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Dr. Z
Dr. Z, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5968
Experience:  Psy.D. in Clinical Forensic Psychology with a background in treating severe mental illnesses.
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because my ex has a horribly abusive temper, which resulted

Resolved Question:

because my ex has a horribly abusive temper, which resulted in frequent name calling and shouting.

For years he was in therapy, but it never helped in any significant way. Now, we have joint custody of our 7 year old daughter. She often complains about having to go to his house and repeatedly tells me he is "mean." I know that she is right because I experienced it myself. Just today I witnessed him saying something cruel to her because she refused to thankfully acknowledge a gift he'd gotten for her.

Legally, there is little I can do. The court system is jammed with parents who neglect their children in atrocious ways, who physically abuse them and fail to take care of their basic needs. It will have no effect whatsoever if I go to court and say "He is sometimes verbally abusive," when my child is so well taken care of in other ways--by all accounts she has a great life financially speaking.

I have tried to talk to him over the past 5 years about the way he talks to her and treats her; he is generally hostile and unresponsive to any criticism of his parenting whatsoever (responding much the same way he did when we were married to my complaints about his abuse). I grew up in a verbally abusive household and repeated that pattern in my relationship with him. When I made those connections after my daughter was born, it became clear to me that I had to get out of the relationship and provide my daughter with an alternative space as well as an alternative domestic model. I'm happy to say that I am in a healthy, loving relationship now and my daughter experiences the peace, calm, and stability of a functional home life at my house. But then she returns to her father's house, which is often a tense and angry space (especially when he is stressed out, which is frequent).

My daughter is beginning to manifest many of her father's personality traits. She already, she has shared with me, feels incapable of controlling her anger at times. She has lamented that she picked up his personality traits but not mine (I am unusually calm and unflappable) and is having difficulty forming friendships at school because of her difficulty getting along with others. She is in art therapy to help her process her father's temper and verbally abusive speech. This adjustment issue is one that is being addressed in therapy; but I am wondering how effective therapy can be if she is continually re-traumatized at her father's house through his verbal abuse.

I am wondering what I can do. How can I negotiate this situation? What is the right and honorable way to handle this? What actions can I take to best protect my daughter? In the absence of legal possibilities, how can I address this problem?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Dr. Z replied 1 year ago.

Dr. Z :

Hello

Dr. Z :

I believe I can help you with your concern

Customer:

Hi.

Dr. Z :

Give me a couple minutes to read your question thoroughly, so that I can provide you with the best advice possible.

Customer:

Okay.

Dr. Z :

I am so sorry that your daughter has to be traumatized by her father's behavior and that she has been developing some of his personality characteristics.

Customer:

Yeah. Today we were at a doctor's appointment. He had brought her a cookie; but she wasn't interested.

Customer:

He said to her, "I didn't bring this cookie for your ugly face."

Customer:

He tried to fix it and say, "I mean, to get an ugly face from you." She was crestfallen.

Customer:

I am not sure what to do.

Dr. Z :

Well it is good that you have her in therapy currently, but I would actually use a behavioral called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT has a premise that your symptoms are caused by negative thoughts, so if we change your thought process to be more positive and objective as well, then your symptoms will lessen. This will help her from developing her father's personality traits.

Dr. Z :

Well I do think for emotional and verbal abuse you do have a legal case, but yes you are right that is difficult to prove in court and can be costly

Dr. Z :

I do not think that you can change her father's behavior outright, but is is possible for all three of you to go to family counseling and maybe if he agrees to a contract of behavior he can at least lessen this abuse

Customer:

Okay. Perhaps I can use today's incident to get him into therapy, but I am doubtful. I believe he has dropped out of therapy and lies about it to me.

Dr. Z :

He might have lied about it, but if you say that family therapy will help your daughter and not blame him outright. And say that you two are a team raising your daughter to be healthy, strong, and independent and that you feel family therapy is best to do this it may help convince him.

Dr. Z :

Also I want to provide these books with good therapy techniques too for your daughter

Customer:

Okay, that strategy might work to get him in the room. But if the focus turns to him he'll become hostile and shut down and refuse to acknowledge he has a problem.

Dr. Z :

In addition, because of her age narrative therapy and role-playing will resonate with her and help teach her appropriate social and personality skills.

Customer:

Thanks for the books. I will use them.

Customer:

Yes, I naturally use this with her from time to time to help her process certain feelings.

Dr. Z :

Well a good therapist will be able to diffuse the situation from just focusing on him

Customer:

ok

Dr. Z :

I can look in your area and recommend a few good therapists if you like?

Customer:

Yes, that would be great.

Customer:

I'm in the Cincinnati, OH area.

Dr. Z :

Okay, give me a few minutes to compile a list for you

Customer:

Sure.

Dr. Z :

So I think these are all good therapists for you and your daughter, they each specialize in Family Therapy

Customer:

Thank you for these referrels.

Dr. Z :

Anytime, is there anything else I can do for you tonight?

Customer:

No, you've given me a direction to go in and I appreciate that. I ordered 2 of the books; and I will suggest setting up family therapy w/him. So now I know my next steps. Thank you.

Dr. Z, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5968
Experience: Psy.D. in Clinical Forensic Psychology with a background in treating severe mental illnesses.
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Dr. Z
Dr. Z
Psychologist
5369 Satisfied Customers
Psy.D. in Clinical Forensic Psychology with a background in treating severe mental illnesses.