What is Success in Treating Parental Alienation?

This week I have been starting the process of codifying the principles of practice in working with alienated children and their families for the development of training programmes. As part of this work I have been sifting back through the cases where I have achieved rapid reunification of children with the parent they have rejected.  What has always been clear to me as I do this work, is that it is not therapy in the traditional sense, in that the actual reunification work is not achieved through talking or through regular meetings in the therapist’s office.  Reunification work is done actively, largely in situations where children are shifted swiftly through psychological change.  Successful reunification means that the child is freed from the alienation reaction and changes from lacking in perspective as a cause of the psychologically split state of mind, to an integrated perspective in which they are able to see those things which they have previously been unable to allow into their conscious mind.  Sometimes this shift occurs instantaneously, at others it can take some time. However, done correctly, integration occurs within hours or at the most days.

Whilst training in parental alienation awareness can give information about how to think about helping alienated children, there is absolutely no substitute for learning the principles and practice of the actual reunification process.  Anyone who tells you that reunification takes months or years and that in order to achieve this you must attend regular sessions in offices with therapists, is not working with reunification but something else.  In the UK, where some therapists claim that they are working with parental alienation but are unable to demonstrate rapid reunification, the issue remains that parents and children are subjected to a practice which is not recognised in international research.  It would appear that the same is true of other countries in Europe and in fact, around the world.

Reunification of alienated children means that they move from the psychologically split state of mind to an integration quickly. This translates into normal warm responding to the parent who has hitherto been rejected.  Thus, the  person who is able to recognise whether reunification has worked is the targeted parent, not the ‘expert.’  In some cases of parental alienation in the UK, targets parents are told that their child is recovered in situations where the child is still in the position of deciding whether and when they will see a parent. This is not recovery, this is something else and it is usually seen in situations where the people who consider themselves to be ‘experts’ in this field are making decisions about parents and children from a place where they regard both parents as being active contributors to the problem.

Many systemic family therapists for example do not believe in the concept of pure alienation.  In fact at the Children’s Mental Health Centre last Saturday I was told by one such therapist that people with personality disorders are usually married or in partnership with other people who have similar disorders.  On a blog this week about the launch of the European Association a comment was made that most cases of parental alienation are hybrid, meaning in this setting that both parents contribute.  When I trained some systemic family therapists in 2013 I was told the same thing, that in such cases each parent makes their own contribution to the problem and therefore the concept of pure alienation is not valid.  This is so completely out of step with international researchthat it is frankly offensive to targeted parents and in my view, dangerous to children.  Because if one spends time trying to fix the healthy parent in order to placate the unhealthy one, the children lose out on the one chance they have to escape the terrible dilemma which faces them, which is to be in positive and recovered relationship with the parent who can help them.

When I do reunification work with children I am aiming to put them back into a relationship with a rejected parent in a normal and healthy manner as quickly as I possibly can.  This may take some time at the outset because in achieving the right dynamic for swift liberation, one has to have the right dynamic configured around the child.  I will not attempt the reunification until I have the right conditions, which in pure and severe alienation means that the child is removed from the care of the alienating parent and placed directly (where it is at all possible) with the targeted parent.  During the removal and placement, I undertake the dynamic intervention which shifts the child from split state of mind to integration.  It is this which causes the immediate disappearance of the alienation and which returns the child to warm and normal relationship with the once targeted parent. I have done this with eleven children this year, last year I worked with twenty seven children in this way.

What is very apparent to me is that the removal and placement elements of this work HAVE to be undertaken with by someone who can deliver the dynamic intervention which shifts the child’s perspective.  I have come to understand this much more clearly this year as I have also been working with children who were not removed and placed by me but by social workers or CAFCASS officers.  When I work with these children, which I am asked to do because of the continued problems in their behaviours, it is clear that removal and placement without the accompanying dynamic intervention, the child remains alienated and the split state of mind is simply transferred with the child. Put simply, transfer of residence works, but only in circumstances where the child is enabled to resolve the psychologically split state of mind in the process of transfer.  This makes it clear that the legal and mental health interlock, in which the legal framework holds the mental health intervention, is utterly essential in the reunification process.

