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Hooray for Hollywood? Not for a long time

Saturday, December 7th, 2013

For some reason, I’m watching a lot of old movies lately. Really old movies.

Last night’s selection was Blonde Venus starring Marlene Dietrich and Cary Grant from 1932. In the movie, Dietrich plays a German night club singer who meets an American chemist named Ned, played by Herbert Marshall. They marry, have a son, and then Ned discovers he has been poisoned by radium. He’ll die within the year unless he can find enough money to travel to Germany and get treated by the only doctor who has success treating radium poisoning. The only problem is Ned doesn’t have $1,500 to cover the cost of the trip and the treatment. Yes, let that one sink in for a moment — in 1932 $1,500 bought you a round-trip ticket between the U.S. and Germany and medical treatment for a deadly disease.

In any event, Dietrich’s character Helen returns to the nightclubs against Ned’s wishes to raise the money. There she meets Nick, a millionaire played by Cary Grant. Nick is smitten with Helen and writes her a check that allows Ned to leave for Germany.

The story takes off from there. Helen falls in love with Nick. Ned arrives home early from Germany to discover his wife is cheating on him with Nick. Ned asks Helen to bring his son Johnny to him since Johnny is, “all I have left.” Instead Helen kidnaps Johnny and takes off, moving from town to town to evade Ned and the people Ned hired to find her. Finally, Helen realizes that life on the run is no life for Johnny and agrees to give him to Ned, who asks her to never see Johnny again.

Eventually, Helen decides she does want to see Johnny again and returns home. When she asks Ned to let her see her son he refuses. Helen asks Ned if Johnny remembers her and Ned replies, “I hope not. I’ve been doing everything I can to help him forget you.” Finally, Ned caves in to Helen’s request. Johnny does remember his Mom and asks both his parents to tell him how they met; the bedtime story Helen and Ned used to tell Johnny in happier days. Ned pretends not to remember the story but with a little prompting from Helen and Johnny he overcomes his anger. The movie ends with Helen and Ned back in each other’s arms.

Watching this 80-year old movie just reminded me how much parental kidnapping and alienation are ingrained in our culture — especially our storytelling, cinema and television shows. While these issues are more fairly represented in entertainment today than in the past, a movie like Blonde Venus is just one small reminder of how long parental kidnapping and alienation have been used as plot lines with producers giving little, if any, thought to the messages they were sending to their audiences.

I heard once that it takes three generations within a family to create a negative pattern of behavior and three more generations to undo the damage. Let’s hope for everyone’s sake that within the family of Hollywood writers and producers the same timeline doesn’t apply to stories about parental kidnapping and alienation.

Innocence lost

Friday, December 14th, 2012

Tragic.  Senseless.  Heartbreaking.  Unfathomable. Trot out all the usual adjectives to describe another massacre. Twenty six people, including 20 children, are dead tonight because someone who shouldn’t have been allowed within 100 yards of a gun held one in his hands.

A man walks into a crowd carrying a gun. Sounds like the first line of an old joke. Yet the only stories repeated more often than old jokes these days are stories about killing sprees in movies theaters, malls and schools. The latest story took place in an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. This one hit too close to home; but in reality, they all hit too close to home for someone.

Before too long, another massacre will hit too close to home for someone else. The National Rifle Association (NRA) and other gun advocates will once again remind us that, “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” They’ll also remind us of our constitutional right to bear arms — for protection. But I’ve always wondered, how come we never hear stories about people sitting at home minding their own business and having to kill armed intruders for protection? Instead, we hear stories about places like Virginia Tech, Columbine, Aurora and now Sandy Hook Elementary School. 

When are we going to wake up and address this national epidemic? Sure, we can put x-ray machines and metal detectors at the door of every school, store and public building in the nation. Yes, we can produce public service messages about gun safety. Yet these solutions are like applying a band-aid to the gaping wound caused by an automatic weapon.

When the founders of our country insured our right to bear arms I hardly think they imagined a day when a gun could kill dozens of people in the time it took them to load, fire, and reload their reliable old flintlock rifle. The only people who need these guns are the people who want to kill lots of other people and kill them quickly. The best way to prevent the next massacre is to cut off some lunatic’s easy access to automatic weapons. If that means the rest of us can’t get our hands on them either, consider it a fair trade-off for real safety — and a much more effective means of protection than taking our shoes off before boarding an airplane. 

Innocence went up against evil this morning at Sandy Hook Elementary School and innocence lost. How many more times do the innocent have to lose before we match the gun advocates dollar for dollar, sound-bite for sound-bite, and lobbyist for lobbyist, and get automatic weapons off the street and out of our neighborhoods?

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

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

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.

Parental Alienation and the DSM-5

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

The DSM-5 Task Force will publish the next edition of the mental health profession’s Bible in 2013 and Task Force members are still considering whether or not to include parental alienation somewhere in the book.

One of the biggest arguments against including parental alienation in the DSM-5 is that academics and mental health professionals haven’t done enough research to demonstrate that parental alienation should be an actual diagnosis. Not true, says Mike Jeffries, author of A Family’s Heartbreak: A Parent’s Introduction to Parental Alienation. “The proposal before the DSM Task Force includes more than 500 references from the professional literature of 30 different countries. Anyone who says ‘there isn’t enough research’ simply isn’t aware of work being done not only in the U.S. but in Brazil, Japan, Spain, Italy and South Africa.”

The DSM Review Board has once again opened up its website for comments. Please visit http://www.dsm5.org/ and tell Task Force members why parental alienation should be included in the DSM-5. Deadline for comments is June 15.

Mike & Mike on the radio

Monday, November 15th, 2010

Mike Jeffries, author of A Family’s Heartbreak: A Parent’s Introduction to Parental Alienation, will be the guest host on the internet radio program Family Matters on Wednesday, November 17 at 7:00 p.m. EST. Jeffries’ guest will be Dr. J. Michael Bone, parental alienation expert and consultant.

Family Matters is a show dedicated to discussing parental alienation, a destructive family dynamic affecting countless children, parents and extended family members every year.

“I’m looking forward to asking Dr. Bone about many of the developments he has seen over the years with respect to how parental alienation is perceived in the courts and among mental health professionals,” Jeffries said. “His article,  Parental Alienation Syndrome: How to Detect It and What to Do About It was one of the earliest and most concise, easy-to-understand descriptions of what I was going through with my family.”

Jeffries is sitting in for regular host, author and Parental Alienation Awareness Organization President Jill Egizii. “I’m used to being interviewed, so it will be fun to ask the questions for a change,” he added.

Family Matters can be heard at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/syndicatednews/2010/11/18/family-matters–hosted-by-michael-jeffries-author-. The call-in phone number is 347-539-5024.

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.”

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.

Fairness and Accuracy?

Saturday, March 27th, 2010

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.

A Family’s Heartbreak message to the DSM Review Board

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

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.”

Justice Jeffries style

Monday, March 15th, 2010

Mike Jeffries, author of A Family’s Heartbreak: A Parent’s Introduction to Parental Alienation, will be a guest on the internet talk show America’s Injustice, Tuesday night, March 16 at 8:00 p.m. EST.

The program will focus on parental alienation and the progress parents, legal and mental health professionals have made raising awareness of this destructive family dynamic in the public’s consciousness. The DSM Review Board is currently considering a proposal to put parental alienation in the next edition of the Diagnositc and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — making this week’s America’s Injustice program particularly relevant.

Listeners can access the program at www.talkshoe.com or call in at 724-444-7444, program ID 52056.

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