I am not one for keeping things mysterious when they can easily be explained and so today I am going to tell you exactly how a child who is alienated can come to restore their relationship with a rejected parent in seconds.

There is no mystery to it, no special talent, no psychological woohoo. The remedy is incredibly simple and it works every time, when the identification and differentiation is properly undertaken.

Some will tell you that they and only they have the answer to the problem of parental alienation.  Some will tell you that this way or that is the only way to approach reunification.  I can tell you, from the successful work that I do in reuniting alienated children with the parent they have ‘chosen’ to reject, that there are many roads to achieving the magical dynamic which enables the alienation reaction to disappear.

And all of them are valid and all of them work.

Parental alienation is a combination of the dynamics caused by one parent’s behaviours, the other parent’s responses and the vulnerability of the child.  A triangle of reactions if you like in which the child enters into the only possible coping mechanism available to them, complete refusal to see one of their parents.

How do we know that a child has used this coping mechanism?  We recognise the cluster of behaviours which are only seen in unjustified rejection reactions, these are the eight signs of parental alienation which were curated by Richard Gardener and which serve to flag the existence of the problem.  Without those signs, who would know that the child has entered into the use of a coping mechanism?  No-one would.  Without those signs, who would know that the child is unable to cope with the dynamic around them? No-one would.  The eight signs of alienation are the external markers which tell us a child is not coping with the current dynamic around them.  A child caught in adult relationship distress if you like.  An alienated child.

Those of us who work with these families are presented with a wide spectrum of behaviours, from families where alienation is alleged, to families where allegations are rife.  In order to triage these children into those truly showing signs of alienation and those who are not, we use the eight signs of alienation as initial indicators.  When we have sifted and sorted and found that a child is showing the signs of alienation we begin the deeper analysis.

The deeper analysis involves examination of the case for a number of behaviours which have been long recognised in the UK as being part of the landscape of parental alienation. Indeed when I began work in this field over two decades ago, these behaviours in families were acknowledged and referenced in court reports.  Trans-generational repetition of trauma, enmeshment, attachment disruption including parentification and spouseification and fused dyadic partnerships. Add to that encapsulated delusional disorder and the presence of personality disorder.  All of this combines to give us a clear picture of the category of alienation the child is experiencing and the level of severity.  When we know this, we are ready to go into court to give evidence on our formulation.

There is no mystery to the resolution of parental alienation reactions in severely alienated children in the pure category.  Put simply, the alienation reaction is the utilisation of a coping mechanism of psychological splitting which allows the child to deal with the impossible position they are in.  In such cases, where a parent has a personality profile of concern and where the indicators shown in the previous paragraph are at play, a simple removal of the child from the parent with whom they are sharing  an encapsulated delusion, is enough to trigger dynamic change.  All that is required of a practitioner (though in itself this can be tough stuff to undertake), is that they are capable of removing the child from the parent, overriding the pleas from the child and placing them with the parent they have been vehemently rejecting.  All it takes is that.  Nothing more.  No mystery, no method, nothing more than that and the child’s normal range responses to a parent they have loved all along will emerge.  That is because children do not hate their parents, they are born hard wired to love and attach to them and parental alienation, whilst it damages their life chances if children are forced to endure it for long periods in their lives, will reverse itself on removal from the source of the problem.

In severe and pure cases that is.  In other categories of alienation the treatment route is different, which is why, when some children are moved and the differentiation is not done properly, the reaction remains.

In severe and pure cases of parental alienation, the child’s normal love and warmth will reappear swiftly when the dynamics have been reconfigured to allow them to do so. The child still has to face a number of struggles beyond the point at which the alienation reaction disappears however. The range of difficulties a child will experience will depend upon the severity of the psychological profile of the parent they have been removed from.  This is a critical aspect of intervention which is not currently being talked about and it is this which requires the specialist skill of psychotherapists who understand the impact on a child of being brought up by a parent with a problematic psychological profile.  Currently in the UK we have a much greater understanding amongst the judiciary of the problems caused by parental alienation.  We also have a greater willingness to use the transfer of residence intervention which separates the child from the parent who has caused the problem. What we don’t have, is the recognition and understanding that it is not the transfer of residence which is the trigger to bring the child out of the alienated state of mind but the separation from source protocol which gives the child respite from the relational influence of the alienating parent for a period of time.  Without this, the problem in the child is simply transferred with them, to a detrimental effect.

This separation, which in our work at the Clinic is maintained for up to 90 days post transfer, gives the child the opportunity to move through the psychological stages of recovery from alienation. When this is combined with therapeutic work with the child, the restoration of balance and perspective in the child’s mind is completed and protection and resilience to the behaviours of alienating parent are built up.  This is the intervention which truly changes the child’s life, because it is this which ensures that there is recovery plus resilience.  The child is always going to have to find a way of relating to the alienating parent somehow, they are after all, the child’s parent and as we know, children are not hard wired to ditch, dump or dismiss a parent.  If there is any method, magic or mystery to this work then, it is in the therapeutic alliance formed by the therapist, formerly rejected parent and previously alienated child. For it is this which lays the foundation stone for the development of emotional and psychological health for the rest of the child’s life.

In managing this therapeutic alliance the therapist additionally must keep the road open for the previously alienating parent to rejoin the child’s life and do this is in the face of potential hostility and refusal by the parent to accept that their behaviours have harmed the child. This is where the skill comes in, this is where the power for change in the underlying dynamics lies and this is where risk remains to the child if protection cannot be achieved.

The formula for recovery in an alienated child can be easily understood and the steps to reconfiguring the dynamic are very simple.

Pure and severe alienation is the result of the alienating strategies of one parent, the benign efforts by the other parent to resist the strategies and the child’s lack of resilience and awareness of who has the most power over them.

To reconfigure this dynamic one must –

  • differentiate the case, evidence the formulation in court and give a treatment route, be cross examined on the intervention and then, if the court agrees, carry it out.
  • In carrying it out the court must be asked to restrict the power of the alienating parent, transfer power to the rejected parent and entrust the practitioner to enact the intervention.
  • Under those conditions, place the child with the rejected parent and poof, the alienation reaction is gone.

No guru, no method, no teacher, no mystery, no magic, no more alienation.

This is because, in pure and severe alienation, the encapsulated delusion which the child is being forced to share, is popped like a bubble on removal from the parent who is the source of it.

I should know, I have seen it happen often enough (nine times already this year in fact).  But it is not the bubble popping which is the magic, it is the longer term work beyond the reunification which is the really protective intervention.  And that does require method and it does require skill and when it is delivered properly it protects the child from the long term damage that parental alienation does.

The eight signs of alienation tell us the reaction is live in the child.

Deeper investigation allows us to differentiate the cause.

Our willingness to face cross examination in court changes the dynamic underlying the problem.

Being willing to override children’s objections takes the child to a place where the alienation reaction can simply disappear.

Beyond which the delicate work of helping the child to recover balance and perspective brings long term relief and protection.

All in days work, when you know how.

Don’t let anyone make it a mystery. This is about you and your children and the love they have for you that doesn’t disappear.

Everything else is woohoo.