Evidence from a Decade of Reuniting Alienated Children and Parents in the UK

It is a decade since I worked with Thomas Moore to assist in reuniting him with his son after many years apart.  You can read about his journey and our work together in his book ‘Please Let Me See My Son’.  This week Thomas called me to say hello and let me know that his son is well and living a normal and healthy life.  I knew then and I know now, that when we help children to recover from the induced psychological splitting which causes parental alienation, their life chances are good and the future looks bright. Having a healthy parent to return to is key to recovery and being able to hear from parents around the UK, whose children I have reunited with them, lets me know that in each and every case of severe parental alienation, the decision to intervene robustly is the right one.

I have now completed residence transfer work with 45 severely alienated children over the past decade and have worked with so many more in structured interventions which have brought about significant change.  In all of the work that we do at the Family Separation Clinic our aim is to find the swiftest route to assist the child to recover from the maladaptive coping mechanism of psychological splitting.  It isn’t easy to unpack this route and it must ALWAYS be done in conjunction with legal teams who understand parental alienation but when everyone is lined up with the understanding that an alienated child is a child at risk of serious emotional harm, the route is swift and the recovery is swifter.

The quickest recovery from the psychologically split state of mind that I have witnessed is a nano second.  I am telling you the truth when I write that.  The reality of the psychological splitting which causes the child to align and reject is not a mental health issue in the child but a phenomenon which is configured in the child but caused by the way in which the child is being controlled by the parent they have become pathologically aligned to.  Remove the power and control over the child, hold the line and transfer the power to the receiving (rejected) parent and bingo, the alienation disappears like a puff of smoke.

I should know, I have seen it happen with 45 severely alienated children.  Children who have made horrible allegations against a parent, children who have howled, screamed, run away, threatened me, hit me, spat at me, called the police, barricaded themselves into rooms and more.  When the line is held and the message in the inter-psychic is given to the child that they and the parent they have been pathologically aligned to are no longer in control, the integration of the split state of mind occurs and the child experiences the recovery of the positive feelings they have split off about the rejected parent.  From there the work to be done is the restoration of balance in the child’s mind through therapeutic parenting support and testing of the capacity of the influencing parent to understand what they need to do to provide safe contact for their child.

This work isn’t easy but it is definitely getting easier as more and more social workers and Guardians understand the dynamic and what is necessary to change it for the child.  Even in these circumstances however there is still a kind of terror at taking the step of making a child do what they are vehemently saying they will not do.  Keeping the knowledge of all of the children I have ever worked with in the forefront of my mind allows me to keep on doing it and train others to do it too, even in the face of people (and some of these people are supposedly parental alienation experts) telling me that it is wrong.  It is not wrong.  It is not harmful and it is supported by forty years or more of research evidence.

Making an alienated child see the parent they have rejected is not wrong, it is the only route the child can take to integration of the split state of mind.  Those who proclaim that the child needs desensitisation therapy are deluded (the child is not phobic) and those who tell you that their once a week therapy in an office will help you to reunite with your child are simply trying to convince themselves that their way is the right way, it is not.

An alienated child speaks not from their authentic self but from their adapted self and they KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING when they use the adapted self to control adults around them. I know this because I ask each child I reunite with a parent whether they were aware of what they were doing when they were telling lies about a parent. Each one tells me yes, they do know what they are doing and they do know that managing (manipulating) adults including professionals to believe their story is a key part of keeping them away from the truth.

And the truth is this.  An alienated child uses the infantile defence of psychological splitting because they cannot hold two realities in mind.  The landscape they live in becomes too difficult and too painful to do so – not because of high conflict as many would have you believe and not because two parents are always making negative contributions but because around the child someone is dropping poison into the family system to destabilise the child’s experience and force alignment with their world view. The child is a victim of this coercive control and though many resist, some will collapse into pathological alignment due to the impossibility of resisting what is being done.

This is not a case of two parents in high conflict or both contributing to the problem, this is a child protection issue in which the child’s very sense of self is being stripped bare in order to ensure that they are in line with the distorted view of one parent.  This is coercive control at its very worst and it is happening to children all over this country and indeed the world.

