About the Family Separation Clinic

The Family Separation Clinic specialises in cases of emotional harm to children in the context of divorce or family separation, which often come to light through children rejecting a relationship with one of their parents. This dynamic is often referred to as alienation.


The Clinic accepts referrals to carry out assessment for treatment where complex or fractured attachment dynamics appear to be present and delivers therapeutic interventions that focus on healing the underlying defences in the child. Cases are assessed using a differentiation framework.


In cases where emotional harm has been assessed to have caused the child’s rejection of an attachment figure, combined treatment routes are employed to free the child from the splitting defence that underpins the dynamic.


The Clinic also delivers psychotherapy and therapeutic coaching to parents and provides training and consultancy services to professionals including psychologists, psychiatrists, psychotherapists and social workers.


The Family Separation Clinic is based in London, UK, but delivers services to clients around the world.


Principles of practice

In our work with children who are displaying relational trauma in the context of divorce or family separation, we adhere to the following principles:


Conceptualisation of the problem:
We conceptualise the problem for children, first and foremost, as a relational trauma and an alienation from the self as a consequence of defensive splitting.

Primacy of the child:
Whilst we seek to re-establish the psychological health of the whole family, the primary focus of all clinical work is the psychological health of the child; we never regard the child as an object of a parental dispute but always as a subject of their own lived experience and it is the child’s lived experience that is the focus of all clinical work; the primary aim of all clinical work is the resolution of the splitting defence in the child.

Children’s hyper-alignment and rejection is a relational problem:
We do not regard alienation to be a problem in the child but recognise it as an induced splitting defence in response to the inter and intra-psychological pressures experienced by the child in its attempt to maintain attachment unity after family separation.

Aetiological uniqueness:
Whilst acknowledging the common clinical markers of alienation in children, we do not utilise or support quasi-diagnostic approaches such as ‘eight signs’ and ‘the five factor model’.

Restoration of integration:
Any intervention that restores the child’s relationship with the previously rejected parent but does not honour and attend to the child’s attachment relationship to the previously favoured parent may be considered to be a failed intervention; whilst a child may need to be protected from the harmful behaviours of a parent, a successful intervention allows and supports a child to retain a positive relationship with their internalised object relationship to that parent.



About our work

The Clinic recognises a child's hyper-alignment to a parent as a relational problem in which the child unconsciously utilises the maladaptive defence of psychological splitting in response to a relational landscape that has become frightening and overwhelming. Such an approach recognises each case as having its own unique dynamics and employs a differential assessment process to identify the specific and particular causes of the child’s rejection together with a treatment route that responds to the individual needs of the child.


The Clinic roots all of its work with children in standard psychodynamic, psychotherapeutic, structural and child development theory and practice. We do not accept theoretical constructs such as Parental Alienation.


Recognising hyper-alignment as the child's maladaptive response to overwhelming and unmanageable psychological pressure in the post-separation landscape requires those charged with determining the best interests of the child with looking beyond the narrow confines of 'care and contact' and, instead, treat the dynamic as a child protection issue. Whilst alienation may, on the surface, look like a problem of a child not spending time with one of their parents, the more serious problem for the child is the unconscious mechanism that enables a child to act counter to the evolutionary imperative to remain in relationship with, and in proximity to, their attachment figures.