The Golden Rule

For many years my friend Pammy, who is a Speech and Language Pathologist (SLP), and I have wanted to write a book together about the most cooperative way for parents and clinicians/therapists to interact. We have shared stories, vented, and agreed on some of the parent/clinician best practices.

Here are some potential titles for the book:

You are not the only one in the world

Don’t be afraid to ask

Therapy for Dummies (too obvious and cliché)

Not My Kid

My time is not your time

Tell it to me Straight

Ok, ok. I’ll stop. Clearly there is no end. I think we were originally inspired by some of those “Girlfriend’s guide to blah blah blah”. You know the books that sort of give you the low down  on what you need to know about something. For example, in the Girlfriends Guide to Pregnancy they talk about the hemorrhoids, constipation, all of the not so pretty parts about being pregnant. In What to Expect When you are Expecting, it’s all rosy with little flutters and happy sonograms. So what do you need to know when you are working with clinicians or if you are a clinician, working with a parent? Well, we have found that there is a lot to learn to have successful relationships and some of it is not as obvious as you migh think. The old expression “you get more with honey than vinegar” surely applies here, but it’s more than just that simple.

Some guidelines we have identified over the years that have helped us in our relationships:

1. Respect timelines. The end of someone’s session is the beginning of the next person’s session. Get your thumbs up or thumbs down info and then work out with the therapist a good time to talk and/or get progress reports.

2. Remember, just because your child does not express things, doesn’t mean they are not listening. Some exchanges between therapists and parents are for little ears, some are not.

3. Be flexible when possible. We all have schedules and we all have emergencies, deal with it in a respectful, caring way. Try to give as much notice as you can on canceling a session, but remember shit happens.

4. Remember that the whole point of going is for the kid to get the most they can out of it. Parents shouldn’t use therapy as babysitting so don’t bring a sick kid to therapy. Therapists, we don’t care about your thesis, continuing education credits, or bonuses; don’t expect parents to offer up their kids to be your guinea pig.

5. If you ask a therapist to come to a doctor’s appt, school meeting, etc, remember they expect to be paid. The old expression “you get what you pay for” certainly applies here. As close as you are to a therapist, they are not your “friends” per se. They can be your friend, confidante, etc. but if you are really their friend you will respect the fact that this is their livelihood.

6. If you are a therapist, remember that you are talking to a parent about the most cherished thing in the whole wide world, their child. Try to think about the info you are delivering;  bedside manner counts!

7. Chemistry is not just for high school anymore. Does your child like this therapist? Does the therapist know how to reach your child? Is your child making progress? If you answered no to any of these, find a new one and move on. It isn’t always your kid if things aren’t working out. It is a relationship and some work and some don’t and it’s not necessarily because the clinician is bad or your kid isn’t listening. Sometimes you just need to find a better fit.

8. Everyone has a bad day. Your kid and his therapist will not “split an atom” during each session. Some are good, some are bad, sometimes your kid is in the mood to learn and work hard and sometimes they are not. Progress or lack thereof,  is not the type of thing that can be assessed in any one random session. Our kids have so much pressure to perform, they are entitled to just have a bad day every now and then; it doesn’t mean all is hopeless.

9. I am a JD not an MD! Parents are not therapists. If you send stuff home for us to do with the kids, don’t always expect that it will be done. We work, some cook, clean, do laundry, kiss boo boos, etc. We try but we are also the ones they just want a break with and want to snuggle.

The list can go on forever. Treat people how you want to be treated.


6 thoughts on “The Golden Rule

  1. I think you should write the book! It would be great for new clinicians and parents just starting out on this journey. Better yet do a continuing education seminar with strategies for making it work. It is definitely a learning and growing process for both sides. #6 became my golden rule as a therapist but truthfully only after I had children of my own. #1 is an ongoing issue. After providing 40-45 minutes of therapy with some time left over for parent questions and info there is very often the as I’m walking out the door question: “do you think he/she will ever talk?” or “why is he not able to do…?” Blockbuster, all encompassing questions that I’m sure as a parent must be impossible to say out loud. I am a good and caring therapist so I can not leave at this point, so then for the rest of my day I am running late and have multiple families upset and agitated. In your seminar tell parents that they can schedule time or ask at the beginning so time can be made to answer these all important questions. And #8 is just a good rule for life, I try to remember that for my own kids too. just my 2 cents…

  2. The relationship between clinician/parent is a unique, deeply personal one wrapped up in the cloak of “professionalism”. It’s a very delicate and often ambiguous line. It has taken me years to negotiate the right path, and it is different with each parent. You have absolutely nailed various the various “danger zones” that I had struggled with, and sorry to admit, complained to you about over the years.

    I still haven’t given up on our book writing venture!!!

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