The Identified Patient

In today’s podcast, we delve into the concept of the Identified Patient. The term is used in family therapy to describe the situation where one family member is labeled as “the problem child”, and has all of the family issues projected onto them. The identified patient is also often the person that looks for external help or shows the first outwardly signs of inner-turmoil.

Stephen and Mags (under her previous screen name Monkey) look at this phenomenon from their own experiences and discuss how a similar situation can occur in other toxic settings too.

The Podcast

Approximately 30 minutes each

Part 1

(right-click here to download)

Part 2

(right-click here to download)


Some More Resources

If you are looking for some more information on this topic, here are some websites with information

 What is an Identified Patient on Wisegeek

In the psychology of the dysfunctional family, the identified patient is the family member in whom the dysfunction has most obviously manifested itself. As the chief symptom bearer in the family unit, an identified patient acts out the issues of the family on a subconscious level. This type of psychological projection is an unconscious attempt on behalf of the identified patient to shift focus from the problems of the family nexus to a tangible, visible external component. Read more…

The Identified Patient on Health of Children

The identified patient (IP) is the family member with the symptom that has brought the family into treatment. Children and adolescents are frequently the IP in family therapy. The concept of the IP is used by family therapists to keep the family from scapegoating the IP or using him or her as a way of avoiding problems in the rest of the system. Read more…

Getting Rid of Shame – Understanding the Scapegoat Black Sheep on Psychology Today

We’ve discussed the Scapegoat in one of its dual identities, the Scapegoat Priest. For the Scapegoat Priest (remember these are just names to help us differentiate–change the name if you’d like), there is this intense need to live a “good” life, usually by sacrificing the self for others. Now, it’s time to talk about the Scapegoat Black Sheep, whose need is to prove existence by eating shame. Read more…

Find great resources in the SwanWaters podcast


  1. Profile photo of Michael Ballard
    Michael Ballard

    January 17, 2016 at 5:04 pm

    Insightful and very useful.

    • Profile photo of Monkey

      January 18, 2016 at 4:22 pm

      I am glad that was useful to you!


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