The dynamic intervention which shifts the child’s perspective is codified within the skillset of the therapist or other who carries out the removal and placement of the child. In the USA, it is common to send a child to a reunification programme such as Family Bridges or the High Road Protocol.  In the UK it is common to use a direct residence transfer or a stepping stone transfer for such work.  I work with either of these although I much prefer the direct transfer to the stepping stone. This is because in stepping stone transfer, there are too many other people whose feelings and beliefs can cause blocks to the child being enabled to make the dynamic change.  When I am working directly with a child I find it easier to provide for them the psychological intervention which resolves the split state of mind. When I have to negotiate my way around several other dynamics, social work, CAFCASS and foster carers and educate them to hold the right dynamic in place, the work becomes much more complex. This is because the intervention which causes the shift in the child’s mind depends upon me being able to hold an integrated dynamic around the child. This is an  example of how such an intervention works.

Nick and I work together at times on reunification and last year we undertook such a piece of work on a cold day in November in the south west of England. Two children were involved aged 12 and 9, both completely rejecting of their mother and both vehement that they would not see her ever again.  We set out on that day with the children being delivered by the foster carer they had been living with for several weeks (we did not remove the children into foster care and they had become stuck in care unable to reunite with their mother and not able to go back to their father who had been judged to have seriously harmed them).   The children’s mother had arrived earlier and was sitting nervously in the playroom where we had decided the early meetings would take place.  The children shuffled angrily into the room adjacent to the playroom, both were scowling and both were absolutely furious that they were being made to do this.  I had met with each child previously at their school and had heard the same dark mutterings from each that emanate from all alienated children.  On this day the two muttered together in the corner and demonstrated the same rehearsed and overly dramatic responses seen in many of these children.  They couldn’t go into that room they told us, their mother was a monster who would hurt them.  We didn’t know her really, she would be nice in front of us but horrible to them when our backs were turned.  This litany of phrases is so familiar to me in such situations that I didn’t break from my bright and somewhat school mistressy shunting of the children into the room where their mother sat quietly.  Scooting across the room to the far side, both children sat down determinedly with their backs to their mother who looked upset and anxious.  We signalled to her to breathe deeply and simply sit there.  We sat down on the other two sides of the room and relaxed.

What I know about alienated children is that they have internalised radar systems on red alert.  The psychologically split state of mind occurs in bright and sensitive children who have become used to ‘reading’ the emotional temperature of the spaces they inhabit.  These children are watchful and I knew that sitting with their backs to us would cause them some discomfort because they could not sweep for emotional responses. Sure enough, after some more dark mutterings, the eldest child turned round to scan us.  I had instructed their mother that until I signalled, she should not look directly at either child. But I did.  As I met this child’s eyes I could see the search of the face which is common in these situations.  I gazed back. The child turned back. We had engaged and I knew that this child was now aware that there was someone in the room in more control than they were.

The most powerful reunions which take place are in silence and this one was no different.  As mother sat quietly and I watched both children carefully, I noticed that the elder child was fidgeting with fingers.  Those fidgets got more pronounced and I noticed the drop in the shoulders and the tuck of the chin which comes when a child is moving to wards tears. When tears come the resistance is breaking and the time has arrived for the offer of reconnection. I gestured to mum to come closer and Nick too up his place next to the younger child.  With mother sitting behind the child on the floor and Nick sitting cross legged and playing noughts and crosses with the younger child, I tentatively put my hand on the older child’s shoulder. The child turned, not towards me but towards her mother who she sensed was sitting behind her. Her mother opened her arms and the child climbed onto her lap and cried. The younger child, watching this in confusion at first and then recognition, turned and did the same. We left them then in a three way hug that lasted for as long as it needed to.  When reunification comes, it is best to feed it and enable it as much as possible. The love that the children had rejected from their mother was all the healing that they needed.

Reunification work is not standard therapy and it requires something other than standard skills and understanding. What it requires is not easily codeified but we are doing so in order to train others to do what we do.  Without the ability to actively demonstrate success in this arena, awareness and knowledge offer little in terms of supporting alienated children and their families and so it is the whole package which is absolutely necessary to effect greater change in this arena. This is what we provide at the Family Separation Clinic, this is what we will be putting at the heart of the European Association of Parental Alienation Practitioners.

