The View from America


the “Mr. (Mrs.) good-guy” approach, so important in traditional individual and family therapy, has no place in the treatment of PAS families. Only therapists who are comfortable with stringent and authoritarian treatment procedures should be involved in conducting therapy with PAS families.’

Gardner, R.A. (1999). Family therapy of the moderate type of parental alienation syndrome. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 27, 195-212

Arriving in New York from one of the most difficult phases of work at the Family Separation Clinic, I have time to review the past few months of work in the UK and Europe from a place of greater perspective.

Distance from my home country, coupled with proximity to the USA, where the issue of parental alienation has long been recognised as the emotional and psychological abuse of a child, provides me with the time and space to consider those difficulties which we face in attempting to bring to the consciousness of others, the harm that alienated children are suffering right before our very eyes.

During these last weeks, I have been undertaking some of the most complex work with children that I have ever been asked to do.  And in doing so I have witnessed the way in which the UK’s response to parental alienation is both confused and distorted by the lack of knowledge and skill in the ancillary services working in the field of divorce and separation, creating barriers to delivery of services which lead to the right outcomes for children.

And those barriers are not just external barriers. They are internalised and concretised resistances to the absolute truth of what doing this work requires.  Again and again I hear people talking about therapy and psychology and child contact problems and high conflict.  It’s all just talk, wrapped up with the desire for expert status.  It’s a nonsense which if allowed to, will cause the UK to end up stuffing the problem of parental alienation into the cul-de-sac of existing therapeutic practice.

Risk averse practitioners, who have never undertaken a transfer of residence, who have never overridden a child who says I don’t want to and who assess without intervention are an irritant in this field and there will be more of them in the years to come.  From New York this morning I am clear that the commitment to ensuring that the UK and Europe will not be taken down that route and parents and children will not have to suffer more endless misery as a result, is the right one.  The European Association of Parental Alienation Practitioners, which is building the internal systems of its new governing body, will provide an alternative route for the future for all families who suffer this problem.

What we need at the coal face, are practitioners who understand that the work that we do is in a completely different paradigm to generic therapy.  People with the guts and courage to do it instead of just talking about it and people who understand that one must be indefatigable in order to survive in this field.  People like Liz Archer from the UK, with whom I have worked recently both in France and side by side in delivery in the UK.  Liz’s new practice is  based  in the Midlands and it will provide more services for parents and children in the Family Separation Clinic model.  I will write more about Liz’s work shortly with links to her website and contact details and she will give us a guest blog soon, talking about her learning and our development work for EAPAP.  Liz does this work, she has a proven record of practice and can be relied upon for her quiet assurance and skill.  The UK’s development of parental alienation practice  is safe in her hands and both Nick and I welcome her being at the centre of what we are doing in Europe.

Our team in the UK is strong now and we are working on many different fronts.  The view from here is that we have achieved a great deal but that there is so much more to do.  The risks ahead, which lie largely in the way that statutory services do not understand the reality of parental alienation and continue to see it as a child contact matter, are heightened in my view by the manner in which the parental rights groups continue to distort the truth about the issue.  Parental alienation is not a child contact matter.  It is first seen in the post separation landscape and the first indication that a child is at risk of harm is denoted by the interruption of the relationship between parent and child, but it is not about contact.  Parental alienation is about the psychological harm a child suffers when the attachment relationship is interrupted through the decompensation of one parent, which effectively binds the child to them.  Parental alienation is the doorway through which we as practitioners must step in order to find out more about what is happening to the child.  Only when we do this do we understand the myriad ways a child is at risk.  Only when we are sufficiently cognisant of the truth of parental alienation, which is that child are, without a shadow of a doubt, influenced by a parent in the post separation landscape, will we stop insulting and damaging children by allowing them to remain in a deeply precarious place.

The view from America has never been clearer to me.  The European Association of Parental Alienation Practitioners will codify, accredit, protect and regulate practice in this field, preventing the chattering classes from distorting the truth and the money makers from capitalising on the serious suffering of alienated children.

