Are Bad Therapists Harming Our Children?

The April 2024 Childhood Trauma Newsletter

Last month, Elon Musk endorsed “Bad Therapy,” a new book written by a reporter that places blame on mental health therapists and trauma-informed care as the cause of the children’s mental health crisis. 

The book proposes that children’s mental health professionals are taking advantage of their clients by intentionally keeping them in a therapy loop to make money. The author also posits that the trauma-informed movement is the catalyst of the children’s mental health crisis and is intentionally harming our kids.

I do not deny that we have “bad therapy” taking place in the U.S. I’ve heard my fair share of stories to know it’s real. In particular, modalities like Applied Behavior Analysis have received backlash from the autism community over their abusive and traumatizing practices. I also had trouble finding a good therapist for myself in the past, and one instance where a therapist triggered me. Maybe I’ll share that story one day!

But, I find it wildly irresponsible and potentially harmful to paint every therapist with the same brush and reduce a complex issue, like children’s mental health, to one group of people.

Even more concerning is the book’s denouncement of trauma-informed care, SMH.

So what’s causing the children’s mental health crisis, in my opinion?

I think we have an over-taxed, bare-bones mental health system that has been underfunded and deprioritized for decades until the mental health epidemic reached a tipping point during the pandemic, becoming too big to handle. 

To support my opinion, let’s take a look at some recent research concerning the state of children’s mental health care in 2024:

According to research by the National Institute of Mental Health, 70-80% of American children do not have access to mental health treatment. These numbers make it difficult for “bad therapy” to be the sole cause of the children’s mental health crisis, as a lack of access to care spans every community, race, and socioeconomic status. However, as usual, it impacts BIPOC at disproportionate rates.

In 2022, only two states—Washington, DC, and Idaho — met or exceeded the current recommendation of one psychologist for every 500 students in public schools. THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE.

Almost 60% of youth who reported at least one major depressive episode a year did not receive any treatment. That number in some states like Kentucky, Hawaii, and South Carolina skyrockets to 75% and 80%.

Access to care for those with mental health concerns has been shown to help IMPROVE their quality of life and mitigate symptoms.

Of those who sought mental health care in 2021, 67% said they received effective treatment.

I could go on, but you get the idea.

How can “bad therapy” be the cause of the children’s mental health crisis when the research shows so many children are falling through the cracks and that most of the children who do receive care find it to improve their lives? 

To round out this discussion, we have to talk about which children are receiving mental health therapy in America. 

According to the results of the National Health Interview Survey in 2021 (latest results):

It’s important to note that as urbanization declines, so does the number of children with access to therapy

This begs the question, are the children who can access trauma-informed therapy privileged?  

As a trauma therapist in the US, below are my additional observations on which children have access to trauma-informed therapy:

Online therapy for children removes some of these barriers, but not all. You still need access to technology, the resources to pay for treatment, and private space to attend online sessions. Many homes do not have quiet space for homework, let alone therapy.

This obvious lack of access to care is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to children’s mental health crises. 

Other Factors Contributing to the State of Children’s Mental Health in 2024:

Sadly, this is not a complete list.

You might say, “Most of the items on your list are not new problems; these issues have always resulted in mental health problems,” and you would be right.

However, I would say the psychological impact of these problems compounds from generation to generation, resulting in the mental health crisis we are coping with today.

I want to be clear that I’m not saying “bad therapy” and poorly executed trauma-informed care aren’t a problem.

Psychotherapy is an art form, and not everyone can guide people through mental health problems. Some will even be harmed by the bad advice they receive in therapy. I’m not disputing these points.

We must be vigilant about high standards for professionals and those who work with children to be trauma-responsive and healing-centered. 

However, if we want to place blame on something for the mental health crisis, it shouldn’t be at the individual level but at the broader systemic level.

I do not believe that “bad therapists” are the largest contributor to the children’s mental health crisis, and we do society a disservice when we distract people from the real issues by pointing fingers at those who are trying to help. 

Lastly, what can we do to heal the children’s mental health crisis?

This only scrapes the surface of what we can do to increase attachment and heal the children’s mental health crisis.

I hope my observations and overview of the research shed light on the children’s mental health crisis in 2024 so we can develop policies and practices that heal and prevent trauma for our nation’s most valuable people – our children

Please share your thoughts on this topic in the comments. If your opinions differ, that’s ok with me, but please be respectful, or your comments will be deleted immediately. 


