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Parental Alienation: Treatment and Resources

Looking for psychological assistance with parental alienation?

Parental alienation occurs when one parent attempts to turn children against the other by (1) denigrating the targeted parent and (2) blocking the children from contact with the targeted parent.

If alienation appears to be happening to your child or children, and if you live in the state of Colorado, you have found the right place for obtaining psychological help for your family.

TO LEARN MORE ABOUT ALIENATION, PLEASE SCROLL DOWN THIS PAGE TO THE RESOURCES LIST.

Parental alienation

  • Harms children.
  • Deprives parents and grandparents of their rightful parenting and grand-parenting role.
  • Is increasingly considered a form of child abuse, and in fact one of the most damaging forms of abuse. The emotional consequences of severe alienation can last a lifetime.  An alienating parent teaches the child to become narcissistic, borderline and/or sociopathic.
  • Is a child protection issue.  Is also an assault on parental and grandparental rights.
  • For a full list of resources explaining alienation please scroll down this page.

Dr. Heitler’s Parental Alienation Treatment Center:

  • Helps parents to clarify a course of action to repair the family relationships
  • Offers specialty-trained therapists for reconnecting children with the alienated parent, that is, reintegration therapy.
  • Conducts psychological testing for purposes of court decision-making
  • Give expert-witness testimony in parental alienation cases
  • Offers support for alienated parents’ inevitable anger, sadness, anxiety, and other distress reactions evoked by the alienation situation.

Contact the Parental Alienation Center at the TherapyHelp psychology offices.

Reach us by phone or email.  Our staff is in the office from 8:30 to 4:30, Mondays through Thursdays.  They are there to discuss your concerns and to refer you to appropriate helpful professionals.

  • Call us at 303-388-4211
  • Email us at psychologysecretary at msn.com or via the Contact Us form on the home page of this website.
  • Connect with us via the Contact Us form on the upper right corner of this page.

Self-Help for Depression, Anger, and Anxiety if an Alienation Situation is Distressing You.

1. Please feel welcome to view my TEDx talk on lifting depression.

2. I have posted free podcasts on self-help for depression and anxiety*:

Depression, A Disorder of Power

Anxiety: Friend or Foe

3. My book Prescriptions Without Pills and the associated worksheets and videos on the book’s free website offer additional self-help ideas for relief from anger, depression, anxiety, and more.

Understanding parental alienation

Parents who find themselves in an alienated situation typically experience serious emotional pain.  They reel with defensive feelings, confused about how they could be being accused of actions that they have not done.  They look back on the many ways they have been a good parent and do not understand why these no longer appear to be in either the child’s or the alienating parent’s memory.  They feel depressed at seeming to have lost their child, fearful about the harm being done to their child, and angry at being named as the toxic one.

Feeling calmer in an alienation situation can begin with learning about at least the following five facets of alienation:

  1. The psychological roots of alienation: Alienating parents almost always manifest narcissistic, and borderline personality features.  They often also lie and disregard the harm they do to others in the manner of anti-social personalities.
  2. The typical progression of alienation, from mild to moderate to severe, and from one to many or all of the children in the family
  3. How to diagnose alienation: Therapists generally need additional training in this specialty area to recognize Gardner’s 8 signs of alienation in the child and Baker’s 17 strategies of alienating parents (see below for links).  They otherwise are at high risk for reaching an incorrect diagnosis. If you are working with a therapist who is not either well-read or highly trained in alienation, request that they read up or find another.
  4. How alienation is best treated psychologicallyIndividual therapy alone for the alienated child not only will be unlikely to resolve the alienation; it is likely to reinforce the pattern. Alienated children must be treated in joint sessions with the targeted parent.  The alienating parent must be in treatment as well to learn to recognize and stop his/her alienating behaviors.  Treatment addressed toward helping the parents resolve the issues that motivate the alienation also can help. Court intervention is generally essential in more severe alienation cases where time allotted to the targeted parent in the court-approved parenting plan is being blocked. In the case of severe alienation, urgency is an issue.  Earlier intervention prevents worsening and increases the likelihood of successful treatment for all cases.
  5. How to handle the legal proceedings necessary in most cases to rectify an alienation situation.  Michael Bone and Brian Ludmer, in particular, have written on this issue.  Note especially that lawyers without strong experience in this area will be highly likely to lose your case.  Experience in other areas of law is insufficient for lawyers to win alienation cases.

