Alienation From The Self and the Soul and what it is to be Human

Some will say that today we should be standing together. Some will say their thoughts and prayers are with the families of the children and adults murdered and maimed in Manchester. Some will say be strong United Kingdom and stand together. But what can be said or done in the face of the fact that last night someone decided to strap a home made device to themselves and walk into a concert arena full of children? What can possibly be said that makes any sense in a world where this can and does happen, anywhere, anytime, any place, even Manchester in the north of England which experienced last night what has been going on elsewhere in the world for years. What can be said in the face of such alienation from the self and the soul and what is means to be human?

The reality that we face is not that this can and is happening but the fact that it can and does happen now, anywhere. As we have descended collectively, with each horrific terrorist event around the world, we come to stand helplessly in the face of a generation of people who are alienated from what it means to be human. These terrorists, for whom life is meaningless, are unlikely to have ever reached a place where compassionate understanding of others is something they are capable of. Like abused children, these murderers are doing what they have learned to do at the hands of others. A generation of psychopaths for whom killing children is justifiable. The brainwashed, the alienated and these completely disconnected from what it is to be human, are in control of our lives and it cannot get better from here unless we stop standing in unity and start doing something about it.

But what can we do? This is for certain not something which is going to be stopped anytime soon and so the only way to begin to change this is to start at the source of the problem and remove the children who are at risk of growing up in a world of disconnected psychopathic beliefs, from the people who inculcate them. This may sound like a radical plan but as in all cult recovery systems, removal from mind control is the first major step towards healing. In this death cult, mind control is caused by the people who expose young children to the mind numbing images of murder in order to ensure that they are rendered devoid of compassion and any sense of human connectedness. It is caused by children’s immersion in a distorted belief system which teaches that that there is a right and just way to deal with grievances. Writing this is not an attack on Islam. As history shows, any religion, any belief system can be used to separate a young person from their compassionate understanding of human suffering. That this religion is being used by members of a cult to influence young people into believing that killing children (anywhere in the world), is a right and just act, is a reality in our present day. And it is this reality which we have to face and it is this reality that we have to think about in protecting the children of Islam and Christianity and Atheism right around the world.

It is not enough to stand together. It is not enough to send our prayers and our thoughts to the families of the murdered. We stand charged with the responsibility for doing something and in doing it, we must go to the source of the problem and protect young people from being used by this death cult. Education in schools about empathy and compassion is a start, taking responsibility for observing the disaffected young people in our communities and raising our concerns is another. Most of all asking for, pushing for and demanding that those who prey on the minds of young people are properly and permanently removed from their capacity to do so, is what will bring peace to the young people who are being encouraged to live a life of murderous intent.

It does not matter whether this is about Islam or any other religion in the world, when anything is being used to alienate young people from their sense of self and soul and what it means to be human, it is wrong and we should say it is wrong and we should do something about it. These young people are being used as conduits for the rage of psychopaths and in turn they are bringing another generation of murderers into our midst.

Love and compassion for others is our birthright. Separation from self and soul and what it means to be human in order to murder and celebrate murder is not.

The Unbearable Experience of The Alienated Child: Lessons From The Recovery Journey

Back from Belfast where this week I presented to 110 Solicitors attending the Law Society of Northern Ireland Children’s Order Conference, on the legal and mental health interlock in case management of parental alienation.  Whilst I was only able to attend for a short time due to a workload that makes my eyes water at times, it was clear to me from the conversations I had, that interest in the alienation of children from once loved parents is a feature of much of the work of the people I met.  What is also clear as I move around the UK, is that people understand parental alienation at a fairly sophisticated level, what they don’t know is what to do about it.  What they also often do not know or do not realise, is that the alienation of a child can cover up other problems in the relationship with the aligned parent and that in that and so many other respects, it is so much more than a child contact issue.

Much of my current work is with children in recovery from alienation through my work with residence transfer cases in which a child is moved to live with the parent they have been rejecting.  This work, in which I am working with the child from the vehemently rejecting position through to the recovery of a normal loving relationship with a parent, demonstrates very clearly the challenges faced by these children.  In essence, the unbearable position of the alienated child is one which should concern anyone who is working with children’s mental health, because it is child abuse at the deepest level of the developing psyche. Whether the alienation is caused deliberately or through the unconscious upholding of the child’s maladaptive efforts to cope with post separation family life, the end result is that the child is being abused at a level which is life changing.  And because this abuse is so hidden and so much attributed to external factors which can be too readily dismissed or overlooked (it’s all about parental rights, it’s a he said/she said situation), the harm which is being done, which is at the fundamental level of developing personality and even brain structure, is being completely ignored.  Parental alienation is not about conflict between parents, it is not about a parent’s right to have a relationship with a child, it is not about whether a child should live in a shared care situation or whether a presumption of shared care would prevent the problem, it is a pernicious and dangerous form of emotional and psychological abuse which is perpetuated by parents and entrenched by our family law system.  Parental alienation is a child mental health issue and like the concerns raised about the brainwashing and grooming of children in Rochdale, it is an issue which is hidden from our immediate view by the attitudes and beliefs about post separation parenting which are prevalent in our society.

Being alienated from a loved parent is a terrifying, lonely and confusing experience for a child and it does not matter what their age or how they arrived in the place where their psychological coping mechanism of dividing their feelings into all good and all bad, living with alienation is clearly something which children find unbearable.  There is a reason why alienated children are so often mute, or angry, or in need of the ‘protection’ of the parent they have aligned themselves with.  To have to confront the horror of choosing to lose a loved parent is simply an intolerable experience for them.  Being with children who are now recovering from being alienated, allows me to understand directly from them, the journey they have made into alienation and then out of it again.  What is clear in my work with children, is that each and everyone of them, ranging from aged 6 to aged 18,  knew that they were living a double experience of consciousness, in which they were aware that what they were saying and doing was wrong but that they had no choice but to do it. Living with the pain, shame and bewilderment of being aware whilst trying to desperately not be aware of this, causes particular recovery tasks for children when the alienation lifts.

As I understand more and more about how and why children become alienated I find myself recognising the ways in which children in our society are incredibly vulnerable at an emotional and psychological level.  Without sovereignty over their being, children depend upon adults in every minute of every single day for their basic needs being met.  As I get closer and closer to a visceral understanding of alienation, I can see, hear and smell the reality of a child’s life in the post separation family, and I can see how, the entry to alienation is caused  not just  by a cold and calculating determination on the part of one against the other, but often simply a failure of the child to be able to cope with the adult decompensation into despair and depression due to the crisis of separation.  These families, where alienation becomes the child’s only refuge, are great tragedies, because it is the lack of support around the family, lack of knowledge about how to deal with children who are vulnerable to alignment and rejection and lack of care or interest in our society as a whole about how to help children. For all the years I have done this work, for all the millions that government has poured into it, for all the voluntary sector agencies, the NSPCC and the other children’s charities, the lives of children in separated family situations remain simply unbearable, intolerable and incomprehensible.  Whilst these charities say they work for children, the truth is that behind the scenes their ethos is largely based upon feminist principles of women’s rights first with children’s needs being indivisible from those of their mother. Which means that mothers whose children are aligned with them post separation are believed and mothers whose children say they no longer want to see them, are viewed as being deficient.  Fathers on the other hand are largely dangerous, disposable and dismissed.  Forget the real experience of children in separated family situations, forget the fear, the confusion, the fact that in a separated family it is only the children who have to continue to relate to both sides dug down into enemy camps. Forget it all in fact and in our current system, simply ask a child what their wishes and feelings are, which in the midst of an all out war or a situation where one side is waging psychological warfare and the other is simply trying to do the right thing, is a bit like breaking the child’s legs and then asking them which shoes they would like to wear.

