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Dr. Z
Dr. Z, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5098
Experience:  Psy.D. in Clinical Forensic Psychology with a background in treating severe mental illnesses.
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I have a 14 year old daughter who is having difficultly getting

Customer Question

I have a 14 year old daughter who is having difficultly getting up and going to school everyday.

On days that she managers to get to school, she will suffer from a panic attack then be unable to complete a full day of classes. We've tried on several occasions get her to see a therapist, unfortunately she refuses to see any therapist. Even when a therapist agrees to come to our home, my daughter will lock herself in her bedroom and refuse to speak to anyone.

This has been going on for the past two years. Her mother is at her wit's end. If she can't get our daughter to go back to school on a regular basis within the next month, she plans to send her away to residency school for children with metal disorders. I should also mention that during this two year period, our daughter was diagnosed as being bipolar. Medication was proscribe.

What happened two years ago: Shortly before our daughter's 12th birthday, our home was raided by the police. It seems that my now ex-wife had sexually molested one of her severely autistic clients. A client that she provided "facilitated communication". This autistic person can not speak on his own without the assistant of my wife and her keyboard. Through this method, she fell in love with this retard man, and had sex with him. Unfortunate for her, in New Jersey, it is a felony to have sex with someone who is legally declared mentally incompetent. The details of this sexual relationship was written in the police search warrant. Our children, (son and daughter) were just coming home from school at the time of the police raid. In the confusion, the warrant was left on the kitchen counter. The children read the warrant. We immediately sat the children down to have a family discussion about what had happened, but our daughter refused to talk about it. I tried many different approaches to bring up the subject, to no avail. Furthermore, she began avoiding me all together. To this day she will not speak to me. After the raid, my daughter started missing school. At that time she was in the 8th grade. She missed 42 days of school that semester. Despite missing that many days of school, she still graduated to the next grade. (My daughter is quite precocious.) It was during this period that my wife had our daughter diagnosed as having bipolar syndrome. (I've always found this diagnoses as extremely coincidental to the legal troubles that my wife is having.)

It took a year of investigation before the prosecutors indicted my wife on aggravated sexual assault charges. She is currently awaiting a trial date. We are now divorced and living in separate residence. My daughter lives with my wife by choice. Yet, she is still missing school. She did not complete the 9th grade. The public school system fails to come up with an answer of how to keep her going to classes without threatening some kind of DYFS action. At the request of my wife, the school system has advanced our daughter this time to the 10th grade. To this day, I am receiving robo calls from my daughter's school letting me know that she is still missing classes.

My question to you: How do we get a 14 year old child (who has gone through the above history) to willfully talk to a therapist and face this horrible family reality so that she can return to being a functioning student in school and take back her life?

No one here has the answer here. Please help.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Dr. Z replied 1 year ago.

Dr. Z. :

Hello I believe I can help you with your concern

Dr. Z. :

I am so sorry that you daughter is exhibiting these symptoms and having such a difficult time, I can imagine how distressing this is for you

Dr. Z. :

I would like to ask you a few questions to get some more information, so I can give you the best answer possible.

Dr. Z. :

I agree that the coincidence of your daughter's bipolar diagnosis is questionable. Why was your daughter diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder? What were her symptoms specifically?

Dr. Z. :

Also what medications is your daughter currently on?

Customer:

If at all possible, could we speak by way of phone?

Customer:

my number: XXX-XXX-XXXX

Dr. Z. :

Actually this website does not allow me to speak with you directly by phone unfortunately

Dr. Z. :

And when you just typed in your phone number is XXXXX blacked out on my end. The website does not allow the transfer of personal information

Dr. Z. :

These are the administrator rules and not mine unfortunately.

Customer:

Understood. Bare with me... I'm a slow typer.

Dr. Z. :

No worries, take your time. There is not time limit on this session, so please do not feel the need to rush

Customer:

When my daughter refused to go to school and refused therapy, my wife felt that there was nothing left to do but to admit her into a hospital. There she was diagnosed as being bipolar.

Customer:

I'm not certain what medicine was prescribed.

