We are in the USA this week preparing to train a group of psychologists and psychotherapists to use the FSC protocols and principles of assessment, differentiation and intervention in cases where a child has rejected a parent after family separation.
As part of our trip here we will be at the PASG conference in Philadelphia, talking about the child protection protocols used successfully in the UK between 2009 and 2019. I will also be talking about the trans-generational therapy I am developing for aged out and adult alienated children as well as the current levels understanding of parental alienation in the UK amongst mental health and legal professionals.
The FSC protocols of intervention have recently been upheld in a US Court as being in the best interests of children and I have invited Kelly Baker Ph.D to write about how she has adapted the training she undertook with us in 2017 to fit the needs of the US legal system. More about that here soon.
The FSC protocols are recognised by Croatia as being best practice and are now being used in Israel as well as other European countries by practitioners.
The protocols are based in child protection and are an asymmetrical model in which the analysis of power and control over children is key to the interventions delivered. It is also a model in which the level of induced psychological splitting observed in the child is the core assessment. In the FSC protocols, depth understanding is focused upon the route the child took to using psychological splitting as a defence, because it is this which enables a route to intervention which matches the reaction in the child, reorganises the family dynamics and prevents the child from being harmed again.
What we have come to know in our work around the world is that practitioners already possess the skills necessary to intervene in families where a child has been induced to use psychological splitting as a defence but they may not necessarily know how to adapt them to suit this group of families.
As Morecambe and Wise once said….they are playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order.
In our work in Israel recently we spent three days working with a highly skilled group of practitioners helping them to understand how to adapt their skill set to meet the needs of families affected by parental alienation. On day three, the focus was upon the cognitive shifts that are necessary to understand how to produce dynamic change for children and how to avoid the harm described by Steve Miller –
‘Therapists who insist on a trial of conventional therapy (e.g., to ‘see for myself’) are exceedingly unlikely to succeed (…) Such an approach is worse than worthless because while the therapist provides futile treatment, the child, already injured, is deprived of effective intervention – including protection.’ Miller (2013)
Each time we work with practitioners to help them to understand that their skill set must be adapted to 180 degrees in order to properly understand what is happening and how to resolve it, we see the real necessity for this training. Practitioners who are trained to use their intuition and work with people as if they are capable of making rational and reasonable changes, are not prepared for working with this group of families. This is because they assume that therapeutic change can be made on the basis of their own understanding of what is happening and that this is enough. It is not. Change for children affected by induced psychological splitting (parental alienation) comes when the people who are intervening understand the following –
A) This is not about two people in conflict, it is a power and control dynamic with imbalance in who holds power over the child. Therefore just as domestic abuse is treated in an asymmetrical model, so must the problem of PA.
B) Treating induced psychological splitting in a child requires the arrest of the power and control dynamic for long enough for therapeutic work to take place.
C) When the framework for intervention is correctly held and all practitioners working with the child are using the correct approach, many existing therapies are useful in adapted forms to help this group of families.
D) Successful treatment of induced psychological splitting in children looks like a return in the child to completely normal relational capacity in a swift timeframe (12 -26 weeks maximum).
To achieve A, B C and D, practitioners must learn to use the Court’s powers to arrest the power and control dynamic and then enter the family system with an intervention which restores the child’s relational capacity to the parent they are rejecting swiftly.
When a practitioner is alienation aware, it is possible to use existing therapies which are adapted to change the dynamic around the child swiftly to lift away the pressures which induce the splitting. When the splitting defence is integrated the child is in recovery and will be seen to respond normally to the parent they have been rejecting. Only then, under controlled conditions, should contact with the previously aligned parent be tested.
The work of FSC is not to promote a method or model but to educate and develop use of protocols and principles which are found in the international research evidence and which are shown to be successful in repeated numbers of cases.
Where cases fail, analysis demonstrates the variable factors involved which prevent success and from this we learn that it is the manner in which practitioners work together (or not) which is key to delivering successful outcomes.
In Croatia, where recently we lectured to 250 practitioners from social welfare, mental health and the legal professions, joined up work is starting to emerge. In the UK, where I work with Social Workers as well as CAFCASS, there is a strong link between PA aware practice and swift successful outcomes. Where social workers and Guardians understand parental alienation as a child protection issue, change is swift. Where they do not, change is often impossible. Those dynamics are being examined now to build interventions which circumvent the barriers posed by unaware professionals, until such time as statutory services come into line with the international research evidence and protocols for intervention.
And they will. One day in the near future, inducing psychological splitting in a child after divorce or separation will be recognised as being a child protection matter and intervention will be swift. In Croatia, where protective measures are in place to assess for alienating behaviours in divorced and separated parents, there is already a movement ahead of the curve. In Romania, where the Judiciary are well used to managing the problem, change has already arrived. With the development of a training and education programme by the European Association of Parental Alienation Practitioners already underway, change for alienated children and families is already here.
Now is the time to grow this evolving scientific field and to bring it fully into the place where it is recognised for what it is. This is not about conflict, not about contact and not about custody. This is a clearly recognisable problem which causes traumatic impact on the child and family members and which has well defined protocols for assessment, differentiation and intervention.
The road ahead in Europe, from where I am looking today in the USA, is already well travelled.
EAPAP 2020 – Parental Separation, Alienation and Splitting: Healing Beyond Reunification will be held on 5/6 June 2020 in Zagreb, Croatia.
This conference will bring together practitioners in the field of child abuse, trauma and attachment to explore the ways in which existing therapies and models of understanding of abuse and trauma can be translated into work with abused children of divorce and separation. Taking place over two days, the conference will deliver intensives in different aspects of parental alienation to present a cohesive set of standards for international assessment, differentiation and intervention.
This is a practitioner only conference, streaming of parts of the conference will be available for parents and a parents Q&A session will be co-ordinated on day two.
FSC Training and Conference Schedule 2020
We will be delivering the following training and conference presentations in 2020
February – Republic of Ireland in conjunction with Irish Practitioners – details here shortly.
February – Germany in conjunction with German practitioners – details here shortly.
June – EAPAP 2020 in Zagreb, Croatia.
Summer – Reunification Training in Conjunction with Colorado University – details to be confirmed.
Autumn – For Family Access – Chicago Illinois September 11/12
Miller, S. G. (2013). Clinical reasoning and decision-making in cases of child alignment: Diagnostic and therapeutic issues. In A. J. L. Baker & S. R. Sauber (Eds.), Working with alienated children and families: A clinical guidebook (pp. 8-46). New York: Routledge.