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Parental Alienation Presentation

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Transcript of Parental Alienation Presentation

Laurie Wood, M.A.
Eastern Mennonite University

How to Recognize and Respond to Parental Alienation:
What Every Counselor Needs to Know

Recognizing Parental Alienation
How Counselors Can Help
How Children Become Alienated
Overview


First described in 1976 as a “pathological alignment”

Popularized in 1980’s by physician Richard Gardner, coined term “parental alienation syndrome”

No single definition

Still unresolved debate over its existence, etiology, characteristics and in particular the description as a syndrome
Aligned Parent

also referred to as:
alienating parent
preferred parent
favored parent
idealized parent
allied parent

Alienated Parent

also referred to as:
rejected parent
targeted parent
Objectives
Learn how to recognize PA and distinguish it from realistic estrangement

Gain insight into how and why alienation occurs

Learn key interventions you can make as a mental health professional
Terms
8 Behavioral Manifestations
Campaign of denigration
-- child becomes obsessed with hatred of the alienated parent, often seemingly overnight

Weak, frivolous, and absurd rationalizations for the depreciation of the alienated parent
-- the objections made in the campaign of denigration are often not of the magnitude that would lead a child to hate a parent

Lack of ambivalence about the aligned parent
--one parent becomes all good while the other becomes all bad

“Independent Thinker” phenomenon
-- child strongly asserts that the decision to reject the other parent is his or her own

Absence of guilt about the treatment of the alienated parent

Reflexive support for the aligned parent in the parental conflict
-- no willingness or attempt to be impartial when faced with inter-parental conflicts

Presence of borrowed scenarios
-- using phrases and ideas adopted wholesale from the aligned parent

Animosity spreads to alienated parents’ extended family
Gardner, R.A., (1998). The parental alienation syndrome: A guide for mental health and legal professionals. Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics.
Proposed Diagnostic Criteria for Parental Alienation Disorder
A. The child—usually one whose parents are engaged in a high-conflict divorce—allies himself or herself strongly with one parent and rejects a relationship with the other, alienated parent without legitimate justification. The child resists or refuses contact or parenting time with the alienated parent.

B. The child manifests the following behaviors:
(1) a persistent rejection or denigration of a parent that reaches the level of a campaign
(2) weak, frivolous, and absurd rationalizations for the child’s persistent criticism of the rejected parent

C. The child manifests two or more of the following six attitudes and behaviors:
(1) lack of ambivalence
(2) independent-thinker phenomenon
(3) reflexive support of one parent against the other
(4) absence of guilt over exploitation of the rejected parent
(5) presence of borrowed scenarios
(6) spread of the animosity to the extended family of the rejected parent

D. The duration of the disturbance is at least 2 months.

E. The disturbance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, academic (occupational), or other important areas of functioning.

F. The child’s refusal to have contact with the rejected parent is without legitimate justification. That is, parental alienation disorder is not diagnosed if the rejected parent maltreated the child.
Bernet, W. et. al. (2010). Parental alienation, DMS-V, and ICD-11. American Journal of Family Therapy, Vol 38(2), 76-187. doi: 10.1080/01926180903586583
Distinguishing PA from Realistic Estrangement
History of family violence, abuse or neglect

Child is the target of violence

Cumulative result of child observing repeated violence or explosive outbursts of a parent

Response to severe parental deficiencies, such as:

Persistent immature and self-centered behaviors
Chronic emotional abuse of child or aligned parent
Undetected physical abuse
Angry, rigid and restrictive parenting styles
Psychiatric disturbance or substance abuse that interferes with parenting
Kelly, J. B. and Johnston, J. R. (2001), The alienated child: A reformulation of parental alienation syndrome. Family Court Review, 39: 249–266. doi: 10.1111/j.174-1617.2001.tb00609.x
Systemic Processes
that Potentiate Alienation
History of intense marital conflict

Separation experienced
as deeply humiliating

Highly conflicted divorce
and litigation

Contribution of new
partners, extended family
and professionals
Kelly, J. B. and Johnston, J. R. (2001). The alienated child: A reformulation of parental alienation syndrome. Family Court Review, 39: 249–266. doi: 10.1111/j.174-1617.2001.tb00609.x
The Aligned Parent- Behaviors and Beliefs That Contribute to Alienation
1. Belief that the child doesn’t really need the other parent in her/his life


