say it again, the more distance that you can have from your own thinking, the ability to just step back a little bit, create that distance, and like you say, Robin, give yourself a little permission to be like, “Oh, of course, I’m having that thought.” Or “Who wouldn’t go to that place under these circumstances?”

But just don’t believe your own catastrophic thinking. Because it’s not reality. It’s where your brain wants to go when you’re feeling so stressed. And you’re feeling so worried about your family.

How To Support Young Learners This Fall

So, let’s talk a little bit about the little kids. First of all, and maybe some of the things that I’ve been hearing, make sure that when your kids have breaks, that it really is a break. Because one of the things that I’m seeing, and one of the things that I’m hearing, is that parents are feeling like if their child has a break in the afternoon, or, you know, they have a half an hour break in the morning that the parents are feeling like they’re supposed to do something during that break. It’s a break. So, don’t feel like the break is an obligation for you to create some fun activity or to do something to fill that time.

Robin Hutson  4:04 

My son has a break at 10 o’clock every morning. So, we’ll make tea and I’ll have a cup of coffee, and we’ll just sit outside on our front porch. And we’ll let it last as long as it needs to last. If he gets restless. He just goes and does whatever he wants to do. But I think that just like a simple check in and some fresh air has been a nice ritual. And we sit outside on our front porch, and we say like I always say like “Let’s close our eyes and just listen to all the sounds that we hear and try and identify everything.” Make us feel connected.

And then the other night at dinner, he said we should play a meditation game as a family. We were like “Okay, let’s do this. Where’s this going?” So, he was like “Everybody close your eyes. And now I want you to focus on three different sounds that you hear.”

My husband and I are all in and  closing our eyes listening for sounds. And then I hear my daughter, and I open my eyes. And my son had taken this brand new container of chocolate hummus for dessert. He had reached across the table and spooned out  this giant serving that was hanging from his mouth. He totally played us. So, he was having us do a closed-eye meditation so he could take the chocolate hummus and eat it all.

Lynn Lyons  5:21 

He’s doing fine. That’s the conclusion. He’s doing fine. Oh my gosh, that’s so funny. Yeah, I need you to close your eyes and be very quiet while I spoon chocolate hummus into my mouth. That’s awesome. Ten points for him.

All right, so we’re going to… for little kids, we’re going to have breaks be breaks. Guys, remember, we are focusing on big skills. We are focusing on emotional management; we’re focusing on adaptability. And we’re focusing on being able to handle when things change.

Getting through 2020 is one big lesson on being adaptable and flexible. We’ve said that over and over again. And so being able to have those conversations with your kids about what’s working and what’s not working. And maybe we have to change the way the morning works, or maybe the afternoon isn’t going as well as we had hoped. So how can we problem solve?

Keep looking for opportunities to teach these big skills, which is really if you’ve got a kid, the more that you can recognize that this year is not like any other year, you cannot lay the template of what we would consider a normal school day onto what is happening now. It just doesn’t fit. Focus on those big skills.

Middle schoolers and Remote Learning

Robin Hutson  7:15 

What are you seeing in your middle school clients?

Lynn Lyons  7:18 

Middle schoolers developmentally are supposed to be banging into each other literally and figuratively and figuring out who they are. And relationships are changing. There’re all sorts of emerging identity issues and figuring things out.

I mean, middle schoolers are really so energetic in a social way. And it’s big highs and big lows. We really have to keep our eye on the social connection prize. So, the things that the middle schoolers are talking about the most, and the things they’re struggling with the most really have to do with not having social connection.

So, there was one middle schooler I was talking to, and in her middle school, so there’s a hybrid model, and they go into the cafeteria to eat. There are three kids at each cafeteria table, and they aren’t allowed to talk while they’re eating. And then when the table is done eating, they all put their masks back on. And then they’re allowed to talk, but they have to talk in a quiet and controlled way.

I just think asking middle schoolers to do that. If your kid is able to pull that off. Wow, kudos to them. Imagine sitting there and not saying anything. Parents, keep your eyes open for the ways that you can promote this social connection. And I’ve said this before, it doesn’t have to be big, huge things. But they really want to be together. They really want to have time for socially distance playdates or activities.

