Louise Tickle’s second blogpost of her Open Family Court project. Thanks Louise for raising awareness of the issues that are caused by an overly private Family.

The open family court

It’s over a month since I published my first Open Family Court blogpost, so this is an opportunity for me to say a huge thank you to everyone who emailed in response saying you’d like to hear more and get involved.

A quick recap on the purpose of this project as I expressed it in that blog:

“[It’s planned] as a collaborative exploration of how to recalibrate the balance between privacy in family courts – which exists for the very good reason of protecting vulnerable children – and freedom of expression, which allows people to speak out publicly about what the state has done to them, a right currently hobbled by the Administration of Justice Act 1960.”

Reasons for being open

Interestingly, just last week, The Guardian published an editorial advocating greater openness in the family court.

Screen Shot 2018-09-24 at 11.43.18

The paper’s leader writer set the need for greater transparency and scrutiny squarely…

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Another thought provoking piece from ‘lost dad’. Glad to see ‘lost dad’ back, well and writing once again.

LOST DAD

Why is parental alienation not more widely known? why does it still exist after so many years, and more importantly, why isn’t anything happening to stop it?

Let’s take a somewhat different example that can be seen in every newspaper these days: Transgender discussions. Without going into any of the detail in the different arguments, or groups involved, let’s just take a figure: The UK assume that the number of transgenders in the population is around 0.1%, the United States says it is around 0.3%. Taking the figure to mean the entire population of the United Kingdom, that means that there are around 68,000 transgenders in the UK.

Why I am mentioning this?  Because this is the number at any one time. How many do you think are suffering from parental alienation at any one time? Children, absent parents, grandparents, etc.  Given that in 2012 according to the office of national…

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What I mean by the above title is that twenty or so years ago mental health was simply not discussed in the public domain the way it is now. Be it via television reports, shows, documentaries or social media, mental health is now discussed and reported on across numerous mediums in a much more positive light.

My point is that as a modern day society we appear to be collectively much more comfortable in our skin discussing mental health. Now I am by no means stating that there is no prejudicial opinions of mental health still out there, nor am I stating that the positive changes made are enough. Of course they are not. The progress made in challenging the stigma against mental health has come a long way. However it is and must still remain a work in progress.

Regarding parental alienation, I view this contentious subject being where the concept of mental health was ten or twenty years ago. Arguably parental alienation is now beginning to be brought to the attention of the masses.

For those unaware of what parental alienation is, it is a form of abuse whereby one parent (in most cases the resident parent) deliberately damages, and in some cases destroys the previously healthy loving relationship between the child and the child’s other parent (the non-resident parent). For a more detailed description see our page What is PA?

Why is it so contentious if it is a form of abuse?

Why is it simply not criminalised?

These are the questions no doubt asked by the incalculable number of alienated parents, grandparents, step-parents out there. It is not just viewed as contentious, it is also viewed as controversial by it’s opponents.

These opponents, in their most extreme views put forward the argument that parental alienation is used by abusive fathers to gain access to their children. For example, their flawed argument is that following separation a mother is most probably denying her abusive ex-partner contact with their children to protect the children from further abuse. These opponents of parental alienation, with flimsy evidence based arguments claim that this scenario happens in most cases of parental alienation.

Now I am certainly not stating that such scenarios never occur. These are and should be viewed as false allegations of parental alienation. We know that false allegations of rape occur. However this does not and should never be an argument to not continue treating rape as a criminalised form of abuse.

Regarding the divisive subject of gender within the context of parental alienation, as Peace Not Pas we acknowledge that statistics inform us that parental alienation is perpetrated against fathers more than mothers. We also accept there exists a gender bias within the family court system. However parental alienation can and does happen to either gender. As a movement we are proud of our gender neutral approach to parental alienation; there is no justification for offering support to just one section of a victimised group and excluding another. That is simply not equality. This topic is explored in more detail in one of our recent posts The Inequality of Fighting for Equality.

In When a Child Won’t See One Parent (published 12th September 2018) Jeffreys states “there is no consensus and not a great deal of research.” However there is a plethora of evidence out there that informs us not only of the prevalence of, but also the the long term detrimental effects of parental alienation.

We currently have a flawed system that is struggling to understand the complexities of parental alienation. While this system plays catch-up it is also tragically and knowingly avoiding accountability and knowingly allowing this abuse to carry on unchallenged.

