SUMMARY: In this episode of “It’s Just Coffee”, hosts Phillip Crum and Kathleen Mills discuss ways for parents and children to improve their relationships. They also discuss counseling for children and families who have issues.
Episode #22 | Kathleen And Phillip Discuss Teen Counseling With Nevart Willborn
Kathleen Mills-Proprietor, Counselor at Life Tree Counseling
Phillip Crum-The Content Marketing Coach
Nevart Willborn-Life Tree Counselor
PHILLIP CRUM: Do you know what time it is? It’s time again for another edition of “It’s Just Coffee”.
KATHLEEN MILLS: Hi, Phillip. Nevart Wilborn, how are you?
NEVART WILLBORN: I’m great, how are you, Kathleen?
KM: I am really great. This has been a great month, hasn’t it, Phillip.
PC: It has. Came and went very fast.
KM: It came and went very fast and we’re foraging on. Phillip, tell me what the best part of your week was.
PC: I’m still PC, content marketing coach.
KM: Which is important.
PC: My week blew by. I’m working on some other podcast shows and some other things to keep my employer happy, and life is good. I’m employed and can’t complain. That’s what I know.
PC: Would you like your listeners to know about Life Tree Counseling?
KM: We’re named 2014 Best of Addison the other day.
NW: Yes, we are.
KM: Did you see that in front of you?
PC: Accolades and awards left and right.
KM: This has been a great birthday month, hasn’t it?
PC: Yes, it has. Twenty-two years of doing the same darn thing.
KM: Same darn thing. Rinse, repeat really works well, doesn’t it?
PC: As long as you improve along the way, and you have.
KM: yes, we have.
PC: I really like your business model.
PC: Which is to find young ‘uns that are looking to be counselors.
KM: With sweet spirits.
PC: Raise ‘em.
KM: Good hearts.
PC: Kick ‘em out of the nest.
KM: Send ‘em off to have a really wonderful career.
PC: Do any of them just decide to stay forever instead of leave the nest?
NW: Nevart just raised her hand.
PC: We have a roomful of counselors here.
KM: Typically not, actually. I think you’re life is every processing and developing and all that ind of stuff, and it’s kind of fun to see what the next shift is, and that’s fair, and I think that’s wise and Nevart’s wise and she’s going to stay until we have to carry her out and all that kind of stuff.
NW: It’s just too fabulous to be here. There’s no point in leaving.
PC: Speaking engagements and events and things in your future. What’s coming up in the near future? Anything?
KM: I’m doing a couple of speaking things in July, here in Dallas.
PC: Are you going to tell me where?
KM: I don’t know where. I’ll tell you in our next podcast.
PC: Do we have that on your website, or do we need a speaking engagements page?
KM: I’m sure I will. That’s happening. One of the presentations that I’m going to do is I’m going to go through the 12 Must-Haves of private practice, what you need to have. We did that little piece in our symposium in April and I’ve been asked to do that presentation.
PC: What do you mean, Must-Haves?
KM: The 12, in my little world, because I’ve been doing this a long time.
PC: In your humble opinion.
KM: I think there’s 12 important pieces in the puzzle that a licensed mental health professional must have in order to cultivate success and a full client load as they deem full.
PC: So it’s 12 points based on your lengthy experience.
KM: My wisdom.
PC: So who do we have in the studio here today?
KM: NW is here. Nevart, how are you?
NW: Great. I’m ready and excited to talk into a microphone.
KM: Actually, her energy is great for me on Friday, because I’m going to drag.
PC: She doesn’t actually need coffee, does she?
KM: she doesn’t, but she’s really dragging today.
NW: The coffee just makes me happy.
KM: You are going to be talking about building relationships with your children.
NW: Let’s do this.
KM: Tell me about that for you.
NW: I picked this topic because I work with a lot of families and I see a lot of themes when I work with families. It can look different, but for some families, it’s bringing the kids to counseling and some parents want to drop them off and come back when the kids are better. Other parents want to be involved, but they don’t really want to do what it takes to be involved. Other families really don’t want to make any changes, they just want the kids to adjust to life and not really be a part of that. The success that I’ve seen in the families that I’ve worked with and the kids is based a lot on just the family process and the family being a part of the healing. A lot of the kids will do what they’re doing in terms of acting out or getting in trouble because of – sometimes it has directly to do with the parents – wanting attention, wanting a relationship. Actually, I’ve had a lot of kids who will flat-out say that, like “My parents won’t pay attention.” “They won’t do anything fun with me. The only time I talk to my parents is when I’m getting in trouble. They’re too busy and they’re doing this and they’re doing that.” I work really hard with the parents to get them involved. A lot of times in that first session, when I’m doing an assessment with the kids or the parents together, I try to ask the parents “Tell me about your child. What are their hobbies, what are their interests?” You’d be surprised how many parents can’t answer those questions. They don’t know what their kids do for fun. They don’t know what their interests are. They don’t know who their friends are. They don’t know what things make them happy and what makes them stress out. All they know is, “Something’s wrong with my child. He’s not listening, he’s not doing chores, he’s not following instructions, and he’s getting in trouble in school.” They know all those things really well, but they can’t answer the positive things about their kids. That’s basically why I picked this today is because I really feel like that is an important key to just helping our children whether they have issues or not.
