Monday, September 27, 2010

Being a War Veteran Does Not Make You an Expert on War

Let me say that again. Being a veteran of a war does not make one an expert on war. By that I mean this. The war veteran is an absolute expert on his or her experience with the war in which they found themselves, but this experience alone does not equip them to teach at, say The War College. Likewise, ones personal experience with parental alienation, as tragic as it may legitimately be does not - by virtue of that personal experience alone - qualify one to serve in an expert capacity for other peoples cases. Expertise to do this should be grounded in a combination of deep academic experience, research experience, clinical experience "in the trenches" as they say, with many many families in a variety of circumstances, as well as with professional experience in a more general sense in order to place all of these specific experiences in a broader context.

But, you say, what about all of the support groups, websites, etc offering support and advice? Are they not legitimate? Of course they are, and I applaud the wonderful work and support that they provide, and this is not what I am referring to at all. I am a supporter of a great many of them, and hold them in the highest regard. They are wonderful sources of education and validation of the experience of alienation, and enough cannot be said about how profoundly valuable these efforts are. The distinction I wish to make is the distinction between support and education, and the giving of specific strategic advice - which is based in mental health or legalistic principles - to individuals in their cases, and doing so for a fee.

I hear stories from time to time that make me cringe as I hear of the specific advice that has been handed out to a client under these circumstances that was obviously based more on that advisor's own personal experience with parental alienation, than it is based on the facts and factors of the client's specific case. It is important to understand that, while the phenomenon of parental alienation is indeed very patterned, that it also is individually nuanced. One size does not fit all. The best advice I can give is to kick the tires of any potential advisor. Find out about the depth of their academic background, the depth of their experience in dealing with parental alienation, as well as the depth of their experience in dealing with families where parental alienation is not present. Both categories should be significant. Find out about the number of cases in which they have been involved and ask for references. In my experience, parents who have experienced parental alienation are very often inspired to help others and will not be put off by being listed as a reference. Finally, find out how versed they are in the legal system, assuming they are not a lawyer. If their advice comes from more of a mental health perspective, find out what expertise, training and background they have in the mental health field, both related to parental alienation and not related to parental alienation.

None of the questions suggested here should put off anyone you are considering becoming involved in your case. They are reasonable and completely justifiable, and should not ruffle feathers. If feathers do get ruffled however, perhaps the wind is blowing in the wrong direction. Take care.