Here’s the thing about middle schoolers to is that they’re really doing pretty well. I mean, they really with me, they’re talking about it, they’re figuring it out. They know what the challenges are. They understand the rules of this little kids to actually there, they’re doing okay with it. And I think we need to make sure that we’re telling our kids that.

If you haven’t said to your child, any child, if you haven’t said to them in the last day, I am really impressed by how well you’re managing what is a really challenging situation. And I just want you to know that I noticed that ,and I appreciate that. And I recognize that this is so unusual. And I just want you to know that I’m paying attention to all of the ways that you’re moving through this.

I think it’s really important for them to hear that from us now. So, there’s so much going on in our country, but there also may be things going on in your family and there also may be things going on just in the normal life of your child.

Leave Room For Problems Beyond the Pandemic

Don’t put everything that they’re struggling with or talking about or frustrated about in the context of COVID. Make sure that you have conversations with them about the normal everyday bumps and bruises of being a middle schooler, of getting their feelings hurt by somebody, of not getting invited to something.

I was sitting with a young boy, and he was so hurt. He was so hurt because he found out that a group of his friends got together, and that he wasn’t invited to participate. This is a normal Middle School thing. He was sobbing in my office because he felt so left out. For him it wasn’t related at all to COVID. It was the fact that he wasn’t included in this group.

So, make sure that you make room for the normal stuff that’s going on in their lives, the normal hurts, the normal rejections. Because sometimes that can get lost in all of this talk about what’s happening in the world and what’s happening with COVID. They just want to be middle schoolers. They just want to be kids.

Robin Hutson  10:44 

And that connection they feel with their social circle has never been a more important lifeline for them right now.

Lynn Lyons  10:50 

That’s right. And when it isn’t going well, that’s going to hit them really hard, because it’s such an important lifeline. But it is also normal for it not to go well at times. Middle school is a time of really big changes in friendships and friend groups and activities. So, know that as a parent of a middle schooler, that big huge shifts in things, a lot of friendships and friendships that they’ve had, you know, people they’ve been friends with since first grade as they’re discovering new interest or doing different things. It’s supposed to happen now.

And of course, it’s harder in this in this environment, but it’s still going to happen somewhat, and it’s still going to be really challenging for them, they’re still going to feel really up ended when things change in that way. So, we just have to make sure that we pay a lot of attention to that social aspect of their lives.

Robin Hutson

But are there ways that we can support all of our kids’ social wellbeing right now?

So, one of the things that you can talk to your kids about is, how is it that they know or that they learn that a friendship is working for them or not working for them? How is it that they know to set boundaries about things? Being able to say to them, when friendships go through transitions? It feels really difficult. And it’s really even harder to do it when we can’t see each other? And we can’t be together as much.

But what are the things that you want to have in a friend in an in a friendship? And what are the things that you want to be in a friend? So, there’s a lot of opportunity here to talk about those bigger friendship values that we want kids to have, like empathy and kindness and acceptance, and also talk about recognizing when some friendships don’t work?

I’ve had many conversations with kids over the last few months, because so much of the friendship communication is online, of helping them respond differently in a group chat, or how do they know when they should get out of a group chat? How do they know when they should go to their mom and dad for help so that they can get some language about how to deal with somebody who’s bullying them online, all of those things are still really important to talk about? And like you say, rather than a lot of it is happening online, for sure.

High School & Academic Pressure

Robin Hutson  13:01 

And what about high school? I’ve noticed that I’m hearing a lot of talk about anxiety that families have about academics.

Lynn Lyons  13:09 

As I’ve said, this is not the time to really be focused on academic rigor, because we’ve got bigger fish to fry. We really need to be paying attention to the emotional health of our children and our teenagers. And I think people sort of were doing that for a little while. But I, like you, I’m hearing that sort of slip away.

And I’m hearing the achievement panic working its way back in. And the achievement panic was there before all of this. Anxious kids and anxious parents who worry about this, now they’ve got just got another thing to panic about. Because like I say, they’re trying to put the same template on top of a very different academic situation. So, parents talking about, you know, what is it going to look like when they apply to college.

If somebody said to me, “I just want the colleges to see that my child was really able to thrive during this pandemic time.” And I was like, “I think that your thinking might be a little off there.”

Because I don’t think the goal of getting through this pandemic is so that an admissions officer at a college will be will reward your child with something, this is really about your child getting through this. So, I’m seeing that panic come up. I’m seeing talking about what it’s going to look like, and lots of conversations about what kids are going to write their college essays about.

