Going Boldly into Relational Space

Relational space is that place where we as practitioners work with children and their families. This space, is where the healing of alienated children takes place and as such it is about helping children to adapt to the structural change which we as practitioners have helped to bring about. Therefore it is essential, when doing this work, that we take responsibility for that in our work with children, so that they are clear about who holds the lines of authority. Children are adept at sensing who is in charge, if we as practitioners fail to hold the reins of power firmly, children will immediately know. In this world where children are increasingly empowered, their immersion in the unsaid, invisible world of family dynamics means that they are quick to take control through the use of psychological splitting. Knowing how to head this off or to help a child recover from that is not just about knowing the theory, it is about being involved in that relational space in the here and now with children. Having the courage to do that and keep doing it isn’t easy, especially in an environment where the prevailing wishes and feelings agenda, which often contributes to the over empowerment of the alienated child, holds such sway in the family courts.

Working in relational space in alienation cases requires a practitioner to be wholly involved with the family and children being assisted. The more I do this work the less I rely upon meetings in offices with parents and the more time I spend at home with the family in their own personal space. Being able to do this requires me to be known as quickly as possible. This requires me to be present as myself, not as an expert, not as a therapist but as myself. It is the relationship with who I am which brings change in families, not a label. Of course being present as me does not mean that I will reveal or share much of my own life experience, but it does mean that I will allow myself to be known. I cannot change the lives of children without them knowing who I am and to that end I will play with beloved pets, walk in the woods, play games and eat with a family so that I can help in the here and now. This puts me in the relational space around a child and allows me to experience with the child the dynamics and power lines and how they are held and exchanged (or not) around a child. When I have understood that to the deepest possible degree, I am then in a position to plan a route out for the child which I must then put to the court and defend if necessary, against a resistant parent. All of this puts me out there on the front line with no place to hide. It’s an often lonely business because there are not many who do this work, but it is worth it when the child emerges from the alienation.

Therapy can be many things, it is not just about talking.  What it is at its core, is the relationship between human beings and the power that brings for positive change. Children who are alienated do not need talking therapy, what they need is active change of relational dynamics in the family. Sitting in a room talking doesn’t achieve that. Helping families affected by this problem requires one to do things with people and to be wholly involved in that doing whilst being able to assess the dynamics and shift these incrementally.

It also requires a sharp forensic ability to understand the whole of the patterns of power and control and to be able to face dissonance and disagreement, without seeking to placate or please people. Absorbing the negative transference and transforming that into healing potential is probably the most difficult part of this work. Being able to absorb hatred and anger whilst at the same time working to understand where this comes from, allows one to transform negative projections into the mind shifts which bring about change. Facing those things intensively due to the insertion of the self between the child and the projections of the alienating parent, can become destructive if one is not able to withstand that. This work is within the most negative realms of relational space and, where one is working with psychologically disordered parents, it is in those realms of the most unwell. Self care and protection in this space is essential as are those markers which allow one to enter into this world and exit it safely.

This relational space, which is the most toxic and the most damaging for practitioners, is the space inhabited by alienated children. It is the lack of understanding of this reality which most concerns me when I think about the impact of alienation on children. As I face the negative transference, which are those reactions from the alienating parent whose behaviours I am seeking to change, I understand the full force of the psychological pressure upon a child who has to resort to psychological splitting to survive. What flows towards me, is what flows towards the child who attempts to resist an alienating parent’s covert and overt demands for conformity. It is what has flowed towards the rejected parent in order to create the alienation in the child. At times even I falter in the face of some of this behaviour. Recognising the vulnerability of a child in the care of parents who compel a child to rejecting behaviours is what keeps me engaged in the process.

Relational space is that place where we do the work which brings about change for alienated children and we must be unafraid to go there as practitioners. If we are afraid, we take with us into that space our own fears and anxieties which become added to the toxic mix which makes it even more difficult to clean up. To be successful in this work we must go boldly and confidently as well as openly and willingly. We must give of ourselves so that children can trust us and we must be able to face negative projection and undermining behaviours as well as outright attack from the alienating parent. We must additionally create a platform of trust for the parent who has been rejected and help them to wait for long enough for us to do the work which will bring their children back to them. In doing so we must do that knowing that we cannot always be successful because it is not just our work which creates the change, but our ability to work with the court process and have our proposals challenged and our arguments cross examined. That’s a tough package to keep delivering but that is what we must do if we are to be successful in this field.

We must engender hope whilst at the same time keeping that based in reality, stand firm in front of the negative transference and change that into healing and we must be brave enough to do what is right for children first and foremost, which is protection from alienation and the preservation of healthy relationships with parents.

