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Parental Alienation: Finding the Right Therapist

Parental Alienation

Finding the Right Therapist


Copyright 2017 by Monika Logan, M.A., LPC, LSOTP

Navigating through the trenches with a child who once loved you but now claims to hate you, rejects you, or refuses visitation can be a tough terrain without having a skilled guide. When parental alienation is suspected or detected, locating a forensically trained therapist is vital. However, finding the right therapist for your situation can in and of itself be a daunting task.

You will need to ensure the therapist has specialized training, as well as extensive experience, in working with troubled-parent child relationships. Therapists who lack an adequate understanding and competence in dealing with parental alienation may be too quick to accept at face value the favored parent’s and child’s representations of events.

Some therapists will list their experience in this specialized area on a curriculum vitae (CV). The therapist should have documented on his/her CV extensive training, known as Continuing Education Unites (CEUs) through organizations such as the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts. Realize that being “passionate” and “proficient” are not one and the same. There are numerous excellent therapists, who sincerely care about children and families, but not all have adequate training nor the experience in a forensic setting to work in this specialized area.

It is important for parents to understand that early intervention is key to offsetting unwarranted rejection by your child. Detecting alienating behaviors and distasteful antics early on can lead to greater successful outcomes in a therapeutic setting. A skilled therapist can assess when/if individual therapy is suited for your child and/or if a team approach is warranted in order to work with the entire family.

It is also key to realize that your therapist cannot diagnose a person he/she has not met. In today’s diagnostic label milieu, terms such as “sociopath” and “borderline” are flippantly tossed around. Buzz words run amok through social media and everyday conversations without any real critical thought behind the implications of the label(s). Bad behavior is simply bad behavior and most agree that alienating behavior is damaging to a child. Many people have traits of narcissism, borderline, or other mental health diagnoses, however, having a specific diagnosis does not in itself damage a parent-child relationship. On the contrary, blocking access, badmouthing, berating, and belittling are observable behaviors that are problematic.

Finally it is essential to be patient and recognize that the troubled-parent child relationship did not become damaged overnight. It takes time to repair and to restore fractured relationships.

Categories: Parents

Parental Alienation: Anger and Assumptions

Parental Alienation: Anger and Assumptions

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Copyright 2017 by Monika Logan, M.A., LPC, LSOTP

Human beings tend to make assumptions about the world around us and the people with whom we interact.  We take a quick glance and if someone is wearing ragged clothing, we assume he/she cannot afford a new outfit.  Perhaps a new person you met did not give a good first impression.  It is easy to assume that their “less-than” best presentation is representative of him/her or of all future interactions.  Maybe because you read a bad review about a restaurant, so rather than experiencing it for yourself, you forgo an excellent dining experience.  As applied to interactions with our children, if a child arrives home and appears irritated, we assume our child did not have a good time at the other parents home.  Or, if our child is learning well at school, outsiders may assume the child is well-adjusted and dismiss other potential problematic areas.  Yet another example, your child fails to spend time with you for a weekend or two and you assume your ex-spouse is the culprit.  You fail to recognize the child’s own contributions to the perceived rejection.  To make assumptions is to be human.

If we recognize that assumptions are part of human nature, then we are able to become cognizant of our potential assumptions and vigilantly strive to fact-check.  Engaging in meaningful conversations with others, can mitigate a lot of unnecessary blame, burden, and erroneous conclusions.  With regards to relationships, besides examining our assumptions, another area of opportunity is understanding our anger.  Similar to making assumptions, addressing anger is another part of the human condition.  It is helpful to think of anger like an iceberg.  For example, if your teenager tosses their backpack on the floor and slams the door afterschool, we observe what many would identify as anger.  However, like an iceberg, there is more going on below the surface.  Anger can manifest as the expression of other feelings that are often unseen.  Anger can be external and/or internal.  As an example, one child may become sullen and remain in his/her room, while another child may act out by kicking a closet door.  A problem arises though when we assume that the cause of the child’s anger has been created by our ex-spouse.  Certainly, in some case of alienation, a child’s anger stems from the actions of a parent who blatantly ignores a court order.  However, we must recognize that at times it appears as though our ex-spouse is mistakenly the source of our child’s anger.  It is imperative that we distinguish that many feelings are below the surface, if we are to effectively address anger.  When we fail to consider other possibilities for a child or adolescents rejection, such as his/or her own role, further problems are created.

