Article: Parental Alienation: Traditional Therapy Will NOT Work

young girl

By: Ashish Joshi

Family law practitioners often suggest therapy to their clients. And often, judges’ first tool of choice in trying to resolve a conflict in a parenting or custodial dispute is to send parties to therapy. In some cases, this may end up in resolving a situation. But in parental alienation cases, research demonstrates that traditional psychotherapy, while children remain under the care of their favored parent (or the alienator), is unlikely to repair the strained parent-child relationship and in fact, may make things worse. Why? Because as one expert, Dr. Richard Warshak, put it:

“One reason why phobia reduction techniques fail to overcome children’s refusal to spend time with a parent is that most of these children, except preschoolers, do not really fear their rejected parent. If they act frightened of the parent, often this is a ruse to avoid contact. The lack of genuine fear is evident in the children’s uninhibited denigration, expressions of hatred, and disrespect toward the rejected parent, as opposed to the obsequious or withdrawn behavior typical of children’s interactions with a feared adult.”(emphasis added)

While traditional therapy may work in other situations, in cases involving parental alienation, such therapy can magnify and solidify the animosity and hatred that the alienated child feels towards the target parent. It can make a bad situation far worse.

As former judge Michelle Lowrance (Cook County, Illinois) reminisced:

“I have seen traditional therapists allow the child to determine how long it will be (if ever) before they agree to see the target parent. Because the child is aligned with the alienating parent, they are emotionally required to keep rejecting contact with the target parent. Remember, alienated children are often told that if they are nice to the target parent, it could be used ‘against’ them in court.”

Effective therapy, in these circumstances, is reunification. Reunification, in contrast to traditional therapy, activates old positive memories and more importantly challenges distorted thinking. It is not uncommon to see false memories implanted in a child in a severe alienation case. And these false memories do not need to be validated; they have to be confronted and challenged, albeit in a therapeutic environment.


The Divorce Recovery Ladder Workbook and Program were inspired by Susan’s own contentious divorce.
Susan began her professional career in the financial industry working for an International Investment Firm.
After that, she was an agency licensed private investigator for two decades where she amassed thousands of court testifying hours.

Topics included are: Realization of the situation | Attorneys | Finances | Children | Parental Alienation | Courts & Evidence | Recognizing Retaliation | Dating Again

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Susan Shofer | The Divorce Recovery Ladder, Inc. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author (see referring link above).