Q & A -How do social workers assess parental alienation?

Assessing parental alienation is a complex process that requires the expertise of social workers, psychologists, or other professionals in the field of child welfare. Here are some common steps and methods that social workers may employ in assessing parental alienation:

  1. Gathering Information: Social workers gather information from multiple sources, including the child, both parents, collateral contacts (e.g., teachers, therapists), and any relevant documents or records. They aim to obtain a comprehensive understanding of the family dynamics and the allegations of parental alienation.
  2. Interviewing: Social workers conduct interviews with the child, each parent separately, and possibly other family members or individuals involved. These interviews allow for the exploration of family relationships, the child’s perspectives, and any potential signs of parental alienation.
  3. Observing Interactions: Social workers may conduct observations of parent-child interactions, either in their office or in the home setting. This can help identify any concerning dynamics, such as a child’s avoidance of one parent or negative behavior towards them.
  4. Psychological Assessments: Social workers may collaborate with psychologists or other mental health professionals to conduct psychological assessments. These assessments may include standardized tests, clinical interviews, and observations to evaluate the child’s emotional well-being, parental relationships, and potential factors contributing to parental alienation.
  5. Reviewing Documentation: Social workers review any available documentation, including court records, previous assessments, medical records, and communication records. This can provide additional context and evidence related to the allegations of parental alienation.
  6. Collaborating with Professionals: Social workers often collaborate with other professionals involved in the case, such as therapists, attorneys, or custody evaluators. Sharing information and insights can help gain a comprehensive understanding of the family dynamics and determine the best course of action.
  7. Considering Multiple Factors: Social workers consider various factors that may contribute to the child’s behavior or attitudes, such as the history of the parent-child relationship, the child’s developmental stage, and any other family or environmental stressors. They aim to differentiate between genuine alienation and other factors influencing the child’s behavior.
  8. Documenting Findings: Social workers document their findings, observations, and assessments in a comprehensive report. This report may include an analysis of the presence and extent of parental alienation, its impact on the child, and recommendations for intervention or treatment.

It’s important to note that assessing parental alienation requires a careful and unbiased approach. Social workers strive to maintain objectivity and ensure the best interests of the child are considered throughout the assessment process. Collaboration with other professionals and adherence to ethical guidelines are crucial in conducting a thorough and fair assessment of parental alienation.

 © Linda C J Turner

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No Sugar Coating!

Therapists, as professionals in the field of mental health, generally aim to provide a safe and supportive environment for their clients. While therapists do prioritize empathy and understanding, it is not their role to sugar coat or avoid addressing difficult or challenging topics.

Effective therapy often involves addressing uncomfortable or distressing issues, exploring deep-rooted emotions, and examining patterns of behavior or thought that may contribute to difficulties. Therapists strive to create a space where clients feel heard and validated while also encouraging personal growth and self-awareness.

However, therapists do take into consideration their clients’ readiness and capacity to process certain information. They may use different therapeutic techniques, such as gradual exposure or gentle exploration, to help clients navigate sensitive topics without overwhelming them. This approach is not about sugar coating but rather about pacing the therapeutic process to ensure it aligns with the client’s needs and readiness.

Ultimately, therapists are committed to their clients’ well-being and growth, and part of that commitment involves offering support and guidance in an honest and compassionate manner. They work collaboratively with clients to help them gain insight, develop coping strategies, and make positive changes in their lives.

 © Linda C J Turner

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Q & A – Envious and competitive nature?

Here are some examples of an envious and competitive nature that may be displayed by someone with covert narcissism:

  1. Belittling others’ achievements: A person with covert narcissism may belittle or downplay the accomplishments of others. They might make dismissive comments or find ways to undermine others’ success in order to maintain a sense of superiority.
  2. Feeling threatened by others’ success: Covert narcissists may feel threatened by the success or achievements of others, especially if they perceive it as a challenge to their own sense of self-worth. They may become jealous or envious and try to undermine or devalue the accomplishments of others.
  3. Engaging in one-upmanship: Covert narcissists may constantly try to one-up others in conversations or situations. They may share stories or experiences that outshine or overshadow those of others, always needing to be seen as better or more accomplished.
  4. Sabotaging others’ opportunities: In order to maintain their own perceived superiority, covert narcissists may engage in subtle forms of sabotage. They may try to undermine or hinder the success or opportunities of others, whether it’s through spreading rumors, withholding information, or intentionally creating obstacles.
  5. Competing for attention: Covert narcissists often have an intense desire for attention and admiration. They may engage in attention-seeking behaviors or try to divert attention away from others to ensure that the focus remains on them.
  6. Feeling resentful towards others’ success: Rather than feeling genuinely happy for others’ achievements, covert narcissists may experience resentment or bitterness. They may struggle to celebrate others’ accomplishments and may instead try to diminish their success or find flaws in their achievements.

