There is a proliferation of parental alienation experts in the UK at the moment, they seem to be popping up like mushrooms in a dark damp field. Looking a bit closer at this freshly grown crop, it seems the focus is upon knowing about parental alienation, but there is not much being said about what to do about it.
We know what parental alienation is. We know what the signs are and we know what causes it. Telling other professionals about all of this is useful but it is not exactly ground breaking. What we need to do for ancillary services – social workers and CAFCASS – is help them to understand what to do about and more than that, how they, more than anyone else in this field, have the key to the door of resolving this problem in the UK.
Now, those who read regularly should not be confused when I say that CAFCASS and Social Workers have the key, especially when you have read the many words I have written about how poor the overall standards of practice are in this field amongst this workforce. In that respect I do not think that educating social workers and CAFCASS on understanding the signs of parental alienation is a bad thing, but I do think that to do so without being able to demonstrate the reality of what must be done next, is a waste of time.
At least educating ancillary workers on understanding the signs of alienation is better than those who profess to be alienation experts when what they are really doing is clinging to the idea that everyone in an alienation case is somehow contributing to the problem. And it is so much better than those who still, even now, seek to fix the rejected parent in order to please the alienator. Those are the cases which leave me most despairing, because the dynamic doesn’t change and all that happens is that the rejected parent suffers more harm.
Anyone with a decent grasp of alienation should be aware that proper differentiation of cases leads to clear clinical decisions which guide what happens next. Decisions which, one or other of the parents involved may not like, but which, in the light of day, is the only way to liberate the child. And that is true whether a parent is alienated, is claiming alienation or is simply fixed in their thinking that the other parent is the problem.
Nick and I are currently gathering and studying the different interventions around the world for the Parental Alienation Studies Group in order to produce certified standards of practice in this field. I am on the board of Simply Parent, a US organisation which is focusing down upon standards and the Australian Association of Alienation Practitioners which will be doing the same. In Europe we are bringing to life the European Association of Parental Alienation Practitioners, to standardise and certify the interventions which we know are necessary. Drawing upon our work with Dr Hamish Cameron in the UK, who is hugely respected by the family courts for his work and his wisdom in this field, we are collating the results of the work we have done in reunification of children over the past ten years. In doing so we are setting out the framework we use to reunite severely resistant children with a parent in order to replicate this on a worldwide scale. Knowing is not enough. Doing is what is really needed and combining the knowing with the doing is what brings immediate and effective change for alienated children and their families.
At the heart of the doing are two key components.
a) the mental health and legal interlock
b) the exchange of power between parents
All reunification programmes around the world rely upon these two distinct elements to bring about change for alienated children and it is utterly essential for any parent whose child is severely alienated (phobic, hysterical, completely rejecting) to understand that nothing short of a programme which includes these two elements will change that in the child.
This is because –
- We know that the child who is severely rejecting is using the infantile defence of psychological splitting.
- Psychological splitting cannot be reversed using therapy and all of the research evidence underscores that.
- Psychological splitting is not caused by the rejected parent and fixing the rejected parent will not reverse psychological splitting and all of the research evidence underscores that.
- Psychological splitting is caused by the upholding of power over the child by the aligned parent, either consciously or unconsciously and at the root of that lies a psychological or psychiatric problem.
- Psychological splitting is often accompanied by attachment issues in the family (this is the presentation called AB-PA by Childress).
When the child is utilising the infantile defence of psychological splitting they show the eight signs of alienation. (It is really unnecessary for there to be a great debate about whether Richard Gardner took us down a blind alley with his eight signs, the reality is that all severely alienated children show these signs and it is how we know that we must open the door and use the full range of assessment tools at our disposal to differentiate the cause of the alienation and through this, find the treatment route).
A child who is severely alienated will show all eight signs and will show them severely. When this presentation is in place, a further examination will show that there are, amongst others, attachment problems, boundary violations, parentification, spouseification and more. This is pure alienation, as described by Bala and Fidler and is that which is seen as caused by the actions of a psychologically disordered parent’s influence of a child into an encapsulated delusion, which has been recognised in the UK by psychiatrists and psychologists for many years. This again is what is called AB-PA by Childress.
In such circumstances, therapy is contraindicated and when the global standards of practice which we are curating now are in place, parents will have the evidence they need to ensure that in a case of a child’s complete rejection, where this presentation is at play, therapy should not be delivered.
What should be delivered is the intervention which addresses the power that the alienating parent is holding over the child. This power is coercive control in its most concentrated form. Whilst coercive control is only really ever talked about in political ideological terms (women’s rights) and is largely conceived to about men controlling women, the definition of coercive control is thus –
Coercive control is a term developed by Evan Stark to help us understand domestic abuse as more than a “fight”. It is a pattern of behaviour which seeks to take away the victim’s liberty or freedom, to strip away their sense of self.
When one encounters the alienated child in a pure case, what we are looking at is the very definition of coercive control. The behaviours which are exerted over children by the alienating parent in a pure case are a pattern of behaviour which seeks to strip away or prevent the development of, the child’s individual sense of self.
