The London Conference: 25th Oct 2014

thumbnail image: London AFT Day Conference with Group for the Systemic Study of Parental Alienation. Navigating Post Divorce Conflict with Children on Board: Systemic Work with Parental Alienation.

This is the conference that spawned ‘the alienation experience’ blog. Organised by AFT’s London branch, SSoPA members and guests presented in a packed morning, leaving the afternoon free for discussion. Now everyone can re-view and discuss 24/7! Here’s the blurb:

“Navigating Post Divorce Conflict with Children on Board: Systemic Work with Parental Alienation”  A London AFT Day Conference with the Group for the Systemic Study of Parental Alienation (SSoPA).

Date25 October 2014 (10:00 – 16:30) VenueInstitute of Education, 20 Bedford Way, London WC1H 0AL LocationLondon WC1H 0AL, UK TypeConference BranchAFT London


Who hasn’t ridden the wild waters that may flood down on families when they separate? … and wished we hadn’t! But family therapists must learn how to guide families through such rough waters. SSoPA is a small email group for the Systemic Study of Parental Alienation. SSoPA members, Nick Child, Chip Chimera, Myrna Gower (Chair) and Anna Gupta will present helped by Hamish Cameron (Child Psychiatrist) and Kevin Amey (Children’s’ Guardian). This workshop offers a platform for clinicians, legal professionals and social agencies to consider how to do better for children caught up in high conflict separations of their parents by creating more integrative answers when parents cannot manage this all themselves. Patterns are usually complex and multifactorial, but a rarer pattern, child or parental alienation, is a key challenge to our understanding and practices. The SSoPA group will draw on their combined learning and experience to introduce this important somewhat neglected field in Britain, and encourage ways we can all develop our knowledge, skills and services.


Chip Chimera is a Systemic Family Psychotherapist and a psychodrama psychotherapist with many years of experience in working with families, individuals and groups. Chip teaches at the Institute of Family Therapy where she is the director of the Centre for Child Studies. Currently undertaking doctoral studies, Chip has extensive experience in working with high conflict families; alienation processes and the involvement of the courts.

Anna Gupta is a senior lecturer in the Department of social work at Royal Holloway University of London. Her extensive experience as a Children’s Guardian has led her to study and publish on decision making in the Family Courts. Anna has worked with alienating behaviours in several high profile family conflicts and her association and working with families with Karen Woodall of the Centre for Separated Families has led her to begin to engage in research in this field. (Unfortunately Anna was unable to come to the conference).

Nick Child, Family Therapist, Edinburgh. Retiring from a career as a CAMHS psychiatrist in the peripheries of excellence, Nick has worked for 11 years in a small part-time FT team in Edinburgh. He has been an active if maverick voice in AFT for decades, most recently in leading Aspens, the network for family therapy in the non-statutory sector. 3 years ago, a client cured his allergy to parental alienation. Nick has campaigned since as reparation for such ignorance. His websites and feature this and other work.

Myrna Gower. Myrna is a systemic family psychotherapist with many years of experience in clinical practice, teaching and consultancy. After completion of her Doctoral Research on Parenting Adult Children, Nick Child introduced her to Amy Baker’s research with adult children and parental alienation. This led to her close participation in SSoPA using the group for ongoing consultation on clinical cases. In her position as an honorary research fellow at Royal Holloway University of London and on being invited by Anna Gupta to begin formative research and writing on parental alienation, a larger study is now anticipated. Kevin Amey has been a social worker for 30 years, working in mental health, child protection and child care. He has a particular interest in sexual abuse and domestic abuse, working with abusers, their partners, victims and families. He worked for 10 years as an independent social work consultant. For the last four years Kevin has worked with Cafcass where he came across ‘parental alienation’, noticing that the children and parents involved behaved and reacted differently to other families he had met professionally. In this time Kevin has worked with approximately 20 families where there have been features of Parental Alienation.

Dr Cameron Dr Hamish Cameron, a consultant child psychiatrist for over 40 years, worked at St George’s and the Cassel hospitals, and in independent practice. Instructed since 1973 by the Official Solicitor, CAFCASS and NYAS as an expert witness in family proceedings, he has lectured to family Judges throughout the British Isles on childhood suggestibility & children’s false beliefs, attachment, adoption and contact issues and alienation. As part of the Family Court team, he has assisted in many Parental Alienation cases.

The Programme

After introductions by AFT London and by Myrna Gower, we packed presentations into the morning, leaving the afternoon free for small  group and plenary discussion. These were the presentations:

 Nick Child:  Overview. Riding the Wild Waters

Nick will open up the day and the topic, outlining our story so far in SSoPA, and sketching the huge international field of Parental Alienation through his summary list of “life-jacket” solutions for those “riding the wild waters” of high conflict family separations.

Kevin Amey: On being a Child Guardian in high conflict separations, and:

Chip Chimera: Working with the court decisions and high conflict separations: implications for contact arrangements

Kevin will explain his position in relation to the child in high conflict cases. He will describe having to struggle to protect the child in the face of the constant allegations being made about the unsuitability of one parent. He will talk about the sorts of recommendations he makes to the court in the face of threats to the child’s safety.  Chip will describe the process of the court rulings and the implications for contact arrangements in high conflict separations. Children and parents are then referred to see her on account of the child’s apparent lack of co-operation.

Anna Gupta (apologies on the day): The law and work in the family courts in cases of high conflict divorce and parental alienation.

Anna will describe pertinent situations in high conflict separations and illustrate the implications of the application of the law. She will describe the effects on the child; how the law affects the ongoing relating with both the alienated and alienating parent and will share up to date thinking on legal changes to the law that are currently being debated.

Myrna Gower: A Thousand Tiny Poisonous Needles

The title of this presentation are the words of a targeted father describing his experience of trying to parent his children after a high conflict separation from their mother. Myrna has permission from three targeted fathers to share in their words (written in exchanges of mails during their clinical work together) their experiences of being alienated. Clinical work will be reviewed and debate will be invited on the application of systemic ideas.  Is it possible to help?

After Lunch: Breakout discussion groups

Presenters and colleagues (Alison O’Mahony and Sue Whitcombe) each joined and led each of the groups

Plenary with Hamish Cameron

Hamish Cameron began the panel/audience plenary with 20 minutes of concluding thoughts. The audience shared some themes covered in the day’s discussions. Plans to support further discussion and learning were outlined before people headed home.

More details about SSoPA and the aims of the conference


About Nick Child

Retired child and family shrink and family therapist living, working and playing in Edinburgh.


  1. alisonom

    Three thoughts taken from the conference:
    Another word for a Narcissist – Overwhelmingly strong and needy personality
    The “they are just as bad as each other, or no smoke without fire” is NOT OK. It’s not like this.
    Law should NOT be about ‘listening to the child’ but ‘HOLD the best interests of the child in mind’
    All in all a thought provoking day


  2. D.M. Saunter

    Interesting article in regards to parental alienation. We are interested in K.Amey’s presentation, but were wondering why he, as the only one, is not depicted with a photo.
    Could you add one please sir. Thank you.


    • Thanks for your interest. We would have, but he did his presentation and then moved on to other things. If you can find him and persuade him, we’d love to have his photo!


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