This is not the first time I have written a blog surrounded by a hundred or so screaming, sweaty children jumping on trampolines. I have been a grandmother for some years now, which has given me the absolute joy of being able to re-experience the development of children from birth onwards up close and personal.
Being a grandmother however is different to being a mother. Mothering requires the absolute investment of the self in the emergence of the child from the womb and the separation process which occurs in the early months and years. Grandmothering allows for a one step removed experience in which it is possible to observe the child as well be absolutely in the relational experience of caring for the child. It also places us in a line which stretches back in time to our own grandmother and forward in time to our grandchild’s own potential for parenting.
From this perspective I write this blog, surrounded by screaming children who are largely unconsciously at play. As I do so I remember when I was the same age as this grandchild of ours, a time when I knew that reading and writing would be everything to me. I remember my teacher telling my parents that the world could blow up around me and it would not disturb my reading. The memory centre in my brain holds a thousand and more memories such as this, allowing me to be here now and back there then all at the same time. The brain is a wonderful thing.
It is also the place where children’s everyday experiences are hard at work developing neural pathways and capacity for emotional and psychological intelligence. As I continue on with my daily work with children affected by induced psychological splitting, I realise that the more I know about alienated children, the more I know that I don’t know enough. This scientific field is vast, it is unmapped and it is currently chaotic. Making sense and mapping it is what we are doing right now. Opening doors and walking through the experiences of children who reject a parent, working out how to make the world around them easier to navigate so that they do not have to raise psychological defences is what we are focused upon.
My whole life has been devoted to making children’s lives safer and mothers and fathers more knowledgeable about how to help their children live happier, more creative lives that are full of opportunities to be the best version of their nascent selves. When I say the best version I don’t mean being famous or being rich, I mean being wholly and contentedly at peace in the relational world, secure in their own self love and esteem, able to make their own contributions to the world which are helpful and supportive of others.
This is the reason I ended up doing this work with alienated children. Not because I am particularly interested in the concentric circles of conflict which surround this field, but because I care about children, their health and wellbeing and their chance to live a life uninterrupted by the trauma of others.
I may be characterised as naive or wanting everyone to live ‘happy ever after’ and if that is the label that people want to stick on me I wouldn’t be unhappy. Living happily ever after doesn’t seem wrong to me, especially when I know that the world is full of challenge and change. Working to give children the tools they need to do battle with the monsters of the world doesn’t seem to me to be such a bad thing to do.
The European Association of Parental Alienation Practitioners is holding its third conference this year in Zagreb, Croatia. The conference is hosted by the Child and Youth Protection Centre of Zagreb with whom the Family Separation Clinic has worked since 2016.
Headed by Professor Gordana Bujlan Flander, the Child and Youth Protection Centre of Zagreb is a powerhouse in terms of changing the world for children and young people. With staff focused on supporting traumatised children and projects which raise public and professional awareness of the harm done to children in everyday situations such as divorce and separation, this organisation establishes best practice in supporting families affected by parental alienation in the region.
The third conference of the EAPAP will introduce standards of practice for anyone who wishes to work with the internationally translated research evidence in situations where children resist or reject a parent. Currently, whilst the field of parental alienation has been studied at length, practice with families affected by a child’s induced psychological splitting is in its infancy. The project of the EAPAP is to bring standards of practice to the forefront of a new phase of development of this scientific field so that new approaches to treatment can be tested and evaluated.
To date the most well known interventions for families affected by parental alienation are those which are based upon removing a child from a parent who has induced the defence of psychological splitting. This is usually achieved in the USA through a camp based intervention or in the UK through moving the child from the influencing parent to the rejected parent. Case studies from practitioners who do this work in Israel, Croatia, UK, Romania, Malta and The Netherlands will be delivered at the EAPAP Conference in Zagreb. Examining risks and responsibilities, these studies will draw upon current work in the court system in these countries.
Doing this work is dangerous for practitioners around the world, because of the way in which the reality of what is happening to the child is obscured by the concentric circles of conflict which surround them. Psychological splitting in the child scissors outwards towards their parents, dividing them into good and bad and then further out towards professionals dividing those who seek to help into being seen as helpful or harmful depending upon the viewing point of whoever happens to be involved at the time.
