Therapist Matchmaking

Online Therapy Made Easy

Insurance + Billing

Alyssa Digges, MA
View Profile
Amy Schell, LMHC
View Profile
Ariel Zeigler, Ph.D
View Profile
Begoña Núñez Sánchez, LP
View Profile
Carole Taylor-Tumilty, LCSW
View Profile
Caryn Moore, LCSW
View Profile
Christina Mancuso, LCSW
View Profile
Courtney Cohen, LMHC
View Profile
Daniel Rich, LMHC
View Profile
Elena Beharry, Psy.D
View Profile
Eliza Chamblin, LCSW
View Profile
Fanny Ng, Ph.D
View Profile
Gary Brucato, Ph.D
View Profile
Gavin Shafron, Ph.D
View Profile
Janel Coleman, LMSW
View Profile
Jen Oddo, LCSW
View Profile
Jessa Navidé, Psy.D.
View Profile
Joanna Kaminski, LMFT
View Profile
Josh Watson, LMSW
View Profile
Justin L.F. Yong, LMHC
View Profile
Karen Kaur, Ph.D
View Profile
Kristin Anderson, LCSW
View Profile
Logan Jones, Psy.D
View Profile
Lucas Saiter, LMHC
View Profile
Madeleine Phelan, LMSW
View Profile
Maryam Abdulrazzak, BS
View Profile
Monica Amorosi, LMHC
View Profile
Nancy Lumb, LCSW
View Profile
Nicole Maselli, LMHC
View Profile
Peter Gradilone, LMSW
View Profile
Raquele Williams, LCSW
View Profile
Regina Musicaro, Ph.D
View Profile

276 5th Avenue, Suite 605,
New York, NY 10001






Have a question? Ask away! We look forward to connecting with you.

    Find a Therapist

    Check My Benefits

    Explore the Blog

    Childhood emotional neglect

    Therapy for Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN) in NYC

    Get the specialized support you need.

    listening to calming music
    You’re not alone

    Have you ever thought to yourself: “I’m unhappy, but I’m not sure why”? This may be an especially confusing experience if you are an adult achieving success in many areas of your life, and consider your childhood years uncomplicated. Still, you feel like something is missing. 

    In addition to every human’s basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter, children need unconditional love, guidance, stability, trust, and encouragement from their primary caregivers to develop into well-adjusted adults.

    Every child deserves to know that they are valued, loved, cared for, and to have a secure and nurturing environment. While this is the ideal, no one is guaranteed attentive, attuned, and healthy parental figures as role models during their developmental years. The absence of warmth, affection, validation, safety, caring, or reassurance provided by your primary caregivers as a child can have a profound impact on your emotional growth and development.

    People are finally acknowledging and naming the insidious forms of developmental trauma that can occur in childhood. Not all forms of mistreatment leave physical marks. For people who were emotionally neglected as children, it was the absence of things which you needed but didn’t receive when it mattered most. 

    What is Childhood Emotional Neglect?

    Childhood emotional neglect (CEN) is a form of trauma that occurs when caregivers fail to provide their child with adequate attention and care. It can be difficult to identify because there aren’t any physical signs of abuse, but it can have lasting effects on your self-esteem and relationships.

    CEN occurs when caregivers or parents are physically present, but fail to meet their child’s emotional needs by being unavailable or rejecting them in some way. Childhood emotional neglect is a hidden, yet common form of childhood trauma. Children with this type of experience may look like they grew up in what appeared to be a normal family: no abuse, no violence, and not even any significant neglect. However, as children grow older they begin to realize that their caregivers weren’t available for them in the way that all children need for healthy psychological development.

    Why is Childhood Emotional Neglect difficult to identify?

    It’s difficult to admit, or even consider the possibility that you have been emotionally neglected as a child. You may find yourself thinking that it wasn’t really that bad, or at least not as bad as other people have experienced.

