The March edition of Clinical Psychiatry News carried an opinion piece about the ongoing revisions to the upcoming edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The piece was not about parental alienation. However, the author used a few paragraphs to present such an inaccurate, unsubstantiated and biased account of parental alienation and the people who support its inclusion in the DSM that it makes you wonder if anyone at the publication even reviews content prior to publication.
In the column the author stated that Dr. Richard Gardner was nothing more than a self-published protector of child sex abusers who was abusive to mothers in court. The author presented no evidence to support his claims, and chose to ignore that Gardner was published in many professsional publications; including The American Journal of Family Therapy, The American Journal of Forensic Psychology, and the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law. The author also ignored, or didn’t bother to find out, that family court is a place where judges, legal and mental health professionals are routinely rude and disrespectful to mothers and fathers. If a rude professional’s behavior was enough to keep a diagnosis out of the DSM, this bible of the mental health field would be reduced to a one page flyer.
The author further implied that any member of a Father’s Rights group is nothing more than a sexually abusive father who wants parental alienation in the DSM so he can keep abusing the kids. This statement would be laughable if it were not so damaging on two fronts: first, implying that any father who believes the other parent is trying to damage or destroy his relationship with their child must be abusive; and two, insulting the many loving fathers who have normal, healthy relationships with their children but believe in the broader goals of these organizations — goals that have nothing to do with parental alienation. Further, the author ignored the many loving mothers who have been alienated from their children by fathers. As we’ve said many times, neither mothers or fathers have cornered the market on the unhealthy emotional issues that lead one parent to alienate a child from another parent.
The author appeared to resent the political nature of updating the DSM and on that point we agree. Yet his inflammatory, unsubstantiated words about parental alienation, fathers and father’s rights groups was better suited to a special interest group’s marketing brochure than a professional mental health publication. While the author is entitled to his opinion, and Clinical Psychiatry News did label the column an “Opinion” piece, the fair and balanced thing for this publication to do would be to allow another professional to refute the biased and unsubstantiated claims about parental alienation in its next issue. No one expects an organization publication to match the journalistic standards of the New York Times or Washington Post, but even an organization publication should have minimum standards for fairness, balance and accuracy.