What Happened Next: Three Vignettes on the Successful Treatment of Parental Alienation

This week I am writing up the final chapters of my case notes in three cases where we have successfully treated parental alienation.  I thought it would be useful to share these (heavily disguised of course), so that what happens after our intervention is made visible. So much of our work takes place behind closed doors and it can be difficult for people to understand the interventions and outcomes of what we do because of this. By making such vignettes available we aim to show what we do and how we do it. We will share more of this information at our forthcoming clinical seminars, news of which will be posted here shortly.

Case 1:  This is a case of two children who we  removed from their mother in a direct transfer of residence ordered by the court.

The children had not seen their father for almost four years and were ferociously rejecting him, their behaviours included writing letters to the Judge and threatening to self harm.

The children were removed from their mother on the basis of serious emotional harm, on arrival to collect, both children laid down on the floor and refused to get up, the collection process took us over three hours.

During the ride to their father’s home, the children shifted in their behaviours and showed the first signs of emergence from what had been strongly refusing behaviours. Both children asked whether their father would be angry with them and were relieved on hearing that he was not angry and was looking forward to seeing them.  On arrival at their father’s home both children climbed out of the car and walked voluntarily into the house, whilst they were somewhat cold towards their father during that first hour, they subsequently demonstrated the behaviours we expect in such cases, unwinding the refusing behaviours and emerging from the alienated stance.  During the first six hours both children ate well, talked with their father and showed all the signs we expect to see in alienated children in recovery.  By the following morning both children had slept well and were showing increasing warmth and interest towards their father and his wife.

Six months after their removal from their mother,  the children have recanted all of the allegations made about their father and have completed their therapeutic treatment with the Clinic. This treatment route included testing of the children’s ability to tolerate exposure to their mother who had chosen not to undergo psychotherapy to help her to change her alienating behaviours.  The children’s resilience improved strongly throughout the six months of treatment and they were assisted by a programme of cognitive behavioural work in which their distorted beliefs and confusion arising after reunification with their father were brought into a healthy range. Both children see their mother on a weekly unsupervised basis, both cope well with the transitions to and from their father.

Reports from the children’s school show improved concentration, a relaxation of the tension and anxiety previously seen and better relationships with peers.

Case 2:  This is a case of two children who were being subjected to alienating and undermining strategies in which their father was influencing them to believe that their mother has a mental health problem.  The children, when they came to the Clinic, were both on the verge of completely rejecting their mother.  A programme of observed and supported therapeutic time with mother was put in place and the children’s father was ordered to make the children available for this to be undertaken. Work took place in situ at the children’s GP surgery and then at the children’s mother’s home.  A sixteen week programme of twice weekly time with mum took place, this was lengthened week on week until the children were spending the whole weekend with their mother by order of the court.

The children were eventually placed in a shared parenting situation in which they spent one week with their mother and one week with their father. The alienation reaction was still present however and the children’s father remained focused on undermining the relationship between the children and their mother.  A parenting co-ordination programme ran on from the therapeutic treatment however which meant that the Clinic continued to monitor the children’s resilience to what their father was doing.

Six months later the court has ordered that the children live mainly with their mother in order to reduce the time that father spends with the children and thus limit his ability to influence. This decision was taken because of the way in which father was unable to make use of the assistance available and continued his behaviours. The parenting co-ordination plan offered the Clinic the opportunity to monitor and manage the arrangements between parents and gave ongoing access to the children in order to monitor their resilience. When the parenting co-ordinator recognised that the children were sliding into alienation again she requested a return to the court and asked for a change in pattern of time to protect the children.  This worked, the children now manage the movement between parents and are able to recognise that their father is using subtle messages in an attempt to influence them. The children are now in the age group where their conscious understanding of how parents act is strong and their natural sense of fairness and justice at this age has been used to establish strong resilience to their father’s behaviours.  The alienation risk is lowered now and the children are monitored on an arm’s length basis by the parenting co-ordinator provided by the Clinic.

Case 3: A case of three children who were 13 and 14 (twins) when they were removed from their mother’s care on the basis of serious emotional harm. The children are now young adults and have lived with their father for the past six years.  During the removal, the children were strongly resistant and the police were used to assist.  On arrival at their father’s home, all three children used a strategy of refusing food to continue their efforts to resist and refuse a relationship with their father. I stayed with these children for almost a week as they went through the first recovery stage from the alienation reaction, after 24 hours they began to eat and after two days the alienation reaction began to lift as each of the children began to acknowledge their father. By the end of the first week the children had begun to discuss why they had been so strongly refusing of a relationship with their father, the basis of which was that they had been told by their mother that their father only wanted to see them to hurt her.

The children were assisted by a programme of therapy after removal and after twelve weeks they entered into a supervised contact relationship with their mother which continued until they reached the age of sixteen.  After that, the children continued to see their mother weekly on a day time basis only as she continued to try and persuade them that their father did not really want them. By now all three children had reached an age where they were able to understand the reality of the situation and had built a strong resilience to their mother’s beliefs.

Six years later their mother has remarried and has a toddler and a new baby, the older children see their half siblings regularly but not in any recognisable pattern. They have taken charge of their lives as is expected of children of this age and are able to move between parents without needing assistance.

In discussion with these now adult children, their reflections on what happened to them during the period of time when they rejected their father are interesting. One of the twins told me –

I didn’t really believe what my mother was telling me about dad because I knew dad and I knew that he wasn’t like that, but there wasn’t anything that I could do really to change things.  If I showed any sign of wanting to see my father or even think or talk about him, mum went off on one or worse still, became completely silent and ignored me. So we just learned really that dad was not ok and that seeing dad was not ok and that even talking about dad was not ok unless we were criticising him.  At the same time I knew that wasn’t what I wanted to do but if I tried to do what I wanted to do I knew I would be in trouble so I just did what was expected and at that age, when you just want a quiet life anyway, or at least you don’t want to have much to do with your parents, it seemed easier to go with what we knew mum wanted us to do. By the time you came to collect us I think we had lost the plot a bit really and didn’t know what we were doing, we just got more and more stuck in it as mum became more and more determined to prevent dad from having anything to do with us.  It feels embarrassing now when I look back, you must have thought we were a real bunch of no goods, I remember telling you to F off and you just carried on telling us what was happening. It wasn’t until I realised that you were not going to back off no matter what we did, that I let it go really. When I did, it was a relief, now it all just seems so pointless and unnecessary.

