Why your therapist and your stuff with your mom don't always get along
When you've been hurt by your mom and you're trying to make sense of it all in therapy, the last thing you need is a therapist who waits until your 8th session to say, "I'm a mom so I can tell you all moms really are trying our best. I think you're being way too hard on your mom."
Yes, that a true story.
Finding a qualified therapist who can help you with your valid pain from your mom can be surprisingly challenging.
A therapist whose willing to bill your insurance company so they can get paid? Easy.
A knowledgeable therapist whose done their own work on the mother wound before you sat on their couch? Not so much.
When we look at the numbers, you are actually more likely to get bad "help" from a therapist than you are to get good help when it comes to your mother wound.
Unfortunately, the single most impactful relationship you will ever have - your relationship with the person who brought you into the world - is also one of the hardest to find skilled support in.
"I used to assume every therapist knew how to help with the mother wound, but that makes as much sense as assuming every teacher is knowledgeable in every subject."
"This time I made sure my new therapist was knowledgeable about the mother wound by checking her website and her social media. It was worth it because I'm healing so much with her!"
Asha, Denver, CO
"I wish I would have known sooner that it's actually not okay for a therapist to say, "I'm sure your mom loves you in her own way," or "All moms try their best," or "Have you tried forgiving your mom?" It would have saved me a lot of heartache."
Caitlin, New Zealand
Why finding good therapy is so hard
The reasons for this are super complex, but we'll get into it briefly for you here.
Then we'll give you five simple steps you can take to make sure the support you're getting from a therapist for your mother wound is the good, actually helpful kind.
About now you might be asking, "Finding a therapist who is qualified to help with the mother wound is hard? Why?" These questions are excellent, and we are answering them here for you.
"Finding a therapist who is qualified to help with the mother wound is hard?"
Sadly, the answer is yes.
We recently conducted research about the experience of therapy from the perspective of mother wound survivors living all around the world, and the results? Well, they aren't pretty.
Here are just some of our findings:
7/10 reported being told by a therapist that their mom loves them in her own way.
63% reported being told by a therapist that forgiving their mom was something they needed to do.
More than half reported firing one or more therapists due to offensive statements made about their perception of and/or feelings about their mom and how she treated them.
"Why is finding a therapist who is qualified to help with the mother wound hard?"
It's hard for several complex reasons, but there is a short-and-to-the-point version. Here it is:
Unconscious bias (also known as implicit bias) about moms is negatively impacting the care therapists provide mother wound clients.
This bias is simultaneously going unchecked by both academic training programs and licensure boards alike.
Many like to believe therapists can somehow be unbiased in their work with their clients.
Any honest therapist will tell you though that this is just not how the therapeutic process works, much less the everyday realities of being a human.
A therapist cannot be entirely free of bias, but they can and should be working to process and manage their personal biases.
Remember, therapists are human just like you are.
Bias: Prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another, usually in a way that's considered to be unfair.
Implicit bias is something we all have to one degree or another. While it has nothing to do with how good or bad we are, it does have to do with how the human brain is wired in combination with all the messages we have encountered over the years.
Food for thought: If your mom wasn't right about every message she ever taught you, how likely is it that your therapist was raised by a mom who was?
Here's some really good news: Implicit bias is not static!
In fact, it actually turns out that there's a whole lot you can do to challenge and actually deconstruct your own implicit biases for the better. And that means your therapist can, too.
To read more about implicit bias and why everyone has it, check out these helpful sources:
"After five therapists in eight years weren't helpful with my mom, I was ready to give up. Then I found the therapist that changed my whole life. She's in recovery from her own mother wound, so she really got what I was going through. I healed in just five months of working with her to the point where I no longer need therapy at all."
"When I learned therapists can have bias that causes them to prioritize the abusive mothers of their clients, I admit I was super skeptical. I naively thought they all knew not to do that from their training. But when I read more about it, I realized this bias is actually a very real thing because we live in a society that pretends all mothers naturally know how to love their children. Much like racism and sexism, the work of unpacking this bias requires effort that goes beyond reading books or attending lectures."