And I gotta be honest with you, it seems a little skewed to me, parents. We are in a really bad place in this country right now. We have not figured this out. And I don’t think that it’s appropriate to put that level of pressure on your kids about their future and to talk to them. I never feel it’s appropriate, but it’s certainly not appropriate now.

And I’m not talking about the future of sort of like “Let’s imagine what it’s like to get together with our family in the future,” because I think that’s important to talk about. But making sure that kids somehow use this time as resume building for what they’re going to do in the future?

How can we make this incredibly sad and chaotic and difficult, stressful time? How can we use this to our advantage in your college applications? I honestly don’t have a lot of patience for that.

Right now, the goal is to make sure that our kids feel supported, that they feel a sense of connection, particularly with their peers, and with the people that love them. I’ve been talking to kids who started in college, and they’re still having meetings with their advisors to figure out what their careers are going to look like in four years.

These kids are trying to get through the day. They’re having trouble making friendships, because everybody’s wearing masks. It’s hard to see people’s faces. They’re not allowed to go into the dining halls. They’re getting tested twice a week, I mean, hands off to these colleges who are trying to make this work. I’ve got one who’s at college right now, as you know, but talking to 17 and 18-year-olds about what their life is going to look like. I just feel like it’s a strange conversation to have in this particular time. And I think it’s adding to their stress and to their worry.

Can we take the focus off of academic achievement, and stop assessing and evaluating our kids in a way that maybe worked in 2019? But I have issues with that. It is certainly not what we need to do to them in 2020.

Robin Hutson  16:33 

What do you think are the three main points for parents to be thinking about?

Lynn Lyons  16:36 

As always, it’s about connection, and warmth. So, don’t lose track of that. And make sure that you are looking for opportunities for your kids to be connected socially, —however, that may happen.

Remember that play is enormously important. So, breaks or breaks, you don’t have to have them doing something every minute of the day. And don’t feel guilty about the fact that you can’t be on top of them. As they learn all the time, the train is going to go off the tracks every once in a while. And that’s perfectly fine.

find a child therapist

And the other thing I really want parents to pay attention to is that in this time, we do not want to lose track of how wonderfully fertile ground we have for allowing your kids autonomy. So, if you’re looking over their shoulders, if you’re on those parent portals all the time seeing which homework got turned in, if you’re feeling like you have to micromanage everything, don’t do it. I wouldn’t want you to do it if we weren’t in this situation, and you don’t have to do it. Now we need to take down the emotional intensity of all of this. Don’t ramp it up with all of the academic stuff. So, pump the brakes, everybody, back off.

Autonomy, play, and connection. That’s what I want you to be paying attention to

Robin Hutson  17:53 

It’s a good list.

Lynn Lyons  17:54 

It’s a good list for me to actually,

Daughter  17:56 

Mom, can I have more time?

Robin Hutson  17:57 

This is what you’ll hear when you use a circle to manage your kids screen time. What do you think of the circle?

Daughter  18:02 

I hate it.

Robin Hutson  18:03 

Why do you hate it?

Daughter  18:04 

Well, I don’t actually hate it. But I feel like it’s good that I’m not spending as much time on the internet.

Robin Hutson  18:08 

It lets you set daily limits for different apps and social media. It also controls your kid’s Wi Fi schedules, and you can adjust age appropriate filters for searches from little kids to teens.

Our affiliate link will get you $20 off a Circle. I love it.

Daughter  18:21 

It’s still annoying in the moment.

Robin Hutson  18:22 

I’m sure it is.

A Listener Question:
The Child Therapist Relationship

Alright, we have a listener question. This question is about a parent asking about her daughter’s therapy and therapist relationship.

I have a 17-year-old daughter with general and social anxiety that is seeing a licensed mental health professional for about nine months now. I’ve now realized this professional is not making any headway with my daughter’s anxiety. How do I end the relationship with this therapist? My daughter does like her, and 1) find a new therapist that can truly help my daughter and 2) not cause my daughter’s anxiety to go into a tailspin with a new therapist and possibly damage our relationship.

Lynn Lyons  19:00 

So, this is a really good question with a lot of things to think about. First of all, if you have a 17-year-old who likes the therapist that she’s been with for nine months, I think your instinct or you’re sort of concerned that you might damage your relationship I think is valid.

