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Healing Enmeshment Trauma and Covert Incest

I Think I have Enmeshment Trauma. Can Modern Intimacy Help?


Recovering from enmeshment trauma and abuse is an important step in therapy and one that our clinicians can help you explore. Enmeshment trauma occurs when a person’s boundaries are violated, and their sense of self becomes fused with another person or group. This can happen in various relationships, such as with a parent or other family member in a family systems, partner, or friend.

Enmeshment trauma can lead to feelings of confusion, anxiety, codependency, and fear of rejection, often leaving people feeling responsible for things that are outside of their control or ability to do. Growing up in enmeshed family dynamics can impact a person’s mental health and cause long term high levels of stress.

Trauma therapy can help you unpack what has happened in your life so you’re able to approach relationships with a stronger sense of self, clear boundaries and the ability to love others without compromising your values or your self in the process.

Enmeshment trauma can feel deeply insidious and hard to get your head and heart around. Growing up in a deeply enmeshed family can affect your ability to understand your role in relationships. Sometimes this means when someone asks you to do things that others would say are “not your responsibility” you feel guilty for “not doing more.”

People who have challenges in this area are often called “codependent” but often share with our therapists that they have a confused sense of self. Meaning, that in relationships, it’s hard to understand their roles and what other people are responsible for versus what they are responsible for.

You can imagine how deeply the effects of enmeshment trauma can go and it’s just one small example of how enmeshment can show up in a person’s life.


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Seeking Therapy for Enmeshment Trauma


Healing can happen through talk therapy and takes time to really explore the ways you are impacted when your boundaries are questioned. You may need to be “in the moment” with new experiences in order to see how you set healthy boundaries (or fail to set boundaries) in your life.

This is why we offer a few different approaches to healing. At our therapy practice, we offer a safe and supportive environment for clients to explore their experiences of enmeshment trauma. Our therapists are trained to work with clients on addressing a lack of boundaries, developing healthy relationships, and building self-esteem. We utilize evidence-based approaches that are tailored to each individual’s unique needs.

Is Covert Incest Different than Enmeshment Trauma?


Covert incest, also known as emotional incest, is a type of family enmeshment emotional abuse that occurs when a parent or caregiver involves a child in an inappropriate and unhealthy way, often blurring the lines between a parent-child relationship and a romantic or sexual one. This is different from enmeshment trauma, but when a child is exposed to covert incest often enmeshment trauma also occurs.

In covert incest, the parent or caregiver may rely on the child for emotional support, validation, or companionship that should be provided by an adult partner or friend. The child may be expected to fulfill the emotional needs of the parent or caregiver, such as listening to their problems, taking care of their emotional needs, and providing companionship and intimacy.

The child in covert incest is not physically abused or touched in a sexual way, but the emotional and psychological toll can be just as damaging. The child may feel confused, guilty, ashamed, and responsible for the emotional well-being of the parent or caregiver. They may struggle with boundary issues, intimacy issues, low self-esteem, and a range of other emotional and psychological issues that can persist into adulthood.

Covert incest can be difficult to identify and may be hidden or denied by the parent or caregiver. It can take a toll physically and emotionally. It can also be a traumatic experience for the child, who may not fully understand what is happening or how to get help. However, with therapy and support, survivors of covert incest can learn to heal from the emotional abuse and move forward with their lives.

Four healing approaches for enmeshment trauma and abuse:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns that contribute to childhood emotional trauma. By challenging negative beliefs and learning coping skills, clients can develop a more positive self-image and improve their relationships with others.

Attachment-Based Therapy

Attachment-based therapy explores the impact of early childhood experiences (and enmeshed parents) have on adult relationships. By understanding the ways in which early attachment patterns can contribute to enmeshment trauma, clients can develop more secure and healthy relationships.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) 

EMDR helps individuals process and resolve traumatic experiences. By targeting specific memories or beliefs related to enmeshment trauma, clients can reduce distress and develop more adaptive coping skills.

Finally, we offer both individual therapy and couples therapy for clients who have experienced enmeshment trauma. Couples therapy can provide a supportive environment for clients to connect with others who have similar experiences and learn from each other’s insights and experiences.

Our therapists are dedicated to providing a non-judgmental and compassionate space for clients to explore their experiences of enmeshment trauma. We understand that healing from enmeshment trauma can be a challenging and ongoing process, and we are here to support our clients every step of the way.

Healing Enmeshment Trauma Is Possible

If you grew up in an enmeshed family or your relationships have taken on the qualities of an enmeshed partnership, therapy is a great way to explore what’s going on for you. Families often view dissent as betrayal, so getting started in therapy can evoke a loyalty bind. With support, you can explore any specific traumatic events or relationships that have set the template in your mind for how relationships “ought to go.”


Then, you can work on making different choices and learning new ways of approaching boundaries in all future relationships.


The interesting and very encouraging part of healing from enmeshment trauma is that by doing this work, you’re changing how you want to be treated in adult relationships of all kinds moving forward. This will impact your romantic relationships, work relationships, friendships and the relationship with your children.


Healing from enmeshed relationships takes time, but is invaluable.


If you’re ready to take the first step towards healing from enmeshment trauma, we invite you to reach out to us. We offer a free initial consultation where you can learn more about our therapy services and see if we are a good fit for your needs.