We are back in London after delivering training to eleven experienced practitioners in the USA. During this time away it was also a real pleasure to spend time with our highly skilled Croatian colleagues from the Child Protection Centre in Zagreb and to have the opportunity to discuss our mutual interest in developing practice to resolve traumatic splitting in children of divorce and separation.
In Croatia, following our recent lecture to 250 professionals working with children in divorce and separation, the Centre produced a statement on the principles and protocols of protecting children from emotional abuse during divorce and separation. This statement has been signed by 800 professionals in Croatia and Serbia and establishes a base line of best practice in this field.
It is clear to us that there is a strong need for joined up thinking within this field. Working with our colleagues in the USA, some of whom have practiced in the field of parental alienation for many years, there was a clear commitment to practitioner development and an agreement that principles and protocols of practice are very necessary.
Whilst there is much said about parental alienation in research around the world, very little has been said from the perspective of practice with children and families and where it has been said, it has not been significantly developed.
During all of the time that I have been working with alienated children and families, little has been written by those who work directly with alienated children and families. Meeting clinicians in the USA this week and understanding the need for mutual support and development of services to support families, it is clear that the time for such a project to meet that need is now.
It was a truly powerful experience to convene and train a group of the USA’s most skilled clinicians in this area. Whilst at times it was a somewhat challenging experience to present to our highly regarded peers, working with such experienced clinicians meant that the two day training became a collaborative and creative endeavour.
Our training is based upon the international research evidence of what works with families and moves well beyond the identification of parental behaviours and signs of alienation into the deeper analysis which informs our assessment and differentiation process.
Whilst many people speak of us delivering a ‘programme’, in fact our training equips practitioners to potentiate their own practice by introducing them to the principles and protocols of interventions which are laid down in the international research evidence. In truth, when practitioners become alienation aware, they recognise that they already possess the skills to work with this client group, they just do not know how to approach a case in the way which brings release for the child. When they are introduced to the principles and protocols, they quickly recognise that they already have what they need and the systems they work within can already be managed to make their skills effective.
Listening to colleagues from Europe presenting on their work at the PASG conference on Friday, I realised again that the principles and protocols of best practice are curated in the international literature and existing models of intervention. There is nothing new under the sun in this field and no need to reform the law or change existing services to make interventions work.
There is however, is a need to join up thinking to standardise the knowledge base from which clinicians can deliver, because this is where the development of this field is truly lagging behind. We have the research, we have the legal structures to create the framework for intervention, what we desperately need are more clinicians to deliver the interventions which are shown to work.
Having worked with many different legal systems over the past two years, it is clear to me that it is not the legal processes which are lacking. Listening to Marie France Carlier talk about the Cochem model, showed me that the basic principles which make that model work are exactly the same as those used in the UK or in Israel as presented by Philip Marcus, a retired Judge.
The legal principles are
- Parental alienation is caused by an imbalance of power over the children in the family.
- The family has reached the edge of its autonomy (as described by Wilfred Von Boch Galhau) when a child has become alienated and therefore must be guided by an external force.
- Judicial continuity is essential.
- Speedy decisions are vital, delay is the enemy.
- The Judge in a case provides that force and compels behavioural change, deciding upon disputed facts and expecting people to co-operate.
- When the Judge holds the reins as the super parent, the mental health intervention can begin.
These principles were set out at the EAPAP Conference in London by Francesca Wiley QC and endorsed by Sir Paul Coleridge, former High Court Judge experienced in the management of these cases and were agreed by practitioners as being necessary for mental health intervention to take place.
The mental health principles and the protocols for intervention were also set out at the EAPAP Conference in London 2018 and since then have been developed to produce a statement on the use of therapy in cases of parental alienation and a statement on the principles of protection of children of divorce from emotional harm.
The principles and protocols of mental health intervention are not difficult to adapt to different legal systems – successful interventions using them have been achieved this year in cases in the UK, USA, Croatia, Malta, Israel, Poland and Romania. The time for clinical collaboration around an agreed set of principles and protocols for intervention is clearly here.
Working with highly skilled colleagues from around the world therefore, in 2020 we will bring together the principles and protocols of successful interventions to create standards of practice to guide practitioners in this field. We will also develop our training and supervision programme to expand the availability of practitioners to meet the needs of families everywhere.
We will also be co-ordinating the development of structured therapeutic programmes which are adapted to suit the needs of alienated children and families and which can be delivered without the need for traditional reunification programmes. This is based upon the success of work being done in the UK in which severely alienated children are seen to heal the psychologically split state of mind within a period of 12-26 weeks in structured therapeutic interventions.
Working with our colleagues in Europe and Israel we are now preparing for a two day conference on 5/6 June 2020 in Zagreb, Croatia, where we will focus entirely upon practice with families affected by a child’s induced psychological splitting. We will concentrate upon therapeutic interventions which are combined with the legal principles and protocols to enable rapid resolution of the problem of parental alienation.
2020 is the year for development of clinical practice with families. This year we have trained sixty practitioners to use the principles and protocols of effective intervention. Using our motto ‘pass it on’ we expect those practitioners not only to work with families but to educate others in how to do so.
Collaborative practice which utilises effective intervention is the only way forward in this area of work.
We can no longer afford to wait. Those of us who do this work know what is needed.
The time for action is here and now.
Information about FSC trained Practitioners
We have received several requests this year for the names of practitioners we have trained and I have asked for each person to agree to their name being listed publicly at the EAPAP website. This list will include the USA trained practitioners.
As we develop the practitioner networks around the world, I will share information here about our work with colleagues in the USA to bring together a practitioner network in the same vein as EAPAP in Europe.
EAPAP 2020 – Parental Separation, Alienation and Splitting: Healing Beyond Reunification will be held on 4/5 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 – 5/6 June 2020 Zagreb, Croatia.
Summer – Reunification Training in Conjunction with Colorado University – details to be confirmed.
Autumn – For Family Access – Chicago Illinois September 11/12