I think that it is not up to you to end this relationship unilaterally. You can have a conversation with your daughter and with the therapist that really identifies what the goals are. It is perfectly appropriate for you to say to the therapist. So, you guys have been working together for nine months, and I’m so grateful. And my daughter really enjoys talking to you. Can we have a progress check?

Right? So that’s the theme of today’s episode. So, can we have a progress check on what you’re doing together? And you should also ask, Mom, if this hasn’t happened already. You should also ask, “What should I be doing and what kind of coaching and what sort of information do I need in order to support my daughter?”

I, as you know, so value the input of parents, as I’m doing therapy with children. And I think that parents really value direct information and goal setting and coaching about what they’re supposed to be doing. As a 17-year-old, she’s gonna want some privacy. She’s gonna want to have her own therapy sessions. I totally understand that. But Mom, you can say, and you can talk to your daughter about this.

“What are the goals that you’re working on?”  And I need to, I need to get some coaching about how I can help you. If a therapist can’t tell you what the goals of the therapy are, and if a therapist says, “Well, I’m not at liberty to tell you that,” or “I’m not going to share that with you.” That’s a bit of a red flag for me. Because I really see parents as such an important and valuable asset in the process, particularly if the child is still living with you. So, I would really have a direct conversation with that.

How to find a good therapist for anxiety

Now, how do I know if my child has a good therapist? Or how do I choose a good therapist?

There are a few criteria that I have. One is that I really advise parents to interview the therapist ahead of time and ask them how often they treat anxiety. Now, anxiety is so common that most therapists are gonna say,” Oh, I treat anxiety all the time,” because it’s the number one reason why parents bring a child to a mental health professional.

But ask them, “What are the things that you do with an anxious family? How do you go about treating an anxious family? What’s the role of the parents in the treatment? How will you keep us informed about what we’re supposed to do and what we’re not supposed to do?”

Really ask those questions. Ask them what their approach is. And one of the things that you should hear is, if you’ve got a therapist who is really specialized in anxiety, and I’m, I’m big on this, I would want a therapist for my kids that anxiety is their bread and butter.

What are the homework assignments that you’re going to give us between sessions? What are some of the things that you’ll have us do? And what are some of the things that you will instruct my child to do?

See how active they are in their therapy. If a therapist says, “I can’t tell you that until I meet with your child,” Red flag. Because anxiety is really redundant. If you went to a dentist, and you’re going to get a root canal, and you said, “Can you tell me the sort of what the process of a root canal is?” and the dentist said, “I can’t tell you anything about root canals until I look at your mouth,” you’d be like, I think there’s probably like a way that we do with root canals.

They may not be able to give you specifics about how many sessions you’ll see them for, how long it will take, because I’ve certainly been burned on that plenty of times, but they should have an idea of what their approach to anxiety is. It should be active, and you should have assignments between sessions as a family. You should be doing things, parents. You need coaching in this because it’s a generational thing. Because we know that anxious parents contribute to the anxiety of their kids, not on purpose, we’ve established that, but that’s just the way that that this goes.

You should really have a role in the therapy, the younger your child is, the more the therapist should be dealing with you than the child. If there’s a 4-year-old, I’m barely seeing the 4-year-old, I’m working with the parents, if I’ve got a 17-year-old that I’m working a lot with the child and less with the parents.  But the parents are actively involved.

So, interview a therapist, find out what they do. Find out what their approach is. Find out how much you’ll be involved and what you’ll be asked to do. Ask them for example, what are some of the resources? Are there books that were supposed to read? Are there things that you want us to educate ourselves on? What as parents should we learn about this? They should have that right, right at the tip of their tongue. Right?

If somebody asked me those questions, boom, boom, boom. But, Mom, if the 17-year-old really likes this therapist, just so you know, this may this is important information, too. The connection that somebody has with the therapist is a really critical component to the success of the therapy. If your daughter feels connected to the therapist, then that actually is a check in the positive column. But just ask. Just say, “What are the goals? What should I be working on? What are you working on with my daughter?” And if the therapist says, “I can’t tell you any of that,” you know, that’s interesting to me.

I’m always looking for therapists to refer to that really have a systems approach in this because it’s not it just… you just can’t work with the child alone. And, in fact, I’ve as I’ve said, the Yale program, the space program that works with anxious families only works with the parents. The parents are critical to this.

