Self Care When Experiencing Parental Alienation

Though almost half of marriages in the US end in divorce, most people who divorce successfully transition to their new life within two years. However, about 15% of divorces experience continued litigation. These cases exhibit a high degree of hostility and distrust between the spouses, making it difficult for them to communicate about the care of their children without involving the court. Often in high conflict divorce, it only takes one high conflict person to keep the dispute from resolving. If one spouse is noncompliant with the parenting plan and unwarrantedly denies the other parent access to the children, it compels the blocked parent to fight to not only see their children, but often to defend themselves against false allegations of abuse. The accused parent has two choices: either engage in conflict, or be separated from their precious children. 

If you are experiencing denied visitations and an unwarranted campaign of denigration, you are most likely going through parental alienation. Those who have experienced it say it is one of the hardest things they have ever gone through. It requires developing advanced skills in order to cope. Parents who have been successful in dealing with parental alienation have developed the following skills: 

  1. They sought knowledge. They read about parental alienation in order to understand why it happens, and what they could do to make it less difficult for their children. “Intellectually understanding parental alienation provides an emotional anchor to help make good decisions for yourself and your children.”1
  2. Reframe the meaning of your child’s behavior. For example, based on your current situation you may constantly tell yourself, “My child doesn’t love me anymore and never wants to see me again.” Try altering that statement to, “My child still loves me and wants to see me, but he is painted into a corner and is doing what he thinks he has to do in order to survive an experience that is as painful for him as it is for me.”2
  3. Stay even-tempered and never retaliate. “A person who reacts in anger is proving the alienator’s point that he or she is unstable.”3 Avoid falling into this trap.
  4. Don’t live a victim’s life. Although you are experiencing victimization, don’t live asif you have no power or worth.Deliberately take care of yourself. Eat healthy foods, stay socially connected, do something spiritual daily, exercise and get out in nature. Do things that you enjoy and that rejuvenate you. 
  5. Be proactive. Always show up to pick up your kids even if you know they won’t be there. Keep a journal, and document what happens.
  6. Take a parenting class. Learn how to understand your children developmentally and respond empathetically.Develop superior parenting skills. 
  7. Reduce your children’s anxiety. Find ways to reduce their anxiety when they are with you by picking your battles and not engaging in conflict. 
  8. Never talk bad about your ex to your children.This forces them to align with the other parent against you, and paints you in a bad light. 
  9. Try to make what little time you have with them positive and fun. It is through having fun that you gain connection and preserve your attachment. 
  10. Find an alienation-aware therapist, and get the appropriate support and treatment you need.

Each time you board a plane you are reminded that if the oxygen masks drop, you need to put the mask on yourself first, before helping others. The same is true of parental alienation. You must deliberately take good care of yourself first if you are going to survive emotionally. 

1,2 Http://www.womansdivorce.com/alienated-parent.html 

3 http://www.majorfamilyservices.com/parents-who-have-successfully-fought-parental-alienation-syndrome-by-jayne-a-major-phd.html 

Shared Parenting Myths: Woozles and Zombies

Custody and parent-time decisions are usually made by using what is called “The Best Interest of the Child” standard. This standard is intended to guard children from conflict and abuse, and to promote stability, but because it is vague, and not based on empirical evidence, it is susceptible to influences of what Edward Kruk, a social work researcher, describes as “judicial biases and preferences, professional self-interest, gender politics, the desire of a parent to remove the other parent from the child’s life, and the wishes of a parent who is found to be a danger to the child.”He argues that “a more child-focused approach to child custody determination is needed to reduce harm to children in the divorce transition and ensure their well-being.”2

What does the research show about the well-being of children of divorce? That shared physical parenting is the best custody determination for children. (This excludes cases of abuse, neglect, and parents with no prior relationship.) So why isn’t this the norm in most cases? It is because of Woozles and ZombiesWoozles are myths and misrepresentations of research that are not supported by evidence, but because they keep being repeated, they are believed to be true.3  Linda Nielsen, psychologist, and expert on shared parenting, explains,

