The International Academy of Practice with Alienated Children holds its first conference on June 14,15,16 in Acre in Israel. Set up by clinicians in the UK, Sweden, Hong Kong, USA, Croatia, Malta, Republic of Ireland and Israel, IAPAC provides a forum for practitioners who treat the problem of relational trauma in divorce and separation. Our overall aim is simple-
To raise public awareness of the harms which are caused to children when they are exposed to behaviours which induce psychological splitting and to provide resources to prevent this harm and protect children, as well as assist them in recovery.IAPAC 2022
Relational trauma is a way of describing the dynamics which arise when a child is induced to use psychological splitting as a defence after divorce and separation. It is a term which covers all aspects of the traumatic impact of family separation and which allows practitioners to understand and treat the problem, without mirroring the splitting defence which is the core dynamic seen when children reject a parent outright in the absence of anything that parent has done. For practitioners, it is a less polarising approach to working with the problem of induced psychological splitting in children because, unlike the reductivist approach of Parental Alienation Theory (Bernet, 2021), it enables understanding and therapeutic intervention with the stratified dynamics which are seen in these families
There are several different approaches to considering the problem of a child’s rejection of a parent, including Parental Alienation Theory (Parental Alienation Study Group), Attachment Based Parental Alienation (Childress), Resist/Refuse dynamics (AFCC), Ecological Approaches,(Saini & Polak, Friedlander&Walters), and the Alienated Child (Kelly & Johnston). Working from a basis of psychoanalytic understanding, the model used in IAPAC, combines this with structural therapy to provide a relational approach to treatment. Synergising some of the knowledge base of Johnston and Roseby (1997) and Friedlander and Walters (2010 & 2016), the treatment routes which are delivered are based upon evidence of outcomes of work at the Family Separation Clinic in London over more than a decade.
Relational Trauma and Object Relations Theory
The purpose of developing a relational approach to treating the problem of a child’s induced psychological splitting is to expand the capacity of therapists, social workers and other court involved practioners to treat the problem rather than simply assess it in Court. A second goal, is to provide therapeutic services for families whose children are ‘aged out’ of the court process and a third and no less important goal, is to provide a recognisable treatment route for adults who rejected a parent after divorce and separation in childhood.
Based upon psychoanalytic concepts drawn from Object Relations Theory (you can learn more in the video below), we have combined this undersanding with interventions drawn from structural therapy.
This has been our project at the Family Separation Clinic for the past five years and since 2019, when we moved away from Parental Alienation Theory and PASG, we have been focused solely upon delivering treatment to families both inside and outside of the court setting, using relational trauma as a basis for our understanding. In doing so we have tested and delivered, a model which has brought signficant success in terms of protecting children and enabling their recovery from the harm done by induced psychological splitting, both within the court system and outside of it.
Increasingly we have also been able to help adults who are still suffering from the impacts of induced psychological splitting and the development of a recognisable therapeutic treatment for this problem, is the focus of my doctoral thesis, which I am now in the final stage of completing. Understanding that it is not possible to treat a defence by working in a way which strengthens it, (parental alienation as a label is resisted by many children), moving right away from using PA Theory has allowed all of the existing literature on primitive defences to inform this work.
Psychological splitting is a primitive defence in which the first split experienced is an ego split, giving rise to what Winnicott (1965), called a false self. Working with Object Relations Theory, gives therapists and other practitioners, a deep understanding of the experience of the child who becomes alienated from the authentic self first and then from one of their parents. Grounding this understanding within a working knowledge of how to utilise the court process in order to address the underlying power imbalance in these families, provides a framework for setting up treatment. Thus, psychological splitting in children can be relieved swiftly, overseen by tightly managed court proceedings and using structural interventions combined with therapeutic parenting training for rejected parents.
With the help of private investment, the Family Separation Clinic is currently developing this evidence based model of work, into training resources for social workers, therapists and other court involved professionals around the world. Based upon evaluation of outcomes of residence transfers and programmes delivered by the Clinic over the past ten years, the outputs will include a handbook for clinicians, plus training resources and development of further research along with a journal of clinical practice via IAPAC.
We know that relational trauma in divorce and separation affects too many families around the world and it is our goal to put tools into the hands of practitioners which allow understanding AND successful treatment of this problem. Working collectively with a model which enables interruption of this inter-generational relational trauma, is the core focus of IAPAC for the years to come.
Reunification and recovery: Practice and theory in the treatment of alienated children
International Conference, Acre Israel – 14-16th June 2022
Barbara Jo Fidler, Ph.D., C.Psych., Acc.FM.
Dr Fidler is a clinical developmental psychologist. She has worked with high conflict separating/divorcing families conducting assessments, professional consultations, expert testimony, mediation, arbitration, therapy and parenting coordination for over 30 years. Dr. Fidler provides training to judges, lawyers and mental health professionals and has presented at numerous conferences. She is co-author of four books: Child Custody Assessments (2008), Challenging Issues in Child Custody Disputes (2008), Best Practice Guide: Responding to Emotional Harm & Parent-Child Contact Problems in High Conflict Separation (2013), and Children Who Resist Post-Separation Parental Contact: A Differential Approach for Legal and Mental Health Professionals (2012).
Benjamin D. Garber, Ph.D.
Dr. Garber is a New Hampshire licensed psychologist, parenting coordinator, expert consultant to family law matters across North America, speaker and author. He is also a former Guardian ad litem. Dr. Garber has advanced degrees in psycholinguistics, developmental and clinical child psychology from the University of Michigan and The Pennsylvania State University. He completed an internship in clinical child and family psychology at the Institute of Living in Hartford, Connecticut. He is co-founder of the Parenting Coordination Association of New Hampshire, winner of the March of Dimes “Distinction in Media Excellence” award, and an acclaimed educator and author in numerous areas of child and family development and family law
Further headline speakers from Israel, UK, USA, Malta, The Republic of Ireland, Croatia, Holland and Sweden will be announced shortly.
Ticket Prices for this Hybrid Event will be as follows –
Online: £75 per day or £125 for two days
Face to face prices, along with details of hotel deals in nearby Haifa, will be announced next week.
Bookings open w/c 21st February 2022.