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Internet Complaints against Mental Health Professionals

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 personís diatribes on the Internet. Seems people do see their messages as more a reflection upon themselves than the service provider. 

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
(905) 628-4847

Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert on child development, parent-child relations, marital and family therapy, custody and access recommendations, social work and an expert for the purpose of giving a critique on a Section 112 (social work) report.

Search Garyís name on GOOGLE.COM to view his many articles or visit his website. Call him for your next conference and for expert opinion on family matters. His services include counselling, mediation, assessment and assessment critiques.


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20 Suter Crescent, Dundas, ON, Canada L9H 6R5  Tel: (905) 628-4847  Email: gary@yoursocialworker.com