It’s important to note that occasional feelings of envy or competitiveness are common in many individuals. However, when these behaviors become a consistent pattern and are coupled with other signs of covert narcissism, it may indicate a deeper issue.

 © Linda C J Turner

LINDA C J TURNER Malignant Narcissism Narcissism Narcopath NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) Q & A with #LindaCJTurner

Q & A – What is “Excessive need for validation”

Here are a few examples of excessive need for validation that may be exhibited by someone with covert narcissism:

  1. Constantly seeking compliments: A person with covertnarcissism may fish for compliments, frequently asking others for reassurance about their appearance, abilities, or achievements. They may have an insatiable need to be told they are talented, attractive, or intelligent.
  2. Becoming defensive or dismissive of criticism: Covert narcissists may struggle to handle criticism or negative feedback. They may become defensive, dismissive, or even hostile when faced with constructive criticism or suggestions for improvement. They need validation and struggle to accept any form of perceived failure or inadequacy.
  3. Bragging in a subtle or humble way: Covert narcissists may subtly boast about their accomplishments or desirable qualities, often under the guise of humility. For example, they might say something like, “Oh, I’m not that great, but people seem to really admire my work” or “I don’t mean to brag, but I’ve always been really good at [insert skill].”
  4. Seeking constant attention: Individuals with covert narcissism may constantly seek attention from others. They may dominate conversations, steer discussions toward themselves, or engage in attention-seeking behaviors to ensure they remain the center of attention.
  5. Relying on external validation: Covert narcissists heavily rely on external validation to validate their self-worth. They may struggle to develop a strong internal sense of self-esteem and instead seek constant validation from others to feel worthy or significant.
  6. Comparing themselves to others: Covert narcissists may frequently compare themselves to others, seeking reassurance that they are superior or better in some way. They may feel threatened by others’ achievements and strive to prove their own worth or superiority.

Remember, these examples are not exclusive to covert narcissism and may be exhibited by individuals who don’t have narcissistic traits. It’s the consistent pattern of behavior and the combination of these signs that can help identify someone with an excessive need for validation, potentially indicating covert narcissism.

 © Linda C J Turner

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The term “discernment” refers to the ability to perceive, judge, or recognize something accurately and wisely. It involves the process of evaluating information, situations, or people in order to make sound judgments or decisions.

Discernment often involves careful observation, critical thinking, and the application of knowledge and experience. It requires the ability to distinguish between different options, perspectives, or choices and to determine what is true, valuable, or morally right.

In various contexts, discernment can refer to:

  1. Spiritual Discernment: This relates to the process of seeking guidance or understanding from a higher power or inner wisdom. It involves perceiving and interpreting divine or transcendent messages, signs, or insights.
  2. Decision-Making: Discernment plays a role in making choices or decisions by considering various factors, weighing options, and assessing potential consequences.
  3. Personal Relationships: It involves the ability to assess and judge the character, intentions, or trustworthiness of individuals, especially in forming or maintaining relationships.
  4. Critical Thinking: Discernment is essential in evaluating information, claims, or arguments, distinguishing between reliable sources and misinformation, and making reasoned judgments.

Overall, discernment refers to the capacity to perceive and distinguish, using insight, intuition, and reasoning to make informed decisions or assessments. It is a valuable skill in many aspects of life, contributing to wise choices and the development of good judgment.

 © Linda C J Turner

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Guilty Until Proven Innocent

‘Innocent until proven guilty’ is a cornerstone of the UK justice system. This means that anyone accused of a crime should be treated with respect and humanity because they are not considered to be a perpetrator until it has been proved in a court of justice. When it comes to rape, the reality is that the accused is treated as a rapist, with all its heavy connotations. Sam argues that what he was accused of shouldn’t even be classed as rape:

‘I didn’t even do it, but even if I had done what I was accused of, it shouldn’t be a crime to suggestively push someone’s head slightly towards your penis [when it’s] someone you have had sex with several times before, while all indications thus far have been that they are consenting. And then they softly resist, you stop immediately and get up and put your clothes on. How is that attempted rape?’

The arbitrary subjectivity of the police means that individuals accused of sexual assault are nearly always dehumanised and treated as guilty. There seems to be something of a gulf between how the justice system works in theory and how the police implement it in practice. I asked Sam how he thinks the issue should be resolved given the difficulty of gathering evidence for sexual crimes:

‘I think you accept that if you are to agree with the principle of innocent until proven guilty you can’t prosecute as many of these alleged crimes as people would want to.’

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Checking the witness statement

Prosecutors play an important role in ensuring that material relating to a complainant’s previous sexual history which is not relevant to the issues in the case is not admitted during the course of a trial.  Prosecutors should adopt a structured approach, in which true relevance to an issue in the case is properly and carefully analysed.