RESOURCES FOR LEARNING MORE ABOUT PARENTAL ALIENATION

The following websites offer much excellent information on all of these topics.

1. Read up on the alienation phenomenon. Information is power.

For starters, this reading is essential:

  1. 8 signs in the child of alienation (Gardner), how to distinguish the three levels of alienation: mild, moderate and severe
  2. 17 strategies of alienating parents, and how to respond to them (Amy Baker and Paul Fine)
  3. 5 categories of alienation (a shortened list of Amy Baker and Paul Fine’s’s 17 alienating strategies)
  4. An earlier (1999) quite comprehensive article by Douglas Darnell with excellent clarity; good for parents and therapists, and also for lawyers and judges.

On psychologytoday.com, I have posted multiple articles on alienation.  This listing is in the order in which I wrote the articles:

Parental Alienation: What Can an Alienated Parent Do?  …

Two Classic Cases of Courts Failing Alienated Parents …

Parental Alienation: It Happens in Intact Families Too …

We Need Changes in How Courts Handle Parental Alienation

Can Parental Alienation Occur Beyond Parents and Kids?

The Creation of Hatred

Parental Alienation: What Therapists Need to Know

The Impeachment Hearings: A Possible Psychological Analysis   

Severe Parental Alienation: A Mental Health Emergency

Parental Alienation: Is that What the Left Does, Both In Israel and in the US?

2. Go to the familyaccess-fighting for children’s rights website.  Oodles of good information there, including the writings of all the current alienation experts. Keep browsing the site, clicking where it says “more…” to find the list of the names of Amy Baker, Linda Gottlieb, etc. If you read this site thoroughly, you will end up with significant clarity about alienation, how to treat it, mistakes therapists make about it, etc.

Most importantly, sign up via this website for the monthly excellent and FREE phone-based lectures from the field’s top experts.

3. Alienation is child abuse. The following link goes to the most recent and most authoritative academic journal article on alienation.  It’s excellent and published in one of the very most respected psychologist journals.  It makes very clear that parental alienation is a severe form of child abuse.    Bravo to Drs. Jennifer Harman and her colleagues.

4. Check out these other excellent alienation websites:

https://www.beyondparentalalienation.com

http://nationalassociationofparentalalienationspecialists.com/ and

Simply Parent for more information and programs on parental alienation

https://isnaf.info/ The International Support Network of Alienated Families 

PAS-Intervention at https://www.pas-intervention.org/

From Brian O’Sullivan in Ireland: https://education.parentalalienation.eu/Ultimate-PA-Training-Pack?fbclid=IwAR09YXcLKcZ1nkxgFWqa6qddw1FdC0pd986kGn4PH40ajmY7eIVcXTUOfEc&r_done=1

Also, make sure that you check out the many informative articles on websites suggested in #2 and #6.

5. See this poster on alienation which has particularly good graphics explaining the phenomenon.  You can use the poster both to understand the phenomenon clearly yourself and to explain it to those who resist the use of the alienation term.  They hopefully can help you in court.

For an excellent and relatively comprehensive academic article from 2001 on alienation, see here.

6. Join the Parental Alienation Study Group (PASG) Their articles collection is among the best I’ve seen.  I’d recommend that you download and print out a number of these articles to use for educating the legal and psychological professionals you work with.

7.  Any Baker has done outstanding research.  Check out her work here.

8.  Linda Gottlieb has multiple excellent articles on her website.  She’s the very best on treatment to help severely alienated kids reconnect with the targeted parent.  Her article on why most therapists and evaluators get it wrong when they diagnose or try to treat parental alienation cases is a must-read, especially for mental health professionals.

9. For a comprehensive and excellent list of further resources from Europe as well as the US, see this listing by Nick Child of Edinburgh, Scotland.  Parental alienation is a global phenomenon that legal, psychological and parent groups worldwide now are addressing.

10. More articles, especially for giving to lawyers, judges, and therapy professionals.  They need to be very clear that PAS is child abuse.  Clear about what the courts need to be doing. Boch-Galhau, W. von: Parental Alienation (Syndrome) – A serious form of psychological child abuse:  Ment Health Fam Med (2018) 14: 725 – 739  (English translation/double blinded peer-reviewed).  This article clarifies that your court case most likely needs to be focused on the best interests of the child, not the distress of the targeted parent.

