“Will Going To Therapy With My Mom Help or Hurt?” Here’s What You Need To Know

Find out if you are a Good Daughter!

READ/WATCH/LISTEN

Worn out and exhausted from the endless back and forth, you are desperate for a 3rd party to help you navigate your relationship with Mom.

You ask yourself, “Will going to therapy with  my Mom help?”

You think-

 if she won’t listen to me, she will surely listen to an authority figure.

 She will open up to a professional whose job it is to help her, won’t she?

Makes sense… right?

And quite possibly- it will help. In the safety of a therapist’s office, you will feel free to open up, and Mom will drop her defensiveness.

(Just a reminder- I’m a therapist and believe in therapy’s effectiveness.)

Keep the following in mind when you are wondering, “will going to therapy with my mom help?”.

Here is my personal observation-

In my 30-plus years of counseling women with difficult mothers- most daughters come away disappointed and frustrated.

But, however it goes,  You CAN learn tons about your relationship that you can use. Information is always empowering- so stick with me. I will show you how.

Let’s start with the best-case scenario- When it goes well!

In cases where therapy has been helpful, the problems usually stem from a specific issue or set of issues- sexuality, familial expectations, or cultural or generational expectations that are changing and in flux.

Let’s say you have an otherwise good relationship, feel supported and understood, and you all have hit a pothole, a bump in the road. Mom could have a blind spot and is truly unaware of how she is coming across. Or you could be stuck in the child role and have not felt comfortable standing up for yourself.

  Bottom line-

When the relational foundation is good and strong, therapy can be an excellent venue for ironing out those differences and moving past them.

If everyone is genuinely open to feedback, you and Mom can have a good chance of untangling the issue in psychotherapy and getting back on a good footing.

If, however, Mom has a personality disorder or is high in traits of a disorder, the prognosis is much bleaker. Taking mom to therapy can backfire and backfire spectacularly.

Watch this video to see how this plays out-.

Will Going To Therapy With My Mom Help or Hurt ?

Transcript of video  

Speaker 1 (00:01):
I wanna talk about what happens when you take mom to therapy. So if all goes well, that’s wonderful, and of course, I’m a proponent of therapy, but for many reasons, it frequently backfires with difficult mothers. So especially if your difficult mother is high in narcissistic traits, one of probably three things will happen. Um, number one is she’ll refuse to go. That’s easy. Number two is she’ll go, and her defenses are so rigid that she can’t enter into the reflective, um, mutually trusting, hearing each other, integrating what the other person has to say, that kind of trustworthy back and forth. Her defenses won’t let her do that. So she may play, say, play the victim. She will feel victimized. She will, um, respond with defensive. I guess I do everything wrong, or you’re always finding fault with me. She’ll dissolve in tears. So you’ll feel like your mother bashing in it won’t get anywhere.

(01:20):
The other thing that she might do is use it as a platform to plead her case. So she’ll come in, you know, give it to you with both barrels, and she won’t get the point that the point is to listen to each other and listen to you and listen to the ways maybe she’s hurt you. Reflect on those, come up with a different plan, and empathize with you. No, she’s gonna go in, and it’s like there’s a judge and jury and she’s gonna plead her case. And more times than not, they come out and declare victory, having missed the point of therapy altogether. Um, the third thing that might happen is that she’ll say, oh, well, that, that was great. Um, and then she won’t follow through <laugh>, she’ll find some reason, money, time, um, she’s not interested. She can’t; she won’t be able, literally won’t be able to sustain the level of vulnerability and reflection that’s required to enter into a therapeutic relationship with both the therapist and with you. So if you try and you feel like, oh, good, she’s agreed to go to therapy, or if you’ve been estranged and mom says, oh, I’ll do anything, I’ll go to the let’s go to therapy together. Even when it’s her idea, look out for one of these three things to happen. If, however, she settles in and can use it, that’s a really good sign. And this, this can happen. But if it backfires, and

Speaker 2 (02:58):
From your perspective, if it fails, don’t take it as a total failure. It’s failed for a very good reason. It’s giving you data information about what she’s psychologically capable of. And if you can’t work it out with her, then it’s time to make some changes that don’t require her to give you permission or approval to make those changes. So there’s a way to move forward, and you can use the failure as data to help you.

(Will Going To Therapy With My Mom Help?)

What’s likely to happen if this is the case-

The hard-to-handle, defensive Mom will rarely, if ever, enter therapy truly open to getting help.

Because her entire MO (or defensive structure) at the core of her personality is deflecting blame and finding fault in other people, she will see therapy as a proving ground and must come out on top.

Anything less, she experiences as defeat.

That’s how she has survived (psychologically) so far. At least in her mind, that is…

So, IF, and that’s a big IF, she ever darkens the door of a therapist’s office, she will most likely do so with one of 2 objectives-

a) to prove she is the victim of your unfair attack

b) to prove the therapist wrong

If Mom is personality disordered, chances are… she will come out of the session declaring victory, say the therapist either sided with her or alternatively that the therapist is an idiot/doesn’t know what she is talking about.

