Choosing your practitioner

Reunification therapy is something you may read about on other websites across the world. Alongside the concept of Parental Alienation, Reunification therapy is a hotly debated topic and there are many opinions on its efficacy.  Our view is that any kind of ‘therapy’ which purports to help alienated children and their families has to demonstrate three core elements in order to be considered as useful.

1. An understanding of power and control dynamics in family separation which are located in an understanding of the legal processes in any given country.

2. An understanding and willingness to utilise legal processes to change power and control dynamics and the ability to explain this clearly.

3. A proven record of reunification of children and their rejected parent.

Whilst there are some people just starting out who may not have a proven record of successfully reuniting children and rejected parents, their interactions with families should, if they are going to deliver services which help and do not hinder, result in regular and demonstrable success.  Any practitioner, be they a therapist, social worker, psychologist or psychiatrist, should be able to offer evidence of their successful work and should, if asked, be able to put you in touch with families helped by their work. If you ask for this and your practitioner tells you that this is not possible because of their confidentiality regulations, be wary, because it is possible for parents to speak about their experiences without breaking confidentiality clauses (after all it is their family and their children they are talking about) and many parents are very willing to help others.  At the Family Separation Clinic we have a wide range of people who are willing to speak about the work we have done with them and we always offer the opportunity for discussion to every family we work with.  We regularly put aligned parents in touch with other aligned parents as well as rejected parents in touch with each other.  This is the way that we evidence our successful outcomes, whilst at the same time building trust and understanding about the way we work with families.  Those parents who speak to others are very aware of the rules of confidentiality which exist within the court processes (after all, they have been through it, often to the degree where they are specialist in it). All parents are able to help others without identifying self or children and many use pseudonyms to further ensure this.  When you are choosing your pracitioner, whoever it may be, make sure that they too can evidence their successful outcomes before you embark on the journey with them.

Bringing the lost parent home (from the book Parental Alienation, Learning to cope, Helping to heal – publication date – September 2015)

At the Family Separation Clinic our major aim when we first meet alienated parents is to work with them to reconnect them to their sense of being a parent and then support them to build the strategies that will bring about different outcomes. Many of the parents we work with do not realise that they have become disconnected from their sense of being a parent to their child although many report feeling that they no longer have the right to be involved or even ask to be involved. This is because the experience of being rejected by your child is so incredibly painful and so utterly debilitating that the disconnection from the sense of being a parent is not noticed underneath all of the pain. Some parents deliberately disconnect to protect themselves from the terrible pain of losing their child, others bury their pain and focus instead on external things to help them through. Whatever has caused the disconnection, the first work that we have to do is reconnect you with your sense of being a parent.

You are still a parent

When we meet parents who are alienated they are usually in one of the following places.

  • Defensive
  • Dismissive
  • Defeated
  • Depressed
  • Despairing

This is hardly surprising having gone through the experience of watching their child become alienated alongside, perhaps, efforts to get the family court to provide help and assistance.

Through our coaching support services which are the most likely to be delivered at the outset of our work with families we aim to restore a parent to the following places.

  • Educated
  • Confident
  • Aware
  • Realistic
  • Hopeful
  • Adaptable
  • Flexible
  • Empathic
  • Focused
  • Tenacious

You can see that what we are aiming to do for parents is to replace negative states of mind with positive ones and helplessness with empowerment. What we also want to do is help parents to be realistic about what they can achieve and how they can achieve it. We know that coping and healing in alienation situations is not an easy task and sometimes it simply cannot be done by changing only one person’s behaviour. This is very different to the usual approach to therapy work which is very much focused upon changing only the behaviour of the person in therapy. Sometimes we also know that we must find ways to impose change on the other parent in order to liberate the child, this imposition is again a very different approach to therapy.

Some parents are resistant to reconnecting with their parenthood, this is understandable. Some parents find the work on relocating their sense of being a parent in individual work very frustrating, the feeling being that their child is the person who needs the help and focusing on personal feelings and experiences is simply a waste of time. But helping parents to reconnect to the parent that they are is a vital stage in helping families because the action of alienation is to sever the active experience of being a parent, rendering the connection between the child and that parent meaningless in the mind of the child and in the mind of the parent. Many parents speak of being embarrassed to go into school or ashamed that their child has rejected them. This shaming is part of the alienator’s approach to stripping you of the role of parent, if the shaming disconnects you from your own sense of entitlement to care, it has succeeded in silencing the parent within you. From there it is but a short hop to replacing you or waving you away and dismissing your importance. When a child experiences the diminishment of your parenthood in the aligned parent’s eyes AND yours, disconnection from the relationship with you is almost complete.

Therefore, in order to resist this dismissal of you it is important to avoid accepting it by allowing yourself to be edged out of the things that keep you being a parent. If you have been edged out then you have to find ways to stride back in. At school for example, where a child will spend much time, it is important that you are present and that your child knows that you are present. Attending parent’s evenings, school plays and activities are all important ways of ensuring that you are visibly your child’s parent. If your child and the aligned parent object, do not be put off from continuing your attendance and if the school becomes drawn in by the aligned parent, do not let this stop you either. Schools are a very good way of demonstrating your existence to your child and for showing your continued love and interest, but they can be tricky places to navigate too, especially if the staff are not alienation aware and are not understanding of the reality of what has happened in your family. Making sure that staff are aware of your side of the story (without bombarding them with information or being too demanding) is an important step to reconnecting and staying reconnected to your parenting.

Helping Schools to understand alienation and the unique position they are in the assist children who have rejected a parent is one of the tasks we undertake at the Clinic. The following information can be supplied to school along with a letter from you about the situation. Keep your letter brief and to the point. Show willingness to understand your child’s position but ask the school to ensure that you are not excluded from the school because of the risk of colluding with the alienation. If you would like a copy of the following information to send to your child’s school, you can download it from the Family Separation Clinic’s website which is at www.familyseparationclinic.co.uk or coming soon from our new self help website – watch this space for details.

To learn more about our work at the Family Separation Clinic or to book a consultation, coaching package or to speak to one of the parents we have helped before embarking on work with us, please email us -appts@familyseparationclinic.co.uk