EAPAP2020 Round up

The third conference of the European Association of Parental Aliention Practitioners ended today after another information packed itinery focused upon the internal dynamics of the problem which has hitherto been referred to as parental alienation. More than four hundred clinicians from around the world attended this online conference, making it a landmark event in the development of this field and placing Zagreb 2020 as the gateway to a new road ahead in practice and practice informed research.

On closing the conference, Professor. Dr. Gordana Bujlan Flander, Director of the Child Protection Centre of Zagreb said that the conference marked a point at which the emotional abuse of a child, which is seen in alienation, is now visible to the outside world. Speaking about the road ahead, the EAPAP Board set out a new understanding of the problem called parental alienation using the term relational trauma to describe the dynamics seen in cases of a child’s pathological alignment and rejection of their parents.

This conference was a rich tapestry of content, in which the internal workings of families affected by relational trauma after divorce and separation, were unpacked and examined closely. Using a psychoanalytical approach, the meaning of splitting was brought to the surface and the defence was explained in careful detail by Psychiatrist Milica Pejović Milovančević. Headline speaker Jill Salberg, spoke about transgenerational trauma transmission in her depth exploration entitled ‘The shadow of our ghosts: Generations of ruptures’. Exploring how this manifests in families as parental alienation, I later shared my experience in working with families affected by relational trauma and the structural requirements necessary to provide safe spaces for interventions where such dynamics are in play.

From Israel we heard about the successes and challenges of working with relational trauma in a country where there are helpful court structures in place and from Romania and Portugal we heard about court management of cases. From the Republic of Ireland, Joan Long spoke about her work in a country which is just coming to understand the problem and from Malta we heard about the particular problems of a country which is still struggling through the early days of awareness of the issues surrounding divorce and separation.

The conference dealt with topics affecting practitioners, the difficulties we face, the successes we achieve and the power of collaborative practice across borders. Panel discussions, which powerfully showcased the kind of collegiate relationships which are growing best practice in this emerging field of work, demonstrated that across borders, practitioners face similar kinds of attacks on their integrity which are designed to frighten, threaten and exhaust their capacity to continue in their work.

As Professor. Dr. Flander said, on the opening morning of the conference, despite it all, here we are, together. And at the close, quoting Dr Benny Bailey from Israel, ‘this is a marathon, we are in it for the long term.’

And we are in it for the long term. We are in it because we care about abused children of divorce and separation, children who, in suffering alienation of the self from the self, are forced to develop a false persona in order to survive in an intolerable landscape. We are in it because we know that inducing psychological splitting in a child is abusive and we know that when it happens it needs intervention to heal it.

Unpacking the component parts of assessment and differentiation, Nick Woodall from the Family Separation Clinic in London spoke about a psychoanalytical model of work which combined with trauma informed therapies can be delivered in a structural family therapy approach to resolve the splitting in the whole family. Trauma and the alienated child was explored by Professor Bruna Profaca from the Child Protection Centre in Zagreb. Power and control dynamics were examined by Professor Jennifer Jill Harman and Dr Sietska Djistra and attachment trauma was unpacked by Mirela Badurina and others.

From Switzerland, Marina Walter and Thomas Demessence examined forensic analysis of alienation cases and from Croatia Domagoj Štimac examined false allegations. Colleagues from the USA (Kelley Baker Ph.D) and from Canada (Attorney Brian Ludmer) gave their perspectives on working in this field and on legal management strategies.

Closing the conference, Dr. Wilfred von Boch Galhau said that his takeaway would be the clinical content and approaches to treatment which had been showcased by the conference. As he said in his presentation, it is not an option to simply leave a child without treatment. This conference demonstrated how this problem can be treated successfully and what areas of best practice can be combined to create a recognised path forward for standardised treatment routes.

This conference, which was hosted by the team at the Child Protection Centre in Zagreb supported by the Family Separation Clinic in London brings the values and principles of the European Association of Parental Alienation Practitioners, to a wider audience. Delivered by the production team at Moment Events, headed by Veronika Juric, the scientific and organising committees devoted many voluntary hours to the co-ordination of this content rich, ground breaking conference.

Underpinning it all, is that which was evident throughout the whole of the three days of the conference, a deep and abiding care for children. As Kelley Baker said in our discussion about surviving attacks on our integrity, which are many, remaining clear that before all else, doing the right thing for the child is what gets us up in the morning to keep us doing what we do.

Working with relational trauma in divorce and separation, responding to what Dr Claire Francica from Malta termed the ‘ignition of trauma’ in the child forced to use defensive splitting and resolving the reactive splitting in the whole family around the child is our path ahead.

Until next year. My grateful thanks to all who join with us in our project to reframe our understanding of parental alienation as relational trauma in divorce and separation. Children of the future will live better lives because of you.

9 comments

    1. Don’t bank on it Caron, there’s a long hard struggle ahead – but we are in for the long haul and stronger together for children.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. So exciting to see this coming together in the northern hemisphere; this shift in mindset and challenge of embedded perceptions is sorely needed Down Under. Look corward to you all. Ringing the thunder…

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  2. This shift in mindset and challenge of entrenched femiarchy values is sorely needed Down Under. So glad I was too young to drink deeply from the goblet of second wave feminism.

