That was the week that was

I write from sunny Brussels where I have been presenting to the Missing Children Europe Conference alongside Reunite from the UK and Child Focus in Belgium and Syntagma from the Netherlands.  It was interesting to note from the presentation from Reunite that 70% of all child abductions are carried out by mothers, a fact which was confirmed by Syntagma in their mediation work across European borders. What is even more interesting and which fits with the gender analysis of family separation, is that most of the cross border abductions by mothers are not recognised by those mothers as being abduction.  Thus the notion that mothers care for their children and all of their actions in doing so are right for the child, is illuminated in these statistics. It was heartening to hear of the work of Reunite in educating mothers on the impact on children of their actions.

This has been a surreal 48 hours for me, as running parallel to my work in Brussels, I have been subject to an unfolding drama in which the publication of a two year old complaint against me by the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy has been seized upon, not by the opponents of work with parental alienation, but by people in the UK who purport to work for families. Re-published in a somewhat sensational manner (in my view) by The Custody Minefield, complete with the judgement that I was found to have contravened the voluntary code of ethics laid down by BACP and thus lacked personal moral values of sincerity and honesty, this news was tweeted with what appeared to me to be salacious like glee.  Joining the mob enjoying the spectacle were some one would expect to be there and some who one would not. The truth of the matter being that you only know who your real friends are when the going gets really tough. Watching this unfold from Belgium and observing the behaviour of the proprietor of the Custody Minefield in his justification for publication, I found myself once again understanding the reality of life for those parents with whom I work and the parallel learning process for me was expedited once again.  The underlying theme for this man is that he is acting in the public interest and that the law, as it is encompassed, for him, by BACP has been contravened.  This is not for him (he says) a matter of enjoying what he is doing, it is a matter of helping parents to choose the right counsellor and for him, the law of the land in counselling and psychotherapy is set and monitored by BACP.

So it seems important to me, given that my practice is being so publicly picked over, to examine the law of the land and the role of BACP in monitoring and setting standards in counselling and psychotherapy. (This is not because I do not accept the sanction set against me by BACP, I do and have done and will continue to comply with the requirements of that sanction which are to write a reflection of the judgement set against me and to attend a training day and to write a reflection of my learning from that training day (on close contracting).  I will comply even though I have not been a member of BACP since 2013, because for the period of time which is governed by this complaint, I was a member and therefore chose to subject myself to the voluntary code laid down by this organisation and so compliance, as part of my personal moral code, is necessary).

BACP’s code of ethics for counsellors and psychotherapists is a voluntary code, it has no legal standing but invites members to adhere to the guidelines it sets out for practice. Whilst it is the largest such body it is by no means the only body and there are many discussions and arguments about it within the field.  My experience of traversing the complaints procedure as the therapist complained about was extraordinary and at times utterly bewildering and I could not help but experience the parallels with the parents with whom I work.  In 2013, some eight months after I was first notified of the complaint in June 2012, my membership of BACP was due for renewal and I decided that I could no longer justify spending over £100 to continue being a member when my experience was so poor. Nonetheless, regardless of being a member or not, I resolved to continue to deal with the complaint and to go through the whole process to the end. This I did.  Two years after the complaint was first made against me, a delay which was not my responsibility but that of BACP and after two days of hearing and the submission of my comprehensive responses, including my appeal the complaint was partially upheld and the judgement was published.

There is much within the process which is not in the public domain however.  In responding publicly I am not challenging the sanction set against me but the extraordinary consequences of that judgement which are that the work that I undertake with families could be widely damaged by the use of the judgement against me. (Ironically not by those expected opponents but by those who purport to support alienated children and their families).

It has been stated that I was tried by a group of my peers in the process.  BACP set down in their own ethical guidelines, the promise that any counsellor or therapist complained about will be heard by a panel of peers, one of whom will have experience of working in the same field as the person complained about.  None of the panel hearing this complaint had any experience of working with parental alienation, I made submissions on this fact, they were dismissed. I was told that I would have to accept that. I did so.

It has been stated by some that this was an in court case, it was not. This was a privately contracted case between myself and two parents, one of whom was happy with the outcome of my work, one of whom was not.

I was sanctioned on the basis that my contract with the complainant was implicit and that I carried out an assessment of a family dynamic without seeing the child. In my in court work with families I carry out such assessments regularly, the issue of implacable hostility residing in the dynamics around the child and not in the child per se is accepted by the family court. It is not accepted by BACP. Thus the dissonance between the work that I do in the court process and the view of that by BACP, renders any therapist undergoing the same work vulnerable.

The sanction has  however, helped me to understand that implicit contracts from the perspective of BACP are not the same as those from a legal perspective and to recognise what BACP require in contracting in therapeutic relationships. Whilst I am no longer a member of BACP, I have learned from the process of undertaking the sanction and will continue to do so as I complete it.