In my work with alienated children I am coming to know, at the deepest level, the ways in which the damage which is done to a child in an alienation reaction is both emotional and psychological AND systemic in that it impacts upon a child’s developmental stages and it causes changes to the life chances of the child. Recovering from such a reaction is not easy for a child although normal responses to a rejected parent can be seen to occur within seconds when the underlying dynamics are dealt with.  It is not just the relationship with the rejected parent however which heralds recovery. The child has a post reunification journey of recovery which has particular tasks which I have written about before.  If the child is assisted to move through these tasks their integration of the divided self begins. If not, the child continues the process of splitting but reverses it so that the once aligned parent now occupies the role of rejected parent. This leaves the child reunited with a once rejected parent but still psychologically divided. This for me is the clearest evidence that the underlying challenges of parental alienation are not concerned simply with relationships with parents but with emotional and psychological damage which must be repaired if the child is to heal.  And yes, there are many once rejected parents who are devoted to healing the underlying problem for the child and who ensure that the child is assisted to continue to be in relationship with the once aligned parent to assist them to do so. But there are others (and this is a fact so we had best get used to it), who will, on receiving the child, allow the counter rejection of the previously aligned parent and feel justified in doing so. Just as for the children whose once aligned parent abandons them completely when the child is removed from them, the child who reunites with a rejected parent who then allows the child to counter reject the previously aligned or alienating parent, is a child who continues to suffer.  And the suffering is long and it is sustained.

And it is the suffering of children which is my primary and abiding concern in the work that I do.  It is the damage that is done to them in post separation relationships and the way in which the extreme of this, which is parental alienation, causes life long challenges. I do not write as a disinterested bystander either, I should be clear that I was once a single parent, I am married to a man who shared care of his children for many years, I am a step parent and a grandparent. I understand, from both a personal and professional standpoint, how family separation affects children. I know how the impacts of it cause children to struggle at all stages of their lives. And I understand parental alienation, from just about every possible standpoint there is to understand it. And I know it to be one of the most pernicious and problematic experiences a child can suffer.

To cause a child, who should be unconsciously free to play and grow and emerge with their right to their own identity intact, to divide their feelings about loved adults into good and bad, is to steal away childhood and replace it with something else. A dread, a fear and a burden no child should have to carry.

As I continue my journey of learning from alienated children, I intend to make their voices, their wishes and their feelings, as loud as it is possible to make them.  I will speak because they can only act it out. I will say it because they are prevented from doing so.

These children, who are amongst us all every single day, are some of the most vulnerable children in our society and they  deserve to have the reality of their suffering shouted from the rooftops.

Which is what I intend to keep on doing.


I will be speaking at the Missing Children Europe Conference on June 15th 2017  on ‘Missing Children in the Lives of Good Enough Parents’

And at the Child Mental Health Centre  Conference ‘Too Much Pain’ on July 8th 2017




Working in the Danger Zone: Safeguarding Practitioners Working with Alienated Children and Their Families

I have been working with alienated children and their families for many years now and I am well used to the risks involved. For practitioners new to the field however, the risks may not be visible, until it is too late.  Developing the new European Association for Parental Alienation Practitioners, is one of the ways that the Family Separation Clinic is committed to building an alienation aware work force which is not risk averse in its approach.  Teaching other practitioners how to ensure that they do not suffer the consequences of intervening in alienation cases, via alienating parents triangulating their governing body into the dynamic is another.

This subject is dear to my heart because I suffered the consequence of being governed by a body which is not alienation aware and therefore was not  sufficiently capable of recognising the way in which it was being used by an alienating parent to further an agenda.  This experience, which was then used by another practitioner in an attempt to damage my work further, was one of the most horrific experiences I have ever had to survive.  In surviving it however,  I learned a great deal of what is necessary to keep going in this field and I built a way of working and being in this world which protects me as I do what I do.  Teaching others how to avoid the unnecessary risks which come with doing what is right for alienated children, instead of what is right for alienation unaware governing bodies, is a key investment I make in ensuring that new practitioners do not suffer the way that I did. In doing that we prevent burn out and we ensure that the workforce is developed in ways that actually assist children rather than in ways that suit timid practice.