PC: Excuse me. I’m sorry. I’m taking notes as fast as I can, but I missed something. Did you say I an drop my kids off at your place? You can fix ‘em and give ‘em back to me? And do you have a drive-thru.
NW: We’re going to have to talk about a drive-thru, because that’s a great idea.
PC: I think it would work.
NW: I actually had a parent yesterday drop off her child and go across the street to the other location I work at, drop off her kid and go to Tom Thumb across the street and didn’t show up until five minutes after the session was over, and I’m standing there with this kid, trying to call Mom. She’s not answering her phone. That’s disappointing for me, and that’s really disappointing for the child, who’s like, “Where’s my mom? Why isn’t she here waiting for me?”
KM: Do you ever bring that up?
NW: Oh, yeah.
PC: I think we have the problem.
NW: I told the mom she can’t leave anymore. She shouldn’t be leaving anyway, but I figured, “Hey she’s just going to run to the store, and she’ll be back in a few minutes.” But that was an understatement.
PC: How do you do that? Do you do it like one woman does to another and make it a suggestion, or do you say, “You ain’t going nowhere next time.”
NW: I do it as nicely as I can. This is a family that I’ve known for a couple years now that I’ve worked with the son, and so I was able to bring it. “Well, we’ve been talking how we’re going to give you a hard time about this. Technically, you’re not supposed to be leaving. I think, in the future, I’m going to have you hang around the waiting room just in case we need to talk to you, we don’t really want to have to track you down.”
KM: Or the session ends a little early, or we got through what we needed to. You’re wanting parents to be more engaged.
KM: Interested in learning their children’s gifts, what causes them to have conversation with you, what their sweet spots are, and that’s real important. Can you talk about that a little bit?
NW: Basically, it becomes a homework assignments I have to give families is do some special time together this week, even if it’s 15 minutes, going for a walk, going to the park, doing your nails together, playing a board game, whatever. Anything. It’s sad how many families I’ve had come back and say “We just didn’t have time this week.” How do you not time? You have time to be on Facebook, you have time to check your e-mail and call your friends. You have time to do something with your child.
KM: It’s a management thing and a priority thing.
NW: Absolutely a priority thing. A lot of parents are “Well, we’re just not interested in the same stuff.” It doesn’t matter. You’re a parent. This is part of the sacrifice is you do stuff that your kids want to do. A lot of parents will say, “Well, my kids just want to stay in their room and play on their phone.” OK. There needs to be a balance. I get if you have a 15-16-year-old son or daughter who are very private and want to be on the phone with their friends, but we don’t allow our children to do everything they want because we know better. We are the parents for a reason.
KM: Taking your parenting back requires finding those sweet spots at the same time of setting those limits of, “You will do stuff with the family because that’s our priority.”
KM: There’s an example and my kids are now 27 and 22, and what’s stunning for me is when they were teenagers, what teenager does not – every teenager does not want to associate themselves with their parents, good or bad – that’s just part of the teenage package. But when they came home, grumbling, from high school and the stresses and the workouts and the sporting and all that kind of stuff, we pretty much were mandatory. We’re eating together. I don’t care if it’s five minutes, but we’re eating together. They can just huff and puff through the whole thing. The thing that’s stunning to me is, now that they’re older, they want to have dinner with their parents every other week and they want to do a family vacation where there’s no technology and they want to be in the same cabin and playing games. And I just think that’s so… But I would do things for them in return.
NW: That’s the balance, again. If you can build the positive relationship with your child, then when it comes to having to deal with the serious stuff, the discipline, the consequences, you’re going to have a better response than if you are just arguing all the time or picking at each other all the time. You don’t want the only interaction you have with your child to be when you’re getting on them about something or calling them across the house, telling them to come pick up their shoes, or something like that. You have to get up, stop what you’re doing, and engage with your children. Don’t just yell at them over and over and get frustrated when they don’t respond.
KM: You find their talents, you hone in on that, is what you’re talking about. You are gushing with how good and what gifts they have.
KM: So when the dark is happening and the teenage stuff, they know that their parents recognize their gifts and what they’re doing right.
