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Mackenzie Phillips Reflects on Revealing Incestuous Relationship

Mackenzie Phillips arrives at the "7th Annual Experience, StrengMackenzie Phillips may have come from a famous family but she made a name for herself as an actress on shows like One Day at a Time but she was also well known for being the daughter of Mamas and the Papas musician, John Phillips.  It seemed like this successful young woman was a member of Hollywood royalty but seven years ago, revelations in her 2009 memoir, High on Arrival, shook that idyllic image to the core.

Shocking Allegations

In her tell-all book, Phillips claimed that she carried on a long-term incestuous relationship with her father. The 49-year-old said that, on the eve of her marriage to Rolling Stones entourage member, Jeff Sessler, she and her father had sex.

Of that night back in 1979, she wrote: “On the eve of my wedding, my father showed up, determined to stop it. I had tons of pills, and Dad had tons of everything too. Eventually I passed out on Dad’s bed.  My father was not a man with boundaries. He was full of love, and he was sick with drugs. I woke up that night from a blackout to find myself having sex with my own father. Had this happened before? I didn’t know. All I can say is it was the first time I was aware of it.”

Within a year, the 20-year-0ld lost her job on One Day at a Time due to her drug abuse and she says that, by then, her sexual relationship with her father had become consensual and would continue for a decade.  With her life spinning out of control, she went to rehab for the first time.

Reactions to Book

In a recent episode of Oprah: Where Are They Now?, Phillips admitted that she did not think of how others might react to her revelations. She explained: “I felt like I was sort of in abject terror. I felt like I was trying to climb up a cliff. I felt like I was trying to make you believe me … I was so frightened … I just felt like I was at such a deficit.”

“I felt like here I was with this huge piece of information that maybe wasn’t even fit for public consumption,” the actress admitted to Oprah. “I hadn’t done my due diligence. When I wrote the book I just thought, ‘I’m not gonna Google this, I’m not gonna Google that. I’m just going to tell my story as it happened to me.’ But then, in retrospect, there was some due diligence that I missed doing. Like preparing myself for losing my family.”

In hindsight, she says that, if she had to do it all over again, she “would have gotten them all together and prepared them better” for the allegations she was about to share with the world. She states that they already knew but continue to struggle to admit it.

Despite the fact that many of her family members reacted badly to what was written in the memoir, Phillips says that she has relied on the support of her mother, Susan Adams, her “beautiful ex-husband,” Shane Fontayne, and their son.

The Future

Today, Phillips works as a drug rehabilitation counselor and hopes that her experiences will help others come to term with their own painful pasts. She explains: “I come from a long line of undiagnosed mental illness, rampant addiction and alcoholism. So there’s the genetic component, right? And there’s the introduction to these types of behaviors at a very young age. You become desensitized to seeing all kinds of out of control behavior and inappropriate things at a very young age. And then you have this idea that in order to be an adult that this is a rite of passage.”

While we cannot comment on the truthfulness of her revelations, it does seem as though Mackenzie Phillips has lived through a lot in her life. Hopefully, she can bring that message of courage and the spirit of survival to the lives of those she works with every day.

Mackenzie Phillips Reflects on Revealing Incestuous Relationship

Jeanne Croteau

Jeanne has been a celebrity blogger for eight years and also teaches psychology at the college level. In addition to her passion for mental health, she is an avid reader, hockey fan and mother of four.

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APA Reference
Croteau, J. (2016). Mackenzie Phillips Reflects on Revealing Incestuous Relationship. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 29, 2020, from


Last updated: 12 Apr 2016
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