MORE ON SARA HASSMAN’S APPEARANCE ON DR. PHIL: Is there a herd mentality among members of the Parental Alienation community?   24 comments

On November 1, 2013, Dr. Phil had Sara Hassman, as guest on an episode entitled “Parental Alienation: Who’s to Blame?” Unfortunately, Sara was poorly prepared for what was in store for her, and she did not present herself and her case well. But many in the PAS community rushed to bash her, posting comments to the effect that she is a wacko, a nut job, coo-coo, bipolar, crazy, that she, herself alienated her children and her ex-husband, that she must have been on something and that she was so annoying that it is no wonder she got barred from places. One post stated that Sara was the actual alienator years ago…and she is clearly borderline personality.

A number of people added that they are not doctors and that they were not making a diagnosis, But I am a physician. I’m a psychiatrist, and I know Sara. Though she is not my patient, I know Sara Hassman from contacts I have had with her over the past few months. Although I am not rendering a judgment about Sara’s mental health, many people in the PAS community have been bashing and denigrating her mental stability instead of expressing compassion for her obvious suffering and feeling of helplessness.

However, not all bash her. Some people called Dr. Phil to task for encouraging the audience to laugh at Sara and to humiliate her. As one woman posted about Dr. Phil, “He’s a DOCTOR! He should know & have some compassion.”

Now, Dr. Phil is very, very bright. But I have some questions about his expertise on Parental Alienation Syndrome. Might Dr. Phil be more an entertainer than a healer? When Sara tried to talk about what therapists had told her about Parental Alienation, Dr. Phil cut her off, saying he was not interested in other experts, that he was the expert – and predictably drew the applause of his audience. When Sara said, in defending her unsubstantiated accusations against her ex, that therapists needed to look into the situation, Dr. Phil responded sarcastically that he should get someone on here who really knows what’s going on. Well, why didn’t he? He could have interviewed professionals in this field. Dr. Amy Baker is just one of many. He could have interviewed a published targeted parent and leader in the PAS community like Jill Egizzi. But he didn’t. It was Dr. Phil’s show and was edited to include the audience laughing at Sara as though she were a fool or mentally ill. That was cruel, not compassionate.

I am not making a diagnosis on Sara’s ex. But the PAS community knows that a bad guy can look like the good guy and appear smooth as silk.

A painful moment came when their daughter Julie revealed that she had cut herself during elementary school. Sara looked shocked at this previously unknown revelation. Dr. Phil allowed this to appear as though it were mom’s fault. Where was dad? Why was he given a free pass?

I will add, without accusing Sara’s ex, that alienators who are fathers are often motivated to alienate in order to punish their ex-spouse and to get custody of the children and avoid paying child support. In some cases, the lower-income mother has to pay child support to the higher-income alienating father. (This is not always a father doing this to a mother. I evaluated a family in which the mother was the much higher income professional and still obtained custody and child support form her much lower income ex-husband. I believe this mother used her children as financial pawns and as draftees in a war against her ex-husband.)

Additionally, Sara looked bad and even paranoid in making accusations, which she did not substantiate, about her ex making pay-offs to judges and religious leaders. She also sent hundreds of aggressive emails to her ex and to his second wife. This could be considered harassment and grounds for an order of protection. In fact her ex and his new wife each obtained orders of protection against Sara.

Sara should have known better. But we know that one of the common mistakes that targeted parents make is – in their immense frustration – often playing right into the hands of the alienator. Her ex may not have paid anyone off, but he kept Sara’s angry emails and presumably did not send any incriminating emails himself. Having saved them, he was able to produce them for Dr. Phil. That made Sara looks bad. Playing into the hands of the alienator is a terrible but common mistake for targeted parents who feel helpless.

Basically, however, Sara was naïve. She was outgunned, and quite unprepared for the setup. On the show, Sara was not nearly as composed as was her ex. She came alone. Her ex came with two family members. He outnumbered Sara with himself, his current wife, and Julie (his and Sara’s daughter). Her ex likely knew that Julie would criticize Sara as a bad mother and tell the story of cutting herself as a young child. Julie presented her self-cutting as Sara’s “fault” – and a product of Sara’s “bad” mothering.

I think Dr. Phil was unkind and insensitive when he told Sara not to give him a lesson on “Parental Alienation 101” and that he was not interested in the opinions of other experts. He stated – to the applause of his audience – that he was the expert. I am not making a diagnosis, but as smart as Dr. Phil is – and with a research staff to back him up – he did not consider the possibility that the surprise revelation by Julie of her self-cutting could be a manifestation of false memory syndrome – sometimes a part of Parental Alienation Syndrome.

I, of course, cannot say that Julie’s self-cutting did not occur. However, although Dr. Phil did not consider it, the reality of false memory syndrome has been documented. (See my blog on the subject of false memory syndrome: https://leslinetmd.wordpress.com/2013/11/02/false-memory-syndrome-in-parental-alienation-syndrome/)

I think Dr. Phil gave Sara short shrift. I congratulate Sara on her heroic courage in going on the show – for the purpose of reuniting with her children and to attempt to increase awareness about Parental Alienation Syndrome – a poorly understood and devastating condition.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
AFTERWORD:
Yesterday I received two emails, one from Sara Hassman and one from an individual who shall remain anonymous

FROM SARA HASSMAN:

I was very concerned about the cutting my daughter, who is now an adult, told DR PHIL, went on years ago when she was in elementary school for several hours in the bathroom for a 2 years period.

I believe any loving, caring mother would be concerned about this.
So, I emailed the President of the college she attends to try to have an advisor, a counselor, a teacher or friend make sure my daughter sees the school counselor since, although she said this happened years ago, it is obviously still causing her a lot of pain which she needs to relieve.
Now,
How do you think the President of the college responded?
1- This is the response I received from the Office of the President: “There is nothing being done. Your daughter must reach out for help and unless she does, since she is an adult, the school cannot do anything to address this issue.”
So I LOGICALLY QUESTIONED:
2- Why if her father and stepmother are loving and caring parents aren’t they trying to convince our daughter to seek help? Aren’t they concerned?
Plus, since they appear to have a wonderful relationship with my daughter, if they logically explain to her why this therapy is very important, I am sure she will oblige since she is not only very smart but is also in a lot of pain as she told DR PHIL.

Since I seem to be the only one who is concerned,
I reasonably began to question:
-Did this cutting actually happen constantly for 2 years…?
…………………
FROM AN INDIVIDUAL WHO SHALL REMAIN ANONYMOUS:

This person objected to my supporting Sara.  This individual told me ,“There are over 1,300 comments on his [Dr. Phil’s] Facebook & website combined. Roughly 98% believed Sara was the problem.”

This individual told me that it is highly unethical for a psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion unless he has conducted an examination & been granted proper authorization for such a statement. This individual objects that my professional Code of Ethics should be considered before I share professional opinions about specific individuals, like Julie and Mark Hassman.

“Shame on you Dr. Linet for violating your professional ethics of conduct.  Read Section 7.3 of the American Psychiatric Association’s ethics principles to better understand your obligations.”

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

I, Dr. Linet. am responding here to the assertion that I violated my professional ethics. I perceive this as an effort to intimidate me… not to persuade me with rational evidence but to shame me into NOT THINKING FOR MYSELF AND TO JOIN, AID AND ABET THE ABANDONMENT OF SARA HASSMAN IN THE EVENT SHE IS A TARGETED PARENT… and join the “98% [who] believed Sara was the problem. As Anna Tivade says (see her comment below), “I don’t think there is an alienated parent out there who hasn’t looked crazy, hasn’t acted crazy, and who hasn’t felt crazy.”

Now the Goldwater rule, Section 7.3 of the American Psychiatric Association’s ethics principles:
Wikipedia says that the Goldwater rule forbids psychiatrists from commenting on individuals’ mental state without examining them personally and being authorized by the person to make such comments.

This, however, is a common misinterpretation. Nassir Ghaemi, M.D.is Professor of Psychiatry at Tufts University School of Medicine and wrote in Psychology Today (published September 16, 2012) that “Psychiatrists Can Speak Too”. He states in his article that he does not have to rely on Wikipedia. He was a member of the APA Task Force to Revise the Ethics Guidelines, that met over a number of years, and whose recommendations were incorporated into the current Ethics Guidelines, which were published in revised form in 2009.

Actually Section 7.3 of the APA’s ethics principles had to do with attributing mental illness to POLITICAL figures WITHOUT ADEQUATE BASIS, as was done to Barry Goldwater when he ran for president in 1964. That psychiatrists should not make any psychological analyses or interpretation of anyone without personally examining such persons is not part of the language of the APA guidelines and certainly not the spirit of the original rule.

Such common but broad misinterpretation of the Goldwater rule was not intended by the APA. As Dr. Ghaemi states, it would mean that Erik Erikson’s books about Gandhi and Martin Luther were unethical; instead they received Pulitzer Prizes. So would be unethical the biography of Lawrence of Arabia by the psychiatrist John Mack, as would Sigmund Freud’s book on Woodrow Wilson and Robert Jay Lifton’s research on Nazi doctors.

Dr. Ghaemi states:
“On the Ethics Committee, we specifically discussed the Goldwater Rule at length….. We concluded that the Goldwater Rule is not violated if someone is making psychological judgments about diagnoses or psychological traits based on a documented psychological rationale, and WITHOUT A PRIMARY POLITICAL RATIONALE.

In fact the APA ethics guideline reads as follows:
“On occasion psychiatrists are asked for an opinion about an individual who is in the light of public attention or who has disclosed information about himself/herself through public media. In such circumstances, a psychiatrist may share with the public his or her expertise about psychiatric issues in general. However, it is unethical for a psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion unless he or she has conducted an examination and has been granted proper authorization for such a statement.”

Dr. Ghaemi states further that “Nowhere – either in the APA Ethics Guidelines, the review by our task force, or anywhere in the psychiatric literature – is the claim made that the spirit of the Goldwater Rule applies to a psychiatrist concluding that someone is” mentally ill or not.

