In October of 2014, ten of the leading parental alienation experts met in Long Beach, California for a two-day meeting sponsored by The International Support Network for Alienated Children and Families (ISNAF). The purpose of the meeting was to identify areas of consensus in the field and to identify key future directions in research, clinical science, treatment, and professional development. It was a thrilling (and exhausting) two days!
One of the primary outcomes, from my perspective, was the importance of opportunities for professionals who usually work in isolation to meet and share ideas with others in the same field. This is especially so for professionals working on parental alienation issues because there has been some backlash against those of us who believe that parental alienation exists. We have – at times – been accused of not caring about children, of abetting child abusers, of being pedophiles or supporters of pedophiles. We also have – at times – been accused of promoting junk science and on being on the fringe of our professional communities.
None of this is true, of course. It is more true that the accusers are on the fringe. For example, at a 2010 meeting of the Association of Family Court Conciliators (AFCC), which is the largest membership organization dealing with families involved in family court, 98% of the attendees at a plenary session who completed a survey reported that they “much” or “very much” agreed that one parent could turn a child against the other parent even though that other parent did nothing to warrant the child’s rejection. Thus, there is overwhelming consensus in the field that parental alienation exists and represents a very real problem.
The Importance of Professional Support
Another reason that collegiality is so important in this field is that working with alienated children and families is incredibly hard work and can trigger a range of strong emotions in the professionals including grief and vicarious trauma. We need to come together to know that others share our grief for these families and frustration over the many real life obstacles they face in having their voices heard.
In addition, coming together allowed us to gather confidence in the many areas of consensus that we could identify including how counter-intuitive these cases can be for legal and mental health professionals. I was proud to be a part of the first such meeting and look forward to joining forces with my colleagues again in the – hopefully – near future. Hats off to ISNAF for supporting this effort (and their swag was nice too!).