Only when a practitioner holds enough power over the family dynamic does the danger recede and that requires the forcible removal of the power that the influencing parent holds over the child. When the Judge in a case holds it steady and invests continuous power in the mental health intervention being provided, change can be made rapidly. Sadly, in too many situations, there is an active campaign by unaware professionals to neutralise the power a professional holds. In an adversarial legal system of course, there is also a continuous power battle as the fight to establish the winner takes all position persists.
The European Association of Parental Alienation Practitioners will provide education and information to the Judiciary in Europe on understanding and managing cases of parental alienation. As part of this process, master classes in legal management to provide a stable mental health intervention will be delivered at the conference. With Judges from several EU countries in attendance and opportunities to learn from leading legal professionals, this conference offers a unique opportunity to gain depth knowledge.
Outcomes from this conference will be agreed standards of practice which will then be used to inform the Judiciary in each member country on recognised interventions which are shown to work. This will improve practitioner safety and ensure that parents are not subjected to experimental interventions which do more harm than good.
Our powerful list of headline speakers at the conference includes Jill Salberg Ph.D.
Jill Salberg, Ph.D., ABPP is a clinical associate professor and clinical consultant/supervisor at the New York University Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis. Her articles on Transgenerational Transmission of Trauma appear in international psychoanalytic journals and she has co-edited two books with Sue Grand, The Wounds of History: Repair and Resilience in the Transgenerational Transmission of Trauma, and Transgenerational Trauma and the Other: Dialogues Across History and Difference, (2017). Both books won the Gradiva Award for 2018. She is in private practice in New York, U.S.
The violence of trauma fractures someone’s experience of being in the world and tears at the fabric of attachment, our intrinsic way of feeling safe. Ruptures in attachment relationships that occur in trauma become one of the key mechanisms of how it is transmitted to the next generation. The scars from traumas that are inside of people who become parents often affect directly their capacity to be consistent and engaged in their caregiving. Unresolved mourning, persistent states of anxiety, depression and terror interfere with attaching and trusting new relationships. While many survivors of trauma also transmit resiliency and want to create loving families and communities, more often trauma survivors carry both resiliency and the scars of trauma. It is the imprint of the dehumanising aspects of trauma; the violent victimisation of one’s integrity as a person as well as surviving when others perished that continues to haunt survivors. These ghosts of their past get transmitted and can be seen in the successive generations.
Researchers have found biological markers of trauma, eg higher cortisol levels and changes in myelination, which can affect “gene expression”, and then become inevitable in the next generation. Trauma and stress and these biological markers in the mother can be inherited and predispose their offspring to a tendency towards PTSD-like reactions. Children inherit altered biochemistry that can leave them more vulnerable to registering fearful and anxious situations and to being more fearful and anxious themselves. This becomes the fuller legacy of trans-generational transmission of traumatic forms of attachment: an alteration in both the biology and the attachment systems. Some of these children are inherently more anxious while being raised by parents surviving their own traumas. Some of these parents will be able to transmit safety and provide for consistent attachment while others will transmit a confusing mix of messages of fearfulness and safety becoming trauma’s haunting legacy.
Research findings also suggest that psychotherapy and psychoanalytic treatments offer much needed help to people suffering from trauma and transmissions of trauma states. Talk therapies offer the safety necessary that allow someone to begin to talk about what has been endured. This needed processing of traumatic experiences happens with a caring therapist who can then witness, recognise and help the person to metabolise their traumatic experiences and regulate their emotional reactions.
Additionally, family and couple therapies help people learn how to talk about their traumatic histories in ways that are not overwhelming and allow empathic dialogues to open up between partners and grow. Family work is very helpful when some of these histories have remained as unspoken secrets, which leave children sensing the worst, feeling somehow implicated and yet not able to ask for answers or reassurance. There is also a need to help parents develop empathic capacities often limited given their trauma histories. Being able to find empathy in their therapist becomes the beginning of self-empathy and self-care, both crucial for healthy functioning.