And when we see it we have to stop it.  And when we stop it we see the infantile defence of splitting integrate and the flood of positive feelings return and the child’s capacity to receive the love of the parent they have been forced to reject returns.

That is when therapy should begin, when the child’s capacity to receive the love of both parents has returned.  Therapy in these circumstances is not about persuading, exposing or using baby steps to produce minuscule changes.  The alienated child is a child in danger and they need protection and the very best protection we can give them is to act fast and recover their capacity to receive love from the parent they have rejected.

I have done this work for over a decade now and I am about to prepare case histories of the 45 seriously alienated children I have worked with in order that we have these evaluated.  Nick and I are writing another book, this time for practitioners in which we will explore all of the different case scenarios seen in a decade of reunification work and we are about to train 12 practitioners from around Europe to do this work in the same way.  As we continue to develop EAPAP we are preparing a training seminar for Judges and legal practitioners which will be delivered widely to educate and inform about the kind of practice which works.

We are moving the scientific field of parental alienation on apace now, away from the environment in which any old thing goes in terms of intervention and into the space where the international research is clearly demonstrated to be translated into practice via successful case work over the past ten years.

There is no going back now.  In ten years time I fully expect that parental alienation will not only be recognised early in this country it will be addressed and dealt with swiftly.  And if we can cut that down to create widespread change in one, two or five years time we will do so.

There are no excuses anymore, 45 severely alienated children all reunited with a parent, all doing well over the years since reunification, most in relationship with both parents in the years after our intervention.  Well over a hundred more children all living well in restored relationships with both parents via our structured interventions.

Therapy for aged out children is in development and being tested now, social worker collaboration is high and Guardians in CAFCASS are increasingly partnering with us to get this work done swiftly.

The detractors and the moaners, the people who tell you there are lots of different ways to do this work, the conspiracy theorists and the ones who are all out to discredit this work can stand aside.  The  proof as they say, is in the pudding.  And the parents of 45 children are not wrong when they say that their children, once fiercely rejecting,  are now doing incredibly well.

The road is built, the signposts are in place, the training is being delivered the pace is picking up, in the next five to ten years I fully expect us to have made ourselves obsolete in this world and then we can rest.

Until then, we go again. (thank you Nuno).

 

20 Comments

  1. As a mother of a son who is alianted from his child and as a grandparent of this child I can only say these situations must be resolved faster. In our case the family court has only made matters worse for us however, there is no where else for us to go unless you have the finances to challenge yet again. Thank you to Karen for making it at least public knowledge to all concerned , let’s hope the future brings about change much quicker, as for a lot of grandparents they have not got the time left.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. How do you get a non-believing social worker to accept there is alienation (and there are 2 judgements that state this!) and that the mother constantly putting the children into therapy based on the fact that “dad was abusive” is not a good thing? The social worker point blank refuses to accept alienation is happening because she can’t see it. These children are saying they want dad dead, are drawing pictures of him being eaten by pigs, are self harming, are making constant allegations, yet social worker is hell bent on blaming dad (non resident parent for 5 years now).
    How do we get intervention like yours for these children; costs are a huge limitation. But these children are suffering untold harm and nobody is seeing it. I believe it is case of pure alienation at the end of an abusive, controlling relationship. Mother is damaged, mentally ill, exhibiting serious narcissistic traits. How on Earth can we help these children?! 😦

