How To Heal Past Traumas With Reparenting Therapy

Medically reviewed by Nikki Ciletti
Updated February 19, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Many people have negative experiences from their childhood that they wish they could go back and change. While we can’t go back in time and change the past, certain types of therapy may allow you to adjust how your past is impacting you in the present, thus healing from those childhood wounds. One such type of therapy is called reparenting. This therapeutic treatment involves providing yourself with the type of parenting your own parents were unable to give you in childhood. 

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With reparenting, individuals can learn healthier ways of relating to themselves and others. They might consider the emotional scars left behind by inadequate or even harmful parenting and respond by giving themselves the love and support they may have missed out on earlier in life. This article reveals more about reparenting and how it can be used to heal past traumas.

Understanding the inner child

The concept of the inner child implies that individuals can carry their childhood experiences and emotions into adulthood. The inner child refers to the version of yourself that you once were as a child and the emotions, beliefs, and experiences you had then. Childhood traumas such as emotional and physical neglect, for instance, can create a wounded inner child who continues to seek validation, love, and safeguarding from others. Unresolved emotions can affect different parts of adult life, including relationships and important decisions. This idea of the inner child can be useful for better understanding the purpose and aim of reparenting. 

What is reparenting therapy?

Reparenting is a therapeutic approach that involves an individual providing for themselves the type of parenting that their own parents did not provide for them. It may help address mental health concerns that stem from unmet childhood needs or inadequate parenting. Some forms of reparenting are controversial.

One of the key theories behind reparenting in therapy is transactional analysis. This theory suggests that internal communication between the different aspects of an individual's personality can affect their mental health. Therapists and clients can analyze these dynamics and work together to create healthier communication patterns within the individual. 

Limited reparenting is also a key part of schema therapy. In schema therapy, limited reparenting hinges on the idea that an individual’s emotional needs were not met by their parents in childhood. To address this, the therapist can try to meet these needs, while maintaining appropriate boundaries.  

In reparenting, therapists may take on the role of a supportive and caring figure. In this role, they can help clients relive and process past experiences that were traumatic or harmful while building secure attachments and trust in relationships. Through this approach, individuals are given the opportunity to heal unresolved emotional wounds and fulfill unmet needs from their past.

Some techniques and practices commonly used in reparenting therapy include:

  • Inner child work: Identifying and exploring the thoughts, feelings, and needs of the individual's inner child, promoting self-compassion and understanding
  • Mindfulness: Practicing focused, nonjudgmental awareness of the present moment, bringing attention to emotions and bodily sensations
  • Rewards and affirmations: Encouraging positive behavior and self-worth by celebrating successes, accomplishments, and efforts with verbal praise or tangible rewards
  • Communication skills development: Using exercises and role-playing to improve the individual's capacity for empathetic and effective communication

Reparenting can be a tool in coping with past traumas and improving mental health. It can help individuals grow and thrive as they create healthier communication patterns and stronger relationships.

Types of reparenting therapy

There are several forms of reparenting therapy, each with different methods and goals. Below are some of the most widely known forms of reparenting therapy. 

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Self-reparenting

Self-reparenting is a type of reparenting therapy in which individuals take on the responsibility of nurturing and caring for their own inner child. This process involves recognizing the unmet needs from childhood and working to fulfill them in a healthy way. It might also encourage the client to focus on some of the positive aspects of the situation.

Spot reparenting

Spot reparenting is a form of therapy that focuses on specific traumas and events from a person's past. Developed by Russell Osnes, this method can be less time-intensive than regression therapy and may focus on targeted issues rather than general childhood problems. Spot reparenting may be helpful for those who have experienced complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) or other trauma-related conditions.

Total regression reparenting

Total regression reparenting is a more controversial form of therapy pioneered by Jaqui Lee Schiff. Using this method, the person goes back to acting like their childhood self, and the therapist takes on a parental role to help them heal from difficult childhood experiences. This therapy might include techniques like bottle feeding or using lap pillows. Because of ethical concerns, controversies, and possible risks, total regression reparenting is not widely practiced today.

Who is reparenting therapy for?

Reparenting therapy may be a useful form of therapy for many people, but it may be especially suitable for those who have experienced trauma, neglect, or a lack of affection in their younger years. Some groups of people who might benefit most from reparenting therapy include:

People with childhood trauma

Reparenting therapy can be particularly helpful for individuals who have gone through specific traumatic events or ongoing challenges in their childhood. These situations could involve physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, for instance, or coping with a parent's addiction or mental illness. By undergoing reparenting therapy, these individuals can work on healing their emotional wounds and develop healthier ways to cope with past traumas.

Those with unmet emotional needs

Unmet emotional needs may be another common reason people seek reparenting therapy. Some might feel that their parents didn't give them the necessary affection, security, or compassion during their upbringing, which may have led to a sense of emotional deprivation. Through reparenting therapy, individuals can learn to better understand and care for their emotional needs.

Individuals seeking personal growth

Aside from healing from childhood trauma, reparenting therapy can also benefit those looking for personal growth. The reparenting process may allow individuals to discover their unique strengths, develop a healthier self-image, and build stronger relationships with themselves and others. With this type of therapy, people can overcome self-limiting beliefs or habits and transform their mindset. 

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Getting started with reparenting therapy

Starting reparenting therapy can often involve several steps and practices, which can be followed independently or with a therapist’s guidance:

  • Journaling and reflection: Journaling can be an important first step in reparenting therapy. It can help you identify your thoughts and emotions, process painful experiences, and understand how they have affected your life. 
  • Focus on positive aspects: During reparenting therapy, you might choose to concentrate on the positive aspects of your life and experiences. This might include acknowledging strengths, celebrating accomplishments, and recognizing areas for improvement. Recognizing and reinforcing positive aspects of yourself may help boost self-esteem and help promote healthy relationships.
  • Practicing meditation: Adding meditation into your daily routine may complement your efforts in reparenting therapy. Meditation may help manage stress and promote self-awareness. It may also help you to connect with your inner child, which may lead to improved self-compassion and healing.

To get started with reparenting therapy, consider seeking guidance from a licensed therapist who specializes in this approach. 

How online therapy can help

A mental health professional, such as a licensed therapist or counselor, can help guide the reparenting process to encourage emotional control and heal past traumas. Finding a therapist who specializes in reparenting therapy might require some research, but there are online resources that can make the process easier. For example, platforms like BetterHelp can connect individuals with certified mental health professionals experienced in working with individuals with similar concerns and needs. This online platform can pair clients with therapists who may be an appropriate match for their individual situations. 

A growing body of research has demonstrated the effectiveness of online therapy for a range of conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). One such study conducted a randomized controlled trial to evaluate the effectiveness of an internet-based therapy program for PTSD. It found that after receiving the online treatment, individuals in the treatment group experienced significant improvements in PTSD severity and other symptoms as well as a more significant reduction in levels of depression and anxiety.

Takeaway

Reparenting is a type of therapy that can help adults manage unmet needs from their childhood and heal the wounds of their inner child. This therapy may involve learning healthy ways of being with themselves and others while unlearning unhelpful behaviors. It is often conducted with a licensed therapist, but some practices can be done independently. 

One of the common goals of reparenting therapy is to provide the emotional support that individuals may have lacked during their childhood. Through reparenting, individuals can focus on resolving specific traumas or events to build a deeper sense of self-awareness and a greater feeling of satisfaction in their lives. For further support with these and similar concerns, consider online therapy. Reach out to BetterHelp today to get matched with a therapist who specializes in reparenting therapy.

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