Section 32 Report

Under the Guardianship of Infants Act 1964, Section 32 reports allow a judge to request the “Voice of the Child”, in which a child’s opinion and views are conveyed to the court by an assessor.

Section 47 Report

A Section 47 Report is a court directed report with a court appointed assessor, who is a mental health professional. The assessment involves a study of the family. The purpose of the report is to determine any question affecting the welfare of any party and their children to the proceedings.

Parental Alienation

Parental alienation describes the process, usually intentional, by which a parent conveys through words, actions, or behaviours to the child that the other parent (the “targeted parent”) is dangerous, unsafe, abusive, or “bad,” which results in the child becoming fearful or avoidant of the targeted parent.

Grandparents Alienation

Grandparent alienation occurs when grandparents are denied access to their grandchildren. This represents a form of ambiguous loss in which the child is physically absent but very much alive in the heart and mind of the grieving grandparent.

Parenting Capacity Assessments (PCA)

PCAs are a thorough and comprehensive evaluation for a parent’s vulnerabilities and weakness that may lead to neglect and/or abuse. It combines specific and extensive interviewing, psychometric testing, records review, risk-assessments if applicable and other data as necessary into a concise and complete evaluation. Recommendations for visitation, treatment and placement are made.

We believe that undertaking the task of conducting an assessment requires the use of methodology that is logical, comprehensive, relevant to the task at hand and researched based. Our assessments are unbiased and appreciate the complexities in families. We approach each case from a neutral perspective with the focus of the best interest of the child.

Parent Assessment Manual (PAMS)

The PAMS has been developed with the main purpose of assessing vulnerable parents and parents with learning disabilities; it gives guidance as to what is required for “good enough parenting”.

Each parenting skill that falls within a domain is assessed for parental knowledge and quality of parenting skills. By breaking these elements of parenting down into testable components PAMS starts to make an assessment of quality that is evidence-based. Subjectivity is always present in any assessment of parenting and this assessment is no exception. With the help of guidelines and a variety of response examples, a determination is made as to whether the parenting ability is good, adequate, or poor.

“Good enough parenting” is a term that recognises that it is unhelpful and unrealistic to demand perfection of parents, and to do so undermines the efforts of the vast majority of parents who are in all practical respects “good enough” to meet their children’s needs.

During the PAMS assessment the client will be presented with 31 Knowledge Cartoons, of which the first 10 relate to the child and the subsequent 21 relate to the parent. This exercise provides useful information about the parents’ perceptual abilities. In order to assess the quality of the client’s parenting skills she will also be asked to complete tasks in a Parent Booklet. This booklet provides an alternative method for the assessment of skills that are difficult to observe, or where the observation of skills is not possible.

Marschak Interaction Method (MIM)

The MIM is a structured technique for observing and assessing the overall quality and nature of relationships between caregivers and child. It consists of a series of simple tasks designed to elicit behaviours in four primary dimensions in order to evaluate the caregivers’ capacity to:

  • Set limits and provide an appropriately ordered environment (Structure)
  • Engage the child in interaction while being attuned to the child’s state  (Engagement)
  • Meet the child’s needs for attention, soothing and care (Nurture)
  • Support and encourage the child’s efforts to achieve at a developmentally  appropriate level (Challenge)
  • And the child’s ability to respond to the caregivers’ efforts 

Parent Developmental Interview

The Parent Development Interview is a 45 item semi-structured clinical interview intended to examine parents’ representations of their children, themselves as parents, and their relationships with their children. The PDI is intended to assess internal working models of relationships and elicits representations regarding a current, ongoing, “live” relationship between that of the parent with her children that is still evolving. The parent is asked to describe her children’s behaviour, thoughts, and feelings in various situations, as well as responses to the children in these situations. 

Further, the parent is asked to describe herself as a parent and to discuss emotions stimulated by the experience of parenting. The interview strives in a number of ways to tap into parents’ understanding of their child’s behaviour, thoughts, and feelings, and asks the parents to provide real life examples of charged interpersonal moments.

Personality and Risk Assessment

Risk assessments are a process or a tool a psychologist uses to decide whether someone is a danger to himself/ herself or others, studies his or her personality and provides an estimate of a person’s level of future risk of re-offending. 

There are two types of assessments: clinical and algorithmic. In a clinical assessment, a psychologist or clinician evaluates someone individually. These assessments require informal evaluations, interviews, and investigations of various factors of a client’s life. 