The experience of this complaint, the duration of time it took to complete it and then the publication of this by the Custody Minefield has brought me closer, much much closer, to the clients with whom I work.  My concerns, which are always for the children with whom I am working and their right to a balanced and healthy relationship with both of their parents, are that the lack of public understanding of the reality of the BACP sanction plus the use of it by those opposed to the work in the field of parental alienation, may leave these children and their families without the support that they need.  This has certainly felt like a blow against the work that I do, not by BACP but by those who have so enjoyed the spectacle of what is, for them, a public humiliation.

What would Freud say about all of this?  I think he would say that my unconscious drivers have created for me the perfect mirror experience of the clients I work with. That is not to lose empathic understanding for the complainant in this process, for there too lies another concentric circle of parallel process.  All parents matter to me, be they parents I agree with or parents that I do not agree with. I learned much about the complainant from the complaint that was not readily visible to me, this aids my empathic understanding further.

What would Freud say about the publication of the sanction by the Custody Minefield? I think he would say that the intention of that lies in the words not said. I think he would say that someone who slavishly works within a system is bound to judge others who fall short of or challenge that system. I think he would also say that change for children will never come by working within systems, it will come through the courage to challenge the system and face the consequences of that.  This is what I try to do every day of my working life.

I care about alienated children. I know that working for them requires me to take risks and to push boundaries. I know that this is disliked by many people but I do it regardless because my personal moral code requires me to do so. Only this, will, in my view, create the change we need in the UK and the conditions in which the children who need help will get it.

I would like to make it very clear that in writing this blog today I am not seeking to challenge or change the BACP sanctions against me. I have accepted them, I understand them and I will learn from them. Even though I am no longer a member of BACP by choice.  I am writing the blog so that the outcomes of the intended consequences, conscious or otherwise, of the publication by the Custody Minefield are addressed. I have the right to do that. I am not transgressing any ethical or moral code by doing so.

I am grateful for all of the support that has been shown to me as a result of what has happened. It has given me the strength to keep going and keep fighting for alienated children and their families everywhere.

From sunny Brussels, with love.

21 Comments

  1. Oh God, where on earth is this going? Karen’s experience highlights, showcases the intractability of those who profess to work in the interests of alienated children and have little or NO knowledge of the effects of alienation, not just on the alienated parent but on the alienated children.

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  2. In this most distressing business of dealing with parental alienation and the myriad toxic side effects emanating, a major handicap is that so many professionals and regulatory bodies do not understand it, have no experience or training for it and apply their rules and codes in a spirit of goodwill and a vacuum of either ignorance or unwillingness to accept and learn the core issue.

    Those who challenge the established system expect the antagonism and self protectionism that defines so much of failures in the system to adequately protect children and especially from parental alienation.

    Every so often there is a ‘flare out’ akin to an oil well exploding. The common cause is the expectation of some who rather than focus on the real enemy attack those on the same side on occasions. This is normally due to personality conflicts or similar. Their justification is always that they were right to expose a failing by someone who fell foul of rules and regulations quite often imposed in naiveity or for failings in administration.

    Which brings us neatly to the abducting mums who are not abducting but protecting the children in their mind. Anything can be justified once people believe they are right. Right makes might applies. The bigger picture is bypassed and the need to address parental alienation is hindered.

    Vincent McGovern.

    Chair, Central and North London Branches Families Need Fathers.

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  3. Those of us who have been fortunately enough to see Karen at work know without doubt that Karen is the ultimate Professional. I was a bit frustrated when Karen had to stop treating my Grandchild, I did realise it was beyond her control but professional ethics had to be respected.

    Like so many Parents and Grandparents you put your faith in Karen who not only always put The Children first , she saves the Children and reunites good happily Families.

    Please listen to what Karen advises you , put your faith in Karen and please everyone support the work she does. Any organisation or agency who argue against Karen’s work is not putting the Child first. It is not about gender everything about Parental Alienation is about treating the whole Family.

    Karen and her colleagues at the London Clinic are responsible for saving Children and for securing a happy fulfilled life for them. Whilst other agencies support the Mother they can sometimes do so at the expense and Detrement of the Child,
    qo

    H
    It
    Iiyyyyyyyyyiiii

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    1. I have to take great care YB of the children who are trapped and the work that I do when the system will not or cannot liberate them. As Craig Childress says, if you cannot liberate the child is it fair to cause them more suffering by putting them in an impossible position. Keep on keeping on and I will too and the route will unfold and the potential for liberation will appear. K

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  4. Hi Karen,

    I was about to post this on the “Custody Minefield” before Michael decided to close the discussion down. You have been treated appallingly.

