Diagnosing Parental Alienation Syndrome

You Know the Symptoms. How do You Get a Diagnosis?

If you've read our Ultimate Guide to Parental Alienation Syndrome regarding the symptoms of Parental Alienation Syndrome ("P.A."), you are likely more familiar with some of the signs that the other parent has been brainwashing the child. Now that you can recognize some of the signs, how will you get it diagnosed so that you can seek recovery?

Think about sickness. When we get a runny nose, fever, sore throat, and loss of appetite, we know that something is wrong. We know that we're sick. We even typically at least get a hunch as to what's wrong with us by our experience, obsession with searching the Internet for answers, and asking our family and friends for input. Nonetheless, when we feel unwell, we head to the doctor so that a professional can tell us what's wrong with us. In a similar way, an important step to recovering from P.A. (and preventing it) is getting an accurate diagnosis of it in the first place. Parental Alienation is a term used to describe when a child is being "brainwashed" by one parent to be against the other parent. Click here to read more.

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Get a Diagnosis From a Child Therapist.

If you are involved in a custody battle then it is likely that you'll be set for trial. Parties are set for trial typically after the case has been open for about 90 days or if a party requests it. Regardless of whether or not it is a bench or jury trial, if you suspect that your child is a victim of P.A., you should first get a professional diagnosis. This could make or break your chances of getting custody.

The First Step : Find the Right Child Therapist

If you are working with an experienced attorney, he or she will be able to largely assist you with this. It is likely that your attorney already knows some great child therapists that could assist with the case and that would be a good fit for your family. However, you should bear in mind that in most situations, the parties will have to agree on which child therapist the child will see and if a party takes the child to a therapy session, the therapist's information and information regarding the time, date, and location of the session(s) must be disclosed to the other parent. This means that though sometimes your attorney has a child therapist in mind, the other party may object. If so, you and the other party will either have to agree on another child therapist or the court will appoint one of it's own choosing. You want to choose a child therapist that is within your budget (the parties usually split the costs) and one that the child feels comfortable not just talking to, but being honest with. You should also search for a therapist with experience with detecting (and diagnosing) P.A. if you suspect that the other party is guilty of it and if you are able to choose. If not, the court will likely appoint a therapist with these requirements anyway.

The Next Step : Get a Diagnosis.

If you suspect that the other part is guilty of P.A., it is important that your psychologist is on the look-out for the signs. It is okay to express your concerns to your child's therapist. The therapist will continue to meet and speak with the child and form their own professional opinion. If a child has been coached or if there are signs that the child is being "brainwashed" or turned against the other parent, the therapist will know and notate it. If a court has appointed the therapist, it will be automatic that the therapist will draft a report after this opinion has been formed. This report is then shared with the court. In other cases, the parties get the reports and then produce the reports to the other party as well as the court. Texas juries and courts really discourage and are turned off by parents that attempt to do this to their children so this could help a party get, keep, or lose custody.

Hire an Experienced Attorney

Another important step is for you to hire an attorney that has experience with P.A. cases. A seasoned attorney will know how to present evidence of the P.A. to the court so that the jury and the judge hears and/or considers it. Additionally, an experienced attorney will know how to help you identify the signs of P.A. and help you work through diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.

The Final Step : Using the Diagnosis as Evidence

Once your attorney receives a report stating that the therapist's professional opinion is that a party is unfairly alienating the other parent, it is your attorney's job to ensure that the court is made aware of this information. Your attorney may want to depose the therapist, call the therapist as a witness in your temporary orders hearing or final trial, enter the report into evidence, etc. in order to present the information found. For this reason, it is important that you are sure to comply with any court orders (including injunctions) , timely pay for any services rendered by the therapist, as well as be 100% cooperative with the therapist.


At the end of the day, your children matter to you. It matters to you if the other parent is unfairly turning them against you. If you start to recognize any of the symptoms of P.A., be sure to have a child psychologist and your attorney evaluate the situation. Your involvement in your kid's life may depend on it.