ALIENATION WATCH – THE LESSER SPOTTED ALIENATION AWARE PROFESSIONAL

Posted on 14/11/2014 by karenwoodall

This week I have been confronted with the dearth of alienation awareness and expertise in the UK field of family services. This is not a surprise to me but what has been surprising if not alarming is the emergence of a new type of professional, the lesser spotted professional if you like (it is coming up to the weekend, humour me).

This lesser spotted professional is someone who for the sake of a few hours training could be the alienation aware professional who knows what to do and how to do it. That this person remains ignorant, not only of what they don’t know but what they do know, is both astounding and terrifying to me in equal measure. This week, on wading through yet another case file, I became aware that the case, which has been bouncing back and forth twixt professionals in public and private law, was actually beautifully described in a section 7 report some SIX YEARS ago. The problem is that the social worker, who wrote so eloquently about the child’s campaign of dislike and hatred, the fused indignation of the child and parent, the furious and unrelenting denigration of the rejected parent, had not the first idea of what she was looking at. And so, concluded, in a pitiful and damning ending to her sixty page description of a severe case of alienation that, the child is the subject of a contact dispute in which both parents are to blame and the child should be left with the preferred parent with no contact now or in the future to the parent rejected by the child. Grim reading. Parentectomy due to lack of awareness of the professional charged with analysis. Little wonder parents in the UK go mad, get bad or simply end their lives because of the intolerable ineptitude of the people charged with safeguarding our children.

The question for me is why do our family services know so little about Parental Alienation and, when they do know something about it, (which clearly the author of this report does, she described it so perfectly) why do they not want to find out more about it. Why, for example, did this social worker, on hearing a child say ‘I wish he would just die’ and ‘I would kill him if I could’ not consider that to be concerning? Why, when a child says that her father should be ‘shot and thrown into the river’ does a social worker not decide that this requires further examination? Why do social workers and other family workers not realise, when they see a child who is utterly determined to uphold the aligned parent’s perspective – to the point of delusion – go on to conclude that this is just a contact dispute. What sort of mind block prevents professionals in family services from understanding the reality for alienated children? Politics? Discriminatory practice? Or simple ‘he said/she said’ fatigue? Whatever it is it is causing our children to become stuck in the most appalling circumstances within the court process, subjected over and over again to professionals who are well meaning but unskilled in the field and to a flimsy court management process which aids and abets institutionalised abuse of children which frankly appalls me.

Parental Alienation is NOT a simple contact dispute, it is, in severe cases, child abuse, nothing more nothing less. In less severe cases, hybrids perhaps or those which are created by naive alienators, it is all too easy for it to trip into child abuse and should always be approached as a case where children are at risk.

And lest you think this is just an all out attack on family support services, let me tell you that I have worked in cases where social workers and CAFCASS officers have approached the problem as a child protection issue. Where those people have really ‘got it’ from the outset and we have worked together to tackle the problem immediately and systemically, bringing change for child rapidly and effectively. Those people are like gold dust (you know who you are) and I salute each and every one of them for there are, in this country, some brave and fearless people who make a massive difference. If only there were more.

The reason there are not more of these people is perhaps answered in the arguments which are raging between parents and state services up and down this land of ours. From the islands to the highlands from the borders to the metropolis, parents are campaigning to have Parental Alienation recognized by the people who serve our families. Pleas which are falling on deaf ears mostly and which receive dismissals and derisory commentary from those who profess to be in the know and who are most certainly in power. How and why is alienation ignored is the question being asked, when is the question I am asking, when will family services recognize the problem of children who are stuck with an angry, vengeful and determinedly alienating parent is not just a contact dispute but a case of child abuse which must be stopped.

That question is one which rattles around my brain as I read through the teeth grindingly painful accounts of social work interactions with families where alienation is alive and kicking. When social workers describe a child who has been ‘spousified’ and who is being used as a confidant and a replacement partner but see nothing to be concerned about in that. When social workers listen to children parroting angry words and untruths about a parent they think deserves to be kicked out forever and hear nothing wrong in that. And when social workers speak only of contact disputes instead of child abuse in the face of those things , the answer to the question appears to be never.

The problem in my view lies in the institutionalised acceptance of disposable parenthood and the notion that family separation is normal and simply something that causes a bit of an upheaval for a while but everyone gets over it eventually. Far from getting over it however, there is a significant cohort of people for whom getting over is not possible and for whom an alternative reality is revenge, cold blooded or otherwise or a definite and distinct unhingement from normal behaviors. And the truth is that everyone goes a little bit mad when they separate. It is after all a most unpleasant and terrifying experience. What everyone doesn’t do however, is hook their children up to their revenge making machine and drop them hook line and sinker into the shittiest parts of adult rage. Most reasonably healthy adults know that this stuff is not for their children. Most people, however mad they go, manage not to take their children with them.