Whilst parental alienation has been widely studied from the perspective of the behaviours of parents who alienate their children, the underlying dynamics which case this behaviour is less well recognised. Whilst successful treatment of parental alienation has focused upon removal of a child from an influencing parent after findings of alienation, there are less examples of therapeutic whole family work which treats the underlying causation of a case of parental alienation which in our experience is the child’s use of psychological splitting as a defence. Examining cases of parental alienation from the perspective of complex trauma and its transmission through the generations is one of the strands we will be examining and in that respect, Jill’s work in the field of Transgenerational Trauma is key.
The third EAPAP conference offers an opportunity to all mental health practitioners who are interested in new treatment routes for the problem of a child’s rejection and resistance to be immersed in presentations, discussion and reflections on how to assess, differentiate and treat the problem. We welcome solicitors, barristers, Judges, mental health practitioners and those concerned with the health and wellbeing of families affected by divorce and separation. The format for the conference is depth presentations and master classes, offering unique learning opportunities in this fast developing field of practice with families.
The more we unpack this field of work the more we see what needs to be done to understand and treat it further. The more we know, the more we need to know. Bringing together serious clinicians and leading legal practitioners from over twenty countries in the world, we will take another step forward in collegiate development of an integrated approach to understanding and treating parental alienation.
Integration of the split state of mind in the child is the first step to successful treatment of the problem of parental alienation. Integrating the split landscape around the child is our task with EAPAP and the third conference in Zagreb provides that unifying experience for all of us who practice in this field.
Prevention, Integration and Standardised Practice 2020
Parental Separation, Alienation and Splitting: Healing Beyond Reunification
It is our great honor to invite you to the 3rd European Conference with international participation EAPAP (European Association of Parental Alienation Practitioners), which will be organized by Zagreb Child and Youth Protection Center in Zagreb on June 15-16, 2020 at the Hilton Garden Inn.
“Parental Separation, Alienation and Splitting: Healing Beyond Reunification” is the name of the conference, from which the course of action and goal of EAPAP is clear, namely a deep understanding of alienation and other difficulties for children related to parental separation, as well as the development of clear and scientifically based guidelines for the work of all child protection professionals.
The Zagreb Child and Youth Protection Center’s Initiative “28 Conclusions of the Profession in Protecting Children from Emotional Abuse in Parental Divorce: Establishing Good Practice in Croatia” from last summer garnered more than 800 signatures from experts of different profiles from Croatia and the region, after Karen and Nick Woodall’s lecture held in Zagreb,
The lecture was viewed in person and via live stream video by more than 3000 interested experts and specialists.
The excellent response from the Croatian expert public has unambiguously shown the interest, need and goodwill for further development in this area, which is not surprising since about one third of parents’ divorces are highly conflictual and the most frequent victims of adult disagreement, poor system coordination. with relentless flow of time – are kids.
EAPAP is opening a new chapter on child protection in this area in Croatia, and more than twenty eminent lecturers from Europe, the USA and the region are expected, with multidisciplinary and cross-sectoral, scientific, but also practical presentations, discussions and solutions.
We look forward to your arrival and taking new steps in child protection.
On behalf of the Organizing Committee,
Professor Gordana Buljan Flander, M.D., PhD.
The Scientific and Organising Committee of the European Association of Parental Alienation Practitioners are delighted to welcome Jill Salberg Ph.D as our key note speaker for the EAPAP2020 Conference. In our view, Jill’s work in the field of traumatic attachment is an important area for exploration by all clinicians working in this field.
‘When trauma revisits a person trans-generationally through dysregulated and disrupted attachment patterns, it is within the child’s empathic attunement and search for a parental bond that the mode of transmission can be found.‘ Jill Salberg Ph.D
Jill Salberg, Ph.D., ABPP is a clinical associate professor and clinical consultant/supervisor at the New York University Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis. Her articles on Transgenerational Transmission of Trauma appear in international psychoanalytic journals and she has co-edited two books with Sue Grand, The Wounds of History: Repair and Resilience in the Transgenerational Transmission of Trauma, and Transgenerational Trauma and the Other: Dialogues Across History and Difference,(2017). Both books won the Gradiva Award for 2018. She is in private practice in New York, U.S.
