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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

anger_iceberg

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

Twenty Techniques to Become a Target Parent: Wrong if You Try; Wrong if You Don’t Try

Twenty Techniques to Become a Target Parent:
Wrong if You Try; Wrong if You Don’t Try

File for a divorce.

Follow through on a divorce.

Leave an abusive spouse / partner (verbal abuse is normally considered a form of abuse).

Attempt to remain civil (your ex will display contempt).

Do not speak negatively about your ex-spouse within an ear shot of your child (your  ex-spouse will denigrate you, directly to your child, and utilize your child as a confidant).

Kindly ask your ex-spouse to stop speaking negatively about you and  extended family. Explain that children should feel free to love both parents (if you’re lucky, and your ex-spouse understands emotional abuse, he, or she will stop and you will not become an alienated parent).

Kindly ask again, attempt to explain that your child is in distress. (Your child cries and reports that “they told mom /dad that it makes them sad to hear bad things about mom/dad” but the parent continues to speak negatively).

Find assistance (with due diligence you can find someone well-versed in the nuances of parental alienation; if you are unlucky, you may be told your child’s behavior is a phase. Or, you may be informed that your situation is nothing more than a theory).

Follow court orders / parenting plans (your ex-spouse will violate the orders).

Enforce the orders (out of necessity as your ex-spouse believes that he or she is above the law.

Enforce the orders again (beware your case may  be deemed “high-conflict”).

Enforce the orders yet again (save your money too; your ex-spouse may have plans to flee the state or country—yes, some follow through).

Ignore the aforementioned.  (It is not good to be in and out of court enforcing orders that should be followed at the onset).

Remain calm. Should you display anxiety over your child’s emotional abuse, you will not appear  “put together” in comparison to your ex-spouse (an axiom: he who cares the least, controls the most; your ex-spouse will stay cool, calm and collected. Yes, they have power over you and your child.  they control a vital relationship— a parent-child bond. They know too, that they can get away with such cruelty as parental alienation is not taken as seriously as it should).

Attempt to be a parent and not a friend (your ex-spouse will be your child’s friend).

Ignore the aforementioned (if you engage in normal parental duties, such as enforcing homework and chores; it will backfire. Your child may run away to your ex-spouses home, make false allegations, trash your property, key your car, or with the coaching of mom/dad engage in another court battle to alter custody).

Attempt to be a friend and not a parent (your children will love this new role! Your ex-will continue to be a friend.  Consequently, your children will have two friends, not two parents Some children may become spoiled brats with a spirit of entitlement, but it may keep you from a permanent cutoff).

Discard the aforementioned (your rationally realize that relinquishing your parental duties to sustain a relationship is not healthy for you, nor your child).

Accept that you will be treated with disdain for being a parent and simply human—one that makes mistakes within normal limits (your ex-spouse will be exalted to an angelic status).

Realize that not only will your children reject you, spite you, and claim to hate you; others will chime in too. Neighbors, friends, and extended family that do not understand unhealthy parent child alignments and irrational alienation will question and quiz you.  In some cases, if you decide to obtain help, you may be blamed all over again.  Our society teaches that it, “always” takes two to tango. (once again, you may become defensive in trying to explain such irrational hatred. Consequently, your ex-spouse appears sane while you come across as a neurotic mess) certainly, it often takes two.  However, “  In other cases, though, attributing a parent-child problem to both parents, when one parent is clearly more responsible for destructive behavior, is a misguided effort to appear balanced and avoid blame.  Unfortunately, this sometimes results in blaming the victim, and leads to inadequate remedies that prolong rather than relieve a child’s suffering” Dr. Richard Warshak, 2011

Categories: Parents

Letting Go: When Alienated Parents Give Up

Letting Go: When Alienated Parents Give Up 

Letting Go

When a parent endures parental alienation, various emotions materialize.  Some are angry and others feel helpless.  On the other hand, a number of rejected parents evolve into dedicated empowered advocates, but just as many are depleted both physically and financially. Some parents may ask, when do I let go? Clearly, alienated parents (also known as rejected parents) are grieving parents.  In 2002 Dr. Richard Gardner wrote, “For some alienated parents the continuous heartache is similar to living death.” Sadly, for many rejected parents, the sorrow never ends.

Most are familiar with Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ Five Stages of Grieving.  First is Denial.  Denial is not recognizing reality.  As noted by Dr. Gardner (2002), denying reality is obviously a maladaptive way of dealing with a situation.  In fact, denial is generally considered to be one of the defense mechanisms, mechanisms that are inappropriate, maladaptive, and pathological. Obviously, it is hard to deny that one is a rejected parent. However, at times, it may seem easier to deny that the situation is not real. To deal with the unreal, some parents may resign.  Studies indicate that some rejected parents, similar to survivors of domestic violence, become passive. (Kopetski, 1998).