To summarize briefly, the words “woozling” and “woozles” come from the children’s story, “Winnie the Pooh.” In the story the little bear, Winnie, dupes himself and his friends into believing that they are being followed by a scary beast – a beast he calls a woozle. Although they never actually see the woozle, they convince themselves it exists because they see its footprints next to theirs as they walk in circles around a tree. The footprints are, of course, their own. But Pooh and his friends are confident that they are onto something really big. Their foolish behavior is based on faulty “data” – and a woozle is born.4

Nielsen continues, “Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman (2014) wrote about a similar concept that he called a ‘zombie,’—a belief that ‘everyone important knows must be true, because everyone they know says it’s true. It’s a prime example of a zombie idea—an idea that should have been killed by evidence, but refuses to die. And it does a lot of harm.’”5

Some common Woozles and Zombies of shared parenting, followed by what research actually shows, include:

 

  1. Children want to live with only one parent and to have one home. Shared parenting is not worth the hassle.

When adult children of divorce were asked, they said having a relationship with both parents was worth any hassle they experienced in moving between homes.6

  1. Young children have one primary attachment figure, the mother, with whom they bond more strongly. Given this, it is hurtful for infants to spend any overnights with the other parent in the first year of life.7

The truth is that infants form different, but strong attachments to both parents and that “there is no evidence to support postponing the introduction of regular and frequent involvement, including overnights, of both parents with their babies and toddlers.”8  

  1. Where there is high conflict between the parents, children do better with sole custody. Shared parenting only increases the conflict and puts the children in the middle.9

Conflict remains higher in sole- than in shared-custody families. Most children are not exposed to more conflict in shared-parenting families. Maintaining strong relationships with both parents helps diminish the negative impact of the parents’ conflict.10

  1. Shared parenting only works with those who agree to it, and is only successful for a small, cooperative group of parents who have little conflict.

The research shows that even if shared parenting was originally mandated, it leads to better adjustment for the children and less long-term conflict between the parents.11

Sadly, Woozles and Zombies can distort the facts about best practices for custody arrangements,  but the research evidence is clear and irrefutable that a shared parenting model is truly optimal for families and “traditional visiting patterns . . . are . . . outdated, unnecessarily rigid, and restrictive, and fail in both the short and long term to address [the child’s] best interests (Kelly 2007).”12

1,2,12 Kruk, E. (2012). Arguments for an Equal Parental Responsibility Presumption in Contested Child Custody. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 40(1), 33-55.  DOI:10.1080/01926187.2011.575344 

 5 Nielsen, L. (2015). Pop Goes the Woozle: Being Misled by Research on Child Custody and Parenting Plans, Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 56:8, 595-633, DOI: 10.1080/10502556.2015.1092349    

 3, 4,8,10 Nielsen, L. (2015). Shared Physical Custody: Does It Benefit Most Children? Journal of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 28, 79-138. 

 6,7,9,11 Nielsen, L. (2013, Jan. & feb.). Parenting Time & Shared Residential Custody: Ten Common Myths.  https://issuu.com/nebraskabar/docs/janfeb_2013/1 

WRITTEN BY MICHELLE JONES, LCSW

Michelle is the director of Concordia Families – a treatment center offering services for reunification, court involved therapy, parent education classes, treatment needs assessments and professional education seminars and classes.

Originally published in Utah Valley Wellness Magazine

The Multiple Sides of Child Abuse

Each branch of the mental health profession, including psychologists, marriage and family therapists, and social workers, has a code of ethics which outlines the values and standards which should guide the treatment they offer. For example, according to the Social Work Code of Ethics, “social workers pursue social change, particularly with and on behalf of vulnerable and oppressed individuals and groups of people (Code of Ethics, 2017).”1 Further, most exceptions to confidentiality are also based on the values of protecting the vulnerable in the population, meaning children and the elderly.  

Within the arena of high-conflict divorce, there are children who are truly being subject to physical, sexual, and emotional/psychological abuse, and at the same time, there are also parents who make false allegations of child abuse in order to gain an advantage in court. When a professional becomes involved with these families, they need to explore multiple possibilities, and see the bigger picture of protecting the children against all forms of abuse.  Reflexively denying contact between a parent and child in order to err on the “safe” side is not always the “safe” thing to do. Unnecessarily disrupting a healthy parent-child relationship actually enables psychological abuse.  

