In November 2017, the Director of the Child and Youth Protection Centre of Zagreb, prof. dr. sc. Gordana Buljan Flander, delivered a lecture as part of the module on “High-conflict divorces, manipulation and child alienation” for students from the child and adolescent integrative psychotherapy and counselling programme in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
This programme is Europe’s first licensed educational program of child and adolescent integrative psychotherapy and counselling which has been implemented by the Bosnian-Herzegovinian Association for Integrative Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy (BHIDAPA), an association that advocates for the preservation and promotion of mental health and quality of daily life of children, adolescents and adults respecting European standards in accordance with the goals of the World Health Organization. BHIDAPA qualifies candidates to acquire professional and academic knowledge and experience in the field of child and adolescent psychotherapy, with special emphasis on clinical skills, professional competence and personal development.
As well as exploring the effects of parental conflict on children, Prof Flander’s lecture offered students insights into the research around transgenerational transmission of the conflict and the psychological underpinnings of harmful parental conflict for children, based on empirical data. Prof Flander also explored issues around Article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and, specifically, a recognition that the child’s stated wishes and feelings are not always in accordance with his or her best interests. The lecture looked at the manipulation of children by a parent and the issue of parental alienation, including how to examine and argue opinions, the distinction between the forms and the reasons for the child’s refusal of parents, observation and interpretation of manipulative behaviours in accordance with contemporary literature and a demystification of manipulation as a rare behaviour.
Students were provided with information to help them recognise alienating behaviours in parents and how to begin to understand cases using an analysis of power dynamics, the toxic triangle of alienation in connection with the theory of attachment and the recognition of manipulation as an emotional abuse according to contemporary scientific knowledge. The lecture also looked at legal responses in cases of child manipulation and an analysis of relevant factors in assessing charges for child abuse during and after the parents’ divorce.
Through a comprehensive theoretical lecture, and experiential examples and practical exercises, those attending the lecture will have improved knowledge and skills in their future daily work and practice.