A child’s vehement rejection of a parent after divorce or separation can present professionals and the courts with a number of challenges. These can be exacerbated when children or parents make allegations of harm or abuse against the parent who is being rejected.
Much of the literature in this field has focussed on developing diagnostic criteria, such as the Five Factor Model† to determine the presence or otherwise of what has been termed parental alienation. However, the Family Separation Clinic does not consider such quasi-diagnostic approaches to be helpful and, instead, recognises alienation as a relational problem in which a child unconsciously utilises the maladaptive defence of psychological splitting in response to a relational landscape that has become frightening and overwhelming. Such an approach recognises each case as having its own unique dynamics, and the Clinic 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 family.
In our work with alienated children, we adhere to a number of key principles, underpinning which is a conceptualisation of alienation, first and foremost, as the child's alienation from the self as a consequence of defensive splitting. 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 at the heart of all our work.
We do not regard alienation to be a problem in the child but recognise it as a defence that emerges in response to the psychological pressures experienced by the child in its attempt to maintain attachment unity after family separation. Whilst we seek to re-establish the psychological health of the whole family, the primary focus of all remedial work is the psychological health of the child. The primary aim of all clinical work, therefore, is the resolution of the splitting defence in the child.
In working to re-establish ego integration in the child, the Clinic recognises that 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.
The Clinic's work is built on international research and best practice from around the world. We have developed our own protocols and frameworks that are based on the evidence and that we have demonstrated, through our day-to-day work with families, free children from the problem of alienation.
Through exploring children’s experiences, family dynamics and transgenerational patterns of estrangement, our training aims to build on your existing skills and knowledge, and provide you with a deeper understanding of how alienation occurs and how it manifests itself in families. It will also provide you with clinical insights and information to help you to deal with this problem more effectively.