Wednesday, June 15, 2011

If My Kid "Lands" In Therapy

There is an article on The Atlantic, called How to Land Your Kid in Therapy. If you haven't read it yet, I recommend it. It is a very long article and I have a lot to say about it, a few posts worth. The author, Lori Gottlieb, is a therapist and mother. When she started seeing patients, she was expecting for most of them to have complaints about their parents. She was surprised to find this was not the case for a lot of them, explaining:
These patients talked about how much they “adored” their parents. Many called their parents their “best friends in the whole world,” and they’d say things like “My parents are always there for me.” Sometimes these same parents would even be funding their psychotherapy (not to mention their rent and car insurance), which left my patients feeling both guilty and utterly confused. After all, their biggest complaint was that they had nothing to complain about!
These experiences led her to wonder: Was it possible these parents had done too much for their children?

Stop being so "attuned" to me, Mom.
She goes on to describe a lot of things that seem to support the answer of Yes to this question. And while I agree that it might be possible that the answer is yes, there are several things from the article I would like to address in subsequent posts.

First, I would like to say: Your child may need therapy at some point in his life. No matter what kind of parent you are, it is always possible that issues will come up in your child's life, for which they might need professional help. And there is nothing wrong with that. It is not a goal of mine as a parent to keep my child "off a therapist's couch."

And now, a question: If your child does spend some time in therapy, what do you hope he will say about you? If my child grows up "adoring" me, telling his therapist I was "always there" and "like a best friend," then I would declare that a successful parenting journey. I think...
I would rather have my child recounting how wonderful I was, than how mean or cruel I was.

I would rather my child feel free to go to a therapist for help through a difficult time, than to feel like he needs to go it alone. I would not want him to feel like he needs to figure things out out independently because that's what he thinks being a "grown-up" means.

If my child grows up unsure of what direction he wants to take his life, I would be ok with him being overwhelmed with how many choices there are. That would be better than him feeling trapped in a miserable situation and thinking there are no other options.
I wonder if the problem is not with the children. If the problem is not that the parents were too nice, or too attuned, or too helpful, or too friendly.

I wonder if the problem is with the expectations, and the pressure, from parents or peers or the rest of us. With these young adults thinking something is wrong them because they haven't achieved a certain level of success in time. Society expects them to have their lives figured out. After all this time riding on the school train, they should suddenly be independent and happy and financially successful. And that is not realistic. Let's give them (and their parents) a break.


More from me on Gottlieb’s article:
Part 1: If My Kid “Lands” in Therapy


  1. Excellent follow up! That article actually made me second guess myself!
    I love your points! Can't wait to hear more of what you have to say!

  2. Thanks Alex.

    Sam, I can totally see why that would make you second-guess yourself. I wrote two more and I still have two more than that to write! I hope I can clear up all the craziness that was spewed forth in that article!