Almost at the end of another year of working with alienated children and their families and what a year this one has been. From media interest in the subject to films on mainstream tv, to the formation of a new alienation practitioner network and the upcoming publication of Understanding Parental Alienation by Charles C Thomas, with foreword written by Professor William Bernet, well respected and hugely accomplished scholar and expert in this field. Time to sit back and rest on our laurels? No way. Now is the time to press on to new beginnings, because there is still much to do to ensure that the right approach to parental alienation is embedded in UK practice.
I will not be satisfied now until all of the bodies governing anyone who practices in this arena, fully acknowledge and amend their ethical guidelines to ensure that the barriers present to the right approach to this work are removed. Now that parental alienation is being recognised across the UK, it is incumbent upon those of us in front of the curve to work to educate, raise awareness and press each of those representative bodies to understand that there are international standards which must be met by anyone working in this field. Never one to be shy of saying my piece, this is where I will be putting a lot of focus in the coming months as the evidence of our successful work and the launch of our handbook establishes in the UK, the internationally recognised protocols used by successful practitioners in this field.
And by successful I mean those practitioners who actually do the work of reuniting children with the parent they have rejected. Those who are able to manage the mental health and legal interlock which brings about the required dynamic change to release the child. Those who not only write reports but stand in the witness box and defend them as part of creating the change as well as working with the families directly. I don’t mean those who say they are alienation practitioners but have little in the way of evidence to support that and I don’t mean those who sit at home writing about it in the hope that this somehow makes them an expert.
International Standards are an essential model for working in this arena and anyone not using them should be avoided. Assessments which lead to talking therapy alone, practice which puts children in the double bind of having to see a parent they have rejected without the underlying dynamic having change and taking your time about it (in some cases two years or more) are not models of work that conform to any recognisable standards, despite the fact that people delivering this kind of practice are often safeguarded by their governing body in doing so. One day soon, I hope to see the internationally recognised approach to supporting alienated children, recognised in the ethical framework of every governing body in this country. When it is, it will look something like this.
- A child who is unjustifiably rejecting a parent will be considered to be at risk of harm and action will be taken immediately to reduce that harm.
- A differentiation of the rejection will be undertaken and the treatment plan for intervention will have to conform to recognised standards (international experts will set these standards).
- When a case is recognised as pure (pathogenic parenting) a separation protocol of 90 days will be mandatory. Any practitioner not recommending or carrying out a separation protocol in these circumstances will be seen as transgressing the ethical code of practice by placing the child at the risk of further harm.
- When a case is recognised as hybrid it will be treated via the use of a multi modal approach in which a mix of psychological education, therapeutic mediation, behavioural contracts and compulsion for change underpin therapeutic work.
- In all such work there will not be a waiting period for the child to begin contact with a parent, when unjustified rejection is recognised the child will re-enter the relationship with the rejected parent (with support to the child and parents) immediately.
- Children’s wishes and feelings in the case of unjustified rejection will not be sought at any stage until the rejecting stances has dropped and the child is safely reunited with a parent.
- Wishes and feelings tools will be recognised for the contribution to alienation they present.
- Anyone working with the issue of parental alienation will have to either train via an internationally recognised school or be mentored by a practitioner with at least thirty certified successful reunifications behind them ( which comprises of approximately five years previous experience in the field).
There is much more to add to this and when we meet our european colleagues in Prague in the summer, we will be discussing and collaborating on all of this thinking to bring about a standardised approach which is recognised and acknowledged as being in line with international standards of practice. We have had a great response to the call for interest for the practitioner network, with collegues from PASG joining us from Germany, new colleagues from the Netherlands, Switzerland and France and our colleagues in Croatia and Ireland and, we hope too, that the Romanians will join us to show us how they achieved their successes in their country. We are truly building the change we want to see in the world of working with alienated children and their families and that makes me very happy indeed.
There is much else making me happy right now too. Building the Parental Alienation Direct site is a joy and planning our seminars in London and Edinburgh is a real spur too. But although there is so much to be glad about in our work, the cold reality of the living loss that is parental alienation is never far away.
As I watched the Victoria Derbyshire Show film, in which two of the parents I have worked with were featured, I found myself shocked again at the horror of what befalls a parent and child when alienation strikes. I know the stories of those parents and I know that the ongoing pain and suffering is real for one of them and the anxiety and frustration remains for the other. The reality of parental alienation is that it is a mental health problem, it is unbearably cruel to the child and parent and it removes the right of children to enjoy the unconscious childhood which is theirs by right. Behind the scenes of the publicity, the agony goes on and on and there is nothing whatsover to celebrate about that.
So whilst I prepare for my usual hectic hurtle to the finish line for the annual hibernation break this year, I will be thinking about this work and how we build upon our successes and how we capitalise upon them so that we bring maximum pressure to bear on those who have the power to change this truly awful state of affairs. Because as I once said, somewhere, to someone, making practitioners redundant by forcing the kind of changes through that will bring the paradigm shift that brings widespread change, is what it is really about. That may not come in my working lifetime but if I can contribute to knocking the foundations out of the wall that stands in the way, by forcing recognition and acknowledgement in the governing bodies of those who work in this field, preventing anyone from delivering services known not to be effective, I will end my working days a happier woman.
The ethical alienation practitioner, one day every family court in the land will be required to have one.