Dr. Z. :

Based on the timeline of the symptoms, I think your daughter most likely has a mix of depression and an anxiety (which would explain the panic attacks) or a disorder called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from witnessing the raid, her mother's criminal trial, and also from reading the complaint on the warrant. Here is a link explaining PTSD more thoroughly for you

Customer:

To complicate matters, my wife and I are barely on speaking terms.

Dr. Z. :

Well it is understandable why you two are not on speaking terms considering what she is accused of doing and with your divorce. But I think that a more appropriate medication regiment would be better for your daughter and will help increase her motivation to go to school

Customer:

Yes. We've been over that with psychiatrist and psychotherapist! That wasn't my question...

Customer:

My question is:

Customer:

How do we persuade this 14 year old girl to get therapy... Without forcing her. Which we can't obviously do?

Dr. Z. :

Well you mention that she has refused therapy and even when a therapist comes to the home she will lock herself in the bedroom. What reason does your daughter give to not want to see a therapist exactly? What does she say to you when you or her mother brings up therapy

Customer:

By the way, I do have limited communication with my wife and daughter via my mother-in-law. She was the one who informed me that they were planning to send my daughter away to mental institution if my daughter doesn't stay in school. I was hoping to find here an alternative solution.

Customer:

She tells us that she doesn't have a problem and that she doesn't need help.

Dr. Z. :

I agree, I think an alternative solution would be best as I think a mental health residency school would be more traumatizing for your daughter.

Customer:

Agreed!

Customer:

That's why I'm here.

Dr. Z. :

Have you suggested to your daughter that she choose the therapist and that she can talk about anything with the therapist in private?

Customer:

Yes. Didn't work.

Customer:

You also must understand that we're dealing with an extremely bright 14 year old.

Customer:

She can seem quite normal to the unsuspected therapist.

Dr. Z. :

Well with bright children, usually a compromise can be established. If she agrees to therapy, she get something in return (something not over the top obviously).

Dr. Z. :

So has she requested anything possibly that help make her more open to therapy?

Dr. Z. :

Many therapists are trained to handle resistant adolescent children for therapy, so I believe most will be able to help her

Customer:

Because there is a history of mental illness on my wife's side of the family, I am not so quick to dismiss the bipolar diagnosis. It may even be the case that the bipolar was triggered by the PTSD.

Customer:

You would think that most therapist are trained and have a plan of action when dealing with a recalcitrant patient.

Customer:

However...

Dr. Z. :

Well Bipolar Disrder is usually not triggered by an environmental stimuli, this is why I am questioning the diagnosis and the timing of the diagnosis. And right now the symptoms are more synonymous with depression and anxiety

Customer:

My daughter is beyond unreasonable when it comes to seeing a therapist.

Customer:

Therapist we've used so far have come up empty when it comes to getting our daughter to come to therapy.

Customer:

Which bring me right back to my original question to you...

Dr. Z. :

Does your daughter know that if she does not go to therapy, she may be sent to a boarding school for children with mental health disorders?

Customer:

Not at the moment. They're trying not to make this look like a punishment.

Customer:

Although, whenever they reach that point, I don't know how they're going to avoid coming across that way.

Dr. Z. :

That is true, when it comes up your daughter will consider it punishment and will resist. Have you thought about family therapy, so that she is not going alone?

Customer:

I need a concrete alternative solution to stop this event from happening.

Customer:

Yes! We've exhausted all the obvious solutions.

Customer:

Furthermore, given the fact that my daughter won't even be in the same room with me at this point, family therapy is totally out the window.

Dr. Z. :

Well there are no set concrete solutions to prevent this from happening, there are different options that can be used to make your daughter more favorable to this. One would be making a bargain with her saying that if she goes to 5 sessions of therapy, the matter will not be brought up again. Usually after three sessions, most children improve their response to therapy and more favorable to it, once they figure out what therapy is like. But this will require finding a good therapist that has experience working with teens.

Dr. Z. :

Why is your daughter against you so much? You are not the one facing trial

Customer:

We've tried that!!

Dr. Z. :

What about self-therapy? Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is something that can be done by yourself and is effective. She can choose to approach it at her own pace if she chooses to.

