Time for the end of year review at the Family Separation Clinic, time to look back at those things we did well and those things we learned from and those things we know we need to do more of. This year we have been down in the darkest places with families, right down in the deepest depths of despair and the horrors of the worst that people can do to each other and their children. Right there with you, hacking away at the coal face, finding the routes through to freedom.

There is absolutely no possible way to do this work without being in those dark places with you. Being there and being with you is what helps and what heals you. It is also what takes out of us as practitioners, the energies and the time that we know is needed for other projects. Our book and our new website for example which everyone is patiently waiting for and which we have had to shift back again and again in order to fulfil our work with families. This holiday period we have designated time to complete our lift off so that in 2016 those two projects will be live and ready to help you.

We have worked with almost two hundred parents this year through our in court services and our coaching and counselling service. In addition we have helped eighteen children to begin seeing a parent that they had previously rejected. We have continued our policy of using whatever works to make that happen and we have learned more about different legal process by working in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland as well as with families in Australia, Canada, the United States, Sweden, Germany and France.

The Family Separation Clinic has delivered training to Social Workers, CAFCASS officers, Guardians and Family Mediators in England and Wales and the Republic of Ireland and will continue this theme with CPD training to Solicitors and Barristers with No5 Chambers in January 2016. Gradually the concept of alienation and methods of working with it are being introduced to people who may well have been resistant to it once. Step by Step we are bringing alienation into the mainstream consciousness by building best practice and by delivering outcomes for children which are healthy and which support their long term best interests.

There have been difficult personal spots in the year. A thinly veiled attack against me by those who think they are experts in the field of alienation in July was a deeply unpleasant experience which taught me exactly who my friends are. Those who joined in the public attack are clearly in my view, more interested in their own sense of self than in the interests of children. The best thing about this episode was that it taught me who to avoid in the future. It also taught me that the dynamics in this field can be as nasty as those experienced by targeted parents, I put a thicker teflon coat on in response and soldiered on.

It was a good job I did put a thicker coat on because it wasn’t long before I found myself in the thick of a debate with Dr Childress over efforts to overthrow what he called the ‘Gardenarians’ in the field of parental alienation. The cut and thrust of the debate with Dr Childress was far less unpleasant than the back stabbing behaviour of the UK based ‘experts’ efforts to topple my reputation. At least with Dr Childress I was battling with someone I respect and admire about things that really matter and which further the debate. Though his blog has gone dark on the subject of parental alienation, I sincerely hope this is a pause and not a full stop. I would dearly like to further our debate together, I feel we have so much in common, not least our fighting spirit.

Behind the scenes we have continued our research programmes and made some strong connections with other professionals in the field both here and abroad. I have been delighted to work with Robert Samery from PAAO and with Brian Ludmer this year and have also been conversing with Stan Korosi who I see is beginning his own doctoral study in the field. I am very excited at the prospect of furthering our own studies in conjunction with the colleagues at UCL in London.  Equalities based services to separated parents is a long held dream of ours and one which we have worked to achieve for many many years. Evidencing the difference that such work can bring to families and particularly to children is part of our ongoing efforts to achieve this.

In 2016 I will be working to convert my qualifications into that of a child/adolescent psychotherapist. I have come to the realisation that what I really want to do is work directly with alienated children to find ways of unlocking their resistances. I find alienated children to be both frustrating and fascinating, I understand their mindset and I know what the world looks and feels like to them. In 2016 I will be studying a transpersonal approach to assisting children to change to combine that with my existing skillset in order to get closer to the world of the alienated child. In doing this I am consciously combining my knowledge that outside services are increasingly relying upon children’s wishes and feelings and that these are reported without analysis. I want to provide children with the safety of my understanding and ability to analyse their feelings as well as provide for them a bridge over, through and round troubled waters. In combination with our multi stranded team interventions, framed by strong court management, I am setting out to discover new ways of working with children in these circumstances that work within the constraints of what our UK Courts will tolerate. This is me heading down into the darkest places with alienated children. On the surface those who battle for the changes argued for by Dr Childress must continue their work. As you dig down, I will dig up and somewhere we will meet in the middle. There are many paths to a new future. I am heading off on a new one of my own and I am very excited by the prospect.

This year has been phenomenal for this blog which has rocketed in terms of readership. We now receive well over a thousand page views per day and over two thousand visitors per week and are being read in well over 30 countries around the world. The comments and discussions are lively and it has been wonderful to see how the self help approach I have long advocated in parental alienation has begun to emerge between our regular commentators. People help people and it is through self help that much healing can take place. I would like to thank everyone who has contributed this year to making this place such a positive, lively and inspiring place to visit. I would like to especially thank Woodman, a regular commentator who made the effort to come and see me speak at UCL last week, it was a joy to meet you in the flesh.

My year was made special this year by an invitation to blog for the Huffington Post which allows me to write for a wider audience and bring their attention to the terrible scar that is alienation in the lives of families across the world. I love to write, it keeps me safe and it keeps me sane. That so many people bother to read what I write is still an amazing feeling as well as a big responsibility. Thanks to all of you who read what I write, it replenishes me to write and it is gratifying to know that it is helpful.

Finally a review of the year would not be complete without my thanking Nick Woodall with whom I live and work. His work with families goes unnoticed much of the time but is just as powerful and more so at times than mine. I learn so much from him, from his patience, his masculinity, his thoroughness and his skill in analysis. He writes less than I do, (he channels his energies through his feet with weekly games of football) but he is no less significant in the work we do at the Family Separation Clinic. He is made of the same stuff as I am and of the same stuff of all parents who have gone through the darkest places in their lives as parents. I am lucky to have such a colleague and a husband and I am grateful always for his ongoing grit and determination to challenge with me those things which stand in the way of a better world for all of our children.

As we come up for air across the winter break we will be lighting candles for your lost loved ones as well as mine. I will write more about that next week but for now thank you, all of you, for being here, I know that my work is all the stronger for being able to share the journey with you.