Hi Reddit! I’m Tish Ellis. I’ve been a psychotherapist for 10 years. I have an online video therapy practice where I specialize in helping high conflict coparents, especially ones that experience parental alienation. I use an approach of compassion and light humor when working with my clients. I combine conflict resolution, stress management techniques, and person-centered therapy to help my clients create the coparenting relationship they desire.

My Proof: https://www.facebook.com/empowertransitions/

When I’m not contemplating how to be a coparenting and relationship recovery jedi, I can usually be found doing a things I love most like watching my kid play baseball (P.S. he's a hell of a pitcher), laughing till I cry watching funny youtube videos, or binge-watching fantasy shows like Game of Thrones (yes I HATED the last season), or running away from my rottweiler's silent but deadly farts. 🤢🤮

Ask me Anything about relationship recovery, psychotherapy, online counseling, coparenting, or my side DIY hobbies.

DISCLAIMER I'm not able to provide counseling thru reddit. If you'd like a free consultation, you can contact me at https://www.empowertransitions.com/connectwithme

If you're experiencing thoughts or impulses that put you or anyone else in danger, please contact the National Suicide Help Line at 1-800-273-8255 or go to your local emergency room.

Comments: 515 • Responses: 44  • Date: 

brettpkelly562 karma

Can you define the terms "high conflict" and "parental alienation" for someone not familiar?

Tish_EllisLPC755 karma

Of course!!! High conflict refers to parents that engage in ongoing fights or disputes regarding how to coparent their kids and the responsibilities that come with coparenting. Parental Alienation occurs when a parent strategically tries to keep a child or children away from another parent through manipulation, efforts to get the child to reject the targeted parent, creating unreasonable loyalty conflicts by making the child choose between the parents.

skneezing_panda136 karma

I have a sibling who is in a high-conflict coparenting situation with the ex. It’s incredibly difficult to watch, so my parents and I frequently wonder what we can do to help or be supportive. Do you have any recommendations?

Tish_EllisLPC233 karma

I would say make sure you are an objective support for your sibling. Don't give into bashing the parent that is creating the conflict. Make sure you remind your sibling to maintain boundaries that will help keep them in control of what they can actually control. Make sure that the kids have a safe environment where they can be vulnerable and ask questions and not feel like they have to choose between one parent or the other.

Clitorally_Retarded23 karma

My sibling was on the receiving end of a successful parental alienation campaign - he did a lot on the back end and through the courts to help them launch successfully from his ex’s control, but now his now adult kids won’t talk to him. It’s been emotionally devastating for him.

Can you recommend resources with strategies for repairing relationships with his alienated kids?

Tish_EllisLPC32 karma

Maybe approach the adult child that will hear him out. Sometimes you can't reach all of them but speaking with one can break the ice. Maybe write a letter to open the door.

bxyrk135 karma

I can only imagine a tiny slice of what experiences you've had with the wide array of personalities that find themselves in co-parenting situations.... I'm sure it's both hellishly frustrating and extremely rewarding. My question is what are some of the success stories? Obviously without getting into identifying details... also, do you often encounter situations where the parties aren't willing to take the steps needed to get to where they can work together?

Tish_EllisLPC192 karma

Yes I have definitely encountered situations where parties refuse to take the steps needed to work together. This creates a hellish situation for the kids.

As far as success stories, most occur when the parent does alot of work on the self. Many times they don't realize that they are using their past hurt to hurt the other parent but when they seek individual help they tend to be more willing to be flexible and cooperative.

shrimplypibblescunt119 karma

My partner coparents with her ex-husband who can be volatile and verbally abusive via text as well as lying in order to try to manipulate my partner. She finds this difficult to deal with as there is no escape from him being this way with her.

Do you have any advice for dealing with an abusive coparent and avoiding conflict?

Tish_EllisLPC234 karma

Keep all records!! Document! Document! Document!

As far as dealing with an abusive coparent, your partner has to make sure to not give into the abusive communcation or texts. Do not respond to the sarcastic comments, belittling, or negative comments always bring the conversation back to the business at hand which is the kids and their wellbeing. If the ex-husband can't be civilized then there is no compromising by your partner and he is to refer to the custody agreement in place.

wastingtoomuchthyme59 karma

How do you best co-parent when 1 parent is bi-polar/borderline and actively sabotaging the custody agreement ( often for $ - so they can get more or pay less $ in child support )?