We can call it whatever we want to call it but parental alienation is child abuse and from where I am standing today, that view drives us forward to the next phase.

Watch this space.

Tomorrow Nick will be presenting at the first international Parental Alienation Study Group Conference in Washington D.C.  Nick will be discussing the educational needs of practitioners  in reunification work.  Nick will draw upon anonymised case examples from over 30 successful reunifications of severely alienated children with a parent, which have been completed by the Family Separation Clinic over the past five years.

On Sunday I will be on the panel with, amongst others, Linda Gottlieb and Deirdre Rand, speaking about reunification work with severely alienated children and adolescents. Drawing upon our successful work in this arena, we will discuss the protocols and practice which leads to success, including the four day rule – more on that later.

Next week in Boston we convene a practitioner training group.  A group of people we will mentor and closely supervise to work in the model developed by the Family Separation Clinic.

Note:  None of this will involve talking about therapy, high conflict or contact.


  1. Alizee:
    Because you say there is no moon, That doesn’t make it so;
    Because you say no Winter exists,
    It doesn’t change the snow;
    Because you choose to reject a term,
    It doesn’t change the act;
    And because you deny that something is real,
    It doesn’t change what is fact.

    Your opinion and tone speak for themselves;
    No need to sensor you.
    Your own words reveal you as a troll,
    Just doing what petty trolls do.
    Deny, reject, and chest-thump away,
    But know it won’t do much good here,
    Among those who’ve experienced PA firsthand.
    That it’s real is abundantly clear.


  2. .. not so lost at all. x

    All that is gold does not glitter,
    Not all those who wander are lost;
    The old that is strong does not wither,
    Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

    From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
    A light from the shadows shall spring;
    Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
    The crownless again shall be king


  3. Thank god you are driven enough & eloquent enough to keep pushing your message home.

    In the UK though, Child Protection Services don’t seem to know how to recognise this as child abuse. A referral is virtually laughed out of the room – these children can’t possibly be neglected they say, they’re fed, clothed & attending school.

    And so exasperated alienated/affected parents currently have to resort to the Family Courts & hope & pray that first Cafcass & then the judge will recognise what they are seeing. But they so often don’t.

    Cafcass say they are training more & will continue to do so. We can only hope & pray that is the case, because around the country children & parents are being let down. And I don’t really care what they call their new system/pathway, as long as it works! Please stay involved & try to continue to advise them & work with them on their strategies.

    Training & education of Childrens Services, Cafcass & the Judiciary is essential. Followed by all those groups who have safeguarding training – schools, GPs, Camhs. Until we can educate this huge number of people, we are only ever fighting for 1 child at a time. And nobody can manage all that on their own.

    Keep building your army Karen & I hope US trip is very fruitful x


    1. Yes I agree Ally – this is the purpose of the EAPAP to standardise practice and provide accredited services. CAFCASS have already shown their hand, their high conflict training pack for their staff starts with the denial that parental alienation exists and goes on to water down all of the principles we work with. This is the reason why we will not work in any other way than that which works and this time, to prevent the principles being undermined we will build the alternative service and make it so successful that CAFCASS will be shown for what it is, not fit for purpose. ~Training and education of all those ancillary services will be done by EAPAP. You might be interested to know we are training a lot of staff in NI at the moment as well as social workers and other ancillary groups around England and Wales. Scotland is tougher to break through but we will do it. And as we do it those who do it in the shadow of what we are doing will be forced to up their game. So whilst we are not interested in working with those who do not truly get it, we will force standards of practice by providing the alternative for parents. And that will regulate and push up standards everywhere. Do not worry, we have an indefatigable team of people behind us, businessmen, analysts, training providers and others who are working on it now. This is such a powerful group of people and it is growing bigger as we go along. We have EU backing already and big plans. Stick with us x


      1. Hi Karen best wishes for your work in the States, I would like to hear more information about the staff training in Northern Ireland please – are you training practitioners to carry out assessment and reunification therapy here in Northern Ireland?


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