A parent called seeking counseling for their adult son. The young man had plenty of issues. The issues were long-standing.

I explained that given the parent called, I would begin by meeting with both parents first.

I advised that by meeting with the parents first, I could obtain a better developmental history and that at times, there were clues in the developmental history that helped to understand the present day issues.

I also advised that at times parents may have issues or at least different views of the child’s problems that contribute to or intertwine with the child’s issues. I explained by meeting with the parents first, I would be able to assess those areas too.

With a good developmental history and understanding of the parents, I would be in a better position to help their son. I asked the parent to speak with their partner to see if they wanted to proceed. I advised that this first meeting would be a good three hours.

The parent called back to set an appointment. I reminded that the appointment is for both parents together and that our meeting would be a good three hours. The parent agreed and we set an appointment.

On the date and time of the scheduled appointment only the one parent arrived. I advised that the appointment was for both parents and that with only one present, we couldn’t proceed. I reiterated why.

The parent said, but it was a three hour meeting and was prepared to continue.

I advised that for me to be most helpful, I need to meet with both parents together. I advised that if the partner wished to join in, I would be pleased to set another appointment.

The parent couldn’t believe that I would walk away from a three hour meeting and lose the revenue, but then said that my integrity was appreciated. With that, the parent also thought that their partner would take the situation more seriously too.

With regard to my approach to counseling, I take the perspective that the client is always in charge of their life, but I am in charge of my counseling. I talk with every client by phone before setting an appointment.

There is no sense in someone coming in for a meeting without first determining if I can be helpful or without determining the best way to begin given the circumstances. This doesn’t mean I am helpful to everyone I see, but at least I try to make sure that there is at least a good chance I can be helpful.

To add, very often the people I see have been seen by other counselors previously. Their experience with me has to be different because we know that doing the same thing over and over again that doesn’t work is crazy-making. I believe the people who come to see my have already been through enough, otherwise they wouldn’t even be seeking help, so I try to deliver a more considered approach. It begins with the first phone call and we stick with the plan unless there is something drastic to suggest otherwise.

It is better to take our time and begin the right way, then run headlong fast and furious the wrong way. Your well being is worth more than money. How we begin matters.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out my services and then call me if you need help with a child behavior or relationship issue or matters concerning divorce or separation. I am available in person and by Skype.

Author's Bio: 

Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.