Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal

, Volume 32, Issue 5, pp 443–454 | Cite as

From Every Direction: Guilt, Shame, and Blame Among Parents of Adolescents with Co-occurring Challenges



This article explores the results of a qualitative inquiry into guilt, blame, and shame as experienced by parents of children with co-occurring mental health and substance use challenges. These interviews represent both the lived experience of parents, as well as the perspective of clinicians who work with these families. The parent–clinician alliance is taken as a central context for considering how these experiences may affect the dynamics of the helping relationship. Analyses of these results suggest that guilt, blame, and shame are often experienced by parents and have important implications for engagement and therapeutic processes. Parents associate feelings of blame with interactions from a number of helping professionals and connect personal characteristics, parenting behaviors, and relationship issues with experiences of shame and guilt surrounding their children’s behavioral health challenges. Finally, the information that is shared across these interviews is used to guide the development of a number of practice guidelines for social workers who work with families of adolescents that experience co-occurring mental health and substance use issues.


Parent–clinician alliance Guilt Blame Shame Attribution Adolescent co-occurring 



The authors would like to acknowledge the work of Cory R. Cummings in the preparation of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology, 113 Muller CenterIthaca CollegeIthacaUSA
  2. 2.Virginia Commonwealth UniversityRichmondUSA

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