But a significant number of people do and this is where being able to understand this group and differentiate them from the rest of the general family separation cohort is vital for family services. In this group are people with personality disorders, people with rage problems and people with enmeshment and other issues that cause an inability to tell the difference between their own feelings and those of their children. It would seem like basic social work practice to me to be able to recognize those people but judging by the reactions of social workers when confronted with them and by their behaviours, it is easier to not see the reality than see it, name it and deal with it.

And perhaps that last sentence says it all because dealing with it appears to be beyond the capability not only of those who support the family but those who assess the family and those who make judgements in family courts. Clearly recognizing problems is one thing but doing something about it is quite another, perhaps it is this which leads social workers and other family professionals to act like the three wise monkeys when they are confronted with parental alienation, if they see it and hear it but manage not to speak of it, will anyone notice or even really care (apart from the rejected parent who can so easily be picked off with the accusation that they are simply an aggrieved parent who did not get what they wanted in court).

Which leaves us with a generation of children and their families who have been torn apart by parental alienation, who have turned to the courts for assistance and found none and for whom the future looks very bleak indeed.

And all for the sake of a few hours training, a willingness to act and a family court system with enough guts to protect children who are being abused.

The only condition required for evil to flourish is that good people do nothing.

And too many good people, lesser spotted or otherwise are doing nothing at all.

(All readers should note that I am bound by the code of ethics for Experts in the Family Courts as well as by the code of ethics for counselling and psychotherapy. As such each and every case study or reference that I make to my work is heavily disguised to ensure that I do not reveal any of the details of cases I am working on past and present or that any family member with whom I work or professional with whom I am working, could recognize themselves or each other on this blog. As such, my writing refers to real life work but the cases are a patchwork of different elements of cases that I may have or may be working on. I take my responsibilities seriously in the Family Courts, however much I may criticize them and I also take my work as therapist equally seriously. At all times I balance the act of writing and speaking out with my absolute commitment to the rights of families for a fair, just and confidential service. I write because I consider it my duty to raise awareness of alienation and the way in which it is not recognized by family services. Where I see best practice I acknowledge it as I have in this article. I am working for better outcomes for alienated children and their families at all times).

Find more about parental alienation work from Karen’s view at https://karenwoodall.wordpress.com/author/karenwoodall/

Photo credit: quicksandala from morguefile.com

One Young Woman’s Journey Toward Change

There was a time in my life when I was feeling stuck and needed something new. I hated my job, I felt unfulfilled and completely unmotivated to do anything. Then I went to a fundraiser and met a yoga teacher who was promoting her studio and her energy and happiness was palpable! Now let me clarify, at this time I tolerated working out and I had tried yoga before and I sincerely disliked it! I thought for sure I would never try this again. However without thinking too much, I jumped in a class and tried it. My life transformed and I have found myself yet again.

Sometimes we need some transformation in our lives, we need to change to grow and feel again. When life feels the same everyday with no hope of growth, it can feel awful and terrifying! There were three things that this practise of yoga offered me that helped me in my transformation: physical activity, self-awareness and community. We know from several studies that physical activity (and yes this is a very physical practise of yoga!) can prevent physical diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, hypertension, obesity and osteoporosis (Warburton, Nichol & Bredin, 2006). However physical exercise and yoga in particular can also help with mental health issues related to self-esteem, mental fatigue, feelings of depression and anxiety (Taspinari, Bas Aslan, Agbuga and Taspinar, 2014). Not only was I now working out to improve my physical and mental health, but now because it was an exercise I connected with and enjoyed, it really helped me in a more meaningful way.

Opportunities for self-awareness are also built into this practise and in this studio. There are so many opportunities to learn about yourself and what you want! Besides the amazing self-awareness workshops available, the practise itself is meditative and helps you look at how you think, behave and feel in your life. With the yoga teachers’ kind words, accepting nature and words of wisdom they transform your practise from a work out to a chance for transformation.

And let’s talk about those people some more! The community of people within this studio are loving, funny, supportive, accepting and were a huge part of my ability to have the courage to transform my life. I took me a year but I was able to find my purpose again and find the courage and strength within me to transform my life. I had settled for a job that I was not happy in, felt no fulfillment in and was not in line with what I always wanted to do with my life. I have always wanted to counsel and support other people and with the support of this practise, studio and family I quit my full time job, went back to school and now have plans for my future that I’m excited about!

