There are a number of ways of attempting to reverse the process of alienation.
Firstly it is to appeal to the child’s intelligence or rational thinking.
This could be difficult for the reasons already quoted. Such children are often so brain-washed that there rational thinking is totally at odds with reality.
Encouraging a child to confront the alienator
This is difficult to achieve due to the likelihood of the child identifying with the ‘programmer’ (alienator) and therefore fearing what the ‘programmer’ will do if the child is friendly towards the alienated parent.
Investigating specifics of pejorative remarks made by the alienated parent
One must be cautious about the remarks made by the child about the alienated parent. Such remarks made as ‘father is nasty, evil, stupid, abuses me etc. etc.’. This will be illustrated in the last section
Making the child realise father loves him/her
This can only be done eventually when father/mother and child are together. This is sometimes difficult to achieve especially when through the courts or some other source access to the child is barred to the Expert Witness and to seeing the child and the alienated parent together.
To break down absurd or frivolous criticisms towards the alienated parent.
It is vital to spend as much time as possible initially listening to the child’s complaints about the alienated parent before “hammering home” the absurdities, unfairness and cruelty the child is expressing. This includes phrases like, “Father is always bribing me to be with him”. This is an example of a ‘borrowed scenario’ since mother could well have used this term to describe the alienated parent who gives the child presents or money. If that parent did not give the child presents or money the borrowed scenario from the mother could well be “He is such a mean man…..never gives me anything”.
It is important to explain to the child how frivolous, absurd statements, and borrowed scenarios come about and how it must be “hammered home” as originating not with the child, but with the alienator. This will not always be accepted by the child as the child thinks he is thinking “independently” of the alienator.
The alienated child lacks ambivalence towards the alienating parent or the alienated parent. The alienating parent is ‘all good’ while the other is ‘all evil’. There is not one good thing about the non-custodial parent and not one bad thing about the ‘programming parent’ in the child’s mind.
The term “independent thinking phenomenon” coined by Gardner is also of vital importance. Children must be shown how they have been alienated in thought and behaviour against the targeted parent by the programmer. Such children then consider such thoughts and behaviours as originating in their own thinking rather than originating from the alienator. They fail to understand that because of the alienator such ideas are in their minds. Children who are directly or individually being programmed, cannot admit this. Firstly they do not want to blame the programmer to whom they appear to be “devoted”. They will claim the alienating thinking and behaviour is based on their own independent thinking rather than emanating from the alienated parent. This is a delusion and hence difficult to nullify strictly by rational methods. This is why in the following section emotional approaches will be used in combination with rational methods.
4. How can rational emotive responses and methods be used to combat parental alienation (A case illustration)
The present author has found it useful in a number of cases to combine vigorous and dramatic emotional responses with rational procedures. This has at least produced a breakthrough when the child who has had little or no contact with an alienated parent will, at least during the discourse within the therapeutic setting, re-enact a warmer relationship with the alienated parent. Unfortunately, very often the child will return to the custodial parent who will re-use any and all programming methods to reverse this tendency. It does however, indicate how even brief therapeutic approaches of 6-10 sessions can, for a time at least, change the child’s thinking, until the child returns to the programming and custodial parent. The child should be seen in combination with the alienated parent whenever possible. It may be the very first time for a considerable period that both have been in the same room. The therapist at first sits between the two and later when some contact occurs, such as eye contact, the therapist will sit opposite the two. Still later, when some progress has been made via interaction verbally and otherwise between the child and the alienated parent, the psychologist briefly leaves the room and gradually extends the periods of absence. It will be noted that the psychologist becomes from time to time emotional to bring the child into reality thinking. The language tends to be ‘down to earth’, firm, rigorous and meaningful. The main objective is to make an impact on the brain-washed child, however difficult this may be.