Alienated parents around the world spend huge sums of money returning their cases to court again and again. Tragically not all alienated parents have the financial resources to do this, so they are left with little choice but to give up. This flawed system financially profits from alienated parents simply fighting to have a relationship with their children.

Should a parent have to pay thousands upon thousands of pounds to fight to be a parent?

Despite it’s opponents, it’s complexities and the fact it is a money-making machine embedded in a flawed system, parental alienation appears to be coming to the attention of a wider audience. Much the same as the subject of mental health did ten to twenty years ago.

Like so many social changes that have come about in the past, they are not pushed or promoted by those in power. They are almost always pushed, promoted and fought for from a grass roots level. By the very people directly effected by the needed social change. As was the case with those effected by mental health and demanding social change, this time, in terms of parental alienation, it is us. The affected parents, grandparents, step-parents, the list goes on.

We the effected, are fighting for social change, for reform. Not for ourselves, but for our children.

On the same day as the following report was broadcast on the BBC’s national news programme.

[Thank you to The Cornerstone Community Project for the capturing of the above broadcast]

The BBC wrote the following regarding the above reports:

Are you affected by any of the issues raised above? Share your experience by emailing haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk

Please include a contact number if you are willing to speak to a BBC journalist. You can also contact us in the following ways:

WhatsApp: +44 7555 173285
Or Upload your pictures/video here
Tweet: @BBC_HaveYourSay
Send an SMS or MMS to 61124 (UK) or +44 7624 800 100 (international)

Regarding the above statement from the BBC, if you are affected by parental alienation and it is safe and appropriate to do so, please consider sharing your experience to help raise awareness.

“Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot un-educate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore.” (Cesar Chavez, 1984)


Please Note: We pledge to never make a profit or any other form of financial gain from any individuals affected by parental alienation.

We will gladly signpost individuals to true professionals within our wider network who add value, deliver results and operate in line with our core principles; contact us for more details. 

We pledge to never request payment from such individuals, nor request a finder’s fee from these professionals for any referrals made.

The Peace Not Pas Team

The following has been published with the kind permission of David Shubert (Founder of iWasErased) and Lynn Steinberg.


Lynn Steinberg PhD, LMFT, is a Therapist, Mediator and Expert Witness in the field of parent alienation and sexual abuse. Dr. Lynn Steinberg is a skilled and highly trained psychotherapist, specializing in the field of Parent Alienation as well as being an expert witness at court.

Over four decades, she has helped thousands of individuals and families with other interpersonal issues. Trained in the Family System Model, Dr. Steinberg works with families, couples, groups and individuals. For 30 years, she ran therapy groups to treat people who have been abused as children.

As an expert witness at court, Dr. Steinberg has worked on cases such as rape, child and sexual abuse, and sexual abuse in the workplace.

Dr. Steinberg is also a trained mediator, and worked with Superior Cases, private divorces as well as Malpractice cases.

Parent Alienation: Dr. Steinberg is collaborating with people all over the country (U.S.) to change the child abuse law, to include parent alienation as child abuse. In high conflict divorces an estimated 62% of cases, children are poisoned against one parent by the other parent. Many professionals who interact with these families in courts, the mental health area, the department of Child Protective Services (CPS) are untrained in this area. They fail to recognize the counter-intuitive nature of parent alienation and prefer a child’s testimony of abuse at their own parents’ divorce.

The tragedy of alienated children/ parents is witnessed in cases of suicide and homicide worldwide.


An incredibly powerful piece of writing about parental alienation.
Please read and share this post to help raise awareness of this relatively unknown and misunderstood form of child abuse.
Thank you.

World of Psych

The news has been awash with stories of children cast to the dark forces of abuse by persons unknown, and not protected by the very forces such as the police, social workers, and other professionals that should be helping them.

They are now being offered support, mental health advice and have all the professional guidance needed, because as a nation we have been appalled that children should be allowed to fall between the cracks in this way. But this has taken close to a decade before the nation’s conscience has been pricked into action. Such abuse is unconscionable and will leave children growing into adults, that will require extensive use of the mental health services. As a society we all feel responsible that we have allowed this to happen, and will now be hyper-vigilant to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

As a society, we seem to learn retrospectively from our…

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Another well written article by lost-dad, incredibly poignant. Please read and share to raise awareness of the evil that is parental alienation.

