Therapy That Works...

Parental Alienation During The Holidays - By Chris Gearing

Friday, December 17, 2010

During the holidays, millions of children from divorced families will be spending time with their parents separately. But what happens when one parent begins a systematic campaign to discredit the other parent and make their child hate their ex?

This is one of the worst developments in American families of the past 30 years. Psychologists are calling it “Parental Alienation” and it literally rips families apart. Here’s what it looks like:

Systematic Campaign of Alienation: Parental alienation is a systematic campaign of character assassination. One parent is determined to alienate the child’s affections toward the other parent or toward a grandparent. It is most prevalent in child custody cases and it is worst at the holidays as parents tend to compete for the affection of their children.

Spans the Range: Parental Alienation spans the range from outright malicious intent, legal battles and reckless accusations to careless, self serving comments that undermine the child’s view of their parent.

Emotional Abuse of Children: Parental alienation not only hurts the ex, it’s a form of emotional abuse of the child. Beyond the confusion and pain of divorce and losing a parent, children take their parent’s qualities and characteristics as their own. As one expert says, “ Bad mouth your ex and you simultaneously bad mouth your child.”

Legitimized by Self Absorbed Culture: Most divorces involve pain and suffering and parental alienation flourishes in a family culture of conflict. However, the epidemic of narcissism that has defined our country in recent years legitimizes winning at any cost. Savage and unethical behavior is justified even if it involves waging war against an innocent person.

So if parental alienation is so damaging to so many people, why would someone do it?

Revenge: There are complex reasons to explain this behavior but all explanations boil down to one principle reason -- Revenge. Some people feel pleasure from inflicting pain on people they believe have wronged them. The mind of the child becomes the battlefield for hurting their ex.

Child Is Perceived As A Possession: For some parents, adequate boundaries with their children are absent. The child is perceived as an extension of themselves. They inflict parental alienation on the other parent to banish him or her so that they can have the child to themselves.

Compensating for Inadequacy and Guilt: Parents may try to resolve their low self-esteem and sense of failure by reinforcing their belief that they are the better parent. Posturing as the superior parent makes them feel better even if it is at the expense of their child. They have no conscience about the suffering of the child or the other parent – it’s really all about themselves.

Parental alienation runs rampant at the holidays with children traveling between the homes of divorced parents. But how are children affected by parental alienation?

Brainwashed by Lies: These kids are basically brainwashed and now regard their targeted parent as the enemy or as a worthless afterthought. This kind of betrayal can poison even in the most tender and loving relationships.

Rehearsed Answers: Divorce is very scary for children. Often they feel unstable and they may be worried about the approval of the parent that they are living with. In an effort to feel safe, they orient to the controlling needs of the alienating parent at all costs. They are often unable to specify why they dislike the targeted parent or they exaggerate faults of the parent to justify their rejection. Their comments parrot the alienator’s words and feelings.

Long Term Damage: There is minimal data on the long-term effects of such alienation on kids. However, we do know that the earlier the separation from a parent, the more traumatic it is for the child. The basic tenants of loving relationships—trust, loyalty, and forgiveness--are never learned and the child may struggle for a lifetime because of these experiences.

Now, if you or someone you know is the victim of parental alienation – here’s what you can do to protect yourself and reclaim the love of your child:

Remain Calm: Understand that you have been systematically undermined and that you are taking every step to remediate the situation. Focus on what you can control and don’t stress about other factors. Do not lose your temper, reject your child or insult your ex in front of your child.

Educate Yourself: Parental alienation can be an elusive phenomenon to prove especially in a highly intense forum such as child custody. There are several books with great resources that are “must reads” for parents. Please see the sources for this story for some suggestions.

Work with Great Experts: Hire a psychologist and a lawyer who are proven experts in parental alienation. The therapist must acknowledge the massive psychological impact such alienation has on the child and the targeted parent. Your attorney needs to possess a solid understanding of this type of emotional abuse and they must have the substantial legal skills to protect your child and your interests.

It won’t be easy – but with a great deal of patience, help, and prayer, you can protect yourself and your child from the devastating effects of parental alienation.


