Help me help my son.

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

My 21 year old son had a girlfriend for 4 years. She broke up with him 8 months ago. They had broken up twice before (one by him and one by her). Before she broke up with him she cheated on him with someone else. He was devastated, which his father and I thought was normal, but then turned into some sort of obsession. He cries almost every night and is obviously depressed. He absolutely refuses to go see a therapist or even speak to the family doctor. He says what he’s feeling is normal since he cannot live without her and that she WILL come back to him and then he’ll marry her. I believe he has an insecurity issue since he always tells us that he’s better than everyone else. I don’t know why he’s like this….we have always had a loving family and a wonderful homelife. My husband and I have been hapilly married for 30 years and we also have an older daughter who is also great. I think we are a great family and he knows that we all love him very much and think he’s great and believe me we tell him. We don’t know how to help him get over this and we are afraid he’ll do something to irretional. Since he refuses to seek help because there’s nothing wrong with him, do you have any suggestions on what we can do other than be supportive and be here for him ??? Please HELP ! ! !

A: There are few things as hard, and as scary, for a parent as watching one of their kids fall apart. Your son is clearly in great distress. You are right to be concerned, especially since he has an unrealistic fantasy about how things should resolve and he won’t seek help for himself. You already know that you can’t make a young adult do anything. What you can do is create a situation where he might want to respond.

My best suggestion is that you and your husband and even your daughter make an appointment with a family therapist to talk about how best to help your son. After the therapist has had a few sessions to get to know you all, he or she may have some ideas about how to invite him into the sessions. For example: I’ve worked with more than a few families where the young person in question couldn’t stand it that the family was talking about him and insisted on coming in to set me straight. Once there, he found it was actually helpful and continued with therapy. You and your therapist might try that if it’s appropriate to your situation or you may come up with another idea to pull him into sessions.

Ask your family doctor for a referral to a local therapist or go to Therapist Locator to find a licensed family therapist near you.

I wish you all well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 16 Feb 2008

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2008). Help me help my son.. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 21, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/02/16/help-me-help-my-son/