As I work further on my doctoral thesis and examine all of the elements of intervention with children, one of the clearest recognitions that I have about our work is that the alienated child is a child who is not being parented by either of their parents, one of whom is using the child as a conduit for processing their own psychological issues and the other who is being prevented by the alienation reaction from assisting the child in any meaningful way. Alienated children are therefore in a precarious place psychologically and the intervention we are using restores them to both a place of psychological integration and safety in relationship to a healthy parent.  In doing so we are utilising eye contact and body language to reconfigure the landscape the child is used to dominating. Alongside story and metaphor, we are using the child’s language to tell them that help has arrived and they are no longer in charge.  Having the courage to do so in a world which burdens children with making choices and decisions they are too young to make, is one of the core skills for anyone practicing in this field.

For now, telling the stories of reunification (heavily disguised to protect identity but containing the principles and relational dynamics which are always involved), is the best way to convey the reality of what successful treatment of parental alienation looks like. As we move on, the codeified principles of practice will be made available to others and intensive trainings such as those we are delivering this year on our French retreat and in the USA, will begin the process of building the workforce.  As EAPAP comes to life, all of this will be at the heart of our training and education work in Europe to enable more people to practice successfully with children.

I leave you today with the thought of that mother and two children wrapped in her lap. They had ‘hated’ her for two and a half years.  They had told stories about the harm she had done to them to every professional they had encountered (all of which was shown to be false). That cold day in November, they sat with her for four hours before they went off for a pizza and a game of ten pin bowling.  Three days later they went home with her and they have lived with her ever since.  When I last visited the eldest child and I played a game of bowls in the garden as the youngest one did cartwheels. ‘How’s things going‘ I asked as I bowled a ball across the grass, ‘oh, you know‘ said the elder child, ‘it’s cool again now.‘  Mum knocked on the window and called us in for tea and cake, she had talked to me earlier of the sense of trauma she had felt as her children came home. ‘It was as if my mind and my body could not really comprehend what I had been through’ she told me, ‘as if I had been knocking loudly on a plate glass window to tell the world that my children were in danger and nobody listened.’  The youngest child came in and wolfed a large slice of chocolate cake down ‘I’m off down the road to play with xxxx for a while‘ and was gone. ‘Take your coat‘ shouted mum as the child hurtled out of the front door.  I looked at the older child who met my gaze and half shrugged as if to say, ‘bonkers sibling!’

I drank my tea with mum. Somewhere spiderman was saving the day on TV and an ice-cream van tinkled its way down the street.  Life had become ordinary again.

This is what successful treatment of parental alienation looks like. It is nothing more, and nothing less, than this.

32 thoughts on “What is Success in Treating Parental Alienation?”

  1. After 13 years what happens next. A father is angry blocking out the child, also he blocks me, I went to the child. Now married, they would benefit from this addition to the nest, I say no more. Also, the addition would dearly love to know his father. Yet, one parent blocked the return, you are correct, families often take sides. Foreign court action hardens the very difficult situation, winning and losing. I think the attitude of law is another issue.
    Like for Beth Alexander and her twins, stuck in law and a relationship that’s over.


  2. Hi Karen as I sit outside Kings Cross station waiting for a friend and taking in all that’s excitingly newly developed in what was a run down area, I just read your post and shed a tear in public.

    What you describe in terms of facilitating reunification sounds so simple but it is not.

    The whole story you recounted resonates so deeply with me. I sat in more empty rooms to see my boys than I care to remember. Those facilitating my contact time were looking for my allegedly child dangerous traits to appear and were mentally geared up for reunion failure. It could have been so very different.

    All I can say is these stories are incredibly powerful in conveying how reunification can be effectivly facilitated. A thought….a recording of such scenes where actors play the key parts would be an incredibly useful training tool. I don’t doubt you’ve already thought of that approach already.

    Please keep on keeping on.