In the area of helping alienated children and parents, quick fixes and easy answers are often highly desired and sought.  This is clearly understandable, because when we as humans hurt, we want the pain to stop.  If we are cut we reach for a Band-Aid, but deeper cuts require stitches.  We realize that time can become the enemy of a child or adolescent who is defiant and becoming contact resistant.  In pursuing help with overcoming parent-child contact problems, it is easy to gravitate to the “latest and greatest” answer(s) to alleviate our child or adolescent from psychological abuse.  Again, much like the iceberg, there are many nuances in treating alienated families.  There are often times more going on beneath the surface.  Treating a deep wound with a Band-Aid simply will not work.  What can a parent do?

  • Awareness and education are the key.
  • Early intervention is vital.
  • Check your assumptions.
  • Realize that time can be both your friend and your enemy.
  • Educate significant others about alienation.
  • A Crisis can be an opportunity to connect with an alienated child.
  • Do not counter reject your child or adolescent (think of the anger iceberg – your child does not hate you).
  • Correct your child/adolescents distorted views of you – timing is everything.  Silence is not always golden.
  • Work through intense emotions.  Help your child or adolescent understand what is going on beneath the surface.
  • Realize that hurting people act out (content and happy co-parents do not engage in constant denigration – again think of the iceberg).
  • Refrain from name calling and labeling your ex-spouse.  No, not everyone is a sociopath, borderline, and/or a narcissist.
  • Parent-child contact problems are best treated when caught early and can be corrected sooner vs. later.
  • Realize that letting go does not mean giving up (sometimes parents need a respite).

If we are honest with ourselves, we have to admit that sometimes our assumptions and preconceived notions are wrong, and therefore, our interpretation of events is incorrect. This causes us to overreact, to take things personally, or to judge people unfairly. ~ Elizabeth Thornton

Categories: Parents

Typical Behaviors of an Alienated Child

November 27, 2016 Comments off

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Revises history to eliminate or diminish any positive memories of experiences with the rejected parent.

 

Has reactions and perceptions not justified by or disproportionate to the rejected parent’s behavior.

 

Has a stronger, but not necessarily healthy, psychological bond with the alienating parent than with the rejected parent.

 

Tells stories about one or both parents or the situation that are repetitive and lacking in detail and depth.

 

Denies hope for reconciliation.

 

Displays independent thinker phenomenon; he or she will claim beliefs about a rejected parent are his or her own and not the alienating parent.

 

Shows signs of role corruption, role reversal, or triangulation.

 

May struggle with internalizing problems such as anxiety, depression, phobic reactions, or low self-esteem.

 

May manifest signs of externalizing behavioral problems including, but not limited to bullying, sexual behavioral problems, or oppositional behavioral struggles.

 

Expresses worry for the preferred parent and vocalizes a need to care for that parent.

 

May appear to function adequately in some environments ( e.g. earning As in school) while struggling in other environments (struggles to maintain friendships).May bad-mouth rejected parent’s new family.

 

Demonstrates inconsistency between statements or allegations about rejected parent and behavior with the rejected parent.

 

 Posted by Monika Logan, M.A., LPC, LSOTP 

Texas Premier Counseling Services, PLLC

 http://www.TexasPCS.org

 

 

 

 Evidenced Informed Information.  Adapted from Gardner 1985; Kelly & Johnston 2001; Warshak 2001; Baker 2005; Cartwright 2006 and Garber 2007.

Categories: Professionals

Parent-child relationship problems: Treatment tools for rectification counseling

December 14, 2015 Comments off

As counselors, we come in contact with clients who are angry or heartbroken and oftentimes feel defeated. This sense of pain and loss is frequently realized in the forensic setting in which I work with parents who are desperate to rebuild a parent-child relationship that is severely damaged or estranged. I also work with children who assert that they never want to see or speak with one of their parents again. Continue reading…

Categories: Professionals

Resources: Parent Alienation

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Campbell, T. W. (2005). Why doesn’t parental alienation occur more frequently? The significance of role discrimination. American Journal of Family Therapy, 33(5), 365–377.

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Gardner, R. A. (1994). The detrimental effects on women of the misguided gender egalitarianism of the child-custody resolution guidelines. Academy Forum, 38(1/2), 10–13.

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Categories: Peer Review

NOW’s Opposition to PAS Inclusion in DSM-V Anti-Science, Anti-Dad, Anti-Mom, Anti-Child

NOW’s Opposition to PAS Inclusion in DSM-V Anti-Science, Anti-Dad, Anti-Mom, Anti-Child

July 2nd, 2012 by Robert Franklin, Esq.

