EUROPEAN ASSOCIATION OF PARENTAL ALIENATION PRACTITIONERS
PRESS RELEASE 24 July 2017
For immediate release
NEW EUROPEAN ASSOCIATION OF PARENTAL ALIENATION PRACTITIONERS FORMED
Practitioners from across Europe came together in the Czech capital, Prague, earlier this month to discuss the serious problem of children who unjustifiably reject a relationship with one of their parents after divorce or family separation, and to form the new European Association of Parental Alienation Practitioners.
The new association has been established with members from 14 different European countries. Its aims include the establishment of standards and protocols for working in the field, improving practitioner competency through training and research, sharing information and best practice, and promoting understanding of the problem and the most effective responses to it within the mental health and legal professions.
The formation of the new association is the initiative of the Family Separation Clinic which is based in London. The meeting was addressed by Karen Woodall, lead therapist at the Clinic, as well as hearing keynote presentations from guest speakers William Bernet, M.D., Professor Emeritus at Vanderbilt University and Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, and Professor Gordana Buljan Flander, Ph.D., Director of the Child and Youth Protection Centre of Zagreb.
Whilst the issue of parental alienation is becoming more widely recognised by both family practitioners and the family courts, many of the delegates to the meeting expressed concern that responses to remedy the problem are often inadequate and can leave children at risk of serious emotional and psychological harm.
In her presentation, Karen Woodall suggested that, whilst practitioners across Europe are working within different cultures and legal frameworks, the issues that they face are very similar. She argued for the establishment of treatment frameworks and protocols that are based in the international research on dealing with parental alienation and believed that the new association could lead the way in developing these. She said that the Family Separation Clinic is demonstrating how children can be freed from the psychological splitting created by alienation but said that there was a widespread lack of understanding about what interventions worked, and families are often referred for standard family therapy which is not the answer.
Professor Bernet referred to the significant body of research into the problem and highlighted a review of quantitative research studies published in peer reviewed journals that demonstrated a remarkable agreement about the behavioural strategies parents can use to manipulate their children’s feelings, attitudes, and beliefs in ways that may interfere with their relationship with the other parent.
He also talked about the cluster of symptoms or behaviours indicating the presence of alienation in the child, and suggested that these can be reliably identified. He also presented recent research that showed how children who reject a relationship with one of their parents after divorce without a good reason are significantly more fixed and hostile in their rejection than children who reject a relationship with a parent for justifiable reasons such as neglect.
Professor Flander said that, in her experience, children are often forced to stay in an unhealthy environment for a long time because the system is slow. She also argued that many professionals who work with families underestimate the risk of emotional abuse from passive manipulation strategies and that they often fail to intervene in these situations. She gave case studies from Croatia to highlight these issues but argued that progress was being made in highlighting the harm that alienation does to children.
The European Association, in conjunction with the Family Separation Clinic, will host a major two day conference in London in August 2018. The conference, which will also be live streamed, will be held at the Royal Society of Medicine in London, and is particularly relevant for legal and mental health professionals. It will provide a unique learning opportunity, offering access to the most up to date research in the field and a chance to hear key experts from around the world speaking about their work.