All practitioners who work with alienated children and their families must be aware that this is one of the most complex and difficult client groups to work with. Alienating parents are litigious, they are deeply complex in their personality styles, they are often emotional volatile and they will, if they possibly can, triangulate others into the dynamic, turning their attention on the practitioner as the monster in the case.  Add to this the fact that many cases where a child may have justified reasons for not seeing a parent (neglect, bullying, drink and alcohol problems, rigid and cold and cruel  parenting styles etc), are presented as parental alienation to practitioners,, when in fact they are not, and you have a perfect storm for a naive practitioner. Teaching practitioners that their judgement is likely to be challenged on many occasions, including parents bad mouthing to other professionals, but that their first duty remains always to the child, helps to direct the focus where it needs to be.  Wise practitioners in this field know that they will hear many stories of other practitioners who failed, got it wrong, didn’t do the right thing and were otherwise not up to scratch in their work.  Wise practitioners recognise that this is the nature of the alienation dynamic in which efforts to divide others into good and bad camps are regularly made. Naive practitioners, or those who lack self awareness, will allow themselves to become triangulated into the dynamic, setting themselves up as judge and jury on behalf of the aggrieved parent telling the tale. This is what happened to me and the horror of this has never left me.  It was only my own experience of being so savagely treated by my governing body, which prevented me from making a complaint of my own about what had been done to me. Nevertheless the psychological damage remains.

Parental alienation is still an incredibly difficult field to work in even for the experienced practitioner.  This week I was sent a piece written for the Washington Post in which the reunification workshop Family Bridges in the USA was portrayed in a less than positive light. Reading the article it made me realise that regardless of what we do, the alienating parent’s view point can still hold sway and often will not change, especially if they are personality disordered.  Given the work that I do in reunification of children with their parent via transfer of residence, I could see how, just like the alienating parents views were being upheld in the article, the work we do in the UK is so easily portrayed as abusive – i.e. ‘the child was removed against his will and the practitioner’s own governing body doesn’t recognise parental alienation.’  The article was incredibly biased and was challenged by the Parental Alienation Study Group, of which I am a member and I was glad to see the robust efforts made to ensure that a balanced view point was put forward. It heartened me to know that in PASG there is a group of people with whom my practice is safeguarded. In such a risky field of work, where one is coming under fire from parents, governing bodies and even other professionals who profess to be alienation aware, feeling safe is a hugely important factor in being able to continue to do what we do.

As we progress our work in the UK we are clearly delineating parental alienation as a child mental health problem and we are moving towards developing a platform from where standards and safeguarding of practice can be provided by a new regulating body for parental alienation practitioners. Basing this in Europe where there are differing levels of protection for practitioners as well as differing levels of recognition of parental alienation, means that we can draw upon the strengths of member countries to provide a  standardised framework for recognised practice.  This project is one which I know will help to build a strong practitioner network which is protected from burnout and in which members can survive and thrive.  Turning the horror of what happened to me into a positive protection for all other practitioners in this field, is my way of putting right the wrongs that were done.  It is, in the end, the only way to survive in this field, in which we should all be working to one end, the protection of children from the deeply damaging experience of parental alienation.

Protecting practitioners requires an ability to hold onto perspective and in doing so, being able to manage the paradox of both and neither rather than one or the other. This skill, in which ambivalence and ambiguity, shades of grey and the right in the wrong and the wrong in the right is understood and held, is critical for anyone working with alienated children and their families.  This is because alienated children are starkly divided in their presentation into good/bad, right/wrong, black/white thinking.  Alienating parents are equally split in their thinking and can escalate this and turn the focus upon anyone attempting to help.  Alienated parents can risk becoming rigidly split in their thinking too, especially if they are encouraged by parental rights groups who demonise the alienated parent, creating the good/bad split features but in the other direction.  In truth, alienated or alienating, neither is wholly good and neither is wholly bad and the child must learn to live with the reality of both of their parent’s psychological selves and not just one. Holding ambivalence for the family and being able to recognise that as a practitioner we are not wholly good either and neither are we holier than the parents we work with, is a critical stage of practitioner development.  Lofty pronouncements about alienating parents helps no-one, being able to recognise our own shades of grey in our person and our practice brings the humbition that Richard Warshak speaks of. In arriving at that place one recognises that this work is not about being expert in anything other than human fallibility. Helping others to blunder through to the best that they can be, is after all, the only thing we are doing here.

I was reminded then this week, of how important it is to care for our fellow practitioners in this field and how that care will build a foundation for others to walk and work upon.  Having already built upon the foundations of the hard work of others, before I finish my stint, I hope to have contributed something that will encourage and support many more people to come forward and do this work.

In helping to protect practitioners, it seems to me, in the end, that that is the best I can give to the children of tomorrow, to help protect them from the suffering I see too often in the children of today.


