What is Therapy?
Therapy is difficult to define. There are many different types of therapy, and on top of that—despite the ongoing attempts to fit psychotherapy into the Western medical model—therapy is largely an art, not an exact science. It is based on relating, and relating is a fluid, intuitive, non-linear process.
It’s widely accepted now that the quality of the relationship between therapist and client—as opposed to the specific therapeutic modality being used—is the most important factor determining the efficacy and outcome of therapy. Having a good relationship with your therapist—feeling safe, seen, heard, and understood—is the most important thing.
So at its core, therapy is a relationship, a healthy (hopefully) relationship that exists for the singular purpose of facilitating your healing, personal growth, and wellness. Good therapy helps us individuate and differentiate, becoming the unique person we are meant to be.
Therapy as a Reparenting Process
As a therapist, I serve as a guide and facilitator for my clients as they learn to parent themselves. As adults, in order to be free to fully individuate and differentiate, most of us need to engage in some form of reparenting. Reparenting is about becoming the loving, safe, mature, grounded parent for ourselves that we needed as children. Through reparenting we develop the unconditional self-acceptance and internal safety that is needed in order to access our authenticity. This is what it means to heal your “inner child.”
We all have an internalized parental figure, and most of the time, if we haven’t engaged in some form of self-parenting, that internalized figure will sound like the most critical version of our parents. Reparenting ourselves is about revising our internalized mother/father—the voice inside our head—to be one that is mature, kind, and comforting, instead of harsh and critical. Therapy is about learning to show up for ourselves with consistency, and learning to move toward emotionally available partners who can show up for us too.
Through reparenting we heal our relationship with ourselves, we create an internal sense of safety that allows us to navigate the world with confidence, knowing that whatever happens, whatever challenges we find ourselves facing, we will be OK. This kind of healing is the foundation of resiliency and health in adulthood, and it is work that we all need to do.
We Can All Benefit from Reparenting
Most of us are carrying some degree of wounding from the parenting we received—no parent is perfect. Acknowledging this isn’t about blame, in fact, it isn’t interpersonal at all. It's about understanding our own experience and deepening our self-awareness. The more aware we are of our internal selves—our emotions, thoughts, rhythms, patterns—the more consciously and intentionally we can live our lives.
What we know about children’s biological needs for connection and emotional attunement are slowly making their way into mainstream parenting practices, but for most of us who are now adults the parenting we received left much to be desired in the way of emotional attunement and nervous system safety.
Poor Parenting is Widespread and Pervasive
Poor parenting is unconscious, immature parenting; parenting that focuses on the needs of the parents, instead of the needs of children. Poor parenting is focused on control rather than on connection. Many of the parenting practices that have long been considered standard, and even beneficial, can lead to long-lasting issues with self-worth, anxiety, depression, perfectionism, and people-pleasing.
Here are a few examples of the poor parenting practices that many of us experienced in childhood:
- Parenting that forced “independence” too early.
Examples of this would be, “Cry It Out” (CIO) - the practice of leaving an infant, baby, or toddler to cry in order to train them to sleep through the night. Another would be avoiding picking up a crying baby or child so they can learn to “self-soothe.”
I placed quotations around independence and self-soothe because infants and very young children are not capable of these things. When young children are forced to “self-soothe” they become overwhelmed and eventually experience a nervous system collapse (i.e. trauma). They receive the message that no one is there to help them and so they shut down. These early experiences have long term impacts on our sense of worth, our ability to ask for what we need, and our ability to trust and form healthy relationships in adulthood.
- Emotionally coercive parenting
Emotionally coercive parenting is the withdrawal of approval and affection as a way of influencing the child’s behavior. This style of interacting and controlling children is deeply ingrained into our cultural parenting paradigm and has long term negative impacts on mental health into adulthood.
When children are forced to abandon themselves in order to meet the needs of an emotionally immature parent, a parent with unresolved trauma, unmanaged mental health issues, or substance abuse issues. Read more in my recent article about emotional parentification.
- Being put into managed care.
In the United States it's normal to place children into daycare very young, and it's important to acknowledge that due to the design of our current system, many families are forced to place their children in managed care settings in order to work. It's equally important to acknowledge that being placed into managed care in infancy, and therefore experiencing prolonged separation from our primary caregiver, has long term consequences on our internal sense of worthiness and safety.
The Time for Healing is Now
The paradigm is shifting. Current generations are realizing how old school parenting philosophies, like “tough love” and “children should be seen and not heard,” are damaging and short-sighted. Therapy is no longer viewed as shameful, or something just for those with severe mental illness, and ever larger portions of the population are beginning to understand the value of introspection, self-awareness, and emotional intelligence.
The paradigm is also shifting away from exclusively valuing external accomplishments. Historically, it was assumed that if you had a job and made enough money, you had arrived in well-adjusted adult territory; that you were “adulting” successfully. Well, the standards are changing as we collectively come to terms with the fact that attunement to and awareness of our internal selves is just as important as external accomplishment, and in many ways more.
How can we as individuals do our part to heal the long lineages of intergenerational trauma that we come from? By taking the time to reparent ourselves and heal the wounds that were passed down to us. Then we can model self-compassion and maturity for future generations, stopping the transmission of trauma and pain in its tracks.
Meet the Author
Ready to reparent yourself?
Maggie is a therapist based out of Lawrence, Kansas who specializes in therapy for highly sensitive adults, therapy for self-esteem, therapy for anxiety, therapy for childhood trauma, and grief and bereavement counseling.
Maggie is passionate about helping people overcome shame and the fear of being their true selves. Breaking the cycles of people-pleasing and self-abandonment is possible; you don't have to suffer alone. Maggie offers online therapy throughout the state of Kansas.
Reach out today to schedule your free 15 minute phone consultation!
Other Services Offered by Maggie
In addition to providing online therapy anywhere in Kansas, Maggie is also a professional astrologer, and offers Birth Chart Readings anywhere in the United States, as well as abroad.
Astrology is a powerful tool for gaining self-awareness, finding meaning in and understanding of our difficult experiences, and for receiving validation regarding our own unique life path. All of which supports our mental health in a positive way!
Interested in getting a Natal Chart Reading? Book a free phone consultation and let’s get started!