Going boldly into relational space, it is therapy at relational depth using the whole of the self to bring about change. It is not for the faint hearted and it is not practiced by many people. But it brings change to children’s lives and it helps to arrest the generational trauma patterns which feature in these families.

This is why I started doing this work, this is why I keep doing it, despite everything that is thrown at me in doing so.

The lives of children and their need for a healthy future keeps me going and when I see the lights come on and the joy return, that is enough to keep me here on the front line.

One day this battle to get help to alienated children will have passed and the acceptance of the cruelty bestowed upon children who have been forced to make a choice between their parents, will be common place.

Until then, you will find me in relational space.





18 thoughts on “Going Boldly into Relational Space”

  1. This is so beautifully put — on such a terrible subject. How can one convey these truths to everyone who works with children?

    I don’t just mean alienated children, children who are splitting in self-defense…. I mean *everyone* who works with children.

    This is not a rhetorical question. This is a practical, tactical, life-and-death question for so many millions of people in the world. Think about the truth of *that* for full minute — let it sink in.

    This is quite possibly the most impacting social crisis of our time. And in the overwhelming majority of cases and jurisdictions, no one with official power even acknowledges that attachment-based parental alienation exists.

    Thank you for expressing truths of this situation from the standpoint of children with such great compassion.



  2. “This requires me to be present as myself, not as an expert, not as a therapist but as myself. It is the relationship with who I am which brings change in families, not a label. Of course being present as me does not mean that I will reveal or share much of my own life experience, but it does mean that I will allow myself to be known.”

    I thought perhaps i may end up working in this….this….this….its not a field, its pretty far from a field, wheres the goalposts and halfway line? And i couldnt choose to help those who even if i had the ability i “chose” to help when so many will end up the same way i went or worse.

    Its hell. No mans, No childs land. Waders on, up to the chin. Nose peg secure. The rotting bodies stench carries from four decades. Oh and the clowns, the well paid clowns of authority that persist.

    When really examing the realms of alienation, and then the multitude and broad cross section, if we were to use tolkeins faery by example of a realm not ordinary, not really of this earth, his realm of faery was all things, vast and infinite, ineffable, beautiful, benevolent, deadly, dangerous, pure, toxic, sparkling, blooming, exhuberant, fertile, baron, it wasnt a place most folk would or could tred and make it out alive, and those that do enter and leave are changed by the experience in such a way that the change benefits the ordinary world returned to. Only a select few were chosen to enter from the outside and only did so by way of a protective “key” which allowed their passage through faery ordained from on high.

    The dynamics and complexities of alienation, the relational space haunted and charged by emotion and spirit, the vast array of variables, the vast array of uncertainties. Angels fear to tread.

    Every situation of alienation is different, though there are dynamics which remain the same at the core of all alienation.

    To a certain degree because of the tools available in regards to the court and authority, there are only certain cases which are viable for help where a successful outcome is likely.

    Where the aligned alienating parent is of high function and of status it can be difficult for therapist and court to “deal” with the uncertified psycho as getting a diagnosis to stick can be impossible when they not only see you coming but they were expecting you and prepare accordingly, installing firewalls and sacrificial helpers between you and they along the way.

    Where the children are too old, reaching teenage years and older the situation can be impossible to deal with in regards to the court having authority over a child when the child is of school leaving age and older. These children can be lost for decades, forever, and they number in the millions over the last decade alone.

    Many of the alienated parents kill themselves.

    Many of the alienated children end up alienated themselves as adults from their own children.

    The reason there are so few practitioners is twofold, firstly the feminist family law environment has suppressed, discouraged, destroyed, prevented debate and knowledge being shared about the realites of life for children, families and in particular fathers after separation and divorce….using the situation instead as a cashcow and machinery for dismantling families, fatherhood and the patriarchy…..and secondly, due not only to the prevention of the reality being made public domain but also the lack of people with the “capability” and “intelligence” and “capacity” to go into these realms to help those affected, 99.9% of current social workers havent got what is required and never will, i thought i had, but i havent, im more of a lancaster or spitfire pilot i believe now looking at it, i dare say anyone under 35 isnt going to be anywhere near the right ball park they need to be in to be of any help whatsoever unless they have been alienated or in proximity to someone alienated or an alienator….and need to have spent a decade away from feminist best practice.

    This work, in this present day environment, is not far the faint hearted or wreckless to be like bulls in a china shop making things worse for the victims(they arent clients, they are victims)

    People can go up like nukes when exposed to something they are not used to like being taken out of control or having their control challenged or threatened or do not understand especially where they have had less historic relational “input” to begin with, the more likely they have hair triggers and staffy pit bulls and fruitloop feminist stazi freinds.

