The Child's Psychological Use of the Parent
On Saturday, October 24, 2015, I presented a 3-hour parenting workshop at the Center for Discovery, an intensive outpatient program that offers therapeutic services for a range of populations with diverse psychiatric and psychosocial problems.  My talk, entitled
is now available for your review. 

In this talk, I emphasize the challenges both parents and teens face as the adolescent begins to separate and move toward individuation and autonomy.  The talk emphasizes numerous sociocultural dynamics (e.g., social media, the sexualization of children, economic factors associated with "failure to launch," and the erosion of interpersonal/relational experience) and parent-child/family factors (e.g., boundary diffusions, enabling, uneven brain development and pruning, and narcissistic problems) that may obstruct the child's capacity for emotional and psychological autonomy.  In the context of these challenges, I offer parents a "roadmap" for how to think about and execute their major parental function.  In my view, this parental function consists of containing the child's defensive processes so that the parent can identify and capitalize on opportunities to promote the child's ability to self-reflect, tolerate his/her emerging identity, and use emotional experience to build an interior life.  In order to showcase these ideas, I discuss a transcription of an actual clinical interaction between a teenager named "Samantha" and her parents, a family I once worked with, which is also available for your review. 

Finally, I have developed  "The Dynamics of Process and Content in Parent-Teen Communication: A Coding System," also available for your review.  This manual was developed to help parents identify the breakdowns in their relationship with their children and how to overcome them.  The manual contains an exercise designed to identity the unique dynamics of each parent-child relationship that may impede the child's growth, capacity to separate, and movement toward psychological and emotional autonomy.  The exercise includes a dialogue between parent and child that is audiotaped; once a transcription from the audiotape is generated, the interaction can be coded using the 18 content themes I have developed.  Once codes are obtained, I am able to identify for parents the content of sequences of interactions between them and their children that lead to conflict, impasse or stonewalling. Drawing from the knowledge gained in this exercise, parents will be better equipped to dis-embed themselves from negative relational dynamics with their kids and re-orient their efforts in ways that are more productive. 

For more information on the Coding System, please don't hesitate to contact me at or 949-338-4388.  Soon, I am hoping to launch a webinar series that elaborates on the ideas presented in "The Child's Psychological Use of the Parent: A Workshop" and the Coding System.

James Tobin, Ph.D.
James Tobin, Ph.D., PSY 22074 | 949-338-4388 | 
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