11. Scroll down for a list of professional articles sent by Dr. Boch-Galhau to the Parental Alienation Study Group for sharing.  These articles are especially helpful on the subject of treatment methods for severe alienation cases.

12. This video by Dr. Miller is excellent about why most mental health and legal professionals misdiagnose and mistreat alienation, especially when it is severe.  Short and highly informative.

13.  Excellent BBC radio program on parental alienation, emphazing the pain and lifelong impacts for children, and also the suffering of the targeted parent.  https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m00051dz

Books on parental alienation

  1. .Search parental alienation on Amazon for many excellent titles by Warshak, Gottlieb, Baker, Woodall and Woodall, and others.
  2. Look also for books and youtube videos by adults who were alienated as children.
  3. Some clients have told me that they found Warshak’s book Divorce Poison particularly helpful.  Others have recommended Understanding Parental Alienation by Woodall and Woodall.

Free support for parents and grandparents of alienated children

  1. In the Denver area, a therapist named Phillip runs an excellent free monthly support group.  You can find out more about this group here.
  2. Familyaccess offers a monthly free telephone-based lecture and question-answer session.  These Sunday evening phone seminars are a must for anyone dealing with alienation.  They are generally attended by over 1,000 alienated parents and grandparents and by both legal and psychological professionals from around the globe. Get both support and current cutting edge information at these monthly conference calls
  3. Join the free group at PASG.info.  They have excellent information.

Treatment for alienated children

The main key to successful therapy for alienation is to have a therapist who is truly knowledgable about the phenomenon.  Ask if they are familiar with the work at least of Amy Baker, Linda Gottlieb and Richard Warshak.  If not, try a different therapist.

The article at this link, which is by Linda K. Gottlieb, explains the kind of therapy that works with severely alienated children.  Less intensive versions of these methods can be effective with less fully alienated children.

Note that in most cases, for therapy to be effective, for most of the sessions the child and the alienated parent need to be in the same room, talking with each other.  If “reunification therapy” does not include the alienated parent in treatment with the child, it most likely will not accomplish anything and may even intensify the alienation.

Individual therapy for alienated children tends to result in a worsening of the alienation as the child mainly serves as a mouthpiece for the alienating parent, and the therapist may inadvertently validate false beliefs about the targeted parent.

Colorado Professionals Who Research Parental Alienation

Jennifer Harman, PhD is a professor in Fort Collins who can serve as an expert witness explaining parental alienation to courts.  Her recently published article on parental alienation in Psychological Bulletin takes a giant step forward in explaining this phenomenon to the psychology profession.  For more information on the kinds of testimony she can offer in court cases, in person or via Skype, see here.  See this overview of her important article: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/11/181127171419.htm

More Research and Academic Articles on Parental Alienation

The following letter and list of articles were sent to PASG.org by a European specialist in parental alienation.  It’s an excellent and updated list of articles that are must-reads by every professional, and by parents and grandparents as well, who deal with alienation cases.

January 2019
Dear colleagues,

As a retired specialist in psychiatry, neurology, psychosomatic medicine and psychotherapy, I have for many years been concerned with the subject of parental alienation, both in theory and in practice (see also my publications on www.drvboch.de and www.pas-konferenz.de).

Given the “complex situation” of cases of parental alienation (particularly in German-speaking countries), may I refer you, for the sake of simplicity, to my article “Parental alienation (syndrome) – A serious form of psychological child abuse”, recently published in the Austrian peer-reviewed journal “Neuropsychiatrie” (2018) 32 (3): 133 – 148. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40211-018-0267-0. English translation: in: Mental Health Fam Med (2018) 14: 725 – 739, http://mhfmjournal.com/pdf/MHFM-117.pdf (double blinded peer-reviewed).

Another (peer-reviewed) article written in English is a review of the well-known “Parental Alienation – Handbook for Mental Health and Legal Professionals”, C. C. Publ., Springfield, IL., USA, 2013, by D. Lorandos, W. Bernet & S. R. Sauber, which I would like to recommend to you. (in: EC PAEDIATRICS (2018) 7.8: 820 – 822. (https://www.ecronicon.com/ecpe/pdf/ECPE-07-00320.pdf).

