Internet Complaints against Mental Health Professionals Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
Working with parents whose marriages are on the cusp of failure or already separated parents fighting it out over the care of their children is a challenging proposition for the mental health professional.
Whether acting in the role of couple therapist, mediator, assessor, arbitrator or parenting coordinator, there is a sub-group of persons for whom none of these services provide relief.
Common to these circumstances is the propensity of at least one of the parents to project all manner of blame upon the other parent. Sometimes both parents engage in the blame game with neither taking any responsibility nor appreciating their own contribution to distress.
We refer to persons who are apt to project blame while minimizing or outright denying their own contribution to distress and whose behavior creates conflict and distress with others as high conflict persons.
Other strategies high conflict persons deploy to blame others and avoid responsibility include deflection, denial, deception, distortion and denigration. While presenting themselves as victims of others, these high conflict persons are remarkably adept at spinning convoluted stories that demonize the target of their discontent as the sole cause of problems.
Once the service provider comes to understand the nature of this high conflict person, the service provider must either find a way to help the high conflict person recognize the errors in their own judgment and behavior and/or report upon it and/or facilitate recommendations and/or make decisions with a view to mitigating the destruction imposed by their often intense, provocative and abusive behavior.
However, the very nature of the high conflict person can and often precludes them from understanding or appreciating the intervention made necessary by their own behavior. As such and feeling thwarted by the service provider, the service provider becomes they next target of blame. All the strategies deployed against their former partner or co-parent are next used against the service provider.
The Internet has provided a unique opportunity for high conflict persons to ply their trade. With the service provider as their new target of blame, these high conflict persons post their diatribes to the Internet hoping to discredit or vindictively run the service provider out of business. Indeed and unique to this generation, thanks to the Internet, high conflict persons can find each other and literally band together to create a chorus of like-minded complaints.
There is little the service provider can do to protect him or herself directly from the vindictive and spurious complaints of persons who hide in anonymity. This is a new and remarkable form of abuse perpetrated at the service provider whose only recourse is to ignore and move forward or, and unfortunately, limit their involvement in this much needed area of work. Without these service providers, these high conflict persons might otherwise continue to wreak ruin upon the other parent, their families and children.
Having searched the Internet and found countless complaints regarding well-regarded colleagues, it is clear this is not a unique phenomenon now amongst those mental health professionals who work with high conflict persons.
Indeed those of whom who have anonymous complaints registered about them on the Internet, yet continue to practice are likely those who have shown the resolve, not to be intimidated in the face of abuse.
If you are in a difficult situation with a high conflict person and you find a service provider whose has been complained of, yet continues to practice, then this might be the best person to understand your predicament and offer service.
It is remarkable how high conflict persons often behave in ways contrary to their own interests and goals. I am learning that even though seeking to undermine the livelihood of these service providers, in many cases their referrals increase, thanks to the badmouthing of the high conflict person’s diatribes on the Internet. Seems people do see their messages as more a reflection upon themselves than the service provider.
Constant conflict with your ex over the kids? Maybe you need a parenting ref.
January 8, 2014
Statistically some 80% of separating parents settle their plans for the care of their children between themselves or with some support from mediators or lawyers. Of the remaining 20%, most of these will settle during a court process but before trial. Typically less than 5% of separating parents see their matter go to trial to achieve a final settlement. You would think by that point though, everything would be over and people would get on with living their lives. Not true.
There is a small percentage of parents, estimated at some 1% to 5% who even in the face of a settlement continue to have ongoing conflict regarding the care of their children. Somehow or other, these are the parents for whom something always arises to be of issue.
These are regarded as the highest of the high conflict parents and also statistically, it is not uncommon for one or both to have a personality disorder, anger issues and/or a substance/alcohol abuse issue. This is a parent who may be the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing, cloaked so as to conceal their hidden nature. It is this small group of separated parents that tie up the vast majority of not only the Court’s time, but also time from many other community services including police, child protective services, counseling and medical services and domestic violence shelter services.