LOST DAD

The Future - Attribution: https://www.flickr.com/photos/33925187@N00/ The Future – Attribution: https://www.flickr.com/photos/33925187@N00/

This post was suggested by my various professionals during my journey and a post by David Shubert on iwaserased.com

I have thought about this a lot over the previous years. How to put into words the loss that I feel not seeing my children, having no idea what they are up to, not being asked daddy questions and an infinite amount of other possible situations.

I was ‘lucky’, in that I have found (or they found me?) a wonderful new partner and her son, both of whom adore me. They make me feel whole, and the residual doubt that I had every now and then that I could have been to blame for what happened between my children, their mother and I have been exorcised. I know I am a good partner and a good father to a son who isn’t mine. I certainly must…

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In my continuing battle to fight parental alienation and promote social change I have started writing an evidence based article. This currently has the working title of ‘Are UK authorities effectively safeguarding children in their approach to the issue that is parental alienation.’

A recent post of mine (Cafcass Asked Me If I Had Any Ideas. Here Is My 16 Page Response!) will form part of a section on Cafcass. Once I have completed the article in its entirety I aim to use it in various ways to highlight the numerous service gaps that are allowing this form of abuse to go unchallenged.

I am looking for parents that are affected by parental alienation that are prepared to share their stories with me. The selected stories will be included within my article as vignettes. Please be assured that any stories included in the article will be fully anonymised. All that I ask for is that stories meet the following criteria:

  • The affected parent must be UK based
  • Written accounts of the affected children being ‘brainwashed’/alienated against the affected parent
  • I would prefer replies from those that have had involvement with Cafcass

If anyone is interested in contributing their story of parental alienation please email me and I will aim to be in touch within 24-48 hours.

On a similar note, although I am a mental health nurse and have experience of writing evidenced based essays, I am all too aware that there are affected parents out there that have far more experience of parental alienation than I do. Any suggestions, ideas, input will be very much appreciated.

Thank you.

btg dad


Please Note: We will gladly refer readers to true professionals who add value, deliver results and operate in line with our core principles. 

We are also more than happy to feature quality content by writers; any wish to remain anonymous will be respected.

So if you align with our vision and ethos, have someone to recommend, are someone we would recommend or have something to say on the subject of shared parenting and parent equality in either a personal or professional capacity and would like a platform to have your say or contribute in some way to our cause, please contact us.

Thanks

The Peace Not Pas Team

I am incredibly proud to be involved with the organisation I Was Erased. This U.S. based group is the brainchild of David Shubert, who is a parent continuing to fight what is now a nine and a half year battle to be reunited with his children.

iWasErased (2)

The organisation’s aim is to provide and share support and resources for alienated and left behind parents. Their website can be found at www.iwaserased.com

David regularly writes what he refers to as ‘reflections’ and posts these online. The following is David’s latest reflection, entitled ‘The Living Dead’. This particular piece brought home to me what it is to be an alienated parent.

David has kindly given me permission to post his reflection on here:

The Living Dead

The very breath we breathe is sucked out of us.  We walk around like zombies.  The smile we once had is no longer visible and peace is forever gone.  This is what it is like for a parent who has been alienated from their children.  We simply cease to function on a normal basis. On the outside, we are just like you but on the inside we scream in terror and hold onto dysfunctional behavior.

Most people who know us do not understand what we are going through.  They only see what they want to see.  They will never understand what it is like to lose their child because of the vindictive actions of an alienating spouse or the erroneous decisions of a family court judge.  They think we embellish our situation and should be able to move on but, how can we?

There are many parents and our children who have chosen to lose the battle of alienation because the pain is too great and are unable to continue fighting for what they desire.  It is unfortunate when this occurs because their pain may end in the physical and emotional sense but, they leave it behind for those still on this earth who once loved them.

For myself, I have known three parents who have chosen to end their pain and suffering in the most dreadful manner caused by alienation.  It leaves a hole in my heart that can never be filled.  For family members, it must be even more devastating.  I can only say that you must hold on and believe that tomorrow will be better.

