Archive for October, 2010

Raising awareness of alienation at the AACAP

Saturday, October 30th, 2010

Parental alienation professionals and advocates attended the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) annual meeting in New York City this week to discuss alienation with many of the 4,700 psychiatrists and physicians in attendence and explain why parental alienation belongs in the next edition of the profession’s DSM.

Dr.William Bernet, a professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and the primary author of Parental Alienation DSM-5 and ICD-11, presented at the meeting and the Parental Alienation Awareness Organization (PAAO) raised awareness of alienation in an exhibit hall booth. The PAAO exhibit featured books, DVDs and volunteers to discuss parental alienation with conference attendees. PAAO President Jill Egizii, PAAO Vice President Robert Samery, Dr. Amy Baker, and Mike Jeffries, author of A Family’s Heartbreak: A Parent’s Introduction to Parental Alienation, were all on hand to pass out literature and talk about alienation with mental health professionals from around the world.

Also attending the conference were members of the DSM Review Board — the professionals who will decide whether or not parental alienation is included in the next edition of the DSM. Bernet indicated that the Review Board is still considering alienation for inclusion in the updated diagnostic manual. The DSM-5 is scheduled for release in 2013.

Jeffries observed that while some professionals had never heard of alienation, many others were familiar with the family dynamic. Still other professionals saw alienation in their practices without realizing the behaviors had a name. “The conversations were all over the map,” Jeffries said. “Some attendees wanted to talk about their cases. Other professionals wanted to discuss under what category the DSM-5 could potentially list parental alienation. One psychiatrist was even looking for guidance on who should receive the diagnostic code — the alienating parent, the targeted parent, or the child.”

Not every person who stopped by the PAAO booth wanted to see parental alienation in the DSM-5. “There was one psychiatrist who made it clear he didn’t believe in parental alieantion but he never actually completed a sentence or allowed me to complete one,” Jeffries said. “He said ‘parental alienation is a diagnosis in search of a…’ and then his voice trailed off. When I tried to say something positive, he cut me off with another incomplete, negative comment. Then he did it a third time. I finally told him to enjoy the rest of the conference. With 4,700 open-minded, articulate professionals to talk to there was no need to waste time on him.”

TV and parental alienation — past and present

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

In a week when The Dr. Phil Show features bad parenting by the anti-June and Ward Cleaver in its parental alienation-themed show today, it is worth mentioning that Barbara Billingsley, the actress who played the iconic television Mom June Cleaver on Leave it to Beaver, died recently in California. She was 94 years old.

According to Jill Egizii, President of the Parental Alienation Awareness Organization (PAAO) and a guest on The Dr. Phil Show, the parents in the family Dr. Phil selected for the program do not co-parent effectively and their poor co-parenting could ultimately result in parental alienation. While Dr. Phil spent most of the program urging the parents to improve their parenting and communication skills, Egizii said she highlighted the affects of parental alienation on children and the PAAO’s work at the end of the program.

Parents and extended family members, as well as legal and mental health professionals, should go to The Dr. Phil Show website at http://www.drphil.com after the episode airs and encourage Dr. Phil and his producers to do programs focused solely on parental alienation. Episodes that explain what drives an alienating parent to damage, and in some cases destroy, his or her child’s relationship with the child’s other parent, and episodes that explore how professionals can legally and therapeutically address alienation, will help families avoid this destructive family dynamic.

If the parents on The Dr. Phil Show are the anti-June and Ward Cleaver, than June and Ward should be the anti-parental alienation parents. In our latest blog post for Basil & Spice at http://www.basilandspice.com/love-and-relationships/category/jeffries-mike, we highlight what divorcing parents can learn from Wally and Beaver’s Mom and Dad — even if they are just fictional characters on a 50-year old television show.

Themes of the alienating parent

Monday, October 11th, 2010

Some mental health professionals and religious leaders empower parental alienation according to Dr. Abe Worenklein, a professor at Dawson College in Montreal. 

Worenklein made his comments at the recent Canadian Symposium on Parental Alienation Syndrome in New York City. The conference drew approximately 200 parents, legal and mental health professional interested in helping parents and children maintain normal, healthy relationships after divorce or separation.

“Sometimes mental health professionals who do not know how to interview parents and children and are unfamiliar with the themes of the alienating parent acutally end up empowering the children and reinforcing the parent’s position,” Worenklein said. “Furthermore, some religious leaders may focus on the parents’ degree of religiosity when telling one parent to limit the less-observant parent’s time with the children.”

Worenklein explained that the themes of the alienating parent are the words and actions a parent uses to damage, and in some cases destroy, the child’s previously normal relationship with his or her other parent. Some of the themes include:

  • Denying the existence of the other parent by never talking about him or her, destroying photos of the parent, changing the subject when the child mentions the parent, or not relaying the parent’s messages to the child.
  • Putting the child in the middle by asking him or her to spy on the other parent, remove possessions or take important papers from the parent and child’s home.
  • Attacking the parent’s career, interests, hobbies and family.
  • Saying things like, “I just don’t know what’s wrong with your mother/father.”
  • Threatening to withhold love or acceptance from child.
  • Scaring the child into believing the other parent isn’t capable of taking care of him or her.
  • Creating a new reality for the child that excludes his or her relationship with the other parent.

Worenklein told conference attendees how professionals can use different interview techniques to identify these themes. “Dr. Worenklein pointed out that asking a young child at the beginning of an interview if the child has anything he or she was supposed to tell the professional is a great way at getting at the child’s rehearsed or programmed answers,” said Mike Jeffries, author of A Family’s Heartbreak: A Parent’s Introduction to Parental Alienation and a conference attendee. “This not only allows the professional to see if the child’s answers were programmed, but after fulfilling his or her obligation to the alienating parent the child can relax and participate much more honestly in the interview,” Jeffries added.

Alienation symposium benefitted professionals and parents

Monday, October 4th, 2010

“Approximately one percent of all children in the United States experience some form of parental alienation.”

That statement from Dr. William Bernet, a professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, was one of the many eye-opening insights from the recent Canadian Symposium on Parental Alienation in New York City. Bernet was the symposium’s keynote speaker.

Approximately 2oo parents, legal and mental health professionals attended the conference to learn more about parental alienation and how to address the family dynamic both legally and therapeutically.

“I really wish parental alienation critics would have attended the conference,” said Mike Jeffries, author of A Family’s Heartbreak: A Parent’s Introduction to Parental Alienation and a conference attendee. “There is no way anyone could have listened to the legal and mental health professionals at the conference and not concluded that parental alienation is a legitimate mental health issue that deserves to be included in the next edition of the DSM. In addition, the alienated mothers and fathers at the conference would have dispelled any myths about parental alienation being nothing more than an abusive parent’s legal strategy,” Jeffries added.

In his remarks Bernet explained that DSM editors can select one of three ways to include parental alienation in the upcoming 2013 edition — as a mental disorder, relational problem or as part of the appendix for further study. “Inclusion as a relational problem or as part of the appendix has not been discussed yet,” he said.

Bernet is the primary author of Parental Alienation, DSM-5 and ICD-11 — the published version of the proposal Bernet and 70 other contributing professionals submitted to the DSM Review Committee.

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