 
 

The National Organization for Women’s reputation for honesty and integrity hit an all-time low with the NOW Foundation’s publication of this screed against recognition of Parental Alienation Syndrome. The piece recycles most of the long-discredited notions about PAS we see so often and it does so for the purpose of opposing fathers’ rights to their children. Far worse, in doing so, NOW’s public stance is frankly anti-child. Put succinctly, NOW’s position is anti-science, anti-father and anti-child. Ultimately, it’s anti-mother as well, ironic as that may be.

Over almost thirty years, the science on PAS has been building steadily. In the 1980s, six different researchers working independently began advancing the idea that children sometimes were saddled with a parent who was determined to exclude the other parent from the child’s life. Unsurprisingly, the parent’s campaign of alienation often occurred in the context of divorce and child custody cases. They described the parental behavior and its effects on the children with one researcher, Dr. Richard Gardner, calling those effects Parental Alienation Syndrome.

Over the years, countless researchers and clinicians have observed similar behaviors on the part of parents and some have studied the effects on children which turn out to last a lifetime in some cases. By now, there are several book-length treatises on the subject, the most comprehensive of which is Vanderbilt Psychology professor William Bernet’s compendium Parental Alienation, DSM-5, ICD-11. That book includes papers by some 70 mental health researchers around the world as well as 630 citations to scholarly articles on PAS. The undeniable fact of parental alienation is a regular feature of custody cases in courtrooms around the country and the world. Case history after case history has been recorded by researchers like Linda Gottlieb in her recent book The Parental Alienation Syndrome: A Family Therapy and Collaborative Systems Approach to Amelioration.

Given this weight of scholarly evidence, how does the NOW Foundation describe PAS?

PAS is a tactical ploy used by attorneys whose clients (primarily fathers) are seeking custody of their children.

And who are these countless researchers who, over 30 + years have pioneered the study of PAS?

Proponents of PAS[are] predominantly right-wing “fathers’ rights” groups…

How does the NOW Foundation describe the huge mass of empirical research accumulated by countless researchers in all parts of the globe?

…no valid, empirical evidence exists for such a mental disorder…

The intellectual dishonesty of NOW’s piece would be astonishing were it not so common. For a long time, it’s been impossible to pretend that their sometimes hilarious misstatements of fact can be attributed to excusable error. The simple fact is that the many falsehoods in its piece on PAS are intentional. NOW has proven itself time and again to be anti-father. Its opposition to shared parenting litigation alone proves the point, and its opposition to inclusion of PAS in the DSM-5 repeats the performance. And that, of course, is the point. NOW’s piece on PAS has nothing to do with the reality of PAS, its scientific basis, who it benefits, who it harms, etc. It has everything to do with NOW’s quixotic opposition to fathers’ obtaining equal rights to their children in family courts.

I say ‘quixotic’ because NOW has always championed women in the workplace. What’s obvious to most people is that the more fathers are allowed, by mothers and family courts, to care for their children, the more NOW’s dream of women’s empowerment in the workplace can become a reality. And the more fathers are marginalized in their children’s lives, the more women will find themselves marginalized at work. It can’t work any other way, but when it comes to NOW, it seems that misandry trumps even women’s power. Amazing, but true.

Feminists have always had a disturbing willingness to Just Make Stuff Up. When Gloria Steinem wanted to inveigh against anorexia and other eating disorders, she proclaimed in writing that 150,000 girls die of anorexia every year. The real figure was somewhere between 50 and 75, so Steinem was off by a factor of 2,000 to 3,000. It wasn’t a mistake, it was intentional falsification. When Susan Brownmiller wanted to defend false rape accusers, she invented the “fact” that only 2% of rape claims are fabricated. At the time there was literally nothing to support her claim, and subsequent research has shown it to be wildly inaccurate, but she made it anyway. Long after the Duke III lacrosse players had been ruled to be factually innocent of all wrongdoing following false claims of rape by Crystal Mangum, feminist Amanda Marcotte proclaimed that they had in fact “held her down” and raped her. In each case, as in countless others, there’s a desired end and, lacking actual information supporting said end, feminists Just Make Stuff Up. So NOW’s piece on PAS is part of a long tradition of feminist disinformation on a wide range of topics.

But it turns out that there are consequences to following the Just Make Stuff Up credo, and NOW’s piece on PAS is a good example. In the first place, opposition to inclusion of PAS in the DSM-5 hurts mothers as much as it hurts fathers. For years PAS opponents have claimed, as NOW does, that PAS is just a trial tactic used by fathers against mothers. But that’s not true. As even a casual glance at the literature on PAS would have told them, both mothers and fathers sometimes use alienating tactics against the other parent. So when NOW argues against recognition of PAS by the APA, it’s arguing, among other things, against a mother’s ability to prove alienating behavior on the part of her ex-husband and gain for her more power in the ongoing custody battle.