First of all, therapists should take all claims of abuse seriously. Their obligation is to report it to the Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS). This agency will determine whether an investigation will be made, based on an assessment of risk factors.  DCFS should be able to determine if the claim should be substantiated, whether it is a chronic problem or a one-time incident, or whether there is no evidence for the claim at all.   

But when a parent makes false claims of abuse and unwarrantedly induces symptoms of anxiety or hatred in the child in order to destroy the child’s relationship with the ex-spouse, this is also an abuse known as parental alienation. It has been recognized as a form of psychological abuse, and is severely damaging to the child. A research article published in 2014, called, “Unseen Wounds: The Contribution of Psychological Maltreatment to Child and Adolescent Mental Health and Risk Outcomes,”2 examined the effects of psychological abuse. The lead author, Joseph Spinazzola, Ph.D., of The Trauma Center at Justice Resource Institute, Brookline, Massachusetts stated, 

“Given the prevalence of childhood psychological abuse and the severity of harm to young victims, it should be at the forefront of mental health and social service training,” (APA, 2014).3 

The American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children (APSAC)4 defines psychological abuse as five parental behaviors, as measured by the PMM and CAPM-CV scales: 

  1. Spurning(In parental alienation, a parent withdraws love from the child to punish them when they connect to the other parent.) 
  2. Terrorizing(In parental alienation, one parent induces fear of the other parent in the child.) 
  3. Isolating(In parental alienation the child is cut off from the other parent and most likely the whole side of the family.) 
  4. Corrupting/Exploiting(In parental alienation the child is encouraged to engage in behaviors that are cruel, disrespectful, and immoral in order to benefit the “favored” parent.) 
  5. Denying Emotional Responsiveness(In parental alienation, the child is punished for accepting love from the other parent.) 

In the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical manual, psychological abuse is defined as:  

“…non-accidental verbal or symbolic acts by a child’s parent or caregiver that result, or have reasonable potential to result, in significant psychological harm to the child.” (DSM 5, pg 719)5 

If our fundamental value is to truly protect children, who are the most vulnerable in the population, then we need to raise the level of therapeutic competency through education and training, and do assessments which consider all forms of abuse, including parental alienation.  Children should never be weaponized, and intervening systems should never enable it.  

 

  1. 1.socialworkers.org/About/Ethics/Code-of-Ethics/Code-of-Ethics-English

2 Spinazzola, J., Hodgdon, H., Liang, L., Ford, J. D., Layne, C. M., Pynoos, R., . . . Kisiel, C. (2014). Unseen wounds: The contribution of psychological maltreatment to child and adolescent mental health and risk outcomes. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy,6(Suppl 1), S18-S28. doi:10.1037/a0037766 

3 Childhood Psychological Abuse as Harmful as Sexual or Physical Abuse. (n.d.). Retrieved March 25, 2018, from http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2014/10/psychological-abuse.aspx 

4American Professional Society Abuse Children | APSAC. (n.d.). Retrieved March 25, 2018, from https://www.apsac.org/ 

5Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders DSM-5. (2013). Washington: American Psychiatric Publ. 

 

Originally published in Utah Valley Wellness Magazine

AB-PA Certified Professionals – Dr. Craig Childress

AB-PA Certified Professionals

We are going to establish a standard of practice in the assessment of attachment-related pathology surrounding divorce.

We are then going to move toward professional expertise.  Mental health professionals who know what they’re doing – within standard and established constructs and principles.

Assessment leads to diagnosis, and diagnosis guides treatment.

It begins with assessment.

Attachment-related pathology is always created by pathogenic parenting.  A child’s rejection of a parent (attachment-related pathology) is either being caused by the pathogenic parenting of the targeted-rejected parent (through hostile-aggressive child abuse), or it is being caused by the pathogenic parenting of the allied and supposedly “favored” parent (through the formation of a cross-generational coalition with the child against the other spouse-and-parent).

A semi-structured six-session treatment-focused assessment protocol can identify the source of pathogenic parenting creating the attachment-related pathology.

The Assessment of Attachment-Related Pathology Surrounding Divorce

AB-PA Certification

There are four mental health professionals that I know of who are qualified to conduct a treatment-focused assessment of attachment related pathology surrounding divorce.  Each of these mental health professionals has trained with me personally, and each has direct access to me for consultation as needed.  These four mental health professionals are Certified in AB-PA, including administration and documentation of the six-session treatment-focused assessment protocol.

