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Clinical Definition of "Parental Alienation"


At a clinical level, "parental alienation" involves a child getting drawn into their parents' marital conflict by forming a coalition with a narcissistic or borderline parent against the other parent. This alliance leads to a breakdown in the child's relationship with the targeted parent. The narcissistic or borderline parent uses the child to manage their own anxiety stemming from the divorce, essentially reversing the parent-child roles to ease their distress. This anxiety arises from three main sources: narcissistic anxiety, which threatens the parent's self-image; borderline anxiety, rooted in fear of abandonment; and trauma anxiety, linked to unresolved childhood attachment issues driving parental alienation.

However, continually referring to this clinical phenomenon by its full definition can be cumbersome. Alternative terms like "trauma reenactment alienation" or "induced child rejection through role reversal" have been suggested, but "parental alienation" remains the commonly used term. While not a precise clinical term, "parental alienation" encompasses a range of clinical constructs with defined meanings in scientific literature.


Please note that adult-child psychological abuse will be referred to as parental alienation throughout this website due to the general public being more familiar with this term.


What Should You Look For in a Therapist?

When looking for a therapist who counsels young and older adult survivors (over 15) of parental alienation as well as targeted parents, it's imperative that they have a deep, extensive knowledge of the clinical literature regarding pathological alignment, alienation and estrangement, and pathological enmeshment, as well substantial knowledge and understanding of borderline, narcissistic, and sociopathic personality disorders. Counsellors dealing with this type of work also need a high-level degree, such as a Master's or above in this specialty. The reason for the latter point is that such personality disorders are not only common among alienating parents (and virtually ubiquitous among severe alienators) but are often missed by non-specialists, in part because individuals with these disorders tend to be master manipulators who are charming and highly-skilled at managing first impressions. They also tend to be pathologically dependent, which helps to explain the pathological enmeshment with the child.


Dr Price-Tobler is herself an adult child of PA and is currently researching and designing a world-first therapeutic treatment protocol for mental health practitioners who work with adult children of SPA and child abduction. Dr price-Tobler is currently in talks to start clinical trials for the treatment protocol design for mental health practitioners to use with adult children of SPA for her post-doctorate. 


Dr Price-Tobler is available to work with young adults (over 15), older adult survivors and targeted parents who are currently experiencing PA or SPA themselves.  Dr Price-Tobler also speaks at national and international conferences about PA, SPA and abduction. #AKODS #YKODS


Please look at some of the interviews that Dr Price-Tobler gave and participated in on her Facebook page. She co-hosts with Dawn McCarty on the 

'Humanly Possible Channel.'



Dawn is also an adult child of Severe Parental Alienation, as well as the previous Chair Person for The National Parents Organisation Florida, Associate Producer for the documentary Erasing Family and an advocate “Guardian Ad Litem” (GAL) who is a person the court appoints to investigate what solutions would be in the “best interests of a child during child protection and high conflict custody disputes.

Dr Alyse and Dawn interview leading PA experts and also adult children of mild to severe parental alienation so that their voices can be heard about what it's truly like to grow up in a household that knows high conflict, divorce and separation.

Dr Alyse also speaks as a guest on international podcasts. Some of these videos are below.


Additional Resources


Watch more about Dawn McCarty here:


Welcome to The Cyber Watch Podcast, hosted by Dawn McCarty, a distinguished figure in the cybersecurity field and a devoted advocate for online safety and childhood trauma awareness. Dawn Mccarty is an award-winning cyberologist with over 25 years of experience in information and cyber security. Dawn stands at the forefront of digital defence. Her awards, including "Women of the Year in Cybersecurity 2021" and "Visionary Security Awareness Program Leader 2023," underscore her dedication to safeguarding the cyber landscape. Dawn’s academic experience includes dual Bachelor's Degrees in Computer Science and Information Systems, and Criminal Justice - Psychology in Victimology. Dawn also holds a Master's Degree in Criminal Justice with a focus on Crime Scene and Evidence Management, topped with an MBA in Cybersecurity. Some topics we'll cover: • Online Safety • Human Behavior & Predator Profiling • Childhood Trauma - Emotional and Psychological Abuse • Forensic Document Examination Links



The Anti Alienation Project:

Watch more about another adult survivor named Madison Welborne here

Within the AAP, Madison Welborne (founder and CEO) speaks about and advocates against all things parental alienation from the POV of an adult child who was alienated from her father for 20 years. Dawn and Dr. Alyse also work with Madi as part of the team from The Anti Alienation Project in an advisory capacity. Dr. Alyse also co-facilitates the support group for adult child participants with Jaclyn McFadden (another adult child survivor) in the group fortnightly.




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