This controversial book proposes that therapists work with parents in therapy rather than with the child. The authors argue that parent therapy is not only a useful alternative to individual child treatment, but is also more effective in helping the child. Parent therapy rests on a relational understanding of development. The point of entry for the treatment process is the parent-child relationship and is developed through maternal and paternal histories and projections. Parent therapy focuses on the parents' understanding of themselves, their relationship with each other and with their child. Therapeutic work with parents allows them to develop new insights into themselves and their child, preserve their autonomy and self-esteem, and effect permanent change. The therapist functions as a consultant to the parents similar to the way a supervisor functions as a consultant to a therapist. Just as therapists learn about their patients in working with a supervisor, parents learn to become more introspective, thoughtful, and knowledgeable about their own child. It would injure the patient-therapist relationship for the supervisor to work directly with the patient.
In the same way, the child is better served when the parents learn how to handle conflict and development themselves rather than having a therapist intervene with the parent-child relationship. Parent therapy addresses the parents' unconscious conflicts in an atmosphere of collaboration with the therapist and has a life-long effect.
Linda Jacobs is an associate professor at Long Island University where she teaches graduate students in the School Psychology Program. She has a private practice in New York City and has worked with parents and children and teachers in the school system for many years. Carol Wachs has a private practice in New York City. She has worked in the public mental health sector and also works in collaboration with physicians in New York.