Why Do Twins Need Psychotherapy?


A reoccurring concern from twins who contact me is, “Why do I need psychotherapy?” Here are some simply stated answers and my reasoning.

1.  Separating from your twin is a very hard inner and outer journey of self discovery. Support and insight into your journey of identity makes the road you must travel less rocky, more tolerable, meaningful, and fulfilling.

2.  Knowing who you are without your twin is complicated. Indeed, individual sensibility is very hard to face, understand, and accept. Encouragement to move forward in your self awareness is extremely important but this insight cannot be given by your twin alone. Who do you turn to?

3.  Understanding your relationship with your twin is critical because the roles you take in relationship to your sister or brother will define your strengths and challenges.

4.  How you are different from your brother or sister should be one of the goals of psychotherapy. The details of your interests, friendships, joys, and disappointments will build your identity as a twin and as an individual.

Twin attachments are primary bonds created before birth. Like the mother-child bond, these attachments are irreplaceable emotional experiences that nurture and develop the identity of each twin in a pair. Sharing parents, memories, experiences, and friendships creates an indelible closeness that enlivens and haunts twins as they grow up. The comfort of twin sharing from birth through adulthood can be easy, fun, and even seductive. Deep psychological roots of the self are established. These roots of identity are difficult to impossible to remove even with the death of one twin. Separating from your twin, fighting with your twin, and living separate lives is very challenging for countless reasons related to shared identity development. Untangling the social emotional problems that twins experience as they grow into adulthood can be stressful and overwhelming for everyone who is close to the twin pair. Outsiders to the twinship or onlookers can be very confused by twin intensity and at their wits’ end with twins’ issues.

Psychological reality informs us that twins cannot know the extent of their developmental and emotional entwinement when they start to separate from one another, beginning at birth and continuing through childhood, the teenage years, and adulthood. Only the experiences of a lifetime will tell the struggles and comforts that lie ahead as twins make their own lives. Unfortunately, very little clinical literature is written about the problems that twins face being on their own. Novels about twins do portray the uniqueness of their twin bond. Movies often idealize twins or make them into freaks. Where do twins go for help and support they need to get long on their own?

Twins also need help learning how to get along in THE WORLD OF NONTWINS. Finding the right therapist for a twin is difficult, because most therapists believe that twins have issues understanding emotional boundaries, but the therapist doesn’t know why and assumes that boundary issues for twins are the same as boundary issues for nontwins. This belief is absolutely wrong. Boundaries between the twin pair and outsiders are based on a great deal of experience and sharing. Separateness for twins is crucial and over- and under-determined. Twin problems confuse nontwin therapists.

Twins who are looking for help should consider psychotherapists who are interested in the effects of interpersonal relationships on self esteem and therapists who are twins themselves or related to twins. Making an investment in the self understanding you attain from psychotherapy is an important investment for twins.