So in what areas of your life are you feeling stuck, lost or hopeless? How is this impacting your mental health, physical health, relationships and feelings about your future? What action will you take to take back your life and transform it? Yoga is just one method of transformation. It has worked for me and many others. The great part is that there are many other methods and journeys to transformation and growth.

There are so many things that can help people cope and regain a sense of themselves again – reading helpful books, counseling, reconnecting with friends and family, meditation or joining community groups. However, as I have always envisioned being a counselor and am now furthering my education to become a registered psychotherapist, I really believe and value the immense support and growth a therapist can help people find. A person’s struggles and journeys do not need to be handled alone. Talking with an empathetic, supportive and non-judgemental counsellor can truly change a person’s life and provide a means to transformation.

I encourage you to find your method of transformation today.  Contact us today!

 

Photo credit: Quicksandala from morguefile.com
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“Have a Snickers” as a decision maker?

There are often times when we make rash or quick decisions and when we look back on them we say, “Why did I do that?”or “Why did I eat that?”
Sometimes its because we’re bored, other times its because we are looking to fill a void or find a purpose. Life seems to be out of control sometimes and there is little we can do to influence world events but we can manage parts of our own life with a few tools.
There have been many times in my own life that I’d wished I had something to help me avoid my impulsive decisions that sometimes have had long lasting effects.

Often these regrets or poor choices can be avoided or managed better when we learn to  HALT. As we unpack the acronym HALT its easier to see how to effectively use this rather simple tool.

HALT stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired

Usually when we make poor choices or decisions its because of one of these four triggers. It seems simplistic but there is some real wisdom in this small word HALT. By taking the time to figure out the reason we’re about to do something, we can usually avoid poorer choices.

Not every situation can be remedied by these four triggers but they are a great place to start. Taking the time to stop and think about these things before acting is an expansion of the “Count to 10” model. Using an acronym like HALT helps us to take a few seconds and try to identify the triggers for our behaviours.

Sometimes the slogan “Have a Snickers” (and many other ads too) actually works to get us to act and, at times, act quickly without thinking. Food is a great motivator and a great reward sometimes.  The Snicker bar slogan appeals to the fact that energy and nutrients in our system need to be replenished so our brains function properly.

Simply asking ourselves to use HALT as a checklist is an excellent tool. Ask yourself “Am I hungry (yes/no), angry (yes/no), lonely (yes/no), tired (yes/no)?”

If ‘hungry’ maybe something to eat or a simple glass of water can do wonders, ‘angry’ maybe stepping away from the situation to get a fuller perspective, ‘lonely’ maybe call a friend or help a neighbour, ‘tired’ maybe go to bed earlier or have a rest/nap.

Rather than being reactive, using new tools and existing ones, we can become more proactive at handling the inevitable challenges of life.  Consider how you may adapt this strategy for other challenging areas in your life? Play around with this acronym a little? Or, you may use the STOP one… Stop, (breathe) Think, Observe then Proceed?

Adding HALT to our ’emotional toolbox’ can better prepare us for a world that is unpredictable everyday.

Now you have read this… it is in your “tool box” or “on your hard drive”  🙂

For more assistance contact one of our counsellors today!

 

submitted by EB

Photo credit: wallyir from morguefile.com

Coping After Breaking Up  –  What Can I Do?

One of the most difficult things to do when a relationship ends is to let go of the strong emotional ties that we may have for our ex-partners. It is hard not to think about what they are doing or thinking, how they are feeling, or whether they are okay or as miserable as we are. We have spent so much time making decisions that revolved around them adjusting that framework afterward takes time as well as intentional effort.

When is it time to stop investing our emotion into a dead relationship? Intentional effort is needed to identify when our thoughts hopelessly gravitate toward our ex-partners overshadowing the fact that most of the evidence points to ‘its over’. Easier said than done so how can we begin to heal and adjust?

Some strategies may include:

  • Allow yourself the right and time to grieve the loss as this is a normal process that is as essential to being human as breathing.
  • Creating and repeating uplifting / affirming statements about ourselves when we catch ourselves emotionally over-investing in.
  • Identify an emotional over-investment in our ‘dead’ relationship and do three push ups, sit ups, squats etc. (consider how fit we might become 🙂 .
  • Take three to five deep breaths (20 seconds each -> 5 inhale, 7 hold & 8 exhale) thinking of a positive during inhaling and a negative when exhaling (e.g. inhale calm… exhale upset)
  • Plan schedules heavily with activities to refrain from having “free-time” for a few weeks or even months
  • Increase self care activities (biking, bathing, reading, music etc.) catering to your personal likes and interests can be helpful distractions.