Which is why the power over the child dynamic is at the heart of what we do in reunification work. As practitioners who are working to resolve the psychologically split state of mind, the first step we take is to wrest the power from the alienating parent and hold it ourselves for the time it takes for the intervention to integrate the child’s split state of mind.
To assist us in doing so we need the power of the court to be invested in us. This is what we call the legal and mental health interlock, the way in which the power of the court is interlocked with our capacity as practitioners, to be the person who does not accept the child saying no.
To face a child who says no I don’t want to in a vehement and often behaviourally challenging manner is one of the most difficult tasks a practitioner can undertake. It is counter intuitive to face such a child and refuse to respond to their protestations of fear and rejection, especially in the current environment when children’s voices are regarded as being definitive in determining their own wellbeing. It is full of danger too and in the current circumstances around the world, to be this person is to draw negative transference, not only from the alienating parent who does everything possible to discredit the person who is doing the work, but from other practitioners too, especially those who have never done this work and especially those who are trained in the political ideology of women’s rights first, children’s needs second.
This is why we are doing the work of curating and standardising practice in this field and building new governing bodies, to protect practitioners and ensure that more will come and do this work. As we claim this scientific discipline, which is actually about child protection and hidden abuse of children, we are ensuring that the right understanding and the right practice will grow alongside the mushrooming of the self proclaimed experts. We cannot stop people from telling vulnerable parents that they have the answer, but we can give vulnerable parents the answer so that they are protected with knowledge about how this work must be done to protect their children.
All through this coming year we will be working hard on developing standards of practice around the world. Collaborating with others who have proven records in reunification work and those who have made significant contributions to the scientific field, we are bringing knowledge and action to this space. Education of professionals will be accompanied by active skills for reunification work and alongside this we will be producing for parents, guides on what to look for, what to expect and who to go to for intervention in your own case.
On the other side of this work we are developing training for the judiciary and will be starting our education work in this area in August at the Conference in London headlined by Amy J L Baker. At this conference, Dr Simona Vladicka, will present her training to the Romanian Judicial College and we will have a Belgian Judge present on her work in this field. This will lead to a unified training for all judiciary in Europe from the European Association of Parental Alienation Practitioners, driving up understanding as well as practice and protecting parents from poor interventions which are not recognised in the global scientific field of parental alienation.
We know what parental alienation is, now is the time to talk about what to do about it.
We will shortly be opening our reunification training for practitioners who wish to train in the Family Separation Clinic’s reunification model. This model of work is based upon the successful reunifications of severely resistant children undertaken by the Family Separation Clinic since 2009. This model uses the legal and mental health interlock and furthers the work of reunification with a twelve week post reunification support to the child and receiving parent. This is a therapeutically based twelve week programme which is supported by a 90 day cessation of contact with the alienating parent and the Family Separation Clinic’s model of supervised re-introduction of contact over a period of twelve to twenty six weeks. The twelve week therapeutic work with the recovering child is a unique intervention which takes the child through the steps of integration of the split state of mind towards congruence of experience in the inner and outer world. Parents whose children have gone through this programme are clear that this offers the child the depth recovery which brings them to a fully integrated state of mind without risk of relapse.
The Family Separation Clinic offers all practitioners who are successful applicants on this course, the opportunity to speak to parents whose children have been reunited by the Clinic and legal people with whom we have worked on reunification. We want everyone who does this work to understand that what we are teaching is rooted in real life experience of reunification. Whilst we cannot give public details of work we have done because of the regulation of family court work, we can offer anyone who wishes to invest their time and money in training with us, the opportunity to speak to people who can verify our success in this field. We know that there are many people who say that they do this work, we want you to know that we do what we say we do.
Applications for training in our reunification programme will be open by the end of February. Training will be held in Amsterdam in late May and is open to anyone who already holds a qualification in the helping therapies – psychotherapy/psychology or psychiatry. We will also consider social workers if they have experience in therapeutic work. Please register interest in receiving an application pack by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Learning and Events Calendar 2018
We are currently scheduling all of our training for 2018 and you will shortly be able to download a calendar. For now, our programme is taking shape as follows –
March 6th and 13th One Day Practitioner Training in Belfast and London (limited places left book now to guarantee a place)
April 27/28 – Antwerp Two Day Practitioner Training
May – Amsterdam – by application only – A Three Day Intensive Training in Family Separation Clinic Reunification Programme. Details To be announced shortly.
June 11-15 – UK Alienated Mothers Retreat in Somerset – book here (limited places left)
*June 29 – New Addition – Simply Parent Conference in Colorado USA*
July – 1-15th California Trainings, to be announced.
August 23-24 Parental Alienation Studies Group Conference 2018 Stockholm
August 30/31 Moving Upstream EAPAP Conference London
October 10-13 Lost in the Fog EMMF Conference Australia
October 15-28 Australian trainings to be announced.