Thursday, March 01, 2007


This is weird.

As some of you may remember, i volunteer at a place that does counseling for kids. I don't do any counseling, as i lack the qualifications, but i do some of the initial screening.

I have a friend, Stacey, who i met in my quilting group (yes, me, quilting. What?) who has been having problems with her 15 year old daughter for the past several months.

Last week when she saw me she came over to talk with me right away and was visibly upset. Her daughter had again refused to go to school and had barricaded herself in her room. Stacey had agreed to let her stay home from school on the condition that she go to see someone. Stacey wanted my advice about the place i work, whom to call and what to say. So i told her what to do.

When i came in later that week for my usual shift, i found out that the daughter is involved with drugs. Also, since the daughter is over 13, she can claim medical privacy for any counseling services.

Bottom line, legally, I can't tell Stacey that her daughter is using drugs. She has no idea. I mean no idea.

I feel terrible. I know she would help her daughter and not beat her or anything horrid like that. I would want to know if it was Em.

I am trying to think about the fact the the daughter is going to get help and start counseling. That's a good thing.

As the Mister said, "Welcome the the Mental Health Profession."


TTQ said...

Of course you would want to know, but if is the girl's first experience with help, she needs to know that the mental health profession can be trusted.

Bob said...

I was going to say what ttq did - the daughter would never trust her analyst again should her mother tell her that she knew. The best thing you can do for your friend and her daughter right now is to respect her privacy.

eve said...

...and hope neither of them are reading your blog!

Special K ~Toni said...

All the above! Exactly what I was going to say! Even Eves comment!

meno said...

ttq, i hadn't thought of that as i am totally looking at this from the mother's perspective. Thanks.

bob, i will totally respect that privacy. I would never violate that trust. I'm just sad.

eve, i changed some details, and know one i know reads this, because i haven't told anyone. So i think we're okay. I did think about it.

toni, All of the comments were right. I am not going to sat ANYTHING. But it's hard. My friend is so puzzled.

gary rith said...

I would find a quiet way to open a conversation with my friend to begin hinting at it. The parent needs to know, and I would find some way to privately give them the info.

karmic said...

What everyone said. Not sure if what gr says can be done?

Anonymous said...

Ouch. That's such a tough one to call. Is there any way you could hint at it, as GR said? Maybe suggest that her daughter's behavior is typical of kids who are trying to cover up a bad habit... like drugs.... maybe.

Gee, it really is not easy, this one. Because I totally respect the daughter's right to privacy as well. Has the daughter actually seen someone? If so, that person is really the one who needs to help her confide in her mother, no?

lu said...

The girl owns this. The fact that the girl is getting counseling on her own is a huge thing; it’s the most important thing. If she has an addiction problem, she will only overcome it if she is in charge. If her mother gets into the mix she loses that ownership and suddenly its co-dependency, and blah. I see it all the time teaching. As a parent we think we've the right to know everything our kids do, we tend to think we can control everything, but we can't. We can really mess it up when we start taking on their problems.

Man, it's a tough spot to be in Meno, but if anyone can deal, it's you.

Joan of Arf said...

Hoo boy. I would so want to go right to the mom and tell her the scoop. Clearly, she is worried and this girl sounds like she needs all the help she can get. But you can't.

What will happen when the mom finds out about the drugs? Will you be in an even stickier situation then? Can you plead the fifth and say you had no idea, it wasn't your case? Is that lying? Or is that just mental health profession?


meno said...

gr, i will have to ask if that's even something i can do.

sanjay, i'm not sure either. I will look into it.

ortizzle, i was going to suggest that before this all happened. I really really don't want to do anything to mess up the kid or the agency though.

lu, thank you for your perspective. i don't know if she has an addiction problem per se, and it's really not my call anyway. I was just thinking that the parents could help keep her out of certain situations, being as how she is so young, but i think you are right.

joan, The mom wouldn't know that i know. And so it won't come back to haunt me that way. It isn't my case as i am not a counselor. For which i am glad right now.

Lynnea said...

Man this cut me right to my heart. As a mom I would want to know. If it were any of my friends, I would want to tell them because I know they would want to know. But even hinting it seems to me, could be explosive. Not only could the girl completely withdraw without the help she needs, the mom might become even more distanced from her daughter and who knows where it would lead? What a wretched thing to have to endure. But I think trusting your agency to help her is the best thing. So sad.

thailandchani said...

Well, your husband is right. There are so many protections in place that it's become ridiculous. It's nearly impossible for parents to find out anything these days.



Lynn said...

Tough position to be in...I don't envy you. I would hope that this girls therapist would encourage the girl to speak with her parents and come clean about the drug use. It's unfortunate that although her parents are legally responsible for her, they have no legal right to this information about her...doesn't seem right. As a parent I would want to know...maybe your friend on some level does know and just isn't quite ready to deal with the truth yet.

