Douglas Darnall

I just learned of the passing of Dr. Douglas Darnall.  He is a strong and valued voice for children and families in their fight against the pathology of “parental alienation.”

My prayers are with Doug as he travels home, and are with his family who mourn his loss.

May peace and love be with you.

Craig Childress, Psy.D.
Psychologist, PSY 18857

The Structure of the Pathology: Advanced Material

This is for mental health professionals, and I’m going to be introducing some advanced material here about the pathology.  Consider this blog my indulgence.  I find this interesting, so I’m going to blog about it because I can.


Sometimes my brain gets captivated with information that just has to get out, and until it gets out my brain just feels full.  It’s a weird experience, almost like the information in my brain is separate from me.

The moment I get the information out, it feels like there’s less pressure in the information-thinking areas of my brain and I can get back to work.

This happened over the past few days with a couple of diagrams.  I’ll be using these diagrams to explain the pathology in my November AB-PA training for mental health professionals.

The training is going to be in two parts.

Basic Certification in AB-PA:  On Saturday and Sunday I will lead two 6-hour training seminars in the basics of AB-PA, it’s assessment, diagnosis, and treatment (including instruction on constructing and running the Contingent Visitation Schedule).

Advanced Certification:  On that Monday, I’ll be offering a third 6-hour training on Advanced issues in AB-PA.  This is where all the really interesting stuff is going to be, the incest themes in the pathology, the pathogen’s formation, its structure, and its functioning, malignant narcissism and gaslighting, the linkages of the pathogen into other brain networks and systems, implications for other complex-trauma pathologies (pathological hatred, racism, and terrorism).

The diagrams that entered my brain and needed to get out are for the third day, the Advanced Certification training.  I thought I’d post them to my website just to get the information out there in case the universe calls me home before I’m able to get this information out in formal trainings.  If I’m called home by the universe, then at least this information won’t be entirely lost.  And besides, I just think this information is fascinating and I thought I’d share it for any young mental health professionals just starting out – guideposts into a very intriguing form of attachment-related pathology created in complex trauma.

The first diagram is an overall visual depiction of the pathology across three levels, the attachment system level, the personality disorder level, and the family systems level.

Pathology Schema Diagram

I’m going to use this diagram in my November seminar by first presenting a broad overview of the “meme-structures” of the pathology as they flow through the various levels.   I’ll have this diagram in the background on my Powerpoint (and as a handout) as I move through the various levels, describing the flow of meme-structures through the levels.

Once I provide this broad orientation to the pathology, my next few Powerpoint slides will be for each individual level, and I’ll go through each of the nodal points in each level of pathology, unpacking more fully the information at each nodal point of each separate level.

Finally, I’ll return to the overarching diagram again and flow through it once more for a final overall integration of the information within the pathology’s structure.

The legend for this diagram is:

The Attachment System Level

1.)  The attachment system (and component information structures)
2.)  Disorganized attachment (the core attachment “pattern” and origin of the inability to process sadness)
A.)  Splitting
3.)  Anxious-ambivalent overtones (borderline pathology); anxious-avoidant overtones (narcissistic pathology)
4.)  Self and Other representational networks
5.)  Core schemas of self-inadequacy and rejection/abandonment by the other
6.)  The central schema pattern of the trauma and trauma reenactment (“abusive parent”/”victimized child”/”protective parent”)

Personality Pathology Level

7.)  Personality pathology containing core schemas (and inability to process sadness)
8.)  Narcissistic personality pathology and borderline core
9.)  Borderline style response (containing core schemas of self-inadequacy and other-abandonment)
10.  Projective displacement of core schemas onto the ex-spouse and hyper-anxious presentation display
11.)  Narcissistic style response (containing core schemas of self-inadequacy and other-rejection)
12.)  Projective displacement of core schemas onto the ex-spouse and hostile-angry retaliatory presentation display
A.)  Splitting

Family Systems Pathology Level

13.)  Family challenge of transition to a separated family structure (triggering loss and sadness, triggering the attachment networks to mediate loss and sadness)
14.)  Regulation of “homeostatic balance” and imposition of collapsing personality disorder pathology in response to rejection-abandonment inherent to divorce.
15.)  Triangulation of the child; cross-generational coalition; emotional cutoff in the family between the child and targeted parent
A.)  Splitting

Trans-Generational Level

16a. Incest-related trauma theme of rejecting a parent
16b. Incest-related trauma theme of rejecting a parent

Now… imagine that this diagram is a three-dimensional model, like the molecule-models that chemists build using wooden balls and sticks.  So the diagram isn’t actually flat, each of the nodal points kind of comes forward or recedes somewhat to give a three dimensional structure to the pathology in space.

So now imagine that you’re holding this three-dimensional model, kind of turning it over this way and that, looking at it from one angle and then from a different angle; turning it to look at it from the bottom, so that the attachment information structures are up close and the other structures recede into the background along lines of perspective; or turning it to look at it from the attachment-personality disorder side, looking up close at how the disorganized attachment nodes lead into the narcissistic and borderline symptoms, while the rest of the model is in the more distant background.

Now imagine that you flip the model entirely over, looking at it from it’s backside – from its underbelly if you will.  As you flip it over you’ll notice that the three levels are structurally organized into a sort of cup shape, and you’ve been looking at the outside of the cup, but when you flip the structure over you have an entirely new perspective, you’re now looking inside the cup formed by the structure of nodal points contained in the three levels.

And low-and-behold, when you flip it over you see additional structures, additional nodal points that weren’t evident when you are only looking at the outside of the “cup” shape.  These nodal point structures only become visible when you flip the structure over.

That’s the second diagram, the Underbelly diagram.

The Underbelly of the Pathology Diagram

The Underbelly nodal points are what we see when we flip the structure of the three levels over and look inside the “cup” shape formed by the three levels of the pathology.

At the core of the Underbelly is the emotion regulation system (1), and it’s an absolute chaotic mess, as we would expect from a “disorganized” attachment system, childhood trauma exposure, and narcissistic/borderline personality pathology.  There’s an emotional abyss of deep-seated core-emptiness along with massive amounts of fragmenting anxiety (trauma-fear).

The chaotic and disorganized emotional regulatory system is linked up into the personality pathology (2), which is linked over to the attachment system damage and trauma (3).  These two nodal points are the linkages into the outside of the “cup” that we just looked at in diagram 1.  So these two nodal points in the Underbelly are the linkages into all the nodal information points on the outside of the cup (diagram 1).

But now notice something very-very interesting.  The attachment system is a “primary motivational system of the brain.”  As a primary motivational system of the brain, the attachment system therefore has links into motivational networks (4).  That’s what makes this pathology so incredibly amazing, unlike any other form of pathology I’ve ever run across.  Once it captures the brain, it has access to the person’s motivation.

Over the course of my professional career, I’ve worked with ADHD pathology and autism-spectrum disorders, with oppositional-defiant and conduct disorder spectrum pathology, I’ve even worked with schizophrenia and bipolar disorders in adults.  I’ve worked with just about every type of child and family pathology at some point or another, and I have never, ever, seen anything like this.  The pathology itself has motivation.

The pathology has motivation (albeit primitive, but motivation nevertheless) because it is embedded in the attachment system, and the attachment system is a “primary motivational system” of the brain with links into motivational networks.

It was sometime in… probably 2010 to 2012 when I first flipped the imagery-model over and saw the Underbelly.  “Holy cow.  Now, look at this…”

The motivational networks link into three “defensive structures.”  The pathogen actively seeks (has motivation) to defend itself, and to prevent efforts at disabling the pathology.  Holy cow.  I have never-ever seen anything like this.  The pathology seeks to defend itself – is motivated to actively defend itself if we try to get rid of it.

“Hey!  Yooo hooo.  Mental health people.  You gotta see this.  This is incredible.  The pathology has structures that seek to defend the pathology.”

The three defensive structures are:

Remain Hidden (5).  This is the primary defensive structure, and in the Advanced seminar in November I’ll explain where this defensive structure comes from, we’ll flip the model of the pathology over-and-back and see the formation of this defensive structure in the trauma pathology that created the damaged information structures of the attachment networks.