"Divorce Poison," Dr. Richard Warshak

"The Custody Revolution" by Dr. Richard Warshak

"Divorce Casualties: Understanding Parental Alienation," Dr. Douglas Darnall

How To Buy Gifts For The Ones You Love - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, December 16, 2010

How To Read Your Gifts This Holiday Season - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Secrets of Holiday Gift Giving - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Secrets of Holiday Gift Giving: How To Buy Gifts For The Ones You Love

Americans spend up to $40 billion annually for holiday presents and while holiday gifts can be a terrific way to show your love for your partner, psychologists now report that holiday gifts can often be your relationship’s report card.

But why do gifts matter so much, especially in a relationship?

Perception is Central: A gift is never just a gift. It is a fundamental way we communicate how important the relationship is. Americans, in particular, are really stressed about gift giving because of this relationship rule. Giving the perfect gift can be seen as a true measure of how much we care about our partner--or not. The more thoughtful or romantic we are perceived as being, the more emotional money in the bank.

Avoid Misfires: Holiday gifts can also get you into a lot of trouble if you misfire. Since they really do leave us vulnerable to judgment, they are a form of risk taking in the relationship and they can go very badly. We use gifts to take basic measurements of our partner’s commitment, affection, and understanding of who we are.

Relationships Ending: The ugly truth is that gifts often signal the end of things. For example, a gift left on the kitchen counter in the plastic bag is the equivalent of saying “We need to talk.”

When it comes to your gift giving, here are some common pitfalls to watch out for:

Buy for Them: Avoid giving them something that YOU would like. Buying for yourself—with your preferences and interests—will not be endearing, you will be viewed as insensitive and selfish. Make sure that you buy for them, not for you.

Keep It Equal According to Status: Remember that in families, the comparative value of the gifts will always be measured. It is just fine to give your wife a piece of nice jewelry while giving your sister a robe. But be careful not to “over gift” one relative over another—it will be noted.

Avoid Lavish Gifts: Also, avoid lavish gifts that are going to make everyone else feel weird. You can look like a show off and the gift just backfires.

Avoid Token, Last Minute Gifts: Low expense and minimal efforts in gift giving are recipes for disaster, especially with a woman. I guarantee she will feel like an afterthought.

No Motivational Gifts: Do not give a gift that screams self-improvement like weight loss, better parenting or finding a job. You’re smarter enough not to gift a year’s membership at the gym or a box of diet drinks. It can really hurt the relationship.

Avoid Re-Gifting: Almost one third of Americans pass on gifts they don’t like. Be careful with this since it can really hurt the relationship if they figure it out.

Did you know that men and women care about different things when it comes to giving gifts?

Money Counts with Men: Men tend to be much more aware of how much they’re spending to buy her present. They use the price tag to signal affection, interest, and commitment. They also like practicality and personalization in the gifts they receive—golf clubs, new grilling utensils, things like that.

Women and Meaning: On the other hand, women love to investigate what the present means emotionally. We love hidden meanings and delight in building drama around the moment of receiving the gift—the candlelight at the table, the Christmas tree glow. We will often spend hours devising the perfect gift for him--thinking, dreaming and scheming. She hopes, or really expects, that he will do the same for her, but research shows that men rarely do. They are more likely to think about it for a minute, buy it at the very last minute, and deliver it without any theatrics.

Here’s what I would recommend when you’re out holiday shopping this year:

The Three Rules of Gift Giving: Research shows that great gift giving must include three elements—a wonderful surprise, familiarity with her tastes, and the cost must reflect how much you value the relationship.

Savor the Experience: Gifts that are personal and experiential – like a romantic evening out, a couples’ massage, duo cooking classes, making a gingerbread house together, a horse and buggy ride or a weekend getaway – go a long way. In the end, people do not remember the way you dressed, the actual gift you gave them, or even what you did. They remember how you made them feel.

Elizabeth Edwards' Courage and Resilience - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Addicted Mothers - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The number of women ages 30 to 44 who report abusing alcohol has doubled over the past decade, while prescription drug abuse has sky rocketed over 400%, according to a federal study. But most addicted women hide their secret well – often, with disastrous results.

So, why would young successful women begin down the long road of addiction?

No one who becomes addicted intends to be a junkie. But substance abuse among young mothers is becoming an ugly reality since the stress on this generation of women has never been greater.

