Friday, December 23, 2011

Free Advice

[Johnathan Clayborn]
Okay, so this particular posting is part informational, and part rant. If you can stand it through the rant part there may be some useful information for you. 

As some of you may know, my ex -girlfriend and I have a son together. For privacy’s sake I’m not going to mention either of their names, but I will tell you that we have split custody of him. Although our parenting time is split 50/50 right down the middle final educational and medical decision making authority rests with me. This particular part of my custody situation has been an ongoing battle for the last three years and I finally got tired of it, so I started asking around to get some legal advice as what I had been doing up until this point had obviously been ineffective. 

I should probably pause here for a moment and explain some background. I’m not wealthy. Hell, I’m not even “well off”. I make enough money to cover my expenses and, on occasion see a movie or go out to dinner and that’s about it. Hiring a lawyer to represent me isn’t exactly feasible. It’s something that would take a lot of thought, consideration, planning, and shopping around to find the right lawyer for the right price. It is due to this situation that I decided to poke around the internet and try to find some answers. I can usually get the gist of the situation if I understand what the rules and limitations are. So, I decided to ask for some free advice. There are many websites out there where you can ask for free advice. There are sites like if you have medical questions, there’s,, and others. I saw one particular page on Google called and the caption said “post your legal question on ask a lawyer to receive a reply from an attorney or a legal professional”.  It sounded like just what I needed. But, I forgot the old adage about “free advice”. And no, this didn’t cost me any money, but it sure cost me some time. 

Somehow, I’m not even sure how, instead of posting my question to an attorney on this site my question was posted to a community forum. I asked my question and I had the first few responses within hours. The responses that I was receiving however started to raise flags as they were highly unprofessional.  The nature of my question was how do I go about getting my son’s mother stop her shenanigans and obey the court order and stop authorizing medical treatments without my knowledge or consent. The first reply was logical and polite; the response was asking me to state, word for word, what the custody agreement said. But the next few comments were something along the lines of “oh, this is going to be good” and “I’m so glad I woke up for this”. At this point I was thinking to myself, “wow, pretty rude for professional lawyers to talk like this”, but I could really use the advice so I pressed on with my conversation. 

The main premise of the conversation centered on the fact that my son’s mother has been secretly taking him to a counselor’s office for the last 4 months without saying a word about it to me. Now, some background here; we had been taking him to a psychologist earlier in the year and after a few months he improved and we agreed that a counselor was no longer needed. And yet, about a month later, she started taking him on her own without saying a thing about it. The people offering advice didn’t ask about that.  His mother told the first therapist that she wanted him seen because he did things like bang his head on the floor, acts all wild and crazy and she can’t control him, and just generally runs amok. He doesn’t exhibit this behavior at my house. His teacher at school says that he sometimes has trouble with talking out of turn and staying in his seat, but I’m really not all that surprised by that. But I digress, once I found out that his mother has been secretly taking him to these appointments I wrote a letter to the clinic telling them to cease and desist all treatment. They ignored my letter and continued treatment anyway. This is not the first time that my son’s mother has pulled this stunt either. In 2009 she did exactly the same thing with the exact same clinic. I met with the counselor then, we chatted and then I told them to stop seeing my child. When I posted that I was trying to get the clinic to stop seeing my child and I wrote a cease and desist letter to the clinic I got some very interesting responses. One user said that it seemed “fishy” that I would want to stop treatment. Another user asked who told me that a cease and desist letter would work and that I should “hit that person with a clue by four”. 

Now, at this point, I think that I should pause for a moment and explain further. I work in the Behavioral Health field. I work for one of the largest Behavioral Health organizations in the state of Arizona. We employ more than 800 people spread out across over 75 offices throughout the state. When we get a cease and desist letter, we’re compelled by law to follow it. I explained all of this to the forum. They tried telling me that my company was operating illegally and that they didn’t have the right to do that; that we didn’t understand the law. Really? Well, that’s good to know. I’m sure that the lawyers who sit on Board of Directors probably aren’t aware of that. Thanks for clarifying, I’ll be sure to point that out to them. I was beginning to get a little flustered at this point because I know how the situation works here. We’ve been served with these letters countless times before at work. If we have truly been operating illegally as this user suggested then surely the parents involved would have sued us or enacted legal action against us by now. I tried to brush the comment off and stay focused on my main question: what do I do now? What’s the best next step? 

Instead of just answering my question, the people on this forum felt compelled to judge and condemn me. They don’t understand the entire four year case history. They don’t understand the personalities or motivations of the parents involved in this case. All they understood is that the mother was taking my son to a counselor and I wanted to stop it. Gosh darn it I’m such an evil person who is overreacting. One person even went to so far as to say that I’m going to “cause more harm than the mother will by interfering”. Excuse me? What makes you qualified to make that statement? How much do you know about me or the mother? How much do you know about her general level of medical ineptitude? How much do you know about me for that matter? How much do you know about my son and his medical needs? I was offended that someone who knew very little about the overall case would make such a statement. 

Rather than just answering the legal matter at hand the users continued to judge my decision to try to cancel treatment. I tried informing them that the mother is feeding incorrect information to the counselors and therapists and that their decisions and information is only as good as what they are being told. To demonstrate this point let’s do an exercise. Suppose that you are a clinician. A child comes in to see you brought in by his mother. The mother says that the child is unruly. The child displays unruly behavior in your office. The mother states that the child is unruly in school. The mother also alleges that the father has ADHD so the child is at a high risk for being predisposed to having it. As a professional therapist, what is the most logical conclusion that you can draw on based on these facts and these facts alone? That the child probably has ADHD, right? Of course you would; that’s what the data is suggesting. However, now consider these new factors; the child does not display unruly behavior while in the father’s care (and other family members besides just the father and step-mother can vouch for that, so it’s not an issue of confirmation bias), the father does not have ADHD as the mother suggests, but instead suffered from emotional abuse (whose symptoms can mirror those of bi-polar and ADHD) and he produce medical records from two different psychologists that corroborate this story. Now, understanding that one of the classic signs of ADHD is that it will manifest itself across the board in all situations and environments if it is truly present what conclusions would you draw? Are you as likely to be convinced that the child has ADHD? Or could it be possible that the child’s unruly behavior is the result of poor parenting skills? Further, take into consideration that the child has an atypical environmental situation going back and forth between two households every week, and that he was ripped out of one school and placed into another part way through the school year, and that he attended Kindergarten without any formal “preschool” experience. Is it really unusual that his behavior in school is atypical? Would you still automatically assume that his atypical behavior is caused by a neurobiological condition, or could it be the result of his environment? 

Instead of focusing on my legal question at hand I was forced to get into a long drawn out debate with these “experts” about the reasons behind my decision and defend myself to them. I had to explain to them that I was qualified and knowledgeable enough to make the decision that I felt was in my child’s best interests. But, from here, the argument turned into one about ADHD and its prospective treatments.  The comments then became about how much harm I’ll be doing by pulling my child out of therapy. I’m curious how they know so much about my child’s particular therapeutic needs when they’ve never met him. One user said, and I quote “There's absolutely no reason to think that the professional is incompetent or has made an incorrect diagnosis, nor that he will prescribe unnecessary medication. OP (Original Poster) really needs to chill out a bit. He's going to do more harm with his frantic action than Mom is doing.” Excuse me? It’s obvious that this idiot doesn’t understand a thing about behavioral health nor how diagnoses are formulated. It’s not as objective as regular medicine, and there is, admittedly, some guesswork involved. With regular medicine you can see that a person’s arm is broken and treat it. With behavioral health things are not quite so black and white. You can identify a record a patient’s objective behavior, such as “patient is exhibiting signs of trichotillomania”, however, you can only guess at what’s causing that behavior. Are they hallucinating? Do they have a chemical imbalance? Do they suffer from anxiety, or paranoia? Etc. There are far more “behind the scenes” factors that come into play here.  And, for those of you who do not know, up until the age of 12 a child’s brain is still in a high state of development. Introducing a brain in that state to a Class II narcotic can have permanent damaging effects. For instance, one side effect of Ritalin and Dextroamphetamine, especially when used in young children, is that it can lead the patient to develop adult-onset insomnia in a high number of cases. Of course, wouldn’t you know it, I’m wrong about this too, apparently. 