An additional method is an “algorithmic risk assessment.” Used alongside clinical assessments, algorithmic assessments use data, statistics, and social science. They provide a systematic assessment of emotional, interpersonal, experiential, attitudinal, and motivational styles and are a concise measure of the five major domains of personality (Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Emotional Stability, and Openness to Experience). 

They also provide a measure of state anger, trait anger, and anger expression, based on their responses to questions or on data about them, resulting in a numerical risk score and a designation of low, medium, or high risk.

Cognitive Assessment

The Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale 4th Ed. (WAIS-IV) is the most advanced adult measure of cognitive ability, based on recent research in the area of cognitive neuroscience and the theories and work of David Wechsler PhD. 

The Comprehensive Test of Nonverbal Intelligence -2 (CTONI-2) is a norm-referenced test using nonverbal formats. Measure general intelligence of children (six years and older) and adults who might be adversely affected by subtle or overt impairments involving language or motor abilities. 

Supervision of professionals

Supervision is a key requirement by many reputed professional counselling membership and regulatory bodies to ensure all psychologists/counsellors in practice are keeping their skills up to date and that they work in a safe and ethical way. Supervision also forms part of the psychologist’s/counsellor’s continuous professional and personal development

Aistear provides supervision for individuals, government bodies and private services for forensic issues, psychological matters and family court matters.

Session can be arranged on an ongoing basis, or as and when required.

Access Supervision

Supervised access services help children visit with their separated or divorced parent. This can be done while some kind of investigation or legal process is still happening, or following a court order. 

Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP)

DDP is a model of treatment and parenting for children with problems secondary to abuse, neglect, and multiple placements. It is based on the premise that the development of children and youth is dependent upon and highly influenced by the nature of the parent-child relationship. Such a relationship, especially with regard to the child’s attachment, security and emotional development, requires ongoing, reciprocal experiences between parent and child. Without such reciprocal experiences that promote an actual and perceived safety for the child, the child’s neurological, emotional, cognitive, and behavioural functioning is compromised.

A significant aspect of the treatment is parent education/support in order to assist the parents in responding to the child and managing the child’s environment in therapeutic ways. It will also teach the caregivers why the child’s unique background requires a different parenting style than the caregivers might have expected.

The therapist helps the child’s relationship with her parents. He does this by talking with the child using an affective-reflective (a-r) dialogue. This is a conversation that involves feeling as well as thinking. The therapist explores all aspects of the child’s life; safe and traumatic; present and past.

The therapist and parents’ inter-subjective experience of the child helps the child get a different understanding. This becomes integrated into her autobiographical narrative. This in turn becomes more coherent.

In this way the child experiences healing of past trauma and achieves safety within current relationships. The conversations and interactions (verbal and non-verbal) within the therapy room are all based upon PACE. This means that the therapist will be playful, accepting, curious and empathic.

He will talk in a way that is like telling a story rather than giving a lecture. Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy therefore involves the child and parents working together with the therapist. The child gains relationship experience, which helps her to grow and heal emotionally. Family members develop healthy patterns of relating and communicating.

This in turn leads to a less feelings of fear, shame or need to control within the family. Family members become open to each other’s inner life as well as their outward behaviour.

The child is helped to respond to current experience and memories of past experience flexibly instead of through rigid and repetitive responses.


Theraplay is a child and family therapy for building and enhancing attachment, self-esteem, trust in others, and joyful engagement. It is based on the natural patterns of playful, healthy interaction between the caregiver and the children and is personal, physical, and fun. Theraplay interactions focus on four essential qualities found in parent-child relationships: Structure, Engagement, Nurture, and Challenge. Theraplay sessions create an active, emotional connection between the child and parent or caregiver, resulting in a changed view of the self as worthy and lovable and of relationships as positive and rewarding.

Typically, the total number of sessions is 19-28, with four follow-up sessions over the next year. Children who have experienced separation, loss, trauma, multiple caregivers or institutional care typically need more help than the standard Theraplay treatment protocol. Whereas sessions are normally scheduled for 1 hour once a week, the assessment process may lead to a recommendation of more sessions, longer sessions or more frequent sessions. 

While Theraplay treatment is often recommended in the early appointments in order to strengthen the parent-child relationship (attachment), eventually children might need to process the past using other protocols such as Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP). 

Expert Witness

Aistear specialises in providing comprehensive psychological reports for both civil and criminal cases. We provide services throughout Ireland and have prepared numerous reports for legal proceedings in both criminal and family cases. We regularly give evidence as an expert witness to the courts. 

Cornelia is listed in Directory of Expert Witnesses, which is maintained by the British Psychological Society, the representative and regulatory body for Psychologists in the UK