    Have a good weekend. Lisa x

    Sent from my mobile phone


    1. we will keep on Lisa, we will keep on until around the world no-one will be made to sit in a room waiting to have their risky traits assessed ever again. I despair when I see some of the thinking and practice which still goes on and we have so much further to go but, we have made good ground so far, we have faced off many who seek to dismiss and diminish our impact and we have brought together many powerful people now to push this on with us. What people forget in the midst of all of this is that these people who are being scrutinised as wanting, are mums and dads whose love for their children is all that is needed to tackle the alienation reaction. When the child is free of the coercive control the love of the rejected parent is more than enough to heal. People will know one day what they allowed to happen to too many children and too many parents. One day soon. Sending you love xx


  3. Hi Karen- I commend and applaud you for all your work. You have been a busy bee lately with all the conferences for practitioners and making them more parental alienation aware.

    Karen i have questions related to children who are adults now. With older children who have been alienated for a decade or two or three there is really no help. The damage is done and the situation is normalized. The target parent relies on prayer and learning as much as possible about PAs through self help and reading a ton from advocates like you.

    I try to be empathetic. I find it is easier said than done. I try to think how my two daughters might be feeling. One has been “espoused” and is probably keep pulling her younger sister in. I haven thinking how to free them.
    Could they be still afraid of disappointing their father who acts so victimized? Do they still fear me their mother after all these years? Do they hold onto guilt for feeling like a traitor? Do they still think I am a horrible person like they were told?

    The biggest question is have they lied so badly and painted such a bad picture of me to family and friends like her father that they cannot back out or they will be seen as a liars? How big will the lie get before they want to stop? These feelings or questions seem very real. How and when do they will want to stop the lies? Does any letter writing result in a break through?

    Thank you, Karen

    Anonymous-mother of three

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think some of all of those things are true AMOThree, it is difficult to say for sure without knowing your family history entirely but I think that what happens is that the alienation changes the perception of the present and the past and the lies hold that perception together. What I see in many children who have been persuaded by coercive control (which remember looks very much like love to these children as they know no better), is a fragility in their presentation and a cautious questioning. The normalisation of the harm done, the victim status of father, the lies told to hold a ‘decision’ together, all coalesce to make it more possible to keep the status quo than change it. What you have to do is to stir up the status quo and make the children question the past. Do it in many different ways not just letter writing, use social media and other such outlets to sow seeds of doubt, to trigger dynamic change.

      In some instances I say take great care on all of this, for example if your children are still in their teens. But if they are now in their mid to late twenties or older, stir up the pond and tells some truths where you can. By the time a person is in their late twenties their brain development is complete. Alienated children who are now adults will be struggling with perspective and decision making and underlying feelings which ebb and flow. This is because the alienated state of mind literally changes the brain development, pruning particular parts of the brain and overdeveloping others. I find that people over the age of 25 however, all begin a process of trying to balance the unbalanced within themselves. The problem is of course when dad plays the victim to pull the child back into line.

      Your letter writing and your social media footprint should show you healthy and well. You should not put up with any abuse from alienated adult children but should write back with love and direct challenges to any abusive thing they suggest. Speak your truth clearly and quietly and without malice or revenge –

      ‘I am your mother, I have always been your mother and I always will be. I love you and that will not change, it will go on until I die because I am your mother. There is nothing you can do which will make me not love you. You can tell me a different version of the past or you can tell me that I didn’t love you and didn’t care but it will not change how I feel about you. I loved you then and I love you now and the door is always open for you to come back or for us to meet half way if that feels easier for you. You may be angry with me, you may have things to say to me, I will hear them and whilst I may not agree with all that you say I will listen. I will never stop loving you though and that is the only thing that I ever really need to say to you. I am your mother and that will never change.’

      The key for you at this stage is to be powerfully healthy, powerfully present and open to their return.

      I am sorry not to be able to advise much generically, I am always cautious in doing so because each family situation is different. Use empathic unconditional positive regard in general communication though and you will not go far wrong. What you are doing in using this is setting in place conditions I call open door conditions, so that if there is a slight chink or change in the child’s consciousness they know that they can reach out.

      Many do in unexpected ways and at different times. Be ready.


