Are we really just going to talk about my mother?

Welcome to the blog of Roya Dedeaux, Marriage and Family Therapist. You are reading one of the posts in my “Shrinking the Stigma” series – where I will answer questions people have about the logistics and process of therapy. Because of its confidential nature, we tend to shroud the therapy process in so much mystery! My blog attempts to dispel that mystery and make it easier for you to use it as the wonderful resource it can be. Check out the other blog posts at royadedeaux.com

“Are we really just going to talk about my mother?”

No. Yes. No. Maybe. Sometimes.

Helpful?

So we all know that therapy cliché, where the patient lies down on the couch and regales the therapist with tales of how their mother’s peculiar behavior turned them into the therapy-seeking-individual they are today. “Tell me about your mother” is eye-roll worthy as far as cliché statements go. It has its roots in the origins of psychotherapy theory, where therapists truly believed that all atypical behavior stemmed from too much, not enough, or the wrong kind of love from your mother. Women got a bad rap in therapy and mothers were blamed for everything.

Fast forward to 2016. In my office there are two couches, but my clients have yet to lie down on one. I have, however, been known to ask about my client’s mothers. Because here’s the deal – whether you got along with your mother, adore her, hate her, or have never met her – you have been impacted by her. We come from somewhere, we always come from somewhere. As your therapist it’s my job to go on that exploration with you. Together we walk through the stories that make up your life, the stories that make up your parents lives, and yes, even the stories that make up your grandparents lives. We wander through the generations trying to make sense of where we came from. We all come from somewhere.

That somewhere gets translated into your behaviors, thoughts, actions, beliefs, worries, and all that you are. You might be determined to do things differently, or exactly the same – each is worth exploring. It’s not all about your mother – I’m just as likely to say, “so, tell me about your father.” As Dar Williams sings, “When I hit a rut, she says to try the other parent.” In fact, we’ve now shown through scientific studies that trauma gets passed down through entire generations. This is huge news for therapists, validating what we have known for a long time – if you dig deep enough, you’ll find explanations for everything. We react consciously and unconsciously to patterns of our parents, grandparents, and great parents through what is called the “multi-generational transmission process.” Many therapists will ask you to create a therapeutic family tree (known as a genogram) to unearth patterns and highlight similarities/differences across your whole family history. It’s useful and enlightening to see where you fit in that web.

Depending on your life and why you sought therapy, you may spend very little time talking about your parents. You might be working with a therapist that is more future or solution focused, or you might not care so much about the “why” and want to work more on the behaviors you’d like to change. You might talk about your kids, coworkers, favorite TV shows, traffic, your dog, your nightmares, or your rare coin collection. All of this has its place in therapy. In my private practice I do tend towards the idea that it’s easier to change behaviors or mentalities that are not working for you anymore if you understand where they came from, and more often than not – telling me about your mother helps paint some of that picture.

“What if I don’t like my therapist? How do I find a good one?” Look for answers to these questions and more in other blog posts here at royadedeaux.com!

Roya Dedeaux is a Marriage and Family Therapist with a private practice in Los Alamitos, California. She works with children, teens, adults, families and couples to help everyone express themselves better and lead more congruent lives. She specializes in working with individuals who feel like they don’t quite “fit the mold,” and helping them reduce the barriers to accomplishing their goals. To make an intake appointment, call (657)464-ROYA or email royadedeaux@gmail.com.

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