Chico Center for Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy and Counseling services for Children & Adults | Support for Parents


Chico therapist An Bulkens, LMFT is psychotherapist and counselor in Chico, California.  An Bulkens specializes in psychotherapy and counseling for young children  (toddlers, preschoolers, adolescents) and support for parents, with a special emphasis on  early childhood psychotherapy, and counseling  for preschoolers and Kindergarten aged child.  She also offers parenting skills support. She offers psychoanalytic psychotherapy for adults.  Her approach is grounded in  Lacanian Psychoanalysis. She was also trained as a clinical psychologist in Europe, Belgium.  Her education emphasized developmental psychology and psychoanalytic therapy. 

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The Cost of Helicoptering and Snow-Ploughing your Child

Psychologists from the University of Mary Washington looked at how the parenting style of 'helicoptering' correlates with the self-determination and well-being of college students.  297 Undergraduates students (18-23) described their mother's typical parenting behaviors, as well as their autonomy and competence, their anxiety and depression, and how satisfied they were with life in general. 

The students who described their mothers as more helicoptering were  found to suffer more from anxiety and depression, and felt less autonomous.  They were also struggling more to get along with others. 

In two different studies it was found that young adults with helicopter parents have become addicted to affirmation, that they prefer the boost of self esteem over having sex, eating sweets and drinking. 

When children are praised for accomplishments, achievements they tend to read this not as the parents intend to.  They think: 'You love me for what I achieve, accomplish; this means you don't love me for who I am without my accomplishments.' They feel that they can only get love by earning it. 

Another problem is that this kind of parenting, where the parent is so over involved with the child, more than with the people of his own age class is detrimental for a more deeper reason. Why does the parent have to be so focused on the child? Why does the parent have to find satisfaction for her own life vicariously through the child.  The French Psychoanalyst Francoise Dolto pointed this out long time ago. In the introduction to Mannoni's 'The First Encounter with the Analyst' she mentions that the one crucial component in having a healthy development of the child is that the parents find the reason and meaning of their life in their spouse, or people of their own age, and not in their children.  This means that the thinking and worries about this child, that work done for this child and the love for this child never dominate the parents' emotional life. 

It is indeed the very opposite of helicopter parenting.  It is interesting that like Dolto would have predicted it is specifically this kind of parenting, which goes against the one fundamental environmental condition that Dolto mentions for healthy development that is found to be connected with an increase in mental health issues among young adults. 

To schedule an appointment call An at (530) 321-2970

Lucie: a tiny vignette

This is a small clinical vignette by Philippe Lacadee, originally published in French.

Lucie is a 9 year old child, who enters the therapist's office one day very excited with the complaint that her mother does not want to 'abondon' her to a magazine. In french the words for 'abandon' (abandonner)  and 'getting a subscription' (abonner) are very close. When the therapist gives her back her own words, 'She does not want to abandon you?' Lucy is irritated and replies that the therapist never understands anything. 'I am talking about the magazine. Mom does not want me to subscribe to it.' 

Lucie knows the word for subscription in her mother tongue, but somehow she can only understand her being as 'abandonned' by the Other, incarnated by the mother. To receive from the mother the magazine, instead of her presence that would be the sign of abandonment by the Other who leaves her alone. So, she fears that if the mother would say yes to her demand, that she would not be 'subscribed' to her mother anymore. 

This resonates with the importance to not always say no to a child's request. This is something I have been emphasizing in earlier posts. For Lucie a yes, can mean an abandonment by the Other. At this point in the treatment Lucy is not ready to give up her attachment to the position of being abandonned. We hear that it is she who does not want to be abandonned by the mother. 

What is not talked about, tends to repeat itself.

In my practice I encounter at times parents who do not want to talk about certain aspects of the past: the painful history of an absent father, the fact that the child was abused at an early age... I often get the question: Why talk about these painful things when the child does not even remember them, or even asks about them? As if talking about them will increase the pain, will unnecessarily open old wounds that do not need to be opened anymore.  Talking about it might be very hard and difficult for the parent, but can be a crucial step in helping the child, and in preventing the past to repeat itself.

In my work with adult clients I see how not addressing the truth about a biological parent, or about a painful family event can have very detrimental, long term effect. Over and over again I see, that what is not spoken about, what is taboo tends to repeat itself in family histories. I think of the family where 4 generations of women have been raped, and where the teenage daughter is putting herself in situations that might be devastating. It is not until this family history and the pain that goes with it is put into words that something new can happen, and history does not have to repeat itself. 


An Bulkens    |    Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist    |   MFC 52746

Tel. (530) 321- 2970    |   186 E 12th ST,  Chico, CA 95928