psychological abuse

Don't Call It Parent Alienation, Call It Trauma

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There is only one way to reform family courts and that is for the federal government to expect them to

be trauma-informed. 

High-conflict family court is more than one parent brainwashing a child to reject the targeted parent.  High-conflict family court is a cesspool of deadly trauma.  It is the synergy of the top sources of trauma in this country; parental mental illness, domestic violence and child psychological/emotional abuse. 

1. Parental Mental Illness - one parent abuses and neglects his or her family due to their narcissistic and/or borderline personality disorder traits. 

2. Domestic Violence - the mentally impaired parent uses coercive control  to terrify the targeted parent into not exposing his or her abusive behaviors.

3. Child Psychological/emotional abuse and neglect is also called psychological maltreatment.  This along with living with a mentally impaired parent, witnessing domestic violence, high-conflict divorce (that goes on for years), and losing a parent due to alienation, adds up to an ACE score of 6+ out of the top 10 Adverse Childhood Experience. 

On top of this, our children's only chance of recovery from trauma is through the loving safety of the targeted parent, who has been distanced, if not all together erased from the child's life by the erroneous decisions and judgments by those "professionals" in high-conflict family court.

The bottom line is that excessive trauma is prolonged and escalated by high-conflict family court and becomes deadly to our children. 

Children of high-conflict family court disputes develop mental and physical health problems that include, but are not limited to:

depression, anxiety, relational problems, including transmitting the trauma to the next generation (trauma reenactment), self-destructive behaviors like drug and alcohol abuse, and are at a 5000% increased risk for suicide, and educational and occupational problems. They also are at a high risk for developing cancer, heart and lung disease and dying 20 years earlier than without family court trauma.

Attachment Trauma Reenactment

The following are my interpretations of the chronological timeline of a narcissistic/borderline parent.  I made this 5 minute video a while ago, but I didn't like it, so I never worked on the additional modules.   It is still accurate though so take what you like and leave the rest.

Over time I've tweaked the timeline and separated out adolescence because that is the time a personality disorder becomes fixed, and so many adolescence are involved in these cases. 

This is an enlargement of the development of a narcissistic/borderline personality disorder.

You can see the integration of traits from both types.

This is the a visual of my proposed definition of

"parental alienation." 

Depression and Anxiety: Symptoms or Diagnoses?

 Depression and anxiety run STRONG in my family.   Both of my parents self-medicated with alcohol and my brother was suicidal, beginning in his teens.  So no one questioned why I woke up one morning severely depressed; not even me.  But, it hit me like a bolt of lightening on a sunny day.  I was an accomplished college administrator bringing home some pretty hefty bacon.  I loved my job and was using my successes at work to write my dissertation.  Everyday I hurried home to my two young children who were happy and healthy.  I was always in awe when I turned down our 1000’ driveway and it opened up to a pristine piece of heaven complete with horses running across the fields.

Then, in an instant, everything changed.  It was a Friday morning.  I felt so horrible that I didn’t hear my husband calling Cheryl, my therapist.  I had been with Cheryl during the years I struggled with infertility.  She also counseled “us” when my husband’s parental rights were terminated from a daughter he and his girlfriend had had in high school.  I had been seeing Cheryl again fairly regularly because I thought I needed a tune up.  I certainly needed more than a tune-up that morning.  I had hit a pothole in the fast lane.

When I sat down in her office, I thought about how we had recently been trying to right my ship.  Something in my life had become unmanageable, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.  That morning, I felt so far off course that I couldn’t imagine what “normal” felt like.  I leaned on my knees while Cheryl directed all of her questions to my husband.  There was a short pause in the conversation and Cheryl darted out of the room, reappearing a few minutes later with the psychiatrist.

Dr. Warren simply said to me,  “Kay, you won’t be able to go back to work again.”  I didn’t react, but I thought,  “That is absurd.  This guy doesn’t even know me.”  At the same time panic was setting in.  What wasn’t absurd was that I had an incredible amount of responsibility and a never ending number of projects to do and I was in no shape to go to work.  It had taken every bit of fight and energy I had just to get to this office this morning.  I needed someone to help me.

I sat across from my husband, Cheryl and the psychiatrist who were standing and waiting for me to say something.  Then Cheryl sat down next to me and touched my arm.  “Kay,” she said gently but firmly, “You have severe depression, that’s obvious.  How long do you think it will take you to over come this?”   Honestly, I had no clue, so I thought about how long it takes the body to heal from any major problem.  Then I padded my answer with a couple of weeks so I wouldn’t sound as uncertain as I felt and responded, “I don’t know about 6-8 weeks?”   There was a long deafening silence.  Cheryl and the doctor exchanged serious looks before she dropped her head in her hands, and blurted out, “try 6 years.”  

You would think that if depression just happens to people because of a genetic link, that I would have succumb a lot earlier than 43.  But that wasn’t even the issue. At some point, soon after that Black Friday, my husband had had a private discussion with the psychiatrist and had made another appointment for me.  During that second appointment, the doctor diagnosed me with Bipolar Disorder.  I had never even heard of Bipolar at the time, but come to find out bipolar is the most genetically influenced mental illness.  However, unlike depression, bipolar had never turned up in my family’s history.   I insisted that he was wrong, but Dr. Warren told me that other people (meaning my husband) could see my moods and behaviors better than I could.   I really wasn’t buying it, but I was desperate for the depression to lift, so I got my marching orders and I started on a boatload of medications, hoping that soon I would feel a lot different.  And I did, I soon felt like a zombie.

I was scared as hell about the “side effects” I was having with these medications, but I was even more frightened about not getting better.  I faithfully took my toxic medications, attended individual and group therapy, underwent countless bouts of electroshock therapy and read, studied and prayed day and night.  When my mental health continued to deteriorate, my psychiatrist filed papers for disability.

In the meantime, I laid on the couch wondering if my husband was right and I really was crazy.  I didn’t know how people “go crazy” or “are crazy,” but I didn’t think that one day I’d be having children, riding horses, and feeling the normal pressure of a demanding profession and the next day, “boom” I couldn’t function enough to sign my name. 

Everyone was really worried about me, except my husband.  He didn’t even care for me during that time.   I agreed with him, as I always agreed with him, that “we” didn’t want the children to see me in such a fragile state; so I was closed off in a small room with a T. V.   I only now know what he was telling my children.  What he told me was, “I like it when you are down, then I have all the control.”  I knew then that I needed a miracle.


To Be Continued…










For Far Too Long...

 For far too long we were isolated and alone.   For decades, narcissistic parents tore the souls out of our innocent children that they called their sons and daughters, as if they had the right.  Slowly they bled the life out of their happy and healthy partners, as if they had the right.  No one believed that a person would terrify their own children into complete submission and use them as decoys and weapons to hurt the person who had pledged them their love.   Pure trauma engulfed the American dream and crushed our spirits aided by the mental health and legal systems.  Friends, family members, neighbors and bystanders chose to ignore or even profit from our pain and torture.  We remained isolated and alone, for far too long.