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You have to build your case sue. First of all you have to challenge the social worker in court – I don’t know your situation but you can do it from a standing start by learning how to put your case. If you are in public law you should get your costs paid if you are in private law you have to build your case yourself. It’s no good arguing with the social worker – he/she has statutory power and is likely fixed I. Her views so you will just entrench matters. You have to demonstrate how the case is pa starting with the evidence that a child does not reject a parent even when they are being abused. This has to go to the judge not the social worker. Don’t fight with social workers build your evidence base and put it to the judge. If mother is mentally ill what evidence do you have to prove it, get it I to your statement and show the research which supports the argument. It is all about developing your case and knowing how to manage the legal process to gain control over the social worker.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. When you have a CAFCASS officer who sees and reports that alienation is at play but then states because of the “wishes & feelings” reported by the child (less than 12yrs old!) that they shouldn’t be forced in to contact and should be allowed a break from proceedings for a couple of years…despite a Psychologist report saying that contact should be attempted after child is given councilling…how do you get the courts to protect the contact?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My partner is in the same situation with his 2 children (10 &12 years old) social worker says dad should not go back. To court as it’s not fair on the children to keep ‘dragging’ them through it!
      It’s a total nightmare

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hello Karen, thank you so much for all you are doing, our son heads to court early in May to try to get some free/alone time with his children. It’s been a year since we the grandparents have been allowed to Skype with them. Women’s Aid seems to support women w/o vetting them to make sure that they are being honest about abuse. My daughter in law not once reported any abuse to the police in the 13yrs she and my son were together then she decided to leave my son an social workers and Womens Aid support her with no evidence whatsoever, it’s very unfair..

    Liked by 1 person

  5. How do you get a school to recognise Alienation? Have had well know experts (known by you, Dr B) who before court point to alienation yet school believes ‘voice of the child’. Court have tried everything except removal from M. Have not seen my lovely daughter for nearly 5yrs.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Karen,
    Your cases studies are so very encouraging, I am so glad to hear that you are contributing this evidence in academia as we need as much literature on evidenced-based practice as we can get. I still would like to see more written on the fact that its not ‘high conflict’ that is the cause and continuation of PA. This myth is still huge in the narrative of PA, I am also, as a layperson, so very curious as to how you change the behaviour of the alienator after residential transfer? Having a moratorium on their contact for 3 to 6 months surely isn’t enough to inspire insight into their behaviours? their false belief is so entrenched in their psyche and what they believe is their survival how on earth are you able to get them to stop these harmful behaviours enough for them to have gained back contact with the now ‘unsplit child’?

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  7. Keep up the Karen . Always for ever greatful to you for all the work you did bring my two sons home again after years of separation and emotional pain. Thankyou so much for working towards an end to this suffering and giving families hope when all seems lost.xx

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Reblogged this on High Conflict Central and commented:
    We agree that this works. We have seen it work and nothing else ever does. You definitely cannot wait until the alienator “warms up” to the idea of allowing the child to see their other parent. That will only lead to YEARS of trauma.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so pleased to see the progress being made, thank you. For a grandparent (maternal grandmother) with ‘No Rights’ as I was told at my 1st, first hearing, which was also when I heard myself described as an abuser of many years, from D who stopped me seeing or having contact with my 4 GC 9 months ago after insisting I was at each of their births, & begging to return home at least 3 times (which I agreed to just to be hurt again). I am so inspired that this is (a) being recognised (b) that there is hope. (c) that hopefully my GC will come through this horrible period in their lives. Again my thanks for the work you are doing.

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  9. I know a case where parents have been in litigation and court proceedings for 12 years and the children’s childhood is being damaged, as the “right” professional support should have been put in place immediately.
    It’s a nightmare when social workers and court advisors just don’t “get it”, causing more alienation and long term emotional and psychological trauma.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Hi Karen

    I have not been in touch for a while now but I do visit your blog now and again to keep abreast of developments. I am grateful to your continued commitment to improving the lives of families.

    I am carrying out a qualitative study on the lived experience of alienated parents in Northern Ireland, completing in September 2019. I am wondering if you can signpost me to empirical evidence for this , ‘ evidence that a child does not reject a parent even when they are being abused.’ I have included the article of Blagg and Godfrey (2018) and Bernet et al. (2017) and wondered what further empirical evidence exists on the subject.