Cagey (Kelli Oliver George) said...

Damn. That IS a tough one. However, it may be a positive thing if the mother doesn't know so the daughter can get help without it having to be another point of contention with her mother to rebel against. Maybe.

Girlplustwo said...

I know you wouldn't violate anyone's anything. I can wholly see how this is such a moral dilemma. Of course you'd want to know. And you'd be upset if someone else knew and didn't tell you. It's not right, and you are stuck.

You summed it up, friend. Welcome to the mental health profession.

peevish said...

lu is right, but what a tough position for you. Damn.

Bob said...

I know that you wouldn't violate that trust. I understand your dilemma. I have been in therapy before and I know that if my therapist or her office had divulged any information about my treatment to ANYONE I wouldn't trust them anymore. However, I am also a parent and I would want to know if my child were in trouble.

At some point you have to have faith in the people you work with to help that child. The best people to make the decision to tell her mother are the child and her therapist.

Anonymous said...

YAY! Visual verification is off - I can comment again!

This is SUCH a hard situation to be in, and I'm sorry that you're here.

My gut reaction was the same as yours, Meno, but I've been thinking about it since last night (when visual verification wouldn't let me comment) and have changed my mind a bit. The perspectives of all those who've commented before me are wise, though; while I understand, as a mother myself, why you'd want to tell the girl's mom, the arguments against that are compelling.

The girl really DOES need to have ownership of her problem. If/when she feels that her parents can/might help her, she gets to decide to ask them.

That doesn't help YOU much, but the big-picture story is really about the girl and making sure she gets the help she needs.

Anonymous said...

It's good that the daughter is going to get the counselling. That was quick. She needs to have that "adult" privilege of privacy. If she feels her parents are handling the situation, she'll only try harder to break away from them. (If her name is De.)

Even if you're not officially "qualified" as a counselor, we all know how good you are, Meno, so I'm sure you will find the right thing to say to help Stacey during this process.

And if the girl bombs out of counseling? Then you can tell her, so she's armed for Round Two.

Anonymous said...

Wow - that's a rough situation to be in. I agree that for you should keep quiet and hope for the best. But the mom in me would want to know as well. Maybe you shoud just stay in touch with your friend and ask her how things are going. If they don't seem to be improving, maybe you can give the friend some literature on teen problems to help her educate herself - drugs tend to figure prominently in those. Then perhaps she'll draw her own conclusions (or at least open up the topic with her daughter) and you won't have broken confidentiality.

As for your comment on my latest - You hit the nail on the head. I don't want to interact - especially not with the W@l-M@rt people. Those damned sharpies!

Kellyology said...

You know, I bet the Mother already knows or suspects at the very least. And if the counseling plays out I'm willing to bet that she will eventually be brought into the loop and have all of her suspicions confirmed.

I would keep quiet. I mean, that's part of your job isn't, to make these teens feel safe? Yeah, I'd stay quiet.

meno said...

maggie, i know. This is not about me so i just get to STFU, as Em would say. (That means shut up, in case you aren't fluent in initial speak.)

chani, it really seems that way, but you know, i support the right of young woman to get birth control without her parents knowing so i guess this is the logical extension of that.

lynn, you might be right. My take is that it just hasn't occured to her yet as a possibility.

cagey, the positive thing is that someone will be helping her. I'm concentrating on that.

jen, "stuck in the middle with you." I guess you run across rules like this that you don't like all the time. You are strong.

lisa, I'll just try and be a good friend and listen when she needs me to.

bob, you are right about that, it just feels different because of the age of the client, although it isn't different.

mrs.chili, i did notice a dearth of comments yesterday, mayhap that was the problem. There are some great perspectives here. It does help me to feel better about it all.

de, i value your knowledgable words on this. I will have to find out about the rules if the girls drops out of counseling.

biodtl, i HAVE to keep quiet. But i don't like it.

jaded said...

It would be so much easier if life were black and white. Bob made an excellent point about the importance of maintaining trust in the counseling environment.

If the girl feels she can't trust counselors (or adults) to maintain confidence, it could seriously damage her ability to trust others when she needs help in the future. As a teenager, my mother was the the last person I would consider going to when I needed help. She meant well, and she tried hard, but I never felt comfortable confiding in her. I went to other adults I trusted, adults who for some reason I felt were safe. It took a lot of faith, on my mother's part, to accept that I did not choose her as a confidant. I know this is not affective for all kids.

No matter what roles we take on in life, it's difficult to disregard being a parent first. It might within the confidentiality guidelines that you could have drug abuse information mailed to Stacy. Have it sent in an inconspicuous envelope. If possible send it from an organization other than the one you volunteer for and make sure it goes anonymously, without a paper trail to you.

Dick said...

The young lady has to be able to maintain her trust in her counselor so you will have to leave it up to them to decide when to let the parents know, or not to. Raising kids is pretty scary and this is an example of the challenges. I hope it will be resolved before she has anything serious happen to her.

egan said...