Views alienated parents’ attempts to visit or contact child as harassment

Doesn’t pass on phone calls, letters, texts, etc to child

Fails to provide alienated parent with information about school, medical, athletic or special events

Frequently denigrates the rejected parent in front of child
--erodes child’s confidence in and love for the rejected parent
--creates intolerable confusion

Personality and parenting flaws of rejected parent are discussed and exaggerated frequently in child’s presence

Child positively reinforced for bringing back their own observations of the rejected parents’ failings in post-visit debriefing sessions
Kelly, J. B. and Johnston, J. R. (2001), The alienated child: A reformulation of parental alienation syndrome. Family Court Review, 39: 249–266. doi: 10.1111/j.174-1617.2001.tb00609.x
2. Belief that the rejected parent is dangerous to the child in some way(s)-
violent, physically or sexually abusive, or neglectful
Campaign to protect child from the presumed danger may include:

Seeking restraining and supervised visitation orders

Installing security equipment at residence

Finding reasons to cancel visits

Calling the child every hour during a visit to “check up” on the child's wellbeing

Debriefing the child after each visit to detect ‘negative” occurrences
3. Belief that the rejected parent does not and has
never loved or cared about the child
Repeated stories to children of “evidence” supporting the belief that:

the parent was never involved
(“he went bowling when you were sick”)

or demonstrating the parents’ presumed lack of interest when, for example, he fails to appear at a sporting event
(about which he had been given no advance notice)
Empirical research and clinical observation indicates there is often significant pathology and anger in the alienating parent, including:

Problems with boundaries and
differentiation from the child

Severe separation anxieties

Impaired reality testing

Projective identification with the child
Contributing Behaviors of the Alienated Parent
*these behaviors do not, by themselves, warrant the child’s rejection or refusal to have contact

Passivity and withdrawal in the face of high conflict

Counter-rejection of the alienated child

Harsh and rigid parenting style

Self-centered and immature personality

Critical and demanding traits

Diminished empathy for the aligned child
Why Therapy Often Fails
Aligned parent-child dyad highly motivated to see treatment fail—
Rejection of alienated parent is not the problem, it’s the solution

For child, rejection eliminates cognitive dissonance and confusion

Parents have completely opposite agendas

Aligned parents might undermine therapy by:
being extremely demanding about appointment times
cancelling appointments on short notice or no-show
rejecting the therapist
claiming that sessions are too stressful and unpleasant
claiming the therapist is biased
Alienated parent is typically blamed for forcing the child into counseling
Ellis, E. M., & Boyan, S. (2010). Intervention strategies for parent coordinators in parental alienation cases. American Journal of Family Therapy, 38:218–236.
Treating the Family System
Work with entire family in different combinations:

Family members individually
Child with each parent separately
Parents together
Siblings in various combinations
Entire family together

Stepwise Process:

6 months to 2 years

Start with each parent alone, sometimes together

See child with favored parent to introduce process

Child seen individually for several sessions

Continue to see child with favored parent as needed

Begin indirect contact with alienated parent, ease into direct contact

See child with alienated parent, process visits
Fidler, B.J., Bala, N., & Saini, M.A. (2013). Children who resist postseparation parental contact: A differential approach for legal and mental health professionals. American psychology-law society series. New York, NY, US: Oxford University Press.
Counseling the Alienated Parent
Acknowledge their pain and loss without blaming them

Determine ways to improve parenting skills and parent-child communication

Help them learn to manage the grief, loss, rage and shame

Help them learn to manage the constant frustration and struggle involved in typically chronic legal battles

Help them find some peace and happiness within such a painful situation
Baker, A. J. L., & Andre, K. (2008). Working with alienated children and their targeted parents. Annals of the American Psychotherapy Association, 11(2), 10–17.
Specific Strategies and Advice to Give Alienated Parents
Ellis, E. M. (2005). Help for the alienated parent. American Journal of Family Therapy, 33(5), 415–426.
(1) The alienated parent must make every effort to erode the image of being the evil villain by acting in such a way as to provide incongruent information.


You must be extraordinarily kind, patient, and sympathetic,
especially in the face of the child’s verbal attacks, acting out,
and noncompliance.

Be sympathetic and understanding of their situation.

Do not take their attacks personally.

Be willing to apologize to the children for your mistakes.
Admit to the part that is true.

