Parental Alienation: What Can an Alienated Parent Do?

For starters, information is power. Here's good news on where to get it.

Posted Feb 27, 2018

(c) Bialasiewicz/fotosearch
Source: (c) Bialasiewicz/fotosearch

In my recent blogpost entitled Parental Alienation: What Is It? Who Does It? I mentioned that in my clinical practice I have been had a run on cases of parental alienation syndrome.  A common theme has emerged.  That theme is the lack of support or justice that they 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. Forensic psychologists appointed by courts, parenting coordinators, family law attorneys and judges however 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 add to the harm being done by the alienating parent. 


Miscarriages of justice within the family law system occur far too often. I was delighted therefore to hear recently of new resources emerging for parents whose children have been turned against them by a hostile spouse or ex-spouse.

One woman, Elaine Cobb, got the ball rolling.  Herself a victim first of parental and then grandparent 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 now is nationwide and even international. 

Just this past week Elaine launched a new website filled with vital information and links to more.  Elaine would love your help if you can add to the resources she offers there.

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, for instance, in March by two psychologists, Drs. Michael Bone and Robert Evans, 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 better understanding of parental alienation, psychological and legal professionals will become more able to assist parents who want to regain a healthy parental relationship with their alienated children.

On Sunday, May 6th, 2018 at 8 PM EDT, Linda Gottlieb will be the guest speaker for the international seminar call. Ms. Gottlieb will be discussing the issues arising in treatment with severe parental alienation. This topic hits home to many parents and grandparents. Ms. Gottlieb has much experience over many years dealing with treatment of children who have suffered severe alienation and also with their alienating and alienated parents.

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 familyaccessinnc which is an aol dot com email address.  If you have signed up successfully, a return email will give you an access code.

The monthly conference calls are free to anyone—victims of an alienating spouse, spouses who realize that they have  inadvertently been engaging in the syndrome, grandparents of children who are being alienated, and legal and other professionals who deal with these issues. Individuals from more than 20 countries participated in the March call. Over 800 participants took advantage of this educational opportunity.

The topic for the April conference call is "Understanding Parental Alienation: Coping, Healing, Managing your Own Case."   Karen and Nick Woodall were the guest speakers. Elaine Cobb describes the information that Karen and Nick Woodall presented as follows:
"In this call, Karen and Nick Woodall discussed their internationally recognised reunification work at the Family Separation Clinic in London UK, drawing upon case studies from their successful practice with severely alienated children.
"Karen and Nick also run a coaching clinic for parents whose children are affected by the alienation dynamic and work with children who are in the mild to moderate category of alienation reaction. Using powerful parenting strategies which are counter intuitive to ordinary parenting, Karen and Nick assist families to bring alienated children out of the reaction and into a balanced and healthy relationship with both parents. Based upon research work with traumatised children, Karen and Nick have developed interventions which move away from consequence and reward based parenting to deeply empathic practice which relieves shame and the impact of high levels of cortisol which causes the angry defensive reactions seen in alienated children. Working on the concept that angry alienated children are coping with defending against the shame of rejecting a parent, Karen and Nick help parents to step across the divide and defence of the alienation reaction to work with the hidden, hurting child."

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: 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 various 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. 

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 psychologytoday 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 blogposts by psychologists Amy J.L. Baker and the posts by Edward Kruk.  Posts on this subject by Robert E. Emery and by Molly S.Costelloe also offer important perspectives.  The information all four of these psychologists share is first-rate.

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 the syndrome itself.

Lastly, dealing with parental alienation can be extremely stressful.  You might want to use the techniques I suggest on my website and the Prescriptions Without Pills book to be sure that anxiety, anger and depression do not sap your emotional strength.

As Samuel Johnson once said:

“Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information on it.”

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 you Elaine Cobb, Drs. Bone and Evans, and the bloggers who write about parental alienation on this psychologytoday website.


ps, I just was told of another resource: search and check out Simply Parent.  They have a big conference coming up in June. 

Also, this article on alienation has a particularly good graphic, plus a good response to those who oppose the use of the alienation term.  These hopefully can help you in court. 

One last thought: If you are struggling with an alienation situation, do not struggle on your own.  Connect with the many others in your same situation. You can help each other.

In unity there is strength. 

Be sure to read the following responses to this post by our bloggers: