Yesterday, in Prague, a major step in practice with parental alienation occurred, as colleagues from fourteen countries in Europe met to form the European Association of Parental Alienation Practitioners. The day was described as an historic event by Bill Bernet, President of the Parental Alienation Study Group, pictured here.
Throughout the day it became clear that parental alienation and the internationally recognised approaches to treating the problem, raise the same concerns in all of the countries represented by colleagues attending the meeting. Lack of understanding, lack of acceptance of parental alienation, lack of intervention which effectively treats the issue and blocks and barriers to effective practice. Throughout the day there was an overwhelming consensus for the need for a unified European approach to the problem and colleagues heard from Prof. dr. sc. Gordana Buljan Flander, Director of the Child Protection Center of Zagreb (pictured below) on the work done in Croatia to educate and change practice via partnership with the Family Separation Clinic in London.
Later in the day discussions were held between colleagues on the need for the new European Association and the role it will play in setting standards, regulating practice and protecting members. There was a firm agreement that all of these things plus education, awareness raising and practitioner development will be a core part of the work going forward.
The day was filled with discussion about the difficulties faced by practitioners, the resistance to the interventions which properly help children and the need to continue the fight to get parental alienation properly recognised and responded to in each member country. The day was filled with hope however and love and laughter and a special birthday song for Dr Simona Vladica from Romania, pictured below.
This world in which we work, is so full of challenge that it was a joy to share with colleagues a day to celebrate our strengths and successes. I found myself, throughout the day, feeling the same respite from the often unpleasant dynamic of working in isolation in the UK. I ended the day feeling reinvigorated and deeply contented that the work of EAPAP, to protect practitioners and thereby build a strong workforce response to the problem of parental alienation in Europe has begun.
Returning from Prague I read the latest newsletter from the Parental Alienation Study Group and knew that what had happened during that day was all the more important. Reading the claim from someone in the UK, that it is possible to intervene successfully in alienation cases and be a member of the UK regulating bodies BACP and UKCP made me smile. It is not. As a supervisor of practitioners in the UK, I regularly have to ensure that practitioners who are members of such bodies have to act in ways which fall far short of recognised international standards to ensure that they do not end up being complained about and sanctioned. I regularly have to restrict intervention in such cases in order to protect the practitioner.
What people are doing when they make such a claim, is exactly the reason why EAPAP is necessary. The claim comes from the belief that the need to remain on the right side of a practitioner body is more important than the interventions which are known to work. That belief comes from adapting interventions to suit the practitioner not the family. Any governing body, which does not recognise parental alienation in terms of the evidence based interventions which work for children, will always ensure that the practitioner falls short of the required standards of practice which work. Instead of adapting their practice to match the internationally recognised standards of intervention, such people adapt the research to match their own belief system or that of a governing body. Which is fine if what you are primarily concerned with is calling yourself a parental alienation ‘expert’, rather than achieving significant change for children. It is not fine if in the process one is attempting to promote as effective, interventions that are not based on the internationally curated and recognised standards of practice. Family therapy, mentalisation approaches and all of the other generic forms of therapy which are accepted by BACP or UKCP in the UK does not work with parental alienation. Further, there is no evidence available to support claims that they do.
This is the reason why EAPAP is such an important step in this field, it will prevent the blocks and barriers to forward movement which are caused by those who seek to restrict and restrain practice. And it will challenge those who claim they are expert in this field but who are not capable of demonstrating success. Breaking existing boundaries of understanding, knowledge and intervention and resetting them where they need to be to help alienated children, is one of our primary goals. Liberating practitioners so that they can do the work which is necessary to help children is another. Successful outcomes are our concern, not the limitations caused by slavish adherence to the requirements of existing bodies. There was universal agreement, from practitioners in every member country, at the conference yesterday, about all of these important points.
EAPAP is necessary to create a strong, courageous and determined workforce in the field of parental alienation and to prevent families from being subjected to this dumbed down approach. EAPAP will curate and codify international standards of practice and will educate, train and inform at every level in each member country. With strong and vibrant members who hold significant power in terms of the European agenda on the wellbeing of children, this work will progress quickly and I am delighted to be part of it.
With grateful thanks to all colleagues who took time to travel, some at great distance via Istanbul (from Malta and Sweden) and those who had to travel by bus from Vienna due to flight problems. The courage and tenacity of such a group of people will truly change the world for those who practice in this field, the families we help and most of all the children who suffer the problem of parental alienation.
Make no mistake, what happened in Prague yesterday was a significant shift in the collective consciousness in Europe around parental alienation. As colleagues return to their own countries, each I hope, as inspired and recharged as we were, expect great things from us. We are collectively, being the change we want to see in the world.
A conference paper will be prepared which will set out the stated aims of the European Association of Parental Alienation Practitioners, this will be made available to the public.
The European Association of Parental Alienation Practitioners will convene regular meetings to develop its membership and accreditation scheme for all practitioners working with alienated children and their families in Europe.
I will be on the panel at the PASG conference in Washington in October with Deirdre Rand and Linda Gottlieb.
I will also be speaking at the PASG conference in Sweden in August 2018.
The Family Separation Clinic in conjunction with the European Association of Parental Alienation Practitioners will hold a major two day conference in London in summer 2018 which is headlined by Amy J.L. Baker PhD, along with key European practitioners. For legal and mental health professionals and entitled ‘Moving Upstream (to tackle the problem of parental alienation),’ parts of this conference will be streamed live around the world.
And hot off the press – the news that our book, Understanding Parental Alienation: Learning to Cope, Helping to Heal (Charles C Thomas – Illinois), is about to go into print.