    Emotional Neglect is a form of developmental trauma that occurs when caregivers fail to provide their children with enough emotional attunement to form an appropriate caregiver-child attachment. Attunement and healthy attunement are crucial aspects of a child’s development. Caregivers or parents who are not adequately attuned may show little interest in their child’s feelings or activities; they are emotionally unavailable for their child’s needs (even though they may be physically present); or they may ignore major life events such as birthdays or graduations.

    If you’re like most people who grew up with Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN), you’ll find yourself thinking, “My parents always provided enough food and a roof over my head” or “It could have been worse.” Yet, there was something missing from their love that made it hard for them–and for you–to meet your deepest needs in childhood and beyond: emotional intimacy; empathy; validation; unconditional acceptance and encouragement of who you were at any given moment in time.

    Examples of childhood emotional neglect

    Below are some common experiences that people who have experienced childhood emotional neglect may share: 

    Growing up in a home where emotional expression was rarely allowed, you never quite felt like you could be your true self. Any time you tried to discuss your feelings, your caregivers or parents would immediately shut you down. They suggested, directly or indirectly, that your emotions are unwelcome or unreasonable. You often felt alone and misunderstood, like no one cared enough to really listen or even notice that you were sad, anxious, angry or hurt.

    As the oldest child in the family, you were often left to take on responsibilities that were beyond your years. While your siblings were given the attention and affection they deserved, you were left to fend for yourself and made to feel guilty if you ever asked for more. You may have often felt invisible and like you weren’t valued as an important part of the family. You may have felt shame for having even basic needs. 

    Growing up in a home with well-meaning but workaholic caregivers, you received love in the form of material wealth. You may have moved around often for the adults’ job opportunities. Even when your caregivers were present, it felt like they were absent emotionally, leaving you feeling abandoned and neglected. You were expected to have similar success to your caregivers, and this was prioritized over your emotions or spending quality time together. 

    Additional examples of childhood emotional neglect:

        • Lack of emotional warmth and attunement from caregivers 

        • Not feeling safe to talk about feelings with caregivers

        • Caregivers not attending to signs of anger, sadness, fear, loneliness, or anxiety

        • Attempts for physical affection are dismissed or ignored 

        • Not being able to ask for help when needed, or getting punished when asking for help

        • Frequent criticism from caregivers

        • Lack of safety and security

        • Refusal to apologize or own up to mistakes

        • Excessive and unreasonable rules and expectations

        • Lack of appropriate structure and modeling necessary for healthy self-discipline skills 

        • Pressure to perform or excel at often unattainable standards 

        • Modeling hostile or passive-aggressive patterns of communication

        • Refusing to take responsibility or blaming the child

        • Disregarding the child’s emotional and physical boundaries repeatedly


    Therapists Who Specialize in Therapy for Childhood Emotional Neglect in NYC

    Connecting with the right therapist is the most important factor in your search. We’re here to help you find a great match.

    Common concerns of Adults who experienced  Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN)

    Children who have experienced emotional neglect can grow up to experience depression, anxiety, and other mental health concerns. Some may feel as though they were abandoned by their caregivers or parents at an early age and this can lead them to having difficulty trusting others throughout life. Children who grow up with emotional neglect often have trouble communicating their feelings because they were never taught how to do so by caregivers who should have been loving them unconditionally.

    If you experienced CEN, you may have difficulty with self-esteem, a fear of abandonment and rejection, feelings of shame and guilt, and difficulty understanding your emotions. Some people may experience difficulty in relationships, including marriage and work life. If you’re married, your relationship may be unstable or feel empty. You might even question if you really love your spouse because of a lack of emotional connection. Many people with CEN have been divorced more than once; some never marry at all because they fear becoming involved romantically with someone who will leave them eventually (which often happens). 

    Additionally, some people report experiencing a persistent feeling of emptiness or loneliness, a lack of trust in others, difficulty forming healthy relationships, and struggle to express or manage emotions in a healthy way.