      1. Karen- I want thank you so much for your kindness that you show me and your beautiful words. Thank you for taking the time to respond to me and sharing with an example of I how I might respond to my girls. I am blocked from my children’s social medias and cell phone, I am only limited to email writing and I do not know if that gets through. I have never really used social medias to blog about my situation. I thought that might affect my situation adversely and deter the children from coming back. I feel like I have to be very careful. That is why I chose to stay anonymous when blogging here. I don’t know if that is valid reasons but that is how I saw it. I feel like I should be very positive and creative in all my messages in the face of all the injustices that happened to me.
        Karen- there are a couple of special events coming in my children’s life and I would love a few coaching sessions with you. Would you be open to this? Please let me know if this is feasible.

        xxxx Anonymous-Mother of Three


      2. Yes of course AMT, if you email me at office@familyseparationclinic I will sort out some times that I can do. I am glad that the words help – happy to help more if I can x


  4. Beautiful to read & I hope we will be in that process with you one day soon.

    I guess when ‘treatment’ is so instinctive to you, it must be very difficult to break it down into its component parts to enable you to train it. But I think case study after case study (and yes, reading the idea above of using video) will be a very powerful training aid & will be more memorable than a list or flowchart of what to do next.

    Good luck. For this is where your life’s work will turn into a phenomenal legacy for families & children in years and decades to come.


    1. We are making some videos now about cases where we have done successful reunifications. I will think about the idea of getting actors to act the scenarios out. If we had good enough people it might work. We have talked of it before. For now the principles are important to get down. I am doing that now. The book has a lot of this stuff in it, we have done a lot of work to codify our practice already in there.


  5. Your good work, with others, is now getting recognition amongst some School Governors. I will soon send you a letter (nominated names removed unless requested and permission given and can be provided at a later date) . This letter will be from an Academy Trust which is now beginning to take such “psychological terrorism” seriously.
    Please watch this space.


  6. Reblogged this on | truthaholics and commented:
    “Reunification of alienated children means that they move from the psychologically split state of mind to an integration quickly. This translates into normal warm responding to the parent who has hitherto been rejected. Thus, the person who is able to recognise whether reunification has worked is the targeted parent, not the ‘expert.’ In some cases of parental alienation in the UK, targets parents are told that their child is recovered in situations where the child is still in the position of deciding whether and when they will see a parent. This is not recovery, this is something else and it is usually seen in situations where the people who consider themselves to be ‘experts’ in this field are making decisions about parents and children from a place where they regard both parents as being active contributors to the problem.”


  7. Hi Karen

    Before reading this I had been thinking about a case I recently sent you (Q v R (intractable contact) [2017] EWFC B35). The reasoning (or lack of it) and the conclusions are frankly staggering.

    I’ve been comparing and contrasting this piece with Q v R. On the one hand there is your account from the coal face of a careful, gentle, empathetic but nonetheless challenging process carried out with understanding and safety in mind. On the other there is the judge (who is sadly not alone in her thinking) in Q v R who manages to mischaracterise unification processes as being somehow always violent, unpleasant and harmful. She does this by mimicking the language of an alienating mother and a colluding social worker. Having dismissed the mother’s credibility comprehensively she still prefers the mum’s manipulative use of language to paint a picture, of reintroducing contact, as being one of potentially harmful coercion and domination that is a million miles from your written account. She uses the word ‘force’ whenever there is a mention of a contact order when it clearly does not need to be forceful.

    I’ve also watched the way that the usual suspects have critiqued this case and it’s amazing how readily and fecklessly this self interested band are to latch on to the same dodgy narrative. But, it does not stop there, the same malignant language gets adopted by the those objecting and commenting upon the commentators thereby reinforcing something which they are opposing. It’s a clever and effective way to get lots of people dancing to the same tune. The stones originally thrown in the pond by the mother have caused ripples that have just carried on spreading.


  8. This is the nature of parental alienation PS, it infects the belief systems of everyone around the child such is the odd phenomenon. Again and again I think of the Salem witch trials when I come into a case. The children hold all the power and the professionals are in thrall to this. Coming in to such a case I am immediately working out how to ensure that I arrest the child’s power by educating the professionals and stopping them from contributing to the madness. In some cases the legal teams become infected with the madness and the splitting starts happening in them too. It becomes like a hall of mirrors in the end.

