Reunification Therapy with Estranged and Alienated Parents

By Dan Blair, a marriage counselor and family counselor.

Aside from abuse, children generally benefit from a relationship with both mom and dad. Even if there are negative aspects of a parent, children benefit from interacting with one who “brought them into this world,” and can learn crucial coping skills and expand personal styles of problem-solving. Children usually benefit from all the resources of both homes. Also, as both parents and child age the opportunity for a more comfortable relationship develops. Research indicates that not only do children benefit from a relationship with both parents, but in retrospect, children wish they had more time with the non-custodial parent and that children can still feel rejected by estranged and alienated parents. In retrospect, adult children report that they wish someone helped them with their relationship with the “other” parent.

Parents especially in divorce can become estranged or alienated. Estranged parents generally involves the deterioration of the parent’s relationship with the child due to parental factors and child behavior. The child and parent both experience the disconnection. For children of alienated parents, the emphasis is more on what the child has been told about their experience with the other parent, which may include exaggerations and negative allegations. Even if the allegations are true about the other parent, it is difficult if not impossible to accurately measure the exact impact on the child. The child may be attracted to power, and the child may either be more aligned with the more powerful parent, or the child may find power in protecting the “victimized” parent. Some signs of alienation can be found in the post How One Parent Undermines the Other Parent and Visitation Refusal.

Reunification therapy is difficult because it requires not only the usual willingness to make personal changes but also the elusive ability to utilize (versus attack) someone else’s point of view. The earlier the intervention the better. The goal is to help kids past anxiety and avoidance to mastery and confidence. Therapeutic goals are based on each situation, but always involve the parent and child seeing the impact of their own behavior on the other, expressing remorse, the ability to refocus on a future relationship, and effective restriction on the other parent’s interference. Interventions include identifying thinking errors, improving communication, resolving attachment issues, and building self-esteem. Therapists should be active, directive and able to confront maladaptive interactions. Success is determined by the parents making agreements that stick.

One thought on “Reunification Therapy with Estranged and Alienated Parents”

  1. Hello

    My name is Joseph Goldberg and I am interested in the work you
    do. I would also like to ask you for some assistance.

    I assume you are familar with the dynamic if not the nomenclature
    regarding parental alienation ? Parental Alienation is what happens
    normally in the context of a high conflict divorce ( although it also
    can happen within intact families ), it’s what happens when a child
    becomes strongly aligned with one parent – and completely rejects
    having a relationship with their other parent. It is important to under-
    stand that the child’s rejection of this parental relationship is always
    based on unjustified reasons ( e.g, One of the common behaviours
    of the favored-alienating parent, is the persistent badmouthing of the
    other parent in front of the child ).

    Even if you are not familar with the terminology, I am sure you have
    seen this family dynamic many times and you may know someone
    right now who is perplexed about what to do next.

    Mental health professionals widely agree that parental alienation
    is a serious form of child abuse and research has validated that an
    alienating parent – can inculcate a Parental Alienation Syndrome.

    SPECIAL NOTE:

    If you know a friend, a parent, or anyone else involved in what you
    believe to be parental alienation – please ask them to contact me
    directly for immediate assistance.

    My email address is:
    jgoldberg@cspas.org

    I have two websites that you should consider linking to your website.
    The first one pertains to an educational entity called The ( CSPAS ),
    which stands for Canadian Symposium for Parental Alienation Synd-
    rome. I am the Founder of this organization.
    The website is http://www.CSPAS.ca
    We provide educational services to parents and professionals all over
    the world.

    My other website you should also consider linking to your website is
    the website pertaining to my consulting practice.
    This website is http://www.ParentalAlienation.ca

    I am also the author of an online Continuing Educational Course titled :

    Diagnostic Criteria for Clinical Practitioners in the Treatment
    of Parental Alienation and Parental Alienation Syndrome.

    This CE Course provides 18 CEC’s to mental health professionals and it
    is also approved by the American Psychological Asssociation. This is a
    valuable educational course that can also assist many parents, lawyers,
    clinical investigators, various mental health professionals & pediatricians.

    Here is a hyperlink to this online Continuing Educational Course:
    Click here: CE Course on Parental Alienation – 18 CEC’s

    I also have educational DVD’s that deal with the topic of Parental Alienation.
    The DVD’s are available upon request. Please let me know if you would like
    to obtain these DVD’s or get more information about them.

    My Biography
    Joseph Goldberg is an expert and a consultant on the subject of Parental Alienation.
    He is a member of the Parental Alienation Study Group ( PASG ). The PASG headed
    by psychiatrist William Bernet, M.D., is currently providing clinical terminolgy on the
    nomenclature for parental alienation and its inclusion in the ICD-11. Mr. Goldberg is
    also a consultant helping parents and professionals in cases of parental alienation, in
    addition he is the Founder of an international educational entity called, The Canadian
    Symposium for Parental Alienation Syndrome. Mr. Goldberg is the author of a Contin-
    uing Educational Course approved by the American Psychological Association.
    The title of the course is Diagnostic Criteria for Clinical Practitioners in the Treatment
    of Parental Alienation and Parental Alienation Syndrome. Recently, Mr. Goldberg was
    interviewed on CBC. The Canadian Broadcasting Company. His interview discussed issues pertaining to Parental Alienation and the three various ways that parental alien-
    ation can make its way into the DSM-5, the psychiatric textbook printed by the A.P.A.

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