Helping Targeted Parents and Their Adult Alienated Children Work Through Conflict, Improve Communication, and Enhance Connections
The following description of parental alienation is described by the creators of the Restoring Family Connections program; Amy J.L. Baker, Ph.D., Paul Fine, LCSW and Alianna LaCheen-Baker, LPN, in the program manual.
Parental alienation is the term used to describe a family dynamic that results when one parent (the favored parent) engages in a set of behaviors that can foster a child’s unjustified rejection of the other parent (the targeted parent). When children succumb to this specific form of pressure and emotional manipulation they adopt false belies and hold distorted thoughts about the targeted parent. They consequently express hatred, fear and rejection of a parent with whom they once had a close and loving relationship. When severe, alienation can result in a parent and child losing all contact and communication for months, if not years and sometimes even decades.
Targeted parents whose children are still minors can try to petition the legal and mental health systems to intervene on behalf of their family. While there are some known treatments available for these families, they are not widely available. Once the children are 18 years old there is nothing the courts can do to assist a targeted parent re-engage with their alienated children.
Sometimes, when these children become adults they realize, even without court intervention, that they gave up a relationship with one parent in order to please the other and realize the other parent, although imperfect, was actually a loving and devoted parent. When this occurs there is a chance for reparation and healing, however it will not be an easy process for most. If not handled properly the process may stall or fail.
The purpose of the Restoring Family Connections program is to have a specific process to work with targeted parents and their adult alienated children on their healing journey, work through their fears and anger and find their way back to each other so they can move forward in a healthy way. Professionals who offer this program must be trained and supervised by Amy J. L. Baker, Ph.D., the creator of the program, in order to ensure the proper use of it in practice.
There are three main populations that could benefit from this program:
1) Targeted parent and adult alienated child (18+) who both at least consider the possibility that the breach in their relationship was primarily due to parental alienation. There is no court order needed and the adult child wants to participate or at least have agreed to participated. It is important that the adult child is not living with the favored parent during the program.
2) Targeted parent and currently moderately alienated children ages 14-18 who still have a relationship but it is in jeopardy and it is clear that the other parent is “ruling” the relationship. This does not include children who have strong negative feelings towards the targeted parent.
3) After-care for families coming from on of the intensive program for targeted parents and alienated children who will need on-going support in order to maintain the gains made in the intensive program. These program include, but are not limited to, Family Bridges (multiple locations), Transitioning Families in Northern California and Stable Paths in Miami, Florida.