Will Wooton: Finding effective treatment
By Will Wooton
Something that’s always baffled me is why parents so freely trust therapists or even full treatment programs. Mental health is like any other profession. There are some highly skilled and amazing practitioners, there are some I am embarrassed to admit actually work with clients, however, the majority fall somewhere in the middle.
Several weeks ago I discussed with a mother her travels to Los Angeles for an elective surgery. She had heard rave reviews about this surgeon and spent almost a year doing research on his work. She knew she would not settle for anything but the best for her procedure. Her theory was “I’d have gone to the moon for the best; this was my face after all!”
I don’t disagree with this yet I was confused when she began listing the programs and therapists to which she had taken her son. The list looked like the mental health directory for North County. I asked her how she found all these people and places. She looked at me with confusion for a few seconds before replying “my insurance company” and “the prior therapist.” This seems to be common in mental health, yet all treatment is not the same. All programs do not help while others can actually be damaging.
Insurance companies have networks of authorized providers or programs to which they refer patients. The person assisting you has no knowledge of the program and has no idea if it’s good, bad, or the proper fit for your situation. They simply plug in your location, check for who is in your area, provide an authorization code and leave it up to you to set an appointment. Seems simple enough yet this often can lead to a poor treatment choice as you have no real information on who you’re seeing and what they do. Are they the “cream of the crop” or burned out from many years of practice? Does their program have effective styles or will the kids run wild?
Most parents I see are so desperate to find help they assume that when they find it, it is quality. Sadly this is not true and, after going through a few ineffective programs, the belief that treatment doesn’t work will understandably develop.
When a program isn’t a good fit for your family, be careful of the other names you are given. The best programs work with the best practitioners and vise versa. When I give a parent a phone number of someone to call, I feel it is my reputation on the line for them to see the best. I want to know that they will receive top quality care and I can stand behind my referral. I want feedback that it was a great connection. I want to work with the best and maintain that.
The only way to find quality care is to do the investigation. Talk with other parents who have done it. Check out local support groups and ask around. There are a few in this area held every week. Talk to the actual counselors or therapists who run the programs, not just the assessment departments. Be direct and ask how their program will be better for your child. If you’ve worked with a great person in the past, ask them for a recommendation. Remember — great people work and know of each other.
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- Will Wooton: What if someone doesn’t want to be helped?
- Will Wooton: How do you tell if your teen is on drugs?
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