    I’m not “upset”. Nor am I “lashing out”. Anyone that knows me will gladly attest that this simply is not my style. However, I am very sorry at the extremely shoddy way Karen has been treated by the “Custody Minefield” in its blog, Twitter and its Facebook pages. After some lofty and ill-founded pontificating Michael Robinson has decided to shut down the discussion for reasons which, are spurious and disingenuous.

    It is far more out of sorrow than anger that I now write for Michael Robinson and Nick Langford, who also commented, are people that I previously held in high regard: their blogs have been valuable resources. But I’m afraid that their responses in this instance are mere weasel words.

    Firstly, the impression given that there was no alternative other than to publish is grossly misleading. Michael has never provided a full, blow by blow and comprehensive commentary of the family law scene on his blog or Facebook pages. Anyone doubting this should simply compare the blogs with something like the legally qualified commentary provided by Jordan’s for example. This demonstrates clearly how Michael has always cherry picked his pet causes. Therefore, had he made an omission and not reported this it would have been no more and no less significant than the vast number of other issues he has not bothered to comment upon.

    Secondly, Michael did not merely “report” the matter as he suggests. In fact he edited it selectively and quoted the juicy bits whilst omitting factual matters like details of the sanction, which would have given casual readers a fairer, more balanced and less jaundiced impression. The sanction itself, besides a couple of reports, was a training day on administrative and contractual matters, which in the context of the emotive and highly inaccurate language used to describe the allegedly offending behaviours demonstrated the relatively trivial nature with which the panel actually regarded this matter.

    Thirdly, in his response to Glynis, Michael indulged in speculation concerning the time taken for the matter to be dealt with. His lack of rigor in checking the actual reasons also paints a picture that is misleading.

    Fourthly, Michael has recently re-blogged some pieces about selecting expert advice and consultants. This is excellent advice. However, when he lends his support to questions of disclosing qualifications, relevant experience and CV’s I am bound to comment that his own blogs are far less than transparent regarding his own credentials for offering educated advice and commentary. In view of the highly vulnerable nature of many of the people that turn to his blog for comfort and help during very stressful times this could provide a minimum of a context and a maximum of reassurance. I hope he takes this on board promptly.

    Fifthly, in speaking of contempt and libel he is deliberately portraying an impression that the complaint related to legal proceedings or matters of fact. It clearly did not. It is grossly misleading to hide behind faux legal reasons and barrack room legality in order to shut down or censor freedom of speech.

    Sixthly, for anyone with even a fundamental grasp of the alienation dynamic to suggest that they are somehow providing a public service to alienated families by promulgating the malicious and vindictive complaints of a serious alienator (against a sincere, honest, highly effective and successful therapist) and providing ammunition for other self-aligning parents is actually a perverse and highly misguided notion. The net effect of this ill-considered intervention runs a far greater risk of harming children than it does of protecting anyone. The self-aggrandising, blustering arrogance and sanctimony is lamentable and utterly breath-taking.

    Lastly, having taken the trouble to find out some more of the detail and background concerning this case I can confirm that there is indeed a great deal more to this matter than the findings, reports and ill-informed commentary would reveal to their circulation. It is regrettable that people that I would have hoped should have known better have involved themselves without first acquainting themselves with the detailed facts of this matter when they could easily have done so. This lack of rigour and commentary driven by feelings rather than facts says much more about them than anyone else.

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    1. I am not sure what else you have found out CAFCASSTROPHY as the only information in the public domain is that which is published and that which I have written here. Perhaps you mean you have read the whole judgement as published by BACP. I do want to point out that the complainant had the right to complain and I had the duty to go through the complaint process as I had voluntarily submitted myself to it by joining BACP. I dealt with the issues I had with the process with BACP directly. I have dealt with CM’s decision to pick out the bits most damaging to my work in this blog. I have let your comment on even though it names people involved in the CM debate on Facebook about me because your comments are accurate in their description of the underlying intention of the people concerned (in my view). That said, I have refrained from any kind of public discussion about the people named herein other than to deal with the matter here. I think there was a deliberate attempt to use this to discredit me and that others enjoyed the spectacle. Uncomfortable that this should arise in the field where people are supposed to support children who are alienated but unsurprising given my stringest and consistent stance against what I consider to be less effective ways of supporting families. Freud would say I courted this attack from the depths of my unconscious. I would say that in the collective unconscious there are many enemies and in this field one has to watch one’s back with hawk like vigilence. A parallel process with alienated parents and one which leads me to understand that the enemies of change are not always the obvious ones. K

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  5. The right of the Custody Minefield to publish this is unquestionable, but their motives are not. I agree with the analysis of Cafcasstrophy and I fear that this is a greater set back for alienated children than it is for Karen.

