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Groundbreaking advances in latest edition of mental health manual

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Family unity took a major step forward at the American Psychiatric Association’s annual meeting in San Francisco this week (May 18-22, 2013) with the inclusion of language that describes the serious mental health problem of parental alienation.  For the first time, mental health professionals in the U.S. will have officially recognized concepts to diagnose children who experience parental alienation, strengthening the case against parents who strive to alienate children during divorce.

“This is an importantadvance for the psychological health of children and families,” said William Bernet, M.D.  Bernet is a leader of the Parental Alienation Study Group, the international task force that submitted the proposal to include parental alienation in DSM-5.  Bernet, professor emeritus at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, said, “Including language that is specifically applicable to parental alienation empowers the mental health and legal communities to address this important problem more directly and with greater clarity.  These revisions to DSM-5 will reducethe harm that parental alienation causes to families.”

Parental alienation is a mental condition in which a child – usually one whose parents are engaged in a high-conflict separation or divorce – allies strongly with one parent and refuses without good cause to have a relationship with the other parent.  This process takes place when a parent or caregiver encourages the child’s rejection of the other parent.  Parental alienation is driven by the false belief that the rejected parent is evil, dangerous, or not worthy of affection.When the phenomenon is properly recognized, the condition is preventable and treatable in many instances.

Child psychological abuse is defined as "nonaccidental verbal or symbolic acts by a child’s parent or caregiver that result, or have reasonable potential to result, in significant psychological harm to the child."  In many instances, the behavior of the alienating parent constitutes child psychological abuse.

  •  Child affected by parental relationship distress should be used "when the focus of clinical attention is the negative effects of parental relationship discord (e.g., high levels of conflict, distress, or disparagement) on a child in the family, including effects on the child’s mental or other physical disorders."  That is a very good description of how parental alienation comes about.
  •  Parent-child relational problem now has a discussion in the text of DSM-5.  The discussion explains that cognitive difficulties in parent-child relational problem "may include negative attributions of the other’s intentions, hostility toward or scapegoating of the other, and unwarranted feelings of estrangement."  That is a very good description of a child’s view of the alienated parent.

The Parental Alienation Study Group consists of a highly credentialed group of mental health and legal professionals and other individuals who are experienced in identifying and treating parental alienation.  The Parental Alienation Study Group initially proposed in 2008 that parental alienation should be included in DSM -5.  Their complete proposal was published as Parental Alienation, DSM-5, and ICD-11 (Charles C Thomas Publishers, 2010).  The Parental Alienation Study Group includes 130 individuals from 30 countries.


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Stay in hope and peace,
Danica Joan Fields
Family Advocate

TIPS from

Create positive hope and anticipation: Try and plan your summer visits in advance. When you plan in advance and let your children know what they can expect would lead to positive hope and anticipation. Let your children know about your summer visit via- phone calls and emails.

Give your kids time to adjust: Allow your kids time to adjust to the new environment you are bringing them to. The environment they are used to in their home would be different from your home. Be patient while they adjust to a new routine.

Gather information about your child: Since most of the time you live away from your children, you would not know much about your children. It would be a good idea to know what they like to eat, what medicines they may require and they regular habits. During the summer break you can get to know more about your children along with their likes and dislikes.

Spend individual time: Spending quality time as well as individual time with the kids is very important. If you have a daughter, you can take her out to a movie and if you have son, you can plan the day around some sport like tennis or golf.

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