“The ethics guidelines specifically allow for such judgments and recognize a responsibility to participate in activities contributing to the improvement of the community and the betterment of public health. Psychiatrists are encouraged to serve society by advising and consulting.”

The spirit of the Goldwater Rule is to not diagnose any living POLITICAL figure with a mental illness without proper examination.

Psychiatrists have a right to speak. The first amendment applies to us as well as everyone else, within legal constraints of confidentiality and professional good judgment. The APA Ethics statement clearly allows political and social commentary as clarified by Dr. Ghaemi.

Though they are not political figures, nevertheless, I have made no diagnosis of Sara, Julie, or Mark Hassman. My comments are intended to share with the public my expertise about psychiatric issues, specifically PAS. They are intended to serve the PAS community and society at large to increase awareness about the nature and machinations of Parental Alienation Syndrome – its subtleties and even how innocent bystanders – judges, religious leaders, even those within the PAS community – might jump on the bandwagon and aid and abet Parental Alienation Syndrome by bashing and bad-mouthing a targeted parent.

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24 responses to “MORE ON SARA HASSMAN’S APPEARANCE ON DR. PHIL: Is there a herd mentality among members of the Parental Alienation community?

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  1. Dr. Linet, I was quite interested in to read your take on this situation. I only saw clips of the show and I felt mortified not only for Sara Hassman, but for the entire PA community. After checking on her website I saw that you supported her and I assumed it was simply through Facebook as I did some research and found she lived across the country.

    Anyway, my answer to the question you pose- Does the PA community have herd mentality? I would venture to say that on the contrary, the PAS community should strive to have a herd mentality, of sorts. The PA community is all over the place when it comes to what is the cause of Parental Alienation and therefore we cannot organize and actually use power in numbers for good.

    Back to answer some of your points, even though I only saw clips I only “judged” Sara on her intereactions with her daughter. I already believed the ex-husband and the new wife were going to sit and look pretty, and above all look like the “sane” ones. When it came to Sara’s interactions with her daughter, it seemed like she cut her daughter off mid-sentence numerous times, spoke over her, disregarded what her daughter was saying and instead wanted to be the one who was heard. That is the behavior that I think nailed it for me. Let me say this, I have never met Sara Hassman, nor have I ever heard of her before this show. I do not know her and am simply making a personal judgment or categorization of her from her appearance on the show.

    Sara didn’t seem to listen, nor have any empathy towards her daughter while she was explaining what her “issues” are with her mom. On the contrary, Sara rolled her eyes, put her face in the palm of her hands, said that her daughter’s statements were delusional. The first rule in any healthy communication is to respect the speakers opinions and attempt to show empathy, even if said statements are believed to be incredibly off-base.”. As a lawyer, and a professional who is putting herself out there in the spotlight, Sara should have already known this, she should have prepared for this encounter with her daughter even if it included role-playing, learning communication techniques, etc.

    Lastly, it did not make Sara look good when Dr. Phil brought to light just how many people Sara believed to be conspiring against her. In addition, the letter that you published from Sara about the cutting further adds to the list of people who are conspiring against her. Personally, and completely unprofessionally, I believe that Sara is more concerned with being heard and getting justice. Her daughter is 18 (I believe). An adult. However, maybe Sara needs to realize this and loosen the reigns a bit.

    I’m saying this as an adult child of parental alienation. Sara should take this as a lesson learned and work on her communication skills, her empathy for what her children are experiencing, and above all she should work on surrounding herself around positive people that will support her in the event that her children don’t come back to her for quite some time…

    Look, I don’t think there is an alienated parent out there who hasn’t looked crazy, hasn’t acted crazy, and who hasn’t felt crazy. I think every alienated parent should realize this. The goal is to heal yourself. Get yourself in a place where your happiness and love trump your need for justice. Difficult, absolutely! Necessary? Absolutely! Alienated parents are in it for the long haul, at present time anyway, Being happy and content is the single most important thing we can do for our children. Only then can we truly take action with a healthy mind.

    • Parental alienation surely exists. But, so do batshit crazy people. Sara and her pathology fit into the later and she has helped true victims of PA not a whit. All she has done is give ammunition to the lawyers of the alienating spouse. Her kids dumped her because she went crazy, not because their Dad says she is evil — any normally intellilgent child older than 5 would know this woman is, at best, mad. I wouldn’t let her water my plants… and neither would a judge.

  2. Anna,
    I want to thank you for your thoughtful comments, particularly:
    1. Sara’s talking over Julie and not listening. Alienated parents need to remember that their alienated children are victims and are hurting. Even if their beliefs are the product of brainwashing, they can’t be washed away by arguments.
    2. I love your concluding paragraph. “Look, I don’t think there is an alienated parent out there who hasn’t looked crazy, hasn’t acted crazy, and who hasn’t felt crazy. I think every alienated parent should realize this. The goal is to heal yourself. Get yourself in a place where your happiness and love trump your need for justice. Difficult, absolutely! Necessary? Absolutely! Alienated parents are in it for the long haul, at present time anyway, Being happy and content is the single most important thing we can do for our children. Only then can we truly take action with a healthy mind.”

    Thanks, Anna

  3. Dr. Linet,
    Is it possible that Sara has been manipulated into believing that she is a victim of Parental Alienation? As one reads about her plight, via the Internet, at least two patterns become obvious.

    1. Sara has a habit of claiming she is a victim of PA. She filed suit against her Mother and Father citing PA. Her own words: “This is the major problem an alienating parent has; they are so sick they do not want to change their ways even though they know and many experts have proven that their lies, schemes and misrepresentations are very detrimental to the wellbeing of their children and others. Sometimes, it can be both parents who try to maintain control of their adult child. I had a lawsuit against my parents for this reason, which was necessary if I was ever going to have any emotional independence and freedom, along with other important reasons.”

    2. Sara has a pattern of bombarding the people in her life with unwanted e-mails that defend her actions and cross usual boundary lines. ie. emailing the Rabbi of a temple until she was blocked from both emailing and worshipping at the temple, 100’s of emails a year to the adult children who were not sealing to her, emailing her adult daughter’s University president to request they they somehow get her daughter into therapy.

    Are these usual behaviors of a parents who has been alienated? Are they so desperate for contact that they often disregard cultural norms and boundaries?

  4. Cheryl,
    Thank you for this thought-provoking analysis

  5. My putting false memory syndrome forward for consideration is not the same as suggesting that I believe Julie has it. I do not know Julie’s past nor whether Sara is, herself, responsible for the alienation from her own children, as some do believe. I am including Anonymus’ unedited comment in my willingness to recognize others’ negative reactions to my post.

  6. Dr. Linet,
    I was checking back to see if you had a chance to lend your professional opinion to my questions:
    1. Is it possible that Sara has been manipulated into believing she is a victim of Parental Alienation, both in the case of her parents and her ex-husband?
    2. Is it common for Alienated parents to sometimes behave in culturally unacceptable ways, and disregard normal societal boundaries, due to their feelings of despair or helplessness?

    Thank you for your professional opinion.

    • Cheryl, my response to your intelligent and thoughtful insight:  

      1. It is possible that a parent’s behavior might alienate the children. That parent conceivably could – by acquiring knowledge about Parental Alienation Syndrome from various “cultural” sources – rationalize the alienation as being caused by the other parent.
      —– a. The question about the parent’s own parents is more uncertain, but certainly the relationship with one’s own parents can contribute to a self-image as a victim. That relationship could have had a trans-generational effect and influence how one sees one’s own children and one’s spouse. It is possible that the adult child, now a parent him or herself, might experience the repetition of being a victim in later relationships with a spouse and children.
      ——b. Furthermore, it is possible that such an adult child – now a parent – could be manipulated by a someone, for example, into believing he or she is a victim of Parental Alienation. By analogy, some parents have sued therapists for inducing false beliefs in their child of having been abused by that parent.
      2. You ask if it is common for alienated parents to sometimes behave in culturally unacceptable ways, and disregard normal societal boundaries, due to their feelings of despair or helplessness? Yes, most certainly.
      ——a. As Anna Tivade said in her post of November 7, 2013, “I don’t think there is an alienated parent out there who hasn’t looked crazy, hasn’t acted crazy, and who hasn’t felt crazy.”

      Again, thank you for your comments.

  7. Thank you for your insight.

  8. Dear Dr. Linet,
    If re-unification therapy is set up between an alienated parent and child, is it optimal to wait for that therapy to begin before trying (as the alienated parent) to pursue a meeting, a letter, a phone call, etc with the child?

  9. If the Alienation is severe, if the child has little contact with the alienated parent, and – most importantly- if the alienator continues to have major contact with the child, reunification therapy is unlikely to succeed. Court ordered removal of the child from the home of the alienator – if that is the case – may work. Also, a program called Bridges has had success but also may need a court order. Best wishes

  10. While I understand Sara feels hard done by, I’ve had to re-watch the show 4 times to believe what I was watching. Sara clearly shows signs of mental illness, having grandiose ideas about knowledge and how she looks at herself. Sara claims several “experts” told her about PAS. Hearing how many therapists her ex allegedly paid off, clearly shows that she’s shopping around to find experts who will show her the PAS card, and the PAS card only.

    Why, if those therapists did play the PAS card, did Sara go on Dr Phil? To settle the score in her favor once and for all? When he went against her, she talked about shopping around for “another therapist because what was said was delusional.” She talked over her daughter’s honesty about cutting herself, she said that she was delusional, her husband was a fraud and his new wife a call-girl… Sara believes what she wants to believe, as long as everyone else is wrong and Sara is right and is a victim.

    Did anyone cringe when she held her daughter when she walked on stage? Moaning while not shedding one tear; same again when she hung on Dr. Phil. Even Hollywood could not believe a word of it because it was fake. She was supposed to be so happy/sad when Julie walked out, yet blamed Julie 30 seconds later for being delusional. If anyone has false memories, it is Sara, and I hope for her sake that she seeks mental health help soon, because she absolutely needs it.

