Reunification therapy: Choosing your practitioner and bringing the lost parent home

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 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


  1. Excellent as always, Karen. I think your points about choosing a therapist are spot on.

    As usual you express elloquently what happens. I have seen more than one parent struggle to reconnecting with being a parent to their alienated child. They are often incapable of asking for help expecting to be labeled as an inept parent or blamed for the rejected happening in the first place. Hence it is much easier to deny that there is a problem and just focus on the need for everything else to change around them.


  2. I wish I had read this in February 2012. After 13 years of constant -and intense alienating behavior by her dad and stepmother, my daughter moved out suddenly a couple days after she turned 18 in the last half of her senior year of high school. We had 50/50 custody. I was immediately removed from school communications, missed all the senior year fun and helping her get ready, shopping for a dress, pictures of her first prom. All things I didn’t experience because both of my own parents alienated me against each other, I took the proficiency exam and left school midway through my own senior year because I couldn’t handle the pressure and manipulation my parents exerted on me throughout HS and was robbed of all of these normal and special experiences. My daughter’s HS graduation was a ticketed event, my daughter told us we were not wanted at graduation and my therapist who at the time did not understand PAS, advised me that contacting the school and attempting to get into the graduation ceremonies would guarantee that I would never reunite with my child. I had no family support at the time, and 3.5 years on still don’t. My husband’s and my tickets were given to the alienating stepmother’s family, I only have a picture of her at graduation with her awards from her best friend’s mom. This crushed us because we were the ones who helped with the homework, projects, volunteerEd, coached soccer, while her dad and stepmother did nothing, unless you count at school events they did show up at for years introducing herself as my daughter’s mother, which forced me to correct this with the school and teachers and make me look suspicious even though my daughter looks unmistakably like me. Sorry this is so long, but my daughter begins her senior year of college next month and I’ve been cut out of EVERYTHING, even though there are parenting orders about college tuition statements, her dad has ignored very request and now I’m terrified I will miss college graduation, although we are committed to being there no matter what. We have zero communication with my daughter, what do parents like us do? I’m tired of feeling like the walking dead and feeling like I am almost dead inside. Please tell me what parents like us can do. All I can do now is text once a week telling her hello and that I love her and we are always here and hope she’s doing well. Never any response. We don’t know where she lives. I think about that missed graduation every few days and am filled with regret that I listened to anyone but myself and didn’t hop a fence or fight harder to attend. I can’t miss a second graduation, I think it will finish me off.


    1. OM, you and other parents like you are the people we are building our new site and forums for. We are building them because we know that there are many on the path ahead of you who will turn around and give you a helping hand and many on the path behind you who will need your hand in time too. Not everyone reunites but many more do than those who don’t and because the rougher the journey gets, the more you need helping hands and hope and those parents we have helped and those who we haven’t but have reunited anyway, can help you and give you hope. I have seen this blog as safe place for people like you, where your experience is simply heard, held and responded to. The number of people who comment on here and who write to us and who share their experiences, both with us individually and through our work at the Clinic, have inspired us to create a bigger, safer, more specialised place just for you and many others like you across the worl. The tiredness from being the walking dead needs to lift every once in a while and you need to look up and see the horizon and remember why you are alive and we can bring that experience to you on a bigger site. When we work in our alienation workshops with parents there is always more laughter than we could think possible, because a problem shared is indeed a problem halved and whilst there is only a handful of us at the Clinic, there are thousands of people like you out there who need help and who want to give help. And so for you and all of those other parents out there, very soon will come a new place. You will be able to get specialised help as well as help yourself and each other and you will be guided and supported through the ups and downs of the journey, we will have online forums and workshops and seminars and you will be able to find out much much more about other people’s experiences, how people get help and how children are helped. Hang on in there OM, you are not on your own. x


      1. Thank you Karen. I know that this is a lifetime journey and that after we hopefully reunite, I will not abandon fighting for awareness and for PAS to be extinguished and wil be there for others.


  3. I can sense deeply all the things you talk about here as if you are reading from the same book….uncanny…….. It must say something about parallel experiences on a tough emotional journey.

    You talk about reaching out to children at school. I would like to add to this by saying it is not an easy task for a parent who has very little or no contact with their children. It takes a change in mind set for the alienated parent to consider themselves worthy enough to stroll into the “education and learning setting” that is the school.

