10 Tips (cont'd)

6.  Involve all family members in treatment, not only individuals

If abuse and violence have been ruled out, intervention for mild and moderate cases usually needs to include both parents and all children. While more than one therapist may be necessary, individual therapy for the child alone is unlikely to resolve the parent -child contact problem, and may well exacerbate the problem.

7.  Maintain open communication between all professionals to avoid professional alignments

Many professionals (e.g., therapists, child protection workers, lawyers, teachers, physicians, etc.) are typically involved in cases involving high conflict or alienation. Mirroring the dynamics in the family, alignments amongst these various, well-intentioned professionals are common. To minimize this risk and to better assist the family, the order or treatment contract must indicate that there is no confidentiality and the treating professionals are permitted to exchange information with each other and the courts. Sometimes, a parenting coordinator or case manager is necessary to facilitate this process.

8.  Avoid dual roles

Often, mental health professionals are asked by the court or lawyers to make recommendations about a parenting plan that will promote the best interest of the child. Those who have been involved in providing therapy to a parent or child may be called as witnesses, but because of their therapeutic allegiances, they should not perform a custody or visitation evaluation, or express global views about the child’s best interest. Once it has been determined by a court or agreed by the parents that it is indeed in the child’s best interest to have contact with the rejected parent, irrespective of the cause of the problem, the therapist’s role is to implement a previously agreed to or ordered schedule. Putting the therapist in the role of offering therapeutic support and then offering opinions as to the child’s best interest compromises their role and effectiveness. An order or consent order for therapy accompanied by a treatment contract is required. (See the AFCC Guidelines for Court- Involved Therapy.)

9.  Interdisciplinary training and collaboration are best

Specialized training and ongoing continuing education in high-conflict, alienation and intimate partner violence is imperative. Cross-disciplinary training will assist professional collaboration and recognition of the unique roles and responsibilities of each professional, thereby promoting an open-mind to different perspectives. Effective multi-disciplinary collaboration can prevent professional alignments and splitting.

10.  More research and further development of interventions are needed

While there has been a significant increase in knowledge, there is clearly a need for more empirical studies to explore the etiology, prognosis and factors that contribute to strained parent -child relationships after separation. With the growing number of options for intervening in alienation cases, much more attention is needed to develop efficacy and effectiveness-based evaluation to determine what works, for whom, and in which circumstances. A greater emphasis on evidence-based approaches would provide for better individualized decisions by integrating empirical evidence with practice wisdom and the unique contextualized factors of each case.