You can make a gracious apology that doesn’t acknowledge
any wrongdoing.

Continue to erode the negative image of you by drawing on past memories of good times together.
(2) The alienated parent must withdraw from any actions that put the children in the middle and cause them to feel they must take sides.

Don’t vent anger at the alienating parent—ever. Even if justified, even if it is rational, just don’t go there.

You must help the children to compartmentalize.

Be willing to make positive statements about their mother/father.

Don’t make reference to court actions, show them court papers, or any legal information.

Don’t argue with your child in an attempt to get him to give up his view of reality.

Don’t challenge their loyalty to mom/dad. The more you challenge it, the more they will resist. Go with it. Support them in their enmeshment. Listen for signs of growth and gently support them.
(3) The alienated parent can consider ways in which to mollify the hurt and anguish of the alienating parent.
Be open to apologizing.
Have your new wife be deferential to the children’s mother.
Delay remarriage as long as possible.

(4) The alienated parent must realistically appraise the coalition and its strength and look for ways to dismantle the coalition, even convert some of the enemies to allies.
Make allies where possible.

(5) The alienated parent should be advised to never give up contact altogether.
Continually offer small acts of kindness, concern, and thoughtfulness.
Counseling the Alienated Child
Build trust and therapeutic alliance:

want to acknowledge child’s reality without validating the negative view of the alienated parent

acknowledge that you don’t have a shared understanding of the situation while maintaining empathic stance for the bind of the child

Once trust is established, help child develop a more balanced view of both parents:

teach child critical thinking skills

help child de-enmesh from aligned parent

challenge supporting defense mechanisms
Baker, A. J. L., & Andre, K. (2008). Working with alienated children and their targeted parents. Annals of the American Psychotherapy Association, 11(2), 10–17.
Counseling the Aligned Parent
Help her/him identify the fears, hurt and shame that often underlie the anger that drives the alienating behavior

Provide forum for safe release of emotions

Help find other outlets for narcissism that don’t involve putting down ex-spouse

Validate disappointment and sense of betrayal she/he has endured

**Help parent define clearer boundaries between her feelings and those of the child

Educate about long-term effects of alienation

Educate about how a child’s problems in relating to a parent can generalize to other relationships
Warshak, R. (2001). Divorce poison. New York: Regan Books.
References
Baker, A. J. L., & Andre, K. (2008). Working with alienated children and their
targeted parents. Annals of the American Psychotherapy Association, 11(2), 10–17.
Bernet, W. et. al. (2010). Parental alienation, DMS-V, and ICD-11. American Journal
of Family Therapy, Vol 38(2), 76-187. doi: 10.1080/01926180903586583
Ellis, E. M. (2007). A stepwise approach to evaluating children for parental
alienation syndrome. Journal of Child Custody, 4(1–2), 55–78.
Ellis, E. M. (2005). Help for the alienated parent. American Journal of Family
Therapy, 33(5), 415–426.
Ellis, E. M., & Boyan, S. (2010). Intervention strategies for parent coordinators
inparental alienation cases. American Journal of Family Therapy, 38:218–236.
Fidler, B. J., Bala, N., Birnbaum, R., & Kavassalis, K. (2008a). Understanding
childalienation and its impact on families. In B. J. Fidler et al., Challenging issuesin child custody assessments, A guide for legal and mental health professionals (pp. 203–229). Toronto, Canada: Thomson Carswell.
Fidler, B.J., Bala, N., & Saini, M.A. (2013). Children who resist postseparation
parental contact: A differential approach for legal and mental health professionals. American psychology-law society series. New York, NY, US: Oxford University Press.
Gardner, R.A., (1998). The parental alienation syndrome: A guide for mental health
and legal professionals. Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics.
Kelly, J. B. and Johnston, J. R. (2001). The alienated child: A reformulation of
parental alienation syndrome. Family Court Review, 39: 249–266. doi: 10.1111/j.174-1617.2001.tb00609.x
Ready, T.D. (Producer). (2010). Welcome back pluto. (DVD). Available from
http://www.warshak.com.
Warshak, R. (2001). Divorce poison. New York: Regan Books.
What IS Parental Alienation?
When a child rejects a parent, typically the non-cusotodial parent,
after a separation or divorce without a justifiable reason.
Healthy Parent-Child Family System
Parent 1
Parent 2
child
Full transcript