Statement re Parental Alienation

Statement re Parental Alienation

Systemic family therapy has long recognised the emergence of alliances and conflicts among family members, particularly during times of heightened distress or crisis.

The Executive Board of the FTAI is aware that, as a concept, Parental Alienation is contested. It has decided, therefore, to facilitate the establishment of a working group to support the Board and members to examine the issues and complexities of the term Parental Alienation.

The Executive Board has withdrawn a recent submission it made to the Department of Justice, Open Consultation on Parental Alienation, and will be making no further comment or publication on the topic until the working group has reverted to the Executive Board.

What is family therapy – and could you benefit from it? Updated / Sunday, 24 Jul 2022 06:01

As Jessica Alba talks about her experiences with family therapy, Prudence Wade finds out more about it.
As Jessica Alba talks about her experiences with family therapy, Prudence Wade finds out more about it.

Jessica Alba has opened up about going to therapy with her daughters, Honor, 14, and Haven, 10.

The 41-year-old told Glamour that around puberty, “They started to sort of shut down and get really like, ‘I don’t want to talk any more.’ And I’m like, ‘We’re not doing this. We’ve got to keep a line of communication here. How can I be a better parent to you? How do you want me to talk to you? Don’t shut me out.’”

Alba, who also has a 4-year-old son, Hayes, with husband Cash Warren, only has good things to say about the experience of family therapy. “First of all, this person [the therapist] has studied human behaviour and they’re good at it. And they have no relation to you so they can be really objective and you create a safe space for your kid to really candidly tell you what’s not working about your parenting,” the actor told the magazine.

We need your consent to load this Instagram contentWe use Instagram to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

“I was like, ‘Look, I’m not perfect. I’m not going to know all the answers, but I want to be a great parent to you. And what you like and don’t is different from what your sister likes and doesn’t like. And I’m going to make mistakes. Here’s a safe space, you can’t get in trouble – let me know what I’m doing wrong, or what you would like me to do differently.”

Family therapy comes under the umbrella of ‘systemic therapy’ – where you focus on a group of people and their thoughts and feelings, rather than just the individual. Here’s everything you need to know about it…

What is family therapy?

You don't necessarily need to be going through a specific trauma to benefit from family therapy (Alamy/PA)
You don’t necessarily need to be going through a specific trauma to benefit from family therapy (Alamy/PA)

Family therapy looks at “the way families are put together”, explains Dr Marianne Trent, clinical psychologist with Good Thinking Psychological Services and author of The Grief Collective.

“We carry with us our own stories of being parents, and our own thoughts towards trauma and chaos and catastrophe. And sometimes we can raise our children, or interact with our parents in ways that are not necessarily about stuff that’s happening right now” – which is where Trent suggests group therapy can come in, to help give everyone a deeper understanding of how they’re responding to situations.

She mentions a couple of ways you can do it – you can have a “systemic therapist” – where the family talks to each other and the therapist in a safe space, and there’s also a one-way mirror approach, where the professional watches from one side and gives the family room to talk, occasionally giving them ideas of questions to ask, and feedback on how they’re talking to each other.

What are the potential benefits?

Stock image courtesy of Getty

“One of the benefits of family therapy is for us to think about whether – when we lose our temper, are we losing our temper because of what’s happening right now, or could it be about something we’ve experienced in the past, and can we help identify patterns of interaction?” says Trent.

It’s not just about focusing on the negatives, but she also says it can be about the things that are going well, and your strengths as a family. But alongside this, you can identify, “What are the things that we could do with a bit of help with?”

She explains it’s about being present and aware that we’re not perfect people – “None of us are, and raising children is really difficult. We have to live our own life, but we’ve got to slot our own lives around the lives of people around us.”

It’s an opportunity to emphasise that “everybody gets to shine, everybody gets to thrive, and everybody is important”, she says. “It’s important that everyone in the family feels that way, and family therapy can be a really useful way of making sure everybody has an impartial opportunity to speak.”

Psychologists can identify if someone maybe isn’t being given the space to speak as much as they might like to, helping the family “live more harmoniously, and really thrive as a unit”, she says. “There isn’t a manual that comes with being human, there certainly isn’t a manual that comes with being a child or a parent. None of us are experts at it. So any help that we can get that might help us be less blinkered, more aware, more in tune with what’s happening can be really useful.”

Who might benefit from family therapy?

Stock image courtesy of Getty

“Therapy doesn’t always need to be for when there’s some sort of big problem,” suggests Trent, who says anyone can benefit from it as “ongoing support with life”.

