Help for Children and Teens with Trichotillomania and Hair Pulling
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Choosing the Right Counselor to Help With Trichotillomania

by Abby Leora Rohrer

I offer recommendations in Why Won’t My Child Stop Hair Pulling? so that parents can work on their own issues and mentor their children to healing.  Because I realize that this approach won’t be right for all families, here are some suggestions for those who choose to seek professional counseling for their hair pulling child. 

My hope is that you will use these recommendations to get the very best counselor and counseling experience possible.  I recommend finding one who will push and usher you and your family through the healing process so that you will not waste time and money on unproductive counseling experiences.

If you do choose therapy for your child, please don’t view it as a way to let yourself off the hook by ignoring your own emotional issues or continuing to think that therapy will be a magical, effortless solution to your child’s hair pulling problem.  Taking this approach, in my opinion, will, over-time, escalate your child’s difficulties.

Most compulsive behaviors and painful emotional issues stem from a mistaken self-belief within the person's (in this case, your child's) mind, which she then needs to defend against or cope with.  This belief often comes from a child's erroneous perception about her place within the family system and her value.  As your child gets older, she may extend this belief to include her negative perception about her low worth beyond the family and into the eyes of society and/or God. 

It makes sense, therefore, that some therapists will try to include the family in the therapeutic process.  Unfortunately, many have found that the majority of parents are unwilling to participate and will often pull a child out of therapy rather than deeply explore the larger family dynamic. 

One child psychologist told me about an interaction she had with the mother of a young client.  It went like this: When it was suggested that there might be a problem dynamic within the family that would be worthwhile to explore, the mother emphatically insisted nothing was wrong at home, but that her child's behavior was probably caused by something like a brain tumor.  The therapist was incredulous that the mother preferred to believe that her child had a brain tumor to looking within the family for the problem and potential solution.  Regardless of how ridiculous this sounds, counselor after counselor will tell you that this type of reaction is common.

Factually speaking, counseling has not been shown to be effective for ending hair pulling.  There are many reasons for this.  One is because of the situation I have just described.  The other reasons are more complex and involve factors that influence the way that our culture functions and operates as well as the training that counselors receive.

If you would like an in-depth look at creating a successful therapy experience, please consider ordering my special report, “Getting Help: Using Counseling And Support Groups To Your Best Advantage,” available at my website.

Before entering counseling, you may wish to have temperament assessments done for you, your spouse and your child so that you can find and correct any potential mismatch of relating styles within your family. 

Google “temperament assessment” and your state to find resources to draw from in your area.  In addition, look on page 320 of The Highly Sensitive Child for a brief list of temperament counselors and resources by Arons.  A good temperament counselor may be a great benefit to improving your family system.

Here’s another option for you:  Family-Systems Therapy may offer the best hope of helping your child.  This is not the same as working with a Marriage and Family Therapist.  Instead, you should look for someone who has in-depth training in “family systems.”

If you are willing to consider this approach, you may wish to Google the work of Bert Hellinger and that of Murray Bowen, M.D.  Both have developed methods and trained counselors in the field of family-systems therapy. 

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