The third conference of the Parental Alienation Study Group (PASG), the umbrella institution in the world for child alienation, was held September 12-14, 2019 in Philadelphia, USA. The PASG has more than 500 members, most of whom are professionals in the mental health and justice sectors, from more than 50 countries, and since last year’s conference of the European Association of Alienation Practitioners (EAPAP)   at the invitation of Professor Emeritus Dr. William Burnett, 10 experts from the Zagreb Child and Youth Protection Center also joined. Bernet is a renowned forensic psychiatrist, scientist and honorary member of the American Association of Psychologists (APA), as well as the president of the PASG, who invests a great deal of interest and engagement in scientific research, so this conference had a strong scientific dimension. “Currently, the database of scientific papers on alienation, which is available on the PASG website, includes more than 1000 original works,” emphasized Prof. Bernet at the very opening of the conference. The conference was attended by 170 experts and parents from 17 countries, and 60 more attended parts of the conference from other parts of the world. 

The second day of the conference was divided into four sections – legal, clinical, research and parenting, so that participants could engage in more specialized and active discussions in their field of work. Of the plenary lecturers, the greatest attention and interest were won by prof. Bernet, Dr. Amy Baker, therapist Linda Gottlieb, Steve Miller, Ph.D. Jennifer Harman and attorney Ashish Joshi, with our close European associates, Dr. Wilfrid von Boch-Galhau from Germany, and Nick Woodall and Karen Woodall from Family Separation Clinic in London. Numerous examples of good practice are presented. For example, Canadian divorce lawyers sign a commitment to manage the best interests of the child in representing their parents at the very beginning of the process. In many countries, the court appoints specially educated part-time therapists (from three weeks to three months) who work with all family members on a daily basis, and during the course of the treatment, the contacts and obligations of each parent are co-ordinated with the therapist, depending on co-operation and changes parent and child condition. Some countries are developing alienation prevention programs, and it is also planned to open a special section of the PASG to design, validate and standardize such programs.

The main conclusions of the conference are:

  • that the concept of alienation is extremely scientifically substantiated, although it seems counter-intuitive to many lay people, but also to experts (therapists, experts, social workers, doctors, judges, etc.) who are not specifically trained in this field,
  •  that professionals in their work must keep records-based practices and treatments, of which a specially modified family therapy for trauma alienation and work is currently recommended (otherwise they may further deepen the problem),
  • urgent reaction and constant direct communication and cooperation within the system are necessary, 
  • that the problem of alienation must be seen as a problem of child abuse and a child protection issue and should be treated accordingly, rather than being viewed as a problem of arranging the care and contacts of the child with each parent.

On behalf of the Child and Youth Protection Center of Zagreb, psychologists Mia Roje Đapić and Ana Raguž participated in the conference. They shared with their colleagues the initiative “28 Truths of the Profession”, for whose further steps they received a lot of valuable tips and ideas. Our initiative has collected a total of 823 signatures of support, of which 85% from Croatia, 3% from BiH, 4% from Serbia, 4% from Slovenia, and the rest from Montenegro, Italy, Germany and Sweden (less than 2% each). According to the profession of signatories, 26% are social workers, 10% are educators and experts in the field of education and rehabilitation, 8% are psychologists, and among other professions, teachers, professors, religious teachers, speech therapists, social pedagogues, rehabilitators are in a smaller percentag , attorneys, judges, lawyers, occupational therapists, psychotherapists, counselors, coaches, sociologists, political scientists, nurses, assistantships students, priests, project managers, principals and deputy directors (who did not specify the basic profession) of various organizations, heads of associations… Total 43 e-mails were received in which colleagues supported and welcomed such activities of the Center (81%), asked questions to clarify some of the points (7%), presented their criticisms and suggestions for improving the list (6%), and a smaller percentage. (parents are dissatisfied with the work of institutions, seeking engagement in their cases, expressing the questionability of the meaning of such initiatives…). As a special topic, we will post FAQs and explanatory comments on the pages of the Center on behalf of the our Center and Family Separation Clinic.      

In collaboration with Karen Woodall and Nick Woodall, the Psychologists of the our Center have announced to their colleagues the third EAPAP conference to be held in Zagreb on June 15-16, 2020, organized by the Child and Youth Protection Center of Zagreb and Family Separation Clinic. Karen Woodall premiered on her blog: https://karenwoodall.blog/2019/09/17/the-principles-and-protocols-of-practice-with-induced-psychological-splitting-after-divorce-aka-parental -alienation / . More details about the conference will be released in a month. Our goal is for the conference to be primarily focused on practical and clinical work, so that participants really get the knowledge and skills they can apply every day in their work. It is our special honor and pleasure to host this valuable conference, which has been contributed by all our colleagues and associates who have responded in large numbers to the Woodall lecture that took place in Zagreb this year and who have by their signatures expressed their will, desire and confidence for develop and adopting best practices in child protection in this area. 

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