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The Rising Problem of Parental Alienation and How Online Psychologist Therapy Can Help

Online Psychologist Therapy

There is a growing crisis out there. It’s something we often have to deal with during our online psychologist therapy sessions. It is estimated that between 11% to 15% of divorce cases end up in parental alienation. And between 20% to 25% of all parents will experience parental alienation that can last 6+ years after the initial separation.

To put these global statistics into an even more shocking perspective, these percentages include more than 22 million adults in the US alone! So, start naming a few countries, and do some rough math. You’ll soon see why parental alienation is a problem of epidemic proportions and one we often encounter in online psychologist therapy. What’s worse, these numbers are on the rise! In this article, we explore what parental alienation is and how a parent on the receiving end can deal with it.

What is Parental Alienation?

Parental alienation was first identified in the 1980s. It is a syndrome (PAS) when it comes to an individual and also describes a strategy and the consequences thereof. It is when one parent’s behaviour, actions, or words have a negative impact on the other parent’s relationship with their child(ren). Parental alienation can come in many forms, such as:

  • One parent withholding another parent from their child(ren) in terms of contact. This usually entails a parent refusing contact or making excuses for why the other parent can’t see their child(ren). They also refuse or make excuses for other forms of contact, such as telephone, post, video calls, etc.
  • One parent is withholding another parent from their child(ren) in terms of information. They won’t share school report cards, concert dates, etc.. They will also conveniently leave out the other parent’s contact details on anything regarding the children that requires it, such as school forms, doctor forms, etc.
  • One parent is manipulating the child to have certain opinions or feelings about the other parent. This can range from openly bad-mouthing the parent to spreading lies. Or using more subtle tactics such as having the child listen to conversations between other adults putting the parent in a negative light. Or even making comments such as “We would’ve been able to afford x if your Dad/Mom wasn’t so stingy with their money”, etc.

Parental Alienation is classified as child abuse by the WHO (World Health Organization). Yet, very few countries, courts, or child safety organizations treat it as such. This is partly because it’s so hard to identify and even harder to prove.  

Why do Parents Cause Parental Alienation?

There are quite a few reasons why parents rely on parental alienation. These include:

Sadly, the Strategy Works.

There are many other underlying reasons why a parent would do such a thing. But, ultimately, it boils down to the fact that this is a tried-and-tested tactic that works. It has long-lasting consequences and is very difficult to rectify.

Our Systems are Not Set Up for the Identification or Protection of Parental Alienation.

Our systems have been trained to spot and act upon things such as abandonment and the immediate health and safety of the children. This means that there is very little recourse for the parent who is the victim of parental alienation. The parent will need to have the cash flow for urgent court applications (which is definitely not in any average Joe or Jane’s budget range). Or they will be forced to rely on state and governmental agencies (which are not equipped when it comes to parental alienation).

Some of the Most Common Ways Things Play Out

These scenarios usually play themselves out in a few scenarios. For example, the parent guilty of parental alienation makes claims of abandonment about the other parent. And, after not being able to have any contact for such a long time, it’s hard to disprove such claims. Or the one parent makes false claims of substance abuse, physical or sexual abuse, or mental instability (which obviously needs to be investigated).

These investigations can take very long. By the time they are concluded and contact can even start being mediated, the damage is already done. In the instance of mental instability claims, our governmental bodies and organisations are also not equipped to read the signs right.

Dr Steve Miller, who is an expert in the field and who is trying to educate institutions and advocate for the reform of legislation for the prevention of parental alienation, has stated that the claims of mental instability are almost an immediate win for the parent causing the parental alienation.

This is because you will inevitably have one parent with a calm and relaxed demeanor, making very disturbing claims about the other. The other parent will sit there clearly distressed, overly emotional, etc. Even though the latter is quite normal feelings or behaviour for a loving and devoted parent finding themselves on the wrong end of parental alienation, it merely serves to “prove” the parent’s claims of emotional instability.

In these instances, it’s very important to have a support structure and outlet, such as online psychologist therapy, where one can vent and express these emotions in a safe space without judgement or fear of being labelled “crazy”.  These emotions are valid and must be processed in a healthy and safe setting.

The Parent Gains Something from It.

Once again, the gains could take on many forms, such as:

  • The parent wants to “win”. In a divorce or custody case, this includes the children as a prize for the victor. This obviously has very little to do with the children themselves or a parent who really wants to be a parent. It is more ego-centric in nature.
  • The parent wants to hurt the other parent. The children are a pretty easy target when it comes to hurting the other parent since most parents love and wish to be with their children.
  • A parent who has come to rely heavily on a child as emotional support or who has very little identity or self-worth outside of being a parent can have a need to have the child only to themselves.
  • The parent making these claims is an actual abuser (whether physically, sexually, or emotionally). By getting the other parent out of the picture, they are free to continue with their behaviour without any scrutiny. A good example of this would be Dee Dee Blanchard in the case of Gypsy Rose Blanchard, who has made such a big impression on the world and mainstream media.

