We are back in London briefly after our trip to Israel where we trained nineteen practitioners at the Western Galilee College.  Coming up next is our trip to the USA to train fourteen practitioners in the Family Separation Clinic model of assessment and intervention with children and families affected by parental alienation.

Coming shortly after the news that the FSC model of intervention has been upheld in a Court in Texas as being in the best interests of the child in a case involving a seventeen year old, this training is a development of the work we did with practitioners in the USA two years ago.  Teaching others to use the assessment, differentiation and intervention approach which brings swift integration of the split state of mind for alienated children, with the follow on care which holds the family steady through the recovery process, is a major goal which we have successfully achieved this year.

Another major goal in our work is the formation and development of the European Association of Parental Alienation Practitioners, a project which is designed to standardise interventions, promote ethical practice with alienated children and families and protect practitioners who do this work.  Whilst we were in Israel, we discussed the risks to practitioners who do this work properly, especially those who do not have statutory protection.  On the third day of our training, the news came that the Israeli government are extending statutory protection to practitioners working with families affected by parental alienation, an excellent outcome from the work of Inbal Kivenson Bar-On and her colleagues who are changing the landscape for children and families in Israel.

Work being done in Israel has strong similarities to the work being done in Croatia, where recently a statement entitled ‘Experts Protecting Children From Emotional Abuse In Divorce: Establishing Good Practice In Croatia’, was published by Professor Gordana Flander of the Child and Youth Protection Centre in Zagreb and Judge Lana Peto Kujundžić of the Association of Judges for Youth, Family Judges and Experts for Children and Youth. Signed by over 250 professionals working with children and families in divorce and separation, this statement clarifies ethical standards of intervention with families and is the first step to standardising practice in this field.   A similar statement has also been drafted in Israel by Amittai Megged of the Megged Advanced Psychotherapy School  and both of these statements have been considered in the development of the European Association of Parental Alienation Practitioners principles and protocols of ethical practice with families affected by parental alienation. (Statements from EAPAP will be available later this year).

It is clear that the time for standardising this field of practice is here.  Practitioners who are doing this work are keen for EAPAP to establish and promote best practice and parents desperately need to understand what works and why and how it works when seeking help for their children.  With some parents reporting that they have spent thousands on interventions which have left them without any resolution and in some cases being blamed for their child’s rejection of them, it is clearly time to ensure that the road ahead for ethical practice in this field is established.

The EAPAP Board met in St Moritz recently and flowing from that meeting is a work programme which will lead to statements of ethical practice and principles and protocols of intervention for therapists, social workers, mediators and other practitioners working with children and families affected by PA.  This is a European based organisation with powerful practitioners working in partnership, where changes in member countries are already underway and education and training programmes are already developed.  Our intention is to create a network of informed practice in which the use of models of work which are contraindicated are replaced by interventions which properly meet the needs of alienated children and their families.

It is also the intention to develop the knowledge base around practice with these families, drawing upon existing international research and developing this via direct work with families so that a practice informed research base becomes widely available.  In Israel, where practice informed research gaps were readily identified during our three day training, several practitioners are already underway with developing research projects to inform practice. This interest and enthusiasm will grow this scientific field into new and fertile pastures which will yield significant information for development of practice going forward.

This is the spirit of EAPAP. Growing new pathways to intervention which are guided by the international evidence on what works and establishing ethical practice in a field which is evolving and ready for this step.

As we prepare to meet our US training group, we are also working with our colleagues in EAPAP to crystallise the work done over the past year.  This will allow the launch of practice standards in this field and from there a training and development programme which will be available across all member countries.

Ethical practice with alienated children and families is necessary because this is a vulnerable group which suffers from the gross lack of standards and governance in this field.  Whilst there are those who wish to promote the idea that this work can be done under the regulation provided by existing regulating bodies, in reality that is simply untrue because what is really happening (particularly in the UK) is that either practitioners remain timid and tinkering around the edges of what is necessary in order not to transgress ethical standards of their governing body or (and this is worse in my view), they attempt to shoe horn parental alienation into the framework of their existing practice.  When this happens, rejected parents find themselves blamed for not being able to change enough and the use of the label ‘hybrid’ is applied liberally to mean that both parents are to blame.  This has to stop.  At the very least parents need to be protected from it because it is not in line with international evidence and it is not ethical practice.

Evolving scientific fields do not have to move glacially slow, especially when all of the necessary evidence exists.  Therefore in  June 2020 in Zagreb at the third International Conference of EAPAP hosted by Professor Gordana Flander and her team at the Child and Youth Protection Centre of Zagreb, the work done by EAPAP between its launch in 2017 and 2020 will be presented and new practice guidelines and training will be available.

With the strength, dedication and commitment of a wide network of influential practitioners, change for children and families affected by parental alienation is  well underway.