Last October, a few isolated targeted parents banded together on a hope and a prayer over the Internet.  Together, we faced the hard facts.  First, we accepted that we had loved, trusted, married and had a family with someone who never had the capacity to care about anyone but themselves.  We were not unlovable, as they tried and sometimes succeeded to convince us; they could NOT love.   Second, we acknowledged that no one else was going to care enough about the health and future of our children to actually DO anything to help us.  Child protective services just whined about caseloads.  Law enforcement didn’t enforce the laws.  Mental health professionals couldn’t recognize trauma, child psychological abuse or narcissistic patterns of behaviors and misdiagnosed us as the problem.  Guardian ad litems were insecure, arrogant and uniformed.  Getting to the truth, was too much work for what they were being paid.  And Family Courts felt entitled to ignore state statutes, roll their eyes at our constitutional rights and punish us if we protested their misconduct or questioned their mistaken assumptions. Third, we decided that awareness and education had gotten nowhere and needed to be replaced by action.  We; you and I were exactly where we needed to be at exactly the right time.  We decided that this horror had to end.

None of us had any money or extra time to devote to the “good of the order,” but we had to start DOING something.  Three months after a pretty shaky start, the National Alliance For Targeted Parents launched a petition to the APA demanding that they formally acknowledge that the pathology of “parental alienation” is tragically real.  We didn’t care what they called it or who took credit for labeling it, we were done arguing a mute point in the face of our children’s demise.   It was time for America to recognize that narcissistic parents were  psychologically/emotionally abusing and neglecting their children to reject the other fit and emotionally available parent.   The American Psychological Association(APA) was the avenue to acknowledge us as a special population and assert the need for protective separation between our children and the abusive parent.

It's a sad commentary that we are surprised and feel grateful to the APA for taking a strong, visible lead.  At our request, the APA is moving forward to validate and address our family crisis by establishing a conference/team of experts in attachment theory, personality disorder pathology, trauma, and family systems.  The goal is a short and intense conference to produce a white paper on the pathology of “parental alienation.”  Our request for a conference of experts has only one more committee to hurdle before it can be presented to American Psychological Association’s Board of Directors for consideration. 

Concurrent with this movement, the web page that contained the APA's position statement on "Parental Alienation Syndrome" was removed.  Although we haven’t heard why it was taken down, this actionis extremely significant.

 For over a decade, the published position statement has fueled a false adversarial relationship with our natural and common allies in domestic violence and stalled progress.

2008 Statement on Parental Alienation Syndrome
The American Psychological Association (APA) believes that all mental health practitioners as well as law enforcement officials and the courts must take any reports of domestic violence in divorce and child custody cases seriously. An APA 1996 Presidential Task Force on Violence and the Family noted the lack of data to support so-called "parental alienation syndrome", and raised concern about the term's use. However, we have no official position on the purported syndrome.

What is becoming abundantly clear is that narcissistic abusers have stayed under the radar by NOT battering with their fists.  My ex-partner would shame me and insist that he never abused the children or me because he never “touched” us.  And the fact that society focuses almost exclusively on physical and sexual violence leaves narcissistic-abusers free to savagely assault their ex-partners and children without ever being held accountable. 

This is about to change!

If you haven’t had the chance yet to join us as an official member of the National Alliance for Targeted Parents, please fill in your name and email at the bottom of this page.  You are no longer isolated or alone.  Join us as we save our children, save the next generation, and save this nation!

Emotional Abuse and Neglect in America It's Everyone's Problem Now.

This blog has two parts. The first part is summary of the status of child psychological abuse as it pertains to our families and the second part is a short description of the "significant and observable changes" in a child who is being psychologically abused.  Please share this information with everybody you know.  While the APA is setting the stage to address this issue in the public's interest, the public can be given the tools to start recognizing and reporting severe child psychological abuse.  Both of these documents (Indicators and SAVE A CHILD)  can be found in the learning links section of the website, underChild Abuse Reports.

The number of children who are psychologically maltreated (emotionally abused and neglected) from living with a parent who has a serious mental illness has reached epidemic proportions.  As many as 22 million parents with children have relationally abusive and high conflict personality disorders (Harman and Biringen).  These personality disorders are unrecognizable by the general public and the majority of mental health and protective service professionals including law enforcement, child abuse investigators and family court.  Emotional abuse and neglect is grossly under reported and the least likely type of child abuse to be investigated or stopped.

This article describes the observable behaviors ofchildren who are being psychologically maltreated by a relationally abusive parent to reject their other healthy or  “targeted” parent.  Psychological abuse and neglect by a mentally ill parent is as damaging to children as sexual abuse and/or physical abuse; and in many cases it is worse.   The most powerful resiliency factor to protect children from the ravages of psychological abuse is for them to have strong relationships with healthy adults, most importantly, their other parent. 

Child Psychological abuse and neglect has been unraveling the fabric of America for generations and now poses a serious threat to our country.  Aside from the daily pain and anguish that relationally abusive parent inflict on their family, they also transmit their problems inter-generationally, which accounts for the rising percentage of these personality disorders in our society.

Child Psychological Abuse (p. 719, DSM-5, 2013), has mandatory standards of practice that apply to every case, in every state, for every child, at every age.  Clear and strict compliance to state and federal laws are such that ALL mandatory child abuse reporters, including mental health, legal and educational professionals can be held accountable for not reporting these cases.

But you don’t have to be a mandatory reporter to save a child and serve your country by reporting these cases.  As friends and family of a targeted parent, YOU can make all the difference, by reporting what you see to your county child protection agency.   When targeted parents report the abuse, the abusive parent retaliates by making things worse on the child and the targeted parent.  In addition, they often file counterclaims and the children are induced to support the lies against the targeted parent.  It rarely ends well.   However as an objective witness, your report carries much more weight, and can be anonymous.

By the time a child is have completely changed his or her demeanor, the normal development and survival systems have already been derailed.  This means that they are unable to extract themselves from the abuser without intervention.  A period of protective separation from the abusive parent is necessary for the child to recover.   During this no contact period the child and targeted parent reconnect and learn how to protect themselves from further abuse, allowing for the child to have a safe relationship with both parents.







Clinical Indicators of Child Psychological Abuse

As Defined by State Statutes

Children who are being psychologically maltreated (emotionally abused and neglected) exhibit one or more of the following characteristics to a severe degree: anxiety; depression; withdrawal; outward aggressive behavior; or a substantial and observable change in behavior, emotional response or cognition that is not within the normal range for the child’s age and stage of development.

In severe child psychological abuse cases, children will exhibit the following three substantial and observable changes. (Childress, 2015)

1.    A complete suppression of a child’s normal, healthy attachment to one parent.  Abruptly, a child begins to reject one parent for no reason.  He or she will publically display disdain and/or contempt for the “targeted” parent.  As this condition worsens the child will treat the targeted parent more and more harshly, with less and less remorse or empathy.

Early in the family’s history, the child felt attached and cared for by both parents.  Even though the mentally ill parent could not connect emotionally with the children, the healthy attachment to the other parent allowed the children to develop normally.   However, this never lasts.  Partners/parents who have relationally abusive personality disorders thrive on escalating conflict.  For reasons too complex to discuss here, these individuals lie, exaggerate problems and blame others to drive wedges between other members of their family.  They do not communicate directly, but instead plant seeds of suspicion and contempt in the minds of one family member against another.   The happy home quickly disintegrates and separation and divorce ensue.

