Resolving cases of parental alienation requires the interlocking interventions of the family court and mental health. Those of us who do this work know that this is a given and that anyone suggesting that they can resolve severe parental alienation without that interacting relationship either does not understand alienation or is misleading you.
Whilst mild resistance in a child may respond to the interventions of therapists and psychologists without the court’s intervention , moderate to severe alienation, that which is denoted by Steve Miller’s reduction of the eight signs of alienation to two simple diagnostic criteria will not. This article explains why not and why the legal and mental health interlock is essential to resolve moderate to severe cases of alienation.
Diagnostic Criteria for Parental Alienation
Dr Steve Miller explained the diagnostic criteria for parental alienation succinctly at the EAPAP conference in London last year.
Dr Miller’s diagnostic criteria separates out estrangement which will resolve over time from parental alienation proper which is denoted by lack of empathy and psychological splitting in the child.
The next step in differentiation of a case of parental alienation, is to determine how the child came to enter into the use of maladaptive coping through the use of psychological splitting, that is the division of belief and feelings about parents into two distinct parts – good and bad – and then how fused that child is with the beliefs of the parent to whom they are aligned.
That is the story of the route into alienation. The reasons why the child is using the defence are the next part of the story to unpack.
Power and Control in Parental Alienation
The next part of the story can only be unpacked when the clinician has some measure of control over the family system. Those who tell you that they can resolve parental alienation outside of the family court system and those who tell you to adjourn the court case whilst they undertake mediation or some other intervention are leading you a merry dance.
Clinicians can only get close to a family affected by parental alienation by one of two means.
a) the family agree to the clinician taking charge of the system
b) the family are made to co-operate by some other means
Those other means are, in most countries, the Family Courts, the only method by which the grasp of the controlling parent can be loosened enough for intervention to occur.
Lack of Interest in Family in Social Services
In the UK there is a distinct lack of interest in family separation in social services, those with statutory responsibility for the wellbeing of children. This lack of interest in family separation stems largely from the feminist project to promote the rights of women and the manner in which the needs of children in society are seen as indivisible from the rights and wellbeing of their mother.
Additionally, the promotion of single parenthood and the belief that families come in all shapes and sizes, means that the experiences of children through divorce and separation are seen as somewhat insignificant. Children are expected to ‘get over it’ and so long as their physical needs are met, there is not much concern about their emotional and psychological wellbeing. Children and Adult Mental Health Services (CAMHS) do not specialise in family separation and there are no other statutory services to help children who struggle to cope and therefore the most commonly used resource to deal with the difficulties around children’s relationships with parents after separation, are solicitors.
The Legal and Mental Health Interlock
Which is why families affected by parental alienation end up in the family courts. There are literally no other avenues to use when one parent refuses to get help and the other parent is left desperate and not knowing what else to do. Anyone who has ever been close to a case of parental alienation knows that when the dynamic is locked on and active, the aligned parent is utterly fused with the child who in turn dances like a puppet on a string to their ever changing moods. The idea that a family in those circumstances would voluntarily enter a psychologists office is somewhat nonsensical when the usual case scenario is that the alienating parent is very happy with the status quo and effectively wards off any efforts to create dynamic change.
To make change happen therefore, power over the child must be arrested and so the first intervention used has to be the legal one. This is how the UK’s leading barrister in the management of such cases sets out the process of dealing with cases of severe alienation.
Managing a case of alienation legally means arresting the power that one parent has to dominate the child and coercively control their behaviours. When this has been achieved, the mental health assessment and intervention can be applied.
Mental Health Intervention
The mental health intervention begins with assessment and the first differentiation in assessment is to determine whether or not this child is alienated. Using Dr Miller’s diagnostic criterion, it is then possible to progress through an evaluation which uses a wide range of attachment evaluation, consideration of personality disorder, assessment of power and control behaviours and responses to therapeutic testing to determine the route the child took into alienation, which in turn determines the treatment route.
Treatment routes involve structured and adapted therapy, transfers of residence, cessation of contact with the alienating parent and reintroduction of contact under clinical conditions. Running alongside that is therapeutic support to the child to enable the reconfiguration of the psychologically split state of mind through a series of distinct changes towards integration.
At all times, to ensure that the power and control dynamic is kept under control, the mental health intervention is held with the legal framework using the Judge in the role of ‘super parent’ to ensure that the broken family hierarchy is rebuilt and kept stable.
The Right Legal and Mental Health Interlock
Whilst this all sounds simple, right now in the UK we have a mushrooming of interventions which are far less than helpful when it comes to treating parental alienation. Far from any old legal and mental health interlock being useful, the right legal and mental health interlock has to be used to be effective.
As Dr Miller wrote in 2013 and told us in London last year –
Right now in the UK I hear of many stories of interventions costing thousands which use conventional therapy with no realistic chance of it ever resolving the psychologically split state of mind in a child. I additionally see people claiming expertise without evidence of successful outcomes to support it and I work in cases where parents have waited for years to get even a glimpse of their child during intervention whilst being told that they need therapy because they are not patient enough…..
The education and support of parents who suffer parental alienation must be prioritised to protect them from those who seek to prey on their vulnerabilities. Practitioners who refuse to use the extensive existing research evidence which is shown to produce successful outcomes must be quite simply prevented from being able to do damage to families.
Parental alienation cannot be solved by checklists and out of court diagnostics, the only route to resolution is the legal and mental health interlock which arrests the power and control, identifies the dynamics and intervenes to change those and then supports the family in its new configuration.
The time has come to clear up the clutter, children’s lives depend upon it.
TRAINING AND DEVELOPMENT GROUP 2019
Our Training and Development Group for Europe and the UK is now almost full, we have one place left.
This group will provide a new cohort of practitioners trained in the helping therapies to work to EAPAP standards across the UK.
The training commences with two intensive days in London and then continues over the year online.
This is a small group of practitioners with whom we will work closely and intensively.
If you are interested in joining us please email firstname.lastname@example.org
PARENTS WORKSHOP EDINBURGH – SATURDAY 22nd MARCH 2019
This workshop is designed to bring all of our knowledge and expertise to your door in a jam packed eight hour workshop focused on helping you to understand and manage your own case.
Putting you in charge of management of court processes, communications, decisions and support of your children, this workshop is for you if you are struggling with your relationship with your children or if you are no longer seeing them at all.
A module for communicating with children is included along with new concepts of coping and healing from a trans-generational perspective. Tools for helping your children are included throughout.
Cost £120 plus VAT
We have limited places available please book here.