I have met and heard the tragic stories of many parents. PA is a function, by and large, of a custodial ex-partner, although some alienation can start while the couple is still together.

This blog is a story of experiences and observations of dysfunctional Family Law (FLAW), an arena pitting parent against parent, with children as the prize. Due to the gender bias in Family Law, that I have observed, this Blog has evolved from a focus solely on PA to one of the broader Family/Children's Rights area and the impact of Feminist mythology on Canadian Jurisprudence and the Divorce Industry.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Catherine Lee, President of the Canadian Psychological Association denies PAS exists and can’t treat it!

[Mike Murphy] An email to Catherine Lee, President of the Canadian Psychological Association based on comments she made on CBC Radio 1 on February 2, 2009 at 6:00. I have a copy of the segment which is about 2:30 minutes long and 2 mbs in size. The original was sent courtesy of C. Jones, the Alberta advocate for Parental Alienation Awareness.

From: Mike Murphy [mailto:mike.murphy@nospam.ca] Sent: February 4, 2009 11:33 AM To: 'catherine.lee@uottawa.ca' Cc: 'jeremy swanson'; 'AB PAAO'; 'mantony@psych.ryerson.ca'; 'thomas.hadjistavropoulos@uregina.ca'; '2kbs@qlink.queensu.ca'; 'ddozois@uwo.ca'; 'pbieling@stjosham.on.ca'; 'lsexton@sbgh.mb.ca'; 'kcohen@cpa.ca'

Subject: Parental Alienation comments on CBC

The APA has not officially stated that PAS is or is not a mental health disorder and may review it for inclusion in the next iteration of the DSM . But even if it does not get included at that time there is no excuse for the abusive poisoning of a child's mind by one parent towards another and the concomitant unrelenting psychic bruising that can be life long in nature. One can see a physical bruise and see the evidence of abuse right away but emotional bruising may manifest itself later in behaviour that is destructive. If I get slapped in the face it still is an assault whether the person doing it is mentally ill or not. It doesn't have to be called slap in the face syndrome for it to be abusive. I think the CPA has to get their heads out of the sand to see more clearly what it is they are defending or denying. In a real sense the recent name calling by UWO Prof Jaffe and your denial a child can be brainwashed by a parent is helping to enable the abuse by denying it exists. Mr. Jaffe's comments, as are mine, are here on the Globe & Mail site. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20090202.wxalienation0202/BNStory/National/

Based on research by Dr. Les Veskrna, MD I provide you with some information from the APA website that might be of benefit to your association to develop talking points. You do need to coordinate this amongst your members as I am losing faith in the professionalism of Canadian educated psychologists when hearing these rants and denials of abusive treatment of children.

"The APA has well-known guidelines for child-custody evaluations in divorce proceedings. These are the guidelines the APA proposes examiners use when conducting such evaluations. The guidelines refer to three books of Dr. Gardner's (who created the term PAS) as "pertinent literature." One book is completely devoted to the PAS and two make significant reference to the disorder:

Gardner, R.A. (1989), Family Evaluation in Child Custody Mediation, Arbitration, and Litigation. Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics, Inc.

Gardner, R. A. (1992), The Parental Alienation Syndrome: A Guide for Mental Health and Legal Professionals. Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics, Inc.

Gardner, R. A. (1992), True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse. Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics, Inc.

Furthermore, the APA has provided a workshop for its member psychologists in recent years that has included a definition and identification of Parental Alienation Syndrome. In addition, the APA publishes a book (Divorce Wars: Interventions with Families in Conflict by Elizabeth Ellis, PhD, May, 2000) with a chapter specifically devoted to Parental Alienation Syndrome (Chapter 8: A New Challenge for Family Courts)."

As we try to understand the motives of the APA and others, who discount the validity of PAS, we must realize that they often do so for reasons other than compelling scientific or empiric evidence.

Many discount the existence of PAS simply because it is not listed in the most current edition of the America Psychiatry Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of Mental Disorders. To understand why PAS is not in the most current edition of the DSM requires a little insight into the dynamics of how it is constructed. First of all, the DSM is an evolving document that reflects knowledge and perspectives at the time it is published. For example, at one time, the DSM listed homosexuality as a disorder. Homosexuality, as we all know, is no longer considered a "disorder," and is no longer described as one in the current DSM.

Conversely, Giles de la Tourette first produced a detailed account of several patients with Tourette's Syndrome in 1885. But it was not included in the DSM until 1980. Inclusion of a disorder in the DSM is a very conservative process that requires a comprehensive review of the scientific literature regarding a particular diagnostic entity. The criteria and classification system of the DSM are based on a majority opinion of mental health specialists at the time it is published, and therefore does not reflect all valid opinion, and does not reflect all new knowledge and opinion. The last major update of the DSM was in 1994 (DSM-IV). The literature review for this edition actually ended in 1992.

