Sunday, May 25, 2008

Reunification Therapy

In my recent Teleseminar, Overcoming Parental Alienation, I addressed the workings of what is referred to as "Reunification Therapy." As has been my experience in the past, I found that as I was describing it, I found myself being a bit surprised at my own conclusions. Specifically, as I systematically went through how it is supposed to work, and how it actually does work, I found that the prognosis for success that I heard myself describing, was even less than I would have said before the development of the Telesiminar.

There are very good reasons to understand why the courts would order such therapy. In so doing, the court does not have to make the difficult decision to change custody or to restrict or supervise the visits between the child and the alienating parent, so the next best thing is Reunification Therapy. Such Therapy recognizes that the child's negative description far exceeds what it should be, given the flimsy and even non-existent reasons offered for a child not wanting to see this parent. This Therapy also addresses the very important fact of the child maintaining contact with both parents. These are very good things for the Court to recognize. The problem is however, that when a child has therapy with a parent they claim to hate or fear, for maybe one hour per week, this therapy backfires, and, if anything, tends to actually intensify the alienation. The reasons for this are logical and predictable, and are addressed in some detail in the presentation.

It appears that much work is yet to be done in more successfully convincing the Court about the causes of alienation. Once we can do that more effectively, the Court is more likely to follow suit with interventions that actually work.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Unqualified Mental Health Professionals

The following appeared on the Blog and Website of well known fathers and parents rights activists, Glen Sacks. I have had the honor to work with Glen on several projects, and he was kind enough to ask me to expand on a point made earlier in this Teleseminar.

Background: J. Michael Bone is an eminent authority on Parental Alienation, and I've often quoted his work in my newspaper columns on the issue.

Starting in late April Michael is going to be doing a four-part Teleseminar on how targeted parents can overcome Parental Alienation. The 4 week telewebcast series begins Tuesday April 29 from 8:30 - 9:30 p.m. EDT, and runs each Tuesday through 5/20. To register, click here or go to

Below is my Q & A with Dr. Bone.

Glenn Sacks: You caution against employing "Unqualified Mental Health Professionals." That's often a difficult thing for a lay person to judge. What should a target parent look at in order to make this judgment?

Dr. Bone: This is a very difficult identification process, and one that most attorneys and judges could not be expected to perform. That said, let me try to take a stab at it, but please understand that I could go on for many pages about this.

Since the vast minority of mental health professionals are not comfortable with or particularly familiar with going to court, the numbers of those who do this kind of work are relatively small. Within this relatively small number, an even smaller number profess familiarity with parental alienation.

Among those who are familiar with parental alienation and how it works, the basic issue boils down to this: the understanding that it is possible for one parent to alienate a child from another parent. Once a child is alienated, only those who truly understand this will be able to successfully manage the child’s protest and vilification regarding the other parent, without being pulled into believing it. Therefore, the best way to identify one who is truly qualified is to ask them questions about how they have, in the past, dealt with children who did not want to see one of their parents when it had been determined that the non-favored or alienated parent had not been abusive to the child.

When the truly qualified mental health professional is asked this question, they will have no trouble responding to it with fairly long and clear explanations of whatever successes or lack of successes they have had with this. What I look for is less about the “success rate” and more about their ability to talk about the complex nuances of this very complicated problem. Mental health professionals who do not really understand that a child can be alienated from a parent will very quickly begin to side with the child, and justify this by finding relatively small imperfections in the targeted parent, and use that as an explanation for the child’s position.

Put another way, ineffective or “less than connected” parenting might well produce somewhat estranged children, but this ineffective parenting alone will not produce alienated children. The necessary ingredient is the alienating behavior of the alienating parent. What one needs is a mental health professional who gets this.