“Music brings a warm glow to my vision, thawing mind and muscle from their endless wintering.” ― Haruki Murakami
The family affected by a child’s induced psychological splitting is in disharmony and the strongest feeling one encounters when working with this family are the discordant notes around the child.
You will notice that when I write about my work I often describe it in unusual ways, sometimes I talk about the inter-psychic world (the relationship between two or more psyche) and at other times I will link description to diagnosis or research evidence. This is because I am a psychotherapist and as such I am concerned with the relational world, that which is seen on the surface and that which is happening in liminal space, which is the place between what was and what will be. In psychological terms, this is where transformation takes place, this is where, in treatment terms, the healing happens.
When we are working with families affected by parental alienation (if you are astute you will notice that I am repeatedly referring to this now as induced psychological splitting in a child, bear with me, there is a reason for that), we are working with every level of relational interaction between family members. Not only that, we are working with every level of interaction between self and others in the concentric circles around the family.
Healing families affected by a child’s psychological splitting is not a tick box exercise, it is not a formulaic thing, it is a multi factorial intervention which requires a team around the family which understands how diagnosis and intervention fit together and how children who are being forced to use the defence of psychological splitting are in need of protection.
To explain what integrated practice in this field is and why it is so essential I am going to explain why harmonising practice and prioritising that as practitioners in this field is so important. And why, as we move into 2020, where our vision for worldwide practice standards in this field will become real, setting out a foundation for thinking and working in an integrated framework is essential.
I have done this work for over a decade now and I have learned much about what there is to know about families affected by a child’s induced psychological splitting from direct contact with them. When I say direct contact with them I don’t just mean the contact that comes from meeting people who are presenting their best selves in a snap shot version of who they really are. Those experiences of families are useful, they help us to understand how the family presents in assessment but they are not the whole of the family experience and they are not holistic views of how a family has adapted to the problem of the child’s defence.
When I say direct contact with a family I mean living with a family, I mean being embedded in a family system and I mean understanding at the deepest relational level, what it means to be part of it. In every respect, working therapeutically with parental alienation DEMANDS that we become part of the system, that we allow ourselves to experience the discordant notes around the child and that we feel what it feels like to be this child. Without that our understanding is one dimensional, it is a snap shot in time and it is surface level information.
Integrated practice therefore is about being the kind of practitioner who is able to understand the family system and the concentric circles of influence that sit around it. It requires an understanding of power and control dynamics and how they impact upon a family and how coercion is played out differently by men and women. It requires an understanding of structural family interventions and a willingness to take charge and move the furniture around and it means being exposed to criticisms and blame and being willing to take responsibility for the actions one takes which lead to resolution and to recognise the dangers which are extant in all such work and being able to mitigate them. It means being willing to do the work not just talk about doing it and it means being willing to learn from the extensive research evidence about what works and how and why it works.
This is an evolving scientific field. It is subject to huge amounts of criticism from the outside world making anyone who works in it subject to the same. This field however is growing, it is expanding beyond the confines of controversy about whether it exists or not and whether it is or is not junk science. In my experience this science is not junk, it is not controversial but it has been subjected to the most powerful attempts possible to silence it because of the ideological drive to prevent awareness of the risks of harm to children in divorce and separation.
In practice however, there is an increasing drive within the field of mental health, to understand it and to bring treatment routes to resolve it. Now is the time to ensure that the evolution of this field is managed in ways that bring greater breadth to treatment routes so that the families affected by it can get the urgent help that they are in need of.
Harmonising health and creating integrated practice in this field means this –
- Recognising that there is a right way and a wrong way to do this work – the right way is to use the counter intuitive approaches which are demonstrated to be effective, the wrong way is to ignore them and to decide to do what Steve Miller warns against which is to experiment or give it a try for yourself using your own system of thinking (ie – force parental alienation to fit your model of intervention instead of adapting your model to fit parental alienation).
- Working with others who understand parental alienation and who have practiced in the field with demonstrable success before you launch yourself onto unsuspecting parents calling yourself an expert.
- Being willing to listen and learn from others who have been successful and who have made mistakes – my own learning, comes from Psychiatrists and Psychologists who have got it right AND wrong and who have been able to recognise that and identify how to strengthen their practice.
- Being able to learn from your own mistakes and grow and change practice because of that.
- Being able to observe the ways in which others will criticise and split you into for/against, good/bad, hero/villain and simply allow that to happen without getting involved.
- Recognise that everyone in this field has something to say about someone but if we tangle with every naysayer we will never get anywhere very fast. Let others split, let go of those who do and move on is the key to integrated practice.
- The only thing we are here to do is to understand the way that the child has been induced to use the defence of splitting, to move the furniture around the family to reduce the dynamics which cause the splitting and then leave.
- We are not here to fix, fiddle about with or finesse the family, rejected parents are good enough and when they can take care of their children again, that is all that is necessary for health and wellbeing to flow.
- Being unfailingly ourselves, in the face of everything and anything that comes our way (and recognising that what will come our way because of the toxic nature of this particular human condition will be blame, shame, conspiracy theories, stalking, harassment and more) is essential.
- Protecting ourselves by doing something other than this work to balance the focus of our lives will keep us well, integrated and safe from psychological harm.
In 2020 our focus turns to establishing practice standards for anyone who seeks to work with the internationally recognised evidence based approaches which are successful in treating the problem of a child’s induced psychological splitting in divorce and separation. In doing so we will be working with powerful colleagues worldwide to create a framework of understanding and protection for practitioners to work within so that a coherent set of guidelines for treatments adapted for this population are available.
Next year is the year of integrated practice and 2020 vision in the field of parental alienation bringing widespread change for families affected by a child’s induced psychological splitting. 2020 is the year when a skilled workforce which is accountable and transparent comes over the horizon into vision.
Families need urgently this. In 2020, standardisation of practice will be provided.
EAPAP 2020 – Parental Separation, Alienation and Splitting: Healing Beyond Reunification will be held on 15/16th 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.
The speaker list for the EAPAP 2020 conference will be announced shortly at http://www.eapap.eu