Tish_EllisLPC111 karma

I have seen some signs borderline cases in coparenting situations. I would say, particularly with borderline, I find that maintaining iron-clad boundaries is important because they are trying to see what you will budge so that they can manipulate you in the future. Always stick to the custody agreement!!

gabeech106 karma

Always stick to the custody agreement!!

I would add to this, no matter how silly it seems make sure your custody agreement is very, very specific. For example:

Instead of "Both parents shall have a call each night with the child at a time that they agree on" you should write in "Both parents shall have a call each night at 8pm unless otherwise agreed on a different time"

Also, be prepared to file contempt paperwork. Over, and over. They will call your bluff. Don't bluff.

Tish_EllisLPC65 karma

I agree! Being specific does stop each party from trying to guess or interpret it in their own way. Keep the language as clear as possible!

kuhlarr54 karma

Hi! Thank you for bringing awareness around Parental Alienation. My stepdad and his ex wife have two children together and she has successfully turned both of them away- the older one a few years ago and the younger one that would still come around this past year.

At first he went through the same process to try and get the courts to help but as these things go, it all became... a lot. He's in therapy now and my mom has been as supportive as she can be and so have my sister and I.

My question to you is, is there any way that I as an adult, step-child help with his process of grief? I don't want to seem like I am trying to be the replacement for his own children but our relationship is pretty strong and I do not have contact with my own father, so we have connected in that capacity fairly well. I know its been a very dark time for him and I just want to help.

I have my bachelors degree in neuroscience and one of my courses very briefly touched on this type of psychological harm - its fascinating but terrifying. Thank you for helping good people like my stepdad navigate a lot of emotional heavy lifting.

Tish_EllisLPC52 karma

Just be there. Commend him on getting the help he needed and encourage him to do so. If he decides to confide in you try to be objective as possible and try not to give into bashing or bad mouthing. Don't feel bad that you both have a great connection. I think that it's wonderful that you both have a strong connection. As far as his grieving process, there is not much that you can do but be supportive. You can make sure that he always has a place to be vulnerable and be aware of how he grieves. It comes in waves sometimes and some days he may be fine and others he may be struggling.

surge_of_vanilla52 karma

How do you deal with a parent who enforces their rules on child while they’re with the other parent? It feels like my kids are scared to do anything for fear of retribution from my ex.

Tish_EllisLPC66 karma

I would do a reset with the kids. Have a routine with them when it's your parenting time. Try not to discuss the other parent or their rules and don't put down the other parent and their rules. Remind the kids that they are in a safe space with you and that your rules may be different and that it's ok.

Downvotes_dumbasses18 karma

That can be extremely disruptive if only one parent has "reasonable" rules. The reasonable one ends up dealing with all the conflict, and ends up looking like the bad guy to the kid who prefers the "loose" rules house.

Tish_EllisLPC26 karma

I wouldn't worry about loose rules. Make sure that you have rules and structure in place that highlight your values and what you reasonably expect from the children. If the rules are broken ALWAYS enforce the consequences but don't have excessive punishments. It's more about your kids respecting you and you respecting and protecting them.

________76________41 karma

Hi Tish, I have a technical/professional question, I hope that's okay.

I'm a therapist and interested in establishing a niche telehealth practice (my specialty is adult ADHD). How did you get started in this field? What do you recommend for marketing? How do you navigate licensing restrictions by state?

Thanks in advance!

Tish_EllisLPC9 karma


Get in this group!! It's invaluable for therapists transitioning to an online practice.

joz61441 karma

As a child of this type of parenting relationship, what are things I can do to help stand ground and work with them? I'm older and out of the house, but still have siblings very much dealing with it. What support is best without undermining?

Tish_EllisLPC37 karma

Great question and insight!! Undermining would make it worse so I would look at how you can be a support for your sibilings. Spend more time with them so they know they can talk and be vulnerable with you. As far as your parents, is there one that you can speak with openly without backlash? If so I would start there. Be candid, respectful, and compassionate but also maintain the boundaries you have in place so you won't get hurt or sucked into a tug of war.

drmouserat40 karma

What is the best way to communicate to my daughter's mother that I want to split time with her 50/50?

