We would like to invite you to attend the HDR Confirmation Seminar of Alyse Price-Tobler, a Doctor of Philosophy candidate in the School of Law and Society. If you are external to USC and wish to participate via Zoom, please contact ASURE@usc.edu.au.
Working with Adult Survivors of Severe Parental Alienation: Survivors and Mental Health Practitioners Perspective. A Qualitative Study.
Parental divorce is a predictor of adverse outcomes for adult children of divorce. Parental alienation (P.A.) is a phrase used to explain the process in which "a child's relationship with one parent (the targeted parent) is negatively influenced by the actions of the other parent (the alienating parent)" (Haines, Matthewson, & Turnbull, 2020, p. 3). Behaviours are defined as actions by the alienating parent to negatively influence the child's relationship with the targeted parent, causing the child to reject the targeted parent without a reasonable explanation (Haines, Matthewson, & Turnbull, 2020). The study will focus on the perspectives and experiences of adult survivors of severe parental alienation (SPA) and the mental health practitioners who work with them therapeutically.
There is currently a dearth of information regarding studies on the lifelong effects of adult survivors of (SPA) leaving mental health practitioners without treatment guidelines or protocols. Baker's (2007) study reports that risk factors for SPA are similar to symptoms of other maltreatment, namely sexual abuse, emotional abuse, physical abuse, poor impulse control, alcoholism, and personality disorders. These may all need to be considered by mental health practitioners as they could be relevant to the adult survivor's treatment (Baker, 2007, pp. 363-364). Baker (2007) also reported that the frequency of physical and sexual abuse was higher in this study for the adult survivors of SPA than the overall sample population.
Related parallel trauma of SPA will also be investigated. For example, adult survivors of SPA may also have experienced family and domestic violence, Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, child abduction, child kidnapping, child filicide and child familicide. Mental health practitioners who work with adult survivors of SPA need to know how to treat a disorder that involves the attachment system (Childress, 2015). Treatment for adult survivors of SPA requires a thorough knowledge of both the patterns and manifestations of PA (Baker, 2007, p. 361) as survivor indicators can be complex and may also be hidden by a "disguised presentation" (Gelinas, 1983).
The research will investigate the perspectives and lived experiences of participants who identify as adult survivors of SPA as opposed to mild or moderate levels of P.A. Research participants will have reunited with their alienated targeted parent and have received traditional therapeutic treatment for SPA. In addition, mental health practitioners who work directly with adult survivors of SPA will be interviewed about their perspectives, practices, and experiences to ascertain helpful and unhelpful practice when working with this vulnerable group.