A Trapped Mind

I wanted to share this blog because it is written by someone who clearly knows how alienation and cults are interwoven.  When I first began work as a psychotherapist one of my first clients was escaping a cult. I was interested in how EST, the cult which became The Forum worked and how Scientology managed to influence so many when it demanded such bizarre and dramatic behaviours from people. My interest in cults lead me eventually to working with parental alienation, itself a cult of the family mindset.  I like this blog and think anyone who is interested in the psychology of alienation will too.


Source: A Trapped Mind

Residence Transfer as a Treatment Route For Parental Alienation: Not The Nuclear Option

I read this week that a transfer of residence is the ‘nuclear option’ for treatment of parental alienation in the UK .  The discussion arises from a public judgement in which the child concerned was sent to live with her father.  Whilst there is a significant wrangling about the decision, based on the argument that the child had been too damaged already to be helped by a change of residence, (the judge finding that a particularly unattractive argument put forward by the mother), the words at the end of the Judgement are clear, the child will go to live with her father today.

That reality, which could just as easily read, the child will go to live with her mother today, given that fathers alienate mothers too, is one which causes too many people to become uneasy when they contemplate it.  Which is why I guess, it is called by some, the ‘nuclear option.’  But is it a nuclear option?  When it is considered from the perspective of the alienated child’s expressed wishes and feelings, it is possible to think of it in that way yes.  But when it is considered from the perspective of what parental alienation is and the damage it does to a child, no it is not.  It is not nuclear at all. It is in fact, the only  healthy decision to make on behalf of a child who is trapped in an impossible dilemma.  Once that decision is made and enacted, those who considered it a nuclear option are often extremely surprised by the child’s volte-face on arrival at the home of the once ‘hated’ parent.  If people knew more about parental alienation and the damage it does to a child, perhaps they would feel less uncomfortable about making and carrying out such a decision. Perhaps then it would not be considered a nuclear option at all, but in fact the only response to the recognised fact that the child concerned cannot cope with the dynamics caused by one parent acting against the other, or in some circumstances, two parents engaged in a high conflict situation.

I have written this before but it is worth writing it again.  A child who is alienated by one parent acting against the other is a child whose emotional and psychological self has been damaged.  We cannot see this damage because it is not physical, but if it were physical it would be akin to broken arms and legs.  Some of the children I have worked with in transfer of residence cases have demonstrated both the ability to instantly reconnect with a former rejected parent and the long term damage that being alienated has done to them. Whilst children find reconnection relatively easy in the right circumstances, the longer term impact upon them of what a parent has done in breaking their perspective and their trust in adults, is clear.  There is nothing ‘nuclear’ about taking a severely harmed child and placing them with their healthy and loving other parent as happens in direct transfer of residence.  What people forget, when they speak of the dangers of attachment disruption in removing a child from a parent who has caused harm, is that the child has already suffered one attachment disruption in being forced to choose to lose a parent in the first place.  That attachment disruption which is seen in parental alienation, causes the child to bury the love that they felt for a parent in a process of entering into psychological splitting.  It is a cruel thing for a child to have to undergo this process because somewhere, they are aware of what they have had to do in order to survive the pressures placed upon them.  It is an additionally cruel thing for a child to have to give answers to questions about whether they like, love or loathe a parent and in my work, when I see a child in such a place, I do everything I can to avoid heaping more of this pressure upon them.

Alienated children desperately need the adults around them to take charge of the psychological and emotional space and for decisions to be made for and about them which are responsive to their underlying reality and not their surface voices.  In doing so, adults must take the greatest care to ensure that the dynamics in the family are properly differentiated so that the right intervention is matched to the presenting problem. Get it right and the child is liberated from the double bind swiftly. Get it wrong and the child is plunged further into the abyss with little hope of being able to get out during their childhood years.

Perhaps what people forget most of all, is that beyond the rhetoric which is heard from the alienated parent, the reality is that the rejected parent is loved by the child but the child is unable to show it.  Trusting that this love is present in the unconscious mind of the child and working alongside good enough rejected parents who are willing and able to do the work necessary to build the platform for recovery for their children, practitioners can be bold in their interventions and they should be.  If this was serious physical harm the child’s arms and legs would be broken, just because the harm is psychological, emotional and mental, doesn’t mean that the harm is not serious and sustained.