Seek Allies (6).  This is another extremely intriguing feature of the pathology.  It actively seeks out allies.  The pathology is motivated to seek and form allies, to both enact the pathology and also to help it remain hidden.  In November, we’ll do the same thing with this defensive structure of flipping the model back-and-forth to see specifically how this defensive structure originates from the trauma, and this particular structure will shed light on other types of narcissistic-origin pathologies, such as cult formation and terrorist group formation.  The pathogen “motivates” the formation of ally groups to enact the pathology (hence the “flying monkey” feature of the pathology).

Attack Threats with Great Viciousness (7).  This is THE most dangerous psychological pathogen on the planet.  It’s the same core-structure pathogenic agent responsible for the Nazis and for terrorism; different surrounding meme-structures (nodal points on the outside of the “cup,” but same core trauma-structure “backbone” and Underbelly.  This particular defensive meme (this particular set of information structures in the brain that contains the meme-structures of this pathogen), is responsible for the violence and cruelty of the pathogen’s expression, from the psychological violence toward the targeted parent in “parental alienation,” to the violence of terrorist bombings, to the violence of African child-soldiers, to the violence of Nazi concentration camps.  Same core structural nodal points on the outside of the “cup” (similar, not exactly the same), leading to the same Underbelly, the attachment system links into motivational networks, and the nodal point of “Attack Threats with Great Viciousness.”

The motivation to attack perceived threats (whether it’s Richard Gardner surrounding exposing the pathology of “parental alienation,” or the perceived “threat” supposedly posed by Jews that leads to antisemitism, or the “threat” perceived by racists from persons of color that motivates the horrific cruelty of racial lynchings, or the terrorist motivation to construct a bomb with nails to viciously kill and injure “non-believers” in a supposed holy jihad), all of this vicious and violent cruelty originates from this “defensive” nodal point (7) that exists within the structural context of this particular psychological trauma-pathogen.

In November, on day 3 of the seminar, I’ll unpack the origins of this meme-structure nodal point in the trauma and explain exactly where it comes from and how it was created in the trauma.

But there’s more…

This pathogen, the damaged and broken information structures in the attachment system on the outside of the “cup” (foundational nodal box 1 of the Levels of Pathology diagram), also links into other areas of the brain, inhibiting the full operation of these other brain areas.

In particular, it attacks and inhibits three main brain areas,

1)  Executive Function – Logical Reasoning (8):  The reason the pathogen inhibits logical reasoning is because the brain needs to “regulate” intensely painful emotions and can’t, unless it alters truth and reality.  In order to regulate the chaotic and intensely painful emotions, the person, the brain, needs to be able to alter truth and reality (“Truth and reality are whatever I assert them to be”).  This is what leads to the delusional component of the pathology.

As an aside, we can see this feature of inhibited logical-reasoning on prominent display in a certain political figure who has narcissistic pathology; “Truth and reality are whatever I assert them to be.”

As a second aside, we can also see this feature of inhibited logical-reasoning being prominently displayed by the Gardnerian PAS “experts.”  This has important implications for understanding their reluctance to switch to an AB-PA model of the pathology.

2)  Self-Identity Networks (9):  This particular inhibition pathway has an interesting origin in the original trauma.  It essentially involves the meme-structures in the pathology that require the other person’s psychological submission to the domination and control of the narcissistic personality.  In order to facilitate the person’s submissive response to the dominating narcissistic personality (to “mein Fuhrer” – the dominating-controlling narcissist), the pathogen shuts off (inhibits) areas of the person’s self-identity that would otherwise prevent the person’s psychological submission.  Self-identity then becomes a fused “social identity” (called “enmeshment” in the psychological pathology of “parental alienation”).

3.)  Memory Networks (10):  Why does the pathogen attack and inhibit the memory system?  Memory is linked to self-identity.  In order to shut down self-identity, the pathogen has to “erase” from awareness the memories that serve as the substrate for the person’s self-identity.

The first two days of the AB-PA Certification training in November will cover the basic foundation of the pathology, the three diagnostic indicators and 12 Associated Clinical Signs, the Treatment-Focused Assessment Protocol, and models of therapy (including the Contingent Visitation Schedule).  Mental health professionals who take the two-day AB-PA Certification course will be fully expert in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of the pathology.

Targeted parents and the Court will be able to fully rely on these mental health professionals, that they possess the highest level of professional skill and expertise in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of attachment-related family pathology surrounding divorce.

The optional third day… the Advanced seminar… is when I’ll unpack the really-really interesting stuff.

I’m looking forward to November.  It’s only July and my brain is already popping out the information of its own accord.   But there’s still things to do before November.

On October 20th in Houston I will be giving a 4-hour seminar on AB-PA and the Key Solution pilot program proposal for the family court system.  If you are a family law legal professional or a court-involved mental health professional and have any ability to be at this talk, I highly recommend it.

Targeted parents, if you have any interest in becoming an advocate for changing the family court system response to “parental alienation” and you’re able to attend the October 20th seminar, I’d highly recommend attending this talk on October 20th in Houston.

The October 20th seminar on AB-PA is being organized and hosted by Children 4 Tomorrow in Houston.  I’ll have more information about this as we get closer to the seminar date.

The change began in Dallas, it traveled to Boston, and it’s returning to Texas, October 20th – Houston.

Craig Childress Psy.D.
Clinical Psychologist, PSY 18857

Response 2 to the APA: Stop Lying to these Parents

One of the many parent-warriors received this response from the APA regarding a revision of their official Statement on Parental Alienation Syndrome

Mr. Dennison,
Your message to several of our board members was forwarded to me for a response.  The American Psychological Association has no official position on “parental alienation syndrome,” but because significant public concern about the related issues has been expressed to APA, the association plans to appoint a working group to review the scientific literature on high-conflict family relationships in which children are involved and recommend next steps for advancing knowledge development and application in this area.”

In my post, Response to the APA, I addressed the core issue that the APA has yet to understand; this isn’t about Parental Alienation Syndrome or high-conflict divorce.  This is about professional incompetence – rampant and unchecked professional incompetence.

Let me now respond to a second major problem with the APA’s response… they’re lying when they say “The American Psychological Association has no official position on parental alienation syndrome.”

To the APA:  I’m a clinical psychologist.  You can bulls*** the general public and they may not know how to respond, but I’m a clinical psychologist.  You can’t lie to me.  What you’re doing is called a “double-message” that creates a “double-bind” for the recipient in the communication process

You are using the Statement to take a position, but then you deny that you are taking a position.

In your “no position statement” you cite task force conclusions from 20 years ago that dealt with a peripherally related different topic (family violence) to denigrate the construct of “parental alienation,” using the pulpit of the APA to make the “Statement” that “parental alienation” lacks supporting scientific data , that it is a “so-called” pathology rather than a real form of pathology, and you use the voice of the task force to raise the APA’s professional “concerns about the term’s use.”

You absolutely 100% take a position, and your position is 100% clear.  It’s simply that you then verbally deny the obvious, “However, we have no position on the purported syndrome” which creates a double message.  One message, the APA’s position against the construct of “parental alienation” is being so STRONGLY suggested and clearly implied that it is abundantly obvious to all who read the Statement of the APA, but then the second message denies the existence of the first.  This creates a “double bind.”

Wikipedia: Double Bind.  A double bind is an emotionally distressing dilemma in communication in which an individual (or group) receives two or more conflicting messages, and one message negates the other.  This creates a situation in which a successful response to one message results in a failed response to the other (and vice versa), so that the person will automatically be wrong regardless of response.

So if we respond to the APA’s Statement on Parental Alienation Syndrome by asking that the APA change it’s position statement on “parental alienation,” the APA says, we have no position on “parental alienation,” yet if we don’t respond by asking for a change to the position statement of the APA, then the APA’s position that “parental alienation” is a “so-called” form of non-existent pathology that lacks scientifically supporting data, and that the APA has “raised concerns” about the use of the construct all are allowed to be propagated into the general discussion.

That’s the double-bind that your double-message creates for the parents exposed to this pathology.  No matter how they respond, they’re wrong.

You know it’s a double-message.  I know it’s a double-message.  You’re just denying it’s a double-message.  You know what denying a double-message is called?  Crazy making.

Psychology Today: How to Handle a Crazymaker.  Kimberley Key; 3/18/14

“Crazymaking is when a person sets you up to lose, as in the examples above: You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. You’re put in lose-lose situations, but too many games are being played for you to reason yourself out of it.”

To the APA:  STOP IT.

You absolutely know exactly what you’re doing.  You’re psychologists.  I absolutely know exactly what your doing.  Stop it.   Your double-message to these parents is crazymaking.  Stop it.

