The vast majority of separating and divorcing parents maintain safe, healthy, and positive relationships with their children; however, a small percentage of parent-child relationships remain strained and/or problematic. Children are at greater risk when parent-child contact problems are not effectively addressed and when family law professionals and others echo and intensify the polarization within the family. This problem may be exacerbated by (1) gendered and politicized assumptions that either parental alienation or intimate partner violence is the determinative issue; (2) contradictory rhetoric about the application of research findings and the efficacy of interventions; (3) indiscriminate use of services; and (4) a lack of understanding of different perspectives, education among family law practitioners, and resources.
AFCC and NCJFCJ support transparent, informed, and deliberate dialogue and response to parent-child contact problems following separation and divorce, or when the parents have never resided together, by adhering to the following considerations:
1. Adopt a child-centered approach
Children’s behavior should be considered in the context of what is normal for a child’s age, developmental stage, and the family socio-cultural-religious norms. This behavior may also be an expectable, adaptive reaction to stress, change, or an adverse childhood experience. The paramount focus of practitioners working with parent-child contact problems should be to promote the safety, interests, rights, and wellbeing of children and their parents/caregivers at all socioeconomic levels. Children should have the opportunity to express their views in family justice matters that concern them. The stated views of children are not necessarily determinative of their best interests. There are multiple factors that may contribute to children expressing views that do not reflect their best interests. Family justice practitioners should understand the basis for the child’s expressed wishes and acknowledge their rights.
2. Increase competence in working with parent-child-contact problems
Specialized knowledge and skill are necessary to work effectively with families with parent-child contact problems. Family law practitioners should receive regular and ongoing training on the various factors related to parent-child contact problems including, but not limited to intimate partner violence, substance misuse, high conflict, denigration, parental alienating behaviors, and healthy parenting.
3. Screen for safety, conflict, and parent-child contact problems
In addition to initial and ongoing screening for safety, intimate partner violence and power- imbalances within families in all family law cases, parent-child contact issues, once identified, should be uniquely screened for safety and family risk factors, including the severity, frequency, and impact. Practitioners should, in all cases, employ a structured and evidence-informed screening for family risk factors.
4. Fully consider all factors that may contribute to parent-child contact problems
There should be no immediate label used for parent-child contact problems as there are multiple factors and dynamics that may account for these issues. These include interparental conflict before and after the separation, sibling relationships, the adversarial process/litigation, third parties such as aligned professionals and extended family, a lack of functional co-parenting, poor or conflictual parental communication, child maltreatment, a response to a parent’s abusive behaviors, the direct or indirect exposure to intimate partner violence, parental alienating behaviors, an alignment with a parent in response to high conflict coparenting, or a combination of these factors. Therefore, practitioners should maintain a broad lens and sufficiently consider the relative contribution of each potential factor before conclusions are made about cause.
5. Conduct individual case analysis
Social science research findings can provide the field with valuable information about the group studied but cannot be used to determine the characteristics or experiences of individual parties or children; therefore, each family/case/situation must be specifically examined and informed by the best available evidence. Each case must be examined uniquely to understand the etiology and current dynamics of the problem for the family justice system to intervene in an effective child- focused manner.
6. Refer to appropriate and proportional services and interventions
Practitioners should exercise care in recommending, referring, or ordering family members to services and interventions. These services and interventions should be accessible, accountable, proportional to the nature and severity of factor(s) contributing to the parent-child contact problem(s), particularly when there is a court order requiring such services and interventions. Such services and interventions should be informed by a child-centered approach.
Stacey White Kinney will be teaching the Resist Refuse Protocol she developed with Dr.Robbie Adler-Tapia. This intermediate workshop is for EMDR clinicians who want to expand their knowledge of EMDR therapy and work with families involved in high conflict divorce when a child resists or refuses contact with a parent. The workshop introduces the Resist Refuse Protocol integrating the Adaptive Information Processing model (AIP) into treatment of this difficult population. The workshop will apply the Resist Refuse Protocol to EMD, EMDr, and EMDR therapies and demonstrate how these interventions can be used in conjunction with an existing case plan. In addition, a review of guidelines and research of the effectiveness of EMDR in trauma treatment, as well as practical applications of EMDR with high conflict divorce families will be explored. This workshop has been approved for CEUs by EMDRIA and the Judicial Counsel.
Stacey White Kinney, MS, LMFT will be teaching a two-hour webinar this Thursday 12/10/20 at 4 p.m. (PST) for clinicians. EMDR therapy helps clients process divorce trauma and custody issues so these families can heal and move forward.
Course description: Children who resist contact with a parent present unique problems for clinicians, attorneys, and the family court system. These children and their parents are often experiencing trauma from the divorce and re-experiencing trauma incidents associated with one or both parents which impede the child’s ability to participate in a relationship with their parent.
This workshop provides an overview of the AIP model and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy. The workshop will illustrate how these interventions can be used in conjunction with an existing case plan. In addition, a review of guidelines and research of the effectiveness of EMDR in trauma treatment, as well as practical applications of EMDR with high conflict divorce families will be explored. Instructor: Stacey White Kinney, MS., LMFT
Newport Beach, CA – For families affected by trauma to have hope, we need people like Stacey White Kinney to offer that hope.
Stacey White Kinney is a licensed marriage and family therapist with over 30 years of experience in child, adolescent and adult psychotherapy, as well as extensive experience working with trauma, child abuse and high conflict divorce. Today Stacey is the founder of South County Counseling, where she is dedicated to strengthening her community by improving the lives of children and families affected by trauma.
“This field chose me. I wanted to help kids and families,” says Stacey. “People ask me, ‘How can you do this work? It must be so traumatic for you,’ but I’ve seen people get better. I’ve seen kids become kids again. Some days we’re dealing with really heavy stuff and some days we’re making friendship bracelets. It’s about healing more than anything.”
Stacey treats trauma primarily through Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). Stacey is an EMDRIA certified therapist and EMDR consultant in training.
“One of the things in my practice that's changed is my approach to how I treat trauma,” says Stacey. “I was a cognitive behavioral therapist for my whole career, so I understand people come in with a story, but they can be retraumatized by just talking about what had happened over and over.
“EMDR allows us to calm down those neurological networks so that they can fully process it and we can do it nonverbally. By detaching from that emotional component of trauma, we can really work through things. It engages people in therapy even more because a lot of people are afraid to talk about the trauma. The research has expanded so much in the field of EMDR that you really can't be a trauma therapist without it.”
Recent studies on adverse childhood experiences have found that early childhood experiences are correlated to physical health later in life. If we don't treat trauma in children, it can be expressed later on through diabetes, multiple sclerosis, obesity and cardiovascular disease.
“What’s exciting about treating trauma in children is we can actually prevent genes from being expressed,” says Stacey. “Trauma can change us on a cellular level, so if I can help somebody, it's not just helping emotionally, but it helps mentally and physically later on in their lives.”
Close Up Radio will feature Stacey White Kinney in an interview with Doug Llewelyn on October 6th at 1pm EDT.
Listen to the show on BlogTalkRadio.
If you have any questions for our guest, please call (347) 996-3389.
For more information, visit www.southcountycounseling.org.
As we adjust to our new normal, I want to share some strategies for you and your children.
watch a concert
I am gathering kits together to mail to my younger therapy clients (waiting on delivery). Make sure I have your current address on file. In the meantime, it would be helpful if your child has some supplies ready for our session such as a stuffed animal, deck of cards, favorite game, crayons and paper. The children are adapting easily to teleplaytherapy. They are comfortable online and we are doing valuable work.
In good health!
Stacey White Kinney, MS, LMFT