Treatment for Custodial Fathers or Family Members

Fathers who are able to separate both physically and emotionally from the mothers' belief systems, restructure the family system to acknowledge MBP, and actively work to protect their children have been able to safely parent following a lengthy intervention period. Safe and secure parenting is contingent on the father's ability to function as the primary caregiver, a role for which many fathers in MBP cases are poorly equipped; as a result, an assessment of their parenting capacity is recommended.

Treatment for fathers is also a central component to the success of intervention with mothers, especially if the couple is intact. Fathers who continue to support the denial of MBP significantly reduce the odds for successful treatment of mothers. In addition, treatment requires that fathers maintain an active presence in their families, a role that they have often abdicated. Through treatment, they are given the extended role of being an active parent with clear responsibility for protecting and nurturing the children. Some fathers have difficulty considering participation in therapy. They may avoid or deny that they had a role in their spouse's actions, even when they are able to acknowledge the abuse of their children. While in treatment, fathers also explore the meaning of anger and control issues; growth in developing a more psychological mode of thinking is one sign of progress in treatment. A number of fathers need help with basic parenting skills. All of these strategies are aimed at reducing paternal rigidity, the propensity for denial, and the active enabling that fueled the MBP abuse. If fathers have issues with drugs, alcohol, or domestic violence or if they have been seen by their partners as ill, these issues also must be addressed before they are given primary responsibility for the children. In several cases, fathers initially took custody of their children but were unable to cope with the responsibility in the long term (Ayoub 2006).

Family members who take custody of the child victim also may need supportive intervention. Placement of a child with relatives who acknowledge the child's victimization tends to be stressed by the intense and often unrelenting pressure by the mother and her advocates. The mother's active attempts to increase contact with the child and to manipulate any approved contact tend to disrupt placements and make the child's ongoing care difficult. Whether out-of-home placement is with relatives or professional foster parents, the mother's ongoing criticism of their care of the child is frequently relentless.

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