I have been working with alienated children for many years now. I understand them and I understand how to help them. I also help to free them from being captured in the mindset of a parent and reconnect them with the parent they have been taught to fear or hate. I know that when I do this, health returns to their lives and they are liberated from a lifetime of struggle and uncertainty. Doing this work isn’t easy, especially in the concentric circles of the court process, but it is necessary. Working in the midst of a psychological war zone, is draining but it is also satisfying when the lights come back on and children emerge from their frozen and withdrawn states of mind.
How we do what we do, as alienation aware practitioners, is often the subject of criticism by alienating parents, many of whom complain and argue about our work. That is simply par for the course for any practitioner doing this work, because it cannot be done by keeping everyone pleased all of the time. Nor can it be done by promoting the idea that both parents contribute to the problem or by giving everyone some kind of therapy, a favourite approach of the timid and unaware practitioner who lacks understanding, skills and courage to do what is really needed. To practice successfully in this field (and by successfully I mean bring children out of an alienation reaction) one has to follow clear working methods which are recognised around the world as being alienation aware practice.
The working methods of the successful alienation practitioner are the same worldwide and based upon research, demonstrated success and the guts and determination of the practitioners who carry this work out. I admire all those who have the determination to do what it takes for children and who are not afraid to get their hands dirty. These are courageous people who not afraid to push the boundaries of fixed and rigid thinking. These are people who bring about change in the lives of children and as a result bring about healing for a new generation. Along with the rejected parents who take up the challenge to provide for their children the new life and safe care that heals them, those courageous practitioners save the lives of the children they work with.
One of my deepest values is to have gratitude and respect for those who are willing to go out on a limb for children as well as recognising those who went before me in this field. There are not many of us in this country but I salute those who do this work alongside me and those who went before me too (not that there were many hands on practitioners other than the marvellous Val Proven who remains legendary in her skill and determination). Respecting those who recognise and practice around the world using the same foundation stones is core to my integrity.
I said I would begin to open the door on our approach to working with alienated children and the working methods of our successfulpractice with children. Here then is what to look for if you want successful outcomes from your alienation practitioner. This is what to ask of anyone offering themselves as an expert in reunifiying children and parents in this field. Ask your expert to give you an explanation of what they do and how they do it and don’t forget to ask for a list of people you can speak to whom they have helped. If your alienation practitioner cannot offer this, don’t waste your time and money.
How we do what we do at the Family Separation Clinic
We employ a forensic understanding of the paperwork in the cases we work with, analysing the motivations of the people involved from several different angles until we reach a formulation of how this happened. We then meet the people to test the hypothesis.
We meet the child and understand from this meeting the depth and strength of the aliention reaction.
We meet with the rejected parent and assess their resilience, strengths, contributions (if any) to the onset of the alienation and develop a strategy for supporting them through the reconnection stage.
We meet the influencing parent and understand their motivation, triggers, negative transferential material and any factors we might be able to use to compel behavioural change.
We make a plan.
We give the plan to the court and ask for a composite order that allows us to carry out the work we need to do.
We use robust consequences to compel behavioural change and we stick to them.
We work in short timescales of 12 weeks with reportable milestones within strong judicial control.
We recommend residence transfer where it is indicated and we carry it out, removing children who are alienated is not easy but it is necessary in the most complex and damaging cases.
We provide post residence transfer care of the child and BOTH parents.
We use 90 day separation protocols for residence transfer children in the most severe cases.
We use supervised contact with the previously aligned alienating parent, to protect children in residence change situations.
We work to keep the child in relationship with both parents at all times, even if that relationship is limited and supervised with the alienating parent.
We use behavioural contracts to compel change and tight judicial control to hold the therapeutic framework in place until change is seen in the child.
We also form teams and work with lead Clinicians, we do this flexibly where it is needed. In teams of therapists, independent social workers, mediators and parenting co-ordinators, we bring about rapid change in children’s lives.
None of this is standard therapy and none of it is about sitting in a room talking. All of it is about bringing dynamic change into children’s lives in order to trigger change which allows the child to be liberated from the captured position they are in.
All of it is about shifting power and managing that shift to help the child change.
These working methods are in line with all of those used across the world in successful work with alienated children. Whatever anyone tells you, talking therapy or play therapy or persuasion of alienating parents and their children, does not work to resolve an alienation reaction in a child. Only those interventions configured as above can create the dynamic change which liberates a child from an alienation reaction.
This is not easy work. It is not for the faint hearted. With it comes complaint, negative transference, messy and murky dynamics and people who complain about working methods.
But don’t be fooled. If what your practitioner is showing you doesn’t look like the above, what they are showing you is not treatment for alienation. The only proof of efficacy in working methods for parental alienation is that it works. This works. The rest belongs to fantasy land.
In the past eighteen months we have reunited 27 children with a formerly rejected parent and in residence transfer cases, worked with lead Clinicians in teams and in cases where we have acted as experts advising the court. We have additionally rebuilt relationships between children and their parents without residence change and we have successfully supported residence change children to maintain relationships with both parents after transfer. Some of these cases will be written up in formats that protect the anonymity of the families concerned as part of a retrospective of our work and some anonymised interviews with the children will be made available as part of this. Anyone wishing to work with us or instruct us can speak with parents we have helped as well as Solicitors and Barristers, Guardians and court reporting officers in cases we have worked in.
Our work at the Family Separation is growing in both delivery and reputation and we are regularly called upon to work with Local Authority in public and private law cases involving a child’s resistance to post separation relationships with a parent. We have added new members to our team in recent weeks and now have therapists, independent social workers and clinical psychologists working alongside us. Dr Hamish Cameron provides my supervision, allowing us to draw upon his long standing expertise in the field to provide a strong framework for successful interventions.
We cannot claim to be successful in every case we work in, some remain either too difficult to resolve because of the alienation reaction in the child in combination with difficult dynamics between parents or between professionals. In other cases, the nature of the route to alienation and the weakness of the judicial framework means that it is not possible to free the child. We do however achieve significant and replicable success using our working methods which are increasingly recognised in court as being that which is neccesary to effect change for children affected by parental alienation.
Please note that I cannot accept instructions for assessments or new work in cases until January 2017 as I do not have any space due to my committments in ongoing private and public family law cases. The Clinic however can accept instructions for therapeutic programmes and for assistance in residence transfer cases as we now have additional associate staff able to carry those out.