Our new book contains everything we know and have learned about parental alienation from our direct work with families in the UK over the past decade. This book is based upon the application of theory to practice with children and families and as such is a guide book for parents as well as the practitioners who work with them.
In our practice with families across the UK, we have found ourselves up against the most extraordinary opposition to the concept of parental alienation and the harm that it causes to children and their parents. In Scotland for example, where only recently the concept was dismissed by a family court practitioner as nonsense and in various strands of family services, where the lack of understanding causes children to be burdened with choices they are too young to make. The struggle to educate and enable the proper recognition of the problem both in legal and mental health terms, is ongoing around the world. Thankfully, with the recognition given to the problem, by serious publishers such as Charles C Thomas, the task of education should now be made easier.
Parental alienation is a problem with a human face. It is not one which can be reduced to a neat formula which is replicable in every case. Psychological splitting, which is the underlying problem in children who are alienated, is the division of all feelings into wholly good for one parent and wholly bad for the other. This is a defence mechanism which is used by a child who is under intolerable pressure. It is the child’s way of resolving an impossible dilemma and it is used by children in many different scenarios after divorce and separation, not simply where one parent has a personality disorder or where one parent is consciously and deliberately poisoning the child’s mind.
Parental alienation is a spectrum problem in our experience and children become alienated because they are vulnerable to the dynamics around them. Some may be completely resistant to those same dynamics and others may capitulate easily to them. The severity of the reaction plus the analysis of the dynamics around the child leads us to the understanding of how and why a child is affected. In addition, this gives us the knowledge we need to build the intervention which will bring dynamic change.
Our book sets out the way in which we analyse a case of a child’s rejection of a parent in order to develop the intervention which brings relief to the child. This is based upon our direct experience of doing this work, which is combined with our understanding of the legal and mental health literature in this field. In writing the book we wanted to do two things – a) provide parents with information they can pick up and use immediately and b) demonstrate how to combine knowledge with practice so that others can do the work that we are doing.
Doing this work is not easy in an environment which lacks understanding, allows personal belief to dominate practice and furthers controversy by enabling the subject to be ridiculed and dismissed. Parental alienation is a serious, life long, challenge for children and one which will, in our view, one day be properly and fully recognised as child abuse.
We wrote this book to help families, so that parents can equip themselves to manage the situation, so that their children do not have to. We hope that now it is finally here, this book will contribute to change for alienated children all over the world.