The following is not an article but some preliminary thoughts on what may be expanded into one later on:

I’ve been experiencing a lot of counter-transference lately with my clients over “the other parent”, especially when the other parent is the mother. You may be wondering who I’m referring to when I say the other parent. I’m referring to the parent who is not molesting their child in a household where a child is being molested. What about these parents anyway? Some of them really might not know, but if so, what planet are they living on? Most do know on some level but pretend not to. I’ll try not to sound too judgmental here; I’ll try and understand why this parent either has to look away and put up with the situation or decides to in order to take the pressure off themselves. I realize that the family will probably fall apart if the status quo is challenged. I realize that this other parent is missing something inside himself or herself that cleaves them to their mate. But regardless, I have an easier time empathizing with the molester whose compulsions drive them then with the pallid partner who is unable or unwilling to stand up for their child. It would be an oversimplification to say these other parents are weak and dependent. Perhaps many are. But I’m aware of some of them as being the rock in the household and/or the financial provider. And some of them pick their mates over their children even with the knowledge of what has taken place. I wish that I could come up with a diagnosis for “the other parent” so that I could find a way to understand them in my heart.

The more pressing need is to be able to meet my client emotionally in the place where they are; and usually that is wanting to find some way to hold on to the other parent and justify their behavior. After all, that’s all they have left. I certainly understand that, but that is where my own counter-transference gets in the way. If I can’t find a way to understand the other parent, to find compassion for them, I can’t honestly guide my client along a path to reconciliation or co-existence. And what I really want to say is give up. I want to be your “good other parent” and help you move on. That isn’t usually what they want.

Sometimes the other parent makes my work clearer by their rejection of the client. But for the most part, the other parent doesn’t want to have to look at their own behavior; they want to get along with everyone and have the family continue on in what they consider a normal manner. Remember it is the victim who is usually viewed as the “identified patient”; no one else in the family really wants to do any work on themselves. I can only wait for my client to finally recognize that they have become too healthy to make an inherently dishonest situation work.

Roni Weisberg-Ross

Author's Bio: 

I am West Los Angeles based therapist who specializes in the treatment of sexual abuse, emotional abuse, major depression and social anxiety. I work with individuals, couples, families and lead a weekly AMAC (Adults Abused as Children) support group. For more information please check out my website: or email me at