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.”