We are in Provence this weekend working with practitioners from Europe and the USA to grow strong leadership in the field of parental alienation. As we prepare, bringing fresh foods in from the nearby markets and preparing the learning, I am reflecting on the field we work in and the importance of this collaborative practice.
Working with families affected by parental alienation requires a particular kind of dynamic understanding of the all of the different people in an alienation situation. This is not the kind of therapeutic work or leadership which is only about championing one parent or the other or even in fact the child. Anyone who works in this field has to be able to understand and be able to respond to each of the different players in the family dance. All the while not falling into the trap of traditional family therapy by always treating the family as if all members contribute to the problem of alienation.
What we are working with in most cases of parental alienation is trans-generational narratives which emerge during the crisis of family separation. Often alienating behaviour will be present before the family separates and will be contributed to by grandparents who in turn were influenced themselves by their own parents. In understanding trans-generational trauma I am drawn to the work of Alejandro Jodorowsky the creator of psycho-geneology, which provides a way of understanding the family narratives and the way in which the present generation are haunted by those who have gone before. In his home country of France, we are preparing to share ways of understanding trans-generational trauma and how to understand the narrative which is presented in a case of parental alienation.
In doing so we are using the constructs which we have been told we do not use, but in fact do use and have been using for decades in the UK. During our retreat, we will be looking at differentiating cases of parental alienation to understand those which involve personality disorder, encapsulated delusional disorder and repetition of unresolved childhood trauma. All constructs which we learned from our work with British Psychiatrists who have been using this approach for five decades.We will be working with those constructs, just as we always have done, in triaging those pure cases of alienation which require us to separate the child from the parent in order to treat, and those which can be treated using a combination of strong court management and multi modal therapeutic programmes which are based upon the work of Friedlander and Walters.
Does that make us Garnerian experts who do not want a solution to PA, or does it make us practitioners who are already doing what we are told we should be doing? We know the answer to that and our successful work and growing networks are testimony to it. We don’t need to be involved in manufactured arguments about who is doing this right and who is doing this wrong. Our energy is better spent in creating and growing networks of people who do all those things and more in assisting families affected by parental alienation.
I have been called many things in my time in this field; a strong character, provocative, a nuisance, deluded, an unusual practitioner who pushes the boundaries and a model of working with families from the future, all labels I am proud to bear and wear because they describe the different aspects of who I am. I am not impervious to criticism however, far from it, especially when it is unjustified and when it is designed to harm the work that I do with children and their families. In recent years I have had a newly qualified British Psychologist write to me to tell me that she disapproved of my working methods and a group of people attempt to harm my work further by the republication of the BACP sanction against me. In recent weeks I have seen myself written about in emails and blogs flowing from the USA and have wondered about the underlying meaning of such things. All of the people who have felt bold enough to act in this way have not even offered the professional courtesy of holding a conversation with me first. If they had, perhaps their unconscious drivers to compete might have receded and we may have found a way of collaborating and in doing so may well have shifted this field of work faster and further than we have been able to without that.
I am always curious about people who create conflict but who cannot deal with it head on. What drives that behaviour in them and what fears are triggering that behaviour? Many fears are borne of fatigue and loneliness and this field is a very lonely place at times to work in. Just like rejected parents, those of us who do this work can be outcasts from the general field of psychotherapy and psychology and can find ourselves mocked at times and our opinions shifted to the margins. That does not mean that we are silenced however, far from it. We know that in facing these barriers to our practice with families we are having to clear paths for the next generations of people who will come to help. Which is why this weekend’s leadership retreat is so powerful and so important in the the development of networks of support and collaborative practice between practitioners in Europe and the USA.
By the time we have finished 2017 there will be seventy newly trained practitioners in the UK, Europe and the USA who are ready to develop their own practice and thinking and message making in this field of work. This collaborative network of people are starting the process of describing and codifying what parental alienation practitioners do and will be researching, writing and creating the new membership body EAPAP to protect and support new and emerging practice in this field. As part of that work we will be using constructs which diagnose and treat pure alienation (where a parent has a personality disorder) and methodology for delivering multi modal treatments for hybrid cases, We will codify the way in which all such cases must be managed via the legal and mental health interlock and will begin to write and develop the training and supervision for all practitioners in this field. By August of 2018 there will be a new membership body which clarifies the requirements for best practice in this field, ensuring that all parents can get access to a practitioner who meets recognised standards. We will be codifying reporting standards and treatment methodology so that practitioners working in this field are protected from others who seek to do harm.
All by working together. All by sharing our skills and knowledge. All by being able to accept difference and extend the courtesy of listening to each other and learning.
When we do that the problems we face as practitioners are halved and our courage grows and is sustained. When our courage grows and is sustained, the families we help get what they need. When the families get what they need, their confidence grows, when their confidence grows the healing begins.
Sharing is caring. We tell it to our children, as practitioners we should tell it to each other on a daily basis. For the next five days, here in Provence with our group of people who will lead the way over the next decades, it is writ large in every part of the work we are doing.
Less war, more Jaw. The next generations of children depend upon it.