The View From The Mountain: A Decade of Working with PA in the UK

WordPress congratulated me today on a decade of blogging.  I knew it was around this time I sat down to write my first blog on the subject of parental alienation, it was a Mother’s Day memorial for all the mothers without their children, it was for my mother who for a very long time had been without me.  I had no idea when I hit the publish button that it would  lead to a project which would touch so many lives around the world.

As the years have rolled by since that first blog, I have worked with dozens of alienated children and their families.  I have shared the ups and downs of my frustrations with the work that I do in the context I do it in and I have shared the achievements we have made on our steady climb to the top of the mountain.  Today as I write this I see the fog clearing at the top of the next peak and I see the continuation of that journey.  I see what is necessary to ensure that alienated children and their families in the UK get increasingly improved outcomes on a much wider scale than ever before.

Where we have come from

When I wrote that first blog I was working with Thomas Moore and his son.  His story is curated beautifully in his book ‘Please Let me See My Son‘.  That work led me to deepen my interest in working with parental alienation and took me into court based work on a full time basis.

When I first began work in the UK Family Courts the words parental alienation were an anathema and to be whispered rather than spoken about out loud.  The term ‘implacable hostility’ was the acceptable term for the scenario in which a child rejects a parent after family separation.  Judgments of parental alienation were rare.

In 2010 however that all changed.  In a case I worked in (which changed my working life forever), HHJ Bellamy made a ground-breaking judgment in which he said –

  • The concept of alienation as a feature of some high conflict parental disputes may today be regarded as mainstream.
  • 

Alienation will only be a feature in a small number of cases and may be outwith the experience of the care professionals. In cases involving an alienated child it is essential that the court has be benefit of professional evidence from an expert who has personal experience of working with alienated children.

HHJ Bellamy 2010 sitting as a High Court Judge Re S (A Child (2010) – Transfer of Residence – EWCA Civ 325)

From that point on in the UK, the issue of parental alienation began to rise to public consciousness and the issue was no longer to be whispered about.  Since then, year after year, the work we have done to increase awareness in the Judiciary, including training Judges and Magistrates, has brought the issue to the fore in terms of the need to understand the harm that alienation does to a child and the need to intervene.

We have not done this work alone.  Legal people have done this work, psychologists have come to the coal face and work to build new routes to intervention for children has been consistent.  What all of our work has featured however is one clear thing.  What we do can be traced back through time to the original writings and the original research of the pioneers in this field who identified the evidence base for working successfully with alienated children and their families.

And what does success look like?

It looks like this.

Reunification of alienated children with the parent from who they have been alienated and the protection of those children from the harm done to them by the alienating parent.

It is a child protection model of work which identifies the dynamics which cause the alienation and works to change it so that children can no longer be harmed by it.

That is what it is, that is all it is.  And when it is applied, in the manner in which the research demonstrates it should be applied – it works.  Our work in the UK demonstrates that it works.  The way in which the UK Family Courts are applying residence transfer as the intervention for severely alienated children shows that Judges understand that it works. Our success rates show that intervention which is based on the historical research evidence in this field works.

Where we are now

So where are we now in terms of PA-UK?  Well, the view from well up the mountain shows me that there are benefits aplenty from the work we have done as well as enormous risks.

The benefits are that the Judiciary take the problem seriously and are willing to take a firm grip on these cases.  The legal system has some powerful people leading on case management and there is an emerging group of practitioners who are willing to learn how to do the work in the tradition laid down by research in order to bring about replicable success for alienated children and families.

The biggest risks as far as I can see are the proliferation of professionals who say they are experts in the field of parental alienation when they are nothing of the sort.  The therapist for example who tells the alienated parent to reflect on their contribution to the alienation, the psychologist who diagnoses personality disorder but doesn’t recommend a residence transfer, the commentator who tries to shoe horn parental alienation into a personally preferred construct.  Fortunately these people are easily spotted and their lack of success in treating parental alienation means that their reputation for failure provides warning sign that they are not safe hands for this kind of work.

The other risks are not quite so profound in terms of how parents and children will be affected.  Whilst CAFCASS have made a half hearted effort at claiming the alienation space (using an old strategy of producing cherry picked research and then claiming it is the definitive voice on the matter), I don’t see the CAFCASS officers who carry the burden of responsibility in these cases becoming drawn into the muddying of the waters in the same way. What I see in fact, is that CAFCASS officers are now more regularly able to discern where specialist help is needed.  Whilst all of this improvement is patchy, it will, over the coming decade, spread.  I am of the view that in even five years, the complete rejection of a parent by a child after family separation will be recognised by all CAFCASS officers as a red flag and a child protection issue.

Where are we going?

Here we are then, a decade after I wrote my first blog, at a cross roads in this small country of ours.  Which track then, are we going to take to the top of the mountain where the issue of parental alienation will not only be recognised, understood and treated, it will be prevented.

Our chosen track is the joining together with other European experts (and by experts I mean those who do the work successfully, not those who say they do the work but then fail to achieve anything) to build the European Association of Parental Alienation Practitioners.  Drawing upon the expertise of people with a long pedigree in this field of work, we are building a link from the past into the future which is based upon research evidence.  Which means we are seeking to develop a workforce in Europe which is trained to deliver reunification of alienated children and families in each and every case we work in.  A workforce which is located within the legal and mental health interlock which the research evidence shows us is necessary in cases of parental alienation.  A workforce which respects the research and which recognises that every scientific field is developed by building on what exists, by testing, evaluating and adjusting what works.

