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My Mother, My Therapist

All my life I’ve wanted the perfect mother. Someone who has lots of time for me, understands my dilemmas, agrees with my viewpoints and is always there for me, warm and nurturing at all times. Then along came Coraline the Movie. Coraline, deeply neglected by her real parents, finds a wormhole in her new house, enters it and discovers the perfect parents in the shape of her other mother and her other father.

I also discovered my other mother, my perfect mother, through the gateway into the parallel universe also known as my therapist’s office, only she doesn’t call it a wormhole, she calls it a door.

She’s the one who nurtures me and keeps me warm and gives me the impression that I’m wonderful and fabulous. It’s easy to get carried away by a reverie about someone who looks perfect, acts perfect, gives insightful advice, smiles a lot and gives the impression she has her life under control.

This isn’t to say therapists are not being authentic. They are genuine – and armed with their university degrees, post graduate courses, professional development, books they’ve read, supervisors who’ve supervised, had peer supervision and using the sharpest tool they have been blessed with, their own personality, give the very best therapy they can.

But even though their personality clicks with yours doesn’t mean that therapy is suddenly a breeze because when that hour is up, you are out there in the real world again. When the wind blows cold and the freezing rain and sleet is howling a blizzard around your ears, where the only place you want to be is under your therapist’s warm wings again, it’s easy to see them as the perfect mother, rather like Coraline does at the beginning of the movie when she meets her doppelganger parents.

Therapists have their own issues, dysfunctional family members, health issues, idiosyncratic friends, money worries, aging concerns, aggravating partners and husbands, existential crises and sometimes their own narcissistic, borderline mothers. And it’s through this veil of what’s known as counter-transference (transference – but from the therapist’s point of view, where they displace emotions from people, sometimes their parents, sometimes their own children or siblings onto their clients) that they can operate. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; rather it’s an unconscious attempt from them to solve your problems through their heart and eyes. If you see them as a mother-figure, sometimes they can see you as a daughter-figure.

This is where the internalized therapist is the perfect substitute mother who is always on tap 24/7, this is the essence of therapy, what you absorb through their wisdom; this can provide you with all the ammunition necessary to fight through the fog of depression or the crazy mirrors and endless maze of anxiety from which it feels like there is no escape when you are not in your therapist’s office, which is of course, most of the time.

My internal therapist never lets me down. She’s the alter-ego, the silent partner of my real therapist, the one I turn to most of the time. I refill myself in her office and use that fuel to conquer the rest of the world.

Sort of like Coraline, who in the end has to turn to herself to solve her own problems.

Which she does, very well indeed.

My Mother, My Therapist

Sonia Neale

Sonia Neale was recently awarded the Inaugural Barbara Hocking SANE Australia Fellowship to study and research Borderline Personality Disorder overseas in the USA, Canada, UK and Ireland. Her previous Psych Central blog was called Therapy Unplugged. She is the author of two books, The Bad Mother’s Revenge and Death by Teenager, both published by ABC Books/Harper Collins. She lives in Western Australia, is married with three adult children, has studied psychoanalytic psychotherapy, has a Certificate IV in Mental Health and is studying for a Psychology/Counselling degree. She currently works as a peer support worker in the mental health field.

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APA Reference
Neale, S. (2009). My Mother, My Therapist. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 2, 2020, from


Last updated: 9 Aug 2009
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