Obviously there is no consensus in Canada on PAS and given we follow the lead of the APA I suspect we will continue to hear these denials. It does sound as though you have your heads in the sand and indeed in Jaffe's case may be unprofessionally swayed by feminist ideology for which, I understand, he is a proponent.

I don't have a PHD in any kind of syndrome but here is what a lifetime of human observation has taught me. If you physically strike a child every day as punishment eventually that child will develop non-normal reactions to every day behaviour compared to a child who is not physically punished. Depending on the severity of the punishment and the fear induced in the child they may become a ward of the state, a sociopath, an abuser, a rapist (if male and if it was his mother striking him) or any number of malformed personalities. The child may develop any number of "syndromes". The action of the abuser, however, is unmistakable and doesn't need to have a syndrome attached to it. The act of physically striking a child over a prolonged period of time is negative and abusive. We don't need to term the child's malformed behaviour "physical punishment syndrome" to know there is a problem. The problem was created and perpetrated by an abuser.

Another observation I have made from another kind of abuse is related to a female child who was involved in an incestuous family relationship for 7 years from age 7-14. It became normal for this child to take off her clothes and perform sex acts for family and indeed friends of the family. She developed maladapted personal relationships and a need to please. She thought by providing these sexual services it would endear her better to the perpetrators. To this day she still has an underlying need to please and cannot relate normally but has 2 daughters of her own. Do we need to describe her condition as a syndrome to treat her? She has never received any counselling whatsoever. I certainly don't need to know there is a syndrome to understand she is a damaged person. Her behaviour speaks to that weekly.

I do understand you need to try and label a condition before you can treat it. I've read good portions of the DSM myself related to the above and other situations. But here's the thing – if you have an understanding that a parent has been bad mouthing her/his partner to the children and in many cases takes deliberate aim at turning the children into allies then you know that is negative behaviour. A parent will understand this better than a non-parent based solely on the impact they have observed through the use of words on vulnerable children. Trust me that after hearing your dad is a loser, a liar, a deadbeat, doesn't care about the kids, hates mommy, wants to hurt mommy, is old, fat, bald, has bad breath, smells is germy and on and on that has an impact. Over a period of time your children will grow to hate you, despite your best efforts and will use the very words they have become used to hearing from your ex back at you. Sometimes when the parent is going to jump ship, either move out or get a restraining order the alienator will then close the trap with an ultimatum to the children. It is a weapon in the arsenal of getting custody of children and in many cases, where it is a mom doing the alienation, ruin the dad's life emotionally and financially. It is believed more mothers do this than fathers but the malady is not gender specific.

Your comments as well as Jaffe's recent calling Dr. Warshak a "quack" are disconcerting to those of us who are victims of alienation. You need to develop a strategy for your members to deal with this as it is not going to go away anytime soon. I believe you are aware an International Conference is schedule in Toronto in March and Dr. Warshak spoke to lawyers at a bar association meeting this week in Toronto as well. I, and many others who are victims, alongside our children, are pushing the issue to the forefront. My blog was referenced in the New York Times yesterday and media organizations are using it to research information and sources (as opposed to Science) for Parental Alienation.

How often throughout history has a dogma or perceptual blindness distorted the truth. Think of Galileo who was branded a heretic by the religious zealots of the day for thinking the earth wasn't the centre of the universe and everything revolved around it. Are you part of a modern day version of this kind of thinking? Jaffe certainly appears to be along with a whole bunch of gender feminists. Children are being psychologically abused every day through this process. You represent an organization whose stated purpose is to help heal emotional problems. Don't let the term syndrome throw you off track.

Dr. Veskrna summed it up nicely as follows:

"Finally, dismissing the validity of PAS, by claiming there is a "lack of data" may reflect the influence of a very common informational fallacy: the notion that something must be true (or not true) because there is no evidence to the contrary. For how many years did we hear (and believe) the argument from tobacco companies that cigarette smoking was OK because there was no proof that smoking was harmful to health? And now, all cigarette packages carry health warnings. Absence of proof is not necessarily proof of absence."

In the case of this form of child abuse there is ample proof of damage. The job of your members is to try and discern the truth of the reasons for the alienation. Is the target an abuser and the child has justified fear of him/her or are they being manipulated in a manner that will lead to lifelong damage. It is not rocket science and you do not need the DSM to figure it out. It is a serious issue that needs to be addressed as such and not summarily dismissed as you have done.

Michael Murphy