    Only by remembering that this is MUM or DAD not some weird pervert who needs to be watched in case they whip off the mask and appear like the wolf in sheeps clothing do we stay sane in the midst of all of this. And remembering this. CHILDREN TELL LIES. They lie all the time in cases like this. Not because they are bad or doing it deliberately but because they have to tell lies to survive. I tell this story in our training, of when I was a nanny to three children whose parents had split up. I nannied these children for two years as they moved back and forth between their narcissistic and extremely wealthy parents who hated each other. Even I ended up feeling like telling lies as I arrived back at mother’s house from dad’s house. Even I almost fell through the door saying how much I hated it at dad’s, such was the power of the hatred of father which emanated from mother. Nannying these three children taught me so much more about how children cope (or don’t cope) in separated family situations. When one knows these things and understands alienation and recognises that reunification is simply about finding the time and space to allow the real feelings to emerge whilst someone in the room is able to lift off responsibility for managing the situation from the children, it becomes so much easier to do this work.

    Sometimes we use force to remove a child, I have used what I suppose would be called extreme force by some (using the police to physically remove a child), it is not ideal but it works and actually, the police are really really good at this work, they instinctively know that what we are doing is restoring authority and hierarchy to the child’s life. On several occasions, once when the children I was moving called the police and said they were being abducted and on the second when a child was lying on the floor refusing to move, the police have intervened, doing the job of reintegration for me!


  9. These blogs are all symptomatic of the lack of Human Rights to be a parent. If all parents were legally allowed engagement with their children (unless criminally convicted of a crime against a minor) then the majority of alienation would not exist.


  10. Part of this had me streaming…..rivers and oceans.

    How i have been prevented from healing my lad. 8 years.

    The love i had for my boy, now a man of 21 i dont know.

    What’s different about Bradley lowerys death and josh….

    He’s gone, my boy will never return and I will mourn forever.

    The man, now as twisted and blind as his mother. His future is dark, if ever light comes to him. The pain the man will go through nobody will be able to help with.

    Ultimately he carries everything with him, he knows what happened, what was done, what was attempted, what was demanded, what was expected…… and despite all he and i both along with my father were put through, the heights he soared to anf and the glorious memories we made may one day crucify him before they could bring him comfort that at least he had me for a while, he’ll know then just how hard i fought for him…. And the light years in front of most around us that, he, we, i actually were.

    He’s gone Karen, my beautiful boy is never coming back. I am a lifetime behind him now.

    I can’t let them get away with what they stole from us all.


  11. It won’t prevent all alienation, but it will make a large majority of damaging hostile parents consider their actions. The pathogenic pure cases will still occur. Criminalise Alienation. Those purists that it doesn’t deter will then when identified be dealt with by the law and mental health intervention and specialised services. This is a no brainer argument.

    It should, it has to be, and it will become the way, criminalise hostile parental alienation, penal severity reflecting the level of abuse, before any restorative intervention is considered.


  12. Like you, its been many years of prevented access by those doing the preventing. A child has lost out on his fathers side. Its his birthday this week his grandmother sends him….. Lost contact, lost interest, its like he doesn’t exist. I’ve been the only visitor allowed, that was because things ………. Certain things made my visit important. I lost the contact and respect from my son, I went to see his son. So many wasted years with arguments, like whose talking to whom.

    Karen, I could have done with help many years ago, 13 years actually. Perhaps this could have been different for a very unhappy child.

    I hope this helps those like Beth and her twins, stop controlling elements blocking our way for way. What entitles a person the right to control and make life almost unbearable.

    For Carl, you are far from alone, different children, different countries, but the same difference. More of the same.

    As I said, it starts with the law and reasons why it ended this way. I was told success was not measured by the number of court orders for the return of a child, but by the willingness to listen to reason.


  13. Once again I read through these comments, every single word. And I nod my head – yes. Yes. So many similarities, so much shared pain and trauma, so many children turned into victims by the very person who should have been their protector. Karen, your words to AMOThree were beautiful – I have been trying to love my daughters (18/21) from afar this way for years. I have tried letters, texts, voice mails to get this message across – with virtually no response. I retreat from time to time to save myself – the unrelenting pain just becomes too much.