What happened next in all of these successfully treated cases of parental alienation, demonstrates that the core need for children in these circumstances is resilience building. This work is what we do at the Clinic with children after intervention.  Resilience building cannot be undertaken whilst a child is alienated, the necessary work to treat the alienation must be undertaken before resilience building can begin.

The other necessary ingredient in these cases is Parenting Co-ordination which is offered by the Clinic in all treatment plans for parental alienation.  Parenting Co-ordination, which  offers one practitioner to work with both parents and children to monitor arrangements made, ensures that the reconfigured family system is held steady throughout periods of up to twelve months post intervention.  The Clinic has two parenting co-ordinators in place currently who are available to deliver such programmes of support, which can be invaluable in ensuring that the dynamics which cause the alienation reaction in the child, are prevented from re-arising.

For information about Parenting Co-ordination, intervention in parental alienation cases, assessments for court and the other services available at the Clinic please see our website at http://www.familyseparationclinic.co.uk or email office@familyseparationclinic.co.uk

We will be holding a Clinical Seminar in London in May 2017 for legal and mental health professionals  in which we will discuss our work with families. More news on this early next week.

Our new self help website – Parental Alienation Direct will launch soon – watch this space for news about how to obtain help to deal with your own situation and to learn much more about what to do and what not to do when parental alienation affects you and your children.  This site will include a series of psychological education videos which we are filming now to put as much information into your hands as possible.

The Family Separation Clinic is hosting the first meeting of the European Association of Parental Alienation Practitioners in Prague on July 11th 2017. This Association brings together practitioners who are working directly with families affected by alienation in different countries in Europe, to share best practice and to inform policy debate and development in each individual country.  Invitations have been sent out to those who have expressed interest in joining the Association, if you are interested in doing so and would like to attend the meeting at Charles University in Prague, please email office@familyseparationclinic.co.uk

The Clinic has recently expanded capacity and although there is a twelve week waiting list to instruct me in cases, we have additional experts who can be instructed quickly.  Please email office@familyseparationclinic.co.uk for details.

We are currently very busy with training delivery in Europe and from July 2017 will be focused on working in Europe and then in the USA and Canada.  We have been approached however by many people in the UK seeking practitioner training, we are therefore considering how we might offer a one day practitioner training in London this year and will post details of this when we have them.

 

 

 

71 comments

  1. Susang · March 15

    In para 5 of Case 1, first line, should that read after removal from their MOTHER?

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    • karenwoodall · March 15

      will check it now K

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    • karenwoodall · March 15

      thanks Susang have updated it now K

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  2. Michael · March 15

    Karen….excellent work. The world is lucky to have have you.

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  3. Irene · March 15

    Could you please indicate the approximate age ranges of the children in the first two cases?

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    • karenwoodall · March 15

      yes – Case 1 aged 8 and 12. Case two aged 10 and 13. K

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  4. Ted Wrinch · March 15

    Our daughter is 22 and has been alienated since 17, the first 2 years within the marriage. She’s now narcissistic, with black and white thinking, saying her mother, who has NPD, was the only one who cared for her. I haven’t seem her for 4 years now and I’m beginning to wonder if I will see her again.

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    • sadsam · March 15

      TW ….I was just wondering if you have ever been able to get your daughter to explain what makes her feel that only her mother ” was the only one to care for her”? What ‘evidence’ she has in her mind to support her view? Also at her age what understanding does your daughter have of NPD ?() (presumably this is a diagnosis by professionals as opposed to just that you think she has NPD?). I guess without knowing what’s behind your daughter’s thinking it’s almost impossible to unravel it.

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      • Ted Wrinch · March 15

        As you will probably know, Sadsam, NPDs almost never get diagnosed, since they think it’s everyone else’s fault (which is core to the illness). So, no, the only diagnosis is by me, for the court, but we victims often, out of necessity, become the experts (the two specialist therapists I saw after a first, tentative diagnosis, after which I knew I had to help our daughter, knew far less than I but confirmed, on the evidence I gave them, that she probably had NPD). Our daughter has the knowledge on NPD and her mother’s symptomology I’ve given her but emotionally cannot process it and is in denial of the reality of her mother’s behaviour (the alcoholism, depression, emotional abuse etc). She says her mother is the only one to care because her mother’s narcissism has been infected into her and so someone has to be blamed and someone has to be perfect. She follows all the PA symptomology, with frivolous reasons for refusing to see me, denigration of all I’ve done and am, the independent thinking illusion, calling me ‘Ted’ etc. She also has no contact with my extended family or even her brother. Only her mother is in her life and she had now taken the coveted, emeshed golden child role, that her brother once had (who is now second scapegoat; I’m the first).

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      • Susang · March 15

        Ted, I recognise the symptoms of NPD all too well, and also that it is almost impossible to get a professional diagnosis of it. Not only do NP disordered people have to appear as perfect, they are also brilliant liars and very good at playing the poor little victim, turning on the tears alternating with hostile aggression and abuse. They tell a sob story, beg people in authority to help them and then enmesh them in a web of deceit from which officials cannot extricate themselves without admitting unprofessional conduct or worse, which could get them sacked. Thus the NP holds officials to ransom, even social workers, legal professionals, judges and doctors. They are also very good at throwing convincing accusations of what they themselves are doing at the other parent, and conducting smear campaigns, making it very hard for the non-NPdisordered parent to make any headway. They often have an unacknowledged drink problem, so their aggression turns to physical violence; but their victims, including their children, reckon that the emotional abuse, the threats of suicide and blaming the children “when they are found dead,” are the worst thing of all. And when the children do not want to see their truly abusive parent, the NP will not hesitate to cry the wolf of “alienation, alienation!” The work of Karen and her team is very very hard, and immensely valuable. I would be relieved to see more professional acknowledgement of recognising and dealing with parents who show symptoms of personality disorders.

