We are just back from Skeppenholmen in Stockholm where the second international conference of the Parent Alienation Study Group was held on the 24th and 25th August.
Although our trip was extremely short, the experience of working with our peers who truly understand the issue of parental alienation was both deeply informative and transformational. The opportunity to listen, share, consider and debate the critical issues in addressing parental alienation all over the world, deepens my respect for my colleagues and, at the same time, encourages me to do better for children and families affected by the problem. Sharing is very definitely caring in this field, where the theme of heroes and villains is repeatedly played out. Having been cast as the villain of the piece in one part of internet land, experiencing collegial debate and respectful sharing of our skills, knowledge and ideas, is a refreshing and rewarding experience.
It is also a useful reminder that there is a rich seam of research, practice and success in identifying and treating parental alienation. Here is the two stage model of diagnosis of parental alienation which was discussed by Steve Miller and which has been peer reviewed and is admissible in the US courts. Steve Miller told us about how to demonstrate incontrovertible evidence of parental alienation through the use of clinical reasoning and how the eight signs of parental alienation are unnecessary in court because in clinical reasoning terms they are simply evidence of two things
a) pathological splitting
b) Lack of empathy
Steve demonstrated how, in clinical reasoning terms, these two signs can be used to show that parental alienation is child abuse.
In a further presentation by Jennifer Jill Harman, the issue of parental alienation as a form of intimate partner violence was unpacked. As I have always been aware that power is a core dynamic in cases of parental alienation, I was absolutely delighted to hear Jennifer speak. I am also delighted that she is coming to the EAPAP Conference in London this coming week, because it is my view that her work has enormous significance in helping us to understand how to build replicable models of intervention across Europe and the world, which are widely understood and accepted.
When we consider how to treat parental alienation, the focus should always begin with understanding who is wielding power over the child. This is a fundamental responsibility of any practitioner in this field because changing the power dynamic is the core of what we are required to do when we treat the problem. Jennifer will speak in London about this issue and we are incredibly excited to be able to work with her on plans to develop thinking and practice in this area.
Our presentation about our reunification work was on day two, when we unpacked the models of work we use and discussed the what, why and how of reunification work. Using our understanding that the core problem for the child is psychological splitting, we showed how generic therapy models which use a no blame approach, simply recycle the problem for the child and repeatedly expose the child to the damaging dynamic. Many of you will know that the focus of EAPAP is to set and maintain evidence based practice which is drawn from a combination of research and evaluated interventions. No more generic therapy is my motto and in our presentation we showed why this is important and what we should be delivering instead.
The model of work we use at the Family Separation Clinic has a distinct marker in that we do not wait to introduce the child to the rejected parent and we do not take the child to a therapy or reunification centre to do the work. Using approaches from short term dynamic psychotherapy we introduce the child to the parent at the start of our interventions using what is referred to as a ‘head on collision’ by the originator of this process Habib Davanloo and we use a co-therapy model in which the rejected parent is the co-therapist with us in this process. This is a very different model to any traditional therapy because it confronts the family system with the reality of the core defence of pathological splitting which is being carried by the child. In combination with our understanding of power and control dynamics, this approach is proving successful in our work and it is one which we will evaluate in conjunction with our peers for its potential for replication.
I left Sweden feeling invigorated and excited about the possibilities ahead. I found the two intensive days to be challenging and thought provoking. Most of all I found the opportunity to listen to and be heard by colleagues from all over the world, a nurturing and nourishing experience. After two decades or more at the coal face with the suffering of divorced and separated families, finding a moment to breathe, think and reflect, is important because it helps me put on my work clothes again and go back out to do what I do.
The week ahead brings the EAPAP2018 Conference in London with colleagues travelling to join us from Europe, Hong Kong, USA and even New Zealand. With the conference almost at full capacity now, this promises to be the platform for dynamic change in Europe we always knew it could be.
A day of rest today and then back to it.
Thank you to the Chairperson of PASG2018 Program Committee: Lena Hellblom Sjögren, Ph.D., who is an investigative forensic psychologist and researcher in Sweden. The conference was a wonderful experience with rich content which provoked discussion, debate and learning across the two days. It was a privilege to be there.
Tickets for EAPAP2018 on August 30/31st can be purchased here
Please note – if you have booked and paid for EAPAP2018 this is a ticketless event. Please bring with you a form of ID to collect your conference pass.
All details of start time, location and programme are at the website http://www.eapap.eu
Please note that the programme may be subject to slight changes in timings and headlines as we work out the best way of conveying an enormous amount of information across two days.