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  3. Dear Karen and Nick I am driven to write to you, driven by my need to share my project and get on with the next chapter of my life. I’m finding it difficult to combine the hedonistic lifestyle that I have with the longing to contribute to the construction of the new emerging knowledge which I believe is in its infancy. When I first started in a focused way the multisystemic treatment plan (MST) was being trialed in countries across the world, the Duluth Program had only just started. I was immediately drawn to this knowledge. It seemed (and although I don’t know because I’m not in the loop) but it seemed the way forward because of its underpinning ontological and epistemological base. It represented to me the much needed species being or put another way quantum shift in the thinking about ‘social work’ in its broadest term. If you believe as I do that it takes a community to raise a child you will believe it takes a community to put things right when things go wrong. My thinking in the world of people who construct themselves as experts was and still is out of place. Child often say the most profound things. Some aboriginal tribes and spiritual leaders say that humans come into the world with an innate sense of knowledge of how to survive and are for want to a better term dumbed down through out their lives. Hence better to look upon the world through the lens of a child but perhaps not a precocious child like me. I have mentioned ‘’my’ program as if it belongs to me which runs counter to what I believe because knowledge belongs to everyone. In many ways I am like the targeted parent child who wants to share their knowledge with the world being rejected because new knowledge in our advanced capitalist society is supposed to be disseminated by those in authority. They might not be ‘authoritative’ but like parents they are in authority. I have been driven by the idea that education and knowledge will change the world (because this is what I craved for when I was a child) and my experience as a social worker taught me that one of the biggest differences between me and my clients (sic) was that I had good organisational and time management skills and an innate sense of resilience. For me working as a social worker was a privilege. I had an abundance of energy. I learnt that time stretches and the right information (in the form of information in books) came to me when needed. I was very successful with clients but interestingly, disappointingly, and sadly for me because I didn’t come off too well I wasn’t a hit with my supervisors. I was often a hit with other people’s supervisors and my colleague, the ones who weren’t influenced by my supervisor. I was let go by one supervisor who told me it wasn’t me but her who had a problem and sadly she had to let me go. I suspected she was once a good social worker full of optimism and hope and energy like me but had been burnt out by a system that doesn’t look after its own and that has made an industry out of other people’s misery. When I did my second placement I went to a program that had an ex high ranking social worker as the head. It was a prestigious program ‘targeted’ (their word) at women with young children and substance use and suspected abuse. This category of woman (the ineffective abusive mother) is the most hated woman on earth according to The Church (which underpinned the program along with the government who are the employers of social workers). In my experience the program was a sham. It didn’t do the clients (sic) much good or the social workers who worked on the project including my supervisor all of whom were very subtly punished to varying degrees. My supervisor who tried to fail me but couldn’t died from pancreatic cancer just over a year later and uncannily this didn’t surprise me. What scared the hell out of me is that my supervisor looked just like my late mother. I am telling you this because I believe that To get to my point. I believe that if trauma is not disarmed and neutralised by outside forces it gets replayed throughout the lifespan. My life story suggests as much. As I am part of the story like a lobster caught in the lobster pot I can see my way out, I can even climb up the walls to the top but I am trapped and can’t get out. There is no way out for lobsters other than being taken out by the lobster catcher. There is no way out of the perverse drama triangle other than outside intervention. BUT, it has to be the right type of intervention. I recognise that you are on the way to developing a groundbreaking new program, the likes that may be (but I doubt it) hasn’t been talked about before. I believe that your program will be successful mainly because the intervention will come ‘through’ you and that you are the vectors sent to restore the health of the family. It’s not about writing a program it’s about showing and telling together and observing and feeding back. Hence the need to show you my program. My hope is that you can use it even incorporate it into the work you are doing. It’s my life’s work to date and I will give it to you but my life’s work is not complete and I need you both to be there for me to complete my journey with fixing my own family and myself. I need your feedback and to know you are there for me and with me. I need you to be substitute parents until I can reparent myself…… I have to go now no time to reread or correct. Thank you for your attention and please feedback. P

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  4. PS…. all I’m asking is that you do for me is what you will most probably be doing in your program moving forward. So in a way what you are doing, what we are doing is an experiment. I don’t have time right now because I’m on holiday in Kendall to explain the ontological epistemological and pedagogical underpinnings. I am taking a calculated bet that from the somewhat jumbled writing above you will get the gist of what I’m writing. Sometimes this is all that is needed. P

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    1. yes I get it and we will talk when you return from your holiday, I hope you have good weather, Kendal was a firm favourite when our kids were young. K

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  5. Dear Karen Fabulous fabulous fabulous Lighthouse Project, thank you for creating an opportunity to heal. Today is a fabulous day. I have found the person I was looking for to Co create an ethnographic account of induced parental alienation – my ex sister in law who has also suffered, physically a lot more than me. In our three and a half hour conversation today she shared a lot of information that I suspected but had no way to confirm. She has agreed to co create a map of what I understand as the transmission of historical trauma (alienation) that has resulted in my alienation from both my children and brother. I don’t have the words to explain how happy/relieved I feel to be reunited with this person. It’s the same feeling that I got when I discovered the concept of induced parental alienation and read your blog. There are people out there, a lot of people who have been alienated and there is a growing understanding of what could not be talked about before. I’m so glad that you are now onto this new stage of closing the gap between theory and practice. Thank you and regards Pauline

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    1. Thank you Pauline, I am so glad to hear this, it is one of those things where people all over the world are recognising the same thing at the same time. Keep in touch x

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