When’s the Time for Special Needs Parents to Seek Professional Counseling?

by Jun 16, 2016Self-Care and Stress, Special Needs Parenting0 comments

When is it time for special needs parents to seek professional counseling to help them cope with caregiving demands? These 3 questions will give you a clue.

Different Dream continues to tiptoe through PTSD Awareness Month by addressing stress and PTSD issues that affect special needs parents. Today’s post by psychologist Liz Matheis answers a question every special needs parent asks at one time or another: When’s should special needs parents seek professional counseling to deal with the stress of caregiving?

When’s the Time for Special Needs Parents to Seek Professional Counseling?

When you are a primary caretaker of a child with special needs, often your needs become secondary or even tertiary to those of your little one. That is, you are managing the many needs of your child or children with special needs. But in the process, you find that your ability to handle the day to day is being negatively compromised. You may be traumatized yourself, but continue to chug along so that you can keep the train moving. So the glaring question becomes this: when do you know that you need to do something for yourself?

The answer is simple: when you are not able to maintain your roles in your life, and function on a day to day basis.

Let me be a little bit more specific by posing 3 questions…

Where is Your Attention Focused?

How is your attention? Are you able to follow through on tasks that you’ve started, or are you finding that you start a task and then stop to begin another one? Are you able to convey a clear thought without being confused? Are you able to think through one particular content at a time? When you find yourself being distracted, confused or in a haze, it’s time to acknowledge the level of distress you are feeling and how it is impacting your ability to function.

Which Emoticon Describes You Today?

If you are noticing that you are feeling tired, un-enthusiastic, sad, anxious, or unmotivated, it’s time. Are you losing interest in your friendships? Do you dread starting your day? Are you exhausted all day but find yourself unable to fall asleep soundly and easily at bedtime? If you are feeling more glum for most days than not, it’s time to focus on your needs.

Too Much or Too Little?

When stress is high, sometimes appetite and sleep are impacted in one of two directions. Some sleep a great number of hours and still feel tired, while some are unable to sleep throughout the night. Some people find comfort in food and eat excessively, while others have little to no appetite.

Think about your eating and sleeping habits lately. Are you eating healthy food and in healthy quantities? Are you able to fall asleep and stay asleep? Are you sleeping more than 8 hours per night and still crave more sleep?

When It’s Time for Special Needs Parents to Seek Professional Counseling

As a traumatized parent, it is often difficult to acknowledge the signs of distress and exhaustion within yourself when you are spending most of your time and energy caring for your child with special needs. Take a few minutes to assess your focus, mood, eating and sleeping habits by answering the 3 questions posed above. If your answers indicate a high stress level, it’s time for special needs parents to seek professional counseling to help cope with caregiving demands.

How Did You Know It Was Time?

Have you sought help to cope with your caregiving duties? When did you know it was time to seek professional help? Leave a comment if you like.

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By Liz Matheis

Dr. Liz Matheis is a clinical psychologist and school psychologist in Parsippany, NJ. She offers support, assessments, and advocacy for children who are managing Autism Spectrum Disorders, ADHD, learning disabilities, and behavioral difficulties, as well as their families. She is also a contributor to several popular magazines. Visit www.psychedconsult.com for more information.


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Meet Jolene

Jolene Philo is a published author, speaker, wife, and mother of a son with special needs.



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