    Wanted to share a new understanding that I recently experienced – in another round of custody/support litigation, it was finally explained to me why my daughters have refused to see me for the last two years – and for less than 10 hours over the last 5 years. Ready? It is due to me being “depressed and moody”. Oh – thank the Lord! Now I understand (sic). Maybe next we can blame a shooting victim for bleeding.

    Oh – the rabbit hole runs deep.

    Karen – thank you for all your writing. While it is never enjoyable, it is always helpful. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.


    1. Peter, it is indeed madness. A real rabbit warren.

      I managed to get my husband (verbally abusive – coercive control) to go to a Relate session with me after the last blow up. We were still married (46 years) but he’d been turning my daughter against me since she was 15 and had succeeded in every way. He agreed to go because I promised I’d not speak. I’d let him speak. Without that promise he’d refused to go. Once there, I sat and I listened to him and inwardly shook my head in despair.

      At the end, as the counsellor asked about the next session. My husband turned a bewildered face to the counsellor and said ” But I don’t see why I need to come again. It’s got nothing to do with me. It’s all her behaviour and her obsession with the dog” I KID YOU NOT. The counsellor said “But R, your wife is saying she will leave you if something can’t be sorted out. Do you want her to leave?” Whereupon my poor bewildered husband pondered the question and said “Well, I suppose not”.

      That was it for me. I decided to leave him and my daughter to their own little universe. Alice in wonderland indeed …………….


  14. For those who say parental alienation does not exist and it is merely the choice of the child who does not wish to have contact with the alienated parent, surely the huge number of mothers/fathers who seem undeserving of even a kind word from their own children cannot all have been such bad parents that they are so despised. I spoke briefly to my ex dil recently about what had happened with my eldest grandson. She informed me that my grandson ‘just couldn’t be bothered coming to his dads anymore’. In reality my grandson does not communicate with my son at all, he is blocked from telephoning and blocked from social media. Apparently he is the worst dad ever. This seems to extend to us, the grandparents, who also have no contact.. There is something a lot deeper here than ‘just can’t be bothered’.


    1. Yvie,

      Your statement “Apparently he is the worst dad ever. This seems to extend to us, the grandparents, who also have no contact” is so, so familiar to me. The extension of the alienation to the extended family, and friends of the “target”, is so indicative of the classic black & white thinking.

      Oh course I wish I understood this earlier, how intractable and heritable it was, but I did not. Nor did I even understand it while I was in its midst. But now I understand it.

      xW’s FOO has exhibited this for the three generations I have been privileged (sic) to know. xW’s Father’s family was always painted as the “worst”, and banished to exile. Another set of grandparents, aunts/uncles, cousins, etc., who were never part of “the family”. Since I had never met these people, it seemed plausible to me at the time, plus – it didn’t really affect me (?).

      Back a generation – “Grandma” always spoke to Grandpa’s family in the most contemptuous, disparaging way, even decades after similarly banishing them to exclusion from “the family”. Of course, I had never met these people, it seemed plausible, and – it didn’t really affect me (?).

      But now, drawing up a family tree diagram – going back a few generations – the “Xs” of the deleted tell a stark story. The same splitting behavior generation after generation. My case somewhat different, there were no prior divorces. Well – wasn’t always so easy, nor was there as much money to extort. No-fault divorce has made it so much easier to make the exclusion complete.

      And – back to the extension beyond the “target” him/herself; my mother died having not seen her only grandchildren in over four years. My brother, godfather to my youngest – now going on 6 years. Friends of decades – cast aside like garbage.

      Oh this is a twisted disorder.


  15. I still feel it needs to overhaul of how relationship breakdowns are viewed. Winning and losing is how its handled within courts.
    No one owns a child, they are lent to us for such a short time. It makes sense to have as peaceful a time as possible to enjoy the childish sense of fun and learning to know your child.
    Within the first year is the important time to set boundaries and arrange the very best for your child


  16. Beautiful story of the mom and her two children. Hugged my girls last September. When I did so, I feared it would be the last time I saw them. I only hope one day to sit on the floor and hug them for as long as it takes to break the alienation that brought on their rejection of me, their father. Four hours, well, I’d hug them for as long as it takes.

    Thank you for this post. You are doing great work, Karen.