When I meet alienated children what I see is more or less the same every time. I see a small frightened being who has been used to managing the world through over anxious and empowered behaviour. A child who has learned to control the world through their refusals and a child who is locked into a delusion that the parent they have rejected is unsafe.  Alienated children dream of being locked in cupboards, being chased by wolves with fangs and being attacked by knives. These repeating themes seem to me to be the inculcated nightmares of the parent they enmeshed with. The locked doors and cupboards are the nightly manifestations of the way in which the unconscious mind is managing the repression of the rejected parent.

When I work with children in residence transfer, which can be as complex as stepping stone care or as simple as collecting them from school and taking them home to a parent they tell me they hate, I know that what I am doing is not carrying out the ‘nuclear option’ but the right intervention to assist the child to recover a normal healthy childhood.  This is why I do what I do, because children deserve to be unconsciously content in the world and safe in the care of a healthy parent.  Alienated children are not those things but they need to be, which is why transfer of residence is, in a properly differentiated case which calls for it,  the only option, not the nuclear one.

The Family Separation Clinic provides residence transfer care in a twelve week package which includes support through the transfer to the point where the child has recovered normal range responding to a once rejected parent and then in an intensive delivery to ensure that the children progresses effectively through the recovery process.  Beyond twelve weeks the child is re-introduced to the previously alienating parent and is supported in supervised contact (in most cases) to enter into as balanced a relationship as is possible in the circumstances.  For residence transfer care please email

A note about engaging FSC in your case.  It is not possible to go into court and ask for the Family Separation Clinic to be engaged in your case without following protocol.  If you wish to engage the Clinic in your family case you must inform us and request the documents from us which are necessary to apply to the court.  The Clinic works with parental alienation cases, suspected or already judged upon and is rarely brought into the early part of any family case in the UK.  When your solicitor, or you as a LIP, wish to apply for a part 25 expert (applies in UK only), you must contact the Clinic and inform us that you are doing this. When you make your application, you or your solicitor must submit the correct documents and information to support your application which we will supply.  Instructions and enquiries about instructions should be sent to

The Family Separation Clinic – Working Hard to Help You

We are about to embark on an intensive phase of development and delivery at the Family Separation Clinic and I thought it would be useful to share information with you about the work we are doing in service to parents and children.

We  run a coaching service for alienated parents and their family across the world. This service is increasingly used by parents to help in the emotional and psychological management of family law cases.  For more details of coaching services see this link.

Our expert witness service continues to deliver to England, Wales, Scotland and recently to Northern Ireland.  To instruct on cases please use this link.

Our parenting co-ordination service in cases where we have reunited children with their parent and recommended a child arrangements order in which care is shared, provides stable management and monitoring of difficult dynamics post court order. Details can be found on our website here.

Training delivery continues to be a core part of our commitment to sharing best practice and we will be delivering widely  in the UK, Belgium, Croatia, USA and Canada this year. For details about our one, two and three day practitioner training, please email us at

We write widely about parental alienation  on this blog and on Huffington Post.  Our long awaited book Understanding Parental Alienation: Learning to Cope, Helping to Heal is in print with Charles S Thomas Illinois. This book distils all of our learning from our clinical work into a handbook for parents and practitioners. With an introduction by William Bernet M.D who is the President of the Parental Alienation Studies Group and recommendations from key people working in the field of child protection and parental alienation, we hope the long wait for this resource will feel worth it. We think it will.

Our new self help site is Parental Alienation Direct and we are working now to fill it with resources, road maps and recommendations for how to find the very best help to understand what is happening to your children and to you and manage the problem in the right way.  The site will be dedicated to helping you to help yourself, our byword is always that the very best therapist for an alienated child is their healthy rejected parent, we want to make you the very best you can be in terms of understanding and strength to cope.

We are aiming for launch of these new projects for July 2017 and will announce details as we have them here and on our website.

Training and Consciousness Raising Calendar

We are very busy with training delivery and awareness raising this year. The following events are currently booked and we plan to add clinical seminars in the UK when the book is available and seminars for parents in the USA and Canada, (in Boston and Toronto) which we are planning now.

In addition to the dates below we are delivering training to Social Workers, CAFCASS Guardians, Psychologists and Psychotherapists in England and Wales.

