just started therapy. It’s been two sessions so far, and my daughter says she
hates the therapist and doesn’t want to go back. Because of this, my husband
and I feel very unsure we are doing the right thing. We are getting her to eat
a little more but she is so angry with us. We wonder if it would be better to
find a therapist she connects with? Right now she doesn’t even talk in
Angela Celio Doyle, PhD responds:
Do not be surprised to hear your adolescent say she does not like her therapist, particularly if your child has anorexia or is restricting her diet and you are in the early stage of treatment. This may feel strange at first, because with most other therapeutic relationships you would expect to have a very positive relationship with your therapist. However, the early stage of recovery can be extremely hard for kids. Maudsley therapists expect your adolescent to do exactly what the eating disorder fears the most (eat and gain weight!). So it’s no real surprise if your child expresses negative feelings about therapy or therapists or about parents who insist they eat--no matter how competent and compassionate the therapist is, or how loving the parents are. It just feels really bad to have to eat, but this is necessary for recovery.
For unaware parents, an adolescent’s dislike of the therapist can be a quite effective way of derailing treatment – you might imagine your child saying, “But Mom, I HATE Dr. Smith. I can’t talk to her. I want to have a different therapist…(one who will not make me gain weight!).” Many parents find it useful to respond sympathetically to their child when they say things like this, but to remain steadfast in their commitment to the treatment and therapist with whom they are working. You might consider the bad feelings that your daughter expresses a little glimpse of the anorexic thoughts she’s living with. If you’re making headway with behavior change, that’s great news. It’s the first step toward recovery. A good therapist will work with your family to build on that progress and help engage your daughter as she begins to recover. With lots of positive support from parents and therapist during the tough times, most kids begin to see things from a different perspective as they start to feel better.