We are with our US training group today, taking the first step in a year long journey to understanding and working with alienated children and their families. As I get ready to cross Boston Common (where the trees are in their full glory of autumnal colour), I am sifting through the basic building blocks of understanding parental alienation. As I do so, I find myself curating the top ten things a practitioner must know before they work with an alienated child.
1.Attachment to a loved parent never dies, withers or disappears. It becomes buried underneath the regulatory feelings of guilt and shame. Which means that when the child is liberated from the alienation reaction, those feelings of love and belonging are still there.
2. The underlying condition which causes the child to reject a parent, is the infantile state of psychological splitting. This can be measured objectively and there is a tool to do so.
3. The route into the alienation reaction describes the possible routes out of it and clinicians should always be able to describe how this child came to this rejecting stance.
4. A formulation of how this happened leads to the preparation of any treatment route.
5. Hybrid does not mean that both parents caused the problem, however, parental alienation is always caused by the actions of one parent, the responses of the other which impact positively or negatively and the vulnerability or resilience of the child.
6.Not all cases of parental alienation are pure cases and treating a hybrid case as if it were pure will simply transfer the problem with the child.
7. The ability to tell the difference between a case of justified and unjustified rejection is the first step in learning. Refining the case formulation and getting the treatment route right is the measure of the skill of the clinician.
8. All pure cases of parental alienation should be treated using a 90 day separation protocol.
9. All reunification programmes around the world are based upon three things – a) the separation of the child from the alienating parent, b) the confrontation for the child with the split off and denied parent, c) the resolution of the psychologically split state of mind which typically takes place in direct relationship with the parent over a period of 12 weeks or 90 days.
10. It is entirely possible and in fact desirable to confront the child with the split off and denied parent immediately in any programme. Waiting until the child is ready is futile, the child will never be ready. Which leads to the last core principle of this work. Alienated children cannot say ‘yes I want to see my parent‘, they have to be firmly and supportively made to see that parent. When adults take responsibility so that children do not have to, then dynamic change is created.
All of which combines to create a requirement of those who do this work to be skilled, knowledgeable, confident, calm, courageous and endlessly patient with children and their families. Those who are not easy with the idea of overriding children’s resistances need not apply, those who want to water down the principles to fit their own comfort zone should not come into this arena.
We have five practitioners in this field waiting across the common to begin their journey in this field. With the backdrop now of us being able to curate and codify not only European but internationally recognised standards, these people are the first in the USA to use the Family Separation Clinic model to assist families.
Here comes the next phase.
I always read your posts and I am much more enlightened than I used to be! My heart sinks though when I let thoughts of my (now) adult daughter back in. I KNOW her dad started ‘educating’ her when she was 15 (because he decided he no longer much liked me and therefore I was a ‘threat’ to him) and I know that from that moment on she was lost to me but I also know that from that moment on, I annoyed her and ‘stressed her out’ (probably) just by breathing. It truly is a horrible feeling when no matter HOW you are, you cannot be accepted by your own partner and child. Twenty years from that moment when my husband (who was still me) gave my daughter permission to rise above me and eventually get rid of me, I am still right there in the middle of estrangement. I know you deal mainly with children and teenagers who have some hope of coming through all this but to those parents who have children well beyond that age I send all of my sympathy and best wishes. It’s as though all this happened to me in another life and with that in mind, I go forward to finally be WHO I think I was intended to be but didn’t get the chance to be.
Sometimes there are no words x
I am so sorry Willow – its so unfair.
Reblogged this on World4Justice : NOW! Lobby Forum..
Is the ‘Parental Acceptance–Rejection Questionnaire’ available for free download anywhere?
Karen – what do you mean when you say that “The route into the alienation reaction describes the possible routes out of it”. You said in your book as well that the way out often mirrors the way in, in reverse? So a kid who struggled on the transition bridge and finally was alienated after a “significant incident” may return after a “significant incident” with the parent they are aligned with and then struggle again to integrate both parents back into his/her life?