Their pain and suffering is too great and is too authentic for you to be playing these cruel types of mind-games with them.

If you have no position on “parental alienation,” then take down your Statement and have no position.  Simple as that.

No Position = No Statement.

Do you have a position on the Loch Ness monster?  No?  Where’s your Statement indicating that you have no position on the Loch Ness monster?  There is none.  You know why?  Because you have no position on the Loch Ness monster.

Or else openly acknowledge the obvious, that you do have a position on Parental Alienation Syndrome. That you believe it lacks scientific support, that it is a “so-called” non-existent form of pathology (not a real form of pathology), and that you have grave concerns about the term’s use.

I’m totally fine with that.  In fact, I’m in 100% agreement with that.

Dr. Childress Statement on Parental Alienation Syndrome

There is no such thing as Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS).  The construct of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) lacks scientific support because it is an ill-conceived and ill-defined form of supposed pathology.  Dr. Childress has significant professional concerns about the how the construct of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is defined through a set of made-up symptom identifiers.

Because the construct of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) emerged in response to an actual attachment-related pathology surrounding divorce, a more general construct of “parental alienation” has developed to label the underlying attachment-related pathology that can occur in the context of divorce.

However, because the construct of “parental alienation” is also inadequately defined from a professional standpoint, Dr. Childress calls directly upon all responsible mental health professionals to STOP using the construct of “parental alienation” in professional-level discourse.

Yet, because the more general term of “parental alienation” has become so completely embedded in the popular-culture as a common-use label for a form of attachment-related family systems pathology surrounding divorce, professional psychology will be obliged to continue the use of the term “parental alienation” in broader discussions with the general public, but all professional-level discussions should return to using only standard and established constructs and principles involving only established and defined forms of pathology.

The construct of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) with its eight supposed symptom identifiers should be entirely retired from professional-level discussion.

No double-message there.  I’m clear as a bell.  Parental Alienation Syndrome is a horrific model of pathology.   No doubt about it.

That does not, however, mean that there is not an actual form of pathology captured by the common-culture label of “parental alienation.”  Absolutely the pathology exists.  It’s just not a “new syndrome” that is unique in all of mental health, as proposed by the Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) model of the pathology.

The pathology people are calling “parental alienation” is a standard form of attachment-related pathology called “pathological mourning” (Bowlby, 1980) involving the trans-generational transmission of attachment trauma from the childhood of a narcissistic/(borderline) personality parent to the current family relationships, mediated by the personality disorder pathology of the parent which is itself a product of this parent’s childhood attachment trauma.

And this isn’t me saying this.  This is John Bowlby and Arron Beck and Theodore Millon and Otto Kernberg and Salvdor Minuchin and Jay Haley and Murry Bowen and Bessel van der Kolk and countless others in the scientific and theoretical literature who are describing and defining the pathology.  I’d be more than happy to point you to the specific literature where these preeminent figures in professional psychology describe the pathology.

“The deactivation of attachment behavior is a key feature of certain common variants of pathological mourning.” (Bowlby, 1980, p. 70)

“They [narcissists] are especially deficient in genuine feelings of sadness and mournful longing; their incapacity for experiencing depressive reactions is a basic feature of their personalities.  When abandoned or disappointed by other people they may show what on the surface looks like depression, but which on further examination emerges as anger and resentment, loaded with revengeful wishes, rather than real sadness for the loss of a person whom they appreciated.” (Kernberg, 1977, p. 229)

“An inappropriately rigid cross-generational subsystem of mother and son versus father appears, and the boundary around this coalition of mother and son excludes the father.  A cross-generational dysfunctional transactional pattern has developed” (Minuchin, 1974, p. 61-62)

“The parents were divorced six months earlier and the father is now living alone… Two of the children who were very attached to their father, now refuse any contact with him.  The younger children visit their father but express great unhappiness with the situation.” (Minuchin, 1974, p. 101)

In 2002, fifteen years ago, Brian Barber and his colleague Elizabeth Barber in his book Intrusive Parenting: How Psychological Control Affects Children and Adolescents (2002), published by the American Psychological Association (you guys – you guys published this) defined the construct of a child’s psychological control by a parent:

“Psychological control refers to parental behaviors that are intrusive and manipulative of children’s thoughts, feelings, and attachment to parents.  These behaviors appear to be associated with disturbances in the psychoemotional boundaries between the child and parent, and hence with the development of an independent sense of self and identity.” (Barber & Harmon, 2002, p. 15)

Manipulation and exploitation are hallmarks of the narcissistic and borderline personality pathology. Do I really need to cite the literature on that?  Really?

Barber and Harmon (2002) cite over 30 empirically validated scientific studies measuring the construct of parental psychological control with children, and nearly 20 additional studies on constructs related to psychological control.

Stone, Buehler, and Barber (2002) describe the process of the psychological control of children by parents:

“The central elements of psychological control are intrusion into the child’s psychological world and self-definition and parental attempts to manipulate the child’s thoughts and feelings through invoking guilt, shame, and anxiety.  Psychological control is distinguished from behavioral control in that the parent attempts to control, through the use of criticism, dominance, and anxiety or guilt induction, the youth’s thoughts and feelings rather than the youth’s behavior.” (Stone, Buehler, and Barber, 2002, p. 57)

In their study on the psychological control of children, Stone, Buehler, and Barber establish the link between parental psychological control of children and marital conflict:

“This study was conducted using two different samples of youth. The first sample consisted of youth living in Knox County, Tennessee.  The second sample consisted of youth living in Ogden, Utah.” (Stone, Buehler, and Barber, 2002, p. 62)

“The analyses reveal that variability in psychological control used by parents is not random but it is linked to interparental conflict, particularly covert conflict.  Higher levels of covert conflict in the marital relationship heighten the likelihood that parents would use psychological control with their children.” (Stone, Buehler, and Barber, 2002, p. 86)

Stone, Buehler, and Barber even provide an explanation for their finding that intrusive parental psychological control of children is related to high inter-spousal conflict:

“The concept of triangles “describes the way any three people relate to each other and involve others in emotional issues between them” (Bowen, 1989, p. 306).  In the anxiety-filled environment of conflict, a third person is triangulated, either temporarily or permanently, to ease the anxious feelings of the conflicting partners.  By default, that third person is exposed to an anxiety-provoking and disturbing atmosphere.  For example, a child might become the scapegoat or focus of attention, thereby transferring the tension from the marital dyad to the parent-child dyad.  Unresolved tension in the marital relationship might spill over to the parent-child relationship through parents’ use of psychological control as a way of securing and maintaining a strong emotional alliance and level of support from the child.  As a consequence, the triangulated youth might feel pressured or obliged to listen to or agree with one parents’ complaints against the other.  The resulting enmeshment and cross-generational coalition would exemplify parents’ use of psychological control to coerce and maintain a parent-youth emotional alliance against the other parent (Haley, 1976; Minuchin, 1974).” (Stone, Buehler, and Barber, 2002, p. 86-87)

APA, you guys pubished this 15 years ago – 15 years ago.  Do you really need a “working group” on this?  Really?  Don’t you even read your own stuff?

This is not Dr. Childress saying this stuff.  This is John Bowlby, Otto Kernberg, Theodore Millon, Aaron Beck, Salvador Minuchin, Jay Haley, Murray Bowen, and the list goes on and on…

The pathology most definitely exists, it’s just that Gardner’s PAS model is a horrific model of pathology.

It’s time we returned to standard and established constructs of professional psychology and leave the wilderness of supposedly new forms of pathology – “new syndromes” – behind us.

But APA, stop giving crazy-making double-messages to these parents.

The pathology these parents are addressing already has a prominent double-bind “crazy-making” component as an embedded feature of the narcissistic/(borderline) personality pathology at the casual roots of the pathology.  So when you take a position and then deny taking a position, this just adds to the trauma-experience of these parents.  Stop it.

I am totally fine with getting rid of Gardnerian PAS entirely.  Woo hoo.  Let’s return to standard and established constructs and principles of professional psychology.  I’m all for that.

But just don’t do your crazy-making double-messages with these parents.  They deserve better from you.

If the APA has no position on “parental alienation” derivative constructs, then the APA’s Statement on this should be right next to their no-position Statement on Loch Ness monsters and Sasquatch.

No Position = No Statement.

But stop the crazy-making double-messages.  That’s beneath you as a professional organization of psychologists.  You should know better, and you should do better. Stop it.