It is imperative that each of you take care to safeguard your mental and emotional health because you need to be here for the time when your children awaken from their slumber and realize they need you.  If, you choose to make the ultimate decision to end your pain… you are wrong and you are selfish.  Pick yourself up and make the conscious decision to fight back against the dark powers.

There is a way to do this and that is through the power of self-healing.  Step back from the fight. Concentrate on yourself and do something that promotes a different emotional environment for yourself.  I understand how difficult this may be and how you may feel that you are giving up on your child through this process but, if you are damaged then you are no good to yourself nor your child.

Take time to heal.  Go on that long awaited vacation.  Go fishing.  Camping with a friend?  How about taking a dancing class?  Counseling?  Whatever you need to do make sure that you fulfil your bucket list and come back a more complete person.  After all, you’re worth it and so are your children.  They need to have you back in their lives and not an emotional wreck.  They need you as you once were.

Ultimately, the choice is yours to make.  You can either choose to live in silence and emotional fear as well as heartache, or you can make the conscious decision to rise above  and heal yourself.  Don’t be selfish in your actions.  Consider who you are doing this for and that is your children.  They deserve to have a super-mom or super-dad in their corner fighting for them.

Heal yourself from within and regain your life, your smile and your children.  We all have this drive and fight inside us, we just have to reach down deep to find it.  We do not have to be the living dead.  We can instead be the living parents again!

By David Shubert

The original post can be found here.

btg dad


Please Note: We will gladly refer readers to true professionals who add value, deliver results and operate in line with our core principles. 

We are also more than happy to feature quality content by writers; any wish to remain anonymous will be respected.

So if you align with our vision and ethos, have someone to recommend, are someone we would recommend or have something to say on the subject of shared parenting and parent equality in either a personal or professional capacity and would like a platform to have your say or contribute in some way to our cause, please contact us.

Thanks

The Peace Not Pas Team

Over the last month I have been relentlessly hassling Cafcass (The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) in an attempt to get them to safeguard my children from their mother’s ongoing emotional abuse. At time of writing, I have now not seen my children for almost 11 months. This is due to their mother denying me contact and alienating my children against me and my family following or separation last year. For a detailed explanation of parental alienation click here.

“The current system in place for battling parental alienation is inadequate and flawed.”

A couple of days ago a member of management from Cafcass telephoned me to discuss my concerns about their lack of effective protection of my three children. I asked him numerous questions such as “what are you planning to do to protect my children?” Most of the questions he was unable to answer. However he rather surprisingly agreed with me that the current system in place for battling parental alienation is inadequate and flawed.

ResponseToCafcass_PeaceNotPas

At the end of the conversation he informed me that he would be open to any suggestions or ideas I might have in working towards contact and reconciliation with my children. In response to this comment I wrote an evidence based proposal and emailed it to him directly. I eagerly await his response!

“In order to seek a solution to any problem, we first need to understand it.”

I appreciate the following is a lot to read, and could be quite heavy going for those affected by parental alienation. However I would encourage those parents battling to see their alienated children to read this in its entirety. I myself feel more knowledgeable about this problem after researching it further in order to write my proposal. I believe that in order to seek a solution to any problem, we first need to understand it.

The following is an anonymised version of my proposal.


An evidenced based proposal to Cafcass in tackling the issue of parental alienation

Thank you for taking the time to contact me on the # May. I very much appreciate the fact that you are open to suggestions from me in terms of promoting contact and reconciliation between my children and I. As such the following is an evidenced based proposal of how I feel Cafcass should approach the issue of parental alienation concerning my children and their mother.  

As you are aware, following our separation my children’s mother accused me of physically and emotionally abusing all three of my children. As one would expect this triggered a safeguarding concern resulting in the court not permitting any contact between myself and my three children until these claims were investigated further. As is all too often the case when parents engage in alienating behaviours, these claims were clearly used to justify my children’s rejection of me as their father. As expected the subsequent Cafcass report stated that there were no safeguarding concerns.

“It is unnatural for a child to reject a relationship with a loved and loving parent.”

The Case Manager at the team wrote in the report that he felt the children’s mother had elaborated the truth. The same report also stated that the children’s mother was attempting to make me look like an ‘ogre’ in the eyes of our children. In line with numerous theories such as John Bowlby’s Attachment Theory, it is unnatural for a child to reject a relationship with a loved and loving parent. However this is the harsh reality for too many families following divorce or separation. In summarising the Cafcass report, it was evidenced that my children’s mother was exhibiting alienating behaviours and emotionally abusing our children. Evidence showed that their mother was preventing our children from enjoying and benefiting from healthy attachment relationships. She continues to prevent contact with the children, not just with myself but also with all members of my own family.    

When we spoke in person on the # March at ####### Family Court we both agreed that in an attempt to make sense of their parents separation, my children are in fact responding in a maladaptive way. We also both agreed that unknown to them they are subconsciously protecting themselves from the psychological dissonance they are currently experiencing. During this same conversation, you expressed the particular concern that both you and the Case Manager (at the time) have in respect of my eldest son B, given his very rigid thinking and strong assertion that he has no positive memories of me at all. We both agreed that he is not able to process the current situation by himself and needs help and support with this. You also went on to inform me that your professional opinion was that without anything being done to help B change his view of me (and without his mother being able to challenge his thinking (whether intentionally or not)), B is at a grave risk of developing serious emotional mental health issues in the future. This was also echoed by the District Judge when we went in front of her on the same day, who highlighted to my children’s mother the potential for the children to be very damaged by the current situation if she continues with her current approach.  

The current belief from the leading researchers in parental alienation is that children can, with effective therapeutic input recover from parental alienation very quickly and with the right ongoing support, become healthy, happy and stable once again. However, my current concern is that Cafcass is struggling to recommend a robust and effective enough intervention.

A further concern of mine is that Cafcass is unable to differentiate between a child who is responding to a conflicted dynamic within a family setting and a child who is in the care of an alienating parent. Practitioners without the experience of the ways in which children respond to family separation, will invariably approach each case in the same way (Woodall, 2015). Such professionals consider that it is conflict alone which gives rise to the child’s refusal to spend time with a once loved parent. Some professionals will put forward the idea that the parent who is being rejected has done something to justify such an extreme reaction and subsequent rejection. In relation to my circumstances I was told by the Case Manager at the time “you need to accept the consequences of your actions.” Subjectively this appeared to be a suggestion that my children’s supposed rejection of me was justifiable and normal. 

Current experts in the field of parental alienation, such as The Family Separation Clinic in London advocate a detailed assessment. Following this and in accordance with evidence based practice The Family Separation Clinic advocates individually designed interventions. This appears to be in stark contrast to the current approach of Cafcass, which does not officially recognise parental alienation and as such appears to all too often recommend an approach of ‘one intervention fits all’. For example, in my own case it was recommended that I attend a co-parenting course. The course facilitator started the course by making the somewhat uninspiring and insensitive comment that “the Family Courts do not have the time or the resources to understand the complex dynamics of each of your situations.” 

Despite a lack of official recognition of parental alienation by the UK government, recent judgments have brought this issue into the public domain for further debate. The case of child S, aged 12 and his father’s request for transfer of residence went to court in 2010. Reflecting on the case HHJ Bellamy (sitting as a deputy High Court Judge) highlighted the following points:  

  • The concept of alienation as a feature of some high conflict parental disputes may today be regarded as mainstream.
  • There is no professional or expert consensus as to the approach the court should take with an alienated child. The solutions tried in this case had failed. The case demonstrated that there could be no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution.
  • Alienation will only be a feature in a small number of cases and may be outside the experience of the care professionals. In cases involving an alienated child it is “essential that the court has the benefit of professional evidence from an expert who has personal experience of working with alienated children.” 

The above points highlight Sauber and Worenkliens’ (2013) argument that due to a lack of professional awareness of the complex dynamics of family separations, there is a risk that some professionals unknowingly collude with the parent who is engaged in the alienation process. As in my case a professional only made contact with my children after the process of alienation had been completed. According to Kelly (2010), the problem of alienation being experienced by children stems from a reaction to conflict. The roots of which usually emanate from unresolved issues in the relationship experienced by one parent or both. 

As we agreed in the aforementioned telephone conversation, the term ‘in the children’s best interest’, gets used often. However Baker et al., (2013) point out that the opinions of children in such circumstances, must be listened to with caution and experience, because, they argue it is often what is not being said as much as what is being said which gives away the reality of the trauma and conflict that the children are experiencing. Baker and Fine (2013) put forward the argument that children who are coerced or forced to choose one parent over another results in the rejection of the targeted parent.

