A Family’s Heartbreak message to the DSM Review Board

The American Counseling Association (ACA) recently asked its members for comments on the proposed DSM-5. The ACA collected member comments and presented a consolidated document to the DSM-5 Review Board to consider before the Board moved forward with revisions to the next edition of the DSM.

A Family’s Heartbreak, LLC includes an ACA member so we had the opportunity to submit a statement arguing for the inclusion of parental alienation in the DSM-5. Here is an edited version of our submission:

“It is both critical and appropriate for parental alienation to be included in the next edition of the DSM as an adjustment disorder.

The DSM is full of adjustment disorders. We consider a parent, dealing with the stress, emotions and long-term uncertainty of divorce or separation, as having an adjustment issue if the parent takes the emotionally damaging and unhealthy steps of not only allowing a child into the adult conflict but making the child responsible for his or her emotional well-being at the expense of the other parent, and the child’s long-term, normal, emotional growth and development. In addition, it is illogical that the DSM already includes descriptions of unhealthy attachment disorders, but has so far omitted the proverbial flip side of the same coin. If an unhealthy attachment to a parent constitutes a valid diagnosis in the DSM, how can an unhealthy aversion to a parent also not be considered worthy of inclusion in the mental health profession’s definitive guide?

The reasons for omitting parental alienation from the DSM should not be political. Parental alienation is not a legal issue, and therefore the DSM Review Board should turn a deaf ear to parental alienation critics and special interest groups who include parental alienation into broader shared parenting, child support or domestic violence agendas. Parental alienation is a mental health issue — plain and simple. Countless parents, children and extended family members will continue to suffer the long-term mental and emotional consequences of parental alienation until professionals are able to diagnose alienation and help others address its harmful effects.”

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3 Responses to “A Family’s Heartbreak message to the DSM Review Board”

  1. Annabelle Twilley Richardson says:

    Critics have argued that “Parental Alienation” cannot be a Mental Health issue, as 1. It is a matter of conflict arising out of working with the legal/court system when curtody and access issues, are fought, and 2. it is a means for abusive fathers to cause legal difficulties for mothers, as they continue to attempt to exert control on the female spouse who left them.
    I am proof that neither of these situations are relavent to the creation of circumstances that has resulted in the continuing alienation of my child, now for over 15 years. First, court was never involved in determining custody or access with my then 16-17 year old daughter. Second, I am a woman, not a father, and it was the father that created the circumstances that severed the parental ties between my child and myself, and now my grandchild.
    My daughter has exhibited all the classical signs as described by Gardner, of Parental Alienation Syndrome. And, according to a well regarded psychologist in this field, as an adult, exhibits many “red flags” as to her own emotional and mental stability and health.
    I have basically accepted where we may never be reconciled. I am very worried that she and my grandson, may themselves, suffer from the same kind of situation as studies would indicate are very likely. When and if that happens, I want some skilled, knowledgable counsellors/therapists available to her.

  2. Kelly says:

    This book has opened up my eyes to what these APs are capable of. I have a bizarre twist to my situation, my older child (age 16) was the “brainwashed” one and my younger child (age11) did not sucumb to this sick, twisted game. Whenever I feel, depressed, or anxious, I just open this book and refer to certain parts of it (yes, I carry it with me at all times).
    Thank you for this inspiring yet heartbreaking book.

  3. Sam says:

    I think, like a lot of things, it’s too black and white to think of soetnhimg as normal’ or not normal’, that these things are on a scale. Like a lot of mood disorders’, some will feel anxious or depressed to various degrees, some of us binge to various degrees and it’s how it impacts on our lives and our functioning. Like you Audrey, the awareness that we develop about our own coping strategies enables us to see it more clearly in others too, and I would say that there is a huge chunk of the population that use food to comfort or soothe. I guess when it becomes a disorder’ will vary from person to person too. I think that if it enables people to obtain help and support when they need it, it can only be a good thing. Likewise, if it raises awareness within the medical profession, I remember being told by my GP that it was OK to binge, just binge on low fat yoghurts and fruit! Oh, problem solved!

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