Parental Alienation is defined generally of children’s unjustified rejection of a parent in response to inter-parental conflict and loyalty issues.
There are many approaches to take and it is important to work with the courts to create a clear incentive for the alienating parent to participate in the effort.
No matter how the profession interacts with families affected by alienation, either by individual treatment, reunification therapy, support groups or in a school setting, we need to make proper assessments, guard against bias and when to involve the court system.
A range of options needs to be considered such as re unification programs for children and parents, clinical options for parents such as education and psycho-educational programs for children.
It is never too late to reunite and recover and, ideally the courts, the mental health community and the parents will work together to allow children to make and maintain the healthiest relationship possible with both parents before alienation takes hold in their hearts and minds.
Research has shown that alienated children who reach adulthood can enter psychotherapy for the first time as adults who come to therapy on their own. For many this is the first opportunity to receive mental health counselling and supportive assistance in taking a second look at their childhood. Often these adults enter into therapy for reasons they don’t know, however, are suffering poor interpersonal relationships, depression/anxiety, difficulty trusting others and low self-esteem while not being aware of alienation per se or its impact on their life. There are unique issues likely to arise over the course of treatment such as shame at having participated in the alienation, grieving for the ‘lost years’, deciding whether and how to confront the alienation parent and working through re unification with the targeted parent.
This is just a glimpse into the complex issue of alienation and credit must be given to the clinical guidebook “Working with Alienated Children and Families” edited by Amy J.L. Baker and S. Richard Sauber, published by Routledge 2013.