    This work requires a certain amount of cherry picking to stay alive.

    So, what to do in such a wonderful realm.

    I dont want to work there, sod that. I guess im a coward.

    I want to be an artist or something or a pianist, even a florist, an astronomer….i dont want to be wearing nostril high waders cherry picking the ones i can help and trying to put out of mind those i cant help, which is most of them, practically all of them.

    I want to destroy hell.

    Im going into Faery with a nuke and looking for he realm of alienation. When ive made one that is….straight from Ham out of Farmer Giles shed, i’ll load my blunderbuss up with it and blow the bloody doors off, the walls down, the roof off, the fire out, the clouds apart, the feminist constructed barriers and fences down.

    I want to destroy the environment which allows aliention to take hold in regard to feminised family law, justice and education system and societies ignorance spawned from mass mainstream meddling mindmedia. Thats why im constructing a nuke. Its a horrible job, a nasty job, a big job and i want to get it done quickly, the lot of them in one go, it needs doing.

    I just hope when i pull the trigger of my blunderbuss the nuke goes further than the cannonball i tried to shoot out of it because if a nuke lands on my foot who’s going to save the human race for you then?

    Im going to name my nuke Donald, duck, and i hope it goes off with a right Trump. Quackkkkkkkkkk

    Make Alienation extinct. Starve it.
    Remove its transport and sheilds, expose it.

    Expose it.

    Make it as despicable as Rape.

    In truth, its worse. Thank you Angry Harry.

    In a sample of one thousand parents asked if they would rather lose an arm and a leg or never see their children again, 1000 said they would rather lose an arm and a leg.

    In a sample of one thousand parents asked if they would rather lose their children forever or be raped, 1000 said they would rather be raped than lose their children forever.

    How to kill the dragon.

    Expose it.

    Make it as despicable as Rape.

    Hit Alienation with a crack from a blunderbuss, put everything youve got in it, rolling pins, knitting needles, cat litter, cuddly toys, oranges, pears, nuts, bolts, bananas, nukes, fireworks, potatoes, pots, pans, chopsticks, pins, screws, nails, needles, drawing pins, christmas crackers, ball bearings, conkers, lego, snuff, pepper, pebbles, rocks, phonebooks, bibles, encyclopedias, toilet brushes, soil, manure….hit it with everything and then throw the blunderbuss at them too, then nick a school bus and run over alienation to make sure once and for all and then just in case scoop up what remains and throw into a live volcano!

    ***k Alienations S*** Up!

    Dont stand for it!

    Its worse than rape.
    Unless youre a feminist, then rape is worse than child abuse.


    1. It’s not for many INFTLAMNINCR – and its a dirty rotten job by and large – but someone has to do it and it might as well be me. Because if no-one does it or worse than that, if those who think they know how to do it but don’t, do it, then it’s going to take more generations of children’s lives before it is stopped.

      I would like an allotment, to live in the country and to grow things to eat. I will do those things one day but for now, since the day I realised the reality for these children, this is my task.

      More will come and do it and the consciousness raising continues apace, no-one who does this work can do it without speaking up about it.

      But you are right, its not a nice place to be and it takes something to do it.

      As for the cherry picking, well that’s not exactly the truth, we help who we can in the court and make as much help available outside of that, including writing and making things available online so be kinder in your criticism of people who are working to change the world for children, we are humans too.


    2. I really enjoyed reading your post because it made me realise, yet again, how incredibly crazy it is that alienation is not seen for what it is; child abuse. I am alienated from my 3 sons, have been for 5 years. I am extremely fortunate to have gone onto marry a wonderfully strong woman who has helped me stay sane and move on with my life.
      However, as I am sure all of you out there who are alienated know, no matter how well you move on emotionally and psychologically it is still there gnawing away at your mind……”what are you going to do about it, what can you do about it”. The answer appears to be………..wait, and wait and wait and wait and wait and wait and maybe one day when one of your children is an adult and no longer living with the alienator they will start to question what really happened to Dad and decide to make contact.
      I agree with your sentiment, alienation has to be exposed in such a way that the general public become fully aware of what this awful truth is………..there are tens of thousands of children out there being abused through alienation and yet 99.9% of the public know nothing about it. There really needs to be some kind of co-ordinated approach by practitioners, solicitors, parents et al to expose alienation and the damage it does. There will be no major advances in dealing with alienation unless the general public become fully aware of what alienation actually means!