5 simple things you can do to find a therapist who can actually help you
Whether you currently have a therapist or you are thinking about finding one, here's our list of five simple things you can do right now to know if that therapist is Mother Wound Aware™.
Not all moms know how to be moms just like not all therapists know how to support you about your mom.
Quick note: Please keep in mind that nothing can guarantee a good therapeutic experience. As with any therapeutic relationship, it's important to pay attention to how you are feeling, to bring any concerns to your therapist (assuming you feel able to do so), and to keep in mind that you are within your rights to seek out alternative support should your current support not be helpful to you.
1. Ask them how they define the mother wound.
How a therapist defines the mother wound is important, as it will inform their work with you.
While you don't need to look for a word-for-word match, a qualified therapist will be able to:
Express an understanding that the mother wound is not limited only to pain/abuse/trauma that qualifies as illegal child abuse
Explain that it includes *all* the pain someone carries from how their mom has treated them.
2. Ask them what role they believe forgiveness plays in healing the mother wound.
If a therapist tells you they believe forgiving the other person is a must when it comes to healing the mother wound (or anything else), our best recommendation for you is to run.
It's not trauma-informed much less Mother Wound Aware™ for a therapist to perpetuate the idea that everyone needs to forgive if they want to heal from how their mom has treated them.
This is false, and it also qualifies as a form of victim blaming.
If you are someone who thinks forgiveness is helpful for your own healing, that's completely valid, and we fully support you in that. Other Mother Wound Aware™ providers will support you in this, too.
Just like it should not be said that forgiving the other person is something everyone should do, it also should not be said that it's something no one should do.
What we are cautioning about here is not the personal choice to forgive, but the surprising number of therapists who pressure clients to forgive their moms.
3. Look for posts about the mother wound on their social media.
Many therapists are active on social media these days.
This is a really great way to learn even more about them and their areas of expertise, as well as their approach.
In fact, it's very common for people to observe therapists on social media before reaching out to schedule the first session.
Some people are content to read at least one detailed post about the mother wound on a therapists social media. Others want to work only with therapists who demonstrate a consistent interest in the mother wound by posting about it regularly.
Lola, an MWP Member living in San Diego, recently said, "I wouldn't go to a stylist to color my hair who out of hundreds of posts only had one or two about coloring hair. So why would I go to a therapist who only posted once or twice about the mother wound to help me with my mother wound?"
4. Look for the mother wound as a listed area of speciality on their website.
You might have already known to look on their website, but just in case you didn't, we wanted to make sure to include this one, too.
If a therapist has included the mother wound as an area of specialty on their website and better yet discussed it in an article or blog, this is a shiny green flag.
You'll still want to do more research of course (like ask them some of the questions we included here in this list), but this is definitely a really great place to start.
5. Ask them what they are doing to unpack their implicit bias about mothers if they do not identify as someone who has lived experience with the mother wound.
This one is particularly important.
Like we talked about earlier, when it comes to mothers and mother-child relationships, even the best therapists bring some level of implicit bias to their work.
As a paying client, you have the right to know about a therapist's implicit biases, as these will directly impact their work with you.
If your therapist is in recovery from their own mother wound, they will already understand that moms should not be given priority over their children, that not all moms love their children, and that a mom's intentions are not as important as her actual impact.
They will also deeply understand the stigma you're facing right now about people who feel hurt by their moms. That stigma is part of the implicit bias about moms that we talked about earlier.
If you cannot find a therapist who can bring such awareness to their work with you, you might consider working with a therapist who has studied the realities of living with and healing the mother wound while also exploring their own conditioned implicit biases about moms.
Here at the Mother Wound Project we are very fortunate to work with many skilled therapists each year who consult with us to become Mother Wound Aware™. Their clients are experiencing really powerful, life-changing healing and finding their joy again.