According to the Parental Alienation Awareness Organization website, “Parental alienation is defined as a set of behaviors that are harmful and damaging to a child’s emotional and mental health. It generally involves the mental manipulation and/or bullying of the child to pick between their mother or father. These behaviors can also result in destroying a loving and warm relationship they once shared with a parent.”

If you suspect that your ex-spouse has been engaged in alienation, what can you do to resolve your family’s crisis in a way that protects your relationships with your children and avoids or at least minimizes hostile interactions with the other parent? What therapies actually work to roll back the damage of alienation and strengthen families?

Strategies for Recovery

Dr. Elizabeth Ellis proposes five steps for alienated parents to help their children overcome PAS:

1.    Show children that the alienated parent is not the “bad guy.”  Per Dr. Ellis, children who see the targeted parent treated with respect might reconsider their perspective and come to see that parent as valued and worthwhile, contradicting the alienating parent’s narrative.
2.    Avoid making the child choose between the two parents.
3.    Look for ways to mitigate the other parent’s hurt and animosity.
4.    Find ways to create allies among all parties.
5.    Persist in seeking reunification despite setbacks and frustrations.

Dr. Ellis also suggests that, in some cases, physically separating the child and alienating parent can be useful and can end the bad effects of the brainwashing. Depending on circumstances and nature of the alienation, the courts might consider actions, such as altering the custody arrangement.

Cautions when Addressing PAS

According to Edward Kruk, Ph.D., children who’ve been alienated could also suffer from something akin to post-traumatic-stress disorder (PTSD). Dr. Kruk cautions that while the relationship between the targeted parent and children can be restored over time, those involved need to be sensitive and to avoid rushing the process. Undoing the damage caused by brainwashing is neither simple, nor linear. Prepare for ups and downs.

Reunification Goals

According to PAS authority, Dr. Richard Warshak, the goals for reunification after PAS include the following:

•    Avoiding parental conflict in front of the child
•    Encouraging an independent child
•    Teaching critical thinking skills
•    Understanding different perspectives and
•    Promoting a healthy relationship with both parents.

Dr. Warshak believes that therapies should teach children how to overcome their codependence with the alienating and enmeshed parent and help them view relationships more empathetically.

Therapy for the Targeted Parent

It’s normal for targeted parents to feel deeply hurt and betrayed by the alienation. Frustratingly, this pain can prevent them from getting the help they need and even lead them to internalize a sense of victimhood. “Perhaps my ex and the kids have a point when they criticize me?”

Targeted parents may need extensive therapy both by themselves and with the children (and with the other parent, if possible) to heal from the experience and rebuild good relationships and a sense of self-esteem.

Photo of Jason Brown Jason Brown

Jason Brown founded the Brown Law Offices, P.A. in 2003 after working for several years as an associate attorney in downtown Minneapolis. He graduated with honors from Mankato State University in 1997 and the William Mitchell College of Law in 2000.

Jason has…

Jason Brown founded the Brown Law Offices, P.A. in 2003 after working for several years as an associate attorney in downtown Minneapolis. He graduated with honors from Mankato State University in 1997 and the William Mitchell College of Law in 2000.

Jason has successfully litigated against some of the more recognized family law attorneys in the Twin Cities. He has been named a “Super Lawyer” by Thomson Reuters, and one of the Top 100 Family Law Attorneys in Minnesota by the Society of Legal Advocates.

In addition to his work as a lawyer, Jason serves as a mediator, and court-appointed early neutral evaluator, in divorce and family law cases throughout Minnesota. He frequently writes and speaks concerning divorce and family law issues, including several invitations to present seminars for the Minnesota Judicial Branch in St. Paul.

Beyond family law, Jason has represented hundreds of clients accused of a serious crime, including arson, fraud, unauthorized computer access, burglary, felony strangulation and obstruction of justice. He also provides estate planning services.

Local media appearances by Jason include WCCO Radio, KARE 11 Television, Fox 9 Television and WCCO Television. His national media appearances include NBC News, Time Magazine, USA Today and the Huffington Post.

Jason is the former chairperson of the Family Law Section of the Minnesota Trial Lawyer’s Association, and taught divorce and family law coursework within the paralegal program at North Hennepin Community College. He publishes the Minnesota Family Law Blog, which has been recognized as a “Top 25″ by the Minnesota State Bar Association.

Outside of the office, Jason enjoys playing the bass and electric guitar and spending time in the north woods of Wisconsin.

Areas of Practice
  • Divorce
  • Custody
  • Adoption
  • Restraining Orders
  • Prenuptial Agreements
  • Criminal Defense
  • Estate Planning
Notable Cases
  • Representation of Four Grandparents in Minnesota’s First Quad-Parenting Adoption
  • Representation of Client in Minnesota’s First Same-Sex Divorce
Bar Admissions
  • Minnesota State Bar, 2000
  • US District Court – District of Minnesota, 2002
  • William Mitchell College of Law, 2000
  • Minnesota State University, Mankato, 1997
Joined Firm
  • 2003
Professional Associations & Activities
  • Minnesota State Bar Association
  • Presenter, Various CLE Courses
  • Monthly Columnist, Minnesota Lawyer Newspaper