Pathways to Progress: Developing Ethical Practice with Alienated Children and Families

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.

6 Comments

  1. Karen what steps can one take to prevent the car crash of Parental Alienation from even happening. If one parent is so controlling doing her utmost to interupt any time spent with the absent parent. Who has stopped any contact with the paternal side of the family for 10 months. Who made false allegations against the father and therefore in effect stopped contact for 5 months. There is now a court order in place and 6 sessions have taken place with mum in the room at a contact centre. Coincidence or what that the child has been ill for the first and second session due without her presence. It has all the hallmarks of a disaster waiting to happen and we seem powerless to prevent it. The child is 12 months now but as the resident parent shows no sign of empathy, more like down right hostile toward the father and his family regarding nurturing, encouraging and allowing a relationship with the child. Mum shows no sign of putting the child’s needs first. What can one do except try and pick up the pieces later? What should we be doing, who can help guide us in this mine field we find ourselves?

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    1. I read with interest that the courts (in America) are assisting a child of 17. My child is 15. I have had no contact since he was 13. I write to him every few weeks and have approached two solicitors for help. Both gave the same advice. The courts won’t intervene over the age of thirteen. My ex husband told me that when he alienated my son. He said the courts won’t help you. He’s 13. My ex did the same thing to my two older boys. My eldest has just started to engage with me again. He said he didn’t understand what was happening but that the same is now being done to him. We are slowly rebuilding a connection. Difficult to explain. My middle is unable to work due to mental health difficulties and has become totally reliant on his father who has created his problems. Both myself and my eldest have resigned ourselves to the fact that it is over for him. He’s to far gone to ever recover. It’s soul destroying watching my youngest now being erased as a person. He has become a mirror extension of his father. I’ve now become numb to the pain. I don’t have the strength to fight a long court battle I know I cannot win. To put my son through more pain would kill me. Please on your websites give us a little advice on what, if anything we should be doing. I would like to do something Karen. If only to support you in what you’re doing. x

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  2. Karen, I wanted to commend you for your work in this area. While I was going through my Parental Alienation experience, yours was one of the voices I listened to most often, and I found your work to be most helpful. I know you have been under personal attack by other professionals here in the US (which is quite unhelpful), but please try not to let it get too you. I encourage you to read the very brief poem “Man in the Arena” by our former president Theodore Roosevelt, and that is how I view both you, and the other people who have been unnecessarily attacking you, for the great work you are doing. Please take care of yourself, and for the sake of families all over the world, please keep it up.

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    1. What a lovely comment Neal thank you. I am glad that what I write has helped you. I ignore much of what is said and written about me online, if I paid any attention to half of it I would lock myself and throw away the key myself 🙂 those who spend their time diagnosing me are a menace but if they continue to get out of hand a licensing board complaint is the right way to deal with it. Mostly I just focus on keeping myself sane and safe so that I can do what I do. Thank you for your care for my wellbeing, it is much appreciated. K

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