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Counseling/spreading rumors of abuse


I have a daughter who is a young adult and has been claiming I am verbally abusive to her .She has told this to my spouse and anyone else who will listen. My spouse has requested family therapy to her many times but she refuses.He has also told her he has never witnessed any of the abuse she mentions but has sympathized with her.Over the last several years she has gotten progressively worse by refusing to help around the house,clean up after herself, refuse to communicate or listen and make demands for money etc. I just learned from talking to her friend's mother that her friend is spreading the same rumors about her mother. I am at a loss as to what to do about this behavior or the purpose behind it. I try very hard to be a good parent and have gotten many compliments regarding my parenting from many people over the years. Any help would be appreciated.

Anita,  I can only imagine how hurtful this is for you.  Let me begin with the obvious, you can only change what you do in response to your daughter.  There are 3 basic rules of life:  1) if it isn't broken, don't fix it; 2) If something works, do more of it, and 3) If something isn't working, stop and do something different.  Einstein said that true insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result.  I could spend time and effort speculating what motivates your daughter to spread these rumors. These would only be speculations and even if we were able to understand her, it probably wouldn't change a thing.  Contrary to popular belief, knowing more about problems doesn't lead to solutions; it just leads to knowing more about problems.  There are several suggestions that I have.  However, these are only suggestions and there are no guarantees that they will change anything.  Human behavior is too complex and unpredictable - so, we're dealing with probability here.  I think the suggestions give you the best chance to change things and do the best you can in a difficult situation.  I think what might be helpful is having two separate. conversations.  The first is with the person you refer to as your spouse.  Reading between the lines, I'm guessing that this is not your daughter's father (otherwise I expect you would be referring to him in that vein).  Talk to him about the situation, if you haven't already.  I think you might find that he finds himself in a difficult position.  On one hand, wanting to keep peace in the house and a positive relationship with your daughter and on the other hand, wanting to support you.  You need to sit down with him and listen to his concerns and then strategize together how to approach this.  He might have some very useful ideas.  In terms of your daughter, I suggest you make a date to have a talk maybe over lunch together in a neutral place - such as a restaurant or your local coffee place.  It's important that you act in any way defensive and/or angry although certainly both feelings and thoughts are probably justified.  However, being angry and defensive will just elicit the same from your daughter and will be an example of doing that which doesn't work.  I would also suggest that you not dwell on the past or her trespasses.  Make it clear that what she is doing is hurtful to you.  Make it also clear that you understand that she strongly believes in what she is saying and that you believe just as strongly that you have done and are doing the best job you can as her mother.  The issue here isn't the past; the issue here is a discussion about what you want to happen TOGETHER in the future especially as regards your relationship.  It's important to acknowledge that you are inviting a transition from mother/child to 2 responsible and caring adults.  It's very probable that she will insist on presenting all the evidence of how you were abusive. It's going to be very easy to act defensively.  What will be most useful is to keep coming back to inviting her to thinking about the future of your relationship and how both of you envision that - that's the goal for the discussion.  If she isn't able to get beyond her perceived being abuses, it might be time to talk about the need for her to take responsibility for her own life and find her own place to live - of course with your emotional and financial support.  After all, why would she want to continue living with someone who she believes is abusing her?  One of two things will happen; she will either agree or say that she doesn't have the financial means to do that. You then have the option of allowing her to continue living with you and that there are reasonable conditions for that to happen:  she needs to stop spreading rumors, she needs to keep her place tidy, she needs to help around the house, etc.  Make sure you share this with your spouse and get his thoughts and ideas as well.  Once your are ready, set the date with your daughter; don't do that until you are pretty sure that you're prepared for this conversation.  I hope this helps; please let me know if you have any other questions and if you have the time and inclination let me know what you did that made a difference.  Joel


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Joel Simon


General questions about counseling, psychotherapy and mental health.


Over 30 years as a therapist, clinical supervisor and solution-focused trainer. I've worked in a variety of settings including adolescent day treatment, inpatient psychiatric hospitals, community mental health clinics, and hospice. Further information is available on my website:

A founding member of the Solution Focused Brief Therapy Association, Academy of Certified Social Workers, Board Certified Diplomate in Clinical Social Work, Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) in New York State.

Co-authored "Solution-Focused Brief Practice With Long-Term Clients in Mental Health Services: I'm More Than My Label." Authored: "Solution-Focused Practice in End-of-Life and Grief Counseling" Several articles published in professional journals including 2 with Insoo Kim Berg. Further details are available at

Masters of Social Work (Yeshiva University 1978). 5 years training in Transactional Analysis, certified in Advanced Ericksonian Psychotherapy and Hypnosis with the New York Society (NYSEPH), Advanced training and advanced supervision seminar in solution-focused brief therapy with the co-developers of the approach, Insoo Kim Berg and Steve de Shazer

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