Craig Childress, Psy.D.
Clinical Psychologist, PSY 18857

To targeted parents: Do you hear how the pathogen has infected the APA?

“It’s not me, it’s the child who doesn’t want to…”

“It’s not the APA, it’s (the child) the APA Presidential Task Force who says this.”

How much more blatantly obvious can the pathogen’s presence in the APA be?  “It’s not me, it’s the child (it’s not me, it’s the 1996 APA task force).”

Double-messages, double-binds, crazy-making communication.  The pathogen has infected the APA and is disabling the APA’s response to the pathology.  The APA is essentially a collusive ally to the psychological abuse of the child.

The APA is not doing this as a conscious choice.  They are simply ignorant and are being used by forces within the APA that are infected with the pathogen (i.e., who seek to be the “protective other” in a false trauma reenactment narrative – called “counter-transference” and the “parallel process” of splitting.)

One of the leading experts on borderline personality pathology, Marsha Linehan, describes the parallel process of spitting that can arise in mental health professionals who are treating borderline personality pathology:

“Staff splitting,” as mentioned earlier, is a much-discussed phenomenon in which professionals treating borderline patients begin arguing and fighting about a patient, the treatment plan, or the behavior of the other professionals with the patient… arguments among staff members and differences in points of view, traditionally associated with staff splitting, are seen as failures in synthesis and interpersonal process among the staff rather than as a patient’s problem… Therapist disagreements over a patient are treated as potentially equally valid poles of a dialectic.  Thus, the starting point for dialogue is the recognition that a polarity has arisen, together with an implicit (if not explicit) assumption that resolution will require working toward synthesis.” (Linehan, 1993, p. 432)

By defining the pathology from entirely within standard and established constructs and principles of professional psychology, AB-PA serves in working toward synthesis between “equally valid poles in a dialectic.”

Gardnerian PAS is a horrific model of pathology – AND – the pathology most definitely exists and is fully described and identifiable using standard and established constructs and principles of professional psychology.  Synthesis.


 

Barber, B. K. (Ed.) (2002). Intrusive parenting: How psychological control affects children and adolescents. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Barber, B. K. and Harmon, E. L. (2002). Violating the self: Parenting psychological control of children and adolescents. In B. K. Barber (Ed.), Intrusive parenting (pp. 15-52). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Bowlby, J. (1980). Attachment and loss: Vol. 3. Loss: Sadness and depression. NY: Basic Books.

Kernberg, O.F. (1975). Borderline conditions and pathological narcissism. New York: Aronson.

Linehan, M. M. (1993). Cognitive-behavioral treatment of borderline personality disorder. New York, NY: Guilford

Stone, G., Buehler, C., & Barber, B. K. (2002) Interparental conflict, parental psychological control, and youth problem behaviors. In B. K. Barber (Ed.), Intrusive parenting: How psychological control affects children and adolescents. Washington, DC.: American Psychological Association.

Response to the APA

One of the many parent-warriors received this response from the APA regarding a revision of their official Statement on Parental Alienation Syndrome

Mr. Dennison,
Your message to several of our board members was forwarded to me for a response.  The American Psychological Association has no official position on “parental alienation syndrome,” but because significant public concern about the related issues has been expressed to APA, the association plans to appoint a working group to review the scientific literature on high-conflict family relationships in which children are involved and recommend next steps for advancing knowledge development and application in this area.”

There’s a number of things that are wrong with this response from the APA, but I’m going to focus this blog post on just one area in the response of the APA that indicates that they just don’t quite understand the issue yet.

The issue isn’t about “parental alienation syndrome,” nor is it about high-conflict divorce.  It’s about Standards 2.01a, 9.01a, 2.03, and 3.04 of the APA ethics code, and whether these Standards have any actual meaning – or are they just empty words without actual real-world impact.

Here is the issue:  There is no such thing as “parental alienation.”  It is a made-up form of pathology.  We must return to standard and established constructs and principles of professional psychology.  The pathology exists.  It is an attachment-related pathology called “pathological mourning” (Bowlby, 1980).

“The deactivation of attachment behavior is a key feature of certain common variants of pathological mourning.” (Bowlby, 1980, p. 70)

Bowlby further links pathological mourning to personality pathology that develops from adverse childhood experiences.

Disturbances of personality, which include a bias to respond to loss with disordered mourning, are seen as the outcome of one or more deviations in development that can originate or grow worse during any of the years of infancy, childhood and adolescence.” (Bowlby, 1980, p. 217)

The pathology of a child rejecting a parent is fundamentally an attachment-related pathology.  Pathological mourning is linked to personality pathology (in this case, the parent’s narcissistic/(borderline) personality pathology).

The family systems literature has abundantly and fully described a child’s triangulation into the spousal conflict through the formation of a cross-generational coalition with one parent against the other parent, which can result in an emotional cutoff of the child’s relationship with the targeted parent (Bowen, Haley, Minuchin).

“An inappropriately rigid cross-generational subsystem of mother and son versus father appears, and the boundary around this coalition of mother and son excludes the father.  A cross-generational dysfunctional transactional pattern has developed” (Minuchin, 1974, p. 61-62)

“The parents were divorced six months earlier and the father is now living alone… Two of the children who were very attached to their father, now refuse any contact with him.  The younger children visit their father but express great unhappiness with the situation.” (Minuchin, 1974, p. 101)

We must leave the professional wilderness of “new forms of pathology” and return to the established path of standard and established professional constructs and principles.

The issue is the profound ignorance and rampant unchecked professional incompetence of many-many mental health professions regarding standard and established forms of pathology.

Professional Competence: Attachment-Related Pathology

Premise:  Mental health professionals who are assessing, diagnosing, and treating attachment-related pathology need to be professionally knowledgeable and competent in the attachment system, what it is, how it functions, and how it characteristically dysfunctions.

Conclusion:  Failure to possess professional-level knowledge regarding the attachment system when assessing, diagnosing, and treating attachment-related pathology would represent practice beyond the boundaries of professional competence in violation of professional standards of practice.

Professional Competence: Personality Disorder Pathology

Premise:  Mental health professionals who are assessing, diagnosing, and treating personality disorder related pathology as it is affecting family relationships need to be professionally knowledgeable and competent in personality disorder pathology, what it is, how it develops, how it functions, and how it characteristically affects family relationships following divorce.

Conclusion:  Failure to possess professional-level knowledge regarding personality disorder pathology when assessing, diagnosing, and treating personality disorder related pathology in the family would represent practice beyond the boundaries of professional competence in violation of professional standards of practice.

Professional Competence: Family Systems Pathology

Premise:  Mental health professionals who are assessing, diagnosing, and treating families need to be professionally knowledgeable and competent in the functioning of family systems and the principles of family systems therapy.

Conclusion:  Failure to possess professional-level knowledge regarding the functioning of family systems and the principles of family systems therapy when assessing, diagnosing, and treating family pathology would represent practice beyond the boundaries of professional competence in violation of professional standards of practice.

Professional Competence: Complex Trauma

Premise:  Mental health professionals who are assessing, diagnosing, and treating the trans-generational transmission of complex trauma within family relationships need to be professionally knowledgeable and competent in the nature of complex trauma, as expressed both individually and through family relationships.

Conclusion:  Failure to possess professional-level knowledge regarding the trans-generational transmission and expression of complex trauma when assessing, diagnosing, and treating family pathology involving complex trauma would represent practice beyond the boundaries of professional competence in violation of professional standards of practice.

Current Professional Incompetence

Many-many-many court-involved psychologists are absent professional-level expertise in the attachment system, and yet they are nevertheless attempting to assess, diagnose, and treat attachment-related pathology despite their professional ignorance and incompetence regarding the characteristic functioning and dysfunctioning of the attachment system.

Many-many-many court-involved psychologists are absent professional-level expertise in personality disorder pathology, and yet despite their professional ignorance and incompetence these mental health professionals are nevertheless attempting to assess, diagnose, and treat family pathology that is being created by a parent’s personality disorder pathology, to the great and lasting harm and detriment of these families.

Many-many-many court-involved psychologists are absent professional-level expertise in family systems therapy and family systems constructs, and yet despite their professional ignorance and incompetence regarding the nature of family interrelationships these mental health professionals are nevertheless attempting to assess, diagnose, and treat family pathology involving complex family dynamics.

