Thursday, August 27, 2009

Is It OK To Name Your Child After Your Therapist?

Yes. With the exclusion of any unhealthy attachments.

A therapist is someone who is a significant figure in a person’s life and memory. We frequently name our babies after significant people whom we don’t really know or interact with (grandparents, names passed down through tradition, famous figures). I think when we choose a name in this fashion, the purpose is to honour the source. We admire the qualities of a person and want to pass on those same qualities, albeit through memory, onto our progeny.

The important thing when doing this is to remain mindful that you are honouring a memory and idea of the person and to not use the name as a way to try to force the therapist’s attributes onto another so that you can pretend they are the therapist.

If you are currently in therapy, even with the best of intentions, this may be difficult to do. Transference is natural. This can be damaging to all parties involved, but it can also be beneficial, depending on the type of feelings being transferred.

Also, if you are in therapy, it would be polite to ask permission from your therapist first. At the very least, it will open discussion about the nature of interpersonal dynamics in the therapeutic framework. As well, if this is a person you admire, it makes sense that you would not want to keep such a secret from them or disconcert them when they ask you what you named your baby.

So as long as the individual distinction between baby and therapist isn’t confused and you can healthily view these two people as separate entities, I think the name would be a compliment to all the positive work you accomplished during a difficult period of time in your life with the help of a (hopefully) thoughtful, attentive, kind, and loving therapist.


  1. No, No, No!
    This is a terrible idea!!!
    You must not have any kids - please be aware that 387 people (family, friends, strangers, estranged family, ex-friends, co-workers, etc) will ask you "How did you pick that name?" or "Is that your father's/Mother's name?"
    387 times you will have to say "Sigmund/Anna is actually the name of my therapist, helped me when I was so depressed about my infertility"
    Better to name your kid Barack or Michelle or the name of your OB - or wait, how about some nice relative or friend?
    Your therapist is NOT your friend. Therapist will NOT come to the bris/baptism/naming ceremony.

  2. Telling people how you chose the name would have to be left up to your discretion, because it’s not really anybody else’s business, but I don’t see any reason why someone should feel embarrassed about naming their child after an influential and inspiring person, nor should they (and this is very important) feel embarrassed about having ever been in therapy. As far as your example goes, I would think that is a lovely way of honouring your doctor (but then again, I am on the pro side of this argument so it wouldn’t sound negative to me anyway).
    I have NEVER indicated, in this post or any other, that your therapist is your friend. This article is generally directed towards therapeutic relationships that have already ended. Your great-great-grandfather wasn’t your friend either, probably wasn’t someone you ever even knew, and he won’t be coming to any baby ceremonies, which I hope illustrates my point that choosing to name your baby after a person is a way of honouring something that person gave you. Life and happiness are honourable enough reasons to me.

  3. I think this subject may be teetering on the same border of voodoo as online dating.

    That said, there are two manners in which to name a child after someone. One is traditional family honor as in the case of a grandparent's namesake. This way the baby is an homage to the elder regardless of how the parents feel about the name itself. In the second manner, the child is named after someone because of the unique feeling attached to the name, and the classification of the original name-barer is of less importance.

    The second scenario is the one in which I agree with you, Jennifer. To love a name, and to also love that it is also associated with your therapist doesn't seem like such an awkward truss. The first scenario - the strict honor scenario - does seem more uncomfortable an idea. However... if the case were naming the baby after the therapist as a great mind and not because of the personal level of the relationship, the slipperiness seems to go away.

    In short, I think the voodoo aura fades when you simply replace "your" therapist with "a" therapist :P

  4. Thank you for your apt clarification.