I've avoided the conversation as I didn't want to upset my daughter's home situation at her mom's house but I think it is in my daughter's best interest. Prior to six months ago distance was a factor as to why I didn't pursue this earlier

Tish_EllisLPC58 karma

Before I have that conversation I would look at important factors like your child's age, will she have any major changes when she is with you like transportation to and from school and activities. Are you and mom on good working terms or at least cordial? Would you be willing to ease into 50/50? I ask that because we don't want drastic changes too fast and disrupt the child's current routine too much especially if it will cause anxiety, panic, or stress. Work through those and then prepare for a convo with her mom.

drmouserat18 karma

She's 7, goes to my neighborhood school, and is pretty much a perfect child (I'm bias). I have a drastically different approach to parenting than her mother and my daughter seems to respond well to it. I asked her first if she would be interested in living with me 50/50 and she said yes.

Her mom and I get along but she would not want to lose child support from me. I would keep paying it for a few months to help them financially but ultimately most of that money never went to my daughter anyway. Her mom would be upset but that's secondary for me toy daughter's emotional well-being and development

Tish_EllisLPC54 karma

Well, I would say not to worry about mom's parenting approach because it's mom's house mom's rules and at your house it's your rules. As long as her parenting isn't detrimental to the child's wellbeing. As far as custody changes I would speak with an attorney to know your options. Maybe a mediator could help. These are backup options if mom becomes resistant to the thought of the custody and financial changes. Hope that helps. I would still consult with an attorney regardless so you know your rights and options.

bburghokie20 karma

My ex refuses to cooperate and communicate regarding the reasonable sharing of school related and extracurricular expenses (our agreement has vague language regarding this stuff).
Our gross incomes are equitable after spousal support is considered. We split time 50/50 of our 4 children. Inevitably, the kids end up being involved in the negotiation and mediation of fees as they ask who is going to pay for which expense, etc.

Do you have any advice or suggestions on how to interact with ex in this situation to attempt to reasonably split these expenses and attempt to minimize the negative impact on the children?

Tish_EllisLPC30 karma

What does the custody agreement say about school related and extracurricular expenses? I would start there. If it's too vague and there can't be a reasonable conversation with the ex, I would look at all the activities that the children participate in throughout the year. Write them all down plus expenses put what you would pay and what the ex would pay. Send it to the ex see if that will be a catalyst for a conversation. Definitely keep the kids out of it. It will cause them to have unnecessary stress and anxiety if they feel they have to mediate between you both.

Clouddaddy1014 karma

Hi!! I love it when specialist do AMA’s. I’m assuming relationship recovery is exactly as it sounds. Have you noticed anything you didn’t expect or perhaps caught you by surprise throughout your career? Thanks for your time :)

Tish_EllisLPC29 karma

Thank you! Yes I was surprised that when doing court-mandated group work with mostly men they really use the time to work through issues that they may not have gotten a chance to work through. I was so grateful to do that work because many men don't get to work through emotional challenges in their life and relationships.

Clouddaddy105 karma

Wow incredible answer. It must be fulfilling work to do :) Thanks for helping out the best you can! Do you have any theories on why men struggle to work through it, or is it just an everyday battle?

Tish_EllisLPC6 karma

I think societal and family history are huge factors as to why men struggle to work through things. But it is getting better!

Futuressobright12 karma

So, is all your work with parents who have split up and hate each others guts or do you also help those who are still together but finding themselves at loggerheads on parenting? My experience is that for some couples with relationships that work fine otherwise having a kid introduces a huge amount of conflict because its an area where you can't just "agree to disagree" and compromising when you "know" you are right feels like not living up to your responsibility to your kid.

Tish_EllisLPC7 karma

Yes I work with parents that are still together. They are still coparenting and have to find a way to do so that is effective for the child but doesn't undermine each other.

earnestpotter11 karma

How do you compare online counseling to ones where you physically meet?

Tish_EllisLPC19 karma

With coparenting it can be volatile so the online piece helps with safety but both are effective. I have found that the online piece helps a little more because people are in their own comfortable space instead of an office so they tend to open up a little faster.

giddyrobin8 karma

What would be the most important tool or gift you could give a child who had one parent that was a narcissist?

Tish_EllisLPC6 karma

Therapy. Because you have to understand that the narcissist main goal is to tear you down, make you distrust your own logic and decision-making skills. So therapy will help to get you mentally prepared for those type of attacks and help you understand that the narcissist is using the attacks to control, manipulate, and project.

Theandric7 karma

How do you tolerate the negativity? And especially when it gets directed at you?

