Ways legal and mental health professionals can assist those who must co-parent with a sick person
by Susan J. Elliott, J.D., M.Ed.
Copyright © 2016-2018
This is Part One of a Three Part Series
Links to Parts 2 and 3 are at the bottom
There are three main points to this series:
- how people with personality disorders (PD) (narcissists, sociopaths) or extremely dysfunctional/abusive natures are manipulating the communication tools used in family law and in family therapy;
- how “professionals” – both legal professionals and mental health professionals – are failing the families they are tasked to help by being sucked in by the PD and;
- how to help non-PD clients communicate with and set boundaries for the PD ex.
When PDs land in social services or in court, I have seen too many unskilled professionals – assigned to assist these high conflict individuals – making the situation worse. This is the first of a 3 part article suggesting how to make the situation better for all involved.
I can clearly see, in my clients and readers, the frustration and despair that comes from trying to deal and co-parent with a personality disordered ex (DSM Axis II, cluster B – most usually sociopath, psychopath or narcissist.) Most people with many of the Axis II, Cluster B personality disorders are never officially diagnosed, so looking for that diagnosis before believing someone is personality disordered is going to be a waste of time.
This series is about those who are not defined only by the DSM Axis II diagnosis. Instead, for this article, they are defined as extremely unhealthy, toxic, self-centered, manipulative individuals whose life goal seems to revolve around making other people miserable. Their ruse is one of long-suffering victim and caring parent, when nothing could be further from the truth.
As a therapist, a former psychiatric clinician, and attorney, I have been asked – more and more these days – to consult as a “divorce coach” which brings my expertise in all these fields to bear. What that means is that I am not the person’s divorce/custody/legal attorney nor am I that person’s main therapist (though I sometimes can be). What I do is work with a client and sometimes a client’s lawyers and/or therapists (and sometimes many more players, guardian ad litems, mediators, child protection services, social services, housing court), when that client’s ex or soon-to-be-ex is personality disordered and appears to be “gaming” the system.