That would be my worst fear. A drug addicted child. Smoking would be bad enough, but drugs would absolutely suck. What a tough predicament you're in Meno. Mister seems like a keeper.

QT said...

I don't have anything good or new to add except I think you will do the right thing. The daughter has to have the ability to trust in order for any of the help she is seeking to work.

Mother of Invention said...

Nothing more to add other than Yikes...13?!!! And at least the girl is going to go for help...hopefully they'll get her there or go of her own volition.
It's relly just a wait and see for now.

13? I can't even imagine this! At 13,I was doing hard drugs...needles I lay in a diabetic coma fighting for my life and the nurses would do my insulin.

Tink said...

Talk about being between a rock and a hard place. I hope your friend doesn't expect you to tell her things you can't. I hope the daughter has enough sense to get off of whatever she's on before it ruins her life.

meno said...

kelly, i really don't think she does. I think she was a straight-laced kid and it just hasn't crossed her mind. But, you may be right, denial is a powerful force. I will keep quiet, i have to.

patches, i want to live in that black and white world!!!! I never told my mother anything either. I was initially looking at this from the parent side. You can laugh at me if you like, but Em and i have such a different relationship than that that i would know.

hi dick, (aren't you all busy with weddin' stuff? ) I am hoping that she will knock it off too.

egan, close to my worst fear, that's for sure. I have kept the Mister for over 25 years, so, yeah, he is. Most days.

qt, i know, i know. I am happy that she is at least open to the help.

moi, yikes pretty much sums it up. The girl is 15 actually, not that it makes a huge difference. You have had some life experiences haven't you?

tink, i hope for all of those things as well. I know that when a kid is using that young, there is a greater chance for addictive patterns throughout life. Sigh.

jaded said...

When you're a parent it's hard to look at this any other way. You and Em have an enviable relationship. It's the type of relationship I craved at her age. But my mother wasn't approachable in that way, or maybe I was scared to "shit where I lived" so to speak. I'm kind of curious, do Em's friends ever confide in you? As strong and forthcoming as your relationship is with Em, it would seem the logical for Em's friends to perceive you as one of those rare trustworthy adults.

urban-urchin said...

I really really don't envy you in this situation. Having been in counselling I would be utterly devestated to know that my confidence had been breached. Keeping mum is the way to go, as tough as it is.

sari said...

I hope Stacey's daughter continues to get the help she needs.

Anonymous said...

Ok, everybody said everything.

I feel for you though. It's so difficult to keep something vital from a friend. But, I do think in this case you need to trust the system. And anybody who knows me knows I don't say that lightly.

Mother of Invention said...

Yes, but nothing I chose. I was too scared to mess around with drugs or drinking...okay I did try drinking but didn't really love it and didn't drink often. I smoked from age 16 till 22 and then then boyfriend, now husband was a health nut and encouraged me to stop.
I'm enough of a problem without all the other stuff I could have done.
My friends did pot a bit but never pressured me...they just passed it by me, saying, "Oh yeah, you can't." Was really pretty good of them and I still have every one of those friends.

meno said...

patches, Em is not very social (wonder where she got THAT from) so there aren't friends around too often. Many of her friends are on-line. When they do come and visit, she likes to hang out with them and me, up to a point. I do hear about all their problems, through Em, and often suggest things that she realsy back to them.

u-u, i had a talk with the person at the agency and i feel better about it now. They will encourage her to involve her parents when she is ready.

sari, if she drops out of counseling i will really worry.

nancy, but you said "hi" :)

moi, i didn't mean drug-life experiences, i meant your diabetes and hospitalizations. Not the normal teensge life. You have good friends.

amusing said...

"It takes a village" --- trite -- but here's an example. You can keep an eye on her from afar and see that she's still coming to counseling on a regular basis. It seems significant that she came in for help in the first place.

If you need to "steer" maybe it can be to ask the mom about the girl's friends and compare notes on how hard it is to raise teen girls.

I'm dealing with the issue of needing to find counselors for a nine and six year old. Not the kind of thing you walk up to the moms in carline to ask. And my youngest really, really needs some help. It's ripping my heart out. (Always a bit awkward to break down in front of the kindergarten teacher!)

Plus, Mr. X does not have a wallet that can pay for me to find the best person so he insists that I stay within the insurance list. And from my experience to date, those people are building their practice; not necessarily any good. And I want expertise and rave reviews! I hate divorce.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I think that the biggest issue with teenagers is trust. While I would also want to be told if I were the mother, it is well to remember that if the girl wanted her mother to know, she would have told her. Or she may want to but doesn't know how.

Perhaps there will come a point in therapy where the mother will be included With The Daughter's Permission.

I don't think there is anything you can do, and hinting around, etc. would cause more trouble than it would help.

Sorry, Meno.