Customer:

Ah... You're answering faster then I can type. Sorry. (I'm really bad at this sort of thing... Give me a moment.)

Dr. Z. :

No worries, take your time. I will go slower

Customer:

But that's the issue now isn't it... She doesn't "choose" therapy. Even if we present it as an option to her.

Customer:

She really believes that she doesn't have a problem.

Dr. Z. :

But she takes the medicine she is prescribed?

Customer:

I understand how this all must seem quite irrational. Even the professionals that we've listed locally are all scratching their heads.

Dr. Z. :

No many children feel they are not sick as they view mental illness as a stigma and something to be ashamed of. I have actually had parents put their teenagers in the car and not tell them where they were going and force them into my office, but of course the teenagers do not even talk because no one can force them to talk.

Dr. Z. :

By the way this is a good on exactly what your daughter is going through as well

Customer:

Well, just between you and I, my daughter isn't the only person involved in this case that's suffering from metal illness.

Customer:

Unfortunately, my wife is the only person that my daughter will listen to.

Customer:

As it was explained to me, my daughter has "displaced anger" when it comes to me.

Dr. Z. :

I understand, and I think that it is unfortunate that your daughter will only listen to her mother because I think she would do best listening to other objective view point as well.

Customer:

Agreed. However, I'm beginning to feel like we're going around in circles a bit.

Dr. Z. :

I can agree with the displaced anger. Do you think it is possible that your wife may have had a hand in turning your daughter against you?

Customer:

Nothing can be accomplished until we get that girl out of the house and into therapy.

Customer:

How do we do that??

Dr. Z. :

Sorry I do not mean to go around in circles. I think you have tried every method of being nice about therapy with your daughter and I think threats of being sent to a boarding school should be considered as your daughter may respond more with that.

Customer:

Absolutely!

Dr. Z. :

To get her out of the house, you would have to make a legal application saying that her mental health may be compromised by living with her mother. And her mother may be unfit given her upcoming trial as well. But that can take a long time.

Dr. Z. :

I do think an immediate solution to help with her panic attacks would be just adding a benzodiazepine to her medication regimen and this would at least not cause her to miss school as much.

Customer:

To make such a motion would start an internal war between me and my wife's wealthy parents.

Customer:

No one will win.

Customer:

Okay... Maybe they will. But it won't do my daughter any good.

Dr. Z. :

I did not know they were wealthy, and you are right it would cause an internal war. Does your wife think your daughter should go to therapy or not?

Customer:

That medicine sounds familiar.

Customer:

I think she may already be on some sort of anti-anxiety medicine.

Customer:

Yes.

Dr. Z. :

She is probably on an anti-depressant as these have anti-anxiety properties as well

Customer:

I believe so. Come to think of it.

Customer:

And still, she's having trouble attending school.

Dr. Z. :

And this is where medications have their limits and therapy has their benefits.

Dr. Z. :

It sounds like you and your wife have tried nearly everything with your daughter and she has not responded well, a boarding school option may have to occur because of your daughter's resistance unfortunately.

Dr. Z. :

If you try to tell her that if she does not see a therapist on a regular basis, then a boarding school will be the next step, this may scare her so much to motivate her to try to give therapy a chance. This will be her choosing the lesser of two evils in her mind, as you said she is very bright.

Dr. Z. :

The other option I can think of is for your wife to go to therapy to help normalize it for your daughter will give her a more positive opinion of therapy. And then your daughter may be open to individual therapy or joining your wife with therapy, although I think it would be better if she went to her own therapist.

Customer:

You are assuming that my daughter's psyche is still steeped in reality. For the past two years my wife has created this "fool's paradise" existence for my daughter... (going on long vacation trips, taking her to concerts, letting her hang out with her friends, etc.) I don't think my daughter is capable of being rational. This is in my wife's advantage. Having a little girl at home with "special needs" helps keep my wife out of jail.

Customer:

To have my question answered to my satisfaction here, I'm going to need you to think "outside the box"!!!

Customer:

I understand this whole scenario is quite unusual.

Customer:

We are desperate here.

