Timothy* was nine years old when he first came to Catholic Charities for counseling. In spring of 2019, I first began working with him when his mom brought him in because he was having anger outbursts at school, including hitting, punching, and on one occasion, choking other kids. Timothy reportedly would get upset because “other kids made [him] mad.” Timothy said other kids would provoke him by making fun of his appearance, such as his weight. He became upset when he did not understand a school assignment and would yell out in frustration and loudly bang his hands on his desk. The school police had to be called into Timothy’s classroom multiple times to help calm Timothy down, when his outbursts disrupted other classrooms.
While working with Timothy, I learned that his 21-year-old brother and Timothy’s father often verbally fought at home, which modeled a negative pattern of interaction for Timothy. Timothy’s parents angrily scolded Timothy often when he would not listen. Timothy would respond by getting angry and yelling, screaming, crying, and sometimes throwing objects.
In order to help Timothy, I needed to work with his parents as well. We worked through solutions for how to manage their own stress, how to use calmer reactions when responding to Timothy and his siblings’ disobedience and ignoring some angry outbursts – except if Timothy was being disrespectful, or his/someone else’s safety was at risk. As his parents worked on their stress and behavior, Timothy’s anger at home and at school drastically decreased.
His mother reported Timothy was happier and calmer at home, and his guidance counselor didn’t report any instances of anger at school for several months. Timothy’s mom has told me she and his father had become more physically affectionate with Timothy, hugging and kissing him, and telling him they are proud of him. And in my sessions with Timothy, I experience a happier boy, evident in his voice and facial expressions.
Thinking back on how far Timothy has progressed since our initial session brings a smile to my face.
*This client’s name has been changed to protect client confidentiality.
_ Daniel Delcoco, M.S., is a resident in marriage and family therapy at Catholic Charities.
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