Tish_EllisLPC15 karma

I look at what I can control. I can't control what someone will say or think about me but I can control what boundaries I put in place and how much access I allow this negative to have to me.

433KFlag5 karma

Thank you for this! My stepdaughter is a teenager now and her parents have never been able to co-parent in what I think is a healthy way for her. Her mother won’t even speak directly to my husband. It has been 15 years, is there a time when you think the idea of co-parenting no longer makes sense due to a litiginous relationship?

Tish_EllisLPC6 karma

I think that is tricky to say but it may likely continue to affect your stepdaughter even if she has a fairly healthy and stable living situation with you and dad.

isisis4 karma

Have you experience with couples where only one is a drug addict or similar?

Tish_EllisLPC8 karma

Yes I have. Do you have any questions for me?

somenicekitties3 karma

When dealing with a coparent with high conflict and narcissistic abuse issues that 'flies under the radar' in court, how can you protect the child when custody is not in your favor? Emotional abuse is extremely hard to prove, any advice on that?

Tish_EllisLPC2 karma

Get them in therapy and use your own behavior (words and actions) and relationships to show them what is healthy. The therapist will be a good advocate for the child in court also.

FeengarBangar3 karma

My parents got divorced and were both remairried by the time I was 5. I am now in my mid 30s. All of our families get along. We had 4 Christmases and my mother even babysat my dad and stepmom's children. I recognize that is special.

My FULL sister's (11 months older) husband of 10yrs recently left her and their 3 daughters (2 nine year olds an 1 is four) for another woman, with no forewarning.

My main concern for her and my neices is parental alienation, even though she might be justified. I believe our family dynamic growing up made a WORLD of difference.

What are some steps I could take to help? What resources can I aim my sister at? What is the best way to talk to the kids?

Tish_EllisLPC3 karma

Therapy will definitely help her and the kids. It is always tricky to bring up what you see as potentially detrimental to kids to their parent. If you have a strong connection with your sister she way receive it well but be prepared for potential blowback. There are some great videos on YouTube posted by adult children that have been through parental alienation. Those can be very helpful to show her the long term effects of alienation.

burtonsimmons3 karma

I'm excited for this AMA that's directly relevant to my life! A few questions, if you have the time:

  1. My co-parent and I both took a course, early on, for parenting beyond conflict. It's been several years, though; can you offer any quick insights for methods and language to ensure that conflict between us is kept away from our 5-year old son?
  2. What negotiation tips can you offer for someone who co-parents with a person whose parents have money and pay for her conflict fees, has no accountability for conflict, has an attorney who specializes in conflict, and who believes that every negotiation is a distributive one where that party must "win"?
  3. Would there be value in a form of counseling to help us work better together, even if we can't stand being in the same room as each other? What type of counseling would it be (that is, what would it be called?)

Tish_EllisLPC3 karma

  1. Never bad-mouth or have negative body language when the coparent has triggered you. Just know that kids pick up on everything. They have some serious spidey senses.

  2. Try to get a parent coordinator. in my experience, they are equipped for conflict and it doesn't include attorneys, other parents, or mediators. It just the coparents trying to work through conflict and make compromises when making decisions for the child.

  3. Coparent Counseling or If you need a mediator type with a therapeutic background to help make decisions that would be a parent coordinator.

flusteredferret2 karma

Hi! I'm thinking about becoming a therapist, but am intimidated/confused on how exactly to get there! What was your career path from beginning of college to where you are now? Thank you!

Tish_EllisLPC2 karma

Undergrad in Psychology and Master's in Professional Counseling. Use your internship to pinpoint the population(s) you want to work with or passionate about working with.

quickshesasleep2 karma

My daughter's father is a heroin addict. He has not been a part of her life since she was three months old (my choice, he started using.) She's almost two now.

If he does ever get clean, how do I know how long to wait before introducing him? I don't want to keep him away from his child, but I won't allow him to be in and out of her life because I think that would confuse her. What is a reasonable boundary to set in this situation?

Thank you.

Tish_EllisLPC4 karma

Get it in your court order. To make sure he is clean and actively in treatment. Maybe start with supervised visitation and go from there.

SgtBigPigeon2 karma

So I just got my LPC and I do crisis work. Do you have any words of wisdom for me?

Tish_EllisLPC2 karma

Figure out specifically what population in the trauma community you want to work with that is fulfilling work for you.