In doing so, she will miss the point of therapy entirely. And you may be devasted- your last hope dashed. 

Sadly, if the defenses that make her difficult are that impenetrable, she can not enter into the kind of therapeutic relationship that it takes to change-

And what is that? You need to know-

For therapy to be effective, both parties must be willing to be vulnerable, transparent, and reflective.

That’s a pretty substantial premise. Not everyone enters therapy with that attitude or ability.

(Will Going To Therapy With My Mom Help?)

2nd case scenario-

Mom gets into therapy, but it doesn’t seem to be working. You don’t know if mom’s telling the truth or if the therapist is pushing her hard enough. You wonder if you should intervene.

Something to keep in mind-

Even if Mom gets into therapy, this doesn’t mean she will change. I know that’s a tough pill to swallow- but it’s true.

In this video, I explain how your mother’s therapist has only as much leverage as your mother gives her.

 

Transcript of video

A follower wrote a question that is so understandable. She says, and I paraphrase, mom is in therapy, but I’m not sure it’s doing her any good. In fact, I don’t even know how often she goes, and I wanna suggest to her maybe find another therapist. You know, what, what should I do? How should I address this? Well, I think the first thing to know is that when we’re talking about narcissistic, borderline histrionic personality, disordered moms, for someone to change their personality, it’s in-depth, really, really difficult work and work that most people don’t wanna do. So let me bring you into the therapy room with mom. And from the therapist’s perspective, the first thing that she’ll try needs to do is to establish an alliance. So to establish a rapport with mom, maybe not confirm mom’s suspicions or her misguided ideas, but mom needs to feel like the therapist is at least somewhat on her side. Then the therapist will look for a crack in the door, some way that mom’s upset, or the way that she’s relating is not working for her. And then, over time, and as she builds that alliance, she may be able to challenge mom’s defenses. I hope you can hear how hard this is, and how unlikely this is to quote-unquote work. What, how much, how much time, expenses, all kinds of resources, and most of all, willingness to be vulnerable on your mom’s part.
(01:48):

So in defense of the therapist, she could have a good therapist, but the mom is, or your mom is just impenetrable. The walls are just too solid. So what she may be doing is supportive therapy. I don’t know, and they’re all kinds of therapies out there, and a lot of them are very superficial in my estimation. So the only thing that’s going to change mom’s personality is in-depth psychodynamic, which means at least once a week, probably twice a week, and we’re talking years. So I wouldn’t look for anything to change quickly. Now, if there’ve just been some misunderstandings and people need to air their grievances and mom gets a little support. She can see things from your perspective with that support and perspective, another person, a therapist, you know, then differences can be ironed out. But these are two, and these are two different kettle fish, whole other kettle of fish here when we’re talking about, um, moms who,

Speaker 2 (02:58):
Who have been abusive, and there’s been relational trauma. So what to do, the thing that I would recommend is that you get very, very clear if you wanna be in contact with mom, you get very, very clear about not really your criteria, but what you want to go differently. Say if, if mom insults you or gives you unwanted advice, you could say, mom, your inability to keep from insulting me or criticizing me is really gonna limit our, the real kind of relationship we can have and how much time I’m gonna be willing to spend with you. Now you see the confidence in that statement. So it’s really up to her. Whether or not she accesses therapy is another thing. What she does with that is her business. It may be an overreach, although entirely understandable. I’ll get you to think, mom, you go to therapy, you know, the therapist is gonna call you out on your messed upness and fix it.

(04:07):
It’s just not gonna work that way. Plus, it puts you in a bad position of, having to wonder and evaluate how’s the therapy going. And you’re really, there’s no way for you to know, not really, but we can evaluate and decide for yourself is how it’s going, what you’re seeing from mom, not that you’re evaluating her. Still, if you have certain ideas that you don’t want her to be abusive, that’s perfectly reasonable. So, as I said, if you say, mom, I want to spend more time with you. If I can tell you, oh, that’s private, that’s off limits, I don’t wanna talk about that, and you’ll back off. I mean, that’s just a example. And then it’s up to mom to figure out how she can get there. So she picks the therapist, and she ups the time that she spends in therapy if she’s motivated. But I am gonna tell you, many daughters spend time waiting for mom to change. And the, um, probability of her changing, she has a personality disorder, is very, very low. So don’t win around, and I hope these tips are helpful.

 

In a nutshell- personality-disordered mothers rarely change, and if they do, it takes a very long time.

It isn’t hopeless, but I wouldn’t put my life on hold waiting for Mom to change.

Okay, okay, I’ll bet you are feeling pretty bummed. But stay with me here- all is not lost. You are an adult, and as such, you have choices. Never lose sight of that.

 The good news is that no matter how it goes, you can learn something important.

So important; it can change your life if you let it.

