Hey there, weary human!
You're probably here because you saw the purple hair and immediately flashed forward to a scene in which your angsty kid bears their soul to me as I magically piece them back together. Or maybe you heard from someone else that I'm some sort of angry kid whisperer. Or perhaps this was a random click. In any case, allow me to welcome you to my sacred therapy entryway. Let's discuss this puzzle, shall we?
Hi, I'm Dr. Stephanie Olarte. Human first, psychologist second.
Somewhere along the way, you inevitably started to believe the bullsh*t narratives that people told you about your child. It's okay. We're all human here. There's very little I haven't heard at this point, so let's put our cards on the table here. You've probably heard such shame-inducing comments as…
"Your child is a pathological liar"
"Your child is an entitled brat"
"If you can't control them now, you'll never be able to control them when they're a teenager!"
"Your brother cured his kid's ADHD after they went sugar-free/gluten-free/dairy-free/joy-free/screen-free
Some psychopaths also do <insert one of your kid's terrible habits> at that age"
"Some school shooters were also obsessed with <insert that horror movie your kid can't stop watching>"
"You were a hell-raiser too, until we started <insert that super harsh "disciplinary" strategy that still haunts you to this day even though you tell everyone that it was the best thing your parents ever did for you>"
Phew, okay. I've said enough. Are you still there? Cool. If that was a lot for you to read, feel free to take a deep breath. We do that a lot here. I'm glad we got the pleasantries out of the way, because small talk makes my skin crawl, and your family has already spent enough time looking for relief.
So what am I, some magical angry child fixer? Not exactly. You'll learn that one of my core beliefs about my dearest clients is that they are not broken. Neither are you. And neither is your family.
Your gut might be telling you that we're a good fit, but you still need to know how this all works.
Allow me to outline some of my core beliefs as a therapist that have yielded some deep, long-term healing (or "results" for you Type-A readers) for some of my favorite clients (angry kids…duh…):
Symptoms tell us what's happening today; patterns tell us what might happen over the next few years. I get it. It's hard that your child keeps repeating the same problem behaviors (e.g., punching walls, refusing to do their homework, screaming, staying up all night, etc). It's like Groundhog Day. As a parent, it's exhausting and depressing to witness day in and day out. I want this madness to stop just as much as you do… AND! Focusing exclusively on the behavior or symptom is a really tempting invitation to ignore the important contextual factors that come together to activate that behavior/symptom. I promise, your treatment plan will include verbiage about the symptoms that we're trying to reduce. But for every symptom we're trying to reduce, there will be at least twice as many familial patterns that we will seek to understand. When we do this, multiple improvements can occur simultaneously and hold steady long after our work together concludes. THAT is more important to me than focused symptom reduction. My goal is not to keep you in therapy forever, but to make sure that when we throw that graduation party, you and your child have the type of nuanced understanding of yourselves and each other that keeps those symptoms at bay with each new life challenge that arises.
There is more magic in transforming families than in reducing problem behaviors. This is the part where I tell you that if you came here for sticker charts, how-to's, positive reinforcement plans, etc, we might not be the best fit. It's not that these strategies don't "work" or aren't "effective," they're just not what I do best. If you believe that your kid needs a sticker chart or punishment plan, then I may have the name of someone whom I trust to do that work in a way that doesn't cause damage. But I am not the therapist for you. Rather, my work is more about reaching deep into the souls of children and their parents/caregivers and healing the wounds that are activating ongoing problem behavior. This is where the magic happens. Every. Single. Time.
Stubborn kids are usually being raised by adults who are rushing basic human development. Allow me to apologize if that part hurts or if you feel judged. It's not my intention… but again, neither of us has time to waste here. This is one of my core reasons for calling my practice "Slow Down Psychology" instead of "Dr. Stephanie's Magical Anger Transformation Studio." So often, my angstiest, most stubborn clients are fighting an internal battle between being the child that matches their parents' ideal (e.g., a kid who does what's asked the first time; a kid who doesn't talk back or question authority), while believing the harmful narratives that they have been fed about who they are (e.g., a liar; a brat; a bad seed; a villain). It's exhausting to do this while keeping up with the tireless demands of growing up in a world that acts as though we all didn't just survive several major global crises. As they do what they can to adhere to increasingly demanding schedules, to make every minute of the day count, they inevitably reach a breaking point, which often looks like a super stubborn meltdown. And because they are constantly rushing themselves, they tend to act impulsively. The slowing down part is essential for both the child and their parents/caregivers.
Your child is not broken, and I am not their fixer. You may have heard the term "neurodiversity affirming" and wonder where I stand here. This is my core belief that reflects my commitment to being a neurodiversity-affirming therapist. It means that above all, the diagnosis is not a disease to be cured in an effort to make your child appear more "normal." When I look at diagnostic criteria and write up treatment plans, I ask myself "where/how is this child suffering?" For some, this runs contradictory to conventional medical practices that often focus on eliminating disease, even at the cost of quality of life. For me, working with a client's diagnosis involves a collaborative effort among the child, their parents/caregivers, and myself to identify points of suffering and mutually acceptable results. When we do this, the point of therapy is not about fixing your child's problem behaviors, but about fostering the transformations that need to take place to achieve a sense of emotional equilibrium and well-being in the home. Because that sh*t lasts a lifetime.
OMG did you read all of that?! Amazing! Feel free to get the specifics under my services page. If you want to learn more about the magician–er–psychologist, check out my about me page. For my avid readers, feel free to check out my blog or subscribe to my newsletter. And when you've read enough, click the "I'm Ready" page.
I can't wait to solve this puzzle with you!