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Parental Alienation is a Multi Diagnosis for the Family

Parental Alienation is psychological abuse perpetrated by someone with mental issues such as depression, grief, anger, borderline narcissism & personality disorders. Proper diagnosis is the key.

Do you feel like you are dealing with more than one mental illness at one time when it comes to your family and divorce?  Do you know what it means to have a co-morbidity or dual diagnosis?

First, let’s start with some technical jargon.  When a doctor or counselor uses the term co-morbidity, it literally means that there are two or more occurring issues at one time or a dual diagnosis.  What this means is that there is not one problem going on that needs to be addressed but more than one and they often interplay on each other.  It was not too long ago, that the mental medical community believed that you could only have one mental illness diagnosis at a time.  In fact, because of this misbelief, many clients were never able to get well because the doctors would be treating only one of their problems and not the route cause.

Let me give you an example.  My daughter’s biological father definitely had a substance abuse problem.  He was placed in and out of rehabs as well as the jail.  Through some 30 years of his life or more, the doctors and counselors were constantly treating his substance abuse but not the real heart of the problem.  Her father was extremely jealous type person.  He constantly found himself in fights or battering women.  He had extreme low self-esteem and probably depression.  More than likely he was bi-polar/manic depressive and using substance abuse to control this problem.  Because no one ever bothered to look into his other issues but only address his substance abuse, he never got well and continued to have problems his whole life.  Eventually at age 42, after having been in jail 3 times for Assault and Battery, and in the rehabilitation centers no less than 4 times, he was found dead of an accident overdose of drugs and alcohol.  As no one addressed his true medical condition, bi-polar manic depression, coupled with substance abuse, and only addressed the substance abuse, there was no possible way for him to ever get well.

Why is this important to Parental Alienation?  In the context of high conflict divorce families, there is a co-morbidity of issues that are going on.  It is not just about the children having a relationship problem with one parent.  It is not just about a parent who is unable to control their anger and grief to the point of using the children as pawns.  And it is not just about the targeted parent whose whole world is turned upside down and devastated by the loss of their relationship with their kids.  It is about a combination of all of these issues rolled up into one Relational Problem.  Just like the above case scenario where the undiagnosed manic depression/bi-polar issue was led to substance abuse, so is the case in Parental Alienation, where one parent, the aggressor, is unable to properly move forward in their lives, despite any outward image, and their actions (the bi-polar/manic depression) in turn cause additional problems (the substance abuse) for the children and targeted parent.  When we can look at Parental Alienation as a combination of diagnoses, we have a better chance of solving it and for that matter classifying it in the DSM or Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.

Furthermore, when the professionals misdiagnosis or do not attend to the initial cause of the problem, the alienator or aggressive parent can actually slide even further backwards into a more antisocial diagnosis.  These individuals will actually begin to hover on the borderline of narcissistic and sociopathic behaviors.  If not addressed immediately, the aggressor can eventually become a full -blown narcissist and sociopath.

This does not bode well for the children or targeted parent.  Sociopaths and narcissists are extremely convincing people who know how to control their surroundings and the people in them.  They can be extremely successful or complete failures, but the key for them is total control by convincing everyone else around them that they are the perfect person and parent and therefore anything they say about the other parent must and has to be true.

For the children from a scientific community view, the children have a Folie a Deux complex or shared delusional belief system with the aggressive/alienating parent(AP).  The children actually parrot the AP’s words and feelings, taking them on as their own.  If not eradicated early on, the children become to believe this is their own thoughts and feelings.  Like a child taught to hate and discriminate by a family that follows the KKK (KluKluxKlan), they believe this is the only truth there is.  But in the case of Parental Alienation, these kids are also grieving the loss of the Targeted Parent (TP) and are filled with anger, hatred, rage and mistrust even after the TP is replaced with a surrogate parent.  These children are brainwashed, programmed and trained to hate the other parent because they are no sharing the same warped anger, hatred and rage that the AP is dealing with.

For these reasons, it is imperative that preventive measures be implemented from the start by the courts, counselors/therapists and others involved.  There need to be consequences for violated court orders and impediments.  If this is not done, then the aggressive parent gets too much control of everyone from the children; to the targeted parent; to the courts, therapists and agencies.  Once they have this undying control and power over everyone, they are pretty hard to stop.  It would be like trying to stop a train with no brakes.  The only way to stop that train is to literally put something in its way.  That something has to be removal of all custodial rights and unsupervised visitation.  A situation, I am quite sure no one, not even the courts, agencies or persons involved ever wants to be put into the displeasure of having to do, let alone enforce.

So what can be done?  The courts need to start ordering specialized counseling for grief and low self-esteem issues for everyone.  The courts need to start penalizing for court violations and contempt of court orders with loss of custody or time with the kids for any parent that does not comply.  Counselors need to keep the courts up to date on all progress with all family members so that if one of the parents or children is NOT cooperating, it can be dealt with immediately and not after the damage is done.  For those situations, where the aggressive parent is now sociopathic or narcissistic in nature, it may be necessary to remove the child(ren) from this parents care until proper counseling with progress has occurred.  Or threaten them with loss of custody and jail if they do not stop their antics.  Or worse case scenario, if the child(ren) become a danger to themselves or others, them in mental hospitals or juvenile detention centers.  The point is to stop the process of NOT allowing the children to spend the time with the other parent without interference and unadulterated by the aggressive parent.  Judges need to put their feet firmly on the group when it comes to the parents who are impeding or they will loose total control and the children will suffer along with the targeted parent for the rest of their lives.

