• ADHD books published by NorthEast Books & Publishing, by Association for Youth, Children and Natural Psychology
  • ADHD books published by NorthEast Books & Publishing, by Association for Youth, Children and Natural Psychology


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  Poisonous Parenting:
Toxic Relationships Between Parents and Their Adult Children
(Family Therapy and Counseling) by Shea M. Dunham

Psychology Book Review - Eating Disorders - Brave Girl Eating - This book of one families battle with anorexia, also discusses the value and benefit of family therapy.

Meeting the Challenge of Bipolar Disorder: Self Help Strategies that Work!, by the AYCNP, Gabrielle Woods PhD (Editor), Dr. Laura Pipoly (Foreword)

Overcoming Bipolar Disorder Using Self Help Methods provides tested and practical ideas in self help that can improve symptoms and help most with bipolar disorder to achieve remission.

Please Don't Label My Child: Break the Doctor-Diagnosis-Drug Cycle and Discover Safe, Effective Choices for Your Child's Emotional Health by Scott M. Shannon, Emily Heckman

This is a insightful reference for every parent and professional. Wonderful insight from a noted child psychiatrist.

Page updated: November 19, 2015

Psychology Book Review: Poisonous Parenting

Poisonous Parenting: Toxic Relationships Between Parents and Their Adult Children - (Family Therapy and Counseling). Edited by Shea M. Dunham, Shannon B. Dermer, Jon Carlson

Part of a family therapy series, among other things, Poisonous Parenting deals with recovery from child abuse.

Poisonous Parenting was primarily written for therapists and other professionals to provide guidelines for how to treat and guide those who are presently involved with what it labels, a poisonous parent. A "poisonous parent" is one who is beyond difficult or imperfect, but that has been abusive in some way or who uses emotional abuse or manipulation in one way or another in an ongoing way.

There is much useful insight in this book for the mental health professional, and it focuses on family therapy rather than isolating the individual for counseling or therapy. The reason is logical, that in order for their to be true recovery from an issue involving parents, there needs to be more than a one-sided effort. The parents themselves need to address issues, and both sides need an opportunity to discuss, analyze and make changes.

Subsystems in Family Relationships Help Provide More Complete Picture of Family Dynamics

Additionally, there are many subsystems involved in the environment of those who are struggling with dealing with an parent with whom the relationship may be toxic. This thought is one very useful in any type of psychology analysis, and is comparable to the bioecological model of mental health presented by Urie Bronfenbrenner, where he considers micro and macrosystems in considering the psychological profile of individuals.

For example, in the chapter entitled Poisonous Parenting in the African American community, the author of that chapter, each chapter is authored by a different professional, states that "Extended family and kinship relationships are also relevant systems for African Americans." It refers to a 1995 study that "found that African American women who consistently interact with extended family members are more likely to be in stable marriages." Other subsystems such as school, community environment and church also play a role in the emotionally or psychology stability of individuals and can and sometimes should be included in therapeutic sessions or counseling.

A Solution-Oriented Book Contrary to what the title of Poisonous Parenting might indicate, the book is, to a great extent, addressing solutions to the issue, rather than presenting a negative problem. If there is fault with this book, it is in the choice of title, which presents the label of the poisonous parent, without indicating that the book is really focused towards remedying this problem.

It does provide parameters to distinguish between parental issues with toxic or poisonous parents, but sometimes labeling in psychiatry can be detrimental, and the book seems to focus more than is healthy on the label of the poisonous parent, even using the term "label". Labels have a tendency to stick and the book would have benefited from a solution oriented title such as Recovering from Poisonous Parenting or Poisonous Parenting Solutions for Therapists, which is really the focus of the book.

Angles Considered by Poisonous Parenting.

Poisonous Parenting provides much useful insight into the issues. It explores the topic from a number of diverse angles, which provide a very useful framework for getting a broad and detailed view of the subject. After elucidating on the subject of poisonous parenting in the first chapter, decidedly negative, it follows with chapters on Compassionate Parenting: The Antidote to Poisonous Parenting, a look at a Neurobiology Approach to healthy relationships, how thought patterns and experiences become encoded in our psyche, our neurobiology.

Couples Relationships is discussed, how upbringing and unhealthy relationships with parents can affect present relationships, and what to do to remedy that. Also, father and son relationships is considered. Without overgeneralizing, he problem specific to the African community is considered, which provides both historical and cultural insights into the issue.

The chapter on Honor They Parents? A Religious Perspective on Poisonous Parenting, is very well written, showing due respect for all religious beliefs, and encouraging therapists to learn about the religious beliefs of their clients, and help them to develop a healthy view of God, as a God of mercy, love and patience, rather than transposing the personality of a despotic parent onto God. It doesn't try to undermine faith, but to help the client to have a healthy view of God, if that is a problem due to a childhood of abuse. Also, a chapter on forgiveness provides a step by step approach to forgiveness that a therapist can encourage and initiate.

Strong and Weak Points of Poisonous Parenting

Poisonous Parenting provides insight for the professional, but also, it is a book that can help anyone who has been through abuse from parents to self-reflect, develop self-awareness and self-insight, which can be very helpful in recovery. Use a pen as you read to jot down personal notes. This can be part of a healing process for those who have had or are in an unhealthy relationship with parents.

One shortcoming of the book is, like any book that addresses profound subjects, generalizations are not also accurate, it explores the issue from a foundation of the poisonous parent, and in fact, there are many children who have overcome severely poisonous parenting without any therapy, and who have forgiven unconditionally, without any initiative on the part of the parent, or intervention. So, the reader should note that while the conditions presented here do reflect real-life situations, it doesn't necessarily reflect absolute truths in the course of relationships with what are considered to be poisonous parents. The book does touch upon that idea in one of the chapters, but it is well into the book, and one might get another impression before getting that far into it.

In any case, any discriminate reader already should realize that we need to interject buffers into reading on deep subjects of human psychology and other subjects which present profound issues, or potentially controversial issues (which this book is not, it is quite reasonable). Poisonous Parenting provides a great deal of accurate observations for therapists and other mental health professionals. Family therapy is of much value on most levels of psychological counseling, recognizing the fact that an individuals psychological difficulties are not created in a vacuum.

Analyzing and addressing issues in the family system and extended family is an important part of a full or successful recovery. If a child, for example, lives with parents and grandparents, and if the parent is somewhat neglectful and the grandparent emotionally abusive, therapy for the child is not enough, the parent needs to learn to be responsible, and the emotional abuse or manipulation must be addressed in order for the child to have a healthy environment in which to grow.

There is value, then, in considering the issues and solutions presented here and the book is recommended for mental health professionals as well as for highly literate individuals who are attempting to address issues with parents who may have been or who may be manipulative or emotionally abusive.

Another strong point of Poisonous Parenting is that each chapter is written by a different professionals, addressing the subject from a different and specific angle, building around the theme. The tone, is, in general positive, with the exception of certain introductory sections, so the book leaves you hopeful rather than depressed.