5. Case illustration
This will be a summary of a number of sessions carried out with a child and his/her father. When collected the child very frequently clutched the alienator tightly. The child eventually went with the psychologist. Initially, the child entered the room hesitantly, fearing to leave the alienator. The father was waiting in the room while the child was being brought in by the psychologist to be with the father for the first time. The child on the whole tended to avert her eyes so that no contact could be established. The father in the meantime looked at the child somewhat despondently but greeted the child in a friendly and caring manner. Frequently the father would remind the child of happy times together. This was reinforced by pictures or videos which had been brought along by the alienated parent to demonstrate how actually the alienated child behaved in the past when she was with her father. The dialogue went as follows:
Psychologist: “This is the first time that you and your father have been together for some time hasn’t it?”
Child: Does not answer
Psychologist: “I would like you to speak to me even if you don’t at the moment speak to your father. This is the first time you have been in the same room with your father for some considerable time isn’t it?”
Child: “It’s not because I want to. I’m being made to do it.”
Psychologist: (speaking to the father) “Can you remind (child’s name) of some of the happier times you were together by showing her some pictures of the past, or maybe some of the letters that she wrote to you before all this occurred.”
Father then showed the child some pictures, and videos. The child averted her eyes in order not to look at these reminders of the past and happy times.
Psychologist: “I would like you to look at those pictures even if you don’t look at your father so that you can see how things were in the past and why things have gone wrong in the meantime and this we will discuss later.”
The child then turned her eyes to look at the pictures without looking at the father.
Child: “I can’t remember these pictures being taken. I was probably only pretending to be happy when I was with my father. I have never really been happy with him at all.”
Psychologist: “Well these pictures don’t indicate this at all. You seem to be smiling and cuddling your dad and generally showing signs of happiness. Can all this be pretence?”
Child: “Yes. I was only pretending. The only person I want to be with and love is my mother. She only needs me and I only need her. I don’t need a father.”
Psychologist: “Don’t you think your father loves you and deserves for you to be nice to him when he always tries to be nice to you. I believe be tries to telephone you regularly but you don’t want to speak to him and hang up on him. Is that right?”
Child: “Yes. I don’t want to speak to him. I don’t want anything to do with him any more.”
Psychologist: “Why is that? What are the reasons you have? I want specific answers why you don’t want any contact with your father. I don’t want general remarks like ‘I don’t like him’ or ‘He is horrible to me’. I want to know exactly what he does wrong in your eyes to make you wish to reject a loving father who cares for you.”
Child: “I can’t think of anything now but he always tries to make me go to places I don’t want to go to and he sometimes asks me to come into the bed with him. I don’t like that.”
Psychologist: “And what else?”
Child: “He shows me off to other people and tells them how clever I am and I hate that. Also he always tells me what to do and makes me eat things I don’t want to eat. He makes me go on holiday with him and do things I don’t like doing. He makes me sleep on a dirty bed which he has in his house.”
Psychologist: “Is there anything else?”
Child: “There are many other things I don’t like. I don’t even like being in the same room and talking to him.”
Psychologist: “Again I want you to be civil and nice to your father. OK? He is one of the few people in this world who will give anything to help you in any way he can, and I don’t think it’s fair that you should treat him in this way. Do you?”
Child: Silent, says nothing at first. Then says: “You don’t have to be with him like I have to be with him. You don’t know what he is really like.”
Psychologist: “No I don’t really know. I am not always with him as you were in the past. There must be something good about your father that you enjoyed doing with him.”
Child: Thinking, then says, “Nothing”.
Psychologist: “There must be something that you remember that was good about him.”
Child: Thinking, then says, “He used to make some nice meals for me when I was with him. Nothing else. Anyway he could probably hit me from time to time if I was with him.”
Psychologist: “Has he ever hit you?”
Child: Answers, “No”.
Psychologist: “Has he ever hit you?”
Child: Answers, “No”.
Psychologist: “What makes you think he is going to hit you then ?”
Child: “He could hit me. He’s the sort of person who would do that sort of thing.”
Psychologist: “What makes you say that?”
Child: “Look at him, he is big and strong and he could hurt me.”
Psychologist: “But has he ever done so?”
Child: Reluctantly says “No”.
Psychologist: “If all these things you dislike about him and how he is with you were changed would you want to be with your dad after that?”
Child: “They could never be changed, and anyway even if they were changed I wouldn’t want to be with him.”
Psychologist: “So there is no sense in changing anything is there?”