Other scientific works about interventions in severe Parental Alienation-cases:

Warshak, R. A. (2018, October). Reclaiming Parent-Child Relationships: Outcomes of Family Bridges with Alienated Children. American Journal of Divorce & Remarriage. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1080/10502556.2018.1529505; https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/XgUAi2nnTyNhmmHT8JSd/full

Templer, K., Matthewson, M., Haines, K. & Cox G. (2017). Recommendations for best practice in response to parental alienation: findings from a systematic review. Journal of Fam. Therapy 39 (1) 103 – 122, https://doi/abs/10.1111/1467-6427.12137

Reay, K. (2015): Family reflections: a promising therapeutic program designed to treat severely alienated children and their family system. American Journal of Fam. Therapy, 43 (2): 197 – 207.

Gottlieb, L. J. (2013) The application of structural family therapy to the treatment of parental alienation syndrome. In: Baker AJL, Sauber SR (Eds.) Working with alienated children and families – a clinical guidebook. New York: Routledge, p. 209 – 31.
Harman, J. J., Kruk, E. & Hines, D. A. (2018) Parental Alienating Behaviors: An Unacknowledged Form of Family Violence, Psychological Bulletin, Vol. 144, No. 12., 1275 – 1299, http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/bul0000175

Gebhardt, G.: Sarah Cecilie, 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3qgj3WXYHyo. You can view all versions of this film made by Action Against Abduction (website at https://www.youtube.com/user/PACTonline.)

The term “parental alienation” does not yet feature as such in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5) of the American Psychiatric Association (APA). But the internationally used “International Classification of Diseases” (ICD 11) of the World Health Organisation (WHO) refers to “parental alienation” since 18 June 2018. (Code QE 52.0, under caregiver-child relation problem: (https://icd.who.int/dev11/l-m/en#/http://id.who.int/icd/entity/547677013)

The website www.mc.vanderbilt.edu/pasg of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine at Nashville, TN in the US today lists around 1,300 publications of scientific relevance from about 50 countries worldwide on the subjects parental alienation, parental alienation syndrome and related subjects.

International developments

Parental Alienation is an international phenomenon, which empirical studies have shown to exist in various countries (Dum, 2013 a, p. 425 – 467), and which is reflected in more than 600 court rulings, for instance, in the United States and Canada (Bernet, 2010), (Lorandos, 2013), in the Brazilian law on Parental Alienation/Law 12318 of 2010 (Brockhausen, 2013), in the laws of some other South American countries (Dum, 2013 a, p. 425 – 467) and in rulings by the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) for instance, Sommerfeld v. Germany (2003); Koudelka and Zavrel v Czech Republic (2006 and 2007); Plasse-Bauer v. France (2006); Minecheva v Bulgaria (2010); Bordeiana v Moldava (2011) and others, (Dum, 2013 b, p. 439 – 444); and recently: K. B. and others v Croatia (2017) (https://strasbourgobservers.com/2017/04/25/k-b-and-others-v-croatia-the-courts-first-steps-to-tackle-parental-alienation); in France by the national court of appeal Cour de Cassation (No. 660 of 26th june 2013; 12-14.392) https://www.courdecassation.fr/jurisprudence_2/premiere_chambre_civile_568/660_26_26933.html), and in rulings by the higher regional courts of several European countries, for instance, England, France, Germany, Italy, Romania, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland and others (Bernet, 2010).

In German-speaking countries, there are still not many therapists who are familiar with the subject and have completed suitable (further) training. In London, UK., however, a clinic run by Karen and Nick Woodall (https://www.familyseparationclinic.com) and in cooperation with the “Child and Youth Protection Center” in Zagreb, Croatia undertakes serious and competent work in the complex field “parental alienation following separation or divorce” (see also their book “Understanding Parental Alienation, learning to cope, helping to heal”, Charles C. Thomas, Springfield, IL., USA, 2017).

In the United States, Canada, Australia and Spain, some similar programmes of intervention are used and evaluated in cases of parental alienation (see also my article “Parental alienation (syndrome) – A serious form of psychological child abuse” in Neuropsychiatrie, 2018, 32 (3): 133 – 148). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40211-018-0267-0 (German language) and in Mental Health Fam. Med. (2018) 14: 725 – 739; http://mhfmjournal.com/pdf/MHFM-117.pdf (English language)

Best regards
Dr. med. Wilfrid v. Boch-Galhau
Oberer Dallenbergweg 15
97082 Würzburg
Germany
www.praxis@drvboch.de
www.pas-konferenz.de
Member of the International Parental Alienation Study Group (http://pasg.info)

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