The time has come to set recognised standards of practice for practitioners who work with children and families affected by divorce and family separation. The European Association of Parental Alienation Practitioners, is designed to do exactly this and the launch Conference takes place on August 30/31st in Central London.
For a century, divorce and separation has been increasing in societies all around the world, to the degree where it is regarded by many as simply an unavoidable life event which is unfortunate but not worthy of much concern.
For fifty years or more and certainly since the changes in the divorce laws in the early seventies meant that women could leave a marriage and take their children with them, divorce has been regarded as a personal right and in some situations a moral obligation. This focus upon adult rights (and particularly upon the rights of women), has rendered the needs and experiences of children of divorce and separation virtually invisible.
When I began work in this area of family support, I was a young single mother. In those days, divorce and separation plus the rights of women to have children outside of marriage, were a political issue embraced by feminists. Whilst I was a single parent because the father of my child was not interested in being involved in her life, the feminist movement became my home for some years as part of my support structure and my consciousness.
As time moved on however, I came to recognise that the feminist movement, whilst supportive of my individual rights as a woman, did nothing to support my relational world, particularly my relationships with men. As I grew older, I came to understand the ways in which feminism had infiltrated my beliefs about men negatively. I came to realise that not all men are in fact bastards and not all women are in fact perfect. I resolved the psychologically split state of mind induced by feminism in my forties. Those of you who have been reading this blog for the decade I have been writing it, will remember those days of my exit from the cult of feminism.
When I look back, I realise how much my young mind was conditioned to believe those things which have been said about men by feminist women – e.g. ‘all men are rapists’ – (Marylin French)and ‘male sexuality is apparently activated by violence against women and expresses itself in violence against women to a significant extent’ – (Catherine McKinnon).
My youngest years of life were affected by violent and abusive men and so the idea that my powerlessness in that situation could be explained by a political construct called ‘patriarchy’ (all men are inherently advantaged in society by virtue of being born male), was seductive because of the sense it made to a confused young mind. As I have grown older however, I have realised that the construct of feminism is one which creates the same kind of psychological splitting which is seen in parental alienation (bad men/good women) and that is not the kind of psychological balance which is needed when working with children of divorce and separation.
That splitting in thinking, is one which I see repeatedly in the work that I do with families and in particular with the practitioners who work in family services where feminism is part of the curriculum which leads to qualification as a social worker or a CAFCASS officer. This leads to the kind of practice with families which creates blind spots and nowhere is this more obvious that in the alienation of mothers from their children and the way in which family services repeatedly fail to see the reality of how this occurs. Despite the furore about domestic violence in family services, despite the fact that mother alienation is almost a text book version of the domestic violence movement’s description of coercive control, alienated mothers remain overlooked and dismissed by the very organisations supposedly set up to support them. And all because of the underlying psychologically split state of mind of the practitioners working in this field. The split thinking which leads to the belief that parental alienation is only ever a false allegation by a man against a woman and the kind of thinking which ignores the reality of a father alienating a mother even when it is happening under their very noses.
Split thinking is the belief that things can be divided into wholly good and wholly bad and it is a very seductive thought pattern for anyone who has been affected by abuse in any form. Split thinking leads to a lack of perspective, meaning that only that which fits the belief system can be consciously allowed into the mind, whilst the rest is buried into the unconscious. This is a defence mechanism which arises when the sense of self has been under attack. Split thinking is seen in abundance in families affected by family separation and parental alienation as well as the practitioners who work with them in this landscape. Good/bad thinking, right/wrong ways to do things and angel/demon motifs are all present in this place.
But the good/bad split has no place in work with families affected by family separation and in fact it both perpetuates and entrenches the child’s defence response to the problem of relating to two parents who are now in very different psychological places. When practitioners who are affected by psychologically split thinking AND who are trained using theories which are rooted in the good/bad belief system of feminism, encounter the family, it is little wonder that parental alienation is both triggered and made worse by that interaction.
It is time to stop the routine practice of teaching feminist beliefs as part of the curriculum of training for those who work in family services. It is time that the theories which promote the kind of blind spots which force men to the margins of the family and women to become either idealised perfect parents or demonised jezebels are ditched. Far beyond this kind of construct are those theoretical frameworks which best support the therapeutic needs of the family in transition from together to apart and now is the time for those of us who know, to stand up and do the work to put the new structures in place.
As I have journeyed through my life I have constantly evaluated those things which lead to better psychological health in my own self and through that my work with others. Based on my understanding that one can only heal others to the extent to which one’s own self is healed, I have undertaken this journey as consciously as possible and at all times with an eye to bringing about a greater capacity in my own self to help others. Having arrived at this point in our work with alienated children and their families, I recognise how much the inner experience matches the outer expression of self in this work and how the reconciliation of split thinking takes us far beyond the place of right and wrong and into somewhere new…
out beyond the ideas of wrong doing and right doing there is a field – I’ll meet you there – RUMI
It is into that new place that we are about to take thinking and practice with children of divorce and separation and especially those affected by parental alienation. Out beyond the right/wrong, far beyond the good/bad and right into the place where perspective grows. The place where new practice with separated families supports the relational needs of children with all of the important people in their lives. The place where parental alienation signs and symptoms are recognised as red flags being waved by children who need additional help.
In that field beyond the right doing and wrong doing we are starting work on something very new.
At the EAPAP Conference in London on August 30/31st – we will meet you there.
The EAPAP Conference is the launch event of the European Association of Parental Alienation Practitioners. This is a European wide membership association which welcomes all practitioners working with children of divorce and separation and especially with parental alienation.
The association is intended to provide for parents a transparency about the standards of practice expected of anyone working in this field. Standards which demand that a practitioner is able to demonstrate knowledge and experience which is based upon international research and practice.
In the coming days I will set out those international standards of practice which EAPAP is curating and I will explain what these mean to parents and practitioners. These standards are intended to regulate the European field of work with children of divorce and separation and especially those affected by parental alienation and provide a new theoretical model of practice for all practitioners in this space.
EAPAP will provide training and accreditation for practitioners as well as wider training for the Judiciary and all family services in Europe.
EAPAP is co-founded by the Family Separation Clinic in London and The Child and Youth Protection Centre of Zagreb. More information about EAPAP can be found at http://www.eapap.eu
Tickets for EAPAP 2018 are close to sold out – if you are a professional wishing to attend please book here.
If you are a parent who would like to attend please email firstname.lastname@example.org – we have only a handful of parent tickets left now so please email us quickly.
UPDATE ON SURVEY OF PARENTS AFFECTED BY PARENTAL ALIENATION
Thank you to all of you who have completed our survey, we have had a remarkable response so far and have a rich seam of information to draw upon in our curation of standards of practice for work with families. Please continue to share and encourage people to complete the survey, the more information we have the better informed this work will be in the days ahead.
Your contributions will add to the pressure we can place upon other agencies who need to reform their practice with families – CAFCASS for example in the UK.
Your contributions will add to the information we can give to policy makers across Europe, especially those with responsibility for managing services to families affected by divorce and separation and parental alienation.
Your contributions will be curated, analysed and reported upon at the conference itself and in papers produced as a result of our work.
Complete the survey here.