Parental Alienation is not just one diagnosis but should be viewed as a Co-morbidity that affects the entire family.  It starts with an alienator who can look perfectly normal on the outside, but who's grief, anger and need for total control mars the family dynamic, thus causing psychological problems for the children and the targeted parent.  There is a co-morbidity of issues that are going on that need to be addressed all at the same time.

At the end of the day, we need to stop treating just the symptom, the children and targeted parent, instead treat the cause, the alienating, aggressive parent.  Even if the alienator never completely heals or stop, it may just make it easier for everyone else involved.

Joan T. Kloth-Zanard, Life Coach and Family ConsultantExecutive Director/FounderParental Alienation Support & Interventions (PASI) 320 North George’s Hill Road 
SouthburyCT 06488 203-770-0318 www.PAS-Intervention.comPASIntervention@aol.com

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cheryl June 13, 2012 at 02:26 PM
KKK stands for Ku Klux Klan, not Klu Klux Klan. Very interesting article.
Joan Kloth-Zanard June 13, 2012 at 03:55 PM
Thanks for the update on the typing error. Glad you liked the article.
Joseph June 13, 2012 at 05:21 PM
I wish Family court would actually concede that Parental Alienation is real. As part of any custody settlement, the parents and children should be required by law to have forensic counseling. All family law attorneys, law guardians and Judges need to be required to take periodic classes to educate them to help spot the indicators of an aggressive parent. Very good article!
Diane June 13, 2012 at 06:25 PM
An excellent article. Not only experiential but well informed on the issue. Many addictions start because of the need to self-medicate from emotional or mental disturbances that are not properly addressed. Abusive relationships can stem from mental illness, addiction, trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder, personality disorders or a combination of these issues. The most unfurtunate issue is that the children are victimized by the divorce process when there is not adequate family counseling. I could not agree more with your desire to see more education in the legal system on this issue.
Joan Kloth-Zanard June 13, 2012 at 11:10 PM
Joseph, there actually are courts that are accepting that it exists and even listening to people like Linda Gottlieb and Amy J. Baker. But you are right that there needs to be more education of the professionals who handled high conflict divorce cases.
Joan Kloth-Zanard June 13, 2012 at 11:19 PM
Diane, I am so glad that this article was of help to you.
joe_m June 14, 2012 at 12:06 PM
The courts have avoided this issue for years and will continue to do so. The courts are part of the problem. As they will never acknowledge that, change will never happen.
PAS Intervention June 14, 2012 at 03:17 PM
Joe, This is why the counselors, GAL's, attorneys and so on need to start putting their foot down too about what they recommend to the courts. Educational Awareness is a must. And it is why I am going to try to go the International Law and Mental Health Conference in Amsterdam next July 2013 to speak on Therapuetic Jurisprudence or as I like to say Therapuetic Jurisdiction.
PAS Intervention June 14, 2012 at 03:17 PM
Joe, This is why the counselors, GAL's, attorneys and so on need to start putting their foot down too about what they recommend to the courts. Educational Awareness is a must. And it is why I am going to try to go the International Law and Mental Health Conference in Amsterdam next July 2013 to speak on Therapuetic Jurisprudence or as I like to say Therapuetic Jurisdiction.
Solano County June 23, 2012 at 07:12 AM
The greatest hurdle is the National Organization of Women who work behind the scenes to use politicians to stop new laws or modification of laws. Take for example, the NOW effort 2 years ago to make in outright illegal in California to bring up alienation in the Courts. The NOW has created much propaganda and continue to spread it. NOW does this because they view domestic violence and the sole problem and will not acknowledge that both domestic violence and parental alienation exist and are a problem. Many of the hired guns that speak against parental alienation have roots (directly or indirectly with National Organization of Women). Not to be negative about NOW but they have gone beyond simply fight for rights of women--they now use political influence and money to subvert anything (including the right things) that would potentially take something away from a woman. You need only go to the NOW website to read what they write and follow the threads to see that NOW (or at least part of it) has become a force gender bias against males. http://solanofamilycourt.com/?p=366 Thanks for the interesting article about alienation. AJ
PAS Intervention June 23, 2012 at 01:24 PM
AJ: I have many times called NOW and written to them about their blindness to the truth and that they are actually turning their backs on their own gender. I actually did this very recently, too. I do believe that the courts and the DSM are not really listening to these fanatical nuts at NOW because they see it exists just don't have enough education and understanding to deal with it. I have not yet seen NOW's comments on PAS be taken seriously. However, NOWs stance on VAW concerns me because it is completely formulated for females only.
An Honest Observation June 14, 2013 at 12:07 AM
The GAL's, attorneys for the children, family courts and the attorneys for the alienating parent need the educational awareness regarding Parental Alienation. The only place they have been putting their foot down is on the pavement leading to the front door of their bank.
Joan Kloth-Zanard June 16, 2013 at 01:26 PM
Yes, An Honest Observation, you are right education and awareness are the key. I am going to start to try to put a children's divorce program together that I can bring to the schools on different age levels and that provides the kids a safe place to talk and share with other kids going through this. Just give me a chance to get through this fund raiser, Dance To End Child Abuse, so that we have money to do this program.

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