Dr. Z. :

Wow, those are new variables that were not mentioned. Now I am definitely not leaning towards Bipolar Disorder. Your wife is enabling your daughter to allow for this behavior, there are no repercussions when she does not go to school or refuses to see a therapist. I think your wife is using your daughter for her advantage.

Customer:

Or should I say, "I" am desperate!

Dr. Z. :

Have you considered calling Child Protective Services (CPS)?

Customer:

Yes.

Customer:

Our case is lost in the system.

Dr. Z. :

But let me ask you if your wife sends your daughter to a boarding school, doesnt she lose her advantage of trying to stay out of jail because she is not longer taking care of a special needs child?

Customer:

Now that the one hundred thousand dollar bail has been set and paid for by the in-laws, the threat of immediate incarceration is over.

Dr. Z. :

Okay, that makes sense why your wife would want to send your daughter to a boarding school now. You can call the police and make a complaint of truancy which will speed of the CPS case that you mentioned earlier

Customer:

Again, all craziness aside, I still believe that my wife love's her daughter, (otherwise my daughter would have been abandon right from the beginning.) Is my wife always acting in our daughter's best interest? I believe as much as she can, given what she's currently going through. What I would like to get from this conversation a sure fire method that I can past on to my wife to give to our local professionals that will get our daughter into therapy. Given all of the history that I've exposed to you above.

Customer:

Forgive my typos.

Customer:

Some wise old man (or woman) sitting on a hill somewhere must know the answer!

Customer:

I find it hard to believe that my daughter is the first such case like this.

Dr. Z. :

There are no sure fire methods for anything. Nothing works 100 percent of the time, but I still think that making a compromise with your daughter is the best option. Giving something to get something is usually a good tactic that works with very bright and irrational teenagers. Also telling her that if she does not go to therapy on a regular basis, she will be forced to go to boarding school will motivate her to go to therapy, albeit reluctantly.

Dr. Z. :

Your daughter is not the first resistant child, but I do not believe that your wife is fostering a good environment with appropriate consequences when she does not go to school or when she refuses to go to therapy.

Dr. Z. :

There is nothing any therapist can do about that if the primary custodial parent refuses to push the child in the appropriate direction of therapy. Also I think your wife may love your daughter, but is not willing to make the hard work effort to help her by pawning her off to a boarding school

Customer:

I guess there's not much else to say. I'm very disappointed. And very sad for the well being of my family.

Dr. Z. :

I am sad for your family as well and I wish I had better news, but if your daughter is allowed to skip school and refuse to go to therapy, but still hang out with her friends, still go to concerts, there is not much a therapist can do to convince your daughter seek mental health treatment, when there are no consequences in her life.

Dr. Z. :

Your daughter sees not benefit in therapy because she is getting what she wants.

Customer:

Agreed! How could she... When she can't even acknowledge that she did something wrong when she had sex with the autistic guy. For her, this is a disabilities rights issue.

Dr. Z. :

If there are appropriate boundaries and restrictions, then your daughter may be more open to therapy because then she can get more privileges, but that is not the case here

Customer:

My wife is fighting for her freedom to love a disabled person.

Dr. Z. :

Exactly, and your daughter sees this and sees that there are no consequences. If her mother can get away with this, then she can get away with other things as well. I am sorry to say, but your daughter is not living in a good environment.

Customer:

I know that all too well. I've never meant a spoiled happy child.

Dr. Z. :

And if I was there, I would testify to that and say that you should get primary custody.

Customer:

And that's why I came to you. Hoping for answers.

Customer:

But, she would need to WANT to live with me. There's the rub...

Dr. Z. :

I wish I had better answers for you, but your options are limited because your wife is not fostering a good environment for your child and right now your wife has primary custody of her.

Customer:

We have joint custody.

Dr. Z. :

Yes you have joint custody, but she mainly lives with her mother and not you because she does not want to live with you because of her displaced anger

Customer:

I'm just not pushing things because our daughter doesn't want to live with me.

Customer:

Correct.

Customer:

So... I suppose that's all I can do?

Customer:

For right now?