New Podcast Interview

Listen in while driving to work or taking a walk as I discuss the state of children’s mental health in 2024 with Ingrid Cockhren, the Chief Visionary Officer of PACEsConnection. We discuss the topics mentioned at the top of this newsletter and what we can do to solve the children’s mental health crisis. 

Listen Here

 

Episode Description:

“As we continue to honor women in the worldwide PACEs movement, this week, our guest is Beth Tyson. Beth is a childhood trauma consultant and author. Our discussion will center on the state of infant and child mental health post-Covid. 

Beth Tyson, MA, is an international childhood trauma consultant, acclaimed author, CASA volunteer, and co-chair of the PA Child Abuse Prevention Team. As a family-based trauma therapist, she honed her expertise in stabilizing mental health crises within foster, kinship, and adoptive homes. Motivated by her therapeutic work, she founded Beth Tyson Trauma Consulting in 2019 to advocate for trauma-responsive care across various organizations. 

Her commitment to empowering communities led her to pen three best-selling books, including therapeutic resources for children like A Grandfamily for Sullivan, and Sullivan Goes to See Mama, which will be out by summer 2024 on Amazon. Notably, she co-created the animated YouTube series “All Connected,” offering valuable strategies and insights into trauma recovery for teens. Beyond her professional endeavors, Beth cherishes her role as a mother, instilling her daughter with a passion for skiing and a penchant for making positive waves in the world.”


What’s New At Beth Tyson Trauma Consulting?

New Webinar

Register HERE for only $9.99!

I offered a similar webinar in December 2023, which sold out in a week. Don’t wait! Reserve your spot now if you want to attend. 

A few topics we will cover in this webinar:

Register Here


Upcoming Speaking Events

https://youtu.be/6IwWHDvOJa8?si=6Bwuk-o5TAzm19dL
Video of 2023 PA CASA Conference

On April 24, 2024, I will present two workshops on ambiguous loss at the Annual Pennsylvania CASA Conference (see last year’s conference above).

As a CASA volunteer for two children in the child welfare system for over four years, this honor is not lost on me. In the work I do, I hear and see some of the most horrific experiences a child can endure. I don’t know why I can sit with this trauma without losing my mind, but I do. I will never stop fighting for the safety and healing of children. It is my mission in life.


I am also excited to announce that I will be the keynote speaker for the Oklahoma Infant Mental Health Conference, which will take place this October. I feel called to increase awareness of infant mental health because we can make tremendous progress in early-life care.

At the conference, I plan to share my professional knowledge and lived experience in relation to birth trauma and the toll it takes on the mental health of children and families. I will also guide healthcare professionals on how to reduce the rates of birth trauma and strategies to help families heal when the unexpected happens.  

If you are from the Oklahoma City area, please contact me so we can meet up in October!


The final videos from season two of All Connected are out, and I would love to hear your thoughts. I co-created this ground-breaking animated series that helps teens cope with trauma and loss. Please share our FREE videos with therapists and social workers who want to help teens and young adults overcome adversity.

https://youtu.be/sZ08tuzZrBk?si=JFSXn2PAgu9cGVac

Resource of the Month

https://youtu.be/Yn8j4XRxSck?si=OzD5WH156emnnpfZ

Watch as this adorable and funny father and toddler engage in attunement, one of the building blocks of secure attachment. Attunement is more than meeting a child’s needs. You can provide care for a child and still not be “in tune” with them. 

Attunement is the “dance” humans do when they are in close relationship with one another. It means being physically and psychologically present with each other and paying attention to the child’s intelligence moment by moment. As you will see in this video, attunement includes “mirroring” the child with our movements and language.

Suggested Activity: Watch this video and describe what you notice in this interaction between father and toddler. Then, answer why it is helping the two of them build an attachment. Use this video with counseling students, foster parents, and grandparents who want to learn more about the process of attunement so they can build attachment after trauma. 


Trauma Champion of the Month

Dr. Ardeshir Mehran is a psychologist, trauma therapist, and author of the book, You’re Not Depressed, You’re Unfinished.

Dr. Mehran is disrupting the mental health field, delivering more effective practices to heal depression, and to ease the emotional suffering of people across the world.