The full list of speakers at the EAPAP2020 conference is –
Ass. prof., Primarius Vlatka Boričević Maršanić, MD, PhD, specialist in psychiatry, subspecialist in child and adolescent psychiatry, psychotherapist
Prof. Gordana Buljan Flander, PhD, clinical psychologist and psychotherapist, permanent court expert
Ass. Prof., Primarius Danijel Crnković, MD, PhD, specialist in psychiatry, subspecialist in biological psychiatry, permanent court expert
Danica Ergovac, Master of Psychology, social worker
Ana Hrabar, mag.iur., lawyer, specialist in children’s rights
Štefica Karačić, President of the Croatian Association of Social Workers
Eleonora Katić, mag.iur., lawyer
Kolinda Kolar, mag.iur., Judge at the Zagreb Municipal Civil Court
Lana Peto Kujundžić, PhD, President of the Zagreb County Court’s Youth Division, President of the Association of Youth Judges, Family Judges and Children and Youth Specialists
Ass. prof. Bruna Profaca, PhD, professor of psychology, clinical psychologist
Renata Šantek, mag.iur., Republic of Croatia Supreme Court Judge
Primarius Domagoj Štimac, MD, PhD, specialist in psychiatry, subspecialist in child and adolescent psychiatry, permanent court expert
Mirela Badurina, PhD, psychotherapist (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
Benny Baily phD, Department of Criminology, West Galilee Academic College Research Fellow at the Haruv Institute (Israel)
Dr. Sietske Djistra (The Netherlands)
Dr. Claire Francica (Malta)
Professor Jennifer Harman (USA)
Dr. Inbal Kivenson Bar-On (Israel)
Darja Kuzmanič Korva, mag., Secretary of the Association of Centers for Social Work (Slovenia)
Teodora Minčić, MD, PhD, specialist in medical psychology, court expert (Serbia)
Ass. prof. Milica Pejović Milovančević, MD, PhD, Specialist in Child Psychiatry (Serbia)
Ass. prof. Jill Salberg, PhD (USA)
Simona Vladica, PhD (Romania)
Francesca Wiley QC (United Kingdom)
Karen Woodall Psychotherapist (United Kingdom)
Nick Woodall MA. Psychoanalytical Psychotherapist (United Kingdom)
Presentations and Master Classes will be delivered in the following areas of clinical practice
- The role of trans-generational transmission of trauma in parental alienation
- Reformulating understanding of parental alienation using Object Relations Theory
- Understanding the power and control dynamic and its role in parental alienation
- Attachment trauma and its role in parental alienation
- Understanding induced psychological splitting in a child after divorce and separation
- The role of the legal and mental health interlocking partnership in treatment
- Best practice in working with families in Israel.
- Learning from Romania on prevention and legal management of cases of parental alienation.
- Using principles and protocols of best practice in Malta.
- Interventions adapted from the internationally recognised principles and protocols in Croatia.
- Master class in legal management of parental alienation in the UK
- Towards a new integrative assessment, differentiation and treatment route for parental alienation
- Introducing internationally recognised principles and protocols for assessment, differentiation and treatment of the problem of parental alienation.
The EAPAP2020 conference in Zagreb is for practitioners in mental health and legal management of children’s relationships with parents after family separation including social workers, psychologists, psychotherapists, psychiatrists, attorneys, solicitors and barristers, Judges etc.
Part of this event will be live streamed for parents and a Q&A session will be held during this section.
We will also be looking at delivering a therapeutic parenting workshop for parents in Croatia and surrounding region during the week of the conference.
Costs for the conference are as follows – we very much look forward to welcoming all interested practitioners to Zagreb in June 2020.
Early registration fee – 122,00 EUR / until January 31, 2020
Standard fee. – 169,00 EUR / February 01 – March 15, 2020
Late registration fee – 203,00 EUR / from March 16, 2020
All prices include VAT.
Registration is now open HERE