LEANNE WATT, Ph.D., clinical psychologist
Home About Dr. Watt Services Offered Approach to Treatment Problems Treated Resources Appointments

return to SERVICES OFFERED page

FAMILY THERAPY / FAMILY COUNSELING / PARENT EDUCATION: Sometimes parents are looking for help in “breaking the chain”—they know they need to parent differently than the way that they were parented, but they’re having a hard time managing the natural responses that they have to their children.   

In some cases, parents have intentionally “swung” to the other side of the spectrum, in an effort to parent more effectively than their parents parented, but they realize that the other side of the pendulum isn’t effective with their kids either.

Some parents tend to parent more “passively” with their children, giving less structure or direction, in an effort to counter-balance the “excessive demands” that they believe their spouse is placing on their kids. This dynamic leads to a vicious and  crazy-making cycle for both the kids and the parents.  

In the therapy process, parents learn to understand more about their own “buttons”—the upsetting and painful events from their childhood that can get set off by their children.   They discover how to tend to their own pain and emotional needs in a more constructive manner, enabling them to effectively communicate and set appropriate limits with their kids without being reactive and non-productive.

As parents improve their ability to emotionally track with themselves, they also grow in their ability to emotionally track with their children.  (Studies show that being “attuned” to your young children’s emotional needs is imperative for proper brain development.   The right hemisphere will grow and “wire” itself properly when parents tend to their children’s emotional needs during the first three years of life.  With good development in the right hemisphere, children learn how to self-soothe and emotionally regulate themselves down the road.)

Power struggles are also eliminated, as parents grow in their own conscious awareness.  Overwhelmed parents learn how to successfully manage family conflicts, and learn how to set firm, but kind limits with their children.  Parents learn simple and effective behavioral tools for managing and curtailing problematic behavior very quickly, and they develop skills for drawing out more of the “good  behavior” from their children.   Moms and Dads learn to how to develop an authoritative voice, rather than using an authoritarian or permissive approach to parenting.

In family therapy, members learn how to break the cycle of chronic arguing, misunderstanding, and pain.  Children learn how to use their words with their parents, expressing their hurt, anger, and frustration in language that is compelling, instead of using provocative language or destructive behavior.  And children begin to feel less anxious, less angry, and less reactive, recognizing that their parents are in control and able to contain them.

© 2009 Leanne Watt, Ph.D.