Anger is another stage of the grieving process.  However, underlying anger is hurt and a loss of power and a loss of control over a situation or an event. Unquestionably, alienated parents become angry as their cases are dismissed and their cause is mocked.  Third, is bargaining. As an example, a bargaining parent may believe if they try hard enough, or say the right thing, his or her child will suddenly have a change of heart. Fourth is depression. Self-blame, hopelessness, and despair consumes their thoughts. The fifth stage, is acceptance. Clearly, rejected parents do not happily accept their plight, but they may be forced to give up “the fight.”  That is, some may cho0se to loosely let go.    

It is vital though, to consider what letting go signifies.  Letting go is not to cut oneself off, it’s the realization that one person can’t control another. As applied to parental alienation, one cannot force an ex-spouse to cease his or her hate campaign. Secondly, letting go is not to deny, but to accept.  Acceptance is realizing that some ex-spouses refuse to co-parent.  Some alienating parents intend to turn the child against the other parent–permantely. They stop at nothing.  One study depicts this unfortunate, but true, reality, “a minority of parents who suffer from personality and mental disorders may ignore the court and spend their waking hours finding ways to exhaust the other parent emotionally and financially” ( Jaffe et al. 2010). Yes; you may realize that you, or a loved one, are in the minority.

Parents may also have to accept that they may be blamed for the rejection– blamed not only by family and friends, but blamed by society.  No one likes to point fingers these days, after all;  it is socially unacceptable.  As noted by Dr. Richard Warshak (2011), attributing a parent-child problem to both parents, when one parent is clearly more responsible for destructive behavior, is a misguided effort to appear balanced and avoid blame.

When to  let go?  First and foremost; it is personal.  Dr. Warshak’s book, Divorce Poison (2010), notes that the parent may see no viable option other than to let go of active attempts to overcome the problem.  As a caveat, he notes, “I just urge all alienated parents and relatives, and all therapists who work with these families, not to wave the white flag of surrender too soon.”  He offers seven suggestions about the possibility of letting go. One suggestion is when all legal channels to improve the situation have been exhausted.

Some parents, unfortunately, have discovered the aforementioned exhaustion. As  Dr. Amy Baker reported, “alienating parents did not respect the court orders, the attorneys were not interested in or able to force the alienating parent into compliance. Apparently, once the alienating parent determined that this was the case, noncompliance became the order of the day.”  Rejected parents know all too well, that non compliance works. A second suggestion by Dr. Warshak is when, “your ex is so disturbed that a continuing battle could provoke him or her to violent action against the children or against you or other members of your family.”  Clearly, not all rejected parents have the funding to continue the battle.

As a conclusion, should you come into contact with a rejected parent it may be helpful to offer grace for his or her grief.  Each and every rejected parent differs in his or her stage of sorrow.  They will also display unique feelings.  Some may feel  discouraged, dejected, and depressed. Or, others may feel angry and outraged.  If the parent recently read about parental alienation, and discovered there is a name to the irrational rejection; they may feel relieved.  Perhaps, they are baffled, broken, and bewildered. If they have pleaded with the courts for 15 years, they may feel helpless and guarded. When their families blame them, they may become withdrawn and detached.  Regardless of the stage or feeling(s) that accompany the pain of parental alienation, rejected parents require empathy, exultation, and esteem.

Categories: Parents

You Might Be An Alienated Parent If…

You Might Be An Alienated Parent If…  (by Monika)

You might be an alienated parent if your four-year old reports, “dad says he gives your new marriage two years—and I agree with him.”

You might be an alienated parent if your seven-year old reports, “ I know the law; just wait till I am of age; I will tell the judge where I want to live.  We are asking for full custody.”

You might be an alienated parent if your child removes household items such as DVDs, electronics, etc. Then, when confronting the child, he / she reports “I feel sorry for dad (or mom) they live alone and cannot make ends meet.” “We pawned the items (mom/dad) get over it.”

You might be an alienated parent if your five-year old reports they no longer have to obey your  rules because “dad ( or mom) says so.” And “we think your rules are dumb.”

You might be a distressed and an alienated parent if your ex-partner refuses to co-parent and constantly belittles you to your child.

You might be a distressed and an alienated parent if your child complains about the meals you cook. But they don’t stop at complaining.  Instead,  they trash dinner. They call the other parent and report that “there is no decent food in the home.”

You might be a distressed and an alienated parent if you kindly ask your ex-spouse to please cease badmouthing. You point out that constant badmouthing is not in the child’s best interest. But, you discover they refuse to stop.