Many-many-many court-involved psychologists are absent professional-level expertise in complex trauma pathology as it is transmitted across generations, yet despite their ignorance these mental health professionals are nevertheless attempting to assess, diagnose, and treat family pathology created by the trans-generational transmission of complex attachment-related trauma, despite their professional ignorance and incompetence.

APA Guidance

As a consequence of the profound professional ignorance and incompetence currently on display surrounding the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of attachment-related, personality disorder related, family systems related, complex trauma pathology surrounding divorce, many-many-many families are being significantly and irrevocably harmed.

These families are asking the APA to provide its psychologist membership with guidance regarding the required professional knowledge necessary to assess, diagnose, and treat attachment-related pathology, personality disorder related pathology, family systems related pathology, and complex trauma related pathology.

This guidance from the APA can be offered by amending the current APA Statement on Parental Alienation Syndrome to a more general and positive position that:

Statement On Attachment-Related Pathology Surrounding High-Conflict Divorce

1.)  Acknowledges that an attachment-related pathology can exist surrounding divorce in which one parent triangulates the child into the spousal conflict surrounding the divorce through the formation of a cross-generational coalition of one parent with the child against the other parent, and that this can result in a cutoff of the child’s attachment bond to the targeted-rejected parent (Bowen, Haley, Minuchin).

The pathology exists.  The renowned family systems therapist, Salvador Minuchin provides a structural family diagram for the pathology on page 42 of his book with Michael Nichols, Family Healing.  The pathology exists.  Call it by whatever name you want, the family pathology exists.

Narcissistic and borderline personality pathology exists. We know it exists.  The narcissistic personality is vulnerable to rejection and the borderline personality is vulnerable to abandonment. Both rejection and perceived abandonment are part of divorce, and it should be fully anticipated that parental narcissistic and borderline personality pathology will become activated during and following divorce.

The activated narcissistic and borderline personality pathology of the parent can triangulate the child into the spousal conflict surrounding the divorce as a means to stabilize the collapsing narcissistic and borderline personality structure that is being challenged by the rejection and abandonment inherent to divorce.

It doesn’t take a working group to acknowledge that these forms of pathology exist.

2.)  That attachment-related pathology surrounding divorce can be complex and requires a high-degree of professional knowledge and expertise in a variety of areas to competently assess, diagnose, and treat.  As a result of the many possible factors potentially influencing family relationships surrounding divorce, the children and families experiencing attachment-related pathology surrounding divorce represent a special population who require specialized professional knowledge and expertise to competently assess, diagnose, and treat.

This type of revision to the APA Statement to a more moderate-centrist position would provide guidance that all mental health professionals are required to possess the necessary competence in established forms of pathology when assessing, diagnosing, and treating established forms of pathology, and that the issues of attachment-related pathology surrounding divorce can be complex and require a high-degree of professional knowledge and expertise in a variety of potential component areas of the pathology.

Recourse

If the APA abdicates in its responsibility to ensure adherence to professional standards of practice regarding its code of ethics, then parents whose children and families are being severely and irrevocably damaged because of professional ignorance and the subsequent incompetence created by this professional ignorance, will be left with no other recourse than to file licensing board complaints against the ignorant and incompetent mental health professionals under Standards 2.01a, 9.01a, 2.03, and 3.04 of the APA ethics code.

Loving parents cannot be asked to stand by and do nothing while their children are severely and irrevocably harmed.  Loving parents will enable themselves of the only recourse they have, if they must.

This is NOT the desired course. The desired course is for the APA to provide guidance that establishes that professional knowledge and competence is expected.  But in the absence of responsive guidance provided by the APA, loving parents will have no other recourse than to take active steps on their own to ensure the protection of their children through filing licensing board complaints under APA ethics code Standards 2.01a, 9.01a, 2.03, and 3.04.

Pathogenic parenting that is creating significant developmental pathology in the child (attachment system suppression), personality disorder pathology in the child (five specific narcissistic personality disorder traits in the child’s symptom display), and delusional-psychiatric pathology in the child (an encapsulated persecutory delusion) represents a DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed.

Loving parents cannot be asked to do nothing while their children are being psychologically abused by the pathology of their personality disordered ex-spouse.  Parents have the right under Standards 2.01a, 9.01a, 2.03, and 3.04 to expect professionally knowledgeable and competent assessment, diagnosis, and treatment.

Loving parent are pleading with the APA to provide guidance to their psychologist membership that will ensure professional competence in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of their families.  But these parents will no longer stand by and witness the destruction of their children due to the ignorance and incompetence of mental health professionals to appropriately assess, accurately diagnose, and effectively treat the pathology being evidenced in their families.

If the response of the APA to the heartfelt pleas of these loving parents is for the APA to form a “working group” to “review the scientific literature,” then the APA must also expect that while the APA’s working group is reviewing the literature these parents will not simply stand by and do nothing to prevent the severe and irrevocable damage to their children caused by the professional ignorance and incompetence of the mental health professionals who are tasked with assessing, diagnosing, and treating the pathology within their family.

As long as the APA remains silent, the only other recourse for these loving parents is through seeking enforcement of the APA ethics code one individual psychologist at at time until professional competence is achieved.

What other choice do they have?  We cannot ask these loving parents to simply stand by and do nothing while their beloved children are being severely and irrevocably damaged by the pathology of their personality disordered ex-spouse and the ignorance and incompetence of the mental health professional to appropriately assess, accurately diagnose, and effectively treat the pathology?

To the APA:  These loving parents do not want to file licensing board complaints to achieve professional competence.  But what other choice are you giving them?  They are pleading with you to provide guidance to your psychologist membership regarding expectations for professional competence in standard and established forms of pathology.  But these loving parents will not stand by and do nothing, while their beloved child is destroyed.  If they must achieve professional competence one psychologist at a time – what other choice do they have? — what other choice are you giving them?

It’s not about high-conflict divorce.  It’s about professional competence in attachment-related pathology, personality disorder pathology, family systems pathology, and complex trauma pathology.

The degree of professional ignorance and incompetence in standard and established forms of pathology is profound.  These parents and these families – these children – have a right to expect professional competence.

Craig Childress, Psy.D.
Clinical Psychologist, PSY 18857

To Targeted Parents: You Are the Warrior

I recently met with a targeted parent for a consultation.

Following our meeting, I wrote him a follow-up letter to emphasize a point that emerged within our discussion, and I think this broader point is of value for all targeted parents to hear and understand… I am your weapon, not your warrior.  You are the warrior.

So here is my follow-up letter to Tom (not his real name).


Hello Tom,

As a follow-up to our conversation, everything… everything, is within the flow of that-which-leads.  I am just fulfilling my role within a larger force that is guiding things.

One of the elements of this larger guiding force is that it wants to awaken targeted parents from their slumber of helplessness imposed by trauma (this is a trauma pathology moving through generations).

As a result, my role is not to solve things for them – for you.  I am your weapon, not your warrior.

If parents leave this to me to solve, my work, my path, will solve it in about five to seven years.  There are meme-structures I’ve put into play that will take a while to incubate into fruition.

It’s like pushing a boulder.  At first you push and push, and the boulder just sits there.  Then it starts to move an inch.  You continue to push and push, and it starts to slowly turn.  Keep pushing and it starts to roll over… and then it starts to turn and it starts to pick up momentum, and now your pushing starts to increase its speed, and then it starts to roll on its own momentum, and then it becomes an unstoppable force; an unstoppable rolling boulder sweeping away everything in its path.

The solution is moving along several simultaneous lines.  The AB-PA pilot program for the family courts is going to be a major part of the solution.  In addition, there’s the push to get the APA to change its position statement on Parental Alienation Syndrome, there’s licensing board complaints to create professional discomfort in the mental health system and provoke a risk-management response of eliminating ignorance, and there’s legislative efforts to change the child abuse reporting laws.  Movement forward in any one of these areas ripples across all the others.

About a year from now I’m going to open up another area, my writing for and publication in professional journals (I just don’t have the time for that yet – it’s a slower avenue for creating change).

Bear in mind, I only have about 4 to 8 hours a week to work on this.  I’m a psychologist who sees patients to pay for my kids’ college, my house payments, car payments, etc.  My work in “parental alienation” is after hours and on weekends.  I’m just a single lone psychologist in private practice here in Southern California trying to create change in major systems that have been massively broken for decades.