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      • Ted Wrinch · March 15

        Susan, yes, ‘blame shifting’ is part of the illness, as is pathological lying and playing the victim. And if they are high functioning, which many are, driven by their illness to compensate for their core low self esteem, they can indeed be very convincing liars. My ex got her GP to diagnose her as well; GPs are not qualified to diagnose PDs and so, as you say, my ex got her to break her professional code of conduct and become complicit in my ex’s dishonesty. I was accused of being violent, absusive, smearing her reputation, all things she had done for a decade, and I was taken to court for it. The court was a ridiculous charade, where her narcissistic solicitor joined with her psychopathic barrister to abuse me, the whole being enabled by the judge, who convicted me and forced me to pay her costs, leaving my family exposed to her further abuse, as I explained to them in an 80 page statement; the judge condoned it all. So much for family law. As I’ve said elsewhere, the only way out of this ignorant, incompetent mess is for human service professionals to get effective education in personality disorders.

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      • sadsam · March 16

        TW….I don’t profess to have any particular knowledge of NPD. What does strike me is why you thought the. Court would be swayed by your own, non professional, diagnosis of this in your your ex? If anything I would have thought making such assertions would go against you… After all what impression does it give of you to the court.?…..not positive I’m guessing.

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      • Ted Wrinch · March 16

        Sadsam, I only made a diagnosis, against the DSM criteria, for the court; I took the appropriate traits of her behaviour and matched them against the criteria; she had 6 of 9 (5 or more are required for a diagnosis). But I already knew she had NPD from all the other traits the DSM doesn’t list that she had displayed in the 12 years abuse our family had experienced (pathologic lying; scapegoating; triangulation; managing down; projection; trauma bonding; etc), which I also described over 12 pages of general family history for the court . In addition, I matched our daughter’s alienation symptoms against Dr Childress’ criteria, as well as detailing her behaviour. Finally, I provided extensive references, explaining NPD and how it affects families. Courts are paid to look at evidence and follow logic; all they needed to do was to do that with my statement; they failed. In the absence of education on PDs ignorance, incompetence and prejudice will tend to prevail.

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      • sadsam · March 16

        ” no, the only diagnosis is by me, for the court, but we victims often, out of necessity, become the experts”.

        TW I still can’t help feeling that self appointing yourself as a Psychiatrist/ Psychologist won’t help your case…. In fact quite the opposite. I also note that you refer to yourself as part of a collective “we victims” and find this worrying. A victim mentality is a powerless mind set because it focuses on ‘out there’ where it’s everybody else’s ‘fault’ . in any situation I find it better to focus on what is under my personal control and other people just aren’t. I genuinely think you would be better to leave the psychiatric diagnoses to those recognised as qualified to make them and instead focus on analysing yourself and your own part in the situation (as Karen often writes how the targeted parent reacts is part of the mix) etc. Not easy but maybe ask yourself ‘how successful has my approach been so far?’. Flexibility might serve you better. I wish you all the best.

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      • Ted Wrinch · March 16

        Sadsam, I appointed myself to neither of the roles you accuse me of doing, instead I wrote as myself, from my experience, applying my intelligence and ability to learn as a human being to that experience. I’m sorry that you cannot see this, ignore my point that NPDs rarely submit for diagnosis, and believe that only ‘psychiatrists and psychologists’ are qualified to understand family life and psycho-pathology. You are wrong and such opinions enable the epidemic of abuse we are living in (cluster Bs are estimated at over 12% of the US population). I am not a victim (you appear to be victim blaming me) but a survivor and I understand my part in this situation very well, thank-you. Our son is free, understands what his mother is and is in therapy to heal from that; as I said, our daughter is still trapped in The Regime but I’m doing all I can to free her; I would not have known what do without gaining the psychological knowledge you recommend I leave to professionals (who, as I said, largely don’t exist anyway). My impression is that you are not listening to what I’m saying, perhaps because you are projecting your own experience onto me.

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      • sadsam · March 16

        TW…I am sorry that you are unable to see my comments in the true spirit they were given. To me you come across as highly defensive in your manner so anything I say is being rebuffed almost automatically so I feel it is best not to enter into any further discussion with you. I wish you well.

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      • Ted Wrinch · March 16

        I am stating my experience and understanding …and being ignored and given advice, Sadsam, which is a form of covert aggression. As is calling me ‘defensive’. I’m glad to leave it here.

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  5. sadsam · March 15

    In case 2 Karen were the children living with the father-only initially?

    It is so helpful to hear from the children’s perspective. These families were so lucky to have your involvement. A drop in the ocean for the probable scale of cases overall in UK. Only 2 Parenting Coordinators? What has to happen for this number to multiply? So many families, so much need and so few resources to help. In the absence of cloning yourself Karen, families need you (and others like you) to expand and quickly. Anything you can do to make this happen is only to the good.

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  6. Reblogged this on Madison Elizabeth Baylis.

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  7. Fergalcat · March 15

    “I didn’t really believe what my mother was telling me about dad because I knew dad and I knew that he wasn’t like that, but there wasn’t anything that I could do really to change things. If I showed any sign of wanting to see my father or even think or talk about him, mum went off on one or worse still, became completely silent and ignored me. So we just learned really that dad was not ok and that seeing dad was not ok and that even talking about dad was not ok unless we were criticising him. At the same time I knew that wasn’t what I wanted to do but if I tried to do what I wanted to do I knew I would be in trouble so I just did what was expected and at that age, when you just want a quiet life anyway, or at least you don’t want to have much to do with your parents, it seemed easier to go with what we knew mum wanted us to do. By the time you came to collect us I think we had lost the plot a bit really and didn’t know what we were doing, we just got more and more stuck in it as mum became more and more determined to prevent dad from having anything to do with us”.

