Did you take prescription medication as a child? Did you have any classmates who did? When I was young, I don’t really remember anyone my age taking medications. Of course, they may have at home, but I don’t remember any medications being passed out at school. In fact, it was unusual in high school when a diabetic classmate had to take insulin. These days, though, our children are facing a much different school day – one in which the school nurse is a medication dispensary. The epidemic of children on prescription medication scares me, but the number of psychiatric diagnoses for children scares me even more. I always hope that there is a way out of such problems without medication, and Marilyn Wedge has done an excellent job of bringing another option to the plate. Marilyn Wedge uses clear explanations of complex therapy concepts to make hope to parents and caregivers of troubled and troublesome children real in her book Pills Are Not For Preschoolers.
Family therapist Marilyn Wedge has been in practice for over twenty years, and through that time she has seen a number of families and children. In the introduction, she remarks on the increase of psychiatric diagnoses and children being medicated for them in the US – it’s such a prevalent situation that she felt there was a need for another option, which she presents in her book Pills Are Not For Preschoolers. The chapters discuss various case studies from her own practice of children and families who have sought her help based on recommendations from family, friends, pediatricians, school counselors, and teachers. Each case study is used as an example to show how a particular therapeutic technique is used, how she learned to perfect her therapy sessions, and what she has done to avoid medication and psychiatric diagnoses for children. It is a powerful book where I was tearing up during descriptions of how a child transformed and cheering for the families. The book reads with a quick pace and transitions smoothly from one chapter to the next. I feel as though I’ve learned a good bit about family therapy, and I have a solid foundation of knowledge about why Wedge believes there is an alternative to medication for our children.
One of the typical characteristics of medical books tend to be either a dry, humorless, clinical approach to the topic or, on the other side of the spectrum, the author attempts to make the concepts that can be related to easily by the average reader by writing with abstract philosophical sections and waxing poetic. Wedge does an excellent job of steering clear from either extreme and presents the complicated world of family therapy, system theory, and strategic therapy in a way that brings the topic to the understanding of anyone – especially parents. For the parent who is dealing with a troubled child and wondering where to turn next, it proves a very understandable, straight forward, and readable text. It’s filled with information, explanations, history, techniques, and examples, but Wedge has a talent as a writer that allows her to reach the reader and impart her knowledge without it being a painful or tiring exchange.
A detail that really caught my eye in her book is the descriptions of each person that she uses to elaborate the therapy techniques and ideas that she is expressing. When she describes a patient or parents, she includes a physical description with hair and eye color, age, and even a description of the clothes that the individual was wearing at the first meeting. I found this level of detail to be intriguing – I wondered if she wrote it down as they walked in, or if she remembered it – as well as a very easy way to make me relate closer to the individual. Once I knew how he or she looked, I was able to get an idea of who the person was, and I think that may have been the point. Once she made the name into a real person for me, I was able to take what she was saying about the therapy as a more personal topic, where I was hoping that the doe-eyed girl would really be helped by her strategies, and I could see how she began to form her hypotheses about how the parents acted at home when she noted their perfectly pressed clothing and elegant dress. It was as though she was giving me a glimpse through her eye and showing me how a family therapist could work – it almost made me think that when I grew up, I could be a family therapist.
The most important part of Pills Are Not For Preschoolers for me is that it is a book that parents who are having problems with their children could read and use as a resource. While she does not recommend that parents attempt strategic therapy which is very complex, she does offer some excellent parenting suggestions that can be used by any parent. To me, it almost came off as a manual of what to do to make your family less likely to need the services of a family therapist. The appendix even includes some information on how to find a (good) family therapist, as well as the references and notes about her resources and an index which allows the reader to easily look up the topic of most pressing concern. For example, if you’d like to learn more about a particular therapy strategy, you can look each individual one up, or even look up the symptoms displayed in each case. It’s a very reader-friendly book, and as a parent I appreciated the option of reading it all at once or reading the most pertinent chapter of my preference.
In the end, I would recommend that all parents read this book. The examples and parenting strategies that she has included are a jumping off point of what do and what not to do as a parent. So many children are being medicated these days, that it’s almost guaranteed that at some point someone may suggest that one of your children may be afflicted with a psychiatric condition. For parents who are dealing with a troubled child, I think this book would be a great shoulder on which to lean during a difficult time – and I think that the information about therapy will help when choosing a family therapist. Without a doubt, I would seek the counsel of a family therapist before allowing my child to consume prescription medication, and I think that a reader of Wedge’s work would understand why I hold that stance. In Pills Are Not For Preschoolers, Marilyn Wedge provides a straight forward, reader friendly description of family therapy techniques that can help reframe behavioral problems in children as conquerable symptoms of problems within the family organism.
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Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher to facilitate my review. My opinions are honest and my own.