Once the abusive parent has the children alone, the child psychological abuse reaches a pathological level.  He or she begins to apply subtle but constant pressure to make the child question their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors toward the other parent.  Under relentless coercion and manipulation the child starts to think that the targeted parent is a danger or threat to their survival (this is called trauma).  In order to cope with the extreme demand from the abusive parent to choose between parents, children suppress their positive feelings for the targeted parent.   

 Forcing a child to “choose” to love and care for only one of their two parents is simply evil.  The child must suppress their love, respect, attraction, emotional needs, positive thoughts and good memories of their healthy parent, who makes up half of their identity.  When the child internalizes these negative feelings it affects their perception of themselves and their relationships with others in the world around them.  This disrupts their emotional, cognitive, and personality development.  Suppression of attachment to a healthy, loving parent is so far outside the normal range at any stage of development that it is contrary to our primary motivation for survival.  It is impossible to understand the severity of torture these children must feel that drives them to have to take such drastic measures to cope with the demands of one parent.

Example: About 6 months after my divorce was final and the children were spending 50 percent of their time in each home, my 10 year old son came back from placement with his father, crying.  He said to me, “I’m so confused mom, dad says that you lie all the time.”

We sat down and I asked him to tell me when he could remember a time that I had ever lied to him.  I watched his contorted, tear stained face start to relax when he realized that what his father was saying wasn’t true.  He smiled and hugged me, relieved to know that I was still the same mom that he always had.

 At the time, I thought that I would be able to combat his father’s campaign against me by keeping open communication with my son.  However, the next time he came back from his father’s his  negative emotions toward me were so chaotic and caustic that he was no longer able to think critically and I couldn’t reconnect with him.   He was angry, belligerent, hyper aroused, frustrated and confused.  He withdrew.  It was 9 years later, after his first year in college when my son felt safe enough to let his attachment to me resurface.

2.    Children imitate the abusive parent’s patterns of narcissistic/borderline personality traits, such as superiority and entitlement.

 This drastic change in a child’s behaviors, emotional responses and cognition, is completely abnormal for any age or state of development.

Thankfully, the child does not have a personality disorder or the disorder traits themselves, but a child learns what he or she lives and they begin to imitate the abusive parent’s language, behaviors, and attitudes.  Psychologically abusive parents treat the child as if they are above the targeted parent in the family hierarchy.   They are encouraged to think that they have the right to judge and punish the targeted parent.   They use language that is not within the norm for any age or stage of development.  In particular, children start to use dramatic and attention getting words such as “abusive” and “forced” when describing the relationship with the targeted parent.

The psychologically abusive parent also creates an insecure attachment with their children.  The children believe that they will lose both parents, if they do not adopt the hateful and denigrating attitudes and feelings that the abusive parent has for the targeted parent.

Example: I told my son that his dog missed him when he was gone.  He immediately turned hostile and said that he didn’t have a dog, or a sister, or a mother.  Then he began telling me how I had failed the family.  He said ” You should have stayed in the marriage and just taken what dad dished out.  It wasn’t that bad, it’s not like he abused you, he never hit you!”  Then he started blaming me for his father’s affairs and also blamed me for the fact that his father’s girlfriend had broken off his most recent relationship.  My son vowed that if I “forced” him to follow placement he would make me cry everyday, because he would never stop hating me.  He ended the confrontation by snarling,  “I wish you would die so I could spit on your grave.”

3.    Children share the abusive parent’s delusion that the targeted parent is all bad and dangerous.  They begin to fear the targeted parent and resist contact.

Fear of a targeted parent is indicative of a 180-degree shift in a child’s behaviors and emotional response to their healthy and loving parent.  This is completely abnormal for any age or stage of development.

Children are ambivalent towards their parents.  They like and dislike somethings sometimes about one or the other.  They even favor a parent at times.  However, even when children temporarily favor one parent over the other, that doesn’t cause them to fear, hate and/or reject the targeted  parent. 

Example:  My son called the police on me the night that I confronted him about his drug use. He reported that he was afraid that I was going to hurt him.   When the police arrived, they saw my son cowering in a corner.  Scotty (named used with permission) was well known.   Heplayed on a State and National Champion Rugby team and one of the best weightlifters.  

 The police looked at him and then at me, his 5 ft., nothing, 50 year old mother and raised his eyebrows.  All he said was “Scotty, we’re not buying this.”  Almost immediately, Scotty returned to normal and we had a pretty decent time until he went back to his father’s.






APA Responds With Respect and Enthusiasm

We were delighted to receive a confirmation from the American Psychological Association's (APA) Committee on Children, Youth & Families (CYF) that our petition had their full attention.  What really made me smile was that they immediately realized that the crisis we experience day and night can not be handled by their committee alone.  CYF bumped our petition up to their parent board, The Board on the Advancement of Psychology in the Public Interest (BAPPI), who determined that our petition has strong practice implications.  And indeed it does!

 BAPPI is considering forming a joint working group with the Practice Directorate but there are others who need to be represented on the work group in order to get all the pieces together.  The following diagram is not perfectly accurate, but illustrates how fragmented and complex our issue is.  However it also illustrates the power of collaboration, which is highly valued by the APA.

This diagram only illustrates the point that our issue is complex.


The NATP is not a polished, well-funded lobbying organization, or celebrities or even folks with any clout or influence.  On the contrary; we are parents who have been abused, tormented, marginalized and re-victimized by every system in place that claims to advocate for the best interest of children and families.  Even so, we never stopped trying to find a way to protect our children from our narcissistic/borderline ex-partners who have caused so much pain and suffering.  

Now, for the first time in the history of this nationwide travesty, one of the world’s most powerful organizations, the APA has heard our collective voice and responded swiftly with respect and compassion.  

Chills just ran down my spine as I re-read that last sentence.  I know this means that we are just at the starting gate, but my dear long suffering and heroic targeted parents, we are

AT the starting gate

and it’s only April.

We didn't start this war on families in American, but we will finish it. We still need to get as many of us in one place as possible, so PLEASE Join Us!  Submit you name and email in the red and black box at the bottom of this or any page of our website  


You Don't Have to Throw the Baby Out With the Bathwater

Healthy skepticism encourages us to check our assumptions, recognize the limitations of our methods, and proceed thoughtfully. When skepticism and controversy about a concept or label still remains as an obstacle, after decades of work to validate it in the eyes of mainstream science, then the validity of the skepticism must be examined.




When all efforts to get society, especially the mental health and legal professional to recognize parental alienation as a legitimate crisis in science and health have failed, then the problem is not on “them;" it is on us.   How can we expect "them" to adopt a concept when we ourselves cannot even define it?     Regardless of the inherent controversy with the term parental alienation, it is short sighted to think that the mental health and legal professions are going to fully embrace a problem that doesn't have a clear, stable definition.  Is it a dynamic?  Is it a mental illness?  Is it child abuse?  No one, outside of our elite little PA community is going to take us seriously until we resolve the confusion about what parental alienation is. 

Recently, a member of the Parental Alienation Study Group (PASG), proposed a far reaching position statement to its members for their feedback and adoption.  The position statement strongly supports using more widely accepted and less controversial terms like "coercive control" and "child psychological abuse" in place of “parental alienation”; recognizing that the controversy about "parental alienation" is more about the term than about the actual phenomenon.