Fundamentally, though, this isn’t my fight.  I’m not a targeted parent.  My kids are fine, my family is fine.  This is your fight, these are your kids.  I am not your warrior, I am your weapon.

But if targeted parents don’t pick up the weapons I’ve forged for them, if targeted parents are waiting for someone to rescue them, that’s not a me issue.  I’m fine.  My life is fine.

The universe is limiting me so that targeted parents activate.  These are your children.  My Jack and Annie are fine.  I’m not an alienated dad.  The universe wants to awaken targeted parents from the slumber of their trauma – these are your children, this is your fight, you are the warriors for your children, not me.  I am merely your weapon.

In Foundations and AB-PA I am giving targeted parents the weapons you need to fight back against the profound ignorance, incompetence, and apathy in the mental health system and family courts that is stealing your children – the weapons that you need to fight back against the professional incompetence in mental health assessment, in diagnosis, and in treatment that is stealing your children from you, and to fight back against a legal system that is massively broken and that colludes with the pathology to maintain a corrupt status quo that financially eviscerates vulnerable families.

I am your weapon, I am not your warrior.  You are the warrior.

I can act as an expert consultant on a class action or Rico lawsuit, but I cannot file a class action or Rico lawsuit.

I can encourage targeted parents to write to and put pressure on the APA, but I cannot write the letters for them.

I can cite the specific APA ethics codes that incompetent mental health professionals are violating, but I cannot file the licensing board complaints holding mental health professionals accountable to basic standards of competency.

I can support the efforts of targeted parents to meet with their state legislators to change child abuse reporting laws to include a definition of child psychological abuse (consistent with the DSM diagnostic system), but I am not a constituent of these legislators.

Are you waiting for someone to rescue you?  No one is going to rescue you.  You are the warrior.  Your children are waiting for you to rescue them.  I am not your warrior, I am your weapon.

The other important thing that the universe wants from targeted parents is an end to their narcissistic self-focus.  Over-and-over again targeted parents seek my advice and help on their specific situations; and over-and-over I tell them that until we fix the broken systems there is NO solution.

There is no solution.  Let that fully sink in.  There is no solution.  In order to solve “parental alienation” for any one family, in any one situation, we must solve it for ALL families and ALL children.

To obtain solution in any single case, we must first fix the surrounding broken structures of the mental health system response, and then use the mental health solution to fix the legal system response, and when we do this then we will solve it for ALL children and ALL families.  Targeted parents need to stop being so self-focused on finding a solution only for their specific family.  I know how much you love your children, I know how heartbreaking it is for you each individually, but targeted parents need to begin working for each other, to solve this for all children and all families.

For example, what good will it do in your specific case to file a licensing board complaint?  Absolutely none.  But that particular therapist will then take it upon themselves to learn about AB-PA, and that particular therapist won’t be incompetent for the NEXT family.

Once mental health professionals understand that they will – with 100% certainty – face a licensing board complaint from targeted parents (under Standards 2.01a and 9.01a of the APA ethics code surrounding competence and competent assessment), then they will become competent (assess and document the child’s pathology using the Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting; their reading Foundations would be good).  As long as targeted parents – as a community of consumers – accepts professional ignorance and incompetence, then that’s exactly what they will get – ignorance and incompetence.

APA Ethics Code

2.01 Boundaries of Competence
(a) Psychologists provide services, teach, and conduct research with populations and in areas only within the boundaries of their competence, based on their education, training, supervised experience, consultation, study, or professional experience.

Psychologists are not allowed to be ignorant and incompetent.

9.01 Bases for Assessments
(a) Psychologists base the opinions contained in their recommendations, reports, and diagnostic or evaluative statements, including forensic testimony, on information and techniques sufficient to substantiate their findings.

If a psychologist has not even assessed for pathogenic parenting surrounding an attachment-related pathology (the Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting), then their diagnostic statements and forensic testimony cannot possibly be based on “information and techniques sufficient to substantiate their findings.”

2.03 Maintaining Competence
Psychologists undertake ongoing efforts to develop and maintain their competence.

It’s not up to targeted parents, or me, or anyone else to educate psychologists.  It is their responsibility to “undertake ongoing efforts” to remain educated and competent.

Professional Competence

Attachment System Competence:  Mental health professionals who are assessing, diagnosing, and treating attachment-related pathology need to be professionally knowledgeable and competent in the attachment system, what it is, how it functions, and how it characteristically dysfunctions.  Failure to possess professional-level knowledge regarding the attachment system when assessing, diagnosing, and treating attachment-related pathology would represent practice beyond the boundaries of professional competence in violation of professional standards of practice.

Personality Disorder Competence:  Mental health professionals who are assessing, diagnosing, and treating personality disorder pathology as it is affecting family relationships need to be professionally knowledgeable and competent in personality disorder pathology, what it is, how it functions, and how it characteristically affects family relationships following divorce.  Failure to possess professional-level knowledge regarding personality disorder pathology when assessing, diagnosing, and treating personality disorder pathology in the family would represent practice beyond the boundaries of professional competence in violation of professional standards of practice.

Family Systems Competence: Mental health professionals who are assessing, diagnosing, and treating families need to be professionally knowledgeable and competent in the functioning of family systems and the principles of family systems therapy.  Failure to possess professional-level knowledge regarding the functioning of family systems and the principles of family systems therapy when assessing, diagnosing, and treating family pathology would represent practice beyond the boundaries of professional competence in violation of professional standards of practice.

Complex Trauma Competence: Mental health professionals who are assessing, diagnosing, and treating the trans-generational transmission of complex trauma need to be professionally knowledgeable and competent in the nature of complex trauma, as expressed both individually and through family relationships.  Failure to possess professional-level knowledge regarding the trans-generational transmission and expression of complex trauma when assessing, diagnosing, and treating family pathology involving complex trauma would represent practice beyond the boundaries of professional competence in violation of professional standards of practice.

Notice I did not use the term “parental alienation.”  Not once.

In defining the pathology entirely from within standard and established constructs and principles of professional psychology, AB-PA activates Standards 2.01a, 9.01a, and 2.03 of the APA ethics code for targeted parents.  But if targeted parents do not pick up the weapon I have forged for them, if they just let it sit there because they expect me to be their warrior and they’re waiting for me to rescue them… then my path will solve this in about five to seven years.

The flow of the universe wants to limit me because it wants to awaken targeted parents from their trauma-induced slumber.  When a select group of warrior parents awoke and created a Petition to the APA, the boulder began to inch forward.  When warrior parents awoke and contacted their state legislators, the boulder began to turn.  As warrior parents pick up their sword and spear of AB-PA that I have forged for them, and awaken from their trauma-induced slumber to fight for each other and for each other’s children – to solve this for all children and all families – then the boulder of change will start to roll, and will become an unstoppable force for change.

I am not your warrior.   I am your weapon.  These are your kids.  You are their warrior.

Craig Childress, Psy.D.
Clinical Psychologist, PSY 18857

The Silence of the APA

“If I were to remain silent, I’d be guilty of complicity” – Albert Einstein

Standard 2.01a of the American Psychological Association’s ethics code requires – requires – professional competence.  Yet profound professional ignorance and incompetence is tolerated in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of parent-child attachment-related pathology surrounding divorce.

At what point does the silence of the American Psychological Association become complicity with professional ignorance and incompetence?

In their silence, the American Psychological Association is tacitly allowing rampant professional ignorance and incompetence in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of attachment-related pathology to go unchecked.

Silence is complicity.

Child Psychological Abuse

Pathogenic parenting: patho=pathology; genic=genesis, creation.  Pathogenic parenting is the creation of significant psychopathology in the child through aberrant and distorted parenting practices.

Pathogenic parenting is an established construct in both developmental and clinical psychology and is most often used in relation to attachment-related pathology, since the attachment system never spontaneously dysfunctions, but ONLY becomes dysfunctional in response to pathogenic parenting.

The attachment system is the brain system that governs all aspects of love and bonding throughout the lifespan, including grief and loss.  A child rejecting a parent is fundamentally an attachment-related pathology caused by pathogenic parenting, either by the targeted-rejected parent (through child abuse), or by the allied and supposedly “favored” parent (through a cross-generational coalition of the child with the allied parent against the targeted-rejected parent; Bowen, Haley, Minuchin).

Pathogenic parenting that is creating significant developmental pathology in the child (attachment system suppression), personality pathology in the child (five a-priori predicted narcissistic personality traits), and delusional-psychiatric pathology in the child (an encapsulated persecutory delusion) represents a DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed.

