In June 2014, I became an Associate with Alyson Jones & Associates. At that time, I joined the Family Forward Program. This is a community-based counselling program that provides therapy to separated families who have experienced a parent child attachment disruption that may have been caused by parental alienation, estrangement or a combination of both. While I came into this therapeutic work with over 30 years clinical experience, the Family Forward Program felt like it was truly a “trial by fire” experience. Participating in the delivery of therapy to high conflict families where there is alienation, estrangement or attachment disruption has been the most challenging work I have undertaken.
Alyson Jones & Associates works extensively with High Conflict Separation/Divorce cases. We observe many cases where children are feeling forced/pressured to choose between one or the other parent. In many cases, children have been allowed to discontinue their parenting time with one of the parents. When this happens, children are placed in a developmentally dangerous situation. Most of these children carry deep guilt about making this decision even when supported by the “Favoured Parent”. The longer this continues the higher the risk of long term emotional harm.
The holidays are filled with family gatherings to share the joy of the season. But along with these festive moments we may find ourselves in the middle of some stressful and awkward family moments.
Under the pressure of the season, and the heightened emotions that often come at this time of the year, an idyllic family gathering may become an awkward hot mess of emotion.
So, what do we do about these awkward family dynamics?
Well, it is that time of the year again – time to hang the stockings, trim the tree, and plan the holidays. The holiday season is much anticipated, but the joy of the season can get lost in amongst the stress storm that is created when we have large expectations and limited time. Things move quickly in this life and holiday memories often become our most treasured ones. We do not want to lose ourselves in stress and then miss the meaningful moments.
We know the holidays are filled with social gatherings, dinners, and opportunities to connect and share the joy of the season with others. We also know that this festive season can come with disappointments and disconnection if we do not take care of ourselves. Too little self-care added to a whole lot of togetherness with others can backfire. Just when you thought you might be basking in the bliss of connection and caring, you may actually find yourself in the middle of a meltdown.
As a Therapist I often provide services to families and Supported Individuals. This is a population that we often overlook, and do not adequately service. It is my experience that counselling is one of the resources that can be of great benefit for both the individual and the family in these situations. There needs to be a better understanding of the purpose, core values, barriers and some recommendations which may provide better insight and perhaps help networks to appreciate and recognize the value in counselling for Supported Individuals. It is important to put resources in place for individuals with developmental or emotional disabilities that support whatever choices they want to make, independently or in a supported environment.