Parental Alienation: What Can an Alienated Parent Do?
For starters, information is power. Here's good news on where to get it.
Posted February 27, 2018 | Reviewed by Devon Frye
In my recent blog post entitled "Parental Alienation: What Is It? Who Does It?" I mentioned that in my clinical practice, I recently have had a run on cases of parental alienation syndrome. A common theme has emerged: the lack of support or justice that these individuals receive from family courts.
When one parent turns his or her children against the other parent via negative innuendos, false accusations, and more, the children (as well as the alienated parent) suffer. However, forensic psychologists appointed by courts, parenting coordinators, family law attorneys, and judges tend to be insufficiently informed—and often even misinformed—about parent alienation. Unfortunately, when professionals who are dealing with these issues in the courts and social services do not understand the situation, they can add to the harm being done by the alienating parent.
Miscarriages of justice within the family law system occur far too often. Ignorance, misunderstandings, and misdiagnoses of alienation may be major causes. I write blog posts here to do my part toward educating the general public, therapists, and others about the alienation phenomenon. On my clinical website I've posted a listing of essential reading, with links to key articles, about alienation signs, symptoms and treatment.
At the same time, I was delighted recently to discover another vital resource for parents whose children have been turned against them by a hostile spouse or ex-spouse, and for the mental health and legal professionals who work with them.
One woman, Elaine Cobb, got the ball rolling. Herself a victim—first of parental and then grandparental alienation situations—Elaine initially launched a small program within her state of North Carolina. Her goal: to make information about how to deal with an alienating situation more broadly available.
That program grew, and continues to grow. Family Access—Fighting for Children's Rights is now nationwide and even international. This past week, Elaine launched a new website filled with vital information and links to more.
In addition, Elaine reaches out to alienated parents and grandparents in need of support by hosting a free monthly educational telephone conference call featuring leading experts on parental alienation. She was joined in March, for instance, by two psychologists, Drs. Michael Bone and Robert Evans, who are the co-founders of the National Association of Parental Alienation Specialists (NAOPAS). This organization focuses on educating attorneys, judges, parenting coordinators, and mental health professionals. Their hope is that with a better understanding of parental alienation, psychological and legal professionals will become more able to assist unfairly alienated parents who want to regain a healthy parental relationship with their children.
Over the past several months the free conference call speakers have included Linda Gottlieb on treatment for severe alienation, Steven Miller on cognitive distortions in alienation, Brian Ludmer on the importance of collateral contacts, Bill Eddy on the narcissism and borderline personality features of alienators, myself on coping with the emotional rollercoaster from my book Prescriptions Without Pills), and many others.
How can you participate in the next free international support conference call?
The conference calls are free to anyone who signs up in advance, that is, by 5:00 EST (East Coast time) the day of the conference. To sign up, send an email to email@example.com. If you have signed up successfully, a return email will give you an access code.
The monthly conference calls are for victims of an alienating spouse, spouses who realize that they have inadvertently been engaging in parental alienation, grandparents of children who are being alienated, and legal and other professionals who deal with these issues.
Individuals from 28 countries are among the over 1,000 participants who take advantage of each of the conference calls. My clients who struggle with alienating situations tell me that they very much appreciate both the information they receive from the calls and the connections with other parents who face similar challenges.
What topics do parents and professionals who deal with parental alienation need to be informed on?
The following topics are some of the essential issues that these phone calls address. I repeat it here because the list clarifies important issues that parents and grandparents who face alienation situations need to be aware of and informed about.
- Defining parental alienation (PA)
- How is it that children can describe things that never occurred? Understanding the research
- The empirically validated 17 alienating behaviors of alienating parents
- Brainwashing techniques used by alienating parents
- When children lie under pressure
- Detection of PA
- The progressive course of PA
- Assessing abuse allegations: false and actual
- The alienated child’s fear of the alienating parent
- Levels of severity of PA
- The 8 symptoms of PA
- Estrangement vs. alienation
- Consequences of PA
- Treatment programs
- Why conventional therapy does not work
- Strategic considerations for lawyers
- Representing the alienating parent: Ethical considerations
- Representing the targeted parent: Exposing the alienation
- The roles of various experts in PA cases
- Critiquing misguided evaluations and evaluators
- Critiquing misguided guardians
It is normal for parents, and grandparents, who face alienation situations to experience significant feelings of anxiety.
As I explain in my book Prescriptions Without Pills: For Relief from Depression, Anger, Anxiety and More, anxiety warns of problems ahead. The key, therefore, to reducing anxiety is to mobilize information-gathering and problem-solving. Often, it is said, the best antidote to anxiety is information. Information is power. In addition, the other best antidote to anxiety is finding solutions.
Enter Psychology Today bloggers. With regard to information, bravo to the bloggers on this website. Several have written posts sharing much excellent information about parental alienation. I particularly recommend the blog posts by therapists Amy J.L. Baker, Linda Gottlieb, and Edward Kruk. Posts on this subject by Robert E. Emery and by Molly S. Costelloe also offer important perspectives. The information all of these therapists share is first-rate. Google their names as well for further writings.
Unfortunately, false accusations of parental alienation syndrome also can wreak havoc. Too often, the pot calls the kettle black. That is, alienating parents accuse the healthier parent of doing alienating behaviors when they themselves are actually the perpetrator. Posts on this website by Jennifer Baker address this sad situation. Awareness of misuse of parental alienation terminology is as important as awareness of parental alienation itself.
“Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information on it.” —Samuel Johnson
On behalf of the children who become deprived of contact with one of their parents as well as on behalf of alienated parents and grandparents, I salute both Elaine Cobb and the bloggers who write about parental alienation for Psychology Today.
If you are struggling with an alienation situation, do not struggle on your own. Connect with the many others who are living through the same situation. You can help each other. In unity, there is strength.