I am a psychotherapist and partner at Family Separation Clinic a service that specialises in cases of family separation where children are, or are at risk of, rejecting a relationship with one of their parents.
The Clinic accepts court referrals for assessment and treatment where alienation is believed to be present. Cases are assessed using a differentiation framework. In cases where alienation is identified, combined treatment routes are employed to free children from the splitting defence that underpins the dynamic.
The Clinic also delivers psychotherapy and therapeutic coaching to parents and provides training and consultancy services to professionals including psychologists, psychiatrists, psychotherapists and social workers.
The Family Separation Clinic is based in London, UK, but delivers services to clients around the world.
In its work with alienated children, the Family Separation Clinic adheres to the following principles:
Conceptualisation of alienation
We conceptualise alienation in children, first and foremost, as an alienation from the self as a consequence of defensive splitting in the child.
Primacy of the child
Whilst we seek to re-establish the psychological health of the whole family, the primary focus of all clinical work is the psychological health of the child.
We never regard the child as an object of a parental dispute but always as a subject of their own lived experience and it is the child’s lived experience that is the focus of all work.
The primary aim of all clinical work is the resolution of the splitting defence in the child.
Alienation is a relational problem
We do not regard alienation to be a problem in the child but recognise it as an induced splitting defence in response to the inter and intra-psychological pressures experienced by the child in its attempt to maintain attachment unity after family separation.
Whilst acknowledging the common clinical markers of alienation in children, we do not utilise or support quasi-diagnostic approaches such as ‘eight signs’ and ‘the five factor model’.
Restoration of integration
Any intervention that restores the child’s relationship with the previously rejected parent but does not honour and attend to the child’s attachment relationship to the previously favoured parent may be considered to be a failed intervention.
Whilst a child may need to be protected from the harmful behaviours of a parent, a successful intervention allows and supports a child to retain a positive relationship with their internalised object relationship to that parent.
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