    As you know I have been working with families who lose a loving relationship with a parent unjustifiably for a few years now and met others doing similar work on a voluntary capacity. In the past year, I founded the organisation , Child Focus NI (CFNI) to bring us together and provide a support service for families . We work together to support healthy family functioning and work in partnership with parents and professionals. We provide parenting co-ordination to support co-parenting. We understands co-parenting as:
    1) Two or more parents who do not live together working cooperatively to raise a child, with each parent playing an active role in parenting tasks.
    2) The need to allow relationships to adapt over time to new circumstances for the child, such as incorporating new partners into the family.
    3) Being aware of the nature of a co-parenting relationship that requires an adaptive, child-centred approach that is grounded in good communication and research evidence in user friendly terms. We
    – provide 1-2-1 theraupetic support for parents. We provide other services such as a) life-coaching, b) a triage therapy clinic, c) short-term practical strategies to support parent-child contact, d) practical support/events on traditional family occasion days, e) data collection for sharing knowledge towards informed decision-making, f) peer advocacy with service providers, g) court support, h) practical indirect contact support, i) educational workshops. Examples of work covered in one-to-one consultations or group workshops are The Psychological World of the Child, Practical Strategies for Handling Emotional Abuse Well or Healthy Separated Parenting Strategies and will include the lived experience of other families.
    – work with professionals to contribute towards improving services for families. We raise awareness of the impact of decision-making on children and their parents, the link between health and well-being of both child and each parent, how parents can be supported to separate well. We provide specialised training. We continue to collect data, keep informed of developments, specifically scientifically proven interventions, and work in partnership with policy makers and key stakeholders.
    – Robust collection of data and data sharing with parents, professionals and the wider society.
    – Development of a peer-support service for alienated children.

    Karen, the training you and Nick provided has been invaluable to providing focus in clarifyiny the vision of providing such a service and to networking on an international basis and keeping up-to-date with the latest developments in this field. To this end Karen I would like to repeat my heartfelt thanks.

    Mairead

    P.S. If you would be so kind to advertise this service to parents who would benefit from this support in Northern Ireland, I would be very grateful. If you have plans to visit here please let me know. It would be good to catch up.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Mairead it is really good to hear from you, I am so pleased to hear about all the work you are doing in NI.

      I will be over sometime soon, I am doing some work in a case over there and it would be great to meet up.

      And if you would like to write something about the work you are doing in NI then please let me know I am sure there are many readers here who would love to hear about it and support it.

      Very best

      Karen

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  11. Karen,
    So good to hear this very positive move forward and that there will be more practitioners to help other children return to a healthy reality.
    It is heartening to know that you have helped so many children to be reunited with their alienated parent and that so many families have been able to move forward together.
    As you know, I wait patiently to learn how this can be done for an adult child that has gone through this coercive control and sided with the parent they are pathologically aligned with.
    I thank you and Nick for all the work that you have done so far to create such positive change.
    Debi

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    1. Thank-you Debi. We are a parent-led organisation some of whom have lived experience of losing children from their lives after parental separation. It gives us a deeper understanding of how parents can be best supported and develop training for professionals working with separated parents and liaise with policy-makers. I believe we can make a difference working together.

      I am sorry to hear you have lived experience of pa. I look forward to a time when losing a child from a parents life after parental separation is rare because the system is capable of protecting the child and parents can be confident of receiving the help they need. We provide support for adults who were alienated as a child in reconnecting and rebuilding a relationship with their parent. This is facilitated by adult alienated children. We are finding this is more and more common and we are raising awareness of it continuously. Change take time and I agree with Karen we will see this happening over the next 5 – 10 years thanks to the hard work and commitment of dedicated professionals and parents.

      Best wishes

      Mairead

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  12. I’m so pleased to see the progress being made, thank you. For a grandparent (maternal grandmother) with ‘No Rights’ as I was told at my 1st, first hearing, which was also when I heard myself described as an abuser of many years, from D who stopped me seeing or having contact with my 4 GC 9 months ago after insisting I was at each of their births, & begging to return home at least 3 times (which I agreed to just to be hurt again). I am so inspired that this is (a) being recognised (b) that there is hope. (c) that hopefully my GC will come through this horrible period in their lives. Again my thanks for the work you are doing.

    Like

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