Family Therapy and Resistant Parents: The Child Cannot Wait

Family Therapy and Resistant Parents: The Child Cannot Wait

by Leon Rosenberg

When do we shift from trying to work within the parent-child relationship to seeing the child as a separate entity needing to cope with a destructive parent?
Many of us have experienced the complexity of a child therapy case in which the parents are not amenable to change. If the parents are resistant, the pathological parent-child relationship is highly unlikely to improve. In my own practice, I have found this to be an issue particularly with children who have been neglected and abused, but it arises in many of my child and adolescent cases, regardless of the presenting problem.
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Leon RosenbergLeon Rosenberg is a clinical psychologist, and a Professor Emeritus on the faculty of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. For 38 years he was full-time member of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and provided individual and family therapy involving children from early childhood through adolescence. He supervised the child psychiatry residents, psychologists, social workers, and counselors in the Division's community programs. Until he retired in 2000 he was also the Director of their Community Mental Health Program. Since retiring from his full-time position, he has served as a consultant to the Division of Child Psychiatry's School-Based program where Hopkins counselors are assigned to Baltimore public schools. In that role he continues to supervise therapists in their work with children and their families.
Thank you. I am an early childhood educator doing a research on pre-school children from single parent families, and this is very helpful in understanding family situations.
Thank you for this great article. I'm an MFT Intern in community mental health for children. The hardest part is getting the parents to see their role in the client's therapy. So often I invite and encourage the parent to meet with me separately and/or participate in family therapy, and so often the response is "He's the one wit the problem...he's the one that needs therapy." In my experience, the children are easy, it's the parents that are difficult and often the direct cause of the symptoms. Your article provides a great approach when all other approaches seem to have failed.
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CE credits: 1
Learning objectives:

  • Identify when and how to shift between individual child therapy and family therapy.
  • Help child and adolescent clients cope with parental rejection when their parents are unable or unwilling to participate in family therapy.
  • Support children in learning how to meet their dependency needs without relying on emotionally dysfunctional parents.
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