Stepping up as an adult instead of the Good Daughter, you can accept that Mom may not have the interpersonal skills to meet you halfway.

And while this is sad and disappointing, when you can face the truth, you can stop wasting your time hoping Mom will change.

Whatever happens- this is data. Data you need as an adult daughter. Data you can use. Not against Mom, but for you.

So when asking, ” Should I take Mom to therapy”? Remember, whatever the outcome, you can benefit from an informed, thoughtful and empowered approach.

You can make the changes you need to take control and live the life you were born to live.

You can do it. I can help you.

If you’d rather listen to the article

 

Do you relate?

Discover – if you have The Good Daughter Syndrome Take the Quiz (It’s Free)

Related Articles

Comments

4 Comments

  1. Christina W

    I am astounded at how accurately these Mother/Daughter dysfunctional dynamics are described in this book! This has been a literal sanity-saver!! Thank you!!! As I am working my way through the book, a persistant question remains through my situation… are the recommendations still entirely applicable; if Mom actually lives with me? Or is there a slightly different approach suggested, in this instance?

    Reply
    • Katherine Fabrizio

      Hi Chrisitina,
      I am so glad you are finding resonance with my book- The Good Daughter Syndrome. I think having lived this particular story personally had given me a front row seat to how it has played out.
      You ask a good question. Let me see if I can answer.

      The dynamics I write about are at the heart of the book. All the recommendations follow from an in-depth understanding of those dynamics. So yes, whether or not you mother is living with you or has passed- the heart of the book’s message is applicable.

      Having said that, some things like sample scripts might be altered when your mother lives with you. Although many of them still apply.
      Thinking out-loud here, I’m not sure of a scenario where they wouldn’t apply. If you can give me a “for instance” I might be able to answer in more detail.

      Take care,
      Katherine

      Reply
      • Christina W

        To be fair, not having finished your book yet, I imagine things may become clearer to me as I do.
        In the meantime, here is my “for-instance.”

        In this process, I am beginning to visualize and anticipate Mom’s push-back against my new ways of relating with her. She lives with my husband and me, in a 1200sq ft condo. As such, I don’t have the liberty of hanging up the phone or the autonomy in leaving her place and finding sanctuary back at mine.

        Interactions with me (she chooses to not relate much with him) are strained, at best, because she is inherently disagreeable, oppositional, and argumentative. My leaving the house without her stamp-of-approval, has been inciting WW3. Additionally, whenever I do need to leave (for whatever reason) she passive-aggressively asks that she go with me to ‘keep me company’. Or else she labels herself as ‘too much of a burden’, or ‘not part of the family’ (all her words, despite my countless reassurances, of course).

        Considering the depth of dysfunction (not only between her and I, but inside her), I’m sure it is no surprise that the resulting lifetime of consequences, brings really no other option, but for her to live with us. And I absolutely KNOW I am not the only one trying to fly in this new-found freedom, while essentially wearing the heavy Caregiver-Cape. (It should be mentioned here, that her limitations are primarily not of a physical nature.) Looking at this in a positive light: this living situation may provide me with more ‘opportunities to practice’, where as some ladies, I imagine, may have only infrequent chances; such as holiday gatherings.

        With your help, I am beginning to recognize the unhealthy patterns of the dysfunction. Considering the physical lack of immediate personal space to heal (with her living alongside us), should there be some sort-of layered approach to my quest for individuation? Or is it best (for both her and I, and hubs too!) to take a courageous leap and trust that the process of learning to fly (not physical proximity), will provide the space needed to facilitate healing?

        Waiting patiently as my wings get stronger.

        Thank you SO MUCH for your absolute life-saving help!
        Christina W

        Reply
        • Katherine Fabrizio

          Hi Christina,
          This is a tough one – but not impossible. One difficult component is that all of this recovery takes time and works in stages. With the realization comes anger, then grief for all that you have lost out on… and on and on. Thus the solution is going to take time.

          You have mentioned reassuring her- which of course never does the job. It only gives her more power over you. Could you make the decision not to try and reassure her but to state what you are doing and follow through regardless of her reaction?

          I know this will feel counter-intuitive, but these are the kinds of changes that will bring the freedom you want.

          It is hard to overstate how deeply ingrained the patterns are-both her exploitation and your understandable adaptations to an upside down a relationship.

          And, like you say you can’t retreat to your own space -which makes the push-back you will inevitably get… more difficult to manage logistically.

          The main thing here is – don’t bite off more than you can chew- or manage.

          As I spelled out in my course- Practical Strategies, you are better off setting a small boundary and bracing for the pushback than laying down to law all at once. Do what you can handle and level up from there.

          At the heart of it.. she has to know that you mean business. Otherwise, she will keep on undermining your efforts.

          I hope this is helpful.

          If would mean a great deal to me if you would give a rating on Amazon.

          This won’t be easy but good steady progress will add up.
          I wish you all the best,
          Katherine

          Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *