There are solutions that can, very quickly and successfully restore a child’s relationship with a parent they have previously rejected, regardless of the child’s age. Unfortunately, there are few specialists who are qualified to support families where an emotional cutoff has occurred and such services are unaffordable for many families. Investment is required to bring affordable services to the UK.
Dr Craig Childress, a registered Clinical Psychologist in the US has developed an assessment protocol to help assess for attachment-related pathology surrounding family breakdown. The criteria can be used to help identify the existence of problematic parenting and provides a recommended treatment plan.
The Dynamic-Maturational Model of Attachment and Adaptation is also becoming the gold standard for family court assessments worldwide.
Traditional Family Therapy does not work with children who have rejected a parent. It is a waste of time, money and often reinforces the cutoff thus making the damage worse.
The following providers in the US are successfully reuniting children with their rejected parents within a matter of days.
High Road to Reunification Workshop – International
Dorcy Pruter was formerly a child who had an emotional cutoff from one of her parents and was formerly a rejected parent. She is a Co-parenting and Reunification Coach and CEO of the Conscious Co-parenting Institute. She developed the High Road to Reunification which she describes as an educational and skill building coaching program. The workshop has 4 phases:
- Family stabilisation. A 4-5 day educational and interactive coaching workshop conducted by a trained High Road to Reunification coach.
- Family maintenance. The family works with a local therapist to solidify the skills learned in the workshop. This phase is where the pathogenic parent is also taught the skills needed to reintegrate with children.
- Reintegration. The local professional will reintroduce the pathogenic parent in a supervised capacity in order to protect the child.
- The new family paradigm. This is the phase where the maintenance care professional facilitates the child’s ability to be in both parents’ home without the re-manifestation of the child’s symptoms.
The programme requires a protective separation from the alienating parent.
A network of coaches can facilitate the workshop in base locations but it can be held in the family’s own county for an additional fee.
Dorcy is working in collaboration with Dr Craig Childress.
Dr Richard Warshak is a champion of the Family Bridges programme. It is a 4 day workshop which takes place in a holiday setting or at the family home. Warshak describes it as an “innovative educational and experiential program that helps unreasonably alienated children and adolescents adjust to living with a parent they claim to hate or fear”.
The workshops are run by licensed practitioners and are available in a number of countries. The aim of the workshops is to:
- Help children adjust to court orders transferring residence to the rejected parent.
- Reconnect children with their rejected parent.
- Alleviate the child’s rejection and teaches them how to think critically and how to maintain balanced, realistic, and compassionate views of both parents.
- Help the child to develop skills to resist outside pressures that can lead them to act against their judgment.
- Teach parents how to sensitively manage their child’s behaviour.
- Teach the family the tools to communicate effectively and manage conflict.
The workshop begins with showing videos to educate the child followed by positive communication with the rejected parent. In the evening there is time for the child and rejected parent to do enjoyable activities e.g. shopping, going to the movies, hiking etc.
After the workshop, parent and child take a minimum 5-day holiday to cement their connection before they return home. When they get home they are supported by one or more local professionals who provide aftercare and support to the family as needed and feedback to the court.
A court order is not always required as long as the parent has the right to make decisions for the child. Separation with the alienating parent is not mandated but is less likely to lead to success. In a study of a sample of 23 children who participated in the workshop, 22 restored a positive relationship with the rejected parent by the end of the workshop. At follow-up, 18 of the 22 children maintained their connection; those who relapsed had premature contact with the alienating parent.
They do not accept cases in which the court orders a non-participating parent to pay the workshop leaders directly.