Mentalization-based therapy for parents in entrenched conflict: A random allocation feasibility study.


To explore the effectiveness of a mentalization-based therapeutic intervention specifically developed for parents in entrenched conflict over their children. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first randomized controlled intervention study in the United Kingdom to work with both parents postseparation, and the first to focus on mentalization in this situation. Using a mixed-methods study design, 30 parents were randomly allocated to either mentalization-based therapy for parental conflict-Parenting Together, or the Parents’ Group, a psycho-educational intervention for separated parents based on elements of the Separated Parents Information Program-part of the U.K. Family Justice System and approximating to treatment as usual. Given the challenges of recruiting parents in these difficult circumstances, the sample size was small and permitted only the detection of large differences between conditions. The data, involving repeated measures of related individuals, was explored statistically, using hierarchical linear modeling, and qualitatively. Significant findings were reported on the main predicted outcomes, with clinically important trends on other measures. Qualitative findings further contributed to the understanding of parents’ subjective experience, pre- and posttreatment. Findings indicate that a larger scale randomized controlled trial would be worthwhile. These encouraging findings shed light on the dynamics maintaining these high-conflict situations known to be damaging to children. We established that both forms of intervention were acceptable to most parents, and we were able to operate a random allocation design with extensive quantitative and qualitative assessments of the kind that would make a larger-scale trial feasible and productive.