One of the questions I am often asked at the Clinic is how long? How long will this last, how long before I will see the child, how long will it take to do this work, how long will my partner be like this? It is a question that I have come to expect and I know when it is asked that the journey which has already taken its toll on the person asking it, is far from over. It is a question ritually asked by anyone affected by parental alienation, especially when working with us at the Clinic. It is a question which is never easy to answer.
I have said many times that alienation is as individual as the people affected by it and it is. Each incidence of rejection is caused by individual circumstances, each act of withdrawal is the end result of dynamics which have their own personal DNA. The journey to reunification, a state which I describe not as the first meeting, the second nor even the fiftieth after alienation, but that moment which arrives when the child emerges as their normal self again, can be long, it can be short, it can take moments, it can take a lifetime. There is no way of knowing the road to repair without closely knowing the people involved because it is the sum total of the people involved, their life history, their strengths and weaknesses and their ability to change that gives us the evidence of how to help. Though many ask, it is just not possible to offer a generic template for changing children affected by alienation. Anyone who tells you they can, is selling you snake oil. If you are going to work with a specialist in pa be prepared for it to take time, for the person to get to know you, for the clinician to skill you and for the advocate for you to be move into a position to represent you to the child and the alienating parent. If you do not have patience during an intervention with a pa specialist you are going to be in danger of dashing your chances simply because you cannot wait. PA is a strange phenomenon, you have to be ready to tackle it and strong enough to deal with the time it takes. Especially outside of the court process but also within it.
Last week I told the story of a reunification that took over thirty years. That story spoke of the moment alienation struck but that story also contains the experience of when the alienation lifted. Because like many stories of emergence from alienation, the phenomenon didn’t lift straight away, instead it took many more months of exposure and experience for the relationship to become normal again. The experience of alienation lifting however is something like having a light bulb switched on in a very dark room. A room in which all the furntiure is known, the doors and windows are familiar and the spaces in the room are known, but known only as shapes not items of furniture in a room that can be used. Just shapes in a room that one fumbles and manages to find a way around. Suddenly, the room is illuminated and shapes becomes things and the room becomes useable and all of the dimensions and heights and colours and textures are present again. It takes time to get used to that and one falls over the furniture more than once in an effort to learn new ways of interacting experientially in the midst of all that.
When I am asked how long as I inevitably will be in each of the cases I work in I try to give the best answer I can at the time, knowing that it will not be enough, it won’t ease the pain, it cannot repair the time taken away. When I am asked I try to say that depends, upon you, upon me, upon them, upon the court, upon the court professionals, upon the Judge, upon……..too many things for the person who is asking the question, the person who has been dealing with too many depends for far too long. That depends, I say, on how quickly we can crack on, follow me, I will show you the way.
Showing alienated parents the way is something I have become confident in doing over the years, not because I know THE way but because I know how to find A way in most cases. That is not to say I can claim to resolve every case of alienation that comes our way, only an arrogant fool would claim that. But I know enough about alienation to know that given enough time in your company, I will find the way that fits your case. I know too that others at the Clinic can find the way too because whilst there is no generic template there is a way of working that enables us to find individual routes.
Those of you who know my work will know that I have worked with Nick Woodall for some years, I am also married to him. Together he and I have been working with parental alienation for several years and he has been working individually with parents and collectively with families for some time now. Recently he and I have worked jointly and individually with families outside of the court process, using the approaches we have developed together to bring about change in families where alienation is present. And I am delighted to see that he too has successful outcomes in his work, most recently with a mother and son aliented for several years but also with families where transitional problems are verging on alienation and where alienation has struck recently. Watching this work unfold is exciting because it shows us that the templates that we have built are configured correctly, which means that in the right hands, the model can be developed and we can help more people affected by the problem.
Soon we will be ready to help more people, coming soon will be our new project for all alienated families everywhere. This will be a place where you can find help yourself and where you can begin the process of answering that question ‘how long’ yourself as well as asking us to work alongside you. Because we cannot answer that question how long without knowing you, but you can begin to answer it for yourself and when you do, our journey with you will be easier and swifter. We want to put power for change into your hands and then help you use it. Watch this space, we will tell all very soon.
Coaching for parents is available at the Family Separation Clinic.
if you want to work with either Karen or Nick Woodall please email us at email@example.com