Enter the parenting ref. More formally known as a Parenting Coordinator, this is a person most often with a mental health background and a working knowledge of family law. The Parenting Coordinator plays a combination of three roles to help high conflict parents settle disputes and hopefully resolve other issues that give rise to ongoing problems. The roles include educator, mediator and arbitrator.
Playing out their three roles, the Parenting Coordinator is privately contracted by parents to hear and help settle disputes. To settle those disputes, the Parenting Coordinator plies their three roles.
At times education may serve to help the parents achieve a settlement based on a better understanding of the issues between them and impact upon the children. When this is insufficient, then the Parenting Coordinator may help the conflicted parents find some sort of middle ground through the process of mediation. However, when neither education nor mediation resolves the matters at hand, then by contractual agreement, the Parenting Coordinator is empowered by the parents to arbitrate and order a binding solution, as if in a Court of law. The contractual agreement requires the parents to be bound by the binding solution of the Parenting Coordinator.
Given the Parenting Coordinator by definition is working with persons prone to conflict that are unlikely to be satisfied with solutions not of their preference, the Parenting Coordinator can next become the target of scorn by a parent dissatisfied with the imposed solution. While parents may freely enter into a contractual agreement to purchase the service of the Parenting Coordinator, it doesn’t mean they will be pleased with the outcome and not turn on their very service provider. Thereafter the tactics seen used by one parent against the other can be very well directed towards the Parenting Coordinator. The dissatisfied parent may seek to undermine the professional credibility of the service provider to not only wreak revenge but to undo the binding solution.
Included among the strategies of an angry dissatisfied parent to discredit their service provider are postings on the Internet of a spurious and vexatious nature absolutely vilifying the service provider. In addition, the angry dissatisfied parent may also make complaints against the service provider through their licensing body, again with spurious and vexatious allegations of professional misconduct.
It is not uncommon for parents who seek to undermine the professional livelihood and credibility of their service provider to be highly articulate and at least reasonably educated. Ability to articulately present one’s views and issues can give an air of credibility to the complaints. However, unbeknownst to the reader of the parent’s complaints are the distortions of facts, the twists and concocted allegations and outright lies that are part and parcel of that parent’s psychological make-up. In other words, vehemently expressing oneself doesn’t mean that what one is expressing actually represents the truth. The sheep’s clothing hides the wolf.
Given the bind of confidentiality, this is also not a level playing field. The complaining parent is free to say whatever comes to mind, but leaves the Parenting Coordinator with no means of public defense. Worse still is when a parent with their vitriol can gain media attention and support for their position, given no opposing view can be provided in view of confidentiality provisions.
These things happen in this profession which begs the question as to why anyone would want to take on the job.
The only answer is that Parenting Coordinators care.
In particular, they care about what happens to children subject to ongoing parental animosity and conflict. It is well known in this profession that the most significant indicator of poor outcomes for children of separated parents is unremitting parental conflict. Not only is the Parenting Coordinator an unsung hero in the lives of children subject to ongoing parental conflict, but often the only line of defense tasked with bringing some sense of peace and stability to better assure a reasonable developmental outcome for children who deserve better.
Should you read or hear about the untoward actions of a Parenting Coordinator in the absence of a defense, think twice about taking it at face value. The issues attributed to the Parenting Coordinator may just be the projection of issues originating with the complainant. A complainant’s statement doesn’t equal a truth.
Our reward? A greater likelihood that the children whose lives our foremost in our minds, actually survive their childhood and thrive in adulthood.
Do we get paid for this? Absolutely. Who doesn’t get paid for their work.
Is it worth it? For the kids’ sake, I hope so.
If you are a separated parent subject to ongoing conflict over the care of your children, consider a Parenting Coordinator. This may be the only person capable of mitigating and/or protecting the child from the turmoil befalling from a parent. We dare to enter the breach.
I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker.
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