Updated: May 16
“Sometimes our first and greatest dare is asking for support.” Brené Brown
What’s in this blog post?
If you’ve never tried to find a therapist to help you heal the mother wound then you probably wouldn’t have guessed how challenging this can be. Those who’ve tried 2, 3, hell now 8 different therapists will know exactly what I’m talking about. As it turns out, being a therapist and being able to help someone with the mother wound are unfortunately not always the same thing.
I suppose that’s true about everything in life. Your 7th grade science teacher who now rails against climate change in the Fox “News” comment section probably shouldn’t have been helping you science. And your retired high school principal who shares transphobic memes in his spare time probably shouldn’t have been around a school, period. I digress.
In this blog post I’m giving you all the tools you need to find that qualified, right-for you mental health pro who’s out there somewhere just waiting to help you. Okay, if “just waiting” means they don’t have other clients that’s probably a bad sign. But you get my point.
Let’s get started!
A quick note on the term “therapist”
So I typed “therapist” into an online thesaurus before sitting down to write out this blog post and here’s just some of what came up:
Got a fav? Not sure about you, but shrink is my new personal favorite. I’m thinking about a rebrand—The Mother Wound Shrink. Nice ring to it, don’t ya think?
Anywho, at the risk of offending a few of my colleagues, I’m just going to go ahead and make this easy for me and for you. Anytime you see the word “therapist” in this blog post just know I’m using it to mean any and all of these support professionals. If you already know you prefer to see a counselor? Go for it! More of the psychologist type? You do you!
If you’re thinking about reaching out to a therapist for help with healing your mother wound, chances are good these questions are already floating around up there in your head:
Where to meet: In-person sessions? Or video sessions? Or phone sessions? Or text sessions?
How to pay: Insurance, but share my personal data in exchange? Or private pay and keep it, well, private?
Social proof: Someone with an established online presence? Or someone more low-key and local?
Type of therapy: Individual therapy for just you? Or mother-adult child therapy for you and your mom? Or family therapy because, let’s be real, at this point the whole family’s involved?
Modality: Talk therapy? Or EMDR? Or Bowen? Or CBT? Or IFS? Or Family Systems? Or DBT? Or self-mothering?
Experience: A therapist who gets what you’re going through on a deep level because in addition to the training all therapists go through, they’ve also experienced the mother wound themselves and have successfully traveled through to the other side (i.e. training + lived experience)? Or a therapist whose knowledge about the mother wound stops at what they’ve learned from other people (i.e. training only)?
Worldview/identity: Can you be your real self with a therapist who wants Trump to run in 2024 (I sure as heck could not)? Do you prefer to work with someone who shares an identity with you (e.g. race, gender, Buddhist, also a parent, polyamorous, etc.)?
Ok, that was a lot. Totally hear you. But stick with me! Although it probably doesn’t feel like it, having all these questions running circles around in your grey matter is actually a good thing. A very good thing.
Here’s why: The better you know what you’re looking for in a therapist ahead of time the easier it will be to recognize them once you’ve found ‘em.
And it will save you gobs of time, money, and heartache (yes, crappy therapists absolutely can and do sometimes cause more pain than the pain you originally went to them for help with) in the long run. And who doesn’t want to save on all of those? More time to practice your human body pretzel is always a plus, right?
Why is this so damn hard?
Just like with relationships, sex, parenting, body image, and everything else, the mother wound complicates things. In fact, the universal law of the mother wound is, “Everything in your life is now 100 times more complicated.”
Talking about the challenges in starting therapy, therapist and best-selling author Faith Harper was right. Finding the right-fit-for-you therapist really is a whole lot like unicorn hunting.
But wait. It gets more complicated. Add the mother wound to the party, and the hunt gets exponentially more fun! Now you’re searching for the adorbs little unicorn flea that’s riding along somewhere on the unicorn. And yes, if you’re wondering, unicorn fleas absolutely do exist.
Unlike the unicorn flea, finding someone who can support you in your mother wound recovery work without getting stuck in their own unprocessed stuff around moms, motherhood, and what it means to mother is no small thing. You need someone who can steer clear of:
Getting lost in their own unaddressed mommy issues. Triggered therapist: “But my mom punished me like that, and I turned out fine!”