Adopting this position statement (or an amended version) could bring this international group of authors and researches in line with the largest, most powerful organizations and agencies in the world working to change the outcomes for families struggling with child psychological abuse.  PASG could then network with established change agents such as; childhood attachment trauma, psychological maltreatment,   domestic violence association, developmental and personality psychology and a plethora of others, all fighting to stop psychological abuse.

The biggest problem associated with shifting our perception is that many of us are invested and comfortable with using this term.  But, we don’t have to throw the baby out with the bathwater!  Simply put,  parental alienation is not the whole enchilada but a specific set of abusive strategiesor a pattern of abusive behaviors by one parent to alienate children from their other parent. 

Parental Alienation is a set of abusive strategies (or a pattern of abusive behaviors) that a narcissistic/borderline parent uses to exile the other parent from their children’s lives.

It is a subtle but significant difference.  The abusive acts of alienating a parentcannot be separated from the abuser's reenactment of their childhood trauma, or their narcissistic/borderline personality disorder.  

  Below is a diagram of the chronology of how attachment trauma impacts the development of narcissistic/borderline personality disorder and how that disorder plays out in family situations.  The hallmark of these parents is that they are abusive to their family and escalate conflict whenever possible. Most of these families breakdown under the unrelenting stress, which triggers the unstable parent to reenact his or her childhood trauma based on distorted and disorganized memories stored in their internal working model.   During this reenactment period the narcissistic/borderline parent engages in and escalates specific strategies meant to alienate a child from his or her parent.  





 The sooner we stop calling psychological abuse parental alienation, the sooner we can engage in meaningful and effective intervention and prevention.

But this is up to us.





Courts That Care?

As we begin to talk about trauma, I thought it would be good to re-post this blog from last February.  The newest addition in the library section of this website now contains the protocol manual being used for family courts to become trauma informed.   Every targeted parent in family court must be aware of the official, professional movement to make family courts trauma informed and use their personal cases as avenues to protect their children while pushing the movement forward.    We are traumatized and our children are traumatized.  We need courts that are trauma informed! 

According to the protocol manual for developing trauma informed courts, "Juvenile and family judges and courts are in a unique position to promote healing and prevent future trauma.  In 2013, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) undertook development of a court trauma consultation protocol in response to an increase in requests for assistance from courts seeking to become trauma-informed. the NCJFCJ and organizations such as the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) have an extensive history of providing training and technical assistance to courts on traumatic stress."

Published February 10, 2016

Recently, The Honorable Marshall Murray, a respected and experienced Circuit Court Judge in Milwaukee County, co-authored a blog with the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) in which he sounded more like a caring parent than a Judge.  It was the first time I heard a Judge express sadness at seeing so many abused children in his court.  It was also the first time I had heard anyone defend judges for being concerned that courts make the right decisions in cases involving abuse.

“One of the most important duties for any court system

is to ensure that youth in the community

are protected.” 

                                         -Judge Marshall Murray (2016)

One point that Judge Murray discusses is that in order for judges to make the right decisions when ruling on cases involving children and youth, they must be able to recognize how trauma affects behavior. He specifically mentioned trauma from emotional and verbal abuse, recognizing that psychological maltreatment (emotional abuse and neglect) is the most prevalent and damaging type of child abuse, causing a lifetime of problems for these victims.  The blog that Judge Murray wrote focuses on teen dating violence, but I found that his sentiments reflected a fundamental problem for Judges presiding over high conflict custody cases in family courts.

For decades, Family Court Judges have misinterpreted the expression of trauma in most of the high conflict custody cases.  This misinterpretation continues to lead Family Court Judges to make inaccurate assumptions about the parents and children.  Their mistaken assumptions are the basis for placing children with the abusive parent.  Thus, Family Courts directly contribute to severe adverse childhood experiences and the escalation of intimate partner violence.  The travesty of Family Courts abandoning children to their abusive parent is so common that it appears as if the Judges are intentionally colluding with the abusers.  As it stands today, a Family Court Judge could throw a dart at both parents in high conflict custody disputes, and at least then, they would make the right decision at least 50% of the time.   

It is hard to imagine that Family Court Judges care about families, abuse or even the job they do because I see no indication that family courts are trying to improve their longstanding abysmal record of making family situations worse for the “high conflict” families they serve.  As a self-regulating profession, this lack of care, due process or competence is inexcusable and begs external oversight if not remedied.

While the majority of families can manage custody issues without assertive court intervention, a significant and growing population of parents cannot.  These “high conflict” custody cases take up a disproportional amount of family court dockets because one parent has a personality disorder in which he or she is manipulating the court and escalating conflict.  All the while, he or she continues to psychologically abuse the family causing extreme ongoing chaos and stress.  In the pure sense, these cases aren’t “custody” cases; they are cases of child abuse and domestic violence and need immediate court ordered protection.

High conflict custody cases have been particularly troublesome for family court because the origin and nature of the problem lies in the abusive relational pathology of a narcissistic and /or borderline personality disordered parent who is a master at manipulation and exploitation.   By the time the family gets to court, the abuser has seriously wounded the children and the non-abusive parent and they present with extreme and misleading symptoms of trauma.  Comparatively, the abuser appears calm and confident as if he or she were innocent.

To add more confusion to the decision, narcissistic and/or borderline personality disordered parents have a well-developed social persona where they can mirror appropriate responses appearing sincere, charming and caring.  The abusive parent stays hidden behind this persona while covertly escalating conflict, exploiting the expressed trauma of the non-abusive parent and the children, making false allegations of abuse or fitness, manipulating the Judiciary, sabotaging treatment plans and lying through their teeth.  

Narcissistic and/or borderline parents will not admit that they have a personality disorder, even if they have been diagnosed, however once Family Court Judges are cued into looking for a handful of specific personality disorder traits, they will see that narcissistic/borderline abusers present as predictable as a March snowstorm in Wisconsin, and are just as easy to spot. 


Family court judges are not psychologist, nor should they be.  However, the fact remains that family courts have become the roosting site for narcissistic and/or borderline personality disordered parents and they are manipulating the court into making decisions that are extremely harmful to children and the non-abusive parent.  Assertive court intervention is necessary because these abusers cannot and will not change or follow any orders by the court unless the court will enforce sanctions for violations.   

The good news is that under a caring family court judge, trained to recognize the psychological manipulation of a narcissistic/borderline abuser and to spot trauma, family courts can stop being part of the problem of child abuse and domestic violence and become a big part of THE solution.  If these high conflict abuse cases can be stopped when they get to family court, the children and parents can recover and learn how to protect themselves from being psychologically abused so that the children can still have a relationship with both parents.  Just as important, Family Courts can lead the way in breaking the cycle of narcissistic/borderline abuse by preventing it from being expressed in the next generation of families who are lucky enough to have found their way into a court that is concerned about making the right decisions.

Nothing Baffling About Psychological Abuse

The most common and harmful type of child abuse is psychological maltreatment (emotional abuse and neglect).   Decades of research confirm that parents who thwart their children’s emotional and psychological needs cause long term problems equal to and often worse than physical and/or sexual abuse.  Psychological maltreatment is described in two ways.  One description focuses on the parent’s abusive behaviors such as; terrorizing, exploiting and rejecting.  The other way to describe child psychological maltreatment is in terms of the symptoms a child displays when being psychologically abused or neglected.  

