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Adult Child's Abusive Relationship - How to Support Your Child's Psychotherapeutic Growth and Behavior Change

domestic violence consulting expert


By Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D.


Parents are often the instruments of change for adult children in abusive relationships. And at the same time, they can also impede the change process.


The Process Yields the Result


Psychotherapy is a process; it’s not an injection. Even though there are psychotherapeutic techniques that can have immediate impact, the whole of it is a process.


I liken it to growing a vegetable garden. When you plant the seeds for your vegetable garden, what do you do?


Let’s say we are planting tomatoes. You plant your tomato seeds and may add some fertilizer to the soil, and you nurture your tomatoes-to-be along the way with water and care.


You certainly don’t yank up the roots to make sure it is indeed growing, do you? If you did that, then what would happen to your tomatoes? Obviously, doing so would impede the growth process. Even worse, it would bring it to a halt.


How You Can Help Your Adult Child Benefit from Psychotherapy


When you sponsor therapy for another person as is done with parents of young adults in abusive relationships, keep in mind that therapy is a growth process just like any other growth process.


And if there is something in your adult child’s life that inspired you to initiate such a process, then you hold the responsibility to support it along the way, not dissect it to death.


If you are a parent who believes your child is in an abusive relationship and you have initiated psychological care for your child, allow the process to unfold. Have faith in the fact that the psyche longs harmony and well-being. It’s inevitable that this is the direction people go with proper intervention.


If you question the process and intermittently yank up the roots, you will be wasting your child’s time and your family’s money. Secondly, if you inspire such an intervention for your adult child, there will be a need for commitment on your part to this process as well.


Request an estimated time frame from the therapist for the course of therapy. And, if you elect to assess things at some designated point along the way, do so with the understanding that you are indeed looking at work in progress.


Your commitment to and faith in the process is the gift you give to the adult child you have inspired into therapy. Keep it at that, and your adult child will change and will grow.


If you want a deeper understanding about abusive relationships—what maintains them and what breaks the cycle of abuse, claim your free Survivor Success Tip & eInsights. Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D., founding director of Partners in Prevention, helps individuals and families, recognize, end and heal from domestic abuse.

If you want personal help with your particular circumstances, you can contact us to set up an individual consultation.

This series of eInsights is presented to you by Partners in Prevention, a nonprofit organization. If you find this eInsight article useful, we invite you to contribute to the maintenance and growth of the Survivor Success Tips & eInsights. To make a tax-deductible donation, please visit


©Copyright 2008 Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D.

Dr. Jeanne King is a licensed psychologist and domestic abuse consultant. Feel free to contact us if you need help with physical and/or emotional pain, stress-related illnesses, or relationship abuse issues at home or in court. Contact Us to reach Dr. King.