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Reparenting is a psychotherapy ostensibly associated with transactional analysis but more intrinsically steeped in general regressive therapy technique, devised in the late 1960s by a Virginia-based psychiatric social worker, Jacqui Schiff. It purports to re-orient into healthier thoughts and behaviors, psychological issues that were believed to have first originated in childhood through neglect, trauma, abuse, abandonment, unequal treatment compared with one's siblings and inconstant behavioral rules imposed by parents, which it holds to be the primary cause of major mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. As conceived by Schiff, patients hadn't received the parenting they needed to form stable adult personalities. The therapist became a parent surrogate, often regressing the patient to a childlike state, safe, positive, parenting at different stages of development, so that the patient could change their perspective about (through a process of 'reframing') what happened to them in their childhood. In effect, Schiff raised them. Any biochemical factors involved in the illness were thus seen as merely additional symptoms, which would likewise adjust to a biochemical norm without resort to psychotropic medications. Schiff actually adopted her patients, however for a number of therapists work usually goes on in a group setting, the patients 'siblings,' some of them regressed while others are working as adults, all of them taken care of. The family functions in a supportive way outside of the hours spent in the group. The object isn't to understand what went wrong in the past but to get what one needs to become a functional adult and to cope with life effectively. A lot of patients, many of them now therapists in other modalities, maintain they benefited considerably.
The therapy has fallen into disrepute because of the number of lawsuits arising out of actually increased intrapsychic damage during regressive states, the fact that reports of cures were entirely anecdotal, the cost-ineffectiveness of what amounted to years of daily therapy to the patient, the increasing evidence of biological and genetic predispositions of major mental illnesses, and the development of safer and faster-acting symptom-eliminating psychotropics during the 1990s, among other things. Furthermore, many therapists refused to follow the Schiffian model and attempted reparenting on an outpatient, office-based, limited session basis and confined their caseloads to less severe psychological and psychosocial disorders. Movement away from "blaming the parent" in the general psychotherapeutic community also contributed to reparenting's demise. By the start of the 21st century, Schiff had left the USA under a cloud of litigation, and practitioners continuing to hold to any or all of her "theories" and approaches moved into an "underground" of practitioners or else sought refuge abroad, where freer standards allowed them to continue with less risk.
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