NOTE: This collaboratively written article incorporates text by multiple authors including Rob, Alison, and Chris.
Divorce is one of the most stressful experiences most people endure, right up there with a death in the family, job loss and extended unemployment, or a medical catastrophe such as cancer. When you add to the mix a child custody battle with a Personality Disordered Abuser as your adversary, you will likely experience years of false allegations, be kicked out of your home, see your kids and family suffer the abuse of parental alienation, experience frequent misconduct by the courts, see your reputation ruined by defamation, suffer job loss and chronic underemployment or unemployment, and many other damages. During such a hellish experience, it is only natural to be depressed, anxious, and suffer chronic sleep problems. The continual stress results in what may initially appear as psychological problems but which inevitably result in physiological damage to one’s health.
Many suffering from this nightmare will seek medical help from their general practitioner or psychiatrist. At some level they know the stress-related symptoms they are experiencing are not “all in their heads” as some may claim. Sometimes medical practitioners do help, other times they begin another series of upsets to their patient’s health. That’s because the mainstream therapies used by many doctors often include too quickly prescribing common antidepressants and anxiolytic medications that have a plethora of adverse effects on health. Fortunately, there are alternatives that can often help without the need for these medications or can help to reduce the prescription medication dosages required and thereby help avert some of the worst of the side effects.
Psychotherapy Is Not A Cure
When you visit your doctor or psychiatrist and explain how you can’t sleep and are depressed and anxious from the horrors of the family law system, first of all you should realize that most of these medical practitioners don’t really understand you or your situation. Unless one has been through the nightmare of the family law courts or has seen the destruction they inflict upon a close family member or friend, it’s hard to have any real understanding of this miserable reality.
Some medical providers may brush off your request for medication, pointing out that your stress is temporary and will go away in a few months and advise you to see a psychologist or therapist. While good psychologists and therapists can certainly provide some help, what they can do is often not enough as the manifestations of the family law crisis often include physiological illness brought on by chronic stress.
Many psychotherapists simply aren’t much use in such difficult situations. First of all, for a chance of good results you must find one who has some experience with the family law system and forms of child abuse including parental alienation. If you pick a therapist who has never set foot in a family court room and seen how dysfunctional the system is, you are far less likely to get competent treatment or helpful advice.
Many psychotherapists have zero experience in family law battles. They may be experts at substance abuse, marital arguments, or helping people suffering job loss but know nothing about extreme divorce and child custody battles. Even those who do have some experience often lack a full appreciation of how abusive, arbitrary, and destructive the family law courts are to their victims and how it frequently takes nothing but an unproven false allegation to put a good parent who has broken no laws and abused nobody into a no-contact or expensive supervised visitation situation that is itself a form of emotional abuse.
Naive therapists may be operating under the mistaken impression that you can’t be kicked out of your home and have all your property and assets taken from you without a chance to present your side of the story or at least some evidence of wrongdoing. But in today’s family law courts, it is not unusual for that to happen. One lie is all it takes to ruin months or years of the lives of the falsely accused parent and his or her children. A second lie is often all it takes to amplify the damage tenfold. The general public fails to understand this, and so do most therapists.
A really excellent therapist for you should also be expertly familiar with personality disorders and sociopathic abuse patterns. Some therapists run away from personality disorder cases as fast as they can. They know how dangerous these people can be to them personally. Others are totally ignorant of how destructive personality disorders can be to the misfortunate ones who married and/or had children with a person suffering one of the DSM-IV Axis II Cluster B personality disorders including Borderline, Narcissistic, Histrionic, and Antisocial personality disorders. Ideally, you want a therapist who knows a lot about personality disorders and is brave enough to help you face off with one of these people. “Brave” applies here because it is common for the Personality Disordered Abuser to seek to defame and even file complaints seeking to revoke the license of a therapist who dares to challenge their abusive behaviors or help their victims.
Unfortunately, finding a suitable therapist is often very difficult to do. For many people, joining a high conflict divorce or parental alienation support group or web discussion forum and asking for referrals from the people there may be one of the few realistic means they have to find a therapist who might be of some help.
If you are fortunate enough to find a good therapist familiar with family court abuse, you are likely to get some useful support and advice that may help you weather the long storm. But even when you have found a good therapist and are starting to build some rapport, the odds are strong that by then you will be suffering physiological symptoms of extreme stress that even an excellent therapist cannot resolve. Lots of talk therapy isn’t enough on its own to turn around severe depression, anxiety, or sleep disorders. Realizing this, you’ll probably go back to your doctor again looking for medical help.
Psychiatric Medicines Are Not Panaceas or Candy
After hearing that you’ve got a psychotherapist and are still suffering, even conservative doctors are going to whip out the prescription pad if they haven’t already. They are likely to quickly prescribe an antidepressant, an anxiolytic, and possibly a sleep medication from their list of favorites. Every doctor has favorite meds, ones they have used for years or new ones they want to try because they got a box full of samples or a fancy $100 surf ‘n turf dinner, golf outing, or a week long tropical vacation in the dead of winter from a big pharma rep pushing a lucrative new pill. So what you will be prescribed may often have little or nothing to do with what will actually work.