Some authors argue that there are mild or moderate degrees of emotional  abuse, but these cases fall below the threshold of psychological maltreatment.  Mild or moderate cases of emotional abuse can be treated as dysfunctional parenting problems.  Psychological maltreatment on the other hand is characterized by chronic, severe, and escalating patterns of psychological abuse that puts the child at risk of psychological harm.

 A growing number of parents who have been linked to psychological abuse display relationally abusive narcissistic/borderline traits.  These parents are very reactive under relenting stress.   Typically, they are unable to transition through the divorce process they escalate their abusive behaviors toward the other (targeted) parent.  Ultimately, the abuser wants to drive the targeted parent out of the children’s lives.   The harm this causes every psychologically abused child (and the targeted parent) is extreme and it is widespread.  Harman and Biringrin (2016) and other authorities estimate that the number of families struggling under this emotional assault could be as many as 22 million.   There is an immediate need to break the cycle of narcissistic/borderline psychological abuse, one family at a time.

Despite the urgent need for intervention in cases of psychological maltreatment, child and family welfare courts and agencies seriously underreport. under investigate, and rarely intervene in these cases.  In the article, Unseen Wounds (Spinazolla, 2014) the authors  suggest that child welfare professionals may be baffled by the “covert” and “insidious” nature of psychological abuse and that those who are responsible to prevent and intervene for the children, may adopt an apathetic or helpless attitude.   As pathetic as this sounds, it may be true.   The problem of stopping child psychological abuse would seem insurmountable,  IF social workers, mental health providers and the courts focused on the abuser only.   Obviously, investigators cannot get behind closed doors to personally witness what any abusive parent is doing.    No one “sees” these acts, except for the (ex) partner who is often not given much support or credibility, and the traumatized child, who should not be re-traumatized by having to testifying against either of his or her parents.  



However, if social workers, mental health providers and the courts used the evidence presented by psychologically abused children in the same way they do for physically and sexually abused children, these professionals would realize that there is nothing covert, insidious or baffling about psychological maltreatment.   In fact, a physically or sexually abusive parent and their victim may be able to hide scars or bruises, or make up stories about how the child fell or had an accident, but psychologically maltreated children cannot cover up their symptoms with clothes or lies.  In fact, these cases are much easier to identify, locate, intervene, and provide treatment for than physical and/or sexual abuse cases, because severely psychologically abused children act out so outrageously that the family draws attention.

Identifying a severely psychologically abused child is as easy as opening your eyes.  The child will conspicuously and reliably display three (3) profoundly abnormal and delusional symptoms when relating to both parents inside and outside of court.  Anyone with a little training can learn to identify the indicators of psychological abuse, as defined by the state statutes and the DSM-V.  The icing on the cake is that the child will hyper bond or enmesh with the abuser against the other parent, leaving no doubt as to which parent is the perpetrator.


Locating psychologically abusive parents is as easy and going down to the court  house.  Due to the abusers’ patterns of narcissistic/borderline traits and their need to escalate conflict, these families can be found in protracted contested custody cases, filling family court dockets across America.   There is not another crime where the perpetrator walks right in through the court doors.  

Intervention and treatment for these psychologically abused children is fairly simple.  The non-abusive parent and abused children need a time of protective separation from the abuser for psycho-educational healing and reuniting.  In addition, each family member needs to learn how to recognize and prevent further psychological abuse.   The family is monitored to ensure that that treatment is effective and preventive measures are put in place, thus breaking the cycle of narcissistic/borderline psychological abuse, one family at a time.


I'm working on linking the full documents described in these blogs.  Anyone know square space?   Kay




Harman PhD, Jennifer; Biringen PhD, Zeynep (2016-01-03). Parents Acting Badly: How Institutions and Societies Promote the Alienation of Children from Their Loving Families (Kindle Locations 522-523).  . Kindle Edition.

Spinazzola, J., Hodgdon, H., Ford, J.,…Kisiel C., (2014). Unseen wounds: The contribution of psychological maltreatment to child and adolescent mental health and risk outcomes.  Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 6, 518-828.










Why Family Courts Fail.

Ever since Gardner made the first connections between parental alienation and custody, relational, and situational (divorce) issues, cases like ours of child psychological abuse by narcissistic/borderline partners have been doomed to fail in family court.  And as long as we continue to connect child psychological abuse with custody, cases like ours will continue to fail in family court.   

We shouldn’t be the least bit surprised that family courts consistently get our cases wrong or that they appear so out of touch with the seriousness or reality that child psychological abuse is so harmful.  They shouldn’t even have primary jurisdiction. 

It has been said that family courts often fail because of their adversarial nature but in our cases, the reason that family courts fail is because they focus on resolving family disputes.  The Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC), an organization of practitioners, researchers, teachers and policymakers that set the tone for family courts state that their mission is to improve “the lives of children and families through the resolution of family conflict.”  This is an honorable intent given that most people are hardwired to build, maintain and repair disruptions in their family relationships, MOST people.  Just not the ones we chose to marry and/or have children with.

 Whether they have been officially diagnosed or not, our (ex) partners display fixed narcissistic/borderline personality disorder traits, which make them emotionally deficient and abusive partners and parents.  During infancy and childhood, our ex-partners were deprived of the warmth and attention they needed to develop the ability to emotionally connect with others on a deep and meaningful level.  They have never been able to love, care or empathize, which is how they can abuse those closest to them without guilt, regret, remorse or grief.  In my opinion, only a parent with some type of emotional/mental deficiency can abuse their children.  This deficiency also makes them think that they aren’t doing anything wrong and therefore do not feel the need to participate in any type of family resolution efforts or change anything that they are doing.  

 In essence, taking our child psychological abuse cases to family court under the heading of custody and/or parental alienation is like bowling down the wrong alley; nothing we do counts. 

Why are we trying to manage child psychological

abuse cases in family court?

Child psychological abuse is not a dispute between the two parents (except that one parent is healthy and is trying to stop it).  Think of how absurd it would be if Family Court handled sexual abuse in the same way it handles psychological abuse. For this example I am going to use the pronoun “he.”

 A mother alleges that the father is sexually abusing their child.  Family court wants the parents to “work this out” because they are both play a role in the conflict where one parent wants the abuse to stop and the other parent doesn’t.  The court spends months or years deliberating on every new accusation that the abuser throws out to distract the court from looking in his direction; while he continues to sexually abuse the child.  Then, because neither parent will compromise, family court starts shuffling them off to mediation, family counseling, and co-parenting classes to help them work out their conflict issue for the sake of the child.

 Society would never tolerate this kind of blatant harm to come to a child.  The only reason society tolerates child psychological abuse, which is much more prevalent and damaging to children than sexual abuse, is because no one brings these cases forward. If society knew the harm that was being done to our children because of psychological child abuse and if they knew the 3 clinical symptoms, it would stop. 