    So what if Dr Phil joked about the therapist thing; he has a show called Dr. Phil and the show does not intend to diagnose the mentally ill. In fact, he does not own a licence anymore to do so, but he talks about relationships and how to heal interactions, not mentally ill people. And so what if people were laughing when Sara went about her funny business? If I was able to cringe and feel totally embarrassed about Sara’s behaviour from Ireland, then I bet the audience in the studio definitely cringed. She lady needs to jump of her high horse fast or she’ll end up in the looney bin. For real.

  11. I don’t believe that Sara is a victim of parental alienation. From her behaviour and pattern of behaviour it would be a fair assumption that her this lady has some form of personality disorder be it on the bi-polar spectrum, a narcissistic personality disorder or otherwise, and she is thus using the guise of parental alienation to disconnect with the her mental illness. I firmly believe that parental alienation is a serious issue, but in terms of a spokesperson for the issue Sara clearly has psychological issues that need to be addressed that are in no way related to parental alienation.

  12. Sara is a complete whack job….also I firmly believe she is loaded up on pills. She was a mess on dr Phil. If I was her children and ex husband……I would get a permanent restraining order ASAP!!!!!!! She seems on the brink of something dangerous …..and the new wife should…….RUN!!!!! Sara needs to be committed …….recognize the facts here!!!!!!!!!

  13. Dr. Linet, you make yourself look extremely bad here. This woman is a mess. She takes responsiblity for NOTHING, she hears only what she wants to hear. I could really empathize with the daughter, since I myself was raised by a narcissistic parent who was much like Sara; nothing was ever her fault, she couldn’t remember anything she did, she blamed others for everything, she rewrote history, etc. etc. There was parental alienation all right – I hated her for everything she did to me. Sara was like watching my own mother all over again – the yelling that the daughter talked about, the complete lack of empathy, the constant praising of herself as a good person and a great mother and a loving parent while at the same time not listening to one thing her daughter said. Like my mother, she is all about moving forward, and starting new, because that way she will never have to look at or take responsibility for all the things she did in the past. But I can tell Sara very definitely: Until you do admit to the things you did, and take full responsibility for doing them, and feel serious regret, and your children will not be able to forgive you, or move forward, because they will not get the healing they want, and they will know you never change. If there is one thing Dr. Phil says that is true, it’s that you can’t change what you don’t acknowledge. Sara didn’t acknowledge anything at all, and so we know that she will not change.

    Dr. Linet, you reveal yourself as a very bad psychologist, or whatever you are – I can’t even image. Clearly you are one of the people who encourages Sara to portray herself as a victim of parental alienation rather than a perpetrator. By doing so I suppose you advance some agenda of your own, but you are not helping Sara, who clearly has a character disorder and a personality disorder, and you are not helping her children, which is even sadder. Shame on you.

    You ask for an email address so I give one, so I can write this comment. But please do not write to me. You are completely discredited in my eyes.

    • I am allowing Mary’s unexpurgated comment to be included. It is possible I was taken in by Sara. A wise man should learn from mistakes. For and to Mary, I am sorry for her personal pain and suffering, which is so palpable in her message.

  14. I absolutely cringed watching this show and how Sara acted. It was not normal in any way. Clearly she has no clue how she really appears to her family and has no reason to assume anything is her fault. What I saw was a woman who gave half the story of what really happened (and her version always made her look good) and then put the blame on everyone and everything else when people did not agree with her. One example was that she threw her drink in her son’s face for calling her a name….but it was later revealed in the show that what she threw in her child’s face was hot tea. Sara mentioned the word “delusional” a lot and from what I could see, she was the only one who seemed delusional since her world in her eyes was of a perfect woman and mother while her family tells another story. This isn’t parent alienation in my opinion….this is keeping your kids safe from someone who seems unstable and unpredictable. This woman reminded me of Betty Broderick with her incessant phone calls and emails….all the while Sara explaining that her therapist recommended this kind of behavior to show she cares. I cannot imagine a therapist ever telling someone that 20+ emails in one day is a way to express one’s love. Plus I also loved her failure to remember things said until Dr. Phil would produce the email from Sara which proved that she did the exact thing that she doesn’t recall saying. Sara…..emails are traceable and excellent proof of what was really said . What really got to me was when it was brought to everyone’s attention that her daughter had been cutting for a few years in her young life. The father was brought to tears and walked over to hold his daughter. Sara, on the other hand, was in her daughter’s face drilling her for more information and details. Her reaction was NOT the reaction of a loving and caring parent who should have been brought to tears to learn that their daughter has suffered so much at such a young life. Shame on you Sara. You still sat there screaming your rights and the need for more therapy but in the meantime you should have been brought to your knees. I am sure there are legitimate cases of wonderful parents being refused their rights to see their children by someone who is spiteful and doesn’t have the children’s best interest at heart. But what I saw on this show was a woman who acted unstable and accusatory and obsessed who is in desperate need of mental care. Giving her a “blame it on the ex-husband and the whole world” free pass is not the help this woman needs. She was ill-prepared for this show. She acted like a lunatic on this show.