We are establishing a ground foundation of professional knowledge in the standard and established constructs and principles of professional psychology required for professional competence, and ultimately for professional expertise.

The Attachment System
Family Systems Therapy
Personality Disorder Pathology
Complex Trauma

Does a mental health professional need to be “certified” to conduct a treatment-focused assessment protocol?  No.  Absolutely not.  All mental health professionals should be conducting a treatment-focused assessment of attachment-related pathology surrounding divorce right now.  It’s all standard and established professional psychology.

Can they?  I have no idea. I am appalled by the degree of professional ignorance and incompetence that’s out there.

I do know this.  There are four mental health professionals who can.  They are the certified mental health professionals I worked with across three days of seminars in November.  There are four mental health professionals who absolutely know how to conduct a treatment-focused assessment of attachment-related pathology surrounding divorce.

They have the knowledge, and they have my ear if they want consultation on a particularly troubling case.  What’s more they have each other.  They don’t realize this yet, but as things develop I’m planning to encourage a network of inter-professional consultation across AB-PA Certified mental health professionals; to use each other as resources of professional consultation.

What the Bowlby-Minuchin-Beck model of AB-PA provides is a shared common knowledge and language of professional psychology – cross-generational coalitions, emotional cutoffs, personality pathology, splitting, attachment trauma – all understood even before the consultation begins.  The constructs of established professional psychology (Bowlby, Bowen, Beck, Minuchin, Millon) can unravel the diagnostic complexities and treatment issues.

There are four mental health professionals who are certified in AB-PA, who understand the pathology, who know what to do, and who are part of a growing network of professional collaboration.

They are not advocates or friends on Facebook; they don’t offer “advice” on what parents should do.  They work with clients.  They bring solution to family pathology for their clients.  They are a verified source of high-level professional knowledge regarding attachment-related pathology surrounding divorce for families and the Courts.  These four mental health professionals are:

Jayna Haney, MS, LPC Intern:  Houston, Texas.
Advanced Certified in AB-PA

Ms. Haney is in a leadership role in bringing professional knowledge and expertise to the solution for “parental alienation.” She has studied with Karen Woodall in Great Britain as well as becoming Advanced Certified in AB-PA with me in November.  Of additional note, Jayna is also trained in EMDR treatment for trauma and brings this additional trauma expertise to her work with the complex trauma of “parental alienation.”  Jayna Haney has my full support, and she has my ear.

Jayna Haney: jayna@thebridgeacross.com

Michelle Jones, LCSW: Provo, Utah.
Advanced Certified in AB-PA

Michelle Jones, LCSW is a licensed clinical social worker who works with Concordia Families agency in Provo, Utah.  Ms. Jones brings her AB-PA Advanced Certification into a professional clinic already experienced with the family pathology of “parental alienation” and court-involved families.  Michelle Jones and the therapeutic team at Concordia Families has my full support, and they have my ear.

Michelle Jones: mjones@concordiafamilies.com
Concordia Families Website

Nadine Colgan, MS, NCC, LPCMH: Kennett Square, PA
Advanced Certified in AB-PA

Ms. Colgan brings a wealth of experience to her work.  She holds a Master’s Degree in Counseling and Human Relations, she is a Licensed Professional Mental Health Counselor, she is a National Board Certified Counselor and a Certified Mediator.  Ms. Colgan has extensive experience working with high-conflict divorce and is a strong resource in the Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore area.

Nadine Colgan: nadinecr1@nadinecolgan.com
Nadine Colgan Website

Larken J. Sutherland MS, LPC: Corpus Christi, Texas

Larken Sutherland is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Parenting Coordinator/Facilitator in private practice in Corpus Christi, Texas.  Ms. Sutherland is experienced in working with high conflict families and she is Certified in AB-PA, she is a strong resource for families in the Corpus Christi area.  Ms. Sutherland has my full support, and she has my ear.

Additional Certification

Three others also received Certification in AB-PA, one is a legal professional, and two are parent-advocates.

