This short guidance is for anyone who wants to understand whether the webinars I am making will be useful in your case. I know that wise choices when you are in the most vulnerable of situations are often difficult to make and so, I am posting some guidance, in the form of questions, to enable you to make sense of whether these webinars might be right for you.
I have a long experience in working directly with alienated children and their families in the family courts in the UK, Hong Kong, USA, Sweden and Ireland. I have assessed and worked directly with many severely alienated children and have reunited seventy seriously alienated children with the parent they were rejecting in the last decade. In recent years, I have been working with families with adult alienated children in the age range 18 to 50, using a model of work which we have developed at the Family Separation Clinic over the past five years.
This therapeutic model, is psychoanalytical in nature, which means that it gives you an understanding of what is really happening when your child becomes alienated from you. Working on the basis that knowledge of the psychological issues facing your child, empowers you as a parent, this grounding in theory, enables you to prepare for the work of receiving your child and reparenting them. This next webinar in the series I have prepared, gives you that grounding but in addition, it pairs that with the therapeutic parenting skills that you need in order to provide for your child the incoming care that they need. In addition, the seminar takes you through the behavioural and organisational steps that you need to take, in order to enable people in the court process to be able to see what is happening to your child. When you know the language to explain the phenomenon, you become more able to deal with the process without suffering vicarious trauma. When you understand the blocks and barriers to other people’s understanding, you build skills to speak about the problem in ways that other people can understand.
Here are some answers to the questions received since I published the link to the next webinar.
Question: I am cut off from my child and the family courts do not seem to understand how to deal with this, will this seminar help me?
Answer: In this seminar you will learn how to articulate the problem of your child’s behaviours in ways that make sense to other people. Instead of using emotionally charged language such as parental alienation, you will learn to document the behavioural patterns that you see and present them in ways that are easy to understand by family court personnel.
Question: I would like to book for this seminar, but would first just like to confirm please that this seminar could be of help for my, and my adult son’s, particular situation: he is my youngest and most alienated child (there is another, older, slightly less severely alienated child) who is just turned 20, and has lived alone with the father in a *highly* enmeshed situation (parentification, adultification, even spousification) for most of 4+ years now.
This now-adult child is still meeting the emotional needs of the father – an alcoholic, who could possibly be classified as a ‘druggie’ as well – and he aggressively ‘protects’ the father from me (the father, who clearly has a severe personality disorder, is the actual abuser, a very severe abuser, but plays the role of ‘fragile/abused victim’ and can’t be reasoned with. This behaviour is of course all closely connected to me finally separating from him because, ironically, of his abuse).
The experience of watching children who have experienced domestic abuse become alienated is extremely painful and liberating the adult child from the experience of identifying with the abusive parent, takes time and patience. It also relies upon the capacity of the healthy parent to provide for the adult child, the consistent signals that a reconnection is safe. Understanding how the child in these circumstances, uses psychological splitting as a defence, enables you to put into place a communications strategy which is realistic and properly timed and paced. This webinar also offers you the basic skills for therapeutic parenting and the reasons for using this with alienated adult children. Shifting focus from the problem to the solution, which is based in the integration of splitting in the rejected parent and the child, the psychological skill set for helping adult alienated children is explored and explained.
Question: How is what you are doing different to those working with the concept of parental alienation?
Answer: Working with alienated children in recovery, we noticed at the Family Separation Clinic that the splitting of parents into wholly good and wholly bad, which is seen when children align with one parent and reject the other after divorce and separation, is actually an internalised splitting which causes the child to display a false persona. Working with children in recovery, using treatment routes for splitting, we have developed a stepped programme to enabling the integration of the split state of mind and the sustaining of this over time post intervention. In doing this work we recognised that it is not possible to heal a defensive split by telling the child (of any age) that they have a defence, this is because the purpose of a defence is to protect the child from the impossible situation they are in. We noticed that if we used the phrase ‘parental alienation’ in working with a child of any age, it was more likely to make things worse rather than better. This is because telling a child they have been influenced by another parent or are suffering from parental alienation, simply causes the child to raise the defence further. For the child, this is a lived experience, it feels genuine. Therefore, to tell a child who is using a defence mechanism which causes them to feel a particular way, that they feel that way because of a defence, does nothing to heal and in fact makes things worse.