    Below are some additional concerns that you may experience as a result of Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN)


        • Difficulty identifying and verbalizing emotions

        • Fear of vulnerability and intimacy

        • Fear of abandonment

        • Difficulty trusting others or establishing close friendships 

        • Intense sensitivity to social rejection 

        • Feeling the need for high achievement in order to feel worthy of love and connection 

        • Periods of dissociation from yourself and your surroundings

        • Heightened anxiety in social situations 

        • Chronic dissatisfaction in life regardless of work performance or social status 

        • Perfectionist tendencies  

        • Struggling to set boundaries

        • Difficulty communicating or expressing your needs

        • Hyper-independence, or difficulty accepting help from others

        • Poor confidence and low self-esteem

        • Intimacy issues 

        • Anger control problems

        • People-pleasing behaviors 

    How can therapy help with issues associated with emotional neglect?

    This experience can be challenging for many people to identify and accept. As an adult, childhood emotional neglect can have long-lasting effects on your mental health and ability to successfully navigate relationships throughout your life.

    Therapy is a safe space to process difficult emotions, learn how to build positive relationships, and develop appropriate coping skills.The first step in healing from emotional neglect is learning to acknowledge your feelings. You may have been taught that it’s not OK to talk about your feelings or ask for help, so this process can be challenging. In therapy, you will learn how to identify and communicate your emotions in an open way that feels safe for you.

    Effective approaches for healing from childhood emotional neglect

    For many people, therapy can provide the opportunity to learn how to trust others and yourself by learning assertiveness skills. This may look like asking for what you need instead of expecting others to read your mind or guessing what it might be; asking directly rather than hinting or manipulating; saying “no” when necessary instead of feeling guilty about saying no (or having someone else say no on your behalf). Identifying and establishing healthy new behaviors like setting boundaries takes practice. A trained therapist will help guide these changes along the way while helping support you with compassion and understanding when needed–and celebrating your wins and progress along the way.

    You’ll also learn how to build trust and attachment in relationships, and develop effective communication and problem-solving skills. Additionally, a qualified therapist can help you identify and change any negative beliefs or behavior patterns that may have developed as a result of emotional neglect. Lastly, therapy can help you become more self-aware, recognize your own needs, and learn how to take care of yourself. Below are several effective approaches that our NYC therapists use for the treatment of childhood emotional neglect:

    What is inner child work?

    Inner child work is a type of introspective therapy or self-exploration aimed at helping people reconnect with the emotional and imaginative parts of themselves that they may have lost touch with during childhood due to trauma. It’s often used to help adults heal from past painful experiences, feel more hopeful and connected, and access spontaneity, creativity, and joy. 


    How can inner child work help heal Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN?)

    Inner child work can help to heal childhood emotional neglect by providing you with an opportunity to give yourself what you needed earlier in life, and better learn how to meet those needs moving forward in your adult life. Working with the inner child can help you recognize and validate the emotions that were ignored during childhood, as well as provide you with strategies for more effectively managing and responding to your inner child’s needs. If your therapist draws from Inner child work, you may spend time exploring memories, identifying and understanding feeling states, learning how to nurture and care for yourself, and developing healthier ways of relating to yourself and others. Through inner child work, you will expand your awareness of your own behaviors in order to create new patterns that help you live a more fulfilling life, as you learn to work in harmony with your inner child, instead of against them. 

    What if I’m not ready to start therapy?

    The decision to start therapy for Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN) can feel daunting. In the meantime, there are steps you can take to get support and feel better.

    Interested in therapy for adhd in nyc

    We can help.

    Childhood emotional neglect can leave invisible scars, but you have the power to heal yourself. You’re capable, strong, and worthy of love, validation, and appreciation. Reach out today to schedule a complimentary consultation with one of our NYC therapists who specialize in childhood emotional neglect to begin your journey towards healing.

    WordPress Image Lightbox