In this third article following the launch of the European Association of Parental Alienation Practitioners, I am taking a brief look at what EAPAP will mean in terms of family law.  Whilst I cannot be detailed as each member country has a different legal framework in place, I understand enough about the difference in legal systems in member countries to be able to predict what such an association can do to create the necessary paradigm shifts that allow change to occur.

During the conference I spoke with Dr Simona Valdica from Romania, a country which has criminalised parental alienation. Our discussions confirmed for me that the belief that simply making it illegal to alienate a child will resolve the problem is erroneous. Dr Simona spoke of the work her organisation continues to do in the deeply complex field of serious and entrenched parental alienation and how even in the face of alienation of a child being a criminal act, the problem still remains.

This is because parental alienation is a problem with a human face and as such cannot be eradicated by the use of the law alone. For if laws made people behave themselves properly, we would have no need of prisons. And if laws made people behave better in general, we would not suffer the problem of anti social behaviour in our societies.  Laws alone cannot prevent parental alienation, legislation may make people feel that things are more just and it may discourage some of those who alienate, but it will not, cannot stop the problem entirely because it is a problem with a human face and as such requires the legal mental health interlock to properly address it.

The legal and mental health interlock is the concept by which the mental health intervention is held firmly in place by the legal system.  Therapists, coaches and mediators who work within this system are involved in a hierarchical multi disciplinary team who see the Judge as the super parent, guiding and enforcing participation by the parties.  This dynamic causes the shift in power which is often necessary to free the child from the captured mindset which is underpinned by coercive control. When this dynamic shifts, therapists work with the child to hold the splitting and restore the relationship between child and rejected parent.

This is very delicate work and requires the understanding and participation of the legal professionals and the mental health team treating the problem.  In some countries where there are inquisitorial approaches to law, this is more easily achieved, in others where the legal system is adversarial, it is less easy.

Nevertheless, the law and the mental health intervention, when properly interlocked, can achieve great things for alienated children, who can be released from the alienation reaction swiftly. Once released, the child must then be taken through the recovery steps to full integration of the splitting reaction and protected as they progress through this from the continued influence of the alienating parent.

These principles of practice are curated from the international research and will be codified by EAPAP into training programmes for practitioners.  Additional education and training for ancillary staff will be provided so that all professionals around the alienated child and family, are enabled to understand the problem and how to work with it.  Supervision, mentoring and safeguarding will be at the heart of EAPAP and all members will receive regular CPD input.  What will emerge, is a workforce which is capable of dealing with the problem of parental alienation swiftly and successfully.

Training from senior members of EAPAP, to the Judiciary in each member country will be a core part of delivery. As Dr Simona told me, it is that training which offers Judges and Lawyers, the understanding and confidence to understand the issue and their role in resolving it.  With people who are key in their field in their own country, best practice in delivery of treatment and training is very accessible for translation into all countries. We are already looking at assessment protocols being used in Croatia to begin the process of building a standardised approach to formulating interventions.

The new Association will provide a great deal of information, training and awareness around the issue of parental alienation for all legal professionals in member countries. It will also provide an accredited workforce which is capable of responding to the problem in line with international standards of practice.  As much of the focus of the Association will also be upon research into the issue, evidence based interventions which emerge from research in Europe, will be at the heart of this delivery.

In the coming months and years, the new Association will benefit Family Law in each member country in myriad ways, changing the possibilities for clients and their children significantly.   Our work, which is already welcomed by the Judiciary in different countries across Europe, will bring change for children in what used to be considered intractable cases but which will now be recognised as those in need of specialist interventions provided by the European Association of Parental Alienation Practitioners.

Legal professionals who wish to understand more about the European Association of Parental Alienation Practitioners will soon be able to make enquiries via our website which is being developed as an information hub for all member countries.