To drop a defence mechanism, the dynamics that cause it must be removed. Therefore, all of our work with families is about helping to change the dynamics around the child in order that the reason for the defence is removed. Doing this when we know that one parent is highly unlikely to change anything, means that we have to employ higher level psychological and emotional skills sets to create change.
This webinar introduces you to those higher level skill sets which can be used by practitioners and parents with alienated children and families. It offers the complex and nuanced understanding which enables a greater capacity to mentalise the child’s experience. The greater the capacity to mentalise the child’s experience, the greater the capacity to understand how to move the family ‘furniture’ around to enable the relief of the pressure which is causing the child to reject. This approach empowers you to work with the psychological and emotional themes which underpin what is popularly called parental alienation, so that your understanding is deeper and your capacity to help healing is expanded significantly.
This series of webinars is based upon clinical practice and measurable outcomes, we are clinicians first and foremost. Putting skills into the hands of alienated parents and practitioners has however, always been one of my goals in doing this work. As our case load is currently being evaluated by a UK University, much of what we do will be made visible in the coming months along with the successful outputs we have achieved. As part of this process, the voices of those we have helped over the past decade, including adult children we have reunited with rejected parents, will be evaluated and amplified. As the results of this work come in, we will begin building our accredited training for practitioners and I will develop more focused and content rich material for parents, some of which will be free of charge through the Lighthouse Project.
Working out how to translate clinical work into practical skills for parents is an ongoing task but I am committed to it because I know that the very best therapist for children who suffer from psychological splitting, is a healthy parent.
These webinars are, for now, charged for at as low a cost as possible and I hope that this information today helps those of you who want to know more about whether they will help you.
Monday 28 June 2021
16:00 London time
The event will also be available for 30 days after the live broadcast for you to view at a time that suits you.
You can check your local start time here (just click the link and enter your city in the blue box):
In this intensive webinar, Karen Woodall will lead you through a depth understanding of what psychological splitting means and what it does to children who are induced to use it as a defence. Unpacking the psychologically split state of mind in children, demonstrates that behaviours which seem irrational on the surface, are actually a normal defensive response to a highly abnormal situation.
Children who become alienated are often sensitive and exceptionally bright children. They have often been parented prior to separation, in ways that have caused developmental trauma. Parents who are rejected, have often been unable to prevent that harm, either because of their own experience of trauma or because of the control that a parent has had over a child. When psychological splitting is understood, parents who are rejected, become more able to recognise the need to adapt their own parenting skills with children so that they can meet the needs of the child who has been drawn into the adult dynamics.
Learning to spot the signs of psychological splitting and to avoid the scenarios which may cause a child to enter into the defence without warning, helps parents to adapt their parenting to avoid unnecessary triggers which can lead to splitting. Like all defences, splitting can occur suddenly, in response to difficult and traumatic events or slowly, due to powerful dynamics which eventually exhaust and overwhelm the child’s capacity to relate to both parents. In either scenario, understanding the risk factors, the red flags and the progression of the problem, gives parents the skills to prevent alienation from escalating.
Detailing the framework which must be achieved in order to help the severely alienated child, the link between the legal and mental health management of serious cases of alienation, will be fully explained. Sharing her experience from working closely with alienated children over more than a decade, Karen will then lead you through the experience of psychological splitting from the child’s point of view, to help you to understand the steps you can take to ensure that the child receives the right input to assist them to recover.
This is a psychoanalytic approach to understanding and analysis and a therapeutic parenting approach to healing children affected by alienation which has been used inside and outside of the family court process around the world. This is a new way of thinking about the problem of alienation of children in divorce and separation, it offers skills for resolution with children who are on the mild to moderate spectrum of alienation reactions and detailed analysis of what is necessary to help children at the severe end. This approach is used currently at the Family Separation Clinic, with children and adults who were alienated as children, to release them from the bind which is caused by psychological splitting in families suffering from relational and trans generational trauma. It is used with adult children around the world and it demonstrates that the combination of understanding of psychological splitting with a therapeutic parenting skill set, provides for the child, the reassurance that it it safe to reconnect, even in some cases, after decades of rejection.
(This model of understanding and intervention with families, is currently being evaluated by a UK university, to illustrate the process being utilised and its success with families suffering from alienation of children after divorce and separation. Results from this will be available in 2022.)
Suitable for: Parents with and without contact with children both inside and outside of the family court process.
Practitioners: who wish to understand the problem of induced psychological splitting and how to assist alienated children.
Duration: 2 hours 30 minutes