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Moving Upstream Parental Alienation Conference - London 2018

This landmark conference, co-hosted by the European Association of Parental Alienation Practitioners and the Family Separation Clinic, brings together world leading experts in the field of parental alienation to consider the legal and mental health interlock necessary to promote successful resolution in these complex cases.

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Addressing the problem of parental alienation

Whilst parental alienation is a phenomenon that is much more widely recognised than it once was, it remains a controversial subject. However, what is incontrovertible is that, for some children, the dynamics around the separation of their parents is so disturbing that they respond by aligning with one and completely rejecting the other. This is not only a bewildering and frightening experience for a rejected parent, it can cause significant and lasting harm to the child.

Whilst a child’s vehement rejection of a parent may appear to be fixed and rooted in something that the rejected parent has done it is, in fact, a coping mechanism that the child unconsciously employs in order to protect themselves from the psychological dissonance that they experience as they try to make sense of the post separation world. Children who find the psychological pressures too great, as their family fractures and reorganises, can find it impossible to maintain the warm, enduring bonds of attachment and connectedness to each of their parents. This causes them to split off half of who they are and leaves them unable to maintain a balanced experience of the world around them.

For a child to reject a relationship with a loved and loving parent is the most unnatural thing for them to do and yet, for too many families, this is a reality that accompanies divorce or separation. Left untreated, children affected by alienation face a lifetime of guilt, shame, and an inability to form stable, healthy relationships. However, children who are helped to restore balance and perspective can emerge from an alienation reaction very quickly and, with support, become happy and healthy once again. This conference will explore the phenomenon of parental alienation and consider the legal and mental health interlock necessary to promote successful resolution in these complex cases.

Day one of the conference will focus on the critical importance of court oversight in cases where alienation is suspected and the necessity of creating a strong legal framework to bring about dynamic change for children affected by parental alienation.

'Alienation cases need to be understood and treated differently than most other types of family disputes. Delaying intervention for many months after the child has become alienated to allow for voluntary counseling, mediation, or a custody evaluation is likely to make court-ordered response more difficult or impossible.'

Fidler, B. J., Bala, N. & Saini, M. A. (2013) Children who resist postseparation parental contact: A differential approach for legal and mental health professionals. New York: Oxford University Press.

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Meet our Day One speakers

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Day two of the conference will explore the clinical presentation of alienated children, the parental behaviours that create alienation reactions in children, and the kinds of therapeutic interventions that, when coupled with strong court management, can restore children to healthy psychological functioning.

Bowlby observed a pattern of insecure attachment he termed compulsive self-reliance, in which a 'parentified' child assumes care-giving responsibilities toward the parent. Bowlby hypothesized that, because of their insecurity about the emotional availability of others, some parents turn to their children to meet their own emotional needs, placing developmentally inappropriate demands on young children to provide their parents with nurturance and comforting. Although the parent may be ostensibly protective and solicitous, parentification has negative implications for child development in that the parents’ emotional needs are being met at the expense of the child’s.

Kerig, P. K. (2005). Implications of parent-child boundary dissolution for developmental psychopathology: Who is the parent and who is the child? New York: Haworth Press.

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Meet our Day Two speakers

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Ferenczi (1933) found evidence that children who are terrified by adults who are out of control will 'subordinate themselves like automata to the will of the aggressor to divine each one of his desires and to gratify these; completely oblivious of themselves they identify themselves with the aggressor.... The weak and undeveloped personality reacts to sudden unpleasure not by defence, but by anxiety-ridden identification and by introjection of the menacing person or aggressor'

Frankel, J. (2002). Exploring Ferenczi's Concept of Identification with the Aggressor: Its Role in Trauma, Everyday Life, and the Therapeutic Relationship. Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 12:101-139

Moving upstream: Addressing the problem of parental alienation in Europe

London 30 & 31 August 2018

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Click the link, below, to find out more and book your place at this landmark conference

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