Feeling attacked about their own parenting. Guilty therapist: “But I do that as a mom! Are you saying I’m a bad therapist AND a bad mom?!"
Yeah, good times. Sorry to say, but the mother wound and countertransference go together like peas and carrots.
And no, I’m not making this up. If I had a dollar for every person who’s told me about when their old therapist got too lost in their own unhealed stuff around mothers and motherhood to help them, I’d never pay money for yarn or banana chips again.
And if you think about it, it makes sense. The chances that any given therapist either has a mother or is a mother themselves is pretty high. While I don’t have exact have numbers, I’m guessing well above 90% of therapists fit into this category.
Now compare that to something like say a specific phobia of unicorn fleas. Sure there’s a chance the mere mention of these little critters could push your therapist’s buttons, but the odds are low. I mean, there’s a chance she’s also phobic of unicorn fleas, but what are the chances?
Thankfully doing a bit of research on the front end will go a long way. That’s what we’re looking at next.
Where to look for a therapist
With a few exceptions, you can look for potential therapists to help you heal the mother wound pretty much anywhere these days. Yay! How’s that for a good reason to be alive right now?!
Your options for where to begin your search for potential therapists include but definitely aren’t limited to:
Asking friends or your mother wound peer-support group for recommendations: Who have they had good experiences with?
Scrolling through your own social media: Which therapists are you following right now because you already feel seen and validated by their content on the mother wound?
Googling “mother wound therapist” to see what comes up: Don’t reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to!
You’ll notice I’m talking about potential therapists in the plural, not the singular. “But I reeeeeeally like this one therapist. Is that not okay?” you ask. It’s totally not a bad thing to want to work with a certain therapist.
I just want to be upfront with you about the hurdles that can (but don’t always!) come along with that. These hurdles can include things like:
What if the therapist you want isn’t accepting new clients? Are you willing to hang out on a waitlist?
What if you want to pay with insurance, but your dream therapist only accepts private pay?
What if your ideal therapist lives in a different state (or country) and can’t work across state (or country) lines?
What if you love their social media and website, but when it comes to being face-to-face (or phone-to-phone or text-to-text or whatever) you just don’t vibe with them?
What if you start working with them only to find out their office is decorated in a way that reminds you of your mom and you just can’t get past it (true story about a past therapist from a client)?
I could go on, but I think you get the point. When you’re considering one potential therapist instead of say 9 potential therapists, it all just comes down to the math.
Like with anything else in life, the more options you have available to you, the higher your odds of success. If it’s at all possible, my recommendation is to aim for at least 3-4 potential therapists in case your first (or second) choice doesn’t work out. Of course, first and foremost, do what’s best for you.
Get your research groove on
Just like all your old high school friends have gone online by now (except for those exceptional weirdos such as myself), so too have the therapists. Now you can grab your phone or tablet and within a matter of seconds be gathering critical intel on a potential therapist’s social media.
And no, you’re not “being nosey.” You’re being informed. There’s a difference.
And you’re also helping the planet. Why drive all the way and pay for a full session just to scope out what’s on a potential’s bookshelf when you can learn about them right where they’re already putting stuff for the purposes of, you know, you learning about them?
Real quick note: Careful with the whole “bookshelf = who somebody is” thing, BTW. There are folks like me who have books we don’t agree with AT ALL on our shelves because we like to explore the ideas we don’t agree with, too. Not everyone burns all the books they don’t love. 😉
Just a few of the places you can go to scope out any and all potential therapists include, but certainly aren’t limited to:
Their blog (if they have one)
Their Facebook group (if they have one)
Their website (they should have one)
Questions for your research purposes
As you scout out potential therapists online, it’s helpful to ask yourself some predetermined key research questions along the way. It can help to keep track of your findings for each therapist you’re considering. You can do this using a good old fashioned notebook or the notes on your phone.
Your research questions will be unique to you, your unique situation, and what you’re looking for in a therapist. To give you some ideas, here’s some of the research questions I was asking back when I was where you are:
Does this therapist specialize in working with mother wound survivors? I didn’t want to work with a generalist for something as nuanced as the mother wound. I also wanted to be able to benefit from their experience working with many other mother wound survivors so I could ask things like, “How have your other clients handled this?”)