Children who are being exposed to alienating behaviours are very likely to want someone to intervene on their behalf (Baker 2013). All too often by the time any input is facilitated by professionals, alienated children may have been placed at the top of the family hierarchy. As highlighted by Cafcass, my eldest son appears to be taking on a paternal role in his current home setting. This ‘power’ has been afforded to him by his mother, the alienating parent. It saddens me to know that he has now been elevated to a position to make decisions within the family setting that are not rightfully his. Due to the complexities of parental alienation, any children in this position are at serious risk of being further abused by those who are trying to help. This is particularly the case for those people who are unable to break the bind that the child is facing, such as those that enable such alienating behaviours, be it knowingly or unknowingly (Gottlieb 2012).

When a child is presenting with the above alienating behaviours, they have already begun a process of splitting all of their feelings for each of their parents into two stark and distinct directions. At this point they present with only profound love for the resident parent. For the targeted parent they present with a deep hatred and sometimes fear. Gottlieb (2012) argues that to the affected children, these feelings will feel real, as such they will base them ‘on fact’. This is a result of constant alienating behaviours by the resident parent. This will result in the repeating of such behaviours to observers and which, when challenged by professionals, may even escalate.  

As already discussed Cafcass have highlighted my children are at risk of long term emotional and psychological issues. My children’s current presentations and behaviours can also be indicative of a maladaptive attachment to the alienating parent. Cafcass has evidenced that in relation to her response to our separation my children’s mother appears to be transferring her own emotions onto our children. This in turn results in her depending on our children for support in dealing with her emotions, this dependancy is known as ‘parentification’. Minuchin (2004) refers to this phenomenon as ‘spousification’ and points out that it can create conditions in which the child is elevated to the top of the family attachment hierarchy (Kerns and Richardson, 2005) by a parent and given the choice and the responsibility for taking care of the parent by rejecting the other. As already highlighted my eldest son has been ‘elevated’ within the family hierarchy.  

During our conversation at court we also discussed the possibility of assessments. Gabbard (2010) advocates the need for assessments of both parents, to determine whether or not blame projection is present. Blame projection, is a common feature of separating couples, but is one which can be minimised with the appropriate intervention and co-operation of both parents. Woodall (2015) highlights the issue that a parent who remains with the rigid belief that the other parent is to blame, without being able to accept or acknowledge any responsibility for the current position, is likely to remain in a hostile and rejecting position. In my own case this is an issue that I have been relentlessly trying to highlight to numerous professionals that I have come into contact with, most of all Cafcass. Such an attitude from the alienating parent is likely to influence a child who may also appear to have some element of rigid thinking, as is the case with my eldest son. A fixed and rejecting partnership between the alienating parent and affected child will result in the child viewing the targeted parent as a threat and/or unwanted. Cafcass have also highlighted this as a concern in the case of my eldest son.

“All current evidence suggests that such a conflict of loyalty should be addressed as soon as possible.”

In response to my two eldest childrens’ continuing rejection of me, the opinion of Cafcass was to “give them time and space.” The Cafcass Case Manager attempted at the time to assure me that this was what my children “wanted” and I “should respect and accept their wishes and feelings”. However all the available evidence informs us that such rigid views from the alienating parent, projection of blame and an insistence that a child is making their own decisions are all signs that a child is trapped in a conflict of loyalty to the alienating parent. Stahl (2001) argues that such loyalty conflicts stem from children being afraid to love both their parents. This is due to the amount of pressure being placed upon them by the alienating parent. All current evidence suggests that such a conflict of loyalty should be addressed as soon as possible.

In terms of effectively assessing the issue at hand, The Family Separation Clinic argues for the categorisation of types of alienation. Bala (2012) has developed a system of categorisation, in order to determine whether the type of alienation belongs to one of the following:

  • Hybrid or Mixed – This involves such conflict whereby both parents have extreme differences in parenting and personalities. Resulting in children being unable to relate individually to the two parents that have parted.
  • Pure – In this case a parent is maliciously and deliberately causing a child to reject their other parent.  

