In the United States, only 19% of adults receive treatment for mental health conditions. Less than 8% of them pursue counseling and therapy to deal with their problems. However, we experience life differently, so you should expect and seek different methods to address your mental health needs. Inner child therapy is one of those methods, and it’s proven effective in helping adults adopt healthier behavior patterns.
What is your inner child, and how can inner child work help you? Follow along as we explore this therapy method and see if you should pursue it in your recovery journey.
What Is Your “Inner Child?”
The inner child is the part of you that develops from the minute you gain consciousness in the womb. It’s the personality that grows and changes through childhood.
As you approach adulthood, society expects you to abandon this childhood personality and adopt a “mature” outlook on life. However, becoming an adult doesn’t erase the person you were as a child. You can develop new ways of existing and navigating adulthood, but the inner child still remains.
The way your inner child manifests in adulthood depends on the type of beliefs you held as a child. Your self-esteem and confidence can be determined by whether you grew up in an environment where your achievements were noticed and praised.
If you had a traumatic childhood, such as through abuse from an adult or bullying from your peers, you might carry over the survival methods you learned even after you forget specific details about the trauma.
Your inner child isn’t always a traumatized and neglected version of your personality. You may be an exuberant adult who knows how to have fun. You may be pursuing a sensible career path with good pay and benefits and even have the right person to go through life with, checking off all the boxes for a well-to-do adult.
At the same time, you may live with a great fear of failure, which affects your ability to take risks, even if they have a high potential of paying off. You may be afraid of confrontation, preferring to address any form of personal disquiet so as not to disrupt your lifestyle.
Maybe you’re the type of adult who takes every opportunity to truly live, ignoring any serious responsibilities for those that are more pleasurable to pursue. Or, you may be the type of person who consistently cracks jokes because you’re unable to handle negative emotions in yourself or others.
Many people behave in seemingly normal ways despite having an inner child with whom they’re not in touch. The inner child influences your thoughts, decisions and actions without your knowledge.
What Is Inner Child Therapy?
Inner child therapy is an intervention that seeks to help you get in touch with your subconscious, identify the unspoken needs stored there and fully address them.
The current model of inner child therapy has its roots in the works of Carl Jung, an early 20th-century therapist. Jung believed that the subconscious stores information that determines the behaviors we exhibit in daily life. Identifying and healing the wounded inner child in our subconscious can improve the behaviors we manifest.
Inner child therapy is not exclusively talk therapy. It combines aspects of somatic or body therapy, shadow work, attachment methods, psychodynamic theories and cognitive behavioral therapy.
Your therapist will use these different frameworks to help you look inward and identify the causes of things like fear of failure, unhealthy attachment styles and pleasure-motivated behaviors like addiction.
Inner child work can also help you unleash forgotten knowledge on what motivates you, makes you happy and makes you feel alive.
What Does Inner Child Work Treat?
The effects of a wounded inner child can manifest in many mental and behavioral conditions. Some issues inner child helps treat include:
- Substance abuse
- Anger management
- Eating disorders
What Is An Inner Child Therapy Session Like?
Inner child work is a process, and healing your inner childhood wounds can take a long time.
The content of inner child therapy sessions will vary depending on what needs you want to address. You can attend one-hour therapy sessions once a week or more. Sometimes, the activities involved in doing inner child work can take a full day, helping you address different inner childhood wounds simultaneously.
Below are some procedures used during inner child therapy sessions.
Meditation is a key component of inner child work. Your therapist will carefully guide you back in time and help you reconnect with your past self. They can ask questions to stimulate memories and help you visualize different past experiences. With the therapist, you can identify the emotions and actions your recollections elicit and see how they manifest in your adult life.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, commonly referred to as EMDR, is a method used to process traumatic events. During an EMDR session, your therapist will ask you to focus on a single traumatic experience from your childhood. Your therapist will produce different sounds and stimulate sideway eye movements, encouraging you to state the thoughts and emotions each action elicits. This process is repeated until you develop a new outlook on the traumatic event.
EMDR can be a good way of addressing highly traumatic childhood events to ensure their impact on your brain doesn’t continue to affect your adult life.
Creativity and Play
The more we take on adult responsibilities, the less we play and explore our creative sides. Inner child work provides you with the space to go back to a much simpler time when all you had to do was enjoy yourself.
You can explore different methods of play during inner child therapy, both individually and in a group. Activities such as painting, music, dancing and storytelling can go a long way in healing your inner child.
How To Know If You’d Benefit from Inner Child Therapy
It may be difficult to identify limiting behavior patterns and even more so to know if they stem from inner childhood wounds.
You may benefit from inner child therapy if you exhibit:
- Self-sabotaging behavior
- Harmful pleasure-seeking patterns
- Low emotional and behavioral control
- Feelings of loneliness and isolation
- Inability to communicate feelings
- Low confidence and self-esteem
- Fear of abandonment
- Poor boundaries
- A cruel inner critic
An expert evaluation can also make identifying and addressing harmful behavior patterns easier. Our counselors at FHE Health have helped hundreds of people successfully embark on a journey toward healing. You can speak to them by calling (844) 299-0618 to see which type of therapy you need to live a happy and fulfilled life.