Individual, Family & Group Psychotherapy
Locations in New York & New Jersey
Sep 2

Recognizing your strengths and weaknesses


Most clients I see are resistant to help. Some are more obvious than others, but the creation of a comfort zone (whether it works or not is certainly up for debate) is how most of my clients survive. On a regular basis, I will highlight a moment from my work. Of course, the names and some details have been changed.

I’ve been working with Walt for a few months. Our work has been very intense. He’s a good kid but can be quite stubborn and belligerent. He’s told me to “shut the f@ck up” amongst other kind things. Walt really wants me to return the insult to reinforce that he’s a bad kid and really can’t be helped (I have not done so). But what externally gets under his skin is that I am not going away any time soon.

He usually begins our sessions questioning my credentials and asking why exactly he’s seeing me. He also says many things under his breath (which I regularly tell him is a sign of weakness. If he has an issue, he needs to say it aloud. That also bothers him as well.

Walt refuses to go to school. This stemmed from an incident earlier in the year. His parents tried to have him tested but he was uncooperative (shock I know). He even called his mother all kinds of names during our initial consultation.

Here’s the catch with Walt. He’s gifted. He is one of the smartest kids I have ever met. But…this is being held against him by many different parties. When he was younger and showed concerns with ADHD and Executive Functioning, the school told him to work harder because he’s smart. In other words, like I always say, bang your head harder into a wall because that accomplishes a lot doesn’t it??? I will never tell a kid he or she isn’t living up to his or her potential or to work harder. Both of these do not make a lot of sense to me. Everyone has potential to do anything and working harder doesn’t mean you’re working better.

Walt and I did have a breakthrough our last session. He has verbalized on more than one occasion that he hates being compared to his sister. While Walt is very intelligent, he doesn’t put forth his best effort and gets solid grades. Meanwhile, his sister works very hard and sees similar results. Walt feels that it’s not fair that his parents and others tell him that his grades could improve with more effort and yet his sister is praised for the same grades and working hard. This is a dangerous trap…it is important not to ever compare one child to another in the effort department. It doesn’t help motivate the child that is perceived to be putting forth less effort and can create resentment. If a situation like this is occurring, keep this conversation about each child. Throwing one under the bus creates numerous concerns.

Despite his resistance, Walt needs my services. He needs to understand how his behavior impacts himself and other around him on a regular basis. Until Walt begins to recognize this, he will continue to struggle. Once we improve this area, then the improvement of his executive functions will also begin to improve. Walt will take some time, but his family is committed to the process. As I always tell families, my work is a process…there is no quick fix or a cure in a can.

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