Everyone else portrays depression as an immovable cause, a mood disorder that must be treated. Dr. Mehran busts this myth and focuses attention on the real culprit: the unfulfilled life we must lead when we deny our birthrights.

He is a psychologist, trauma therapist, behavioral researcher, transformational leader, and leadership coach. He has a Ph.D. and M.Ed. from Columbia University, New York City, in Counseling, Organizational, and Research Psychology. He has advanced training in psychoanalysis, group therapy, and team dynamics.

Dr. Mehran and I met through my LinkedIn page and became fast friends. In the coming month, we will announce a collaborative webinar and a peer support group for trauma therapists. Stay tuned to this newsletter for event registration and updates.


Let’s Work Together!

(Beth Tyson presenting on ambiguous loss for the Delaware Valley Adoption Council)

If you are looking for a childhood trauma specialist to speak to or train your staff, please email me at beth@bethtyson.com so we can explore working together. I take some time off in the summer to be with my family, but I have a few openings left for online events in the spring/summer, and availability for in-person events this fall.  Don’t miss the opportunity to work together!

I also provide long-term consultation on projects, movies, and training videos. I recently completed a training video script on attachment and trauma for Foster Parent College, and filming will begin soon. We’ve been developing the course since 2022, and I am thrilled to see how it’s transformed from then to now. Stay tuned to my weekly newsletter to find out when it will be available. 

How else can you support my work?

Quote of the Month

Oof, this one is so so good… You are not what happened to you.


News from the Field of Children’s Mental Health

 

https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/california-launches-free-behavioral-health-apps-for-children-young-adults-and-families/
https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/hug-therapy-helps-premature-babies-develop-in-argentina-as-volunteers-step-in-for-moms-who-cant/

A new study on twins and the impact of trauma

“These findings suggest greater influence than I expected—that is, even after very stringent control of shared genetic and environmental factors, we still observed an association between childhood adversity and poor adult mental health outcomes,” said Hilda Bjork Danielsdottir, the study’s first author and doctoral candidate at the University of Iceland.


In Closing…

I’m so grateful you took the time to read this newsletter. Please share it with one friend or colleague who might find it useful. As spring takes hold around the nation and life becomes busier, make time to rest and find JOY for yourself. Caring for children is the most valuable and taxing work we can do. Don’t ever question how important your role is to the children you love.

Before I go, here’s a recent photo of my doggie to brighten your day. If you made it to the end of this newsletter let me know in the comments by guessing what kind of dog he is or saying “Hi Shoobie.”


References and links to research in this article:

1. Warren, D. (2024, March 7).The State of Pediatric Mental Health in America.Office Practicum. https://www.officepracticum.com/blog/the-state-of-pediatric-mental-health-in-america-2023-report/?cn-reloaded=1

2. Kataoka SH, Zhang L, Wells KB. Unmet need for mental health care among US children: Variation by ethnicity and insurance status. Am J Psychiatry. 2002;159(9):1548–1555. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

3. Conroy, J., Lin, L., & Ghaness, A. (2020, July 1). Why people aren’t getting the care they need. Monitor on Psychology51(5). https://www.apa.org/monitor/2020/07/datapoint-care

4. Schueller, S. M., Stiles-Shields, C., & Yarosh, L. (2017). Online Treatment and Virtual Therapists in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 26(1), 1. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chc.2016.07.011

5. Salloum A, Johnco C, Lewin AB, McBride NM, Storch EA. Barriers to access and participation in community mental health treatment for anxious children. J Affect Disord. 2016;196:54–61. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2016.02.026.

6. America’s School Mental Health Report Card. Retrieved 3/7/2024. https://hopefulfutures.us/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/Final_Master_021522.pdf

7. https://namica.org/what-is-mental-illness/

8. https://www.marchofdimes.org/find-support/topics/postpartum/toll-birth-trauma-your-health#:~:text=According%20to%20the%20National%20Institutes,long%20after%20the%20birth%20itself.&text=There%20are%20many%20factors%E2%80%94both,was%20not%20what%20you%20hoped

9. Zablotsky B, Ng AE. Mental health treatment among children aged 5–17 years: United States, 2021. NCHS Data Brief, no 472. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2023. DOI: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db472.htm#:~:text=Summary-,In%202021%2C%2014.9%25%20of%20children%20aged%205%E2%80%9317%20years,from%20a%20mental%20health%20professional.

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