Based on current epistemology, it is not correct to suggest a standard therapeutic setting to a distressed child. A distressed child belongs to a distressed family. Each child and each family member have specific features and live in a specific context with peculiar strengths and weaknesses. So why should we use the same model in response to a child’s distress? As in all situations where parents ask for help for their child, the choice of working with child and parents or only with the parents depends on many variables. With reference to the theory of complex systems and to the concept of symmathesy introduced by Nora Bateson, that focuses on mutual learning within a system, and with the help of a case history, the authors show the reasons for the choice of working with the parents without including their child, focusing in particular on the reemergence of parental skills that were hidden and trapped in the pain felt for their child’s distress.
Keywords: Child, parental skills, symmathesy, vital mutual learning, change