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How do I get good treatment for my stepdaughter?

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Hello. I have a 16 yo Step daughter who lives with me, my husband, my 9yo daughter, and our 2yo daughter. She used to be really close with me. When she moved in with us, she really acted out towards me at about 12. It has increasingly gotten worse. Her mom has diagnosed all her children as bi-polar and depressed. No doctors have as of yet that I am aware of.

Over the last year my step daughter was prescribed welbutrin. She was supposed to keep going to counseling, but when the counselor urged to have me come in, she no longer wanted to go. Her mom took her and got her the prescription and she hasn’t been since.

She keeps going off and on the meds. I keep telling my husband he needs to put a stop to it. Each time she does, she has horrible episodes of mood swings and crying bouts. Finally last night I told my husband to have her admitted to the hospital. He finally did and got her an appt today to be evaluated.

Now her mom is insisting we put her in homeschool because she cannot handle school. The problem is we all work so I don’t understand how that can help.

I feel if she is a threat to herself and needs help to cope, she should be in an in-patient treatment to get her tools for her condition. Her parents feel she should just be taken out of school, giving medication with counseling and be handled with care. Meaning not having any responsibilities and let to do whatever she wants.

Am I wrong or is this the wrong way to handle this? Even if my husband does not agree to home school, her mom will pack her up to her house and do it anyway so it doesn’t really matter what he says.

How do I get good treatment for my stepdaughter?

Answered by on -


This is a painful situation for everyone. My heart goes out to all of you as you try to figure out how best to help this confused and upset teenage girl.

As difficult as it may be, this child probably isn’t going to get better until the three adults in her life sit down together and agree about what needs to be done. If you can’t do it yourselves, then you need to find a sympathetic counselor who can help you. Since the one thing you all agree on is that you love the daughter, I hope everyone can set differences aside and come to a clear decision about her care.

The doctor who is prescribing the Wellbutrin has made a diagnosis. I hope you and your husband will confer with that doctor about what it is he or she is seeing that led to a diagnosis of bi-polar. It’s also important that you provide the evaluating doctor with the prescribing doctor’s records.

Your husband needs to let the doctors know that his daughter has an involved dad who needs to be in on treatment decisions. However well-intended she thinks she is, his ex-wife shouldn’t be making these decisions on her own – especially since the girl doesn’t live with her. It’s a setup for treatment failure.

It’s unlikely that you will find an inpatient program. There simply aren’t many and most insurance companies discourage all but very short term inpatient stays. You might be able to work with the girl’s school to find a residential school that offers a therapeutic milieu as well as academics if she is truly too ill to manage regular school. But I can’t tell whether either kind of program (hospital or residential school) is necessary. It could be that a well thought-out treatment plan, agreed to and stuck to by everyone involved would give this child the structure and safety she needs to get better.

One last thing: A period of time during which she is excused of responsibilities may be what is necessary during crisis. But over the long run, letting her do whatever she wants won’t teach her how to cope. It will more likely teach her how to be demanding and self-centered. She deserves better than that.

I wish you all well.
Dr. Marie

How do I get good treatment for my stepdaughter?

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2018). How do I get good treatment for my stepdaughter?. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 18, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.