I work with alienated children and their families, it is what I do. I have this year however, been taking a rest from the reunification work I have undertaken over the past decade or more, in order to refresh and recharge my heart. I am doing so because I am in the thick of research now and am examining what the alienated child and reunited parent need in order to assist recovery from alienation.
As this year unfolds differently for me, (in that I am not working quite so much at the coal face of reunification), I am able to observe the perspective which unfolds when one’s nose is not pushed right up against the glass. As I do so I find myself understanding so much more about this problem in children and why I have become immersed in this work. At the end of the day, it is all about kindness and all about humanity and all about the freedom of children to live the unconscious life of childhood, which is every child’s birthright, but which is taken from too many far too soon.
Alongside research I am also involved in building our new membership and governance body for parental alienation practitioners in Europe. As I do so I have been talking to some key people across Europe, about the standards of practice and the recognition of parental alienation in the family courts and mental health services. What I am finding is heartening in terms of who is listening and who is interested in creating change. Very soon practitioners will have access to recognised world standards of practice and will be able to register themselves as compliant with those. As they do so they will find that courts across Europe are also recognising those standards, which means that the fit between the mental health interventions which work and court management will be stronger and outcomes for alienated children and families will improve dramatically.
We know that there is no one size fits all solution to parental alienation. We also know that parental alienation must be differentiated and that there are several scenarios in the family which create the use of the infantile defence mechanism of psychological splitting. It is not the case for example, that there is only one clinical picture which causes an alienation reaction in a child and it is unhelpful to the mental health community and the court to promulgate the idea that there is. Worldwide peer reviewed evidence does not support this claim and neither does practice and the claim therefore, simply cannot be relied upon.
We know for example, that a child can be pushed into rejection of a parent and alignment by the difficulties they encounter in transition between parents, we also know that children can become alienated in encapsulated delusional disorder. And we know the difference between those two presentations in children. In addition, we know that children themselves can be the unconscious creators of the very dynamics which go on to trigger an alienation reaction in the child. We also know how to take a case history and understand the route that the child took into alienation, we know how to document the case for court and we know how to ask the Judge to order the intervention which most closely matches the requirements of the case. We know how to intervene to assist the child in the quickest way possible. What we also know is there is a road to travel to create uniformity in this practice and how it interlocks with Court management. That road is being travelled now and I am heartened to see how the movement across the world is linking up to walk together on it.
At the Family Separation Clinic, we are putting into practice all that we know, not only in one to one work with families but on a wider scale by training others and developing membership and governance for practitioners. This will enable practitioners in this field to do what they really need to do, instead of tinkering timidly around the edges because they are afraid of complaint and sanction. We are meeting together with our colleagues in this work and we are bringing together the leading experts in this field to join together with leading legal people to create a dynamic force for change. We are incredibly moved as we do this work this year, by the interest, the kindness and the humanity of all who are joining together now to bring this issue fully into worldwide consciousness.
I never fail to be amazed by the kindness of the human heart. As we do this work we are surrounded by kindnesses which are incredible in the face of the suffering that people endure. Small kindnesses which contribute to the ongoing project of ensuring that we push change in this field on a global scale and kindnesses which simply ease the path when the going gets tough. From parents I have worked with previously, to practitioners who want to assist in the project going forward, from key legal people to UK MP’s and the mother this week who sent me a recipe for a healing tea to keep my strength up after the flu, the holding in mind of the plight of alienated children everywhere is evident. With these kindnesses in our hearts, this horrible problem for children is starting to be recognised for what it actually is, the removal of the child’s right to an unconscious experience of childhood, which is abusive to the child and which steals away their healthy energy and replaces it with defences.
I found this poem this week which made me think about how much kindness resides in this most complex and painful and difficult of life experiences one has to endure. I share it because in the darkest of days, small kindnesses are what get us through. I have had many small kindnesses in my life which have eased my path, I hope these words ease yours.
For those who seek information about the work being done around the world to raise the issue of parental alienation to public consciousness and create the change we want to see in the world, a comprehensive news update comes soon.