NW: Absolutely. And I think what we’ll do on another day with the podcast is focus more on building that with the younger kids, positive praise and encouragement and verbal rewards to build the child’s self-esteem so that, when they are older, they do feel like they can come to you and they can continue to build that relationship. That’s a whole topic on its own.
KM: The best compliment that I’ve ever had is when my kids separately throughout the years, come to either my husband or myself or together saying, “I need to talk about something.” As we’re gripping the chair, white-knuckling, going “Oh, my gosh.” The compliment is that “I’m seeking your wisdom and please don’t be too mad, but I need to talk to someone and you’re it.” It’s such as compliment. And it’s how to cultivate that.
NW: A lot of the kids that I work with, when it comes to identify coping skills for feeling depressed or anxious or just down, and anyway, talking to the parents is pretty much on every single one of those kids’ coping lists.
KM: That’s what they want.
NW: And the parents have a hard time either being open to that or not lecturing when the kids come to them, or just the anger – a lot of parents, if they react, that’s it. You’ve shut down all open communication with that child, their safety, your trust.
KM: Don’t be reactive, be proactive. Slow down the anger and see what’s really happening here.
NW: I’ll work with parents directly. When they’re telling you something, just listen. Don’t ask a lot of questions if that’s going to make you interview them. Just listen, absorb it, and say “Let me go process this and I’ll talk to you in a few minutes.” Anything we can do to encourage that patience.
KM: With a blanket of authority.
NW: Absolutely. And not being a best friend. You’re a parent. That goes into the same….
KM: You can be the wicked witch of the west when it’s time.
NW: Just be balanced. I love that word. I feel like it makes sense of it.. My mom, to this day, is one of my best friends. I can still talk to her about everything and I knew growing up, when all my friends were hiding stuff from their parents, I could tell my mom because she was really good at not freaking out. I knew she was Mom and you don’t mess with Mom, but at the same time, she was available. She was very loving and she disciplined, it wasn’t out of anger or frustration, not so I felt rejected. It was love, like I know Mom is saying no. It bothers me, I’m upset, I’m going to throw a fit about it, but I understand it after the fact. She explained it to me. She didn’t say, “Because I said so.” You can have a relationship and a closeness in that way, but you’re still the parent and you set the limits.
PC: That’s one of the reasons I didn’t talk to my dad as much as I wanted because it wasn’t a conversation, it was a lecture. A one-way lecture and you knew it was coming.
KM: Shut down, just take it.
PC: That’s no fun. I think you can be – maybe I’m wrong – you can be friendly to your kids without trying to be their best friend.
NW: I think you can have a friendship with your child. It’s just not the primary relationship.
PC: Wait until they get older.
NW: I think the friendship comes in the form of, “Hey, let’s go grab something to eat together.” “Hey, come to the store with me.” “Hey, let’s go do this.” In that sense, you’re doing things like friends would do hanging out, but you’re not going to sit there talking about things that are inappropriate. You’re not going to bring them into an adult world when they’re not ready for it. It’s on an appropriate level where things match their development.
PC: I’m a parent with a kiddo or two that is – I don’t know – 12 and under, let’s say, not that there’s a limit on it. Eighteen and under, let’s do that. They need to see somebody. I guess I’m wondering the people that come to see you with their kids, do they think that the kid is the problem, or do they recognize that they’re probably half the problem.
NW: Most of the families I see think that the kids are the problem. It’s very rare that I’ll have someone who will flat-out say, “I contribute to this.” Maybe as the conversation gets going, they’ll say, “Yeah, I do scream at them. I do this or that.” But usually, it’s…
PC: If the parent is willing – what’s the word when you take blame for something?
NW: Responsible, self-aware?
PC: All of those. In your office, they walk in and the first thing out of their mouth is “My kid has a problem and I think I’m partly responsible for that.
KM: It’s a joint effort integrating the parent and doing different parenting.
PC: Is it typically, when you meet with the kiddo, is the parent in there?
NW: Initially. The initial session always has the parent in there because of just getting background information on development or behaviors or whatever, and getting medical history or relationship history, finding out what are the dynamics. Is there a divorce? Is there a death? Whatever. There’s a lot of stuff don’t know. They can’t answer, or they need someone to break that ice with their parents and they get a little more comfortable. And I do have kids who are quiet as can be while the parent is in there, and as soon as the parent walks out, they open up the floodgates.
PC: So you need some private sessions in addition to the parent being in there.
NW: It’s very rare that I don’t meet with the kids alone at some point because they open up a different perspective, or they give me a different perspective when they’re comfortable enough to not feel like they’re going to get into trouble, if they say something. Usually, what I’ll do is I’ll start with the parents together, or the kids and the parents, break it up, meet with the kids a couple of times at least, and then start bringing the parents back in, depending on what we’re dealing with. Very sadly, I had a parent this week who said they said they had a history of lots and lots of issues but she said they’re no longer willing to make any changes for the child. He’s the only one who needs to change, and they’re just bringing him because he needs help. I’ve never dealt with that before, so I’m still figuring out how to deal with that.