Bala’s system breaks down the the category of pure alienation further into the following:

  • Pure and Conscious Alienation – In this case the alienating parent is aware of what they are doing and refuses to or is unable to stop their negative behaviours.
  • Pure and Unconscious – This is the case where a parent is unable to know or understand what they are doing is wrong. This is due to a personality or psychiatric disorder.  

Bala also states that the treatment of parental alienation is dependent upon the categorisation of the problem. Bala also argues the importance of differentiating between hybrid alienation and pure. He argues that this assessment step is pivotal in deciding upon the most appropriate and effective intervention. A case of hybrid alienation will require a very different route to that of pure alienation and a case of pure and conscious alienation will often require a different approach to pure and unconscious.

“The assessment of whether a personality disorder is present or not, makes it possible to determine the most effective intervention.”

A presentation of pure and unconscious alienation is arguably as difficult to address as a hybrid presentation. This is due to the alienating parent being completely unaware of the impact of their behaviour upon the child. Baker (2013) argues that pure and unconscious alienation is often the result of a personality disorder. Baker also argues that when an alienating parent is completely unable to recognise or acknowledge that their behaviours are causing a child to be in a severely alienated state, a personality disorder should be investigated in the case of the alienating parent. The assessment of whether a personality disorder is present or not, makes it possible to determine the most effective intervention. Early on in my case Cafcass identified that my childrens’ mother does not acknowledge or recognise that her approach is causing our children to be severely alienated. With this evidence in mind and my professional awareness and understanding of personality traits as a Charge Nurse on a psychiatric assessment ward I have been relentlessly requesting Cafcass consider a personality disorder. I would argue that Cafcass’ own account of her presentation fits in with Bala’s category of pure and unconscious. The aforementioned category type is viewed as needing the most swift and robust action, such as a transfer of residence (Bala, 2012).  

In terms of arguing for a more mental health orientated approach, as much as a difference of opinion regarding the clinical difficulties in diagnosing parental alienation as a syndrome persist it is however included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). DSM-5 authors Dr. Narrow and Dr. Wamboldt (2016) state in a scientific paper that parental alienation may be diagnosed as Child Affected by Parental Alienation Distress (V61.29) if one is talking about the child. If one is talking about a parent alienating their child parental alienation may be diagnosed as Child Psychological Abuse (V995.51). This, they argue confirms that parental alienation is indeed in the DSM-5. 

Where the targeted parent has not contributed to their position of alienation, all evidence suggests that a child emerges immediately from their position of alienation, particularly when there has been respite from the coercive behaviours of the alienating parent, such as a change of residence (Woodall, 2015).

“Evidence also highlights the need for the rejected parent to be reintroduced as quickly as possible after an intervention begins.”

One of the unorthodox elements of the delivery of interventions specifically tailored to challenging parental alienation is that it is most effective when facilitated ‘in situ’. In essence therapists, mediators and parenting co-ordinators attend the home of the resident parent involved rather than parties being required to attend certain locations. This unorthodox delivery has several advantages. Facilitation ‘in situ’ attempts to minimise the risk of non-attendance by the alienating parent. Another advantage is that the affected children can remain in their family environment while undergoing psychological support. Evidence also highlights the need for the rejected parent to be reintroduced as quickly as possible after an intervention begins. Thereby exposing the child to the feared or hated parent in a safe and supportive environment with support from practitioners who are unafraid to override the child’s expressions of fear.

The following are vignettes of successful work undertaken by The Separation Clinic(Woodall, 2015): 

1.  Three children aged 8,9 14  all severely alienated and refusing to see their father.  When I began work with them in February 2015 they had all been completely rejecting of their father for a period of two years.

This case has been successfully treated through a combination of therapeutic intervention and parenting co-ordination whilst working with a Guardian who understands alienation and who is able to hold the tension of the court’s expectations that the children will have a relationship with their father very firmly.  This enables the therapeutic work to be undertaken swiftly because it limits the risk of triangulation in which the alienating parent utilises the doubts and lack of understanding in professionals to continue the children’s ability to reject.  The time taken to resolve the children’s rejection of their father was less than four weeks, the length of time taken to achieve optimum time between children and father for therapeutic challenge and readjustment of the relationship was twelve weeks.  Compulsion of the children to attend periods of time with their father was achieved through the use of court directions. Compulsion of behavioural change in the alienating parent was achieved through a suspended transfer of residence. 

