I have just picked up a comment from a reader about pathology and alienation. This reader asks whether I have written about this in previous articles to which the answer is yes, I have. Rather than go back through the archives, which I admit are now looking somewhat daunting to trawl back through, (given that I have written over 170 posts in the years I have been writing this blog), I thought I would write a quick response today about pathological patterns that we see in cases where children reject a parent and comment on the use of therapy as a cure all for the problem.

Patterns of pathology are somewhat startling in cases of alienation. This is something we are looking closer at in our work at the Clinic as we begin a project which is focused upon developing profiling approaches to alienation, abduction and the risk of a parent harming a child after separation. Profiling is a complex process, which involves comparisons of behaviours in a large sample of cases. In doing this work we are partnering with leading researchers in the field of profiling, more of which as we get further into this project. The outcome of this work will be a fully tested and researched model for assessing risk in cases where children either reject or are removed from a parent after separation, something which is not currently available in this country.

This work, which is sorely needed in the field, also aims to establish a bench mark for assessing those case which are suitable for therapeutic treatment and those which are not. This will offer parents affected by the problem of alienation the protection that they need from the idea that therapy and therapists per se, can treat the problem.  Having been in this field for a very long time now, I am aware of the different ways that therapists approach alienation. From denial of it to fervent claims that it is always the fault of both parents, therapists all over the place seem to have their own interpretation of what is happening when a child rejects a parent. For those parents who are affected by the problem, encountering the alienation unaware therapist is an absolute nightmare and one which can cause untold damage, not only to the parent but to the child too.  Establishing evidence based protocols, based upon the large number of cases we have worked on in the last five years, is our contribution to developing a safeguarding approach for families that protects them from wasting time and money on treatment routes that do not work.

At the Family Separation Clinic we use a combination of protocols developed by leading researchers across the world to begin profiling an alienation case.  The following is an example of one of our stages of assessment.

Is a case suitable for therapy?

Only cases which satisfy the criteria in bold in this chart are accepted as being possibly suitable for therapy. However, each of the different categories below also contain three further assessments through which a case is processed.  Only at the end of eight assessment stages can we safely offer an opinion on what the most suitable treatment route is.

                                                     Suitable 

Rejected parent is non responsive to intervention & assistance. Blame projection is present and fixed.

Rejected parent reacts negatively to child’s reactions on transition bridge or other negative factors come in to play.

Rejected parent shows understanding of own role in the child’s rejection and is able to change behaviours and demonstrate patience. Can withdraw blame projecting behaviours

Child is reacting on the transition bridge or has recently withdrawn from a regular relationship with a parent (within approximately 12-24 months)

Aligned parent is able to understand the need to change behaviours and/or is constrained and compelled to take part in therapeutic work.

Aligned parent is non responsive to intervention and assistance. Blame projection remains high and fixated. Lack of external compulsion for change is present

Child is enmeshed with the alienating parent.

Blame projection is high and fixed.

Parent continues to play out unconscious patterns.

Profiling alienation also allows for indentification of serious risk and there are serious risks involved in alienation cases.  For example, some cases of pure alienation, in which the alienating parent has a personality disorder, create urgent child protection situations, in which the risk to the child is clear and present.  In these cases, some of which may involve risk of physical as well as emotional and psychological harm to a child, triaging risk is an urgent task.  Developing profiling tools which can be used by Social Workers and CAFCASS as well as the Police to identify such risk is one of our major aims of this project.Arriving at this stage in our assessment allows us to determine whether a case can be accepted into a therapeutic treatment route.  Prior to this stage the case is put through five different assessments in order to categorise it.  Each section in this stage is then further differentiated through three different assessments to offer a clear view of what the treatment route should be.  Cases which are deemed not suitable for therapy are not offered therapy. Instead a clear opinion on what is necessary to liberate the child is offered with evidenced reasoning to underpin this.

Pathology and alienation go hand in hand in our experience and where one is confronted with a case of a child’s absolute refusal to see a parent which is combined with an absence of negative contributing factors from the rejected parent, further investigation is imperative.  These are not the cases for the unaware professional and they are not the cases for the idly interested clinician either. These cases are serious and they demand deeper attention and in depth research, which is what we are involved in at the Clinic.

As we move into our new phase of development we will be keeping you updated with everything that we are doing. We will begin with our move across to our new site which we are being supported to develop by one of our readers ( the selflessness of people affected by this problem never cease to amaze me) and the publication of our book which we have been working hard to finish.  Alongside research projects and international collaborations (more on that soon too), 2015 is looking set to become our biggest year yet in raising awareness of parental alienation and developing treatment routes for parents affected by it.  I am grateful for all of the offers of support that come our way and for all our readers interest and encouragement, together we are building the roads to recovery that all families affected by this problem deserve.