You might be a distressed and an alienated parent if your ex-spouse and his (or her) family do not understand the concept of boundaries. They share adult matters with adolescents and  actually seek your adolescents advice. This is evidenced by your adolescent reporting, “yeah dad (or mom) and I have a good time; we talked about the reason his third girlfriend moved out.” And, “geez, mom (or dad) I sure feel so very sorry for her (or him).”   And, as a consequence, your child is in constant distress. You understand this, but your ex-spouse and family do not;  they have the same  mentality as your adolescent. You wonder if insurance companies are the only ones that catch on, as full brain development does not stop at age 16. Insurance rates drop about age 25.

You might be a distressed and an alienated parent if you tell your eight year old they cannot watch the exorcist movie, rated R.  Your eight year old informs you, “fine, I will watch the movie with (dad or mom) they will let me”…and the parent actually will.

You might be a distressed and an alienated parent if your eight-year old child develops nightmares after watching  movies. You explain to your child that they should not watch such movies while at the other parent’s home. The child insists that “they are more mature than you understand.”  Being the good co-parent you are, you call up your ex-spouse and discuss (or your try to discuss) that it is not  a good idea to let the child view R rated movies. You are told, “ I am with them, what’s the harm; you are too strict.” Besides, “it’s my home when the child is with me.”  And… you are not going to tell me how to raise my (son or daughter).

You might be a distressed and an alienated parent if you report these events but are informed, “ emotional abuse is hard to prove.” The next question, “is your child physically abused?” No you reply. Well, says the helper, “go read a good parenting book.” That day you read an advocacy group’s stance that your issue–the emotional abuse of your child, is not a “real” problem because children would not reject a parent without a good reason. Coercive control only works with grown adults, not susceptible children, right?

You might be distressed, disgruntled, and an alienated parent if you attempt to seek help for your child.  Some say parental alienation is not a “real problem” that it is nothing more than a “normal reaction to a divorce.” Your advice is to “ take the high-road, most children will outgrow alienation.”

You might be a distressed, disgruntled, and an alienated parent if you end back up in  court to enforce orders that are not followed. Your co-parent refuses to adhere to any parenting plan or other mandates—he or she is above the law. They refuse to return the children on time or assist with paying for school lunches.  You are informed, “you just need to get along with your co-parent.” You try to explain that you have bent over backwards in trying to work with your ex-spouse. You may start to think that they have “Heard one case, so they have heard them all.”

You might be a distressed, disgruntled, down-trodden and an alienated parent if the experience of parental alienation has occurred for over 15 years. In fact, it went on for so long, one or more of your children no longer will speak with you. You scratch your head wondering if the brand new car (dad or mom) said they could have if they tore up your property and moved in with them, had anything to do with your child’s change of heart.   

You might be a distressed, disgruntled, down-trodden and an alienated parent if you attempt to explain the situation but others scratch their head, suspiciously question you, and reply “well… some kids are resilient to badmouthing and brainwashing—wonder why your child is not?”

You might be a distressed, disgruntled, down-trodden and an alienated parent if you did the best you could.  No you were not perfect. But,  you were at least an average parent. You know your day-to-day routine would be okay if you were still married.  But once the campaign of denigration started, you had to become almost a perfect parent. You grew a little weary.

Resources:

Parental Alienation Awareness Organization

Dr. Richard Warshak

Categories: Parents

Bereavement Without End – A Plea From Alienated Parents Everywhere by Tim Line

Bereavement Without End– A Plea From Alienated Parents Everywhere by Tim Line

Bereavement Without End

 

The death of a child is indisputably one of the most incredibly horrible tragedies one can imagine. Whether by sudden accidental circumstance, or by a more lengthy cause as in illness, the loss of a child is undeniably painful to experience.Painful to the parents, parents to the family, and painful to anyone related to the child. Never knowing the laughter of that child again or the tears, the joys and the accomplishments is a pain no parent should ever have to endure, and yet it happens. No one is to blame. It just happens.  

Imagine the same pain and the same sense of loss, with one exception-the parent is very much aware that the child is alive.  

 The effects of Parental Alienation Syndrome are very similar to the loss of a child due to accident or illness. For the parent who has been alienated from their child, the bereavement does not end. How do we know? Each alienated parent separately, and all of us collectively have lived with both the cause and the effect of Parental Alienation for countless years. Like a terminally fatal childhood disease, Parental Alienation rips the innocent child from your arms slowly. You witness the suffering. You witness the effects. You can feel the impending doom is inevitable, but you are powerless to do anything about it. You try remedy after remedy hoping that one will finally rid your child of the “disease”. You work like a person possessed in order to finance the efforts, and when the final blow comes, it is emotionally devastating. You question yourself. You blame yourself for the loss. You tell yourself you should have done more.

The very sad part of the story, is it is not unique. There are hundreds of thousands of children and parents affected by PAS. We beg of those with the power to make people aware of this devastatingly horrible phenomena, to please do all they can to educate people on its effects, and to change the laws to protect the innocence of the children involved. Only then can we truly hope to keep children safe from the harmful side effects that are inherent with Parental Alienation itself. It’s killing the spirit of family everywhere.