After a decade of climbing this mountain I look back at my writing and see how far we have come.  I look back at my work with alienated children and families and know how far we have come.  I look back at the families I have helped and I hear how far they and their children have come.

Time now to look forward to reaching the point in the UK and Europe where parents and their children are protected from the harm that parental alienation causes.  That takes us into social worker education and training and a model of work which enables prevention to take precedence over cure.

I expect us to reach that destination one day very soon.


European Training and Development Group

Our UK training and development group begins on May 4/5 with ten practitioners who will be trained to EAPAP standards joining us from the UK, Malta, Poland, Jersey and the Netherlands.

Research Programme

The Family Separation Clinic continues its research work and will be joining with leading researchers in the coming months to evaluate a large sample of work completed in the past decade, more news here soon.

Research into the development of a new therapy in structured interventions in the Family Courts is continuing.

US Training

Our US training takes place in Philadelphia on 9/10 September 2019.

EAPAP Development

Our work to set and maintain standards in this field is well underway and we will be producing our first position paper on the use of therapy shortly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

11 Comments

  1. I read the whole of the Re S (A child) 2010 and I’m confused by several things.
    I’ve done tons of reading into Alienation over the last several years and most of what I’ve come across seems to indicate that once separated from the alienating parent, the chances of the child becoming authentic towards the targeted parent, with the help of therapy, is quite good. The judgement there states that you said the transfer of residence should be abandoned and therapy should be done while the child was still with the alienating parent. Surely that wouldn’t work? With an alienating parent still dripping in the poison non-stop. I’m guessing all alienated children will be resistant to contact with the target parent, definitely at first. Giving in to that resistance just compounds the problem, imo. I’m just trying to reconcile the difference of opinion in my own head.

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    1. Did you see that I wrote that the case changed my working life Sue? I will tell you why in another blog post but in short, that was the case which taught me that using the research evidence and building the right differentiation route was necessary. Yes it is confusing because from that case onwards I developed my work and I can’t say why I disagreed with the opinion of the other expert but I did at the time. Ten years later I would have done things very differently, I learned a lot in a decade of doing this work. And one has to. In that case had we transferred residence in the circumstances in which the child was in he would have remained alienated (psychologically split) now I know how to intervene in ways that make the splitting resolve itself and how to clear the space around the child to let it happen. K

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on | truthaholics and commented:
    “HHJ Bellamy made a ground-breaking judgment in which he said:
    ‘The concept of alienation as a feature of some high conflict parental disputes may today be regarded as mainstream.
    

Alienation will only be a feature in a small number of cases and may be outwith the experience of the care professionals. In cases involving an alienated child it is essential that the court has be benefit of professional evidence from an expert who has personal experience of working with alienated children.’
    HHJ Bellamy 2010 sitting as a High Court Judge Re S (A Child (2010) – Transfer of Residence – EWCA Civ 325)”

    ‘Reunification of alienated children with the parent from who they have been alienated and the protection of those children from the harm done to them by the alienating parent.’

    Like

  3. Thank you for all your hard work and courage Karen, for everything you do and most importantly for someone like me with the dynamics ive had to deal with, a freind. Bless you flower. Someday someone will sing an amazing folk song about you. One of the few who did so much for so many! xx

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Such an interesting read seeing how your path has twisted and turned yet kept moving forward. I appreciate your reflection of where you have come and where the issue of PA has come. It’s encouraging to read. I hope the ascent up the mountain becomes faster. What I have found discouraging is that although we understand its not a child custody issue but a child safety issue, in the realms of child safety it is on the lowest rung compared to more serious physical, sexual abuse, and neglect. I understand these issues are urgent and serious and I don’t know what the answer is but in terms of child safety ‘psychological, emotional abuse as PA’ it just doesn’t rate as urgent.

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  5. thank you Karen.
    You instill hope to so many. wales must recognise PA as child abuse readily. Cafcass staff must do so. Once it is acepted as chid abuse it must be made a crimial offence. The divisive ,tortuous,twisted actions of individuals deploying PA must be reined in and brought to book

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  6. In my experience the lopsided approach to attaining peace and tranquillity within the family unit, post-separation remains poor, at least in the UK.

    Whilst the Courtroom remains a place where eking out bad men remains their priority little hope remains for the well-adjusted development of the children. The child will lose their father and often end up being parentified by the other parent, a double whammy of psychological abuse and stolen childhood.

    So much effort is wasted trying to prove the mother’s accusations or the likelihood of them being correct. when the stark reality of father as an effective confident protective nurturing parent goes ignored. The Court seems a million miles away from acknowledging the value of the bond/attachment that a child might benefit from through retaining both parents.
    The desire to uphold women’s rights is having devastating and far reaching consequences making father eradication one of her lifestyle options.

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    1. Wow, nongenderbias9, you have just written an extremely gender biased piece…. contrary to the name you go under!

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  7. “In cases involving an alienated child it is essential that the court has be benefit of professional evidence from an expert who has personal experience of working with alienated children.”

    If this was 2010 how come cases continued to NOT have the “benefit of professional evidence from an expert who has personal experience of working with alienated children.”?

    How come non PA psychology experts still went on to earn fat fees for producing reports for court? Based on extremely limited contact with the parent (s) and child(ren).

    Who gets to decide which ‘experts’ qualify for this role?

    Like

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