  15. Oh dear. This episode made my jaw drop. I am an adult child of a father with narcissistic personality disorder and watching this woman’s behavior actually made me wonder if this was some sort of cruel satire. She behaved absolutely ridiculously…like acting out everything a person should NEVER do. From comparing herself to Gandhi and MLK to calling herself her children’s savior to completely bombarding everyone around her with unwanted opinions and affection, I couldn’t stop watching her absurd behavior. She was paranoid, unrealistic, delusional, unable to accept accountability for her actions, blamed everyone else possible, and on top of all that, she was extremely petty and mean while spouting repeatedly what a good person and perfect mother she had been. Her PAS website is full of bizarre claims and articles filled with flowery adoration of people she wants to manipulate and fake out into thinking that she is a victim and has her children’s best interests at heart. “Because of My Wonderful, Courageous, Beautiful Daughter & Caring, Empathetic Dr. Phil” is an article she wrote about her daughter after the Dr. Phil show which she claims she’s honoring her daughter’s wishes to take all references about their family and her children off of her website due to her daughter emphatically claiming that there is NO parental alienation at all within their family. References (derogatory and accusatory references, in fact) are still splattered all over that website. She seems like a narcissist with no grip on reality. She was slurring her words, dramatically flopping her hands around and acting like a complete loon. She also used phrasing and terminology she has obviously learned from whatever crackpot therapist is feeding her all this crap to begin with like “those are not my actions” and her vast “knowledge” of the strategies of the alienating parent while she had absolutely ZERO examples of how her ex-husband was alienating their children from her.

    There’s a damn good reason why a child would choose to cut their parent out of their lives completely as her three children have done. And, when given a second chance to LISTEN to her daughter and pursue a new future and new beginning with her, she then attempted to discredit everything that came out of her daughter’s mouth, denied every anecdotal scenario she was informed of, and, now, contacted her daughter’s university PRESIDENT to insert herself into her academic/social life in order to look like the “savior” she claims she is by getting her into therapy. When no one else is being as nosey, intrusive and inappropriate as she is, she automatically decides that her daughter must have been lying about the self-mutilation and that’s the end of that. She’s completely ruined whatever new beginning she could have had with her daughter because she obviously cares more about being RIGHT than starting a better relationship with her kids. Her exaggerated reactions, extreme body language towards her daughter and Dr. Phil and her inappropriate derisive laughter when presented with horrible things that SHE has said and the bizarre accusations that SHE has made have done neither herself nor the PAS community any favors whatsoever. At one point, the show came back from a commercial break and she had literally thrown herself onto Dr. Phil and he looked just absolutely weirded out and uncomfortable. Then, she released him and began sobbing so theatrically that I thought she was laughing until I saw her dab her eyes with her tissue to wipe away the completely non-existent tears from her over exaggerated sobbing. She’s not a victim of parental alienation, she is simply a selfish, manipulative narcissist with a fair amount of delusion and paranoia who has ZERO chance of reconnecting with her children until she backs the heck off and accepts responsibility for her insane actions. And whoever is conducting her therapy and mental health treatment is milking her for all she’s worth and feeding her absolute BS while not encouraging self-awareness and personal responsibility in any way. It’s a therapist’s duty to not buy into manipulation from their patients and to force people to approach their life problems rationally and honestly and she is not being pushed into doing that at all. Whoever her therapist is is just reinforcing this woman’s insanity and victimhood and creating quite a bit of danger for everyone around Sara by reassuring her that she’s been done wrong by and everyone is out to get her.

  16. Dear Dr. Linet:
    I`m not speaking to you as someone who worked with the mentaly Ill for over 5 years, nor as a modest graduate of a B.A in Psychology. . I`m speaking to you as a daughter. When I first saw this episode I didn`t see miss Sara Hassman. I saw my oun mother. Every inch of that behaviour, every word she said, every accusation of everyone but herself , every denile of past evens. This woman was MY MOTHER. Now my mother is too allianated. But not because of my father because he passed away when I was less than a year old. By her oun hands. I don`t care what therapist told her because whoever that was-he was a crook! Much like my oun mother she didn`t like therapists who tried to make her see that she was mentally ill. She DId like the once who agreed with her obsessions and disturbed view of reality.
    So I1m sorry for Miss Sara. I realy do. But Just from what you wrote about her E-mailing her daughter`s college shows me that she`s not even a little bit on her way to recovery. I hope for her that she is. But in the mean time I understand why her children would have nothing to do with her.
    You and me both know that she has a problem. I understand that you can`t talk about it. But guess what? I can.
    And youu do Miss Sara. Please wake up and see it. For the sake of your children. And for your sake. bEcause you will end up a lonley old woman. And you will have no one to blame- although you might try.

    • Anna,
      I want to thank you for sharing your own painful experience. I am mindful that when I hear someone tell her story, such as Sara’s, I can be misled. Thanks to you and the others for sharing your perspectives with me.