    Can you place this on the new Website Karen? It may help children to know they aren’t alone should they become curious enough to question their impossible bind.

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  8. Cara · March 15

    It’s always fascinating to hear formerly alienated children say they “didn’t believe it”, but it sure feels like my stepson does believe it when he’s sending text after hateful text, full of anger and hatred, and demanding that my husband never contact him again. I always wonder if the formerly alienated kids are just seeing the past from eyes that are now open – but at the time it was very real to them.

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  9. daveyone1 · March 15

    Reblogged this on World4Justice : NOW! Lobby Forum..

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  10. Susang · March 15

    Ted, what happened to you is almost identical to what happened to us. After four years we managed to get reversal of residence, but it took a huge toll on all of us; financially we can now only just scrape by. The children were remarkably steadfast in holding to where they wanted to live in spite of every trick in the book used to persuade them to retract what they told the many different social workers who interviewed them over the years. Now they just want to get on with their delayed life where they want to be, and are always reluctant to spend the allocated weekends and half the holidays with the abusive parent they no longer live with. Sometimes the children simply refuse to go, whereupon the cry of “alienation” is shouted from the roof tops. We tread a tightrope: we know the abuse they get. (We still get it too). How right are we in forcing them to endure it every other weekend? If we were to disobey the final court order, how damaging to the children would it be to allow them not to go when they don’t want to? We could do with some truly knowledgeable professional advice. But it’s not available in our area, and we can no longer afford to “go private”. So we have to agree with you: “the only way out of this ignorant incompetent mess is for human service professionals to get effective education in personality disorders”. Please keep going, Karen.

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    • Ted Wrinch · March 16

      Susang, I’m glad you were able to get a good result from the legal system and your children were able grow up with the healthy parent. Though as adults it’s best for us to go no contact with abusers, it’s different for children and as their abusive parent is a part of them it’s important they see them and learn to set boundaries and handle the manipulation themselves. I wouldn’t break the court order; as you say, the abusers accuse us of what they are doing and, as courts rarely understand this, the courts may believe them. I agree it would be wonderful to have informed professionals help with this difficult task unfortunately they are very rare (no one ever helped our family; I was always utterly on my own).

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      • Susang · March 16

        Ted, thank you for your advice, which is wise and most probably right. In fact the older child is indeed handling things in her own way, including flatly refusing to go to the abusive parent when she knows there is a gathering head of steam. She recognises the signs. The younger child never wants to go, but also manages things by playing the “golden child” card, which secures him peace, most of the time. They now have a secure and loving base from which to set out and return, which we have to hope will be enough to keep them happy and mentally healthy and strong enough to handle the immense psychological abuse to which they are sometimes subjected.
        It is utterly wrong and deeply sad that you had no help or support when you needed it, and that your daughter appears to be lost in following your ex’s footsteps. I hope she finds you in the end, and that you will still be strong and there for her when she eventually seeks you out.

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      • Ted Wrinch · March 16

        Susang, thank-you for your kind words regarding our daughter. There’s no guarantee when or whether she will escape from her mother’s cult but I have to be the healthy parent who’s there to take her hand when/if she does. In the meantime, both our son and I see that she will repeat the illness with her own children unless she gets out :(.

        I’m glad your oldest daughter is handling the situation so well and hope that it begins to get easier for your younger son. I think that you are right and that the loving, healthy parenting you are giving them will give them secure protection against the abuse (but keep alert for signs it is adversely affecting them; I’m sure you know that).

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      • Ted Wrinch · March 16

        Susang, thank-you for your kind words regarding our daughter. There’s no guarantee when or whether she will escape from her mother’s cult but I have to be the healthy parent who’s there to take her hand when/if she does. In the meantime, both our son and I see that she will repeat the illness with her own children unless she gets out :(.

        I’m glad your oldest daughter is handling the situation so well and hope that it begins to get easier for your younger son. I think that you are right and that the loving, healthy parenting you are giving them will give them secure protection against the abuse (but keep alert for signs it is adversely affecting them; I’m sure you know that).

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  11. Susang · March 16

    Sadsam and Ted Wrinch, on the question of diagnosis, (of Personality Disorder) my feeling is that you are both right. The courts hate the words “Psychopath” “Narcissist” to be bandied around, and quite often correctly recognise that the first person to make that accusation is in fact the unwell parent, using projection of what they themselves are doing, against the other parent. But the disordered parent will not usually submit to being referred to a psychiatrist, as it is known that any such mental health referral will be used against their suitability to have residence with the children. If they are referred, a high functioning Narcissist will probably be able to answer everything in such a way that no such diagnosis will be made. The real abuse is always out of sight of the adoring public, or any professionals. This leaves the healthy parent in the position of being the real victim, while the unhealthy one plays the victim role. Very hard for the court to tell what the reality is. Accusing the other parent of violence is now the only way to get legal aid, so of course the courts now see many more such accusations; there is no time to investigate and hold fact finding hearings in every such case, so the accusations tend to stand, leading to more cases where the children end up with the abuser rather than the healthy parent. This in turn leads to more alienation, with all the damage it does to the children and alienated parent. Family Law really does need to be looked at with this in mind: thank heaven for people like Karen.

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    • sadsam · March 16

      ” The real abuse is always out of sight of the adoring public, or any professionals.”

      Susang, I totally understand your above statement from personal experience and it is the most frightening, life damaging situation to get into….one which can end up making the target themselves seem like the crazy unstable one as the difference between public facade and behind-closed-doors erodes them. I have never found an answer to how one can ever convince others of the private reality. It is one person’s word against another and in such a scenario ‘others’ will draw their own conclusions. Rightly or wrongly. It is the stuff of nightmares.

