The alien self is present in all of us, because transient neglect is part of ordinary caregiving; it is pernicious when later experiences of trauma in the family or the peer group force the child to dissociate from pain by using the alien self to identify with the aggressor. Hence, the vacuous self comes to be colonized by the image of the aggressor, and the child comes to experience himself as evil and monstrous.’.’

Fonagy, P. (2004). Affect regulation, mentalization and the development of the Self. London: Karnac.

A child’s vehement rejection of a parent after divorce or separation can present professionals and the courts with a number of challenges. These can be exacerbated when children or parents make allegations of harm or abuse against the parent who is being rejected.

The International Academy of Practice with Alienated Children recognises alienation as a relational problem in which a child unconsciously utilises the maladaptive defence of psychological splitting in response to a relational landscape that has become frightening and overwhelming.

This conference brings together practitioners and researchers from around the world to share perspectives on theory and practice in the treatment of alienated children and, in doing so, recognising children, not as objects of a parental dispute, but as a subject of their own lived experience.

About Induced Psychological Splitting

Induced psychological splitting is the core problem for children who are said to be alienated, it is a primitive defence mechanism which arises in the face of an impossible dillema. In the case of children of divorce and separation, the impossible dillema is that they are unable to cope with the different realities they are exposed to. Typically, those different realities involve one parent’s intra-psychic conflicts, which in divorce and separation can be shame, difficulty in resolving the ending of the relationship, uncontrollable anger and frustration or more serious conflicts such personality disorder. In cases where children are rejecting a parent outright and hyper align with the other parent, it is more likely that the balance of the two realities the child is caught between, is weighted towards a mix of strong control over the child by one parent with an enmeshment between the controlling parent and that child. The child in this situation is effectively held hostage in their own mind as the defence of splitting comes into play. From an Object Relations perspective, this is the start of an emerging pattern of denial, splitting and projection, which binds the child ever further into the drama which is unfolding.

About the IAPAC Conference

This conference brings together clinicians from all over the world to consider successful interventions for children and families affected by a child’s induced psychological splitting. Headline speakers are both well known in the field and highly skilled and experienced in working with families to effect successful change.

Headline speakers

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

Other speakers

Inbal Baron-Kivenson (Israel), Nick Woodall (UK), Gordana Bjulan Flander (Croatia), Claire Francica (Malta), Tirtza Joels (Israel), Mia Roje Đapić (Croatia), Teodora Minčić (Serbia), Karen Woodall (UK), Benny Bailey (Israel), Sietska Dijkstra (Netherlands), Alice Berkowitz (USA), Leilani Sinclair (USA), Judith M. Pilla (USA), Joan Long, Republic of Ireland and more…

Seminars (final programme tbc shortly)

Working with alienation in families in Israel, Republic of Ireland, Malta, Croatia and the UK and USA

Psychological abuse of children and its resolution

Understanding alienation using psychoanalytic literature

A Structural therapeutic model of intervention

Multi model, attachment focused interventions

Primitive defences in divorce and separation

Personality disorder and its impact on children

Practitioner safety and the legal/mental health relationship

Projective Identification and its role in alienation of children

Shame and its resolution

The co-coaching and co-therapy model and the importance of rejected parents in children’s recovery

Additional Seminar on Therapeutic Parenting for Rejected Parents

The most valuable asset a clinician has in working with children in recovery from psychological splitting, is a rejected parent who is skilled in understanding how splitting distorts a child’s experience of their own intra-psychic world and their relationship with others.

Karen Woodall – Holding up a Healthy Mirror 2021/22

The conference will feature additional workshops on topics such as Therapeutic Parenting, which is used by the Family Separation Clinic in London as part of recovery and reunfication work. The Clinic’s model of work is recognised as effective by the High Court in England and Wales* and is currently under evaluation.

This two hour seminar is based upon the course Holding up a Healthy Mirror which is delivered by Karen Woodall over four weeks. This is a training for parents to prepare them to understand how attachment disruption and induced psychological splitting, impacts upon a child and how to assist the child in recovery.

The seminar introduces concepts which are necessary for all practitioners to consider when working with this vulnerable group of families.

*A and B (Parental Alienation: No.1, No.2, No.3 and No.4) Neutral Citation No. ZC18P01363