  3. It wasnt a criticism K though i apologise because it was a bit snarky, but was meant in regard to you cant help them all and you have to be selective just for the fact so you can continue to help others in the future rather than being consumed and destroyed by a case….which could easily happen to someone inexperienced in such perilous realms. There are so many situations which are that complex and for want of better words “screwed up” that finding a place to begin helping and envisioning a suitable outcome for all or any of the affected is nigh on impossible. I see daily a cross section, i know that these realms of alienation require in the therapist courage that comes with king kong size gonads and a mental and emotional capacity like gandalf to not suffocate or make things worse in that environment due to the slope of the land. Working on such a gradiant requires experience, sure footedness and safety ropes…..its akin to solo climbing great crevices in the dark in the pissing down rain with thunder in your ears and somebody, quite possibly goats knocking rocks down from above as you try to get to grips with what youre facing trying to pull off a miraculous rescue! x


      1. If you behave yourself, but not too much! Sorry K.. Good news is Ive lost my dummy so i cant spit it out anymore, and my pram collapsed so i cant get in it to jump out of it again and i also put my foot through my soapbox! …and most importantly the Blades are winning again so all is well in the world, at least at the lane. Sorry flower. xx

        ps, just a thought…over the last couple of days i have picked up two 92 year old blokes, took one to hospital for a scan….and the other back home from the pub. Had great conversations with them on the way, one of them was telling me how at 15 he walked through the town centre after the sheffield blitz, how he served for forty years in the army from 1945. Neither of them had anyone….their wives departed and their own children too…..the 92 year old lad i took home from the pub was a saucy sod, sharp as a razor…and full of beans. It upset me seeing the other guy knowing he may face his last days and any bad news the doctor may have given him alone. Sometimes i hate the world and what life does to people, good people who never harmed a fly.. Xx


      2. Missed you too x

        Laddo, he should be in the first team now, but he isnt. Tomorrow will be eight years since he was asked on trial at shirecliffe as an outfield player, when we went to tell his mum she looked like we had just told her someone had died….she knew the consequences of joshs success meant harder times for her and josh having to live with flump. By this time next week eight years ago laddo had trained twice with the squad and had been lined up to play the owls academy on the sunday…on the friday two days before what would have been his debut we were at bramall lane platinum suite at a book launch sigining…”who’s who of sufc” a lot of the old legends there, my old boss who played for the blades and a couple of heros from the eighties and nineties. Two days later Josh was lined up (by the stars and universe i may add-the moon was full in taurs that weekend) to play against the Owls of all teams….and his two school team mates played for the owls in midfield. He was chomping at the bit and on fire……seriously, nothing flash….nothing extravagant….but without doubt the best player in the league and academy, making the best look very ordinary, dull and static….without trying. When he tried….he embarrassed people, which he was never comfortable with.

        They(more accurately flump) took so much from him.
        He didnt have an aggressive bone in his body.
        He had the simplicity of a daffodil and the grace of an orchid.
        He was my sunflower.

        They stole the sun from both him and me, and my dad too.

        They’ll never steal the love we had for that boy and what we all did together.
        I miss them both so much.


  4. I am a child therapist, a social worker by degree, and the wife of an alienated father. I have worked with families of alienated kids, but in the current court environment, that only means that I’ve been fired repeatedly by alienating parents that are unhappy that I don’t believe their story hook, line and sinker. I’ve tried to support alienated parents after the alienating parent fires me, but that doesn’t help either. My stepson and husband encountered a couple really bad therapists during the court years, ones who helped the alienation – one intentionally, and the other inadvertently.

    I would like to work with the population and maybe someday I will – but not until the court is in support, and we are a long, long way away from that. Until then, I just do the best I can not to help someone alienate – and as I am now a supervisor of other therapists, I try to teach them the dynamics of alienation so maybe when the court is ready, they will be, too. I’m sure by then, I will be long gone from the field, if not from the Earth – I see no motion towards understanding alienation in the US courts.


  5. It may be absorbing for us to enter the world of the alienation practitioner for a moment, but it need not necessarily be entirely remote either – because it is quite possible for any of us to be drawn into such a “relational space”, should we ourselves seek to help any families under stress who we might encounter.

    Which is a significant challenge, because we won’t have any of the court authority behind us – just the moral authority of wanting their lives as a family to be as good as it can be.

    I’m sure some will say we shouldn’t even try – “leave it to the experts”, etc. Except that a lot of the time, there will be no experts to turn to, especial for older people. It would be wonderful if we could see some return to the idea of the community assisting each other with these kinds of issues…with occasional support from dedicated practitioners where necessary.