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      • Susang · March 16

        Indeed, Sadsam, one person’s word against another’s is a nightmare, especially if one person is a magnificent liar. How can the family court tell, in the short time available, who is telling the truth, and who is lying? Enter the highly trained observant professional, with knowledge of the signs to look for and awareness of the whole spectrum of Personality Disorder. We need more of those. Many more. Some of the social workers we came across were aware of PDs, but were ignored or moved on by those who had been trapped in the web of lies and deceit. Our case would not have had a happy ending if we had not been able to persevere by digging into retirement funds. Without money, the targeted parent cannot fight corruption on the scale that we, in common with Ted Wrinch, found in highlŷ placed officials who were themselves targeted and trapped by believing the abusing party and acting on their behalf. I think many more people, usually, let’s face it, men, suffer from this nightmare than is usually acknowledged. Karen and her hopefully growing team of trained professionals are on the right track; we can only hope that their perseverance will come through to help heal otherwise blighted lives in the coming years.

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    • Ted Wrinch · March 16

      Susang, but why do the courts hate this? If abuse from cluster abs is happening, rather than burying their heads in the sand, they need to get training and deal with it. And saying that PA is often a false accusation made by abusers to cover their tracks is no defence: yes, of course this happens; projection and lying is part of the abusers’ illness. The defence is to see who’s telling the truth. But, as I’ve said, courts don’t care about lying (or they would enforce the penalty against perjury). Why don’t they care? In my opinion and experience, because they are full of fellow cluster B abusers.

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      • Susang · March 16

        Ted, you ask why the courts hate the psychopathic names being bandied about, and why they condone lying and perjury, and you suggest that the answer is because they, your ex’s legal team and the courts are on the psychopathic spectrum themselves. What, all of them? My theory is that, like your ex’s doctor, and indeed like our abuser’s doctor, solicitor, social workers and judge, they get drawn into the web of deceit skilfully woven by the one with the personality disorder. Perhaps not trained to recognise the red flags, they fall for the sob story and agree to help. They fall further in, and then find there’s no way out of the snake pit without having to admit they were wrong to swallow the sob story in the first place, and to take steps to help. Most people in such very high places cannot possibly admit they were wrong, were misled, and mistaken to act as they did, let alone admit to a miscarriage of justice, or that they themselves lied for their client, or turned a parent out of his house on a false accusation. I think we all agree the urgent need for more professionals trained to recognise a personality disordered parent, and that the courts need to be properly informed about how such NPDs wreck whole families’ lives if they are allowed to get away with it.

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      • Ted Wrinch · March 16

        I think many in law are on the spectrum, Susang, for reasons I gave in another post: the family court system provides unaccountable power, condones lying, has a derisory 51% standard of evidence and the legal system as a whole promotes low empathy, which provides an attractive environment for psychopaths and narcissists.

        Why would a professional who had moral standards, humanity and empathy not admit their flaw when shown how they’d been duped by one of these people? The kind of people who won’t make such an admission are the narcissistic. My ex’s GP was given the whole tragic arc of my family’s abuse and the destruction of our children’s futures …and she cared only about covering her ass. These are not people I can respect.

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      • Susang · March 16

        Yes, Ted, a lot of arse-covering goes on in these proceedings, as one of our barristers said to us half way along. The doctor in our case lied on a questionnaire to the local authority, never expecting that we would see it. (We asked for documentation under FoI). When taxed with her lie she claimed a documentary mistake, but went on to allege that the father had been abusive in the marriage. A total, unfounded, unevidenced lie, made at the behest of the abuser. She was, however, scared enough that we would report her that she refused to come to court to give evidence for the abuser. In fact, we had to go to extraordinary lengths to get at the truth with most, though not all, the professionals. It was one thing after another, non-stop, for four exhausting years. Like you, I have no respect for such people. But I still believe that most are merely weak human beings, with too much to lose to be able to admit mistakes and bad judgement. I think we might be weakening our case if we lump them all into the psychopathic spectrum of evil such as we have encountered in our abusers. They don’t all follow the pathological pattern like the full-on NPDs do. They just don’t see it coming and get hopelessly ensnared.

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      • Ted Wrinch · March 17

        That’s terrible, Susang; I’m glad you were able to use FOI to stop that doctor in her tracks. It’s shocking when one discovers how corruptible people with status and power are. As I said, I reported my ex’s GP to the GMC and they did nothing, in spite of their rubric saying their mission was to work with the public; they mostly protect their own. However, though the system has the power we have the numbers and right, truth and justice on our side, as long as we stand up and speak out. I’ve written to the managing partner of my ex’s solicitors to hold up the ethical standard they profess against the immoral behaviour they practised against my family; he hasn’t answered but one may hope he sleeps less soundly at night.

        I agree that many, maybe most people, get caught up in the lies and evil of the abusers, seemingly willy nilly. But in fact evil is here to test us, in my view, and everyone is presented with a moral choice, whether to follow evil or their conscience. Those that fail the test begin a downward path of self corruption, but will be given many more chances to turn to the light again.

        Law is the second favourite profession of psychopaths; there are a lot of people with narcissism in the profession. And if you look around you find this behaviour everywhere in society, unacknowledged and even endorsed (ruthless, unprincipled crushing of opposition is admired in business). I regard narcissism as *the* mental illness of our age. I was in debate with a PhD physics ‘skeptic’ over the epistemology of physics and he was so bad, denigrating me, manipulating, being hypocritical, trying to control me, playing to the audience for narcissistic supply, that I would say he had clinical NPD.

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      • Susang · March 17

        Ted, the doctor in our case was shockingly corrupt in that she told outright lies to help the abuser. That is truly evil as she was acting on lies from her patient, against her ex-patient. There is no excuse for that. But that was minor compared to what senior people in the Local Authority did, and what the main judge did. I cannot go into details as we are subject to a “gagging order”. Thus does secrecy aid the abusers, enabling them to get away with corrupting officials in high places. That in turn destroys trust in the whole Family Court Judicial and Local Authority system that we, the taxpayers, fund. The Law should be above corruption, above reproach. Uncorruptible, principled people like Karen are all too rare.

