Dominique was a sensitive child from age two, which was about the time her brother was born. He had multiple health problems, causing Mom to be away from the family for long periods of time while she stayed with him in the hospital.
Dad was deployed to Iraq shortly after her little brother stabilized. Dominique seemed happy, well liked, and well parented—and in my respects, she was all of those things.
But as a young child, Dominique used head banging and fierce temper tantrum outbursts to down-regulate her big emotions. She was generally able to self regulate by one of two strategies: removing herself to her bedroom for quiet time, and engaging in strenuous aerobic dance practices.
As she entered adolescence, she appeared to be happy and successful, full of strong, positive family experiences and connection with friends. But unbeknownst to her parents, Dominique began to engage in behaviors such as cutting, burning, head banging and buying presents for or giving large sums of money to people she wanted to please.
Then, when Dominique was about 18, she was working as an intern in a highly competitive program and her behaviors were discovered by her immediate supervisors. As a result, she was asked to leave the program.
What followed were several psychiatric hospitalizations, some by choice and some involuntary.
During this time, Dominique returned to her parents home and began dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) treatment with me.
The goal of pre-treatment was to decrease suicidal thoughts and stop self-harm behaviors, while at the same time building commitment to fully engaging in comprehensive DBT treatment.
Dominique’s parents were on board to help her in any way they could. But when I first met them, both were angry and confused as to what had gone wrong and why their daughter was unable to just get up in the morning, bathe, find a job and get back to school. They loved Dominique, but they definitely didn’t like her, and found her presence in their home disruptive to their marriage.
They were sick and tired of her sleeping all day, staying up online all night long, leaving filthy dishes and clothes around the home, not following through with chores and wasting large amounts of money on music downloads and phone charges.
They had attempted several kinds of treatments which, if Dominique was even willing to try, were ultimately unsuccessful.
Dominique was profoundly ashamed and frightened. Her self-harm had become more frequent and more severe, and her rages had escalated to damaging drywall and electronics.
She felt lonely, sad and hopeless. Dominique didn’t want to behave the way she did—she wanted to be close to her family—but she had begun to think death would be far better than living the life she had.
A year later, having engaged fully in parent coaching and education, Dominique’s parents were delighted to see her beginning to resume her independence.
Dominique completed comprehensive DBT and while relationships continued to be problematic, she was able to move out of the home, live on her own, and hold a full time job.
She experienced no suicidal ideation and her self-harm behaviors were few and far between.
Dominique’s parents credit the training and coaching as the key to transforming their relationship with their daughter.
Today the family remains close, travels together frequently and her parents completed higher level training to become peer coaches themselves.
When something works, the accompanying excitement and confidence motivates us to share it with others, which is why they are running support groups for other parents with similar experiences!
If your family is in need of additional support, I am here to help.