  1. Checking the witness statement/ABE interview and considering edits 

When preparing a case prosecutors should always give consideration to the contents of the witness’s statement or ABE interview. Very often, these statements include information about sexual history. Prosecutors should consider whether this is evidence that the prosecution would want to adduce (the restriction does not apply to evidence adduced by the prosecution) or whether this evidence should be edited. If a decision is made not to adduce this evidence then it should be edited from the statements and the DVDs and the defence should be advised in writing or at the pre-trial plea hearing. If they object, then they can be advised that they will need to make an application under section 41.

  1. Checking the defendant interview and considering edits 

The same consideration applies to comments made by a defendant in their police interview under caution. These interviews sometimes contain comments by defendants which seek to introduce material which would be in contravention of the section 41 restriction. Prosecutors consider the need to edit these interviews and keep the defence informed of intentions.

  1. Steps to follow when a Section 41 application is received 

When a Section 41 application is received from the defence the reviewing lawyer for the case must do the following:

  • Carefully review the application and reach a preliminary position with regards to how the Crown will respond and record that position on CMS;
  • Immediately request written advice from counsel on the application;
  • Where an application is made in advance of the trial date, discuss the application and proposed response with counsel at a case conference;
  • Approve the response to the Section 41 application prior to service and record action taken on CMS.
  1. Steps to follow when a Section 41 application is agreed by the court 

Where an application to adduce sexual behaviour evidence has been agreed by the court in advance of the trial date the reviewing lawyer must:

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False allegations and CPS

The restriction in Section 41 does not prohibit questions about a complainant’s previous false complaints of rape and sexual assault because this is not evidence or questioning about any sexual behaviour of the complainant. However, before any questions are asked about alleged previous false complaints, it is important that the defence seek a ruling from the trial judge that section 41 does not apply.

In such a case, the defence must have a proper evidential basis for asserting that the previous statement was both made and was untrue. Whether there is a proper evidential basis is a fact sensitive exercise and a matter of judgment rather than discretion. It is not necessary for the defence to prove that the complaint was false. According to Murray [2009] EWCA Crim 618 a proper evidential basis was said to be “less than a strong factual foundation for concluding that the previous complaint was false but it does require some material from which it could properly be concluded that the complaint was false”. In other words, the defence must be able to point to material that is capable of supporting the inference of falsity but need not inevitably support it. Another case of assistance on this point is R v E [2009] EWCA Crim 2668.

In the case of R v All-Hilly [2014] 2 Cr App R 33 the Court of Appeal ruled that the fact the complainant had made but did not pursue previous allegations did not provide a sound basis for suggesting they were false.

In most cases where the defence want to ask a complainant about an alleged false allegation, in addition to seeking a ruling that section 41 does not apply, the defence will almost certainly be required to make a ‘bad character’ application under Section 100 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003.

Useful link: Refer to Chapter 4 on tackling myths and stereotypes

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Police Contact with Therapists

Police contact with therapists and the importance of making specific requests

Where a therapist is working for an agency and access is sought to the material generated, it is important that an approach is made to the agency.

If the police believe that the therapist holds material that may be relevant to the investigation, the therapist should be told of the investigation and alerted to the need to preserve relevant material.

Investigators are not required to provide extensive operational details to a therapist but it is important that any request for information is specific (e.g. spanning a specific time period and related to a particular issue), and the officer must be able to demonstrate to the therapist the relevance of their specific inquiries to their investigation. The therapist may refuse a request if they would be unable to comply with their own data protection obligations in meeting it, the data sought is not specific enough and/or there is no rationale for seeking it.

Where the therapist refuses to comply with the police request

If a therapist has refused a police request for material within therapy notes, the prosecutor should be informed. Investigators and prosecutors should request that the third party preserve the material and this request should be documented.

Tackling victim credibility myths

For detailed guidance on tackling common myths and stereotypes arising in RASSO cases see Chapter 4 and Annex A of the RASSO Legal Guidance.

When considering the impact of any apparent inconsistency between accounts provided by the victim to a therapist and to the police, prosecutors should note that therapy is not an investigative process and that, as such, there is no expectation that a therapist should take verbatim notes in relation to victim disclosures of potential criminality for the benefit of criminal justice agencies. The limitations of note taking during therapy should be considered by prosecutors when assessing the impact of any apparent inconsistencies.

The courts have long recognised that an inconsistency in accounts provided by a victim does not necessarily mean that a victim is not telling the truth – see the Crown Court Compendium Part 1: Jury and Trial Management and Summing Up Section 20-1 ‘Sexual offences – The dangers of assumptions’ Paragraph 14 (December 2020).

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Rape prosecutions are plummeting

Should police be able to seize victims’ phones or access therapy notes during rape investigations?

CPS guidance was updated last year to allow therapy notes to be requested by officers whenever they deem it relevant to their investigation, while previously they could only be secured if they were known to contain material capable of “undermining the prosecution case or assisting the suspect”.