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      • Ted Wrinch · March 17

        Susang, what you describe, the victim being blamed and held accountable for the abuser’s abuse, is the common scenario in narcissistic abuse. Like you, I was given a gagging-restraining order by the court and the abuser walked free. I ignore the gag as I regard it as a breaking of my right to free speech by a narcissistic, entitled judiciary. As you say, secrecy mostly aids and enables the abusers; in my view this is the basis and main effect of the client confidentiality principle – when I tried to talk to the Hampshire social work team about our daughter I was told CC precluded it; I said I had new information that concerned and was vital to her welfare; they would not budge – who does this protect? Them, who we taxpayers pay the salaries of. I have little trust in any of these systems; we are living in an abuse culture.

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  12. Ally · March 17

    I cried when I read this. Sad tears for the trauma that those children were forced to live through & happy tears that their lives have been turned round with the help of Karen.
    Then I cried some more because I wish our children had reached that situation. Instead they are in the early (although rapidly escalating) stages of PA and we know they are suffering that same trauma every day as we speak. We so want to help them. But we feel powerless. Courts, social workers, health professionals have all been sucked in by her (& the children’s lies). And it just astounds us that nobody else can see it. Our last legal team were useless. So now we are about to try again & hope the outcome will be different, hanging onto a thread of optimism that the ‘system’ will this time see it.
    Karen, please can you give advice (on here or your website) how you get to the stage where the courts will involve you – what do we actually ask for (besides change of residence based on non-attendance as a result of emotional/psych abuse to be documented in Form c1a)?

    Like

    • karenwoodall · March 17

      Hi Ally, we have put all of this information into the book and we are making some educational videos at the moment for parental alienation direct the new self help site which will cover it fully. For now however, there is a step by step approach to getting the Clinic involved and if you email me at office@familyseparationclinic.co.uk I will send you the details. K

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  13. sadsam · March 17

    Karen – in relation to your holistic, healing, reparative work with the family triangle, I’m wondering what your expectations are of the former aligned/alienating parent in terms of how they deal with the subject of the other parent whilst with the child(ren). In particular what I’m keen to know is whether you consider it justifiable to expect the formerly aligned/alienating parent to be positively positive with the child(ren) about the other parent or whether you would perceive being neutral about the other parent as going far enough/good enough? Otherwise in some cases it would be asking someone to be falsely positive about someone who previously bullied and frightened them – for which no evidence can be put forward other than a personal testimony. Would welcome hearing your views on this.

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    • sadsam · March 19

      Karen would really appreciate your thoughts on my question above.

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    • karenwoodall · March 19

      I think here you are talking about the trap that I see a lot of which is that a case has been judged to be conscious and deliberate alienation when in fact it was not. If there is evidence of demonstrable events which have caused fear and harm in a fact finding hearing for example or if there is an evidenced history of harm done by the parent I would not call it parental alienation but justified rejection. In that respect, if it is treated as conscious and deliberate alienation, the parent considered to have been alienating is in the same double bind the child was in. In those circumstances, if the case is managed by unaware practitioners who rigidly demand that a parent recants and accepts that the other parent is healthy and well and positive for the child then it is incredibly difficult. I wouldn’t be able to advise generically as each case has its own complications but I would advise such a parent to be absolutely aware that the practitioner’s views are absolutely what are ruling the case now. To not have evidence other than personal testimony one has to accept that those with the evidence are those who are in control and a shift in perspective has to be managed at that point. If I have evaluated a case and found that it is that of unconscious alienation in which the child has used switching behaviours which have led the parent to believe things which were not true I would want to work with that parent to help them to shift their understanding and increase their awareness of how children behave in those circumstances. Then I would want to test the other parent to make sure they had not been involved in a cross projection of blame in which they too entered into the unconscious struggle for the child’s allegiance, only then would I know what I really wanted to do for the child but whatever it was it would absolutely be about wanting the child to have as healthy a relationship with both parents as possible.

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      • sadsam · March 20

        “To not have evidence other than personal testimony one has to accept that those with the evidence are those who are in control and a shift in perspective has to be managed at that point. ”

        Karen could you expand on this point please? No evidence doesn’t confirm nothing happened just leaves a seemingly impossible scenario ….who/what to believe and therefore what actions to take.

        Also re “switching behaviours”? If you’ve done a post on this before can you point me in the right direction? Or perhaps you’d consider doing a new post covering this? The triangle created when a child makes repeated allegations against one parent over years, increasing in detail as they age, to the other parent, is a bewildering and distressing situation. What to believe? Who to believe? How to manage? If the child feels disbelieved won’t that make them even angrier/distressed? It is such a minefield. As adults it’s hard enough to navigate between 2 friends or family members who don’t get on……for children it must do their heads in. In the rush of daily family life it’s easy as a parent to forget to stop and try to see things from a child’s perspective. But try we must.

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      • sadsam · March 20

        “To not have evidence other than personal testimony …”

        Still on this theme Karen…..you often state your interest in intergenerational trauma. The problem with psychological, verbal and emotional abuse is precisely because there are no broken bones or black eyes to be seen. How can anyone ‘evidence’ it other than through ‘personal testimony’?….which then leads on to issues of ‘credibility’ ….one word against another. How do people like you sort out the reality from the fiction in such scenarios? Would really welcome your expert input on this.

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      • Cara · March 20

        sadsam, my stepson would go back and forth between the homes and make negative statements about the other parent in each home. They were generally more severe and negative about my husband, but he would tell us negative things about his mother, too. She bought outright every negative thing he said about my husband – that he made him wear shorts in the winter, that he screamed at him and waved his fist at him, that my stepson was terrified of his anger, etc – and she became, at times, genuinely frightened for her son based on what amounted to distortions and lies by my stepson. Once she even sent the police to rescue him from our home. We may have believed some of what he told us about her, as well – but it didn’t trigger my husband into needing to protect his son. I think that’s what Karen means by “switching behaviors”. I do think that was unconscious on my husband’s ex’s part and based on her own past trauma. Other stuff she did seemed quite conscious, but not that.

