Parental Alienation: Dead or Alive in the DSM-5?

Here’s what I love about the internet — shopping, booking vacations and connecting with people all over the world.

Here’s what I hate about the internet — bloggers who believe they’re channeling Edward R. Murrow, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in every post and their readers who faithfully repeat what’s written as fact.

I was recently reminded of the latter when I read a colleague’s rant about the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) “cowardly decision” not to include parental alienation in the DSM-5. When I pointed out that the APA hadn’t yet decided whether or not to include parental alienation in the upcoming edition of its bible, my colleague gave me the name of the blogger who reported the news and asked, “How could she write it if it weren’t true?”

As Elizabeth Barrett Browning once said, “Let me count the ways.”

While my contribution to the proposal, Parental Alienation, DSM-5 and ICD-11, was probably the least significant input from the 60-plus authors who collaborated on project, my effort does qualify me for regular, and accurate, updates as the proposal winds its way through the review process. So here’s the truth about the current status of parental alienation and the DSM-5:

In the next few months, members of the DSM-5 Task Force and the Childhood and Adolescent Disorders Work Group will make their final recommendations to the APA Board of Trustees. The Task Force has already signaled that it probably won’t recommend listing parental alienation under the Mental Disorder category. However, being classified as a mental disorder is not the only door into the DSM. The APA could list parental alienation as an example of a relational problem or a shared psychotic disorder. The APA could also list parental alienation as a subtype of another relational problem. The professional organization could even include parental alienation as an issue that needs further study. Bottom line — the fat lady not only isn’t singing, she hasn’t even started warming up.

So enjoy the internet. Go shopping, look for videos of kittens doing adorable things, even tell us what you’re cooking for dinner if you must. Just don’t believe everything you read. Murrow hasn’t filed a story in a long time.

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5 Responses to “Parental Alienation: Dead or Alive in the DSM-5?”

  1. jon adkins says:

    parental alienation is real! my own experience:

  2. Jeff says:

    I have just finished my undergrad study at University of South Florida with my BA in Psychology. My plan is to pursue my MSW at USF and I would like to open a practice counseling children and families.
    I have dealt with major PAS in my own divorce. I still do not have much of relationship with my oldest daughter (seven years later). This is an area of great interest to me. Is there an area of practice that I can focus on? Where can I make the biggest difference in being an advocate for the victims of PAS (primarily the children)?

    Thank you,

  3. mike says:

    Jeff — congratulations on your degree and thank you for your willingness to help families dealing with parental alienation. I’m happy to have a conversation with you and offer some suggestions. Please contact me at and we can arrange a time to talk.

  4. […] Reposted with permission. For original article, click here […]

  5. PFK says:

    Hello, Im going thru simliar situation as you have gone thru. In my case is a bit different. Before we were separated 3 months. Great co parenting relationship experience. Spouse came back home n resume our married life few more years until i found his notes to his mistress. Mothers day 2006. Nice day to find out.
    tried to save marriage of 11 yrs n 2 kids age 11 and 6. Age 11 was like ur oldest n my 6 was like ur youngest. Son oldest. Daughter youngest. Father married his mistress. The deeper his relationship w his wife the worst co parenting. It s his wife who made it worse for all of us. Father lost relationship to our son. Daughter lives w father against my better judgement. Less visitations. Fighting now to get my regular visitations back to normal as daughter wants to resume visitations.

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