Child Focused, Alienation Aware, Structural Therapy

I am back at the Clinic after a short break to rest and recharge, coming up is a big new phase of work at the Family Separation Clinic which includes the evaluation of the last decade of work completed. Early results from the first interviews with parents who received their children in residence transfer are in. They make grim reading in terms of the suffering of children and parents and the struggle to have this issue understood and treated. They make heartening reading in terms of the positive outcomes for the children involved.

We are now working on the development of evidence based, accredited treatment routes and training for practitioners who are working in this space. Our focus is upon alienated children and building replicable routes to prevention, protection and cure for the problem. This problem, which causes them to hyper align with one parent and reject the other after divorce and separation is readily understood when we work with the psychoanalytic literature. It is readily understood when we apply understanding of power and control dynamics, seeking to understand, from the child’s presentation, who holds power over the child and how the child has been induced to use the defence of psychological splitting. It is readily treated when we pair structural interventions with therapeutic parenting training which are held in place by the court.

It is not however an easy problem to treat, there are no simple answers to this complex child protection issue and the requirements of practitioners, to manage multiple tasks under extreme pressure, are clear. Being able to contain a family, in which boundaries are absent and relational trauma is dominant, requires a clear skill set combined with a mindset which is strong, resilient, flexible and capable. Being able to withstand personal and professional attack whilst continuing to do the work is essential.

The Family Separation Clinic uses a differential assessment which matches the treatment plan to the child’s entry into induced psychological splitting. This is a nuanced, depth assessment, which enables the intervention to be as closely matched to the child’s need for respite from the psychological and emotional pressures which cause splitting, to be prioritised. Our first aim is to stop the need for splitting, by enabling the child to be in the proximity of the parent being rejected, in clinical conditions.

I should say a word about the current furore around domestic abuse and parental alienation because it has clouded the issues we are working with, obscured the focus on the child and dragged the matter back to the gender wars of old. That, was no doubt the intentions of those who created the marketing strategy which is currently aimed at discrediting parental alienation theory. Suffice to say that I have kept out of this manufactured battle largely because it is a circular argument over a label. In truth, there is no need to fight this battle because in the UK at least, it has already been won. The UK has all the case law it needs for managing the issue of parental alienation and the Judiciary, Social Workers and Guardians are increasingly cognisant of the issue. Which is why the time is right for the development of accredited, evidence based training.

Recently I have been working with purely structural therapeutic interventions after fact finding and sometimes post residence transfer. In doing so I have found that what is necessary to treat the problem is well laid out in that literature. When we combine structural interventions with training rejected parents to use therapeutic parenting techniques such as ‘time in’ rather than ‘time out’ and when we skill rejected parents to know how to provide secure psychological and emotional containment for their children, integration of the split state of mind is swift.

Alienated children have been described to me many times as being ‘zombified’. This very powerful description of the alienated child’s assumption of a physical presentation which is markedly different to the child’s ordinary self, is the marker of splitting. Some children are very aware of the zombified presentation, some are aware and then not aware, what is called in the literature on traumatic splitting knowing and not knowing. This splitting, which is caused when a child cannot hold two realities in mind because one of the realities is overpowering them, is at the root of alienation reactions in children. This is the problem which is seen in unstable personality disorder and that children are more likely to suffer splitting in the period during which they are building their own sense of self, is what makes this a child protection issue.

The development of accredited, evidence based training, is designed to increase the number of practitioners who are alienation aware and ensure that the work done with families affected by this problem remains child focused. Having moved right away from the diagnostic model of parental alienation theory, largely because it has little value in treatment terms, it has become ever more clear that a flexible, child focused, alienation aware differential assessment, combined with a treatment protocol which is tailored to each unique case, is the right way forward for this problem. That is what we are focused upon developing right now so that in 2022, that will be ready for low cost roll out around the world.

When the replicable assessment and treatment route which is rooted in successful outcomes becomes available, the paradigm shift from the focus on the battle over the label to the focus on treatment of the problem will occur. We are not far short of achieving that now and when that happens, what will come with it is a widespread recognition within children’s services that that when a child hyper aligns with one parent and rejects the other after divorce and separation, the child is under pressure. When that recognition comes, the paradigm shift from having to treat the problem to being able to prevent it, will come.