PC: Well, that’s interesting. That is really interesting. Do the parents usually – I would think so – would the parents usually initiate the counseling?
NW: I’ve had several kids who have asked their parents. “Hey, can you find someone to help me?” And that can either be they ask for someone to be put in counseling, or they say “I need to be taken to the hospital because I’m not feeling safe.” There are a lot of parents who will just see something or be dealing with something with their child behaviorally, or they’ll see that they’re depressed and they’ll just initiate counseling.
PC: What about third-party sources?
NW: Hospitals, sometimes probation officers, caseworkers, CPS, the nurse with the school, absolutely, yeah
PC: How does that usually transpire?
NW: That depends on the situation. If they’re court-ordered or CPS-ordered or something to be there, then it can go one of two ways. They could really value it and participate and it can be great for them, or they can just be resistant to it. I haven’t really had anyone who has stayed resistant. They usually get comfortable and we work on something, even if it’s not the initial major thing that they came for. We will find something, because people have stuff to talk about.
PC: We have about three minutes left, so what I would like to know is, if I’m listening and I have kids, I don’t know whether I need counseling for my kid and maybe for me. I don’t want to look silly by calling up and then having somebody tell me that “That’s just what six-year-olds do. That’ll be six hundred bucks.” Or whatever you people charge. What’s the bottom threshold? When do I pick up the phone and say, “Hey, I need to talk to somebody.”
NW: I think that’s going to be subjective. I think that if you feel like you’re life is not where you want it to be, whether it’s because of something small or something major, and you don’t have support in your life that can help you determine if it’s – or help you through it, I guess – then finding someone who’s not emotionally involved in your family can be the best thing. Getting an outside perspective, someone who doesn’t really have an investment in how things turn out, more in finding the best way for things to turn out for you, nothing personal for me. I think that’s really just the best way to read it, I guess. I don’t know if it makes sense.
PC: If I come in just to be evaluated, you’re not going to call some government entity and tell them and turn them; it’s just a private conversation?
NW: Absolutely private. By law, I can’t share anything you tell me unless you tell me you want to hurt yourself or someone else, or if you know a child or an elderly person who’s being harmed. Other than that, anything you tell me is going to stay absolutely private. Even with kids. If I have kids come in and they tell me something, as long as it’s not anything that’s going to harm them, I can’t really share that with their parents. I do explain to kids that the goal is to keep everyone safe, so if something comes up that they’re making choices that aren’t very safe, I will – with their permission and participation – we will bring the parents in. Any time you come into a counseling session, it is absolutely confidential and you will be respected as an individual.
PC: Tell me why it would be better for me to come see you, a counselor, than maybe my really smart neighbor next door or my pastor friend and who happens to be in charge of the music at church.
KM: The youth minister.
NW: You can get great advice from people. Sometimes, you don’t have to have a degree to be wise, but going to someone who has a degree in specializes in family relationships is going to be really beneficial because we’re looking at the family as a whole and not just… I can look at one family and say, “Gosh, this is what you need to do,” but that’s not necessarily going to fit them. Going to someone who is a professional is going to be able to look at all of the pieces of the puzzle, figure out what the problem is – or multiple problems – and try to address each one in a very healthy and family-oriented way where the benefit is not a judgment. It’s not an opinion-based treatment. It’s based on evidence or research or experience with child development or just observation from a third party and not being emotionally involved. You can get a lot of benefit from that.
PC: You have one of those faces. If I was a kid, I’d tell you everything.
PC: If people want to find you, where can they find you, and how do they set up an appointment with you?
NW: They can find me a couple of ways. They can go to our website at lifetreecounseling dot com and my name is on the providers tab. My name is NW. They can also call me. The Life Tree Counseling number is 972-234-6634, and my extension is 307.
KM: Nevart, thank you. You’re going to have a full day today, so thank you for carving out this time.
NW: I appreciate your taking the time to talk to me.
PC: You’re welcome. Kathleen, where can we find you?
KM: Same place. Lifetreecounseling dot com 972-234-6634, extension 104, and we’ll be talking about all kinds of stuff.
PC: Good. And if you want to know more about the content marketing coach, which is me, PC, go to contentmarketingcoach dot us, and there we are. 214-264-6297.
KM: Say goodbye, boss.
PC: Goodbye, boss. You can call me. We can talk about content marketing, podcasts, or I’ll give you Nevart’s phone number, whatever it is you want.
KM: And we all have chocolate today.
PC: Thank you, everybody for listening, and we’ll see you next week. On we go.