  17. I am a mom whose older son was alienated against me. He is now 19. His dad and I split when he was 9 and his little brother 6. Dad was an alcoholic gambler, so the children lived with me but visited dad on weekends. From the time he was 12 or 13, he would be unreasonably hostile. I have learned since then that he fits your description of alienation perfectly, and yes, dad was a bitter and angry person after we split and told the boys all sorts of awful things. My older son was the target. When dad was drinking he was the caretaker in their house, and he was the keeper of secrets, making sure I did not know what was happening when they were up to visit dad. By the time my older son was 11 or 12, it was clear he felt the need to act as “parent” to his younger brother, and he resented input or parenting from me. At 14, he moved back up to his dad’s at the suggestion of a clueless therapist who thought he would experience “grass is not greener” and move back immediately, but instead, that was the last we really regularly saw of him. Younger brother has always lived contentedly at our home and is happy to abide by our boundaries.

    My younger son has never experienced any of the same treatment from dad (being elevated to co-spouse or being targeted for alienation, and in fact dad does not take nearly the same interest or in the same way with the second one. I was completely clueless that any of this might be intentional from dad and in fact had not heard of parental alienation until very recently, but as I said, I think it fits almost exactly the circumstances in our family dynamics.

    Our older son has rejected for years my suggestion that we seek counseling together to resolve whatever differences there are. He is righteously indignant and regularly looks for excuses, reasons to justify his anger and resentment. We are clueless about what ever started or triggered this, although I wish I’d had access to your information sooner, because I feel into many of the targeted parent traps you suggest avoiding, including pleading with dad to work with me to figure this out (all the while I now think he was orchestrating or at least set this all in motion.)

    My question is what to do now? My 19 year old completely rejects us. His 16 year old brother lives with us and it is like they grew up on two separate planets. The older son plans to move out of state soon. Is there any hope to reconcile with him, and if so, are there resources to help me go about that? The biggest problem I have is that I don’t really understand what to reconcile. I was not a perfect parent. None of us are. But I was stable, provided boundaries and a healthy home, supported his interests and never missed a school event, even when he didn’t care if we were there. We just kept loving him. But the distance and lack of connection on his end just keeps growing. Even though he is only 19, because this has been going on for years and feels like it is getting worse, and because our situation is beyond the ages you are writing about, I feel pretty hopeless like it is too late. Any resources you could suggest would be hugely appreciated.


    1. AJLind:

      I know exactly where you’re coming from and I would ask exactly the same questions as you.

      Tomorrow it will be exactly three years since THE END but before that there were 19 years of my husband (who I still lived with) making our daughter his best friend, surrogate wife and ………… the rest. She was 15 when he made his first breakthrough with her and from that point onwards I was no longer someone to be treated with any kind of respect, all I got was contempt and endless eggshells and traps as they backed one another up against me. When I left them both and moved away (months after the final straw) she was 33 and I haven’t heard from her since. She was married months after I left and I only found out about that by chance. She still goes on holidays abroad with daddy dearest up to five times a year because they are both fully involved in his racing hobby and the social life that once I enjoyed too until they excluded me and I stopped going with them.

      I have felt every negative feeling going from utter frustration and bewilderment to downright anger at HIM. But above all I feel loss of everything I ever thought a family would be. She was our only surviving child. The child I loved beyond words. I know deep down that once set on this path there was nothing at all that I could do and now, the situation is so entrenched with my daughter I cannot see how she would ever want to connect with me again. My mind just boggles at the thoughts that I try to push away. If there are answers, I wish I could find them.


    2. I have just heard that my elderly dad, my daughter’s only living grandparent is dying and hasn’t got long. I have emailed my daughter to tell her and, bearing in mind the letter Karen suggested writing in one of the replies above, I have practically copied it word for word and sent it to my daughter. I love her. I’ve always loved her. It breaks my heart that I may never see her again. My dad is only 24 years older than me. It’s scary. But I would be very, very surprised to get any kind of reply from daughter. I wouldn’t dare to phone my daughter because I’d be afraid of how she would react and ‘know’ it wouldn’t be in a good way.

      Strangely enough I’ve been waiting for months to see a counsellor and she rang last night offering an appointment on Friday. I am torn apart at the thought but maybe it will help. I hope so.


Leave a Reply to Peter Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s