05-03-2020 12:02 PM
Feeling burnt out and unsure what steps to take, because it seems like our son doesn't want to resolve the problem.
Nearly 19 year old son (pseudonym Brian) has been in his room for 2 months. Brian and his stepfather have a very tense relationship. One day, this escalated into a physical altercation initiated by Brian. After that, Brian has remained in his room and refuses to come out whenever the stepfather is home. Mother and daughter are bringing food to his room, Brian only comes out for essentials such as showering and toilet.
Brian hates that coronavirus has forced everyone to stay at home. He doesn't wake up for his online classes and claims to have bad dreams at night. He has a Headspace counsellor and a caseworker at a youth service. He has refused family therapy. He still talks to his counsellor fortnightly via phone or Zoom. His caseworker is recent and has started in the last few weeks after a referral from Headspace.
I am worried Brian is falling into deep depression. At the same time, we are getting burnt out from do something about this situation. Brian keeps saying that he simply wants to move out and that will solve all his problems. But it's not that easy. You can't just ignore the people you don't like. His cousin and aunty have offered him a place to stay but he refuses to accept their help.
I guess my question is... do we push Brian to "confront" the issue through a family meeting? or will that be futile when he doesn't seem to want to resolve anything? How can Brian recognise that he has the power to change his current situation?
05-03-2020 03:11 PM
That sounds like a really difficult thing to be going through. It must be hard to think your son is falling into a deep depression, and to watch him argue/ignore his step-dad. That doesn't sound easy.
I must say that it is good that your son is receiving professional support. Hopefully the support of his counsellor and caseworker helps him.
In terms of whether to confront the current issue, I'm not sure because I don't know your family or your son well enough to confidently advise you in that area. From what you've described though, it doesn't seem like it would go well. Has the stepfather tried talking to him directly? Why do you think their relationship is so tense?
It might be helpful if you got professional support throughout this too, as it does seem quite stressful. Plus, they may be able to provide you with some useful ways in dealing with this situation. You may want to try our one-on-one support service for parents. You can book a free counselling session here.
05-03-2020 07:27 PM
Yes I think you're right that we need to be cautious whether to confront or not. The reason why my son does not like his stepfather is because he seems him as hypocritical, never apologising and he doesn't like his personality. He says that he never admits to doing something wrong, but will always point out when someone else has done the same thing. He sees his stepdad as someone who get angry easily and reacts to everything, sensitive, etc.
Brian's stepfather doesn't want to make things more tense so hasn't talked with Brian directly. But I don't think it would go well...because both of them don't communicate very well. I would prefer if there was a mediator of some sort.
Brian is also fixated on moving out and sees that as an easy solution. Though he admits it will take time and won't happen right away.
I would prefer a professional who speaks Cantonese. Would you be able to advise of any professional mental health services that can speak Cantonese? Thanks for your reply.
05-03-2020 09:55 PM
Hi @LaoHa , sorry to hear about the situation you are in, it sounds really difficult. Has Brian been finding the therapy beneficial so far? It may be something that improves over time with the right support. It seems as though Brian is unwilling to live with family but is open to moving out, is that right? What issues do you foresee with Brian moving out?
Unfortunately we are an Australian wide service, so we do not always have detailed local information available. You can search for a psychologist on the APS website - once you enter a location, you can filter the results by preferred language along the side. This could also be a question you could ask your local GP, who may have a better idea of local services available to you.
Please keep us updated
05-04-2020 09:18 AM
Yes Brian is alright with Headspace, it has moved to online or phone due to covid-19. He talks with them every fortnight but has refused family therapy. Maybe because he didn't know what it was exactly or thought it was forcing him to talk with his stepfather. Do you have good links that explain what family counselling or family therapy is to a young person??
With Brian moving out, I am worried that he won't get along with other housemates. What if he gets into a fight? What if he repeats this same coping mechanism and just locks himself in his room? When he is not living with family, other housemates won't care about him as much. Right now his sister and myself take turns bringing food to his room. On top of that...the normal moving out learnings like rent, finances, groceries, etc.