We will additionally be holding two seminars for professionals, one in Scotland and one in England dates dates tbc.
May 18 2017           Northern Ireland Law Society Children Order Conference – Working with alienated children and their families.

June 6/7/8 2017     3 day training for Practitioners – Belgium

June 15 2017          Missing Children Europe Conference – Alienated Children, Missing in the Lives of Good Enough Parents – Scotland

June 28 2017          The Family Separation Clinic Practitioner Training Day – London (Fully Booked)

July 8 2017             Institute for Child Mental Health: Too Much Pain: Conference – The Experience of the Alienated Child and Family

July 11 2017           Launch of the Inaugural meeting of the European Association of Parental Alienation  Practitioners – Prague

Sept 5/6/7 2017      Practitioner Supervision and Training – City Child Protection Centre Zagreb Croatia

Sept 14-19 2017    Retreat in Avignon France –

Oct 19-21 2017.     Parental Alienation Studies Group  Conference – Washington DC

Oct 24/25 2017       USA Practitioner Training – Two Day delivery – Boston (Full details posted shortly – for registration of interest and  booking email

November 2017   Canada Practitioner Training  – Toronto (date tbc).

No Guru, No Method, No Teacher – Just You and Your Children and The Love That Doesn’t Disappear

I am not one for keeping things mysterious when they can easily be explained and so today I am going to tell you exactly how a child who is alienated can come to restore their relationship with a rejected parent in seconds.

There is no mystery to it, no special talent, no psychological woohoo. The remedy is incredibly simple and it works every time, when the identification and differentiation is properly undertaken.

Some will tell you that they and only they have the answer to the problem of parental alienation.  Some will tell you that this way or that is the only way to approach reunification.  I can tell you, from the successful work that I do in reuniting alienated children with the parent they have ‘chosen’ to reject, that there are many roads to achieving the magical dynamic which enables the alienation reaction to disappear.

And all of them are valid and all of them work.

Parental alienation is a combination of the dynamics caused by one parent’s behaviours, the other parent’s responses and the vulnerability of the child.  A triangle of reactions if you like in which the child enters into the only possible coping mechanism available to them, complete refusal to see one of their parents.

How do we know that a child has used this coping mechanism?  We recognise the cluster of behaviours which are only seen in unjustified rejection reactions, these are the eight signs of parental alienation which were curated by Richard Gardener and which serve to flag the existence of the problem.  Without those signs, who would know that the child has entered into the use of a coping mechanism?  No-one would.  Without those signs, who would know that the child is unable to cope with the dynamic around them? No-one would.  The eight signs of alienation are the external markers which tell us a child is not coping with the current dynamic around them.  A child caught in adult relationship distress if you like.  An alienated child.

Those of us who work with these families are presented with a wide spectrum of behaviours, from families where alienation is alleged, to families where allegations are rife.  In order to triage these children into those truly showing signs of alienation and those who are not, we use the eight signs of alienation as initial indicators.  When we have sifted and sorted and found that a child is showing the signs of alienation we begin the deeper analysis.

The deeper analysis involves examination of the case for a number of behaviours which have been long recognised in the UK as being part of the landscape of parental alienation. Indeed when I began work in this field over two decades ago, these behaviours in families were acknowledged and referenced in court reports.  Trans-generational repetition of trauma, enmeshment, attachment disruption including parentification and spouseification and fused dyadic partnerships. Add to that encapsulated delusional disorder and the presence of personality disorder.  All of this combines to give us a clear picture of the category of alienation the child is experiencing and the level of severity.  When we know this, we are ready to go into court to give evidence on our formulation.

There is no mystery to the resolution of parental alienation reactions in severely alienated children in the pure category.  Put simply, the alienation reaction is the utilisation of a coping mechanism of psychological splitting which allows the child to deal with the impossible position they are in.  In such cases, where a parent has a personality profile of concern and where the indicators shown in the previous paragraph are at play, a simple removal of the child from the parent with whom they are sharing  an encapsulated delusion, is enough to trigger dynamic change.  All that is required of a practitioner (though in itself this can be tough stuff to undertake), is that they are capable of removing the child from the parent, overriding the pleas from the child and placing them with the parent they have been vehemently rejecting.  All it takes is that.  Nothing more.  No mystery, no method, nothing more than that and the child’s normal range responses to a parent they have loved all along will emerge.  That is because children do not hate their parents, they are born hard wired to love and attach to them and parental alienation, whilst it damages their life chances if children are forced to endure it for long periods in their lives, will reverse itself on removal from the source of the problem.