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    1. I agree with you Kat, it is the project to bring to the UK the kind of services that will really help children that has been set back most, meaning children will suffer more than I do. That is the sad thing about what CM has done in my mind. K

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  6. Paul I have taken your comment down, not because I think it is wrong but because I think it is unfair to bring someone who has not publicly commented on this case into the matter.

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  7. It is a rather perverse situation that in order to apply proper practice Karen has to be a maverick, defined as:

    “A person who shows independence of thought and action, especially by refusing to adhere to the policies of a group to which he or she belongs.”

    Not that I’m saying she refuses to adhere, but that she has to fight an uphill battle every day of her professional life because of the backward thinking of many of the professionals she has to interact with. She appears to be the only therapist offering a realistic range of services and a solution to what has become an everyday and mainstream problem – because there are not enough experts like her to deal with it. Within pioneering work mistakes get made every now and again, especially pioneering work under pressure and without support. If the likes of CAFCASS can be publicly funded, why not the Family Separation Clinic? Why not take the FSC model and replace CAFCASS with it?

    When custodyminefield tweets and blogs every psychotherapist who is found by the BACP to have fallen foul of the rules then his choice of targeting Karen would be understandable. So far as I am aware, that has not happened. Propagating what is in reality a two year old complaint amongst the the population of parents whose children may benefit from the services of the FSC does those children no service at all. And the link to ‘choosing your therapist carefully’ – a link leading to to another provider – is itself suspect. Have their results been compared to Karen’s by the custodyminefield, or is he relying on their records with the BACP – a regulatory body without a clue what parental alienation is?

    Those of us outside of the everyday understanding of someone else’s work cannot properly judge them by anything other than their results and it seems no therapist is more open than Karen. The world of therapy, especially family therapy, and experts and lawyers is all similar: you do not know who’s who or what’s what. Until it is too late. And the loss irrecoverable.

    There is no UK doctorate for family systems dynamics; no masters degree, no undergrad studies. Whatever is taught does not work; it destroys families and children. The panel that sat in judgment on Karen might have lengthy cvs but I can bet none walk her walk. If she does not need them for her practice, she’s best leaving a regulatory body that appears to have no more connection than to her than collecting her annual fee.

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  8. Karen
    I have followed MR for some years now, he seemed to do a sterling job at bringing to the fore good and credible information and case law, I have used his resources myself many times (before he started to charge for the information!!)
    I have not read the judgement, but I have read your comments about it and I for one would now have to question his motives for bringing all of this into the public domain.
    @Michael Robinson sir you damage your own credibility by stating the comments you do, I am disappointed in your actions, shame upon you. You show yourself as no less self serving as some of the alienating parents that darken the doors to the courts. I am so surprised at your actions that it makes me feel that you (MR) are too, damaged goods and despite your efforts to make things right you only do so if they suit your purposes, like many many NPD people do, is that you as well?
    It’s amazing how people show their true colours eventually, mask profiles and all fall away to reveal ones own true character.

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  9. I read the blog on costody minefield because I was incredulous that it could occur. I don’t know you well Karen but already have the utmost respect for you and your work.
    It was immediately clear, and I commented the same at the time I read it, that the blogger was sensationalising the negative parts of the case. Although saying that parts of the complaint were upheld, he also left in the fact that the membership of BACP had a code of conduct to uphold. (Not laws and rigid interpretation).
    Thank you for your honesty and clarification, it is clear from your comments that one parent felt sufficiently strongly to undermine the professionals in the case, to their desired effect.
    Your professionalism is obvious, your support for the children paramount to you, to your own detriment in this case.

    Those who find comfort in your words will continue to do so, as they ring true, and strong. Thank goodness.

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  10. Hi Karen,

    Perhaps there can be some positive benefits from this situation. Firstly, as you say, the experience of yourself becoming like a “targeted parent” will bring you closer in understanding to that of our community, and secondly, and perhaps most importantly – explode (hopefully) the issue of alienation into the wider counselling community.

    My personal experience of the counselling community over the years, and more recently, in counselling training, having just completed Level 3 (I know that doesn’t count for much!) hasn’t been all that positive. It would seem that for many, the counselling training and practice (even including trainer experience) appears to have been a largely cerebral experience which has left foundational neurotic tendencies virtually untouched at the deepest emotional level.

    Increased awareness of alienation among counselling professionals will help to highlight the crucial role of unconscious processes – which you have absolutely rightly referenced here – that continue to affect individuals however otherwise professional and dedicated.

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  11. I thought it was terrible how my husband’s ex wives discouraged his relationship with his/their daughters. Then, after I, too, separated from him, CHILD PORN was found on his personal business computer that only he had access too. And then there were other things I cannot disclose here. However, his business partner’s son-in-law is the assistant DA. The evidence and all traces “disappeared.” Consider there can be much more to the story than a survey tells.

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