Thank you for the APS website but it does not allow me to filter using languages. Nor once you click on a psych it doesn't list what languages they speak for therapy. Any suggestions?
05-04-2020 11:58 AM
Hi @LaoHa ,
I just had a play with the search function on the APS website - if you search for a psychologist by your area first, you will then get another menu on the left of the screen to "refine results". One of the options is "filter by language", and you should be able to select Cantonese
It's great that Brian is already engaging with Headspace, hopefully this will continue to be helpful for him. I have a few links that might be helpful for him to learn more about family therapy - this resource from ReachOut is written for young people, and mentions family therapy as one treatment that can be really helpful for depression, the link is here .
Basically, family therapy can help to repair relationships with people, and help to give you all the tools to work through issues like depression, with someone who is skilled at helping people to talk through their problems, and help to resolve any conflict that comes up. It can help a lot in giving everyone a safe space to talk about what's happening for them and hopefully then repair those relationships.
I can hear your worry about how Brian will cope if he moves out, especially if he continues to go back to the coping mechanism of hiding away in his room. Has he discussed moving out with his Headspace counsellor at all? They may be able to help him build up the skills that he will need like conflict resolution, and talk about the practical things he'll need to do once he moves out.
Do you think he'd be open to take on more tasks at home, like starting to prepare a meal at home for your family, helping with grocery shopping and doing laundry , as part of starting to become more independent and building his confidence for when he does move out?
You sound like a really caring parent, and I imagine that it's been really stressful seeing your son quite unwell. Do you have people in your life that you can turn to for support yourself?
05-04-2020 03:42 PM - edited 05-04-2020 04:26 PM
>He talks with them every fortnight but has refused family therapy.
It is great that he is speaking to his Headspace counsellor every fortnight.
Does he have a GP that he trusts as well? A Cantonese speaking psychologist may be useful for the whole family, but a long term GP that he likes may provide a useful perspective. Regular appointments until he engages with online learning and socialise more may help reassure you that all that can be done has been done until things improve...
05-04-2020 08:48 PM
Thank you everyone!
Brian does not have a long-term GP, I don't think he has seen the GP much and it's hard to find ones that are good for young people and really considerate in their mental health care plans. A Cantonese speaking psych would only need to be for me and my partner. Brian will definitely need an English speaking psych / GP. The language barrier between us definitely makes communicating hard.
Brian has a cousin that he opens up to well and see often. Because his cousin knows that he barely leaves the house, they are going for a walk every week. However.. where do we draw the line between being too nice, too empathetic and listening...and actually pushing, learning, growing, challenging him to be a better person?? Sometimes, he will say things like "i'll go for a walk everyday" or "this week I'll do my own laundry" ... but it doesn't really happen. I understand that Brian needs to have his feelings validated, but sometimes it just feels like he doesn't want to change the situation.
Can you explain family therapy to me? Is it one counsellor talking to the whole family? Does Brian have the choice of who is in that room? For example, if he only wants it to be myself and him, rather than his stepfather in the room. I just think if he has that choice it is more likely for him to feel in control.
05-05-2020 05:03 PM
Hi @LaoHa ,
It's great to hear that Brian has that relationship with his cousin, having someone else in his life that he can open up to and go for a walk with every week is really positive. I can hear your concerns about how to approach challenging someone who is depressed - it can be pretty frustrating when someone constantly says that they'll do something, but doesn't follow through. A lack of motivation and follow through is definitely common when you're depressed, but equally I think it's ok to gently encourage him to do a task or 2 a day, especially if he can gradually build up his level of activity.
To answer your question, I think that most counsellors can definitely do some family therapy with just one parent if that's what will work best for Brian. It might be helpful to talk about those things and the expectations of family therapy with the counsellor- they should be happy to answer any detailed questions about their usual practice, and that way Brian can feel involved in the process. What do you think?