My blog posts have been somewhat quiet recently because I’ve been focused on writing a book regarding the Theory and Diagnosis of an Attachment-Based Model of “Parental Alienation,” and I had to prepare for my recent Master Series seminar through California Southern University regarding the Diagnosis and Treatment of Attachment-Based Parental Alienation.” I was also focused on a Court case in Hawaii that was operating under time pressures. This case was referred to me through Ms. Dorcy Pruter, a co-parenting and reunification coach at the Conscious Co-Parenting Institute (www.consciouscoparentinginstitute.com)
The Court case had a successful outcome for the targeted-rejected parent, and Ms. Pruter is now handling the mother-daughter reunification process.
I have been aware of Ms. Pruter’s work in this area for a while, but through our work together on this case I have had the opportunity to review Ms. Pruter’s reunification protocol and have also been able to engage her in extensive dialogue regarding her approach and an attachment-based model for the construct of “parental alienation.”
I would like to take this opportunity to provide Ms. Pruter with my unequivocal, full and complete support for her model of family reunification (“High Road to Family Reunification”). Based on my review of her reunification protocol, it is theoretically sound for addressing the issues surrounding an attachment-based model of “parental alienation.” I would anticipate that her reunification protocol will be highly effective in resolving the family issues surrounding an attachment-based model of “parental alienation.”
One of the primary issues regarding enacting Ms. Pruter’s reunification protocol is that it FIRST requires the child’s protective separation from the distorted parenting practices of the narcissistic/(borderline) allied (and supposedly “favored”) parent. This is, however, not a limitation of her protocol but instead represents an authentic treatment-related need of addressing the pathogenic parenting of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent that is inducing the very serious child psychopathology evidenced in attachment-based “parental alienation.”
In my private practice I will no longer treat cases of attachment-based “parental alienation” without first obtaining the child’s protective separation from the pathogenic parenting of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent because I have become convinced that to do so places the child at risk of psychological harm as a result of being turned into a “psychological battleground” between the efforts of therapy to restore the child’s normal-range, balanced and healthy psychological functioning and the unrelenting efforts of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent to maintain the child’s symptomatic rejection of a relationship with the normal-range and healthy targeted parent.
Turning the child into a psychological battleground between the goals of therapy to restore healthy child development and the pathogenic goals of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent to maintain the child’s symptomatic state runs the considerable risk of harming the child-client’s emotional and psychological development. So unless the necessary treatment-related conditions exist to allow effective therapy to restore the child’s healthy functioning without risking psychological harm to the child in the process, then I will decline treatment.
In my professional view, based on my professional experience and expertise in this area, professionally responsible and competent treatment of an attachment-based model of “parental alienation” (i.e., the presence in the child’s symptom display of the three Diagnostic Indicators of attachment-based “parental alienation”) REQUIRES that the child FIRST be protectively separated from the pathogenic parenting of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent during the active phase of the child’s treatment and recovery.
Once the child’s healthy and normal-range functioning has been restored and the child’s healthy and normal-range relationship with the formerly targeted-rejected parent has been recovered, then the pathogenic parenting of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent can be reintroduced under appropriate therapeutic monitoring of the child’s symptoms that ensures that the child’s symptoms do not return upon the reintroduction of the pathogenic parenting of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent (there are treatment-related steps that can be taken to reduce this risk).
In first requiring the child’s protective separation from the pathogenic parenting of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent, Ms. Pruter’s protocol (the “High Road to Family Reunification”) demonstrates its accurate understanding for the family dynamics involved.
Furthermore, Ms. Pruter’s reunification protocol is solution-focused and avoids criticism of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent, thereby respecting the child’s love for BOTH parents, even for the narcissistic/(borderline) parent. The fundamental issue for the child is his or her TRIANGULATION into the spousal conflict through the efforts of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent that enlist the child in a cross-generational coalition against the other parent.
In avoiding criticism of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent, Ms. Pruter’s reunification protocol represents an appropriate response to the child’s triangulation into the spousal conflict by allowing the child to be de-triangulated from the spousal conflict. The child does not need to take sides. I’m sure this is a great relief to the child.
In addition, her protocol is psycho-educational in focus, so that it effectively brings cognitive mediation to emotional processes, thereby lessening the child’s hyper-inflamed emotional distortions toward the targeted parent. The educational material also provides the child with a healthy and balanced narrative for understanding the family experience without blame for anyone, including without guilt for the child stemming from the child’s prior distorted-hostile-rejecting behavior toward the targeted parent.
Ms. Pruter’s reunification protocol elegantly provides the child with a narrative road out of the hostile-rejecting behavior toward the targeted-rejected parent while simultaneously de-triangulating the child from the spousal conflict.
Ms. Pruter claims she has experienced substantial (universal) success with her protocol in reunifying parent-child relationships, and after my review of her protocol I would similarly expect it to be fully successful based upon its structure and approach.
Ms. Pruter’s protocol also has a component for the participation of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent in learning the skills needed to avoid triangulating the child into the spousal conflict, which also recommends this protocol as a complete family intervention. Although Ms. Pruter notes from her experience that participation by the narcissistic/(borderline) parent is irregular at best.
One of the limitations of Ms. Pruter’s reunification protocol is that it is offered in an intensive four-day initial intervention with subsequent follow-up to stabilize the reunited parent-child relationship, which places this protocol beyond the reach of many families that live in other parts of the country or who may have limited financial resources. I am currently in discussion with Ms. Pruter on ways to possibly make training in this reunification protocol available to mental health therapists via online training seminars so as to make this approach more broadly available to targeted-rejected parents and their children.
Another limitation is that the protocol (appropriately) requires that the child be protectively separated from the pathogenic parenting of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent during the active phase of the child’s treatment and recovery. While this is both a necessary and professionally responsible requirement, it will require the cooperation of the Court, which is a hurdle that targeted-rejected parents will need to address and overcome before this protocol becomes available for restoring their relationships with their children that have been so severely damaged by the pathogenic parenting of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent.
Yet even with these barriers to enacting the protocol, I am heartened and optimistic in reviewing a reunification protocol that is both thoughtfully integrated and elegant in its formulation, and that is theoretically sound for addressing and resolving the family dynamics associated with an attachment-based model of “parental alienation.”
Craig Childress, Psy.D.
Clinical Psychologist, PSY 18857