  17. For those who struggle to understand why an alienated parent may appear “crazy,” please allow me to shed some light on how this can happen from a first hand personal experience. I did not realize my son was being alienated against me until a couple of years went by. I assumed my son simply needed more time with his father as he was experiencing a lot of anxiety in addition to his difficult transition through puberty. I am the custodial parent but always maintained an open door policy for my son to spend time with his father. If possible, I firmly believe a child benefits from having both parents actively involved in his/her life working together in the best interest of their child. I am speaking of families where both parents are available, responsible, and capable adults. I know many single parents who raise their children successfully completely alone and do a wonderful job.

    In my case, I experienced successful co-parenting with my ex-husband for several years. Our son never felt obligated to pick between the two of us. He was able to enjoy having his parents together supporting him at school events and social gatherings. However, once a new girlfriend came into the picture, this came to an abrupt halt. It never occurred to me that my son’s increasing anxiety was due to the mixed messages he was receiving about me. I never dreamt my son would be told I was abusive to him throughout his life.

    The day my son accused me of abuse, I was dumbfounded. He was unable to give me any examples but fully believed I was a danger to him. I have an excellent relationship with my son’s doctors and many times asked for their guidance regarding my own parenting. I willingly admit my mistakes and apologize if I didn’t handle something well. I have agonized over the root cause of my son’s declining emotional and academic stability. I’ve twice attempted to get him involved in therapy, but his father decided this was not necessary since I’m the cause of our son’s struggles.

    I have a great deal of compassion for my ex-husband and the abuse he endured as a child. I have always attempted to be fair regarding his time with our son. Many times, my ex-husband thanked me for always supporting him. When I first heard the incredibly damaging accusations that were made about me either directly to my son or in front of him, I was shocked. I couldn’t believe the father of my son, who use to tell me what a wonderful mother I am, would say such horrendous lies about me.

    My initial attempt to reassure my son and defend myself must have looked “crazy.” I had never been accused of abuse and was terrified of the long term damage this would cause my son. I was loosing him more and more and suddenly realized this wasn’t a phase. My child’s life with me flashed before my eyes. I didn’t know what to do, who to turn to, or how much worse the situation would get.

    Well, it’s been a little over a year now since I fully realized my son and I both are victims of parental alienation; and unfortunately, it has gotten a lot worse. I have limited resources for legal help and am terrified of appearing before a judge who may deem me the unfit parent because I appear anxious, emotional, and defensive while my ex-husband is calm, relaxed, and confident. To those who assume an alienated parent is unfit because he or she appears “crazy,” please remember, that parent is desperately trying to hold on to their child. People often make mistakes and appear nuts when they feel desperate. I’m certainly not suggesting every parent who appears overly emotional is the victim of parental alienation. I am simply asking for everyone to realize there are two sides to every story. Please remain objective and withhold harsh judgement especially when you really have no idea what happened within a family to end up in such an unfortunate place. Public comments are often viewed by the people involved including children. Please don’t add insult to injury.

    I’m stuck in my worst nightmare outside of loosing my child due to a death. Imagine what it would feel like to have your only child, who you shared a very close bond with for many years, suddenly begin to shut down, no longer want to spend time with you, and accuse you of abuse that never occurred. I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy, but then I don’t really have enemies. I’m an honest, compassionate, loving person, friend, daughter, sister, and mother. I’m not perfect, but I’m certainly not the monster my son now believes me to be. There are no words to describe my heartbreak and devastation.

  18. Doctor,
    I have not watched all of this episode because I was not able to find the video. However, I stumbled across parts of the transcript and I’ve read enough to know that this woman is very similar to my mother. My mother has some type of mental disorder but I do not know what it is. The first clue was, when I was very young, one of my older siblings was moving out of the house and my mother broke down about it during a doctor’s visit (even though she was 25 and definitely old enough to leave the house) and she was only moving about eight miles away. The doctor sent my mother to a psychiatrist but instead of talking about her issues, she told the psychiatrist that he had better convert to Christ or else he was going to Hell. Shocked by this, the psychiatrist listened to her tell him how to convert and her every appointment was based around this. Her illness was never treated and it only grew worse with time.

    She was generally a good person that loved to give to the community and she made sure that we all had food, shelter, and clothes and even attended school events with us, but she was extremely controlling and had some narcissistic traits. For instance, summers were difficult because if we asked to eat breakfast, she would give it to us, but would punish us by not allowing us to eat lunch or dinner. She would skip breakfast, but would eat lunch and dinner in front of us and say “you already ate this morning, remember?” Every day that school was not in, we had to decide if we could make it to lunch with no food or water so that we could eat lunch and dinner or cave in and eat breakfast but then not allowed to eat again until about 8:00 PM. Sometimes, she would postpone the snack time until 9:00 PM so that it would be guaranteed that one of us would have likely fallen asleep.

