A Canberra psychologist has been disciplined for claiming in a report that his client’s children suffered from “parental alienation syndrome“, a condition not formally recognised by psychology bodies.
A tribunal was also critical in its assessment of the psychologist’s report, saying that it went beyond opinion or reasonable inference and “attributes fault and deliberately dishonourable behaviour factually to the [ex-wife]”.
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Psychopathology and theconceptualisation of mental disorder:The debate around the inclusion of Parental Alienation in DSM-5
Content and Focus:
This paper will briefly consider the general conceptualisation of mental disorder before focusing on the specific case of Parental Alienation (PA), variously termed a disorder or a syndrome.By virtue of the recent debate surrounding its potential inclusion in the newest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), this is a topical example. A critical analysis of the petition for its inclusion within DSM-5 will both highlight the range of professionals’ views, and also consider ethical and practical issues inherent in the conceptualisation of a mental disorder and its classification within the evolving DSM. Following this general and specific conceptualisation of mental disorder, the tensions that diagnosis raises for counselling psychology will be briefly deliberated. The positive aspects of classification and diagnosis will be acknowledged, whilst highlighting the focus on the subjective experience of individual clients.
Despite the controversy about the concept, validity and reliability of PA, the evidence suggests that there is more agreement than disagreement among practitioners and professionals in the field. Whilst there is a general consensus that alienation exists within a distinct population who would benefit from intervention, there is no consensus on its inclusion in DSM-5. Irrespective of its inclusion in any nosology,the recent debate has highlighted the need for further research. A greater understanding of the processes,symptoms and behaviours involved in PA will enable the needs of children and families involved in high- conflict separation to be better addressed.
Parental Alienation and Parental Kidnap infringe upon the rights of the child to know of its parentage and also exposes the child to potential emotional difficulties in later life, if the child is ever reconciled with the truth. Parental Alienation and Parental Kidnap serves only the emotional desires and wishes [not needs] of the custodial spouse, over the rights, needs and well-being of both the child and of the absent spouse and so, this is not prioritising the protection and the well-being of the child and is therefore in our opinion, a direct form of legalised child abuse.
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