Child: “That’s right. I just don’t want to be with him.”
It is clear from this interchange that there has been no breakthrough of any kind while the father has been in the room demonstrating pictures and videos from time to time to show how the past had been and how happy the child had been in the father’s company. It is now felt that a more emotional and direct approach is required. This approach could well be criticised by those who believe in pure therapeutic approaches of an orthodox nature. The current psychologist however, has found that these methods are totally ineffective with an alienated child who is obdurate about wishing any contact with a former affectionate, caring and loving parent. The psychologist from time to time therefore uses fairly emotional and direct expressions, and also the tone of his voice is louder to be emphatic to the child. Essentially it is, a way of “shocking” the child to reality.
Psychologist: “Now I am going to say something that has been on my mind for some time having read everything you’ve said about your father, and having talked to your father for a long period of time to find out how he feels about you. I think you have treated him abominably. I think you have been a horrible little girl. You have been too powerful for your own good. What right have you got to reject a father who loves you and cares for you and wants to do everything for you? You should be ashamed of yourself. Don’t you feel guilty at all about the way you have treated him all this time by not even looking at him, by not talking to him, by hanging up on him on the telephone? What has he really done that is so terrible for you to behave in this way. I think you have virtually thrown your father into the rubbish pile. If that is what you want to do then so be it. I think your father is very, very caring or he would not persist in wanting to be with you and wanting to have contact with you, and wanting to show his love for you. I’ll tell you one thing, many fathers would have given up and not bothered any more, and not bothered even contacting you or wishing you a happy birthday or a good Christmas, or providing for you financially. Many fathers would have given up and just said to themselves that this was the end and I am not having any more to do with this child.”
At this point very frequently the child will develop thinking. The emotional tone of the therapist or psychologist will in may cases have ‘hit home.’ Sometimes one has to go on in this vein using very emotional expressions and very ‘down to earth’ expressions defending the father and drawing attention to the good times that the child has had with the father which have been substantiated by the pictures and other information provided by the father. The important thing is not to accept what the child says and how the child behaves since it is based on considerable programming or brainwashing. It is vital to continue to try to break through that barrier and very frequently one does break through.
Eventually in the case quoted above the child did look at the father having seen the pictures and seen what an impact this had on the father. It was then the chance of the father to talk to the child in a caring, loving manner and remind the child of the good times they had together in the past.
It is at this point that the psychologist would best leave the room for a short period to provide an opportunity for interaction between the two parties. It is surprising, very often, when the psychologist returns after the first or second time being away from the two how much closer the chairs are between the two parties and how their eye contact has improved and how they are now speaking to one another. Sometimes the child will even hold the parent’s hand and even at a later stage give that alienated parent a cuddle (often for the first time in years) or a sign of physical warmth. Sometimes it takes a number of sessions of this kind before this can be achieved. Powerful emotional language is vital in order to break through the barrier that has occurred due to the alienation process. The child then begins to think again for him/herself rather than repeating the phrases and thoughts of the alienator.
It must also be said that the child feels safe interacting with the alienated parent as mother is not present. Were mother in the same room the child could be very reluctant to allow a breakthrough of this kind. The child would be worrying about the views of the alienator. The child would be concerned with the disapproval of the alienating party if the child is too friendly to the alienated party. It will take a considerable effort to redeem the damage that has been done to the child over a period of months or years in which the programmer (alienator) has ‘hammered home’ their own prejudices and the child has identified with these prejudices.
Once the psychologist has completed the process of mediation there is a need for a report to go to the Court. The Court will either accept or fail to accept the views of the Expert Witness. In the extreme it will ignore all the views by psychologist and retain the situation as it was before with the child living with the custodial, programming parent. It is hoped more and more courts in future will in extreme and prolonged cases of programming consider the possibility of a change of custody, at least for a period of time, so that the alienated parent can have the opportunity of healing the wounds of the past. Only time will tell what occurs in the future. – In my own case nothing !!! There are too many brainwashed friends and family from the alienators side – all I can do is to help others prevent what happened to me happening to them.
The alienator will go to any lengths to cover their tracks.