What to ask a child therapist for anxiety

Robin Hutson  24:51 

What are the professional terms that parents should be listening for that are within the realm of your approach?

Lynn Lyons  24:59 

So cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT. That’s considered the gold standard for anxiety treatment. So, I am certainly cognitive and behavioral in my approach for sure. Although there are some things that I don’t do, as I’ve talked about before, some standard CBT stuff that I don’t do, maybe we could talk about that more in another episode, actually.

But if you’ve got a child, and if you’ve got OCD in the family, and if you’ve got a child who’s rigid with perfectionism, you really want to ask about what their approach to OCD is. You want to listen for exposure and response prevention, E-R-P. So that’s sort of the treatment of choice for obsessive compulsive disorder. You want to ask them about how active in their therapy they are, and how directive in their therapy there are.

Certainly, a play therapy as it’s placed, but with anxiety, non-directive play therapy, with younger kids or even with older kids, I’m much more directive in it. So, you want to ask how concrete they are. Are you a strategic therapist? Are you a systems therapist? And are you solution focused? So, all of that language.

Robin Hutson  26:08 

We always say we’re free of psychobabble. But sometimes we need to know the psychobabble.

Lynn Lyons  26:11 

That’s an excellent question. And if somebody sounds psychobabble to you, if somebody is not using concrete language and is isn’t able to say, this is what I do. And this is how I approach it. This is how I go after these problems. Then pay attention to that because vague language and sort of like, well my goal is to just sort of, you know, build your child’s self-esteem and develop a stronger sense of self and blah, blah, blah. I mean, that’s, that’s it’s just too vague for me. So, nail ’em down. What are you going to do? Don’t treat an interview with a therapist with any less importance than if you are going to get your brakes fixed at Midas. Ask them what they’re going to do, and ask them how they’re going to go about doing it?

Robin Hutson  26:57 

How well do you do buying used cars?

Lynn Lyons  26:59 

I will tell you that I have evolved in my used car buying. The first used car I bought was really a disaster. Not only did I go I was so nervous that I wore two different shoes to go buy the used car, but I bought a lemon. And so that was terrible. I have learned since then, and I’ll tell you the last car that I bought, I kicked some serious used car ass. Like I did such a good job. But that you know, that was like a 35-year evolution. I think I’m I think I’m better at buying used cars than I used to. And I try when I go into it, I try and bring in sort of my like problem solving persona, so I’m better now.

Robin Hutson  27:36 

Have you watched the Masterclass on the art of negotiation?

Lynn Lyons  27:40 

No, but that really interests me.

Robin Hutson  27:42 

Same. That’s on my list. I’m obsessed with Masterclass. Honestly, I think that’s one of the most constructive forms of entertainment, we could all be watching in this pandemic.

Lynn Lyons  27:50 

Yeah, yeah. I mean, some of them have been so interesting, haven’t they?

Robin Hutson  27:54 

Yes.

Lynn Lyons  27:55 

And the other thing too, speaking of those master classes is that because I’m a process person, not a content person is that you can really learn a lot by listening to somebody who’s good at what they do, explain what they do, and give the tips about what they do. But when I listen to somebody talk about how they do what they do, and especially if that person is skilled, I’m just listening for that language, that process language. It’s so interesting to me.

Robin Hutson  28:21 

And what is process language?

Lynn Lyons  28:22 

Regardless of what you’re doing, how do you manage to get from point A to point B? So, it’s the big picture stuff. So, process language is, how do you deal with something that’s difficult? Or how do you correct a mistake? Or how do you handle a disappointment? When something goes wrong? How do you figure out what to do next?

So even listening to like Bobbi Brown talk about putting on makeup, there was content stuff that was interesting to me with that, but I was just listening to the way that she talks about how she runs her business and how she interacts with our clients. That big picture stuff is so interesting to me. And that’s all process language. 

When we’re talking about content, right? Content is what you’re worried about. Process is how you understand how worry works. When we’re talking about depression, there’s content, what’s making you depressed, but there’s also process of how do we understand the way you talk to yourself or the way you interact with the world that enhances your feelings of hopelessness. So, it’s big picture. It’s pulling back and looking at it big picture.

