Here is April’s installment of “Ask Shelby” from Chester County’s own Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Shelby Riley.
My 17 year-old daughter is seeing a therapist. I’m a bit frustrated because I want to meet with her therapist but I don’t want my daughter to know and her therapist will not meet with me and not tell my daughter. I think it will just make my daughter even more mad and defensive with me if she knows I’ve talked with her therapist. But I do have some thoughts and some questions about my daughter’s situation that I would like to discuss with her therapist. I’m paying for the sessions — shouldn’t I be able to have a say in how this goes?
Signed, Maddened Mom
Dear Maddened Mom,
You have every right to be a part of your daughter’s therapy. A well trained therapist will create a contract with you and your daughter at the start of therapy about how and when family members will be involved. Teenagers often want a lot of their own individual time with a therapist, but they are still children in a family and therefore parents should always be involved in some way in their therapy.
I will caution you about meeting with her therapist and not telling her. I’m glad her therapist is unwilling to keep a secret like that from your daughter. I understand your intentions—you are trying to help your daughter by speaking with her therapist and you are trying to protect your relationship with her by not letting her know. But what can very easily happen is that this secret will erode her trust with her therapist. Short-term thinking often leads to complications down the road. If your daughter ever finds out her therapist met with you and kept it secret, all of the work they have done can be compromised because your daughter may feel betrayed and question her therapist’s intentions from the very beginning of their relationship.
I suggest you request to join your daughter for part of an upcoming session. Explain to your daughter that you’d like to get some feedback from her therapist and some tips on how to communicate better. During your time in the session, talk openly about how you’d like to be involved in your daughter’s therapy more, and the three of you can create a plan for how that will look. Your daughter may be uncomfortable or put out, but the therapist is there to help manage the tension and create a good plan that will meet everyone’s needs.
Good luck! I’m glad you want to be an active part of your daughter’s work,
Shelby Riley, LMFT is the owner of Shelby Riley, LMFT and Associates, LLC. She is currently the President of the Pennsylvania Association of Marriage and Family Therapy (PAMFT). Remember to check out Shelby’s website www.shelbyrileymft.com for useful information about therapy for individuals, couples, and families.