PASGNORDIC Conference 2018: Change is Here

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.Screen Shot 2018-08-26 at 09.28.14

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.

Screen Shot 2018-08-26 at 09.35.35

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.


With Gratitude

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.

 

6 Comments

  1. Reading this felt like real progress is on the offing, but, having read many of your articles now, I get the distinct impression that the science and approaches being developed and which you favour (and which I support and understand) look to tackle very serious family issues where major and significant upheaval – for the children – is almost self evident.

    I suspect that, as is so in my own case, the alienation brought about is perhaps not so self evident and many children perhaps adapt to the circumstances they find themselves sin quite successfully – even if conforming to those signs identified and discussed above in Steve Millers theories. My two girls are an almost perfect representation of the psychological splitting and reactions described above, but, as far as I can gauge, they are also getting on successfully with their lives (they are 15 and a 13) since i backed away and enabled them to escape the battlefield.

    Most rejected parents will never see the opportunity to have things resolved via the techniques and understanding described here because the situation just won’t be “that bad” and even if the Courts accept the way forward in theory, they will never apply it what they will consider everyday cases.

    I’m glad I freed my girls from the nightmare they were in because no person and no theory was ever going to look at us and intervene. I have to hope that if, as and when they may recognise for themselves what their mother has done to us it won’t cause them a momentous amount of upheaval. I write regularly to tell them I am always here for them and I must hope they get my letters and know this! We had a wonderful relationship and I pray we may do so again in the future. For others, who practitioners may be able to help by intervening and applying good practice as described in this article and others…, I wish the very, very best outcomes.

    p.s – I’m wondering why I have to constantly re-register my details when commenting on these posts?

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    1. Dear rob, I am not sure why you have to re-register – it is WordPress so not under my control, have you subscribed to the blog?

      In terms of your girls, the splitting defence allows the child to carry on as normal, that is what a defence does, it provides a defence against the problem to allow the self to carry on. Many of these children do extremely well after the severance of the relationship until they reach a particular point in life when the defence is no longer necessary and then they cannot get rid of it and continue to use it finding that their adult relationships are problematic and progress and wellbeing in life is harmed. This is why we have to get the issue of splitting into public consciousness as a harmful thing to do to a child – because it causes damage to the life chances and developmental stages a child goes through. The defence is caused by the pressure on the child from the hostility from a parent to the other. This is why we are pushing so hard right now – to get this issue recognised as a child abuse issue not a contact issue because it IS the loss of their relationship with you which is the external symptom of the use of psychological splitting – causing this and preventing it from being repaired is like breaking a child’s legs only it is the child’s mind which is being broken – we can’t ignore it because of the long term damage it does. I wish you well, stay well, healthy and ready to help them when they come home, they will need you to be there. K

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      1. Thank you for your reply Karen.

        I have subscribed yes, but each new post requires me to so so again. I will keep doing it because what you write really helps me to better understand the situation my girls have been placed in and, additionally helps me to cope.

        Tomorrow I’ll be posting a card to my 15 yr old, who has just taken her first GCSE – a year early. I have asked her to let me know how she got on, but I doubt I will get a reply. Consistently, my Ex blocks or interferes in all communication that demonstrates a connection between me and my girls. On her 14th birthday she took the phone line out so I couldn’t say Happy Birthday – and her younger sister has now written to reject me completely. Given the importance of exams at the moment and all the encouragement and support I have sought to offer, my Ex won’t want our daughter “feeling” that I matter at all – despite the fact that English Lit was always my favourite and best subject and not that long ago my daughter was writing and asking me for my opinions – on this and other things. My Ex will NEVER stop blocking my relationship with my children because she knows how much they truly, deep down, are missing me. She will do all she can to prevent that surfacing and I do worry what this will do to the girls as they get older….

        it’s a horrible situation. I have really bad days – but, as you say…and I agree: I am determined to ensure I will be here when/if the girls need me in the future. Thanks again.

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      2. I am sending you my support Rob, keep on sending cards and letting them know you are there, they do miss you down inside and they will never stop loving you – all of my work over the years shows me that. Keep well, focus on your needs and find something which keeps you going – and keep being there because it matters more than you can ever really know. K

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