Many-many-many court-involved mental health professionals are NOT EVEN ASSESSING for the standard psychological symptoms of attachment-system suppression, personality disorder traits, and an encapsulated persecutory delusion that are created by one parent’s pathogenic parenting.  As a result, these mental health professionals are missing making the diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse. They are allowing, through their ignorance and incompetence, the continued psychological abuse of the child.

And the APA remains silent.

The silence of the APA has become complicity in the ongoing psychological abuse of children.

Incompetent Assessment

Standard 9.01a of the APA’s ethics code requires – requires – that psychologists base their diagnostic statements and forensic testimony on “information and techniques sufficient to substantiate their findings,” yet many-many-many court-involved mental health professionals are NOT EVEN ASSESSING for the symptoms of attachment-system suppression, personality disorder traits, and an encapsulated persecutory delusion that are created by the pathogenic parenting of a narcissistic/(borderline) personality parent.

Not even assessing.  Yet the APA says nothing.

The silence of the APA is complicit in the ignorant and incompetent assessment of pathology.  The APA allows professional incompetence by remaining silent.

Professional Competence

Attachment-Related Pathology

Mental health professionals who are assessing, diagnosing, and treating attachment-related pathology need to be professionally knowledgeable and competent in the attachment system, what it is, how it functions, and how it characteristically dysfunctions.

Failure to possess professional-level knowledge regarding the attachment system when assessing, diagnosing, and treating attachment-related pathology would represent practice beyond the boundaries of professional competence in violation of professional standards of practice.

Many-many-many court-involved psychologists have no professional-level expertise in the attachment system, and yet they are nevertheless attempting to assess, diagnose, and treat attachment-related pathology despite their professional ignorance and incompetence regarding the characteristic functioning and dysfunctioning of the attachment system.

When the APA remains silent; their silence is complicity.

Personality Disorder Pathology

Mental health professionals who are assessing, diagnosing, and treating personality disorder related pathology as it is affecting family relationships need to be professionally knowledgeable and competent in personality disorder pathology, what it is, how it develops, how it functions, and how it characteristically affects family relationships following divorce.

Failure to possess professional-level knowledge regarding personality disorder pathology when assessing, diagnosing, and treating personality disorder related pathology in the family would represent practice beyond the boundaries of professional competence in violation of professional standards of practice.

Many-many-many court-involved psychologists lack professional-level expertise in personality disorder pathology, and yet despite their professional ignorance and incompetence these mental health professionals are nevertheless attempting to assess, diagnose, and treat family pathology that is being created by a parent’s personality disorder pathology, to the great and lasting harm and detriment of these families.

And the APA remains silent.

Silence is complicity.

Family Systems Pathology

Mental health professionals who are assessing, diagnosing, and treating families need to be professionally knowledgeable and competent in the functioning of family systems and the principles of family systems therapy.

Failure to possess professional-level knowledge regarding the functioning of family systems and the principles of family systems therapy when assessing, diagnosing, and treating family pathology would represent practice beyond the boundaries of professional competence in violation of professional standards of practice.

Many-many-many court-involved psychologists have no professional-level expertise in family systems therapy and family systems constructs, and yet despite their professional ignorance and incompetence regarding the nature of family interrelationships these mental health professionals are nevertheless attempting to assess, diagnose, and treat family pathology involving complex family dynamics.

And the APA remains silent.

Silence is complicity.

Complex Trauma

Mental health professionals who are assessing, diagnosing, and treating the trans-generational transmission of complex trauma within family relationships need to be professionally knowledgeable and competent in the nature of complex trauma, as expressed both individually and through family relationships.

Failure to possess professional-level knowledge regarding the trans-generational transmission and expression of complex trauma when assessing, diagnosing, and treating family pathology involving complex trauma would represent practice beyond the boundaries of professional competence in violation of professional standards of practice.

Many-many-many court-involved psychologists have no professional-level expertise in complex trauma pathology as it is transmitted across generations, yet despite their ignorance these mental health professionals are nevertheless attempting to assess, diagnose, and treat family pathology created by the trans-generational transmission of complex attachment-related trauma, despite their professional ignorance and incompetence.

And the APA remains silent.

Silence is complicity.

Complicity is Not Acceptable

The American Psychological Association needs to:

1.)  Acknowledge that the pathology exists.

The APA needs to formally acknowledge that the pathology of pathogenic parenting by a narcissistic/(borderline) personality parent (Beck, Kernberg, Linehan, Millon) forming a cross-generational coalition with the child against the other parent (Haley, Minuchin) following divorce can result in an emotional cutoff (Bowen) in the child’s relationship with the targeted parent.

They can call the pathology whatever they want.  Just acknowledge it exists.

2.)  Special Population Status

The APA needs to designate the children and families evidencing this form of attachment-related family pathology surrounding divorce as a special population requiring specialized professional knowledge and expertise to competently assess, diagnose, and treat.

Children are being psychologically abused by the activated narcissistic and borderline personality pathology of their parents surrounding divorce, yet the APA remains silent.

Mental health professionals are attempting to assess, diagnose, and treat complex attachment-related personality disorder family pathology that is outside of their knowledge and beyond the boundaries of their competence, yet the APA remains silent.

The time has come for the APA to speak up.  Their continued silence becomes complicity with the psychological abuse of children and becomes collusion with professional ignorance and incompetence.

“Silence becomes cowardice when occasion demands speaking out the whole truth and acting accordingly.” – Mohandas Gandhi

The APA is complicit in the psychological abuse of children. – C.A. Childress

To the APA:  You know the pathology exists.  Say something.  Continued silence becomes complicity.

Craig Childress, Psy.D.
Clinical Psychologist, PSY 18857

Assessment, Diagnosis, Treatment

An attachment-based model of “parental alienation” (AB-PA) – as described in Foundations – is not a “theory” – it is diagnosis.

Diagnosis is the application of standard and established constructs and principles to a set of symptoms.  Diagnosis.

A foundational principle of clinical psychology is that assessment leads to diagnosis, and diagnosis guides treatment. 

The pathology typically described as “parental alienation” in the popular culture is an attachment-related pathology called pathological mourning (Bowlby, 1980), involving a cross-generational coalition of the child with one parent against the other parent (Haley, 1977; Minuchin, 1974), resulting in an emotional cutoff in the child’s relationship with a normal-range and affectionally available parent (Bowen, 1978; Titelman, 2003).

In 1993 (twenty five years ago), the preeminent family systems therapist, Salvador Minuchin and his co-author Michael Nichols provided a structural family diagram on page 42 of their book, Family Healing, for this type of family pathology. 

There it is.  There is the structural family systems diagram for what everyone is calling “parental alienation” – but what is actually called a cross-generational coalition of an allied parent with the child against the targeted parent that results in an emotional cutoff in a parent-child relationship in actual family systems therapy (Bowen, 1978; Haley, 1977; Minuchin, 1974; Minuchin & Nichols, 1993)

Note the triangular pattern of family relationships.  This is called the child’s “triangulation” into the spousal conflict.  Triangulation is the professional construct for the child being “placed in the middle” of the spousal conflict.

Note also, the “inverted hierarchy” created by the child’s elevation in the family hierarchy to a position above that of the targeted parent (the mother in this example) from which the child is empowered by the coalition with the father to judge the targeted parent.  An inverted family hierarchy is a highly characteristic symptom feature of a cross-generational coalition within the family. 

The three lines between the father and child indicate an “enmeshed,” over-involved psychological relationship of the father and child, which represents a psychological violation of boundaries across generations – leading the renowned family systems therapist, Jay Haley, to call this type of family pathology a “perverse triangle.”

The break in the connecting lines to the mother indicate the “emotional cutoff” of the mother from the father-son coalition.  This is the symptom feature everyone is calling “parental alienation” – the child’s rejection of the parent.  The child’s rejection of the parent is part of a much larger family systems pathology.

“Emotional stuck-together fusion and emotional cutoff are interrelated expressions of undifferentiation… The greater the degree of stuck-together fusion in a family, the greater the degree of cutoff that will follow.  This interlocking process continues to the multigenerational history of the family.” (Titelman, 2003, p. 21)

“When a pattern of fusion exists in one segment of a family, nuclear, family of origin, or extended, there is an equivalent degree of cutoff in the same or another segment of the family as a multigenerational system.” (Titelman, 2003, p. 21)

This is not some “new form of pathology” that requires unique new symptom identifiers.  We absolutely know what this pathology is.  Well, at least knowledgeable and competent mental health professionals know what it is.  The problem is that the field of professional psychology surrounding this attachment-related family pathology is rampant with profound professional ignorance and incompetence.