Robin Hutson  29:21 

You know, I’ve been listening to you for almost a couple decades now. If you were to be interviewing a therapist for your anxious child, and they sounded really attached to content, shouldn’t you run in the other direction?

Lynn Lyons  29:36 

I’m sorry, I have to go. Yes. Just pick up your purse, and you march right out of there.

Most therapists talk content. I train a lot of therapists, and we’re very trained to pay attention to what you’re anxious about and why you’re anxious about that thing and trying to figure out the meaning of the symptom and all that kind of stuff. So, the likelihood of you hearing somebody talk about that if you’re interviewing a therapist is very, very high.

But if you can ask them that question of sort of like, how do you treat anxiety in general? How do you understand the way that anxiety works? That’s a question to ask. But you’re going to hear a lot of therapists that, particularly ones that are new, and I’m training and supervising, it’s easy to get stuck in the content.

With obsessive compulsive disorder, if you get stuck in the content, you are going down the wrong path; it makes things worse. So that’s a really important thing to ask about and talk about. But a lot of therapists are gonna look at you like, “What are you talking about?” is just not a big part of our training, for sure. It should be, but it’s not.

Robin Hutson  30:41 

I’m sympathetic to the parents who have struggled finding a good therapist for their kids, where they probably just keep running into the same limitations where the therapists are content focused, and it doesn’t necessarily work.

Lynn Lyons  30:57 

A real problem in this country, is that there are not enough therapists for people who need them. Many of the therapists, who I know are very skilled, don’t take new clients very often, because they’re just full. People will leave messages on my answering machine saying, I’ve called eight people, and nobody’s called me back.

But in terms of the way our mental health system works, and how do we care to the people who need it is a really big issue. There are huge inequities in the accessibility of mental health care, and what is good quality mental health care, I will tell you.

Can I just say a little something here? We have been hearing in this country for the last seven months, about how our kids are not getting the school that they need. And we’ve been talking about remote learning and education and about how exhausted, you know, people on the front lines have been dealing with this pandemic.

You’ve also been hearing about how we are having a mental health crisis in this country. And that’s true. And it was bad before all of this started. The mental health workers, the people on the front lines, we haven’t stopped working. We’re exhausted, too. And I just want to give a shout out if it if it sounds as if I’m dissing my colleagues, I don’t mean to do that. I certainly have strong opinions about anxiety treatment, but there are a lot of people who are exhausted.

I supervise a lot of therapists; we have not had a break. So, when you’re throwing love at the teachers, and when you’re throwing love at the medical professionals, remember that we are dealing with a tsunami of people that are suffering. It’s wearing us out, too. So, clinicians and mental health people, kudos to you, too.

Robin Hutson  32:37 

Yeah, absolutely.

Lynn Lyons  32:38 

It sucks. The connection that you feel the research over and over and over again, one of the things that is probably really, really important about whether or not you do well in therapy is whether or not you feel like your therapist is connected to you, understands you, listens to you, and is working with you to find solutions to the problem.

So, there’s all sorts of different techniques. There’re all sorts of there’s a gazillion different therapies and theories and in my profession, they change on a weekly basis. It’s hard to keep up. But that sense of connection if you’ve got somebody who you feel like is listening to what you were saying and working with you to figure out what to do that is really key to successful therapy.

Robin Hutson  33:22 

Well thank you, Lynn. And I know that the therapy questions have come up many, many times. So, I’m hoping that this was a useful conversation for our listeners.

I hope that everyone joins the Facebook group so that you can ask questions on future episodes to get Lynn’s opinions.

Lynn Lyons  33:40 

Yes, Lynn does have opinions.

Robin Hutson  33:43 

I’d like to take you to buy my next used car. I think that sounds like fun.

Lynn Lyons  33:49 

Well, you know what, I think that one of the things about the used car is that I went by myself.

Robin Hutson  33:53 

I rely on the good cop bad cop approach.

Lynn Lyons  33:56 

I think I was both good cop and bad cop the last time that I went in.

Robin Hutson  33:59 

My husband and I enjoy the good cop, bad cop approach. I, of course, am the tough enforcer. He gets to pretend that I’m like that all the time. You know, and he’s like, “I don’t know. I don’t know if that’s gonna make the wife so happy.”

Lynn Lyons  34:14 

“The old ball and chain! You know, and I’m saying, Roger?” Yeah.

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