No one ever considers that a busy, engaged mom in the prime of her life may actually have a serious addiction. Here’s why:

More Stress, Less Time: More women with young kids hold down full time jobs and they are the most sleep-deprived part of our society. A sleepy brain is a stressed brain. Addictions begin when we use something to bridge the gap or take the edge off of your daily stress.

Escape Hatch: Substance abuse gives you an escape. Most abused drugs and alcohol create intense feelings of euphoria and pleasure. Self-confidence soars, energy expands, and the worries and challenges of a busy life are gone.

Girls Night Out: “Girls Night Out” has become a national, normalized ritual in our society. But a whole lot of drinking also goes on during these female-bonding events.

Long Standing Problem: Most substance abuse begins in adolescence or in college when there is rampant binge drinking and the young woman carries the problem forward into her social life as a young mother.

Most of what you hear about alcoholism relates to how it is dangerous for the man in your life. But women are at just as much risk, if not greater:

Quick and Painful: Women get drunker faster than men, become addicted quicker, and develop health problems related to abuse such as liver cirrhosis, hypertension, and malnutrition at higher rates than men.

Substance-Fueled Violence: The link between physical abuse and alcohol is well established. Seventy five percent of rapes and seventy percent of domestic violence involves alcohol.

Liquid Diet: Many women are obsessed with their weight and prefer to drink rather than eat a healthy diet. Since 40% of American women are on a diet at any given moment, many women substitute alcohol for regular meals and good nutrition, and they end up harming their bodies.

Long Term Consequences: The effects of alcohol on a woman’s body linger months after she stops drinking. In fact, studies find that alcohol damages a woman’s brain structure and function in lasting and measurable ways. Although women drink less than men, death rates among alcoholic women are almost 100% higher than among their male counterparts.

Most people don’t know that addiction takes root through very predictable steps and stages as a woman surrenders her life to addiction:

Internal Shift: The woman begins to turn toward behavior that is relieving her stress. Getting high is fun and it changes her mood for the better in the beginning. She denies how dangerous her usage is as she begins to betray others and herself with repeated use.

Lifestyle Change: A behavioral dependency on the alcohol or drug now emerges. Her life is altered to accommodate the addiction even if she becomes reckless and self-destructive. She moves deeper into the sabotaging behavior as she builds her life around getting high.

Her Life Destructs: The addiction has now taken over. The woman relies on getting high and ignores or rationalizes the destructive aspects of her behavior. At this point, nothing matters to the addict but the acquisition of the substance. The obsession with the addiction causes a trance state. People don’t matter, commitments don’t count, and honesty isn’t even a part of the conversation.

Unstoppable: She believes that she cannot stop. New brain imaging technology now shows that there are significant changes in brain structure that are critical to judgment, decision making, learning, memory, and behavioral control. These changes compromise the brain architecture and cause the slide into addiction.

Here’s what you can do to identify and help the addicted woman in your life:

Be On The Lookout: Whenever you see any kind of irrational, highly self-destructive behavior that just doesn’t add up, there is usually some kind of addictive behavior behind it.

Bad Behavior: Secrecy, deceit, and the systematic betrayal of the trust of others are all hallmarks of this disorder.

Feeling Blue: Addictions often manifest very differently in women than in men with addicted women reporting more depression, anxiety and low self esteem.

Interventions Work: Make a plan, enlist a team of loving friends and family and intervene directly and quickly. Happily, addiction treatment is highly effective and lasting so be encouraged that you are saving her life. She’ll thank you for it once she is sober and safe again.

Addiction is extremely serious, and if you are worried about someone in your life – please contact a substance abuse professional or facility for more information.


The National Center of Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University: Report on Substance Abuse and the American Woman, June 1996

Women Under the influence, by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University omen under the Influence

Alcoholism Hurts Women Neuropsychologically Almost the Same as it Hurts Men: Deficits Linger Months into Abstinence, APA, January 20, 2002

Addicted Moms: Everybody Knows Somebody,

The National Institute of Drug Abuse, “Drugs, Brains, and Behavior - The Science of Addiction"

What To Do When You Know It's Over - By Chris Gearing

Monday, November 29, 2010

Surviving The In-Laws During The Holidays - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Recent Posts