_Pepper_Spray2 karma

Hi! Thanks for this AMA. My partner and I are going through this subject right now. He hasn't seen his 12 y/o daughter in almost 2 years and currently is on medication for his depression from missing her. They both where super close, even more than she is with her mom. Her mom was diagnosed with cancer and became mean to everyone in her family and try to put daughter against her dad. The little girl is now afraid she's gonna get kidnapped by her dad and his gf (me) and everyone who has seen her says she's not the happy girl she used to be. We are currently waiting for visitation rights to be set so we can start healing our relationship with her, which was marvelous. My q is, how could we restore all that has been lost and what can we do to don't let this hurt her more?

Tish_EllisLPC7 karma

I would start to establish a relationship now until the visitation is set. Send her letters or cards or check in with her and ask about how she is doing. Don't bring up mom and her actions to alienate but show concern about mom's condition and how it may be affecting the child. Don't push her or do or say things where she feels she has to choose. Also, dad will have to use his actions to show her that what mom says isn't true. He has to do that without bashing mom in any way. There may be a loyalty conflict there especially since mom is really ill and since you state she allegedly has already has tried to use tactics to turn daughter against dad.

Darksoulsborne1 karma


Tish_EllisLPC1 karma

It can even a parent coordinator can be helpful because they usually have a background in therapy so they can help with the extra emotions during these meetings to get clarity for the agreement. If the stepdad is being abusive I would report that. In my opinion, you should maintain your custody time. It's your time to spend with your daughter.

theDinoSour1 karma

Can you provide some suggestions as to how to provide a safe environment where kids can be vulnerable to ask questions and honestly describe how they feel with each parent?

I recently started seeing someone that is admittedly in a high conflict co-parenting situation and it is affecting the kids, one more so than the other. She mentions that it seems like her older son (9yo) is afraid to talk about it out of fear of retaliation from the other parent. She mentions the older child's personality more resembles her own and the ex treats him differently.

I've always had a very amiable and productive co-parenting relationship with my ex so I have no experience with this. Although I know I am there to mainly listen, I still have this urge to try and support her more with some ideas. She mentions that previous attempts to provide professional counseling seemed to add its own layer of stress for the child. What are some next steps in a situation like that?

Tish_EllisLPC2 karma

The child can see a therapist if your partner has control over medical/mental health decisions but if it adds stress you could start a communication journal with the child that stays at her house where you ask about the child's day or if there is something they want to talk about. They write it in a journal and it stays in a safe and secure space where the child feel safe to communicate.

WhiteRau1 karma

my wife and i are constantly in opposition. our marriage is, to be honest, pretty much dead. while i do try to work with her, her staunch stubbornness and dislike of any male influence is making it impossible to move forward with the tools i have. is the cost of therapy to my already-beleagered children in such a situation worth the effort or is divorce-and-move on going to be easier on them over the same time frame? i appreciate this sounds like i am asking for a green light to pull the plug, but i am not. i am asking for a general view of the cost of divorce vs cost of therapy as it impacts the kids involved. i am exhausted and just want to do what's best for the kids because i can see they are breaking.

Tish_EllisLPC3 karma

Ask yourself if I stay is it detrimental to me and my kids, can it be worked out without it hurting me or my kids. There is a type of therapy called discernment counseling where couples are on the verge of potential divorce and the counselor helps guide you both to the decision that is right for the family.

wanderrlust0 karma

How do you handle a situation where a parent, who has been the victim of DV at the hand of the other parent, attempts to alienate or withhold the child from the abuser-parent? Particularly when the DV is limited to between the parents and there was no direct exposure to the children?

Tish_EllisLPC1 karma

So is the victim of DV withholding from the abuser-parent?

wanderrlust0 karma

Yes -- I'm curious as to your take on the situation and how parents can overcome this. I've seen this happen once where the victim-parent has decided to "finally take a stand" against the abuser-parent and won't be bullied or pushed around anymore, and then refuses to consider allowing the abuser-parent to have more time with the child. It's hard because being a terrible or abusive spouse does not always mean being a terrible or abusive parent. And it's hard (and undoubtedly, unfair) for the victim-parent to understand that.

Tish_EllisLPC1 karma

If both parties could get to a place of understanding I think it can be overcome. The abuser parent has to understand the state of mind the victim parent is in and the victim parent has to understand that the abuser parent has rights. I would hope both parties could get help to understand each party's perspective.