    She had to keep us safe in a violent community, but I was not allowed to go anywhere at all by myself until the age of 17 and even then, my mother or sister would have to watch or ride the bus with me all of the way to the destination. Nevertheless, my other siblings were not treated like this and generally had more freedom at about 15 years old. Dating was prohibited altogether, even in adulthood. I was spanked severely even though I was a good kid and never was in trouble at all. She would walk in and say “you haven’t been spanked in a long time” and within a few hours, she’d have a lie that she concocted about something that I “did” that would warrant a spanking. For instance, as a child, I liked to do chores and I would beg to do the dishes since my sister hated that chore anyway. My mother would always say no. One day, she awakened me at 7:00 AM and did not let me go to sleep until 11:00 PM. Finally, when I got in bed, she walked in and stripped my covers and told me to do the dishes because my sister didn’t do them. I was very tired, so I gave her a sad look and dragged in and spent about two hours washing them. When I returned and got in bed again, my mother walked in again and said “you didn’t want to do them after all, did you? So you lied all of those years about wanting to wash them???” Then, she began to spank me in bed. This is just the tip of the iceberg on the heinous ways that she would get me in trouble. She would constantly yell and threaten to put me out of the house for every small offense, so I had an intense fear of being homeless. She would also threaten to shave my head if I did not like the style and she would be rough with my hair – yanking and pulling – while spanking me afterward for crying. Crying was prohibited in the house. The only emotions allowed were happiness or no emotion at all.

    She also stopped acknowledging my accomplishments when I was too old for her to take credit. She held me nearly hostage in her house until I was in my late twenties because she would yell at me and go on long tirades whenever I even mentioned moving out. She would also sabotage every dream that I had for my life by withholding finances. She can do as she wishes with her money, but she manipulated my entire life so that I would be dependent on her as an adult. When I graduated high school, I had offers from Ivy League schools and she forbid me to take them. I was only 16, so I had to do as she said. I still managed to get a full scholarship and a part-time job at a local university. She yelled at me for taking the part-time job and threatened to kick me out but she was careful not to do this until it was too late for me to move on campus. Eventually, she forced me to quit the part-time job by threatening to kick me out and she kept repeating this process the entire time that I was in college so that I would be financially dependent upon her. If I tried to move on campus again when the window opened, she would threatened to kick me out before the papers went through so that I would still end up on the streets for some time. When she had me completely dependent on her financially through these tactics, she would then forbid me to ever date, ever lose my virginity, or ever marry. Finally, after I scored a good job after college (forfeiting more Ivy League offers for grad school due to my mother’s behavior), I stayed with her and paid most of her bills for three years, totaling more than $25,000 and then I felt that I had paid her back for the time in college and I moved out, began dating, and I am now engaged and working on a Ph.D. in psychology at a good school of my choice this time.

    Now, my mother refuses to acknowledge that I am working on a Ph.D. (she tells people that I am working on a Master’s when I already have two of those), she doesn’t want me to date but still keeps bringing up the issue so that she can stay in control of when I lose my virginity, and she pretends to be sick so that I have to drive hours to visit but she is not sick. She texts and calls at 3:00 AM just to make sure that I’m not losing my virginity!

    I haven’t alienated her yet, but I am considering it. I know that I will never have a normal life with her in it, I don’t want her emotionally abusing my children as she has done me, and she has ruined the family: one of my sister’s has severe addictions, my brother has addictions, my other sister is diagnosed as mentally ill, and my other sister is extremely co-dependent on my mother. She is 40 years old and has never even eaten dinner with a man and has to be told to go to work, go to school, get dressed, and even told to take a shower. She has to be told in detail how to dress for every occasion, otherwise, she will show up in dirty clothes. The sick part is, my mother LOVES the fact that my sister is co-dependent on her because she finally gets to control someone who doesn’t protest much.

    I have tried to talk about these things with my mother, but she answers only in ways to absolve herself of guilt. Her main excuse is: “I don’t know why my kids turned out bad; I guess the Devil got them.”

  19. I discovered the http://www.palienation.org/ “Parental Alienation Solutions” website while searching for solutions to what I am experiencing. Sadly the website by Sara Haussman does not offer any solutions but is just a blog about her legal issues with her husband.

    The site name is deceptive ( the site offers no solutions) and although there are a number of links to articles about PA it seems to be more a jumbled rant about her husband. No mention is given to her situation with her children.

    If you would please encourage her to make a statement as to what her web site is really offering – which at this time is unclear.

    the website “http://www.palienation.org/’ “Parental Alienation Solutions” fails as a site for solutions and minimizes and discredits the plight of those experiencing the horror of parental alienation.

    also please review this web page from Sara’s own facebook page which I believe displays alienating behavior. https://www.facebook.com/ParentalAlienationSolutions/posts/1139522642742168

    I would also recommend the following experts who are bringing new information to the public and Psych community to help understand and address this problem.

    Steve Miller, MD, Harvard — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fgRJh26Jho as well as Craig Childress, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=brNuwQNN3q4

    I would appreciate your consideration & comments.

    • I do understand the disappointment in your search for solutions to the horror of Parental Alienation, including in your perusing my own blog on Sara Hassman. You referred to one of Sara’s own facebook pages and how disturbing you found it.

      Professional ethics prevent me from commenting further. And I must respectfully decline your request that I “please encourage her to make a statement as to what her web site is really offering….”

      I agree with your references to Steve Miller, MD as well as Dr. Craig Childress, both of whom have made valuable contributions to an understanding of Parental Alienation.

      Lastly, I deeply empathize with the many parents and children who are victimized by the continuing scourge of Parental Alienation Syndrome.

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