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      • karenwoodall · March 20

        I think this is an important point – children do tell lies and they definitely tell lies in a situation where they are moving between homes where there is dislike of the other home. I was once a nanny to two children who went between homes twice each week, the dislike between parents was immense. I went with the children and even I got to the point where I felt like making things up about the other household in order to get over the threshold of hostility which was palpable on arrival at each home. The children openly lied to each parent and had it not been for me there would have been a situation where one of those parents would have acted on what they were being told. Children lie when they feel hostility they do it to get over the threshold into ‘enemy’ camp because they feel guilty each time move for betraying the parent they are arriving at. In a case where one parent us hostile and the other is not they will lie to the parent who is hostile in order to be accepted again, all of this is known by experts in this field more of this on one of our videos coming soon.

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      • Cara · March 20

        When we saw my stepson for the first time in a year in 2016, the first words out of his mouth were something negative about his mother – it struck me quite clearly that he has no idea how to relate in any other way. Neither of us responded to the comment, just moved along, but it was clear that nothing much had changed. Most of the time, we did not take that bait when he was coming over regularly – but his mother seemed to believe it all.

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      • sadsam · March 20

        Hi Cara/Karen. You have both talked about children lying to parents but I’m wondering in what overall presentation? What I’m driving at is what behaviours accompanied the lying? Did they seem angry, distressed, scared etc? Most parents I would have thought, get to intuit when their child is lying or not….at least I thought I could. What was said was only a part of the decision to believe or not ….the overall presentation that accompanied their words was also a big part of the decision. Any help on this issue gratefully received.

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      • karenwoodall · March 20

        children can be extremely convincing SS, they can demonstrate fear, anxiety, sleeplessness, food problems the whole shebang. Intuiting children’s behaviours becomes very difficult particularly in the situation where the other parent has been difficult in the past relationship with you as the adult. It becomes easier to believe the child and therefore become a victim of confirmation bias. I am going to write to you more tomorrow on your case x

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      • Ted Wrinch · March 20

        To me, this is not emotionally healthy behaviour. My parents divorced when I was 5 because, everyone agreed, my mother was impossible. No one could say why at the time but it’s now clear she was narcissistic. She never wanted a husband, only children 😦 ; I left home at 18 and never went back; she was the mother-in-law from hell to my ex. When my mother began trying to alienate me from my dad in my early teens I fought back; where I knew she was lying I challenged her; I didn’t want to hear sh*t talked about my dad. My dad was moderate and sparing in his criticism of my mum, which I didn’t like hearing either but accepted was his experience. I never lied or made things up and would have felt unwell to do so; instead I tried to find the truth behind what each parent said about the other; I recognised both had strengths and weaknesses and some of these were expressed through male and femaleness. I was bit hamstrung learning about femaleness from an ignoring narcissistic mother but recognised she had a deeper access to the word of emotion and relationship than my father. In fact, it was a very distorted access, of course, and I only really validated my learning in a healthy way when I met and fell in love with my ex.

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      • sadsam · March 20

        Thank you Karen….your help very much appreciated.

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      • sadsam · March 21

        Picking up on what you’ve said Karen about the difficulties of being able to accurately and realistically ‘intuit’ if one’s child(ren) are lying in a conflicted separated family scenario, I’m left wondering if a parent can’t trust their own judgement what have they left?

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      • karenwoodall · March 21

        self awareness SS, exploration of the self and soul and then exploration of the system one is living in and then exploration of the system that is located in. That is the work you need to do next I will more write to you. K

        Like

  14. Linda Turner · March 18

    Reblogged this on Parental Alienation.

    Like

  15. lostdad · March 18

    Reblogged this on LOST DAD.

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  16. lostdad · March 18

    Thanks Karen for a ray of light for parents who are suffering under the effects of PA. Unfortunately it is too late for me now – my children are 15 & 13, and the judge has said – “if they don’t want to go then they should not have to”. Under the German legal system where I live the only option now is to apply for sole custody which I will never get. Game over. I send them letters with photos and information every couple of months just to make sure they know I haven’t given up on them – there is nothing else I can do.

    Was shocked me reading the comments was how the system in the UK can obviously be so manipulated to suit the abuser. The more compliocated the system, the more chances there are to torpedo access to the children.

    It would be interesting to hear from you if you have any experience of how the children react as adults to what has happened, and how they react – I hope my children will open their eyes, read my blog and do that one thing that their mother denies then – make up their own mind.

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    • Susang · March 18

      Lostdad, Ally, Sadsam, Ted, – don’t ever give up. Your children will seek you out in the end, though it sounds as if they need someone like Karen to help them now, as do the others who have commented on this blog. Meantime, it feels almost like a death, but with no closure; you cannot see the children you love, but they are, in effect, as if dead to you. In our case the separation was only for months, not years, and the abuser never succeeded in breaking the bond between the children and their father, though they were undoubtedly damaged by that separation and enforced living with the abusive parent, who was alleging accusations in order to keep custody and get money. (I think that is the usual reason, as the whole family court system is geared that way.). Karen is trying to keep gender neutral, which is good, as we don’t want to encourage gender hate wars, but I can’t help noticing that this sort of thing happens more to dads than to mums, revealing that the family courts have not yet moved on from the old pattern, although things are slowly changing. There are more single dads doing a good job now than there used to be. We have to persevere, and the more people in authority who are trained to recognise NPD the fewer families will suffer such wrecked lives as are revealed here and elsewhere.

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    • Ted Wrinch · March 19

      Thanks, Susang. I am in consultation with Nick Woodall on how to help our daughter and am doing what I can. Though the attachment bond between child and parent is never broken it can be pushed into their sub-conscious under the pressure of narcissistic abuse. From Amy Baker’s book we know that the average separation between alienated child and parent is 20 years. I’m hoping it will not be that long for our daughter.