Does this therapist have lived experience with the mother wound instead of just second hand knowledge? (I knew I wanted to work with someone who knew he mother wound on a really deep level, so for me, it had to be a therapist who had not only read about the mother wound in books, but had actually sought recovery from their own mother wound. And it couldn’t be someone freshly bleeding, if you know what I mean. Shared lived experience doesn’t include therapisting your therapist.)
How does this therapist believe children should be parented? (The answer to this one tells me so much about what they think kid me deserved. I couldn’t help my inner child back then, but I sure can now. If a therapist is still out here in 2023 endorsing emotionally abusive parenting practices like “time out” and shaming, nooooo thank you.)
Does this therapist engage in faux positivity or spiritual bypassing? (Like a lot of other nonduality folks, this sh*t absolutely grinds my gears, and I have zero time for it. Thanks to Instagram and Pinterest I can now know if a therapist is into the “just think positive” mumbo jumbo without ever having to hear them say it to me. All I gotta do is quickly skim their pins and posts.)
Does this therapist talk about forgiveness? If they do, what are they saying about it? (I didn’t want to work with a therapist who would pressure thought their definition of forgiveness was the only definition of forgiveness. I have since forgiven my mom, but I didn’t want to be pressured into it prematurely.)
Other questions will of course be more nuts and bolts. So think things like, “Does this therapist meet with clients in the way that works for me?” And “Am I going to have to use insurance (bye bye, privacy), or will they accept private pay?” And “Which modality does does this therapist use?”
One they’ve passed this initial round of scrutiny, it’s time to advance your potential therapist(s) on to the big leagues. Nothing intense or super scary. I just like being dramatic.
The potential therapist big leagues
By this point you’ve found at least one potential therapist who’s very possibly The One. But as thorough as your research has been, you still need a bit more data because just like with scoping out that new hottie you’re considering dating, an online review can’t possibly answer every one of your questions.
This is where reaching out directly via email or phone and asking a potential therapist a couple of pointed questions comes in. I know it sounds like a lot. Hear me out though.
“But Stephi! Ask them questions?! That sounds soooo uncomfortable!”
I get it. I’ve done uncomfortable stuff, too. But here’s the thing: what I’ve learned is that sometimes the most important steps we need to take both in our mother wound recovery journeys and in life more broadly are the uncomfortable ones. And that’s okay.
As Pema Chödrön writes in her newest book Comfortable with Uncertainty, “Whoever got the idea that we could have pleasure without pain? It’s promoted rather widely in this world, and we buy it. But pain and pleasure go together; they are inseparable.” If your goal is to stay comfortable all the time then healing from any trauma is going to be impossible. And the amount of joy you get out of life is going to dulled, too.
But if you’re willing to be “uncomfortably comfortable,” as a client once said to me, I’m telling you it’s beyond worth it to ask your potential therapist some questions. And there’s no law saying you have to do this in-person or over the phone. If communicating via text sounds like a better fit for you, try sending your questions in an email or DM.
Questions to ask potential therapists directly
The specific questions you want to ask your potential therapists are going to be unique to you, but because many of you’ve been asking, here’s the 7 the questions I share with my members in The Porch:
“How did you first come to be interested in the mother wound?”
“Is mother wound recovery work your speciality? If not, what is?”
“How many years of clinical (i.e. hands-on rather than book-based) experience do you have supporting mother wound clients?”
“Have you done your own work of critically examining the impact of your relationship with your own mom? If not, why?”
“If you don’t have the mother wound yourself, do you have people in your personal life who do have the mother wound? If not, why?”
“Do you think every trauma survivor needs to forgive their abuser(s) to heal?”
How do you navigate the transference and countertransference that are inherent to mother wound client-therapist relationships?
You’ll notice I didn’t give “right” answers for these. It’s not because I got distracted by the newest season of Bridgerton.
I didn’t give you any answers to these questions because you’re going to need to decide which answers are right for YOU. Ask yourself, “What sort of responses do I want to hear from the therapist I eventually decide to hire and work with?” Trust yourself. You got this.
Are you someone who wants to take your mother wound healing journey to the next level? Come join the conversation, learn more about the mother wound, and receive compassionate support in our now 100% free private mother wound healing community over in The Porch. Interested in keeping up with the latest Mother Wound Project news? Follow us on Instagram.