By Mary Alvarez and Chris Turner
WE ARE HONORED to have been asked to write the intervention column for the Parental Alienation International Newsletter! For our first column, let us introduce ourselves and our involvement in parental alienation, and outline what you can expect from us this next year.
I am Mary Alvarez, PhD, a licensed psychologist practising clinical and forensic psychology in the greater Houston (Texas) metro area. In addition to my years of clinical work, I have a 15-year career in family law courts conducting custody evaluations. In my forensic practice, I have assessed for and determined parental alienation in custody disputes, and I have witnessed the devastating psychological and developmental effects that parental alienation has on children and families. I have repeatedly observed parental alienation tactics escalate, and children wither under the stress and duress, as their parents lock into an adversarial relationship during litigation.
As a clinician, I am court-ordered to intervene in matters that involved a child rejecting a parent and while I recognized that there were several programs designed to intervene with severe parental alienation, there was a significant need for intervention in the mild/moderate range of parental alienation. As a result, Chris Turner and I have spent the last three years developing and implementing prevention and early intervention programs for both parents and children who fall within the mild to moderate range of parental alienation.
I have also returned to my graduate school education and training in science and research and as such, Chris and I have several concurrent research projects involving many aspects of mild and moderate parental alienation, the effect of prevention and early intervention, and the efficacy of our own programs.
I am Chris Turner, MSW, JD. I began my career as a social worker in the field of child abuse/neglect in foster care, investigations, and sexual abuse divisions of three separate state organizations. After many years of working in state systems, I became acutely aware of a gap in services that existed in the abuse and neglect realm, specifically that for victims of emotional and psychological abuse. Many of the cases I consulted on involved divorce and post-divorce families, yet there was no clear and definable way to document and deal with these issues, nor was it a priority for a system that triages those cases by physical need.
I returned to school, obtaining a law degree and for the past 20 years, I have established a mediation practice specializing in family mediations, with a focus on the value of healthy co-parenting. The majority of my mediation cases are divided in two categories: families who come to me prior to obtaining legal counsel with the hopes of maintaining positive relationships among all family members, and families referred through the courts as a result of pending action in the family courts or with child protective services. One fact remains consistent: absent significant mental health issues, the majority of parents do not intend to hurt their children. However, many parents unknowingly cause harm to their children psychologically and emotionally when they are in the midst of divorce or other life transitions. The emotional abuse and psychological abuse are often undetected and have lifelong effects on children if left unchecked. Over the past three years, I have researched and been trained by many experts in the field of parental alienation.
Mary and I have worked together in developing programs and research projects to contribute to this unique field. As a mediator, I recognize the presence of parental alienation. As a member of this organization, I remain committed to studying and documenting these cases methodically in a way that will further the best practices in the field. I believe that one of the primary barriers to healthy co-parenting is embedded in the legal process, specifically the use of litigation as a tool for alienation and ongoing trauma.
We will explore these in our next column (just a teaser).
Our goals in writing this column for the next year are to discuss intervention issues within the context of the judiciary, science and research, and interventions to prevent parental alienation from developing, as well as interventions designed to intercede much earlier in the trajectory of parental alienation in order to reduce the number of children who become moderately or severely alienated from a parent.
Here is a preview for the upcoming editions of PAI as related to intervention:
1. We will discuss the role of the judiciary in inadvertently contributing to the escalation of parental alienation tactics, which eventually affects intervention, when the judiciary:
a. Relies on a murky, subjective, and variable definition referred to as the “best interests of the child” to determine custody and access.
b. Pits parents against each other in an adversarial manner to achieve the “best interests of the child.”
2. We will discuss how critical it is to develop intervention programs that focus on prevention and early intervention and we’ll present some of these prevention/early interventions that colleagues are currently conducting, including our own prevention/early intervention program that involves the judiciary.
3. We will discuss that as a field, we need to commit to a science and research-based model to:
a. Evaluate which intervention components (e.g., cognitive-based, educational-based, family systems-based, co-parenting) demonstrate results in preventing the development of parental alienation, off-setting the early indicators of parental alienation, or repairing the parent-child relationship in the moderate and severe parental alienation families.
b. Achieve as much uniformity as we can concerning what we consider to be a successful outcome of any intervention and how to measure this.
4. And we will explore the issue of using intervention outcome study data to effectuate judicial paradigm shifts and policy changes, including legislative reform and new laws for family court.
We are looking forward to spending this next year writing about parental alienation interventions to an esteemed international group of dedicated professionals, as well as parents affected by parental alienation.
Since our backdrop to any intervention program will be within a science and research-based model, with an emphasis on prevention and early intervention programs, we want to be able to reference and/or discuss current prevention and early intervention programs that colleagues are conducting. Please contact me, Mary Alvarez, at firstname.lastname@example.org, with a brief description of the prevention/early intervention program that you’re conducting and if you have any outcome studies measuring your intervention, please describe.
Artigo publicado na newsletter do Parental Alienation Study Group, maio 2020, Volume 5, nº 3