Healing Through Play

Parent Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT)- Therapy designed to help a parent restructure their discipline and guide a child to the desired behaviors. 

Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) Therapy- Therapy designed to help a child, through play, bond and trust a parent/guardian. 

These are obviously not Webster’s definitions, just my personal definitions using the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid!) method.

Therapy and mental health seem to go hand in hand. More often than not, therapy is a doctor’s first course of action, before prescribing medications. Gone are the days of sitting on a couch and talking to a shrink. Therapy has evolved and comes in many different forms.  There is group therapy, family therapy, play therapy, food therapy, occupational therapy, massage therapy, sensory therapy, speech therapy, etc. etc. etc. It should come as no real surprise that we have attended many therapy sessions in an effort to help Quin lead a happy and healthy life.

As soon as we adopted Quin, we started therapy. Q had ZERO words so Speech Therapy was our first order of business. Quin blew us away and progressed so fast. We ended up pulling out of speech therapy after about 4 months because we felt that Q being in daycare, around other kids talking, was helping him far more than weekly 30 minute sessions repeating the same 10 words.

About a year after we brought Quin home we stumbled across RAD therapy. Apparently RAD therapists are hard to find and we are fortunate enough to have one of the best in our area! We attended RAD therapy every Friday for nearly 9 months. The therapist, Quin, and myself would go into a windowless room and do various fun activities for about an hour each session. We would play with balloons, jump on trampolines, race cars, and eat a snack.  For example, during snack time, the therapist would hand me the juice box and say “Mommy will open your juice” and I would open the juice and hand it to Q. It was simple, but it was reinforcing, to Q, that I was there to help him and take care of him. We would do simple “First this then that” type games. For example, I would blow a bubble and say “Quin when I say 3 you pop the bubble” then I would count and he would pop it and I would praise him for listening. These little games were to show Q that I could be in charge and he would still be safe. It was also the beginning stages of teaching him discipline. We would work on things like letting me put lotion on his hands, just trying to establish that sense of touch. We would end every session singing this sweet little tune about being safe and it was so sweet because by the end of it, Q had that song DOWN. Periodically I would attend the sessions alone to get special RAD parenting advice…like how to discipline or potty train. After about 9 months, the therapy sessions became pretty routine and Q had them down pat so we decided to take a break and pick them back up if Quin regressed in the area of RAD. I am happy to report that we have not attended any further RAD therapy sessions. RAD therapy, in my opinion, was VERY helpful and I wish we would have found it a lot sooner than we did.

About a year ago we attended PCIT therapy in an attempt to help Quin better listen and follow directions from an adult. Due to Quin’s RAD, he REALLY struggles with letting someone else make the decisions for him. He must feel in control at all times. Since we knew that Q had bonded with us, we felt PCIT would be a good to help Jimmy and I learn how to properly discipline Q.  Like RAD therapy, PCIT is based around play.  However, for this therapy, the therapist isn’t in the room with you. Instead, you are in a room with a 2 way mirror, wearing a headset, while the therapist watches and coaches you from the other side. The therapy is broken out into two parts. Part 1 is positive reinforcement–basically training you how to PRAISE your child when they do things you prefer them to do. For example, if Q said “May I please have the purple car” I would say “You may have the purple car. Thank you for using your manners. I like hearing you say please.”  Overall Part 1 is alot of talking and is more about training the parent than the child. (For us, part 1 was similar to RAD therapy. We were able to breeze through this part). For Part 2, you learn how to discipline using a basic warning system that advances to a time out chair if the child doesn’t comply. This is where things got difficult for us. One of the techniques this therapy uses is you leaving the room when the child doesn’t comply and holding the door shut until they comply. You are supposed to do this at home too. I really struggled with this, due to Q’s past with his birth parents, and ultimately decided I couldn’t follow through with this therapy. Since we didn’t complete the therapy, I really have no clue if it helped or not.

Therapy is great but it does have a few downfalls. One of the biggest downfalls is the cost. A lot of insurance companies do not cover certain types of therapies because they are done through a licensed counselor rather than a medical doctor. In my opinion, they don’t cover it because a little pill is cheaper for them so they want you to go to a MD and get a prescription rather than a counselor who bills by the hour. Its a real flaw in our system, in my opinion. Our RAD therapy wasn’t covered and was $100 an hour. We went for an hour each week. Luckily they were a non-profit and ran on the “pay what you can” basis and we were able to cut that bill in half. With PCIT, we did it through the local children’s hospital. After about 4 sessions, we discovered our insurance didn’t cover it. Each hour long session was $300. We ended up with a bill totaling about $1500 before I went with my gut and discontinued those sessions. Not only is therapy expensive; therapy is work. It is a commitment and requires regularly scheduled visits which can be difficult if you have a busy life. Therapy requires A LOT of self discipline as it requires you to take the techniques you learn in the session and carry them out in your daily life without a therapist there to remind you. It takes time to see changes from therapy. For these reasons, a lot of people opt for medication rather than therapy.

Despite all of the downfalls, I firmly believe in therapy. I have no problem telling you that I have seen a therapist, though not as regularly as I should, just to talk through my life. If you yourself need some therapy, I firmly believe in retail therapy and will gladly accompany you to a session!

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