Dr. Z. :

I have testified in a number of these similar custody cases before, and what I have seen is that the displaced anger is because one spouse is poisoning the child against the other spouse. Your daughter's displaced anger may be because your wife has convinced your daughter that your behavior is what drove your wife to have sex with an autistic man, which was obviously not true.

Dr. Z. :

I just want to point that out and any time with your daughter, even going out to lunch can help your daughter realize that you are a good man and she may change her mind about you

Customer:

She won't even respond to my text or emails. I have no way of communicating with her.

Dr. Z. :

And I think her mother is fostering that anger and resentment towards you. Her mother can compel her to see you or at least have lunch with you from time to time.

Customer:

By the way, I agree with (and seen it in action) everything you said about my wife and what she's saying to my daughter about me.

Customer:

It's been two years. Why is my daughter still this hostile toward me.

Dr. Z. :

And because legal action is out of the question and you told me CPS will not help, there are not many other choices you have.

Customer:

I had to try something.

Dr. Z. :

Because your wife is constantly still saying bad things about you and these things have been ingrained in your daughter's mind as firm beliefs.

Customer:

I suppose the only answer (which is not the answer I wanted to pay for.) is that there is no answer.

Customer:

If my daughter continues to miss school, residency program is her only destiny.

Customer:

And there's nothing I can do to stop this.

Dr. Z. :

I wish there was a better option for you, but your daughter has been in respective context "brain washed" by your wife to hate you. And also your wife has fostered an environment of no consequences for your daughter's behavior, so she has not reason to seek help because her life is full of privilege.

Dr. Z. :

The residency program is an option. I also think calling the police and making a complaint of truancy can involve CPS more proactively in your child's life and even compel therapy sessions

Customer:

If I called the police, the only person who will suffer the most would be my daughter. Not to mention the family feud that will ensue.

Dr. Z. :

I do not like that option at all you are right, but you wanted me to think outside the box and give you all options available to you, which are limited

Customer:

Justice comes to those who can afford it.

Dr. Z. :

In this country, I am afraid that is true.

Customer:

Otherwise, my wife would already be in jail.

Customer:

I guess we're finished here.

Dr. Z. :

That is very true, if her family did not have money she would be in jail

Dr. Z. :

I am sorry that I could not help you more and give you more hopeful responses, but without your wife's compliance in setting appropriate boundaries, there is not much any therapist can do in this situation.

Customer:

Also, because of who we are, there is the possibility the this sensationalize story may go public.

Dr. Z. :

That is a possibility as well, and that could cause your daughter more anxiety and panic

Customer:

I wanted to get my daughter out of harm's way before my wife goes to trial.

Customer:

Any suggestions on any other source who may have an "not in the book" solution?

Dr. Z. :

You can try the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) or the Child Abuse/Neglect hotline but I used to volunteer at both of those places and they will give you similar options that I listed too, but here are the links for you.

Dr. Z. :

I think the NAMI hotline is closed though till Monday

Customer:

I will look into these sources.

Customer:

Does this conclude our chat?

Dr. Z. :

I am sorry that your daughter is going through this, I hope one day she realizes that you are a good father and that you only want to help her

Dr. Z. :

Unless you have more questions, I can possibly help you with?

Customer:

Sigh. I can't think of a single other thing that I require help.

Customer:

Thanks for your time.

Dr. Z. :

Anytime, I am happy to help. I wish you and your daughter the best, XXXXX XXXXX hope that she responds to treatment soon

Dr. Z, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5098
Experience: Psy.D. in Clinical Forensic Psychology with a background in treating severe mental illnesses.
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  • I can go as far as to say it could have resulted in saving my sons life and our entire family now knows what bipolar is and how to assist and understand my most wonderful son, brother and friend to all who loves him dearly. Thank you very much Corrie Moll Pretoria, South Africa
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  • I can go as far as to say it could have resulted in saving my sons life and our entire family now knows what bipolar is and how to assist and understand my most wonderful son, brother and friend to all who loves him dearly. Thank you very much Corrie Moll Pretoria, South Africa
  • I thank-you so much! It really helped to have this information and confirmation. We will watch her carefully and get her in for the examination and US right away if things do not improve. God bless you as well! Claudia Albuquerque, NM
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