      Money is unfortunately always a big driver in the court system; custody = child support. In the US more money flows through the family court part of the legal system than the rest of it combined. I hope the UK is not going down that route ( a boast by top lawyer Marilyn Stowe last year that London is the divorce capital of the world for wives wanting money from ex’s does not bode well).

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      • Susang · March 19

        Ted, your perseverance will win through in the end. At one stage, we were out of money, and afraid that throwing more good money after bad in the face of what looked like insurmountable corruption would just be a waste of much needed resources, both financial and mental. The thing that kept us going was twofold: we knew what the children were enduring, and how steadfast they were in their hopes to live with the well parent rather than the abusive one; and we knew that we would not be able to face their questions when they were grown up, if we had not carried on to the end, even if the corruption we were fighting turned out to be so strong that we lost our case. How could we ever face the children asking us why we didn’t support them in their hour of need? When we knew what they were going through, every day of their lives? Why we gave up when they were holding strong, telling it like it was? So we resigned ourselves to one last push, and to our astonishment a new very senior social worker was appointed, who saw what was happening, and supported the children. She was moved on before the delayed final hearing, (both moves deliberately done, we deduce, with the help of the corrupt authorities, at the behest of the abuser) but agreed to return. Such were her qualifications that the court was unable to ask for her official s7 input and then ignore it. Our (very expensive) barrister saw to it that there was no more wriggle room. We were lucky to find someone so clear sighted, and also lucky that the children were strong enough to hold steadfast. My heart goes out to all those not so lucky. I wish I could warn more people what to look for, and to look out for. For the suffering on this blog, I send you courage and strength not ever to lose hope. Truth will triumph in the end.

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      • Ted Wrinch · March 19

        Susang, thank-you. I do feel that perseverance, giving unconditional love (which is not an absolute and something we all have to work towards), and working on healing myself and my life from NPD abuse will shorten the separation between our daughter and I. And she has to make the journey from her side, learning to detach from her mother’s need to control her, recover her identity and feeling self that her mother has tried to submerge, and learn to set and hold boundaries against her mother’s manipulation.

        The corruption you have fought through is intense and profound …but matches the smaller amount I experienced and is what I would expect to find from my knowledge of NPD and how it corrupts people and systems that are not firm in their practical and ethical identity. From a Manichean perspective, evil exists to challenge us to become firmer in ourselves and in our understanding of and advocacy for goodness. I’m glad you found a good barrister and social worker; I believe if we keep firm in self awareness and goodness others will always come to meet us in that.

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    • Ted Wrinch · March 19

      SusanG, I agree that making this into a gender issue is not helpful but that more fathers experience it than mothers. The number of male and females suffering from NPD appears about equal (men tend to be overt, women covert, which can make it seem like there are more males) but as more women get custody there is greater scope for female NPDs to alienate.

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      • Susang · March 19

        Indeed, Ted, or to cry alienation when custody has been reversed and the children do not want to return to abuse!

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      • Ted Wrinch · March 19

        Absolutely! Projection is core to their illness. The narcissistic physics blogger ended up saying I had narcissism! This is counter-intuitive and unbelievable to normal people but is standard behaviour for these people. The normal, particularly where they encounter these people in courts and such, need to be woken out of their slumbers. Listening to the voice of the child, no fault devorce and much of the principles of family law become meaningless distractions in the face of this kind of psycho-pathology. And it doesn’t really make sense that courts are so ignorant; over in criminal law they are slightly, though still completely inadequately, aware that 70% of the prison population have a personality disorder.

        “Personality disorder is a recognised mental disorder. Studies have estimated that it affects between 4 and 11% of the UK population and between 60 and 70% of people in prison”

        https://www.justice.gov.uk/downloads/offenders/mentally-disordered-offenders/working-with-personality-disordered-offenders.pdf

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      • lostdad · March 20

        Statistically there will be more mothers than fathers that do this (around 90% of the children go to the mother in Germany after a divorce for example). But I am convinced that letting this debate deteriorate into a “war of the sexes” will not do us abused parents any good at all. I have tried to keep my blog gender neutral where I can because of this.

        As I say to anybody new to this “This is something nasty done by nasty people” – Perhaps a bit simple but that is what it boils down to.

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      • karenwoodall · March 21

        We canot allow this to become a gender war, I will write more about this soon but basically, there are many many mothers who are alienated by fathers, they are though, less visible than fathers who are alienated in my experience.

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  17. sadsam · March 19

    “First rule of any engagement with practitioners working with your alienated child and family, manage your presentation in ways that allows the practitioner to see and hear where the real dysfunction is. If all you do is bombard your practitioner with your side of the story and all of the accumulated evidence about why this is alienation, you make yourself very vulnerable to being dismissed by alienation unaware practitioners who are looking in the wrong direction, ironically pushed that way by your determination to show them the truth of what is really going on.”

    The above quote is from a post by Karen titled “Avoiding the he said/ she said trap” Sept 26 2015. Wise words again Karen….. My lack of knowledge/skill in how to handle situations I found myself in did me no favours.

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  18. sadsam · March 19

    Karen I notice that none of the 3 cases you detail in this Post involved transfer of children to foster care as an intermediary stage…..wonder whether this is something you advocate?

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    • karenwoodall · March 19

      sometimes I do depending upon whether the child involved is in a severe category and whether the social work team can be trusted to do the work. I have worked in such a stepping stone arena and it can and does work. It also doesn’t work and can be very difficult to deal with in that the dynamics become triangulated. I woudl advocate it in some cases and not in others, none of those I wrote about needed stepping stone as I did the transfers and if I do the transfer, it is on the basis that I feel confident that the child will respond as I expect them to. K

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  19. luvgstr8 · March 24

    Thank you for the reply! Wishing the judge in my case wouldn’t have quashed expert testimony. I don’t see any hope for my kids anymore.

    Jodi Mueller

    Like

  20. Fredrick Getzschman · 23 Days Ago

    Good job Jodi. Very accurate.

    Fredrick (Rick) Iowa.

    Like

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