When you think of therapy, a stereotypical scenario comes to mind: A person lying on a dusty leather couch while some guy with a small notepad sits somewhere by their head, or perhaps across from them, jotting down insights as they speak, probably about their twisted relationship with their parents.
There’s some truth to this scenario (the couch does always seem to be leather, no?), and while talking about your childhood it isn’t the case for all therapy interactions, it is for reparenting.
Reparenting — also called ‘limited reparenting’ — is when a psychotherapist takes the role of a concerned and trustworthy parent so the client can learn what a trusting relationship is like.
“Reparenting helps an individual repair attachments and develop more secure and healthy relationships,” said Rachel O’Neill, an Ohio-licensed professional counselor and Talkspace therapist. “It can help an individual recognize and repair patterns of non-functional behavior.”
Reparenting is based on the belief that many psychological issues stem from a child growing up without his or her needs being met. The child is not made to feel secure and unconditionally loved, so they grow up to be an adult who can’t navigate relationships and life as well as they should.
The Three Aspects of Reparenting
Reparenting deals with three theoretical aspects of an individual. They are:
- Inner Child
The Adult is the individual today. The Inner Child is the childhood stage at which the individual was wronged. The Parent is a therapist (or an individual) who gives the right response the child should have received. Reparenting is going back to the stage in which the adult was wronged as a child, and satisfying or making peace with the inner child hidden inside. This is done by giving the satisfactory response and fulfilling the needs that were required at that time by self-counseling or therapy.
Forms of Reparenting
Over the years a number of reparenting forms have been tested, three of these include:
Developed by Jaqui Lee Schiff, this controversial form of reparenting was the first form of therapy derived from transactional analysis theory. Typically, the patient lives with the therapist for up to several years at an institution. During this time, the patient is totally immersed in the reliving of his or her childhood. The therapist provides all the care and nurturing with the goal of totally reforming the client’s parent ego state.
Spot reparenting was developed by Russell Osnes. It focuses more on patients traumatized by specific experiences and incidents rather than by general disturbances in childhood.
Unlike prior forms of reparenting, this form of reparenting by Muriel James does not attempt to totally replace the parent ego state of the client. Instead, the therapy confirms the positive aspects already apparent in the client’s ego. The client is also the primary agent in therapy instead of the therapist.
Self-Help Using Reparenting
“For true reparenting treatment, you would want to seek out a mental health professional who was trained in the approach,” O’Neill said. “There are, however, some self-help techniques that could be useful to implement on your own.”
Here are a few ways to reparent yourself with self-help techniques that nurture your inner child:
- Affirmations that start with “I am…” For example, “I am a loving human.”
- Talk to your Adult self and ask for help with grown up stuff.
- Give yourself daily rewards.
- Get at least 8 hours of sleep.
- Read literature and inspiring quotes.
- Write in your notebook a list of things to do on a daily basis.
- Stay in the present by practicing mindfulness.
- Think about good memories
How Do You Know if Reparenting Will Help You?
It must be noted that though reparenting is used in psychological treatments, its use is in no way limited to those with clinically diagnosed disorders.
“If you feel that there are issues from your childhood that are impacting your current life, it could be a good invitation to seek out a mental health professional who can assess whether the approach could be beneficial for you,” Rachel O’Neill said.
You can ask your doctor for a recommendation, access the employee assistance program at your work, or check out Talkspace for professional online therapy. Many university clinics or nonprofits also offer free or affordable counseling.
Who knows, maybe through reparenting you’ll find a trick or two for how to be a little kinder to yourself. Or maybe you’ll find that you understand the impact your childhood has had on your adult life, and you just needed someone to hear you say that out loud.