In the above vignette it is clear that it is the combination of court process plus therapeutic work which creates the dynamic change which liberates the children.

2. One child, severe rejection of more than five years, treated in a combination of therapeutic work and supported parenting time.  Successful treatment arrived at by therapeutic work with parents plus immediate reconnection of child with rejected parent and movement into a shared care situation.  Dynamic change was created by the threat of a change of residence and the removal of all ability by the alienating parent to triangulate the dynamics in treatment (case was handled by one therapist with the Guardian acting as super parent and receiving reports on a regular basis, the Guardian holding the power to return the case to court at the request of the therapist).  Treatment time from rejection to reconnection was fourteen days. 

In this vignette it is clear that the threat of a transfer of residence is the core element that creates the compulsion for change.

So to continue with my proposal, in light of what my children are currently being exposed to, my question is this, if my children were being abused in any other way what would be the recommendations from Cafcass? Would the response be much more robust and urgent? Bearing in mind that Cafcass Chief Executive Anthony Douglas publicly states that emotional abuse inflicted by a parent on their children following a separation should be treated the same way as any other form of abuse.  

With all of the above evidence in mind and the circumstances of my case, I propose Cafcass provides the following recommendations/approach:

  • A thorough assessment of both parents to ascertain the category type of parental alienation. This is to be carried out by practitioners that are experienced in the assessment of and treatment of parental alienation.
  • Following assessment, the formulation of an effective, robust and category appropriate psychological intervention
  • The psychological intervention to be facilitated ‘in situ’ due to a consistent lack of engagement and attendance at previously ordered interventions by the alienating parent.
  • The first session is to involve only the children and their mother. However in line with above stated evidence I will be present from the second session onwards.
  • The frequency and length of intervention will be dependent on the amount of progress being made
  • If there continues to be a lack of behavioural change on the part of their mother the option of a temporary/permanent change of residence to be available and/or an extension of the intervention

 

References 

Baker, A. and Sauber, R. (2013) Working with alienated children and families. New York and London: Routledge.  

Baker, A. and Fine, P. (2013). Educating divorcing parents in working with alienated children and their families. New York and London: Routledge

Bala, N. (2012). Children who resist post separation parental contact. London: Oxford University Press.  

Gabbard, O. (2010). Long-term psychodynamic psychotherapy. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.  

Gottlieb, J. (2012). The parental alienation syndrome. Illinois: Charles Thomas Publishing.

Kelly, J. (2010). In: Fidler et. al (2012). Children who resist post separation parental contact. London: Oxford University Press.

Kerns, K., and Richardson, R. (2005). Attachment in middle childhood. New York and London: Guildford Press.  

Minuchin, S. (2004). Family Therapy Techniques. Harvard University Press: Cambridge.  

Sauber, R., and Worenklein, A. (2013). Working with alienated children and their families. London and New York: Routledge.

Stahl, M. Retrieved from article by – remarks made at the plenary session of CRC’s conference in May, 2001.

Woodall, K. (2015). Understanding and working with the alienated child. Available at: https://www.familyseparationclinic.com/articles [Accessed 09/05/2017].

Woodall, K. (2015). Three vignettes in the successful treatment of parental alienation. Available at: https://karenwoodall.wordpress.com/2015/07/08/three-vignettes-in-the-successful-treatment-of-parental-alienation [Accessed 09/05/2017].

btg dad


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The Peace Not Pas Team

Yet another well written and well-informed post from Karen here on the current increasing awareness of Parental Alienation. But also highlights the problems that lay ahead in the continuing fight to not only get PA recognised but to effectively treat it.

Karen Woodall

Parental Alienation has become such a hot topic in the UK that everywhere one looks a petition is being launched, an article on the issue is in the media, even Woman’s Hour covered the topic recently. Meanwhile the head of CAFCASS (GAL service for our stateside readers), has confirmed that parental alienation is child abuse, although not quite as those of us who work with the issue know it.

Watching the way in which the subject, which only five years ago was readily dismissed by family court professionals, is now being rehabilitated, I am aware of the dangers ahead for parents  who think that now that the subject is being openly aired, all will be well and the problem eradicated.  I wish I could agree but I can’t. The sense of foreboding that comes with the cosy chats around the kitchen table approach to this problem is immense, it heralds…

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