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I recently had an interesting discussion at one of the courthouses about Parental Alienation. The issue for the moment was whether PA was considered “real” from a clinical point of view, and whether the DSM had a diagnostic category for Parental Alienation. As any reader of Illinois Divorce Lawyer Blog knows, PA is real, and I have spent many years working with and managing PA cases for my clients, along with being involved in research and professional groups associated with PA from both a legal and clinical standpoint.
As these matters go, the discussion was spirited, and my mind went to the efforts of those like Dr. Bernet and Amy Baker, who made efforts to include diagnostic codes for PA in the newest DSM updates. Here is a summary, below:
Everyday Trauma: Induced Psychological Splitting in Children of Divorce and Separation
Understanding the impact of divorce and separation on children takes us down new pathways of understanding of induced psychological splitting, its manifestation in families and the every trauma it causes which has been hidden in plain sight for decades.
For many years, and since the publishing of Bill Eddy’s landmark book Splitting, I have been writing on the subject of divorce and personality disorders. My law practice has a focus on helping people navigate divorce from a narcissist or someone with other traits of toxic personality disorders. Because divorcing someone with these traits creates a number of distinct and unusual issues for the healthy spouse, my practice focuses on managing strategically and aggressively these disordered behaviors, which can include “distortion campaigns” and false allegations.
In my law practice, there is a focus on High Conflict cases. As the article below points out, there is a distinction to be made with the term “high conflict.” In most all of my cases, the high conflict comes from a disordered person using chaos, harassment and false allegations against an otherwise healthy spouse and parent in order to manipulate the proceedings and attempt to distort the facts of the case. The “high conflict” is one sided. Contact my firm if you have questions about a divorce from someone with these abusive and difficult behavioral traits.
By Karyl McBride, Ph.D., L.M.F.T.: A common perception among divorce lawyers, therapists, custody evaluators, judges, and other professionals is that, whenever you have a “high-conflict” divorce, both parties are responsible for the conflict. Many professionals assume that difficult, drawn-out custody battles are caused by two parents who are stubborn, selfish, and perhaps a bit crazy. As Michael Friedman wrote in The American Journal of Family Therapy, “The concept has even entered into what might be called family court folk wisdom: We say that Mother Teresa does not marry Attila the Hun or that it takes two to tango.” What we see happen then is that both parties are painted with the same brush and the antics of the narcissist are not understood or seen. The reality is that a narcissist can unilaterally create a nightmare of a divorce.
Many clients that come to my office have issues with a spouse with traits of a personality disorder. These traits create many challenges for the relationship, and the family, and in the context of divorce, the case can end up being what is called a “high conflict case.” For many years, I have focused my practice, in part, on these cases involving psychological issues as well as high conflict cases. Rarely do I find a good, understandable explanation in the public domain of what a narcissistic personality is, how they present, and the impacts that these traits and disorders have on family members. This podcast that I found today is excellent.
” Today we have the pleasure of speaking with a true expert on many of the topics we’ve exploring during our series on “Who Am I?”, including borderline personality disorder, sociopathy, and narcissism: Dr. Ramani Durvasula.
Dr. Ramani is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, and expert on the impact of toxic narcissism. She is a Professor of Psychology at California State University, Los Angeles, and also a Visiting Professor at the University of Johannesburg.
A quick note to discuss the art and science of managing complex divorce and post-decree cases for my clients.
For me, it is a privilege to represent men and women facing some of the most challenging life changes and decisions, whether they are facing a new divorce filing, or dealing with the aftermath of a divorce (often when the predecree case was handled by another attorney) and problems or issues arise that weren’t managed well in the predecree phase.
Doing this work well for my valued Clients requires experience, insight into the best outcomes and solutions, as well as a passion for the craft of managing family law cases. I feel that it is critical that to be successful in this work, a lawyer must approach this profession with a strong measure of empathy and passion; the ability to truly diagnose the problems that the case presents, and to provide creative, insightful and positive outcomes for the Client and their children.
With my work as a lawyer on complex child custody cases, I have seen in many of these cases the phenomenon of “projection.” My work as a member of APA and a frequent researcher and contributor on issues concerning personality disorders in child custody and with Parental Alienation cases, brings my clients often into situations where they are being accused of behaviors that are actually resident in the disordered parent.
Psychological projection is a defense mechanism in which the human psychology defends itself against unconscious impulses or qualities by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others. These traits can be seen with some people with personality disorders, such as NPD or BPD. For example, a person who is habitually angry may constantly accuse other people, often their intimate partners or spouses, of being angry. In some cases, the abusive spouse will actually seek out domestic violence support, falsely claiming that they have been abused.
Dr. Michael Bone, a clinician and consultant on PA cases comments this way:
Working with high conflict personalities, I have always been open to approaches that can manage difficult issues with HCPs (High Conflict Personalities), without necessarily involving the courts every time there is a dispute, or transgression by a HCP. One way of dealing with difficult personalities in divorce is to have a Parenting Coordinator involved in the case. What is a Parenting Coordinator (PC) ? Essentially, a PC acts as a middleman, referee, and dispute resolver. The PC can make recommendations to a solution for a disputed issue. In other words, the PC can act almost as a magistrate for the judge, and help the Court manage these difficult issues without court involvement. Because the PC acts almost like a magistrate judge, some judges in the Family Courts do not like to appoint PCs, believing that they are essentially usurping the function of the judge. However, for certain cases, it is my opinion that a Parenting Coordinator can be a valuable tool and resource in managing issues that arise with a HCP.
Parenting Coordination began gaining recognition in the 1990s as a result of presentations and trainings first offered at conferences such as the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) and by experienced Parenting Coordinators. Initially there were variations in role, source and degree of authority, and practice in different jurisdictions, and different titles were used to describe this innovative intervention model, including Special Masters, Co-Parenting Facilitators, or Mediator/Arbitrators. In 2003, AFCC appointed an interdisciplinary task force to develop Guidelines for Parenting Coordination to guide mental health professionals, mediators, and lawyers with respect to training, practice, and ethics (AFCC, 2006).