Amy J.L. Baker Ph.D.

Caught Between Parents

How to Find a Parental Alienation Expert, Part 3

What are the credentials of a bona fide PA expert?

Posted Nov 10, 2015

Parental alienation, a family dynamic in which one parent engages in behaviors that are likely to foster a child’s unjustified rejection of the other parent, is all too common.  By some estimates 80% of all divorcing parents engage in some PA behaviors (Clawar & Rivlin, 1992).  Although, not all children exposed to PA behaviors become alienated (unjustifiably reject one parent and align with the other), rates of alienation in children may be as high as 1% (Bernet, Boch-Galhau, Baker, & Morrison, 2010).  A body of research now exists, establishing the negative long-term effects of exposure to PA behaviors for children (e.g., Baker & Eichler, 2014; Bernet, Baker, & Verrocchio, 2015 ; Verrocchio & Baker, 2015).  Some research, along with a host of memoirs, also documents the extremely painful experience of alienation for the targeted parents (e.g., Baker, 2006; Baker, & 2006; Baker & Fine, 2014).  

Many targeted parents find themselves involved with legal as well as mental health professionals as they navigate their parental alienation journey (Gardner, 1998).  Although there is considerable research and clinical wisdom in our current knowledge base, PA is still an emerging field.  Presently, there is no credentialing body to provide professionals with an evidence-based training protocol and/or related information to address the problem of parental alienation.  Anyone could claim to be an expert in the treatment of addictions regardless of his or her knowledge, experience, or skill.

The qualifications below can be used as a checklist to identify true expertise as opposed to limited or pseudo-expertise.  It is imperative for the expert to have a strong background and training in relevant areas—rooted in sound science. While experience as a targeted/alienated parent, or perhaps a formerly-alienated child, can be very helpful, personal experience alone is not enough.  It is this educational background—applied to the phenomenon of PA—that separates truth from ideology, fact from fiction, and good advice from bad.  Though a genuine expert might not meet every one of these criteria—for instance, an excellent clinician might not have published any scientific papers—a true expert should have most of these qualifications.

1. An advanced degree (masters or doctoral) from an accredited educational institution in a relevant discipline or field.

2. A deep, extensive knowledge of the clinical literature regarding pathological alignment, alienation and estrangement, and pathological enmeshment, as well substantial knowledge and understanding of borderline, narcissistic, and sociopathic personality disorders.

3. Authored or co-authored published works in the field (self-publication does not count).

4. Completed educational programs or other training by qualified experts in relevant areas.  These training programs should be recent and should include advances in research and evidence-based practice.

5. Provided Continuing Education (CE) training to mental health professionals or Continuing Legal Education (CLE) to legal professionals on parental alienation.

6. Qualified as an expert in court on PA and related issues.

7. Maintained collaborative communication with other experts in PA.

The remaining sections of this blog will focus on the scientific principles that any bona fide PA expert should endorse.

This blog is based on the collective work of the following people:

Amy J.L. Baker, Ph.D.

Steven G. Miller, MD.

J. Michael Bone, Ph.D

And in alphabetical order

Katherine Andre, Ph.D.

Rebecca Bailey, Ph.D.

William Bernet, M.D

Doug Darnall, Ph.D.

Robert Evans, Ph.D

Linda Kase Gottlieb, LMFT, LCSW-R

Demothenos Lorandos, Ph.D. JD

Kathleen Reay, Ph.D.

S. Richard Sauber, Ph.D.