Apr 24

Adult Children of Therapists: Should Be a Support Group

Adult Children of Therapists. Sounds like a support group, doesn’t it? To my knowledge, there’s no such thing, though some may desire it.

What’s it like to be a kid of a shrink? Thomas Maeder wrote the 1989 Children of Psychiatrists and Other PsychotherapistsPublishers Weekly stated: “His conclusion: ‘It is harder to be a good parent than a good therapist. The good effects that therapist parents have on their children are predominantly the result of their personalities and affection, not the consequence of theoretical training.'” In other words—no surprise here—results will vary.

Jumping to 2008, therapist-parented Emma Cook wrote of her own upbringing (and that of other adult children of therapists) in The Guardian. On her own childhood:

I grew up, like many therapists’ kids, listening to conversations peppered with therapeutic terminology – words such as ‘dependent’, ‘defensive’, ‘in denial’ and ‘depressed’ were always in the air. Inevitably, it affects how you view other people; how you judge and classify behaviour. It’s fine if you’re the one with the authority and power to issue these judgments, or if you’re a patient paying to hear them, but not so good if you’re a child on the receiving end.

How do people respond to hearing your parent is a therapist? Cook states:

There is either admiration, along the lines of: ‘How marvellous — someone who can really understand you. Who could be more qualified to empathise with all your problems?’ Or the opposite: ‘Poor you. What a nightmare — did they try to psychoanalyse you all the time?’

Cook believes, though, that the benefits outweigh the problems:

Some of my mother’s more creative interpretations could be irksome (I still wince when I think of a certain Sunday lunch during my adolescence when, fiddling with my hair, my mother informed me this enduring trait was clearly a ‘masturbatory habit’), but I am grateful for being encouraged to view the world in a more analytical way; always questioning other people’s behaviour as well as my own.

Growing Up Jung: Coming of Age as the Son of Two Shrinks (2010) is a book by journalist Micah Toub. Both his mom and dad were Jungian psychologists who divorced during his childhood.

By way of introducing Toub’s book, mom-shrink-raised Jessica Grose says in Slate that “people without therapist parents assume that those of us raised by mental health professionals are total loons. After they ascertain that we are in fact not ‘insane,’ the question that follows is almost always: But did she shrink you?”

All parents…mess with their kids’ heads. My parents’ being psychologists only changed the language of it,” states Toub.

According to Grose, Yes, they shrunk him.

A brief excerpt from his book:

Our family culture was a particularly calm and encouraging one. ‘That’s good that I died in your dream, Micah,’ my father once told me. ‘That means you’re integrating your inner father and becoming more independent.’

We talked about our problems, and we understood that our issues with each other were often just issues within ourselves. ‘I am angry with you right now because the part of me represented by you is not being allowed to emerge into consciousness,’ we might say. ‘It’s not you, it’s me.’