I am writing this from the silent kitchen in Provence which has been the heart of our home for the past four days. As I write, the long fingers of sunlight poke through the windows and the shadows from the leaves on the trees dance across the table. To my left, a vase of flowers which we picked on Thursday to dress our dinner table. Across the room come faint smells of lavender from the candles we burned to keep our minds focused.
I am thinking about the seven people from Europe, England, Northern Ireland and the USA, who came here this weekend to discuss the messages we need to create and take back out to the world about parental alienation. I am thinking about the power of collaborative practice which has been abundant this weekend. I am less lonely in this work today, I am more hopeful that it is possible that more will come and stay and do this work and others will provide the air cover we need to get the messages out to the people who can change children’s lives for the better. I am certain, as I write this today, that the way forward for our work is to build new associations which will protect practitioners and safeguard parents from poor services and dismal deliveries of interventions. I know it with every cell of my being, like being in the full flow of a river, the current is shifting and change is here.
From the back left to right: Mairead from Northern Ireland, Kelley from the USA, Jan, from Holland, Margreeth from Holland, Petra from Belgium, Liz from the UK, Nick and I and Olivier from Belgium.
In many ways I am at the end of a long phase of work in this field. With the publication of our book and the development of our training in Europe and the USA, we are moving into a new way of thinking and working with the issue of parental alienation. Whilst the Family Separation Clinic continues to deliver services in the UK via our team of experienced psychotherapists and independent social workers, my work with Nick is moving into training others and developing the European Association of Parental Alienation Practitioners, through which we will standardise and accredit the right kind of practice with families across the UK and Europe. My focus now turns also to research and the contribution I will make to the knowledge which is needed to further this field of work. As I deepen my understanding of the needs of children in recovery from psychological splitting, I am able to hear the voices of children and evaluate the way in which the interventions we make, help them to recover their healthy relationship with the parent they have been forced to reject.
I am also able to map the damage that psychological splitting does to children and the longer term harm which is caused when the wrong approach to resolution is used. As I look ahead to the next five years, I find myself imagining the future, when the problem of a child’s complete rejection of a parent is more widely understood.
I also find myself imagining what it would be like if all of the practitioners and researchers in this field were able to work together. Imagine all the people, working together as one, a topic we discussed this weekend around the dinner table. Nine colleagues spending focused time together, all of us discussing the possibilities for change when a problem shared becomes a problem halved.
When I began this work in the UK I felt like a lone voice in the wilderness, now I am one amongst a powerful group of people who are change makers in their own lands. As we began our work this weekend I received an email from our friend and colleague in the EAPAP and the PASG, Dr. Simona Maria Vlădica from Romania, who wrote with wonderful news –
So, this week as a Professor I introduced into curriculum of the first year of study for the future judges and prosecutors from National Institute of Magistracy – Romania, a course/conference named: “Parental Alienation – a form of severe psychological abuse on the child; implications in the decision-making of the courts on the exercise parental authority”. I’ve already held the first module of the course (about 80 people attended the course) and the second one will be held on the 11th of October 2017. The new curriculum was approved by the highest forum for justice system in Romania, Superior Council of Magistracy.It was a real success because the future judges were very focused and curious to learn valuable psychological information regarding to this field. I’ve already presented them some information from the judicial practice of the courts.I’ve attached some pictures.I am very thankful that I have this opportunity to speak about parental alienation in front of the future judges and prosecutors.The National Institute of Magistracy is a training school for future judges and prosecutors. In Romania if you want to practice like a judge or prosecutor you must to attend 2 years to this Institute otherwise is not possible to work in this field.
Dr. Simona Maria Vlădica, who is delivering the course “Parental Alienation – a form of severe psychological abuse on the child; implications in the decision-making of the courts on the exercise parental authority” as part of the curriculum of the first year of study for the future judges and prosecutors from National Institute of Magistracy.
After our visit to the Child and Youth Protection Centre in Zagreb two weeks ago, where we were working with Professor Gordona Flander and her team in developing services for children manipulated after divorce, this news from Romania made me realise with growing certainty, that those of us doing this work will no longer be alone in Europe or indeed around the world. Together we are stronger and when we are stronger we are able to make change happen for children and their families on a wider and more sustainable basis.
Imagine if all of the people who work in this field worked this way? Imagine if sharing and caring became the only way forward so that all of the ways and all of the theories and all of the practices which really work for these families, were woven together to make a whole tapestry for change. No more demands from the my way or the highway brigade, no more attacking other people and trying to hold them to ransom. No more smoke and mirrors which make it appears that there is conflict when in fact there is no conflict at all. No more fog. Just those of us who care, sitting around a table in a little village in the south of France taking time to make change happen.
The past few weeks in the world of parental alienation practice have been both unpleasant at times and yet they have also featured some of the most deeply satisfying days of my working life. In the midst of the nasty attacks on me and others in the PASG, we have been focusing on collaboration and care and building the bridges which will take us into new territories of change making. A group of committed, passionate and deeply caring human beings who have taken the time because they know it matters, they know more hands are needed to make other people listen and they know that collaborative practice is the only way to achieve this.
Imagine all the people, working together as one?
It happened in Prague in June, it happened in Provence this weekend, it is happening in Washington DC in October and in Boston later the same month and in Sweden and Australia and in London next year as well as the USA and in France again.
Because this ball is rolling and it won’t stop now.
Pass it on.