Again, the irony of NOW’s opposition to mothers’ power in family courts is obvious to all – all except NOW, that is.

But if stark dishonesty were the only problem with NOW’s piece, it would merely take its place in the voluminous annals of feminist intellectual legerdemain. Sadly, bad as the piece is factually, that’s actually its best feature. That’s because every attack on PAS recognition is an attack on children. The sad truth is that some parents do alienate their children in the wake of divorce. About that, there can be no doubt; too many children, now grown up, have told their stories of how one parent or the other tried – and sometimes succeeded – at turning them against the other parent. That alienation is child abuse and, through the diligent research of countless mental health professionals, its effects on children are coming to be known. They can last a lifetime.

For example, Dr. Gabrielle Shapiro, M.D. has described her psychiatric training, her (at first) grudging acceptance of the phenomenon of PAS and “its devastating and long-lasting impact on the development and attachments of children who are victims of high-conflict divorce.”

She goes on to add that parental alienation of children “can lead to severe lifelong pathologic consequences for the child who has lost the reciprocal nurturing relationship with one of his primary attachment figures. Often these dysfunctional relationship patterns persist throughout a lifetime, despite the best of therapeutic interventions.”

So that’s what NOW is plumping for in its piece against PAS inclusion: “devastating and long-lasting impact[s]” on children and “severe, lifelong pathologic consequences” that often can’t be addressed by therapy.

Few children will thank them.

Categories: Uncategorized

Parental Alienation and the Judiciary

 

Medico-Legal Journal (1999) Vol.67 Part 3, 121-123

Parental Alienation and the Judiciary

Dr L F Lowenstein, MA, Dip Psych, PhD

Increasing numbers of cases are coming before the Courts where one parent feels displaced in relation to the children in the family. The syndrome, parental alienation (PAS),’ as it is now called, is not a new one, but its importance is being highlighted in the United States as well as in the UK. Judges are often uncertain as to how to treat the situation where one parent seeks to make contact with the children following an estrangement, separation, or an unusually unpleasant and vicious divorce.

 

There is some pressure on the Judiciary to keep the child or children with the person who has major control, usually the mother. Parental alienation however, also affects some mothers denied contact with their children who are resident with the father. On the whole, it is the male member of the partnership who suffers from the alienation situation.

 

In recent cases in which I have personally been involved, I had the opportunity of talking about PAS and its problems with two judges, on different occasions. The dilemma is how to deal with the case where the resident partner i.e. the alienating partner, fails to co-operate with the courts in providing adequate access for the other partner. I will recreate the general conversation, on an informal basis and hence no names can be mentioned. Interestingly, similar conversations were repeated with both judges, one male and one female, demonstrating how similar problems are often faced by the Judiciary in parental alienation cases.

 

Psych.: Your Honour, this is a case typical of parental alienation and I feel it is only right that the alienated parent should have contact with the child in question.

Judge: But the mother says that the child does not want any contact with the boy.

Psych.: This is because there has been a considerable amount of programming, I have discovered through my assessment, to make the child respond in this manner.

Judge: This may well be so but how do I deal with this situation when mother stubbornly refuses to allow contact of the child with the father?

Psych.: It is a difficult situation, your Honour, but the question remains: should justice be done or should it be ignored?

Judge: it is not as easy as that. I have spent time with mothers, even sitting in a cell, to try to get them to see reason to allow their former husbands to have access to a child. Sometimes this has worked while at other times, there has been a refusal. This puts me he a very awkward position since I must consider carefully, first and foremost, the children concerned and they are, after all, in the care of their mother who, if they are deprived of her, due to her being sentenced for failing to follow instructions, will lose a mother vital to their welfare.

Psych.: Again it comes down, your Honour, to considering the question of failure to comply with the Court ruling. If an ordinary criminal fails to obey instructions of the Court, some punitive action is taken. Should not some punitive action also follow when a mother, or father for that matter, refuses to accede to the ruling of the judge and the Court?

Judge: Well, I will see what I can do on this particular matter and the case before me but I still feel that it is a difficult one to settle, when one of the partners is totally opposed to contact with the child and the child in question has decided openly and before me, to refuse to have any contact with the other parent. Are you suggesting that I fine the mother in question or place her in a prison for failing to adhere to my instructions and that of the Court?

Psych.: I personally see no other alternative. It may well be that if such a threat is made, the alienating parent may, in due course, accept what has been recommended by the Court and there will be no need to take the action which you and I both feel is undesirable and may even be counter-productive.