Potential Signs of Parental Alienation

Except for the obvious, such as a blatant refusal of contact, there are a few other signs that parental alienation may be occurring:

The Child is Adamant that He/She is an Independent Thinker

This may sound completely counterintuitive. A child who over-emphasises that he/she is an independent thinker is more than likely to be the complete opposite. It definitely raises concerns when we hear it during our online psychologist therapy. It’s very similar to that cringy feeling one gets when someone tells you to “trust me” over and over again.

When this happens, they are more than likely either trying to convince you or themselves. Either way, what they are saying is not true. In terms of parental alienation, they remain adamant despite all the evidence suggesting otherwise.

Borrowed Scenarios and Feelings are Present

The child might talk about events where he/she wasn’t present, or that never happened. Or they might feel anger or resentment about things they would not know about if they didn’t hear it from someone else (or, once again, might not even have actually occurred).

Rejection of a Parent

For no apparent reason, there is a very clear rejection of the one parent by the child(ren). They either try to avoid the parent as much as possible or show open disdain and disapproval of them, making it very clear where their loyalties lie.  

Unexplained Hatred or Fear of a Parent

A child may tell you that they don’t like the other parent, that they are scared of the other parent. Or say that the other parent is a “bad person”. But, when one starts digging into it, one can’t really find a real source or cause (except for perhaps another case of borrowed scenarios).

The Child(ren) Seems to Have an Exceptionally Close Relationship with One Parent

This is yet another reason why professionals and organisations struggle to identify cases of parental alienation. One has to conduct interviews as part of the evaluation process (whether during divorce or custody proceedings, investigations by child welfare, etc.). These interviews are usually with both parents and the children (but seen separately).

We’ve already mentioned the contrasting mental and emotional state the parents might be in. But the clincher will be when the children can’t stop singing the praises of the parent guilty of parental alienation. They will talk about all the fun things they do. They’ll have an almost glorified hero’s image of the parent. They’ll also often sleep in the same bed as the parent (not to be confused with sexual abuse).

The picture painted by the children will be that of an extremely involved, loving, and committed parent. Except it’s not the case at all. When it comes to parental alienation, this is what’s referred to as enmeshment and is not a healthy relationship. This type of relationship comes with severe co-dependency, and the child essentially completely loses his/her own identity.

Is There Hope for Children Who are the Victims of Parental Alienation?

Here, once again, most systems fail the victims of parental alienation. If you have the resources to get the courts involved, contact can be forced on the other parent. Yet the courts believe that a reunification program is in the best interest of the child.

This is where a third party, such as a social worker, supervises visits with the children. This continues till they feel the relationship has been rebuilt enough and the children are once again comfortable in the presence of the parent who was alienated from them.

Sadly, if one listens to experts such as Dr Steve Miller, there is very little hope of truly reversing the effects of parental alienation unless one can establish at least 90 days of absolutely no contact with the parent guilty of the parental alienation. And this separation has to go hand in hand with intense treatment. So, there are ways to try to heal and reverse the effects of parental alienation, but it can be very challenging and time-consuming.

The way we often have to describe it to people during online psychologist therapy is that the treatment is similar to what the deprogramming of an ex-cult member looks like and includes therapy, trauma counselling, the (re)development of skills such as critical thinking skills, and family therapy specially focused on rebuilding the relationships. Here, online psychologist therapy can be very useful.

If the Odds are So Slim for Child Victims, What Then?

Unfortunately, in most cases of parental alienation, the only victims who can actually find some help and support and try to rebuild their lives are the other parents. In the majority of cases, a parent will fight for years to regain contact and rebuild the relationship to what it was before. But with systems that cannot deal with the counterintuitive nature of parental alienation and court systems that favour whoever has the most money, the outlook is very bleak.

By the time we meet parents who are the victims of parental alienation for online psychologist therapy, they are absolutely exhausted, emotionally and financially drained, and completely heartbroken. The most (and realistically attainable) healing (since that’s still within their control) lies with the parent who was “left behind”.

They themselves need to process what has happened to them. They need to receive their own trauma counselling. Then start working towards healing and living their “new normal” (whatever that may look like). If this is a subject you find interesting and would like to learn more about its complexities, or you and your children have been the victims of parental alienation in the past or are currently in a tricky situation like this, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.

Online psychologist therapy allows you to get the support and healing you need from the comfort of your own home. Contact us via email at or complete the form below, and we’ll reach out to you as soon as possible:

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