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.
The Dynamic-Maturational Model of Attachment and Adaptation is fast becoming the gold standard for family court assessments worldwide.
Dr Craig Childress, a Clinical Psychologist in the US has also developed a protocol which includes diagnostic criteria to help assess for attachment-related pathology surrounding family breakdown. The criteria can be used to help identify the existence of problematic parenting and suggests a treatment plan.
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.
There are currently 3 providers in the US that that are successfully reuniting children with their rejected parents within a matter of days.
Due to the loyalty bind manipulated children find themselves in, these programmes usually require a mandated separation period so the child is not exposed to further coercive and controlling behaviours to give the intervention the best chance of success.
Turning Points for Families – New York
Linda Gottlieb is a Licenced Clinical Social Worker, a Licenced Marriage and Family Therapist and was formerly a child who had an emotional cutoff from one of her parents. She describes the programme as a therapeutic vacation. The initial intervention which is based on Family Systems therapy takes 4 days. A 90-day separation period is required from the coercive and controlling parent with zero contact. At the end of the 90 days contact is reinstated and monitored. The 90 days can be extended if damaging behaviours persist. The 90 days can also be reduced if the parent shows support for the reunification, this has not yet ever happened. The programme is not a residential one, participants must find their own accommodation.
The programme requires the alienating parent to write a letter of support for the child to build a relationship with the rejected parent and state why it is important for them to be in their life. They are also asked to list the rejected parent’s good qualities. The letter must be approved by the programme, it is very rare that an alienating parent can fulfil this task in the spirit that was intended and often they are asked to re-write the letter.
- Day 1 – Memorabilia intervention. The child is reintroduced to their rejected parent and, where possible, extended family members. The first morning is spent talking. The rejected parent is asked to bring anything that evokes memories of good times or connection with the child prior to the alienation e.g. photos, videos, cards, drawings, favourite toys, notes from the child etc. The parent and the child talk about these memories as a way of breaking the ice and reconnecting. No negative discussion is allowed on the first day, the child is given the opportunity to offload on other days. In the afternoon they do an activity the child is interested in e.g. rock climbing, trampolining, sowing etc. This gives the rejected parent the opportunity to show interest in what the child likes to do, restart their parenting role and create new experiences they have enjoyed together.
- Day 2 – Welcome back Pluto. The child and rejected parent are show a DVD called “Welcome Back Pluto” which was produced by Dr Richard Warshak and Dr Mark Ortis. The DVD educates them in what “parental alienation” is, the impacts to the child and it gives both parents and children useful tips.
- Day 3 – Education on the ease of implanting false memories. The child is shown interactive videos that demonstrate how easy it is to implant false memories. They present research on the subject and show videos made by previously alienated children and parents.
- Day 4 – Summation and next steps. The therapist recaps what has happened over the 4 days and talks through what will be in place when the child leaves the programme to live with their reconnected parent. They will talk through the steps for reintroducing contact with the alienating parent at the end of the 90 days and how this will be monitored. They are given tips on how to deal with any further alienating behaviour. The child and reconnected parent go through therapy with a local therapist once a week to continue to reinforce their relationship and work through any difficulties.
The sessions are videotaped and activities photographed in order to provide evidence to the court and the alienating parent. It has a 95-100% success rate.
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.
Family Bridges – International, coming to the UK soon
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.