One of the advantages of working in Behavioral Health like I do is that I get to take all kinds of training classes on all kinds of topics. I’ve taken no less than three different training courses on different kinds of abuse, including a free course offered through the CDC on preventing abuse. I’ve also taken several different courses on psychopharmacology, apothecary, medications, and common behavioral conditions, including specific courses all about ADHD. Another advantage is that I have a few friends who are doctors in the field. One of them is an MD who prescribes medications to behavioral health patients, and another is dual-doctorate holder who has a PhD and an EdD. This is where I get my information from; professionals who work in the field. I’m also on speaking terms and have easy access to about a dozen different doctors who work in my building. And you know what they all say? They all pretty much agree with each other; meds for ADHD children under 12 is a bad idea.
So, after trying to explain all of this to these people they begin attacking my credibility. One of them says “oh, okay, so you’ve taken a few classes and you think you know something about psychology. Good for you.” After I explained that I was a fully licensed Behavioral Health Technician he says “oh, so you cannot diagnose illnesses or write up treatment plans, thanks for clarifying that.”  At this point it became obvious that this person had absolutely no idea what he was talking about. The Behavioral Health Technicians, or BHTs as they’re called in the field, are the work horses of the behavioral health field. They do write service plans (they’re not called treatment plans in behavioral health), they read and interpret the Service Plans, they dole out medications, the write progress notes, they perform all kinds of similar functions. Service Plans are required to be signed off by a higher-level professional, but the BHTs are well-versed in how they work, what they mean, and how to write them. But, they’re also well-qualified in medication reactions, side effects, uses and the identification of common behavioral issues and conditions. 

It was at this point that I seriously began to question some of the advice that I had been given. I asked them, pointedly, how much experience and training they’ve had with behavioral health. I also asked them what makes them qualified to give advice on behavioral health issues when their specialty is law. The answers to these questions were shocking. One user said that “legal experience is more important than psychological training”. Really? That’s good to know. If I ever think that I’m having a breakdown I’ll run to my lawyer’s office, because, according to this guy, lawyers are better at psychological issues due to their vast legal experience. Several of the users posted very vague, evasive answers like “you might be surprised” and “enough to know what I’m talking about”. But the kicker was the person who clarified everything; “at what point did anyone on here say that their specialty was law?” I checked their profiles most of them don’t have their professions listed. One person said “What do you think my job is???” and under his interests he listed “smacking stupid people”. One of them was a business professional and another was a stay at home mom. And they’re giving out legal advice?  It was at this point I realized this whole thing had been an exercise in futility and deleted the thread. 

My friend Lee pointed out the Dunning-Kruger Effect, which explains the situation I just experienced perfectly. The Dunning-Kruger Effect is a paradoxical situation in which people either overestimate or underestimate themselves in relation to a particular area of expertise (the IQ counter-part for this is called the Downing Effect). But, without fail the D-K effect is quite fascinating and fairly reliable. Generally the more incompetent a person is the more they tend to overestimate their own skill, fail to recognize the skill of others, and fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy. The scholars behind this theory won the Nobel Prize for their work in 2000. I’ve certainly seen this in action firsthand before too, although I didn’t know what to call it. I’ve talked to people who lacked the capacity to understand what I was talking about so, naturally, I was the stupid one because I wasn’t making any sense to them. 

Another interesting thing that I ran into is that a few of these people, several of them in fact, exhibited clear signs of narcissist behavior.  For example, in his “about me” box one user has just one quote from another user; “It is our unanimous opinion that you are damn right and it should be obvious to any moron that your (ex) (SO’s ex) (boss) (landlord) (local police) should be immediately (jailed) (fired) (reprimanded) (arrested) (demoted) (shot) (evicted). In fact, you are so astonishingly correct in this matter, it will not surprise us one bit if you are offered a generous settlement, because, by golly, that’s just how it should be.” Not only is this on this person’s profile page, it’s also on their signature…for every single post. They took a compliment about one particular situation and adapted it to mean that they were right about everything all of the time. There’s no worse thing you could do for a narcissist. 

The moral of this whole story is this; just because the advice is free doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily good. Be sure that your sources are credible before acting on any advice that you’ve been given. As an example; I did get in a touch with a bona-fide lawyer and asked the same question. She says that my cease and desist order should be enough and that medical practitioners are required to comply with that. After all, that’s the whole point of denoting which one parent has the right to decide. If your child was on life support and was never going to wake up and one parent said pull the plug and the other said no, how do you know who to listen to? The court order tells you. But, according to these crackpots on this page, it’s just all meaningless drivel.  

I hope that you’ve learned as much from this experience as I did and that you take “free advice” with a grain of salt and always get to know where the information is coming from.


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These blogs represent my thoughts, ideas and opinions. They may be different from yours. You may not agree with them. While I do enjoy a good, polite debate on a topic (where points are countered with other points based on logic, reason and fact), I do not enjoy an argument (where you tell me that I am wrong simply because you disagree and cannot offer any reasons to support your position). I am very respectful of others, and I expect everyone on here to be respectful in return, not only to me, but to each other as well. Disrespectful posts will be deleted automatically. Feel free to share your ideas, but keep it civil, please.