“Co-constructing” Stigma and the Therapist–Parent Alliance

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Just as many relationships are susceptible to the distorting and distancing effects of stigmatization, so are therapist–parent relationships, particularly in instances where children/youth present with significant mental illness. Therapist awareness and attunement to the dynamics of stigma are critical to the development of engaged therapist–parent alliances, and therapist–parent alliances are key to successful child/youth psychotherapy. Intersubjectivity theory offers a useful lens by which to understand stigma dynamics as mutually reinforced, “co-constructed” experiences between therapists and parents. Applying this perspective provides direction for therapists to work in ways that recognize and reduce the negative impact of stigma dynamics on this important alliance.

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