NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Monday, January 4, 2016

Getting Help in Mother-Daughter Therapy

I've written previous articles about mother-daughter relationships, including: Mother-Daughter Relationships Over the Course of a LifetimeAmbivalence and Codependence in Mother-Daughter Relationships and Mother-Daughter Relationships: Letting Go of Resentment.

Getting Help in Mother-Daughter Therapy

There are times when mothers and adult daughters, who love each other and want to get along, find it too difficult to reconcile their relationship so they come to mother-daughter therapy in an effort to repair their relationship in sessions facilitated by an experienced psychotherapist.

If resentment has been building over time, it can be especially difficult for mothers and daughters to reconcile on their own.

Often, when they try to improve their relationship, they don't get anywhere because each person is entrenched in her own position.  This can lead to even more misunderstandings and hard feelings.

Let's take a look at a fictionalized scenario, which is a composite of many different cases and which illustrates how therapy can be helpful:

Betty and Jane
When Jane was a young child, she and her mother, Betty, were close, especially since Jane was an only child and her father was often away on business.

Their problems started around the time when Jane turned 15.  As a teenager, Jane wanted more autonomy to go out with friends, but Betty preferred that Jane invite her friends over the house rather than going out.  This caused friction between them, and Jane began to rebel by staying out past her curfew.

By the time Jane was in college, she rarely came home to visit her parents.  Jane's father, Bob, accepted that Jane was older now and she wanted her freedom, but Betty felt hurt and angry that Jane only called once every few weeks and only came home on holidays.  This increased the friction between them.

Jane moved back home briefly after she graduated college, but she felt that her mother was trying to control her even though she was now 21 and had already experienced the freedom of being away.  Betty's attitude was, "You're in my house so you need to obey my rules."

There were frequent arguments between Jane and Betty, and as soon as Jane earned enough money to share an apartment with friends, she moved out.

Their relationship continued to be strained throughout Jane's 20s.  Bob tried to be a mediator between them, but nothing he did worked.

After Betty had a health scare, which turned out to be a false alarm, both Betty and Jane regretted the rift between them.  They both wanted to improve their relationship, but they didn't know how to do it.

At that point, Betty's close friend, Pat, told Betty that she and her daughter attended mother-daughter therapy after a rough patch in their relationship and it helped them to reconcile longstanding issues. So, Betty spoke with Jane, who was willing to give it a try, and Betty set up a consultation.

During their therapy sessions together, Betty and Jane learned to listen and empathize with each other.  Betty realized that she was too strict when Jane was growing up and that she could have allowed her more independence as a teenager.  Jane realized that she had been impatient with her mother and, now that she was older, she could appreciate why her mother was so concerned about what could happen if Jane was out with friends.

The therapist gave Jane and Betty exercises to do between sessions where they each took turns expressing their feelings without interruption and then the "listener" had to repeat what she heard.  This involved developing active listening skills where the "listener" focused on what the "speaker" was saying without getting caught up with what she wanted to say to respond.

The "speaker" focused on using "I messages" where she took responsibility for her own feelings and didn't blame the "listener."

Aside from coming to sessions regularly and doing the between session assignments, one of the most important factors was that Jane and Betty were really motivated and, underneath the tension and conflict, they really loved each other and wanted to have a good relationship.

Getting Help in Mother-Daughter Therapy

By the time they completed therapy, they were getting along much better.  Even though they still had occasional arguments, which is common between any two people who are close, they were able to reconcile these arguments quickly without the resentment that they had before.

It's not unusual for mothers and daughters to have problems in their relationship.

Even when mothers and daughters want to reconcile their relationship, it's often hard to do on their own without help.

A licensed psychotherapist, who has experience helping mothers and daughters to overcome their problems, can facilitate this process.

Getting Help in Therapy
If some of the issues in this article resonate with you, you and your mother (or daughter) could benefit from getting help in mother-daughter therapy.

Rather than allowing resentment and bitterness to continue to grow, you can address your problems with a licensed mental health professional who can assist you to have a more fulfilling relationship.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individuals and couples.

I have helped mothers and daughters to work through their problems so that they could develop a healthy relationship.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.