    1. This is something I utterly agree with Woodman because, better than any practitioner are those people who surround the child, some of whom feel helpless on the sidelines but who could, if properly taught and supported, make a difference. That relational space is the space in which both parents live too as well as the child though one gets shoved to the margins and beyond but an understanding of that space is critical for self help. As you know self help is a big thing for me and PADirect is on its way where we will discuss many of these topics.


      1. That’s wonderful, Karen – such a contrast to the fury of the counseling profession so far encountered when broaching the subject of this more informal type of intervention…undermining (as they see it) the professionalism they seek to promote.

        However, it is possible, I| would say, to be furious with the ‘Counseling Industry’ (so to speak) as typically (even if unintentionally) achieving a kind of ‘rape’ of the community – by ‘cherry-picking’ those who will be most conducive to the counseling training…but then ruthlessly suppressing all others from the field as potentially “practicing without a license”…leaving the majority of those in the community hugely bereft of support. And one can certainly question the value of counseling services which are often very short term, non-local and utterly unable to deal with anyone except the immediate counselee in front of them.

        Absolutely agreed, distinct training and support would be required. But many of those who could potentially participate would be retired or partially disabled folk who would certainly not wish to go on to the full counseling training. There will be no need to labour extensive theoretical perspectives. Lay people struggle with (a) an automatic tendency to give advice, and (b) a tendency to try to impose solutions on individuals based on an authoritarian ‘parental-type’ position.
        The majority of the training needed would be to set aside these modes and instead listen carefully to the various points of view involved, so allowing solutions to emerge organically out of the initial conflict and confusion.

        I found the counseling community highly resistant to the use of the term ‘counseling’ by anyone other than themselves. The best term I have come up with so far is “emotional support” – hopefully it will be difficult to object to that.


      2. Here here…..self-help is the key and lasting solution for all parties concerned. As Woodman rightly suggests, rediscovering connection through caring communities is the only real antidote to the ghastly PA disease – the courts will swiftly follow suit with their own version (or even hijack the process) when that day arrives. In truth, the majority of those living from the family court trough are incompetents at best and parasites at worst

        Excellent post, Karen – this has to be one of the most informative and accurate PA summaries I’ve read, to date. Thank you


  6. Now this is interesting said Phil. I’m booking my ticket on the strength of this.
    Booking your ticket said Judy, inquisitively?
    Yes, I’m entering this space thing.

    How so said George?

    Well, as you know I’ve been coming here a long time now, feels as though I am almost part of the furniture, and I have gained much comfort so thank you for your kind words and your wisdom. I am going now.

    But where? We value your friendship and have become accustomed to the adjustments you have made in order to function in your new life away from your children. In a strange sort of way, we thought you were coping.

    Yes, that about sums it up, coping, ups and downs, but always a sense that I would have to enter the unknown in order to fix the relationship with my children.

    Leeds return all day saver that’s about £16.00 isn’t it? said Gordon

    Phil’s hands were shaking, but he looked like a man on a mission, there was something stirring behind those sad brown eyes. He knew this wasn’t a return ticket he was getting; it was one way and entered the very heart of relational space.

    Can I ask what’s so different, why now? I thought you had tried everything said Clare.

    I have tried everything said Phil, but I am a different man now. I am no longer Phil the Ex. I am Phil the person. I have rediscovered my identity and my worth, now I am confident that I can prove it.

    You may very likely get the same reaction you got last year when you wrote that letter and sent those presents. I think I can see through that said Phil. I am not so affected by rejection as I used to be and I don’t sulk for too long. There are bridges to be built.

    I don’t get it said Mike. You are going to act like some sort of self-appointed Ambassador?
    You could put it like that said Phil. I am going to front this thing up

    More fireworks and Court orders, said John knowingly.

    Not in a confrontational way, said Phil. I am going in with all the skills I’ve been learning. There won’t be confrontation.

    Judy’s gaze met the ceiling, she was thinking poor Phil must be on drugs. She didn’t want to see him hurt again or locked up like Alan who had disobeyed a court order only last week.

    I am skilled up and handling my own case from now on said Phil. I can read human nature, I am more of a feelings person than the practical person I used to be.

    You are kidding yourself if you think you are getting passed your Ex. She knows exactly how the law can defend her.

    She only uses the law because that is what she intends to do, said Phil

    John was beginning to think that this was some kind of awful hoax. He thought Phil, well known for his theatricals had somehow lost the plot.

    “Break a leg”, he said as you do when an actor takes on his role for the first time and you want to wish him well.

    Phil responded, “ All the world’s a stage,
    And all the men and women merely players;
    They have their exits and their entrances,
    And one man in his time plays many parts,

    I am going now to take my part

    Kind regards


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