Psychiatrists examine parental alienation | The Law Offices of Dorie A. Rogers, APC
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Psychiatrists examine parental alienation

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An American Psychiatric Association panel has just completed an examination of what is called parental alienation. The concept is focused around how one parent can often try to turn a child against another parent when the couple is separated or divorced. In California, as well as elsewhere in the nation, this often occurs in the context of a battle over child custody. The psychiatrists were debating whether parental alienation should be officially listed as a mental disorder, as some had advocated, and ultimately declined to do so.

Had this designation been applied, parental alienation would have been listed in the association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Psychiatrists and other mental health professionals use the book to diagnose and treat a wide variety of mental illnesses.

The fact that the phenomenon is not classified as a mental illness, however, does not render it any less harmful and toxic to the wellbeing and emotional health of children. In the context of a separation or divorce, children frequently feel like the foundations of their life and world are shifting beneath their feet. It is extremely destructive for a parent to use the emotions and affections of children as some sort of weapon in a battle with their estranged spouse.

Many believe that such behavior constitutes abuse and should not be tolerated by the courts. Despite the fact that it is not classified as a mental illness, it can be a warning of other difficulties which could indicate that an individual might benefit from therapy. A good divorce attorney experienced in child custody and support disputes can help guide a parent through the emotional and legal difficulties that can arise if their former spouse is trying to turn their children against them.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Parental Alienation Not A Mental Disorder, American Psychiatric Association Says," David Crary, Sept. 21, 2012


Parental alienation belongs in the DSM. The mental health profession's bible is full of short-term relational and adjustment issues that are not Axis 1 mental illnesses.

It is important to remember that the DSM is an evolving document. At one time eating disorders were not in the DSM. Today they're listed. Conversely, homosexuality was once listed in the DSM as deviant behavior. Thankfully, a more enlightened generation of mental health professionals corrected that mistake. It took DSM editors more than 80 years to include Tourette's Syndrome in the manual after the patterns of behavior that make up Tourette's were first identified. I have no doubt that parental alienation will one day have its own diagnosis code within the mental health community.

It is ironic, however, that the same mental health professionals who don't believe parental alienation belongs in the DSM have no problems accepting clients dealing with this destructive family dynamic. The professionals just use a different DSM code in order to submit their bills to the insurance companies and get paid for their services.


mike jeffries


This POST makes an excellent point, and your Blog is very informative. Although the American Psychiatric Association decided to not include Parental Alienation in the latest edition of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual for Psychological Disorders (DSM) as a psychological disorder, does not mean that the phenomena doesn’t exist. There are a number of other clinical diagnoses that can be identified by a qualified Clinical Psychologist that can demonstrate that an “alienation dynamic” is present. What is critical to parents who may be experiencing this problem is to educate yourself as much as possible, seek out support organizations, and obtain the services of a qualified attorney and counselor who are knowledgeable in the dynamics of parental alienation. Early intervention and counseling is crucial to minimize the long term damage. Realistically; in almost all high conflict divorces, there is some level of alienation present, and can range from mild to severe. This is very evident in cases of false allegations of domestic violence, child abuse, or sexual assault, and sadly our current family court system does not rein this in. Affected parents must remember that just because the term parental alienation is not contained within the DSM, the evidence of same can raised in the family court with the proper representation.

Thank you for the insightful information.

Michael Conzachi
Director of Legislative Activities & Advocacy
International Support Network for Alienated Families
Domestic Violence Legislative Project
Stop Abusive & Violent Environments

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