I watched one day as a mother handed over stacks of dollar bills to the receptionist at my clinic. Paying a high bill with ones and fives seemed a little strange.
That is until I discovered her reasoning behind this payment method…
This mother paid in cash so that her husband wouldn’t know exactly how much they were spending on their child’s therapy.
Now, here is the part where I clearly admit that not all dads are hesitant or resistant to their child participating in therapy. I see plenty of dads happily bringing their children into the clinic, grateful for the services that therapists provide. However, on the flip side, I also see a lot of dads that enjoy the argument for why their child doesn’t need therapy or the heavy price tag that often comes along with it.
Why is this? I present the same information to the dads as I do the moms. They see the standard scores, the percentiles, the delays in development. But their most common responses?
“He’ll grow out of it.”
“I don’t see the need for therapy.” (“Therapy” is spoken as if it’s a dirty word.)
It’s crucial to have everyone in the family on board with the idea of therapy; it’s one of the biggest keys to making changes in a child’s life. Therefore, whatever I can do to sell the idea of therapy to a skeptic is a win for a child.
Side note: Remember, this is assuming the child actually needs therapy. I never recommend treatment if I feel the child doesn’t require services. Remember, this might not always be true of other clinics out there. Look over the reports carefully and ask for their reasoning behind their recommendations if you aren’t sure.
So, how do I win over a skeptic?
1. I put their concerns right out on the table. What was the reason that brought them into the clinic?
This usually gets parents to open up a bit. Yes, they might have to admit that they have observed certain behaviors. Although these observations might quickly be accompanied by explanations that their child will grow out of it, or will naturally catch up by “insert some random grade or age here.”
2. I present evidence for their child’s delay. Some parents appreciate it when I simply stick to the numbers. “Want to know his standard scores? His percentile scores? Here they are, right in this table here…” It is hard to argue with standardized testing. (Although many people still find a way.)
3. I outline a straightforward plan for therapy. “My goals are A, B, and C.” Basically, I tell them what I can bring to the table that no one else can.
(This step is actually very helpful to some skeptics; many times parents don’t even realize all that therapy has to offer.)
4. Set a hard timeline. Let’s give it six weeks, three months, or whatever seems fitting for the child. I often tell parents that if they don’t see any sort of merit to therapy at that time, they can always walk away. The thought of some indefinite therapy cost draining a bank account would be unnerving to anyone. The idea that I’m not trying to rip them off sounds nice.
5. Overall, I just try to hold my ground with honesty.
I call things out when they appear crazy. Yes, I’m going to give you this brush and have you scrub your child with it every two hours. I realize how insane I sound.
I tell them that I am often skeptical myself. Sometimes you have to be able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.
I keep to realistic expectations of therapy, and fill them in on those expectations.
The most honest statement I make to a parent revolves around my own concern for their child. I will often say to the parents: “If your child walks out of this office and never comes back, would I be concerned for them and their future?”
There are many times that the answer is no. The child would probably go on to live a mostly typical life and become a productive member of society. However, could I make their life less stressful and more fulfilling? Yes.
Once parents think in those terms, the picture becomes clearer. There are so many ways that OT can help to make a child’s life easier. And who wouldn’t want that?