 Child psychological abuse needs to be handled in the same way that our court system handles physical and sexual abuse.  Juvenile court not family court, decides whether children have been abused or neglected, as defined by State law.   Then they order services and monitor cases to ensure that interventions are effective.  Juvenile Court uses the expertise of CPS caseworkers, psychologists, mental health professionals, physicians, domestic violence specialists, educators, child development specialists and others to understand why the abuse or neglect occurred and why it necessitated court intervention.

 Gardner put a great deal of distance between the problem of child psychological abuse and the solution by calling it parental alienation and implying it was a family court problem involving custody.  We perpetuate that mistake by continuing to take our child psychological abuse cases to family court under “custody issues.”


The day we stop calling child psychological abuse

“parental alienation” and start calling it

child psychological abuse,

is the day the scales tip in our direction.

The End of Parental Alienation


                                 When the Moon is in the seventh house,

and Jupiter aligns with Mars.  Then peace will

guide the planets,

                            and love will steer the stars.  

                               –The Fifth Dimension (1969)


2016 is the year that parental alienation (as we know it) will end.  It’s only January and already, the traditional framework of parental alienation is disappearing and a new era is emerging.  Almost everyday I find another piece to the puzzle that brings us one step closer to ending this nightmare.  We are light years away from that dark place were there was no hope that people or systems would ever understand and care enough to change. 

Up until now, it’s probably a good thing that we didn’t know how complex and damaging the problem is.   If we had, most of us might have given up in the face of such comprehensive adversity.   What we were unaware of is that many other people have been also been working on aspects of our problem under different names.  It is now becoming clear that any one domain couldn’t possibly have discovered the multifaceted aspects of parental alienation.  And indeed what we call parental alienation is just one aspect of a bigger problem.  This is why we have struggled trying to explain or get others to understand our crisis.  This is also why individual approaches to resolving the issue have failed.  

The attachment-based model of parental alienation1 is the only model that identifies the multifaceted interaction of the clinical psychological definition of parental alienation, but even that does not account for the impact of the longstanding social injustices of custody allocations, parenting and gender role biases that have as much or maybe more of an impact on the problem.  Make no mistake about it, parental alienation is a huge, huge problem, possibly our county’s number 1 public health problem and the solution is just as big, but not insurmountable.

There is nothing that is insurmountable for targeted parents because we have the one thing we need to overcome this worldwide assault on our children, our families and our country.   We have the GOLD bullet; the most valuable possession in the world.  It’s called attachment.

Attachment is the most powerful force on earth.

Attachment is the enduring emotional bond between a healthy parent and his or her children and it is our superpower.  It exists with no boundaries in time or space.  Nothing can destroy it.  Nothing can stop it.  It is how David beat Goliath.  It is how we can be immersed in intolerable pain, but not be debilitated by it.  It is how we endure being stripped of our personal and civil rights and still step forward.  Attachment is how targeted parents can work full time jobs, plus put in 20-30+ hours a week preparing for court, mediation, and still fight for the good of the order.  In addition, targeted parents spend every moment thinking, working, praying, sharing, and caring for our children, whether we have contact or not.   We are either crazy, or invincible and know that I’m not crazy. 


Bob part 1.1

I got this text message from "Bob" today.


I did not file yet, as my ex. and I had a pretty civil conversation on Tuesday and I was able to get him on Tuesday and Wednesday.  This gave me time to have a quality discussion with Dylan about his mother's condition.  I was very kind and gentle.  I made it very clear to him that I don't hate his mother and I am not going to say anything bad about her...ever,  but that he had to be aware of her condition and its harmful effects it has had on him that will continue to get worse.

Using Eddy's tips for teaching coping skills to kids with borderline parents, I told him that by working on these tips, it will protect him from anything his mother does that might not be good for him.  I reinforced that she wants only the best for him, but that - because of her condition - what she wants for him isn't always the best for him and might be even be bad. 

When we drove home that night after his birthday dinner, he brought up our conversation from earlier in the day and acknowledged his mother's erratic behavior and vicious mood swings.  To paraphrase what he said, "one minute, she can be as happy as can be and would say yes to anything.  But then the next minute later, she would act as though someone had stolen a million dollars from her and say no to everything."

When I return from my business trip, I will file a contempt  based on the email thread that I shared with you, as well as other examples of alienation, and try to get a court order for Christmas Eve as it is my year.  I am still struggling with figuring out what the right forms are from the xxxx County website.

Thanks again for listening, and for your generous support!

God bless,


This is Bob's story part 1.  We will follow Bob over the rough terrain of child abuse, domestic abuse, and mental illness. 

Bob contacted the Alliance through the website and left this message: 

Hi, I’m Bob.  I really need to talk to someone, I’m having trouble with my ex-wife. She’s keeping me from seeing my son.  I don’t want to make things worse, so I don’t know what to do.  I was thinking of going back to court for a second round of mediation.  Or, should I file contempt?

I don’t have any money left, can I do that myself?   I’m pretty new to this parent alienation thing but I heard that there are laws against parental alienation.  Please call me!  xxx-xx-xxxx.  Thank you.

 When Bob and I connected over the phone, I let him describe his situation while I took notes.

His tone was relatively calm and his voice only sped up when he talked about how his son’s attitude and demeanor towards him was changing.  Bob didn’t offer too much information about his ex-wife.  He listened quietly when clarified what he had said.  Bob never tried to cut me off, or tell me I was wrong (even if he thought so).   I asked him a few questions to fill in the blanks.  The following are the questions a summary of what I said related to his situation.  

How old is your son?  11.

Adolescence…the typical time for high conflict parents to triangulate a child into the ex-spousal conflict. Young adults think that they know everything.  The truth is that a child only knows what a child has been exposed to. Our brains do not make up knowledge out of thin air.  We learn through our mirror neurons.  Like the word suggests, everything a child says or does is a reflection of the most influential adults in his or her life.  For emotional issues, learning is mainly nonverbal.  This is why it is so easy for us to see our ex-partner  in our children.

How long since the divorce? 10 years

This got my attention. If this was a true case of narcissistic/borderline delusional persecution, then something had to have triggered it and it wasn’t the divorce.   I listened intently for something that might have triggered Bob’s ex to “melt down” or decompensate into persecutory delusion.   There are many issues besides divorce that will cause our partner’s to feel vulnerable to abandonment or losing their self-inflated status.  Malignant Motives, a chapter in Dr. Warshak’s Book Divorce Poison (2010), describes many reasons a disturbed parent might melt down; including revenge, validation, remarriage or custody litigation.  Whatever the reason, once they turn this corner, there is no turning back.

Have you always had contact with your son?  Yes. 

I have visitation one night a week and every other weekend.  I just accepted that from the beginning. 

Has your relationship with your son been close? 

Yes very, we…(he goes on to describe their time together and things they use to do).

Targeted parents need to have a detailed history with their child and continually document the things that they do right.  This evidence will neutralize the onslaught of false accusations of bad parenting or abuse.  If possible, play this card first using pictures, emails, school records, things your child made for you, etc.   It is critical that you establish that you had a healthy attachment with your child and that it was abruptly disrupted at a time that correlates with your ex’es malignant motive.  

Every state has laws against child psychological abuse.  They may call it mental or emotional abuse but the criteria for confirmation is that the child shows a substantial change in their cognitive, emotional, and/or behaviors, that are outside of the normal range for their age and stage of development.   Certainly the most obvious illustration of this is your child’s 180 degree change in emotional response to you, which is getting worse.  Your child’s increasing distain for you occurs during the time your ex-partner is actively trying to cut you out of the picture.

