Child*s Best Interest (affectionately called CBI)

Dr. Daniel W. Bishop, PsyD
Professor: Concordia University Chicago, Il
Director: Credence Counseling & Therapy
Elkhorn and East Troy, WI
PAS Terminology
• Parental Alienations Syndrome (PAS) is
controversial and may be pulling away from
the real issue, the health of the child, and
focus on the “alienating” parent and his/her
• Therefore, CBI utilizes more neutral
o Conflicted Child
o Aligned Parent
o Target Parent
• Conflicted Child(ren):
o One who expresses, freely and persistently,
unreasonable negative feelings and beliefs
(anger, hatred, rejection, and/or fear” toward a
parent that are significantly disproportionate to
the child’s actual experience with the parent”
Kelly & Johnston, 2001, p.251)
• This can be one child or an entire sib-ship. If entire
sib-ship, will often be able to see one sibling more
conflicted (traditionally 8-14), often oldest.
• Not all anger at parents or refusal to visit is the same
• Normal reaction for one child to align with one
parent or favor one parent at different times of
development or at different developmental
• Estranged
May be a healthy response
Consistently inadequate
History of violence
• Targeted Parent
o The parent/caretaker who is the focus of the anger
o Viewed as the “bad” parent
• Can be more rigid and have an authoritarian
parenting style
• Lack of warmth or involvement
• Aligning Parent
See’s self as protecting the child
Views children as fragile
Doesn’t view need for other parent
Speaks for the child's thoughts and feelings
“Unjustified animosity, negative beliefs, and fears of a parent in
the absence of alienating behaviors by a parent can also occur,
alienating behavior by one parent is not necessary”
Triangulated Children
• Poor emotional
control of the
• Poor parenting
• Failure to address
their children’s
needs create
anguish, tension
and anger
• Typical but not
• Children are put
into the conflict,
invited to take
• Child replaces the
• Parents not able to
effectively and
Healthy Child
• A natural tendency to prefer on parent over the
other for various reasons.
Children in Family Court
• When allegations of parental conflict resulting in
child alignment and targeting of parents enter the
court system, special services (legal, case
management, counseling) may be necessary to
help the child.
• The child’s rejection can be the result of many
things: the behaviors of each parent, high conflict
between the parents, the adversarial process,
attorney’s therapists and extended family members.
The intensity and duration of the legal fight may serve
to channel away feelings of depression.
Continue Contact
• Presumption that parent-child contact will continue
otherwise resistance becomes entrenched.
• Officials Involved: Consistent
• A clear mandate for support, with court sanctions if
necessary (financial payments, enforcement of an
order, more driving responsibility) in supporting therapy
and facilitating reasonable access.
Early Recognition &
Prevention - CBI
• Parenting after separation (face to face or on-line)
• If in doubt, early on referral to CBI
Timeliness is important!!! 14 days to register.
Therapeutic Contact (not “supervised” or “counseling”)
Assure protection of the child if doubt exists
Protection of false allegations to/about the rejected parent
• Screening by Both Biological Parents/Guardians
o Releases signed, agreement to participate , rights, financial issues
o Focus on the child’s history and why child refuses visits
First Sessions
• First Couple Session with Both Parents/Guardians, if allowed
o Works best if both guardians attend together
o Explain the service
o Explain the research on parental conflict on the purpose of
the service to focus on the child’s best interest.
o Psychoeducational about handling difficult situations
o Appropriate behavior toward each parent and emotional
regulation around the children
o Discuss critical involved
o Reporting to the Court
o Triage (family counseling, parenting classes, personal
counseling) keeping the number of professionals involved
small and trained in the model
Both Parents have some
• Co-parenting by the Parenting Coach
o Two times a month if 50% placement, one time a month if less placement
o Focus is on the children's experience, developmental issues, emotional
o Recommendation of biblio-therapy and clear expectations of each
others behavior
o Continue screening for triaging necessary services
• Both parents parenting is problematic
• Likely there is some “truth”, but may be
exaggerated (lack of warmth, parenting, anger,
controlling, step parent).
Goals of CBI
• Reunification is NOT the primary or only goal
• Encourage parents to engage in necessary services
to make them “good enough parents”
Parenting class
Substance abuse evaluation and counseling
Anger management, domestic violence, depression, anxiety
Individual counseling
• Restore appropriate co-parent roles and child
• Restore healthy dynamics and emotional regulation
Targeted Parents Have
More critical and demanding parenting style
Financial resource limitations
Own feelings of abandonment
Aligned Parents Have
• Sometimes child support is a huge barrier
• A new partner (for aligned or targeted parent)
• “She is 10, she should be able to make her own
Child(ren) Services
• Support group, counseling, counseling with target
• Given permission to be rude, increase empathy
• Create critical thinking
• Allow child to love both parents with feelings of
• Why are your parents divorced “does it matter?”
• If PTSD, must be treated first!
Lessons Learned
Limit the “professionals involved”
Professionals need training
Limits to confidentiality
Agreed on roles
Parent Coach is team leader
Bi-weekly contact to all team members, organized by
Parent Coach
Parent Coach completes quarterly reports to courts
Limit time of CBI to 6 months
No emergency (out of session) contact via e-mails or
phone calls
REALLY try and get both parents together for coparenting, it goes MUCH easier!

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