The biggest steps involve finding ways to intentionally redirect our emotional investments away from our ex-partners toward ourselves and others. Being loving to ourselves is so important even though this is difficult after a break-up. Positive  and caring thoughts and actions can prevent us from slipping into self-loathing, ‘stinkin thinkin’ and hyper-criticism which rapidly increases feelings of despair and hopelessness. Also, finding ways to do loving things for others (also called altruism), volunteering time to family, friends and even strangers is a great way to redirect emotional investment and soften the impact of grief and loss.

Making an investment in counseling is another form of self care. You can discover additional strategies for coping as well as new intrapersonal and interpersonal skills to help build healthy, exciting and enduring relationships. If you want to find out more contact one of our counsellors today!

 

Photo credit 1: clarita from morguefile.com
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Sorting Socks Too Difficult? It May Be Work Related?

Whether it is meeting a deadline, getting along with colleagues, dealing with a work crisis, managing a big deal, catching up on reports or supervising staff—work-related stress can become overwhelming.

Sometimes all we want to do is leave work at work, get out and forget about it. We want to reach our homes and provide our families with all of our energy to help around the house, whether with helping kids with their homework, preparing meals or any of the numerous other tasks around home. When we are overly stressed, time we want to spend with our families may feel like a burden, added things to do on a seemingly never-ending list of daunting duties.

Excessive stress can lead to the failure of our usually effective coping strategies and significantly impair daily functioning. Things like humour, relaxation, music and other coping methods no longer seem to work. We may then appear to be ‘trying’ to do all these tasks and functions with our families, yet not really meeting the mark and finding we feel adaquate in our role.

If we could step outside of our bodies for a moment and watch ourselves try to do it all, what would we look like?

Are we snappy when our kids ask for help? Do the simple requests from our spouses annoy us? Is sleep being disrupted by racing thoughts or tension? Would you see yourself struggling to get to sleep, waking at night or simply feeling unrested in the morning? Do you find it hard to sit down and enjoy a meal? Is it becoming more difficult to show family that we genuinely enjoy time with them?

When we are unable to effectively cope with work-related stress (or other stressors), it resides within us and enters our homes as we do. We may like to think we have a handle on things but our relationships with our families can tell us differently. Others may also become quick to anger, less open to hearing our concerns and feelings and may become more tired and drained. Unmanaged stress can be very draining on energy levels and, of course, get in the way of sleep, intimacy, eating and overall quality of life.

Often, when under too much stress, we can easily turn to less healthy coping strategies such as drinking, smoking, over or under eating and arguing and fighting in an attempt to resolve matters.

Seeking counseling for work-related concerns can help us sort through work challenges and create strategies to potentially resolve some issues and find new ways to cope with stress in a healthy and effective manner.

When we identify our difficulties at work, and home, and talk through them we can find solutions that lead to increased peace and contentment. We can also be more engaging with our loved ones. If you would like assistance  Contact us today!

 

Photo credit 1: clarita from morguefile.com
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Listen to His Opinion

Many will say, “we need to put the children first”; or “we have to put the children first” however, far too many people and couples are listening to this false, age-old, tired but not true adage to the demise of children’s mental, social, emotional development and overall health. To truly put children as a top priority is to build marriages and families with strong foundation of tried and true core values, beliefs and the behaviours that follow such a firm foundation. The foundations’ strength is to be clear in the actions and communication between family members.
Children don’t simply ‘pop out of thin air’. People meet, get to know each other, date or ‘court’ each other, meet each other’s family and then children come along… so, in fact, they come second.
Oh, don’t get all upset at this point. I do get it… they are so dependent, adorable and need so much, it really does seem like their needs should come first. But, think about it. Unhappy, unhealthy and stressed parents contribute heavily to unhappy, unhealthy and stressed children, thus, attending to the needs of both the individual and couple are central to doing what is best for the children. One may more accurately claim “family comes first”. The claim is only the first step though. Even when separated, parents are well advised to find a way to move past the hurt of romantic breakup and find strategies to develop and maintain a healthy co-parenting relationship.
Next we want to learn, read and get assistance form others to discover or uncover the secrets to building a strong, caring and loving marital relationship and family.

When you would like to get effective help with your specific relationship challenge(s)… contact us today.