Psychotherapy with two late adulthood children of the colonies

  • Zelda Gillian Knight | Department of Psychology, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa.


There are a small group of mature adults in their 50s and 60s, members of the so-called third age that arrive at the door for psychotherapy. As clients, they want to explore an overwhelming sense of being dis-located in space and time, and at odds with where they find themselves living. They have a deep and profound sense of not belonging and of being rootless. These older, white, adults are the baby-boomers of post World War II, and I refer to them as the adult children of the colonies because they are of European descent but born in the colonies of Africa. This paper describes the experiences of two clients, Robert and Caitlin, who find themselves feeling progressively psychically dis-located in South Africa and confronting not only their limited future in terms of impending death, but confronting existential givens of life that prevent them at this late stage of life from returning home to their ancestral lands. They present a unique group of older adult clients, and like fish out of water, they have no sense of belonging to Africa, and as a result, they experience a range of emotions such as despair and depression with a concomitant sense of fragmented identities. Discussion of the cases ensues and includes the concept of intergenerational transmission of trauma, fragmented identities, and belonging as linked to ancestral lands.


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Author Biography

Zelda Gillian Knight, Department of Psychology, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg

Professor of Psychology

Department of Psychology

Case Reports
Late adulthood, Intergenerational trauma, Psychotherapy, Identity
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How to Cite
Knight, Z. G. (2017). Psychotherapy with two late adulthood children of the colonies. Research in Psychotherapy: Psychopathology, Process and Outcome, 20(3).