JulieAnne Leonard
Advanced Certified in AB-PA

JulieAnne Leonard is an attorney who is completing her psychology degree in developmental psychology.  Of note is that developmental psychology is a particularly useful domain of knowledge for understanding the influence of parenting on child development.  Ms. Leonard has an extensive background serving as a Guardian ad Litem with high-conflict families.  Through her legal background as an attorney, her extensive experience as a GAL, and her AB-PA Certification, Ms. Leonard represents an exceptionally strong resource for the Court in assisting the Court to identify “parental alienation” pathology and in coordinating effective treatment services for the family.

Peter Knudsen
Advanced Certified in AB-PA

Peter Knudsen is a parent-advocate located in the Netherlands.  He is active in bringing the knowledge and protocols of AB-PA to the European mental health system and family courts.  Peter and I are currently collaborating on several avenues for expanding AB-PA into the European mental health and family law systems.  Peter has my full support and he has my ear.

Bryan Hale
Advanced Certified in AB-PA

Bryan Hale is a theology student and parent-advocate completing his degree in theology with the goal of becoming an ordained minister.  I suspect the universe has designs for the life of Mr. Hale.  He brings a unique array of talents to the solution, including a strong background in business and in creating organization support structures for projects and endeavors.  Bryan Hale has my full support, and he has my ear.

Professional Expertise

Jayna Haney
Michelle Jones (Concordia)
Nadine Colgan
Larken Sutherland

I know that these four mental health professionals can conduct a treatment-focused assessment of attachment-related pathology surrounding divorce.  These four mental health professionals are a verified resource for knowledge and professional skill sets for families, family law attorneys, and the Court.

As an attorney and Guardian ad Litem, JulieAnne Leonard also represents a strong resource for the Court in helping the Court to identify “parental alienation” and in coordinating the treatment.

Peter Knudsen, Bryan Hale, and I will be working behind the scenes on creating the support structures for change across the entire mental health and family court systems, for all children, everywhere.

As importantly… they are the core for a network of consultation support for each other, each bringing a different facet of knowledge, yet all with a common foundation of knowledge.

Change is Coming

This is not about me.  This is about you.  You are the change.  I am merely a catalyst.  I am simply the clarion call returning professional psychology to the ground foundations of professional psychology; Bowlby, Minuchin, Beck, Millon, Bowen.  You are the agents of change.

We are establishing a ground foundation of knowledge and standards of practice for the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of attachment-related family pathology surrounding divorce.  From this foundation, we then build professional expertise.

The ground foundation is not me.  It’s Bowlby-Minuchin-Beck and the established constructs and principles of professional psychology.

This is about you and your children.  This is about solving the family pathology of “parental alienation” for all children everywhere.

Craig Childress, Psy.D.
Clinical Psychologist, PSY 18857

 

Originally posted by Dr Childress at: https://drcraigchildressblog.com/2018/02/04/ab-pa-certified-professionals/

The Secret of Pornography

Secrets fuel addiction. As I’ve mentioned before in previous posts, addictions, such as pornography addictions, are a shame-based experience. This means that when someone uses pornography they feel as if they are a bad person, rather than feeling that they are a good person despite making a mistake. When someone feels shame, they often compartmentalize what they have done – they hid it and separate it from who they think they really are, or, think that that mistake totally defines who they really are.

This is where secrets come into play. Over time, a man (or woman – I’ve worked with both in therapy for pornography issues) who has been using pornography and feeling shame because of it will gather many secrets. He won’t want to tell anyone what he is doing, or won’t want to tell them all that he is doing. He might only present the best parts of himself or just tell enough about his mistakes to others to appease them or to feel like he is being open. But, in fact, he is keeping secrets. These secrets start to bury him and make him feel more shame. They take an effort to maintain and keep hidden. They cause him stress and to feel disconnected from others. All of these things can lead to more addictive acting out.

Being transparent is key. This, in part, is why in the 12-step model of recovery (for alcohol, sexual addiction or substance addiction) addicts are asked to write a fearless moral inventory and to share it. Being open with others can feel uncomfortable and embarrassing. Many would say, “It’s in the past – let it stay there” or, “I don’t want to hurt her, so I’m not going to tell her about it”. These mindsets only make things worse for someone using pornography and their spouse/family. Telling others and being transparent is on the path towards recovery.

Pornography counseling offers a venue to be transparent and honest with yourself and with your loved ones. A good therapist will help you through this process in a way that might be painful, but certainly not shameful.

Originally published on www.tristonmorgan.com