But the pathology typically called “parental alienation” in the popular culture is a well-understood and well-established form of attachment-related family pathology called “pathological mourning” which is being created by the personality disorder pathology of the allied narcissistic/(borderline) personality parent who has formed a cross-generational coalition with the child against the targeted parent.  We absolutely know what this pathology is.

So how did we reach this level of profound professional ignorance and incompetence?  Gardnerian PAS.  Back in the 1980s, a psychiatrist, Richard Gardner, proposed the existence of a new form of pathology – a “new syndrome” – which he called Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS).  But in proposing a new form of pathology which was supposedly unique in all of mental health, Gardner skipped the step of professional diagnosis; the application of standard and established constructs and principles to a set of symptoms.

Gardner was correct in identifying a form of family pathology surrounding divorce, but he was incorrect that it represented a “new form of pathology” – a unique “new syndrome” in mental health.  It’s NOT a new form of pathology.  Gardner was simply a poor diagnostician.

The problem we’re facing is that when Gardner skipped the step of professional diagnosis he led professional psychology off into the wilderness of supposedly unique new forms of pathology that are supposedly identifiable by equally unique new forms of symptom identifiers.  By leading professional psychology into the wilderness, Gardner opened the door for professional ignorance and incompetence. 

We need to leave the wilderness of “new forms of pathology” and return to the established path of professional practice – assessment leads to diagnosis, and diagnosis guides treatment.  Diagnosis is the application of standard and established constructs and principles to a set of symptoms – no “new forms of pathology” unique in all of mental health.  Standard and established constructs and principles ONLY.

AB-PA is professional diagnosis; the application of standard and established constructs and principles to a set of symptoms.  In diagnosing the pathology from entirely within the standard and established professional constructs of the attachment system, personality disorder pathology, and family systems constructs (as fully described in Foundations), AB-PA returns us to the established path of professional psychology.

AB-PA is NOT a theory.  AB-PA is diagnosis.

We need to return to the established path of professional psychology.  The foundational principle of clinical psychology is that assessment leads to diagnosis, and diagnosis guides treatment.  Diagnosis is the application of standard and established constructs and principles to a set of symptoms.

Diagnosis:  The pathology everyone is calling “parental alienation” represents the trans-generational transmission of attachment trauma from the childhood of the allied narcissistic/(borderline) parent to the current family relationships, mediated by the personality disorder pathology of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent that is itself a product of this parent’s childhood attachment trauma.

Diagnosis:  The pathology everyone is calling “parental alienation” represents the child’s triangulation into the spousal conflict through the formation of a cross-generational coalition with an allied narcissistic/(borderline) parent that is resulting in the emotional cutoff of the child’s relationship with a normal-range and affectionally available targeted-rejected parent.

We absolutely know what this pathology is.  We simply need to accurately diagnosis it.  An accurate diagnosis begins with a proper assessment. 

Assessment leads to diagnosis, diagnosis guides treatment.

Assessment

A child rejecting a parent is fundamentally an attachment related pathology.

“The deactivation of attachment behavior is a key feature of certain common variants of pathological mourning.” (Bowlby, 1980, p. 70)

The attachment system is the brain system that governs all aspects of love and bonding throughout the lifespan, including grief and loss.  The attachment system is the brain system that governs a child’s bonding to a parent.  A child rejecting a parent is fundamentally an attachment-related pathology.

The attachment system never spontaneously dysfunctions.  The attachment system ONLY becomes dysfunctional in response to pathogenic parenting (patho-pathology; genic=genesis, creation).  Pathogenic parenting is the creation of significant psychopathology in the child through aberrant and distorted parenting practices. 

The construct of pathogenic parenting is an established construct in both clinical and developmental psychology and is most often used regarding attachment-related pathology since the attachment system never spontaneously dysfunctions, but ONLY becomes dysfunctional in response to pathogenic  parenting.

In ALL cases of attachment-related pathology surrounding divorce, ALL mental health professionals should assess for pathogenic parenting by an allied narcissistic/(borderline) parent who has formed a cross-generational coalition with the child against the other parent that is creating the child’s rejection of a normal-range and affectionally available targeted parent.

Assessment Leads to Diagnosis:  The American Psychological Association requires – REQUIRES – under Standard 9.01a of the APA ethics code that ALL mental health professional conduct an appropriate assessment.

9.01 Bases for Assessments
(a) Psychologists base the opinions contained in their recommendations, reports, and diagnostic or evaluative statements, including forensic testimony, on information and techniques sufficient to substantiate their findings.

If a mental health professional has not even assessed for pathogenic parenting surrounding an attachment-related pathology in the family, despite the fact that the attachment system ONLY becomes dysfunctional in response to pathogenic parenting, then that mental health professional’s “diagnostic statements” and “forensic testimony” CANNOT possibly be based on information “sufficient to substantiate their findings,” and this psychologist would therefore be in violation of Standard 9.01a of the APA ethics code.

Notice that NOWHERE in this am I talking about assessing for “parental alienation.”  We must return to standard and established professional constructs and principles for assessment, diagnosis, and treatment.

Assessment leads to diagnosis:

The Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting

The Parenting Practices Rating Scale

Just assess for the symptoms of pathogenic parenting by an allied narcissistic/(borderline) parent who has formed a cross-generational coalition with the child against the targeted-rejected parent.

We are NOT assessing for “parental alienation.”  We are returning to the path of established professional psychology.  We are leaving the wilderness of “new forms of pathology.”  We are basing our diagnosis on standard and established constructs and principles of professional psychology; the attachment system, personality disorder pathology, and family systems therapy.

Diagnosis is the application of standard and established constructs and principles to a set of symptoms.  Assessment leads to diagnosis, and diagnosis guides treatment.

DSM-5 Diagnosis

Pathogenic parenting that is creating significant developmental pathology in the child (diagnostic indicator 1), personality disorder pathology in the child (diagnostic indicator 2), and delusional-psychiatric pathology in the child (diagnostic indicator 3) is a DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed.

Don’t tell me this pathology is not in the DSM-5.  It is absolutely in the DSM-5.  Page 719: V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse Confirmed.

Assessment leads to diagnosis:  The Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting.  

Just assess for the symptoms of pathogenic parenting by an allied narcissistic/(borderline) parent who has formed a cross-generational coalition with the child against the targeted-rejected parent.

We must return to the path of established professional psychology in order to rid ourselves of the profound professional ignorance and incompetence that disables the mental health response to this attachment-related pathology, personality disorder pathology, and family systems pathology.

At the professional level, all mental health professionals MUST return to using the standard and established constructs and principles of professional psychology to diagnose pathology.

Assessment leads to diagnosis; diagnosis guides treatment.  Once we return to the established path of professional psychology, we absolutely know what this pathology is, and we can absolutely solve it.

AB-PA is NOT a theory.  It’s diagnosis; it’s the application of standard and established constructs and principles to a set of symptoms.

The Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting

Diagnosis:  Pathogenic parenting that is creating significant developmental pathology in the child (diagnostic indicator 1), personality disorder pathology in the child (diagnostic indicator 2), and delusional-psychiatric pathology in the child (diagnostic indicator 3) is a DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed.

Assessment leads to diagnosis; diagnosis guides treatment.

Craig Childress, Psy.D.
Clinical Psychologist, PSY 18857

Bowlby, J. (1980). Attachment and loss: Vol. 3. Loss: Sadness and depression. NY: Basic Books.

Bowen, M. (1978). Family Therapy in Clinical Practice. New York: Jason Aronson.

Haley, J. (1977). Toward a theory of pathological systems. In P. Watzlawick & J. Weakland (Eds.), The interactional view (pp. 31-48). New York: Norton.

Minuchin, S. (1974). Families and family therapy. Harvard University Press.

Minuchin. S. & Nichols, M.P. (1993). Family healing: Strategies for hope and understanding. New York: Touchstone.

Titelman, P. (2003). Emotional cutoff in Bowen family systems theory: An Overview.  In Emotional cutoff: Bowen family systems theory perspectives, P. Titelman (ed). New York: Haworth Press.