    This is a potentially huge area of healing for the child/alienated parent. It is also an advantageous setting because it is on neutral ground away from the parent to whom the children have become preferentially aligned. It is a place where the alienated parent can demonstrate to their child and the staff at the school that there is nothing wrong with them (that they are in fact a good parent who cares about their children).

    It is the alienated parent’s absence from the school environment that fosters a sense of abandonment in the eyes of the child………. and this absence will only support any negativity being fed to the child by the other parent (i.e. the one to whom the children are preferentially aligned). Of course the aligned parent does not have to say anything negative to the children in order that the children feel abandoned ………..this is done simply by the non-action of the “alienated parent”.

    I have listened to cases in which the school child requests that the alienated parent does not attend the school play or that they would rather not have the alienated parent look at their work. It is only the strength of mind of the alienated parent that can over-ride the spoken word of the child and provide the re-assurance that comes from one who plucks up the courage to attend the school play and show support for their child in their endeavour.

    In attending the play the alienated parent is demonstrating to staff and parents their worthiness as a parent. They are demonstrating their love for the child they see so little of. If the aligned parent is there they may show disapproval, but their argument that you are surplus to requirements as a parent will be nullified by your presence. If you do face confrontation from your former partner your calmness and friendly nature will serve you well.

    Kind regards


  4. I would like more information. I am located in Pa..near Lancaster or Harrisburg and my case is one where ex father is not allowing any contact and has lied to our son and brainwashed him with his threats
    ..really need help..all therapist are so uneducated about this epidemic but charge like they know what they are doing… Thank you in advance to information of contacts who care and are knowledgeable.


  5. Unfortunately, I know this happens during some divorces BUT it is also used a weapon to falsely accuse a mother to repair damage the father caused with years of confirmed verbal and emotional abuse to his family. I have spent years trying to help the father repair and strengthen his relationships with his children. I have pleaded with him to engage more and show up more. Even when he is in attendance he is NOT “present”. His selfish and cruel behavior during seperation has only pushed him farther away from kids. Every therapist that has met our family agrees that the father has created his situation but he hold tight to his PAS claim which he feels absolves him of past and puts current blame on me. He overloaded courts with false allegation and has lied repeatedly. He has been found in contempt of court for unruly behavior and yelling at the judge that she was wrong and ridiculous. He has bullied witnesses, therapists, lawyers, me and tried to bully judge. This isn’t a nice man or father and he is hiding behind PAS. From what I’ve read, this is a problem that needs to be addressed within your community. I sympathize with people who truly face this issue but hope this diagnoses is used with caution to avoid the devastation my family faces due to false accusations.


    1. Melissa, thank you for your post. It is worth discussing it a little bit here because alienation is a controversy which is used by parents against each other and by parental rights organisations against each other, it is a problem which is located in the landscape of parental dislike, disappointment and the deterioration of the relationship between two people who once loved and cared for each other. The statement I am interested in in your post is ‘he isn’t a nice man or father’……it is worth thinking about from whose perspective is this statement made, yours, other people’s, even the Judge by the sound of it. You consider that this man is using alienation as a weapon against you and your children. That may be so in your situation, in many respects alienation is an easy thing to claim, however, it is the case (and this may be controversial to hear for you right now), that the relationship between you and your children’s father, is different to the relationship between your children and their father. If what you are saying is that the children are justifiably rejecting their father, there is a need to explain what he has done to have caused that. All the research shows that children who have been abused do not completely reject a parent but keep hoping that that parent will change, only when they are supported in their rejection do they enter into full rejection which is what underpins and alienated reaction. What we do at the Clinic is differentiate to find out why children are rejecting and, if we consider that this is because of justifiable rejection, that is what we call it, we do not call it parental alienation. Alienation is the unjustified complete rejection of a once loved parent, caused by the upholding of the child’s ‘decision’ or the deliberate negative influencing of a child which captures them in a psychologically fixed place. Sadly, false allegations go both ways and so does unruly behaviour and influencing children and judges etc. In your case, when the differentiation work is undertaken, should the father’s behaviour be regarded as being that which causes justified rejection, that is what we call it and we help the parent to stand up to the parent who is harming the children. This is a complex area in which we work carefully and we do, when we see a parent using alienation as a cover, call it for what it is, we are committed to children’s health and wellbeing, that is the only thing that matters to us and the reason we do this work. Kind Regards Karen


  6. Wow although horrendous in respect to the emotional detachment you have experienced at least you know where your children are attending their education. Might l ask are you writing of being in the UK; HS/Prom et al.