Just as in all paradigm shifts, we make the old ways obsolete by building the new way forward. What I see now, when I work in teams with social workers and guardians, is a recognition of the problem and the way in which those with statutory power, can make an immediate difference. As one of the major dynamics in this problem is the power that the parent causing the pressure has over the child, changing who holds power is one of the major structural interventions which have to be made. When the issue is recognised, as it increasingly is, that structural intervention can take place early in the trajectory of the pathological pattern of behaviours which cause the problem. When social workers and guardians understand this, they can take action earlier and prevent so much damage being done to the child.

From understanding, to treatment, to prevention of this problem through triage and correct protocols in differential assessment. Away from the battleground, the paradigm shift is well underway.

Structural, Child Centred Therapy With Families Affected by Alienation

Online Training Workshop for Practitioners Bookings Open 6th September, Limited Places

Working with a psychoanalytic informed, structural and therapeutic approach to treatment of induced psychological splitting in children of divorce and separation.

Cost £300 plus VAT

Limited Places Available

October 28 2021

Duration – 5 hours Live Training. Start time 4pm UK

2 hours video input on Therapeutic Parenting

Suitable for: Psychotherapists, Social Workers, Psychologists, Psychiatrists

About this course

Treating alienated children requires a deep knowledge of how to differentiate and tailor treatment routes to suit the unique needs of the child and family affected by the defence which causes alienation. It also requires that the practitioner delivering treatment, is capable of providing the structural intervention within the concentric circles of the courts, the welfare system in which the family is located and the family system itself.

Successful treatment of alienated children, is seen when they are able to integrate the split off parts of self and withdraw projections so that their capacity to relate to both parents is restored. Being able to deliver the treatment to the child as well as the family system and educate the court on what is required to maintain health, is a necessary skill for any practitioner in this space.

The Family Separation Clinic in London, has pioneered the delivery of successful structural therapeutic interventions which provide full assessment, differentiation and treatment protocols for this group of families. The Clinic’s work is currently undergoing full evaluation by a UK University Team in preparation for the delivery of an accredited, evidence based training in the clinical model developed by the Clinic. This model combines psychoanalytical evaluation of the underlying defence mechanisms which cause alienation, with adapted structural family therapy and therapeutic parenting combined to offer successful treatment routes. A practitioners handbook for the model is currently in preparation.

This online training is for practitioners who wish to prepare for working with the evidence based, accredited clinical model, used by the Family Separation Clinic. Whilst this is an introductory level workshop, the content is clinical and technical in nature, providing a firm foundation for developing existing skills for this group of families.

Practitioners who undertake this course will have priority access to the 2022 training route and the cost of that will be discounted in recognition of attendance on this workshop.

What you will learn

  • Understanding of alienation of children in psychoanalytical terms and grounding of this in the psychoanalytical literature.
  • Understanding of the alienated child and family in structural systemic terms
  • Understanding of alienated children, their clinical presentations and the underlying reasons for this as well as how to respond to the alienated child
  • Introduction to assessment protocols
  • Introduction to differentiation protocols
  • Introduction to building structural therapeutic interventions
  • Introduction to the co-therapy model of practice
  • Introduction to therapeutic parenting skills

As part of this workshop, we will evidence successful treatment of cases via the input of parents who have received their children in residence transfer and the input of previously alienated children who are now over the age of eighteen, who were helped by the Clinic’s intervention. The purpose of this is to assist practitioners to understand the co-therapy model used by the Clinic and its impact on treatment of alienated children.

This course is intended to provide entry level training for those wishing to develop their practice via the 2022 trainings.

This course has 25 places available and practitioners from all countries are welcome to attend. We have set the start time at 4pm UK time to enable US practitioners to join us.*

This is a clinical training, it is only for those who have achieved qualifications in one or more of the following disciplines – (evidence of qualification is required on booking).

Psychotherapy – post graduate and above

Psychology – post graduate and above (clinical, forensic, developmental)

Psychiatry – Doctoral level

Social Work Graduates

*Please note that if there is interest from practitioners from Australia and New Zealand we will set up a separate course, please email karen@karenwoodall.blog to express interest.

The Purpose of the Academy is to develop, curate and promote clinical excellence in the treatment of children who become alienated as a result of family disharmony and dissolution.

News about the International Academy of Practice with Alienated Children will be available very soon. Click to go through to the website here.

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