There’s a Name for It, Again — The IP

Notes from here.

[side note, if anyone from my FOO clicks on that link, I would bet a substantial amount of money that what they will take away from it is that my husband and I must be in couples therapy, and a self-satisfied confirmation that I’m obviously a mental wreck and our marriage is in trouble.]

“When I used to treat children and adolescents, I’d typically get a call from the parents explaining why they wanted their child to see me… the parents would be concerned, and would want to get their child help.

“Sometimes, though, it wasn’t just the child who needed help — it was the family. The child had simply become what therapists call “the identified patient,” or IP — the person unconsciously assigned to be the keeper of the family’s troubles. The IP looks like the one with the problem, but really she’s the healthiest one in the household, because in her own way, through her symptoms, she’s acknowledging the family’s issues. Instead of denying them or scapegoating others, she’s calling them out.

“While the IP in a family is often a child… the IP might be the [person] who’s depressed, or checked out, or gets upset “over every little thing.” The IP is the one who seems more sensitive or fragile or in need of therapy, while the other [person] is “just trying to help.” (The supposedly helpful [person] is hoping that the therapist can “fix” the [person] who needs it.)

“It’s natural to want to feel in control, and it’s also true that some people have early experiences that make being in control not just desirable, but necessary for their very survival.

“How does it serve… you to make [someone else] the IP? Because… you don’t have to examine yourself.”