    Unless we get civilised society to undestand these emotional horrors and a debacle they are on to society and no matter the good intention by wonderful practitioners and the alienated families then all will be to no avail. Why because it is the wishes and feelings without the “facts” made available to the alienated child.

    When we get a grasp on this whole debacle and legalise responible parity of parenting this PA will only worsen. New legislation of this will criminalize PA as the global petition which will be presented to the UN will reinforce this.

    Children will only be allowed to discuss their w/f with both parents and family counsellors (unless one or other parent is a known criminal abuser by confirmstion (

    I realise that this drifts into other areas supporting obvious direct Parental responsibilities but let one thing be made clear. Currently 350,000 couples in the UK separate each year. Alienation by CRC exists by the criminal act of one parent abusing their children. Parity of parenting is the cancer cure. Separation clinics wonderful as they they should be spear heading legislation change in all civilised nations….Yes they are definitely helpful but are not the cure currently.


    1. I’m on the West Coast in the U.S.. I wish so much that I could have named PAS at the time it began (1999) with my ex, a was instructed to never say anything negative about him in front of my daughter (I already was not doing this, so that was easy) and that I had to “make my daughter feel safe” around the new partner, who was then a disturbed, drug using and driving while inebriated woman who hated me (and still does, she has been his equal of not more in the alienation.) I had to have a court order forbidding that she drive my child, when my ex would get angry with me, he would taunt me with her driving, have my daughter call me from the car, etc. I got temp full custody and a restraining order for a period after that. My problem at the time and that I still experience, is that VERY few people believe in PAS, I’m perceived as a scorned ex, despite having being the one who ended the marriage after years of struggle and emotional abuse or that I was jealous of his new relationship (this woman now his wife was a former friend.) People have a really hard time grasping that a daughter especially would cut her mother out of her life, but this is my life and it’s all true. I’m about to start a legal battle to get her tuition statements so I know that her college tuition is being paid appropriately. Not looking forward, but I will not see her saddled with a ton of student loan debt and I want to make sure the lump sum I provided was my portion and that she’s taken care of. He hasn’t abided by anything in the court order about the parenting plan, but this I can try and make happen for her. If I knew then what I know now, I try to not think about that too much, but I will do whatever I can to help others and never give up on a reunion.


  7. I notice you accepted everything Magpie asserted without question. You offered sympathy and empathy and support. But your tone was wholly different towards Melissa. You seemed accusatory in a plausibly deniable sort of way. You focused on the fact that she doesn’t think her ex is a “nice man.” How could any parent think their ex is nice if he/she isn’t nice to the kids? You seemed to suggest a reverse logic, that she thinks he isn’t a nice dad because she feels he isn’t nice, rather than because he isn’t a nice dad she concludes he isn’t nice. I’m in Melissa’s camp. I haven’t been accused in court, but he blames me to anyone who will listen as the cause of his poor relationship to his kids. The sad thing is that this does nothing to help repair their relationship. At some point I will support our kids decision to cut him off, if they so choose. Why would I encourage futility? A return to the well with a different cup hoping the water will taste good “this time?” Maybe its not the cup? Get the water in the morning this time, surely the water will taste good then…


    1. The issue you seem to be debating here are my attitudes to two mothers, one who is alienated and the other who appears alienating….you seem to think that my questioning of Melissa’s attitude is somehow suspect. Sometimes dads are not nice and one has to take an approach which excludes the father from the child’s life in order to protect them…when you do, you do so with sorrow and that is the difference between justifiable exclusion and alienating behaviour…. Melissa’s posts are full of her own justification, her own views, her own opinion on what makes a nice person…… no sorrow for her children that their father may not be able to give them what they need. The difference between justifiable rejection and alienating behaviour is the intent, the focus and the way in which those things are enacted in a child’s life…you can be in which ever camp you choose, your children can never change the father YOU chose for them…. thinking you can change that cup now is simply wishful thinking or delusional.


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