What are the legal parameters? 

The divorce decree has set visitation/placement and we have joint custody.  I pay child support.  This last September, I got the court to order mental health therapy, but my wife refuses to bring him.

Targeted parents sometimes get so wrapped up in keeping track of everything that the other parent said or did that they forget that the most important papers are the court orders.  Laws are either followed or broken.  Courts or mental health providers do not want to listen to parents complain about each other, or hear or see anything that doesn’t pertain to the motion, order, or treatment plan in front of them.   They will pay more attention to specific, relative  “evidence” whether it is true or not, and dismiss the truth if they think it is hearsay.  

High conflict people know how to manipulate the courts and mental health providers.  Initially, they fly below the radar by doing things to isolate or restrict communication between you and your child.  This usually starts with diminishing and ending phone contact.   In contrast, when the child is with the targeted parent, the child will increase their phone contact with the other parent and highly resist attempts to cut the umbilical cord.  Second, the abusive parent will schedule things that are important to the child during the time the targeted parent has placement.  Bob’s ex-wife scheduled Dylan for hockey on the night that he and his dad always had dinner. If Bob demands his placement time, then he’s not being a supportive dad.  If he tries to see Dylan on a different night, then he’s interfering with her placement.  Of course Bob considers going to hockey, but his ex-wife or Dylan won’t give him the schedule.  Bob’s wife has successfully cut Bob out of 2 of the 3 times he has contact with his son, and she has hardly raised a finger.  He can expect that she will take the next step to cut him off completely.

 Bob’s ex-wife called him and explained that it wasn’t her, but Dylan didn't want to come to his house anymore because it was abusive.   Bob talked to his son and explained that it wasn’t his decision to make.  Dylan replied, “So, I am just a puppet to you!”  and hung up.  Three things were very evident from this conversation. 1) Dylan has been triangulated into the spousal conflict.  His ex-wife made the point that; it wasn’t her denying him of placement, it was Dylan. This shows that she is pretty confident that Dylan will handle the fight for her.  2) Dylan acted out of his normal range of behavior by raising his voice, make false accusations against his dad and hanging up on him.  3) Someone has been talking about how Bob uses Dylan as a puppet, and that his house is abusive, because neither of those things would be in the normal range of behavior for his age and stage of development.  And, even if he did say those things, it is his mother’s responsibility to teach her son to respect his father and follow the court orders.  She herself said that it wasn’t her,  in saying that, both parents are agreeing that Dylan needs to go to his fathers.  Why isn’t he?

With Dylan as her side kick, Bob’s ex is  looking forward to him taking her back to court.  She will play up the idea that Dylan can decide for himself, that something is abusive, that Bob is being selfish, blah, blah, blah.  It’s a slippery slope now and time is not on the side of Bob or his son. 

But let’s not forget that the court ordered therapy too.  A pattern is emerging. There has been a restriction of communication, interfering with placement and refusing to comply with a court order for therapy.  The last that I heard, Bob, was driving to the court house to file contempt charges.  He may be able to turn the tables if he sticks to the plan also knowing that she is going to escalate.  He needs to be prepared for the abuse allegation.

Therapy for what? 

Dylan’s has some extreme anxiety and he appears to being trying to cut off the relationship.

Of course Dylan has anxiety.  Look at the state’s definition of child psychological abuse;

 “evidenced by one or more: anxiety; depression; withdrawal; outward aggressive behavior; or a substantial and observable change in behavior, emotional response or cognition that is not within the normal range for the child’s age and stage of development”.

The sad thing is that mental health providers will try to treat  anxiety or depression or whatever as an isolated condition when there is nothing isolated about it.  Ok, a child has anxiety.  Why?  Is that normal? No.  It has been well established for decades that child abuse causes a broad range of mental health problems and aberrant behavior (that’s why they wrote the statutes the way that they did).    Why do mental health providers look past the obvious?

That question is almost as nonsensical as the fact that we continue to take our children to therapy when we know that NO therapy, of any kind is going to help a child who is being abused.  Only when the child feels free of the abuser, can he or she begin to recover.  And they will recover.  But first, the child needs protective separation.  This will not happen in family court filing contempt, but that order can buy Bob some time to find a mental health provider who is knowledgeable enough to see Dylan and assess for child psychological abuse.

Do you have a lawyer? 

Not anymore, I can’t afford one.  But the last one I had told me that if I push for contact, it would make my son hate me even more.  I don’t have any money left; can I do that myself?   I’m pretty new to this parent alienation thing but I heard that there are laws against parental alienation.

Family Court can be funny about not having a lawyer, but Bob’s lawyer has not only given him bad advice, but wrong advice.

1.     Don’t push placement or your son will hate you more. (how many have heard this-crap?)

Alienated children do not hate their parents.  Even if a parent is truly abusive.  Their “hate” is a manifestation of the shared delusion with the abusive parent’s attachment trauma reenactment where they are the protective parent and the targeted parent is the abuser.  It is also a manifestation of splitting, and the misattribution of grief.    In other words, psychological abusers are really, seriously, disrupting your child’s healthy brain development and function.

2.     Mediation. Wrong.  There is no mediation with a high conflict parent, and it is a waste of time and money.

3.     Please let me know if your state has laws against parental alienation. 

Bob is better off without this guy

Tell me about your ex-wife. (his voice gets a little excited here).

I think she is bi-polar.  She lives with her parents, and I think her mom is bipolar.  It’s very dysfunctional. She hasn’t been in a relationship since the divorce (10 years).  She is a pre-school teacher and very good at what she does.  She scheduled Dylan to play hockey on my visitation night but she refuses to give me the schedule.  I’m sure she has something to do with why I can’t reach my son on the phone at night anymore.  She supports“Dylan’s” opinion that he is old enough to decide his schedule with his parents and that he doesn’t have to come to my house on Thanksgiving.  She said that Dylan told her that my house is abusive.  It’s getting worse. 

Bob's ex-wife is NOT bi-polar but she displays a pattern of behavior that includes narcissistic and borderline personality disorder traits.  Bipolar is a very different mental illness, and as far as I know, has not been correlated with child psychological abuse.  Here’s one of the kickers.  Your ex didn’t just start to be an alienator out of nowhere.  I always ask targeted parents about their exes family and if either or both of his or her parents had problems.  The answer is always YES.  Obviously.  Bob’s ex-wife didn’t develop her problems in a vacuum any more than Dylan is developing his problems without mirroring his mom, and his grandparents.  YIKES!





Filing A Licensing Board Complaint

Last week I received an email from the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services; Division of Legal Services and Compliance.  Among other things it said,   

 The Marriage and Family Therapist Section screening panel will review and evaluate your complaint at their November 30th meeting and the Social Worker Section screening panel will review and evaluate your complaint at their December 16 meeting.  Each screening panel will evaluate all the treatment that your therapist provided and if the treatment fell below the minimal standard of care, then they can discipline that therapist.

 That’s all I needed to hear!  If either panel decides to discipline this therapist that will be the least of his concerns!  I’m going shopping for a malpractice lawyer!