In severe and pure cases that is.  In other categories of alienation the treatment route is different, which is why, when some children are moved and the differentiation is not done properly, the reaction remains.

In severe and pure cases of parental alienation, the child’s normal love and warmth will reappear swiftly when the dynamics have been reconfigured to allow them to do so. The child still has to face a number of struggles beyond the point at which the alienation reaction disappears however. The range of difficulties a child will experience will depend upon the severity of the psychological profile of the parent they have been removed from.  This is a critical aspect of intervention which is not currently being talked about and it is this which requires the specialist skill of psychotherapists who understand the impact on a child of being brought up by a parent with a problematic psychological profile.  Currently in the UK we have a much greater understanding amongst the judiciary of the problems caused by parental alienation.  We also have a greater willingness to use the transfer of residence intervention which separates the child from the parent who has caused the problem. What we don’t have, is the recognition and understanding that it is not the transfer of residence which is the trigger to bring the child out of the alienated state of mind but the separation from source protocol which gives the child respite from the relational influence of the alienating parent for a period of time.  Without this, the problem in the child is simply transferred with them, to a detrimental effect.

This separation, which in our work at the Clinic is maintained for up to 90 days post transfer, gives the child the opportunity to move through the psychological stages of recovery from alienation. When this is combined with therapeutic work with the child, the restoration of balance and perspective in the child’s mind is completed and protection and resilience to the behaviours of alienating parent are built up.  This is the intervention which truly changes the child’s life, because it is this which ensures that there is recovery plus resilience.  The child is always going to have to find a way of relating to the alienating parent somehow, they are after all, the child’s parent and as we know, children are not hard wired to ditch, dump or dismiss a parent.  If there is any method, magic or mystery to this work then, it is in the therapeutic alliance formed by the therapist, formerly rejected parent and previously alienated child. For it is this which lays the foundation stone for the development of emotional and psychological health for the rest of the child’s life.

In managing this therapeutic alliance the therapist additionally must keep the road open for the previously alienating parent to rejoin the child’s life and do this is in the face of potential hostility and refusal by the parent to accept that their behaviours have harmed the child. This is where the skill comes in, this is where the power for change in the underlying dynamics lies and this is where risk remains to the child if protection cannot be achieved.

The formula for recovery in an alienated child can be easily understood and the steps to reconfiguring the dynamic are very simple.

Pure and severe alienation is the result of the alienating strategies of one parent, the benign efforts by the other parent to resist the strategies and the child’s lack of resilience and awareness of who has the most power over them.

To reconfigure this dynamic one must –

  • differentiate the case, evidence the formulation in court and give a treatment route, be cross examined on the intervention and then, if the court agrees, carry it out.
  • In carrying it out the court must be asked to restrict the power of the alienating parent, transfer power to the rejected parent and entrust the practitioner to enact the intervention.
  • Under those conditions, place the child with the rejected parent and poof, the alienation reaction is gone.

No guru, no method, no teacher, no mystery, no magic, no more alienation.

This is because, in pure and severe alienation, the encapsulated delusion which the child is being forced to share, is popped like a bubble on removal from the parent who is the source of it.

I should know, I have seen it happen often enough (nine times already this year in fact).  But it is not the bubble popping which is the magic, it is the longer term work beyond the reunification which is the really protective intervention.  And that does require method and it does require skill and when it is delivered properly it protects the child from the long term damage that parental alienation does.

The eight signs of alienation tell us the reaction is live in the child.

Deeper investigation allows us to differentiate the cause.

Our willingness to face cross examination in court changes the dynamic underlying the problem.

Being willing to override children’s objections takes the child to a place where the alienation reaction can simply disappear.

Beyond which the delicate work of helping the child to recover balance and perspective brings long term relief and protection.

All in days work, when you know how.

Don’t let anyone make it a mystery. This is about you and your children and the love they have for you that doesn’t disappear.

Everything else is woohoo.