 

Both judges agreed the case before them was typical of parental alienation and the difficulties they faced are only too obvious. Their first concern, and also that of myself, was the children. If the children have been “brain-washed” and “programmed” in a particular direction, this made the judge’s decision all the more difficult.

 

It is my view that no exception can be made for failing to adhere to the ruling of a court and that justice must be done however painful this may be. It may well be that the alienated parent should eventually gain access following a period of therapy between the psychologist and the child or children in question, to make them aware of what is happening. If older they themselves may well be able to put pressure on the alienating parent to see sense.

 

From the conversation, it can be seen that many judges are undoubtedly unsure how best to deal with alienating parents – this usually being the mother. Judges are often saved by the fact that fathers cease to pursue their role of wishing to play a part in their childrens’ lives. This is due to the resistance they meet from the former spouse, who has often formed a new relationship and wishes the new partner to take over the role of father. I have even known cases where the mother insisted the child call the new husband “dad” and the natural father by his first name.

 

Fathers who pursue both their right and their sense of responsibility through the courts are relatively few. Many opt out due to the resistance they meet from their ex-partners, the programmed child and the reluctance of judges to give them justice. This is undoubtedly due to the following:

 

  1. Judges are reluctant to punish and most especially incarcerate obdurate mothers who refuse to comply with a judge’s decision that they must allow access with an estranged father.

  2. Judges often are reluctant to ignore the view expressed by children that they do not wish to meet their fathers, despite the fact that such children have been “intensively programmed” to respond in this way by mothers and the mother’s relations.

  3. Judges are reluctant to advise that therapy should take place, despite the fact that when such alienation occurs, children are damaged. Such therapy is often recommended by expert witnesses such as a psychologist or a psychiatrist. Such recommended periods of therapy for the child and mother are viewed by judges (with the aid of the mother’s Counsel!) as likely to damage further the children who are involved in this conflict and hostility between the parents.

 

Despite such reservations, judges have a moral duty to provide justice for the alienated party, this usually being the father. The threat of punishment for the alienator must be supported by punishment, including removing the child from mother’s care to a neutral place or to the alienated parent, and to use incarceration when necessary. Failure to carry out this distasteful, but necessary, action against the obdurate party would constitute a mockery of the judicial system. It is my experience as an expert witness to the Courts as a forensic, clinical psychologist, that most alienating parents, whether mothers or fathers, will obey a court order if punishment is threatened for failure to adhere to the ruling. Hence the carrying out of the various possible measures is rarely necessary.

 

In connection with PAS many judges have, without always being aware, adopted a double standard. They see mothers who are alienators as “victims” to be protected even when they have committed what can only be described as a form of “emotional abuse”. They have abused their powerful position by influencing the young children and turning them against the other parent. They have usurped the role of the other parent or given it to yet another partner with whom they have become associated. In this way, they have, by destroying the right of the other parent taken away that parent’s opportunity to contribute to the child’s welfare. This is at a time when we are seeking to promote the equality of the sexes. Partners should have equal power and responsibility toward their children.

 

PAS, when it has been proven, is a vicious form of gender opportunism or gender apartheid, which those seeking through justice can no longer ignore. Judges must stop worrying about public outcries if they remove a child from the care of a vicious programming parent who is showing their hostility toward the former partner.

 

I therefore suggest that the alienated parents, be they fathers or mothers, be protected. In so doing we are also protecting the children of such a relationship from a gross and calculated mis-use of power or position, that of the resident care giver.

 

Judges in cases of proven PAS should act as decisively as they would if judging a case of proven crime such as rape or murder. They must remove the child from the emotional damage being heaped upon it, to a safe place, where the non-alienating parent, with the help of therapy for the child, can have his influences felt by the child. At the same time, it is necessary to help the parent who has alienated the child in the first place. He or she has undoubtedly suffered from a considerable amount of pathological hostility towards the former partner.

 

By removing the child, or children, from the influence of the “brain-washing” alienator, the child has the opportunity of experiencing the dedication of the previously alienated parent and to develop a less biased view of that parent. Also the child can develop a positive view of both parents despite them being at war with each other.

 

This will do much to ensure for that child that both parents, although hostile towards one another, care and are devoted to him/her. This provides the child with a reasonable start in life, which he or she would not have had, had the influence of the alienator been allowed to continue along with a failure to have any contact with the alienated parent at the same time.

 

Dr L F Lowenstein
Allington Manor, Allington Lane
Fair Oak, Eastleigh
Hampshire, SO50 7DE
(01703) 692621

 

References

 

1. Parent Alienation Syndrome: What the legal profession should know, MLJ Vol 66 ( 1998) pt 4, 151.

 

Categories: Professionals
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