Before I filed my licensing board complaint, actually long before my family ever  saw this therapist, I had checked him out pretty carefully.  I looked up his credentials and I had a good idea of what the standards of practice were for Marriage and Family Therapists in Wisconsin.  Then, I talked to him directly, explained my situation and my concerns and asked him if he thought he could help.  I even discussed his previous experience with my personal therapist. 

This therapist had had government contracts for providing intensive family interventions with the most troubled families in the inner city.  He told me that he subscribed toBowen’s family systems theory, and was a master at working with people who had narcissistic personality disorders.  I was pretty confident that I had found the best therapist in the area for our Family Court ordered intervention.  I couldn’t wait!

It had taken 4 years to get my ex-husband to participate in this intervention. He had never followed one family court order and masterfully sabotaged countless orders for therapy between my children and me.  However, by this time we were in criminal court, and that is an entirely different ball game.  The Judge ruled that my ex-husband had a choice of participating in this intervention or going to jail.  When my-ex-husband “swore on a stack of bibles” that he would make reconnecting my children and I his top priority, both the Judge and I knew he was lying.  I knew that he would get my children to burn me at the stake to get him off the hook.  They did.  I didn’t. 

This intensive family intervention was my very last chance to do something that would make a difference in my kids’ lives, and I had the probation officer alerted that I would call her if he didn’t show up. 

He did show up, flanked by a child on each side.  The intervention was more like a homecoming game for my ex-husband and I was the “away” team.  I’ve posted my complaint here,  but you really had to be there to believe it. 

I don't know if I will ever stop being

surprised by the bizarre events

that accompany a person with

narcissistic personality disorder. 

I have to give credit to Dr. Craig Childress for my back up plan;  filing a licensing board complaint.  I’ve never done anything like this before, but I felt confident. 

It helped that I understood the seriousness of this pathology and how the therapist would have to assess for it.  It helped that I knew that there must be substantiated evidence and a diagnosis. It helped that I knew that every therapist has to have a written treatment plan clearly indicating how the techniques to be used should resolve the problem and eliminate the symptoms (in a reasonable amount of time).  It helped that I knew that the therapist was supposed to have shared this with us and it helped that I knew the standards of practice that this therapist could be held accountable for.

 It really helped that I knew these things before we started the intervention, because I was able to immediately recognize which standards of practice were missing.

Knowledge is our weapon against all of the atrocities that come against us.  The Alliance is dedicated to providing you with the best, objective, accurate, and helpful knowledge to assist you in stopping child psychological abuse by narcissistic/borderline parents.  It's taking some time to get it out to the website, and we are in the process of "trying out" some things, but we are making good progress.  If you're looking for some information that you can't find, contact me here, I'll see what I can do.










Child Psychological Abuse: What Would You Call It?

An Introduction to Child Psychological Abuse

Part 1

What Would You Call It?

America has become mentally anesthetized and emotionally distanced from child abuse.  We’ve built our own inaccurate, but personally tolerable view, based on:

See No Evil, Hear No Evil, and Speak No Evil.

 In this series of blog posts, The Alliance takes off the blindfolds, takes out the ear plugs and takes the gags out of our mouths.  We are charged with stopping child psychological abuse in our family because no one else will.  That means that we must have an accurate picture of what child abuse is and be able to explain it to others.  After all, this is our area of expertise.


We are who we are because our (ex)-partners have and/or are

seriously abusing our children.  We need to stop the child abuse.

We need to separate our children from the abuse and from the abuser.


 What Is Child Abuse?

 When I googled “child abuse,” I found  countless  independent organizations trying to raise awareness.  I also found another group of organizations trying to provide some support for children who have gone through child sexual abuse.  I didn’t find anyone trying to stop the child abusers, except us.  

Just that little bit of googling "child abuse," raised 3 flags for me.

First, most of the organizations use the statistics cited by the federal government's  Children’s Bureau. Unfortunately, these statistics are woefully inaccurate and grossly underreported.  (But that’s another story).   Every site readily admits this, but oh well.  It’s as close as they can get right now.  The last report I read from the Children’s Bureau was the 2013 Maltreatment Report (the most recent, found here).  They stated that between 2009-2013 the overall rates of victimization declined, from 9.3 to 9.1 per 1,000 children in the population. This results in an estimated 23,000 fewer victims in 2013 (679,000) compared with 2009 (702,000).

§  Since 2009, overall rates of children who received a CPS response increased from 40.3 to 42.9 per 1,000 children in the population. This results in an estimated 145,000 additional children who received a CPS response in 2013 (3,188,000) compared to 2009 (3,043,000). States provide possible explanations for the increase in Appendix D, State Commentary.

§  Nationally, four-fifths (79.5%) of victims were neglected, 18.0 percent were physically abused, 9.0 percent were sexually abused and 8.7 percent were psychologically maltreated.

§  For 2013, a nationally estimated 1,520 children died of abuse and neglect at a rate of 2.04 children per 100,000. children in the national population.

Blah, blah, blah, blah.  Well, glory be!  Sounds like the government's got this thing under control except for…those accuracy and reporting problems I mentioned before.

Second, the sites that I looked at were almost exclusively focused on sexual abuse.  Sexual abuse can mean a lot of different things, according to our government.  All of which raise the hair on the back of my neck. Even Dr. Childress rates sexual abuse (or more specifically incest) as the worst type of abuse with narcissistic and borderline not far behind.   

 It isn’t the act alone that causes all the long term damage.  The most serious type of sexual abuse is when the sexual abuser is a parent.  These children become sexual prisoners in their own homes.  They are psychologically abused to allow this to happen without anyone finding out.  These kids are silenced by their terror and shame, paralyzed by their father’s (98% of sexual abusers are male) threats and have been psychologically groomed to protect him. 

A parent who can cross the generational boundary to have some type of sexual contact with their non-consenting child is someone we all need to be protected from.   Someone that, I would guess, probably demonstrates narcissistic and borderline patterns of behavior.   This is not bad parenting.

Third, I have a problem calling any of this child abuse. I googled the definition of  abuse and found this:

To use (something) to bad effect or for a bad purpose; misuse.

treat (a person or an animal) with cruelty or violence, especially regularly or repeatedly.

 I’ve never been one to nitpick words, especially in this case because  I am an animal rights advocate.   But I bet that some parents would take issue with the idea that child abuse is on equal footing with animal abuse (according to the definition).  I really think we need to be more specific. 

Child physical and sexual abuse are both contradictory terms. Generally, "abuse" differes from "violence" in that violence implies that the attack resulted in physical harm.  Obviously there is physical harm with physical and sexual abuse so these would be more accurately called child physical violence and child sexual violence.  Psychological abuse alone results in significant changes in the child’s physical brain, which affects a child’s growth, development and system functioning.  I don’t think anyone would argue that this isn’t physical harm.  In addition,  psychological abuse usually co-occurs with physical or sexual assaults making this violence even more devastating. Whenever a child shows symptoms of  external harm there will also be serious  internal harm.  That all counts as violence in my biology book.

The "googled" definition of abuse above does include 4 critical elements that all these assaults have in common; 1) the parent,  2) regularly and repeatedly, 3) uses our children, and 4) treats them with cruelty and violence.

Think about it and let me know.  What would you call it?