However, she does mention there are a few scenarios where family therapy is often used. “Family therapy is really commonly used in eating disorders – not just for children and young people, but for eating disorders later in life as well. That’s because of the concept of eating disorders is often the behaviour you can see, but you’re not necessarily seeing what’s contributed to that eating disorder.”

Talking things through with a professional “can be helpful, because it takes the pressure off the person who’s having the difficulties. Because it’s saying, we’ve all got a role to play in this.”

Another situation she mentions are families with separated parents. She says: “Having the opportunity to think, how is your experience of parenting our children? How is your experience of being parented by mummy, how is your experience of being parented by daddy? Could we do that more holistically, or in a way that’s more attuned to your needs?”

Ultimately, Trent suggests you are most likely to benefit from family therapy if you try to use the tools in your day-to-day life. “Make sure what you’re doing in the therapy room is also mapping outside into wider life,” she advises. “With any therapy, you don’t want it to be just about the therapy hour, it needs to be translating into people’s normal lives.”

For more information on counselling services in Ireland, visit

If you have been affected by issues raised in this story, please visit:

FTAI Statement on Ukraine

The Family Therapy Association of Ireland Executive committee wishes to stand with our European Family Therapy Association colleagues in condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine on the 21st of February 2022.

The suffering of innocent people on both sides, the displacement of millions and the catastrophic  loss of life, is an appalling violation of human rights and cannot be condoned by us.   We must stand  together as human citizens of this planet and act to assist those caught up in this devastating war. The  emotional and mental impact on all involved cannot be underestimated and it is imperative that we  oppose tyranny and support democracy at every opportunity, with a fervent wish for a speedy resolution to this awful conflict.

FTAI & AFT Joint Conference 28th January 2022

Booking is now open for the FTAI and AFT joint online conference to be held on the 28th January 2022.

Book early to avoid disappointment!

FTAI Conference Logo v3.png

·   A celebration of the collaborative working initiative between the Family Therapy Association of Ireland and the Association for Family Therapy & Systemic Practice in the UK

·      Personal Professional Development in Systemic Family Psychotherapy training and beyond

The event will be delivered via Zoom and the conference will also count towards CPD. Details of timetable and booking information can be accessed by clicking link below.

Explaining Covid-19 to Children

Explaining COVID-19 (Coronavirus) to Children

Let the child/young person’s questions and their age guide as to how much information to provide:

• very young children need brief, simple information and reassurance that they are safe and that the people they care about are safe. They may ask Will I get sick? Will granny/grandad die?

• reassure them that nurses and doctors are working hard to ensure that people throughout the country stay healthy

• explain that at the present moment very few people in this country are sick with the virus

• tell them that not everyone will get the virus and that the vast majority who get it recover fully

• older children may need help to separate reality from rumour and fantasy. Either provide or direct them to where they can find accurate, and factual information about the current status of COVID-19. Having such knowledge can help them feel a sense of control

Children and young people look to the adults in their lives to guide them on how to react to worrying and stressful events.
If the adults in their lives seem overly worried, their own anxiety may rise:

• if they are anxious, let them talk about their feelings and guide them in reframing their thoughts and concerns to a more helpful way of thinking

• give them extra attention and time, to talk about their concerns, fears, and questions. o Remember they do not always talk about their concerns readily. Watch for clues that they may want to talk, such as hovering around while you do the dishes and so on

• it is very typical for younger children to ask a few questions, return to playing and then come back with further questions

Department of Health and Department of Education and Skills

“PPRR” a map for creating a relexive PPRRactice with John Burnham

“PPRR” a map for creating a reflexive PPRRactice
Overcoming Problems – Creating Possibilities
through ……
Wrestling with Restraints and Embracing Resources

2-day workshop with

Contemporary approaches have brought a ‘breath of fresh air’ into the systemic field through creating forward looking practices, de-emphasizing problems and restraints, whilst emphasizing resources and possibilities.
I created a PPRRactice map which, when combined with self and relational reflexivity (Burnham 1993 and 2005) can be used to create a workable fit between client and therapist, or therapist and supervisor. It becomes possible to plot a unique pathway from ‘problem to possibility’ for each client/supervisee when they are seeking to ‘wrestle with what restrains them’ and ‘embrace the resources that can sustain them’ along this pathway.

Friday 7th February 2020
Saturday 8th February 2020

10.00a.m – 4.00.p.m

Registration: 9.30a.m

Ashling Hotel,
Parkgate Street,
Dublin 8.

5 CPD points apply to each workshop

Click on links below for further information:

John Burnham 2 day workshop
John Burnham Application Form February 2020