Keeping Families Connected

Ambiguous Loss

Categories: Parents

Parental Alienation: Drama, Distress & Demise

Parental alienation & Drama

Recently, the phenomenon of Parental alienation aired on the Dr. Phil show. “It’s been called the ultimate form of child abuse –parents brainwashing their children against an ex-spouse in order to win custody. Could you be harming your child emotionally and not even know it? For 12 years, Chrissy and her ex-husband, Dennis, have been embroiled in a nasty custody battle for their two children. Dennis says that Chrissy badmouths him and his new wife, Gina, to their children and even took out a protective order against him, while Chrissy feels that her ex is an extreme disciplinarian who is teaching their kids to be pathological liars. Areva Martin, attorney and women’s advocate, examines Chrissy’s legal position, while Lisa Bloom, CBS legal analyst, weighs in on Dennis’ side. Will the parents reach a truce for the sake of their kids, or will they continue to battle it out in court? Plus, Dr. Phil speaks to former guest Bridget Marks, who made headlines when she had to hand over her twin daughters to their biological father after a court ruled that she falsely accused him of molestation. “

Help Alienated Children

 Parental Alienation is an insidious form of emotional abuse. It has been unrecognized too long. It has also been suggested , that it is nothing more than a diversionary ploy. Media distortions and certain groups cannot grasp that parental alienation is a real crisis. Stating one believes this is a genuine form of emotional abuse, does not suggest that issues of domestic violence and sexual abuse should be taken lightly. Screening tools and well-trained psychologists with extensive experience can rule out physical and sexual abuse before considering parental alienation. Polarization is neither necessary nor helpful. Nonetheless the importance of this phenomenon are emotionally bruised children.

My heart broke watching the show. I cannot begin to imagine how the children feel. Children placed in the middle of hostile exchanges will not adjust well to their parents divorce. Should this situation between the parents not resolve, the children’s emotional well-being will deteriorate. However, while this case is disheartening; it does not represent the horrific outcome of many other alienated children and their families. I would like the think the issue can be resolved. However, it is time for a reality check. Many cases of parental alienation continue for 10 years or more post-divorce. Surprisingly, the parents may never exchange hostile words again, once the divorce is finalized. Instead, one parent decides to use the child as a pawn, friend, and sounding board.

First off, the show depicted two couples in hostile disagreement. Also, the number of court appearances was striking. As a caveat, not all cases of parental alienation consist of disputing couples or multiple court appearances. This is a view popularized by television and some celebrity divorces. Some families do not have the funding. Other families, that do have the money, realize that court is adversarial and orders are not upheld, such as visitation etc. (see Dr. Baker’s study, Even When You Win You Lose, 2010 and Baker & Darnall, 2006). Consequently, some alienated parents give up on getting help and they take what many call “the high road.” Taking the high road translates to becoming the better person. The high road also entails significant consequences– the demise of a parent’s child.

If taking the high-road, as this show portrayed, is to stay out of court (as multiple court battles are frowned upon) then one parent, in some cases will continue to defy court orders. They will not adhere to drop off times, visitation, shared parenting etc. This too is supported by countless studies. One parent may not cease denigrating the other, within an ear shot of a child. Constant denigration leads to enormous stress in the child. Parental Alienation is not always about two-sided strife. It is about the brainwashing of a child.

Sure, many ridicule this notion.They claim “brainwashing” is absurd. However, pause for a moment and think of a child’s suggestibility (view the Sam Stone Study). Given that adults enter cults or join extremist groups, it is comprehensible that a child may become susceptible. Some children can no longer tolerate the emotional tug of war and may side with one parent, ultimately severing all ties. In turn, the child comes to believe and live a lie. They are taught to hate a parent for irrational reasons. The outcome: estrangement. The issue with this line of thinking, is that it goes against our taught reasoning: if a child hates a parent, the parent had to do something wrong.

Lastly, no one is exempt from this occurring in his or her family. There are psychologists, counselors, attorneys, social workers and other professionals that are alienated and estranged from their children. I might add, many which have extensive training in parenting classes, parenting education and conflict resolution. If one decides to divorce and the other parent cannot come to terms, no one should be so arrogant to think that their ex-spouse would not result to revenge by using the children to regain power and control. Many children are suffering from parental alienation. And, some parents want help for their children. It is simplistic and single-minded to think “if both parents would just get along.” Idealistic, sure; Realistic, no. We all know there are people out there that simply do not care and they will not change. Helping children, not forcing parents to change (the ones that do not desire to change) is the only viable option.

Resources regarding parental alienation:
Dr. Warshak
Parental Alienation Awareness Organization

A Families Heartbreak

Keeping Families Connected

Dr. Amy Baker

Dr. Jayne Majors

Categories: Parents
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