This is a going to be a big year in terms of the raising to consciousness of parental alienation around the world. In the UK, where we will hold the first conference of the European Association of Parental Alienation Practitioners, this is the year in which we will certify and standardise practice in this field, not just for Europe but worldwide. Starting as we mean to go on then, let’s switch on the beam at the Family Separation Clinic for 2018.
The Family Separation Clinic is a group of associate psychotherapists, psychologists, independent social workers, coaches and trainers. Working together we provide expert witness services, assessments with therapeutic trial, multi modal team interventions, coaching for rejected parents and reunification programmes for families affected by post separation difficulties and parental alienation. When we first began this work we were told that we shouldn’t emphasise our focus on parental alienation but we ignored that advice. We did so because we knew that our work would raise awareness of the issue and that one day, parental alienation in the UK would be fully and properly recognised by the family courts. That day is here. Our work is properly focused upon the problem and we have significant success in delivering healthy outcomes for children and families affected by the problem.
We deliver successful outcomes based upon internationally recognised standards of practice. We do not offer generic therapy, we do not consider hybrid cases of parental alienation (where there are no personality disorders present) to be the fault of both parents and we regularly carry out reunification programmes in which the child concerned is transferred to live with the parent they are rejecting.
Our work is showcased in our book and our theoretical framework is drawn from the international research in the field. Our assessment and therapeutic trial intervention is currently being rolled out, this is the dynamic interaction with a family where the child displays outright rejection of a parent, which was presented at the Parental Alienation Studies Group Conference in Washington, you can see that presentation here.
Our experience, in working with children of all age groups, is sharpened by the supervision provided by Dr Hamish Cameron, a well known (now retired) UK child adolescent psychiatrist with extensive experience in this field of work. In turn, we supervise others involved in this work around the world, including in the USA where a successful reunification of a sixteen year old has just been completed with our guidance and supervision.
Our model of reunification is therapeutic and like all reunification programmes, is based upon the exchange of power between the aligned and rejected parent. In line with all reunification programmes around the world, the exchange of power is created in the court room, held by the Judge and enacted by our intervention. Supporting the family through this however, is achieved by a therapeutic programme which takes the child from rejection to acceptance and through to recovery of healthy perspective. Our work in this respect does not end until the child is reintroduced to the previously aligned parent in clinical conditions and resilience building with the child is complete.
Resilience building with recovering alienated children is supported by our post reunification programme. In this programme, alienated children are taken through the eight steps to resilience which have been developed through observation of 29 severely alienated children in the year post recovery. We will be publishing more about this programme during 2018.
During 2018 we will be delivering workshops for parents around Europe and the USA and Australia alongside professional trainings. We continue to work with our USA training group and will be convening another in 2018 and we have extensive trainings planned for Europe which we will be announcing shortly.
The highlight of the year will be the first conference of the European Association of Parental Alienation Practitioners, which is being held at the Royal Society of Medicine in central London in August. This conference brings together the major researchers, thinkers and writers from North America and Europe as well as pioneering practitioners in the legal and mental health management of parental alienation. Designed to offer legal and mental practitioners in Europe a deep immersion in the most up to date research and knowledge in the field of parental alienation, this two day conference will drive up standards in policy and practice and ensure that anyone doing this work is properly educated. For parents, this conference provides the opportunity to hear directly from experts all around the world and to have their needs properly represented. This conference is already attracting huge attention and we will be writing and sharing more about it in the coming weeks and months.
All of this work is based upon our knowledge that in cases of parental alienation, there is no one size fits all response. Despite the conflict around the issue which was generated in 2017 in some quarters, and regardless of the claims that the concept of parental alienation is dead, everyone who does this work continues to use the term parental alienation. That is because the label parental alienation, along with the eight signs which are universally displayed by alienated children, have stood the test of time. Now widely recognised as a mental health issue, parental alienation education and training is what we will be concentrating upon in 2018. Our aim is to educate from the top down and to showcase best evidenced practice in this field. Gone are the days when parents are to be subjected to never ending therapy or failed interventions which locate the blame in the rejected parent’s inability to change. The team around the child however, remains only as strong as the weakest link, which means that until all ancillary services are fully aware that a child’s complete rejection of a once loved and loving parent is a maladaptive response to the family separation, our work to educate will not be done.
Contrary to what you might read elsewhere the eight signs are not the basis of our diagnosis, they are the external cluster of symptoms which alert us to the need for further assessment. Our assessment takes around thirty hours of our time, includes the psychological evaluation of parents, clinical observations of parents and children and therapeutic testing.
In my view we can call parental alienation what we like, the problem at the heart of it is that a child is driven to completely reject a parent as a defence against the psychological problems which lie hidden in the family. This psychological defence mechanism lies at the heart of the eight signs of alienation and no matter what diagnostic procedure we use, it is this which has been researched and peer reviewed as a test for alienation versus justified rejection.
In 2018, the conversations I will be having, will be with those with whom I can collaborate in bringing to bear the most effective interventions which produce rapid dynamic change for children. I am interested in supporting healthy family life and protecting children from the transmission of generational trauma haunting. That and only that is my focus for the coming year. As always, for me, it is all about children and their need for healthy parenting and how we achieve that around the world will continue to be that which gets me up in the morning. I spend a great deal of time having conversations with colleagues about the problem of parental alienation and the ways in which we can best help families affected by it. All of which are creative, collaborative and respectful. Those are the conversations I will continue to give my time to.
On the first day of 2018 I want to take this time to make a promise to all families affected by parental alienation everywhere.
No more generic therapy, no more mischaracterisation of parental alienation as being about high conflict and no more misrepresentation of rejected parents as being to blame.
Instead, internationally recognised standards of practice which are based upon peer reviewed research and education of ancillary staff to protect parents and children from the entrenchment of the problem by institutionalised ignorance.
Collaboration, creativity and interconnectedness between those who truly wish to make better outcomes for children and families is here.
This is the year that we will be the change we want to see in the world.