Boston

The world of “parental alienation” surrounding high-conflict divorce changes dramatically on June 1 in Boston.

I leave tomorrow for the East coast where I will visit my son in DC for his birthday, and then travel up to Boston for my AFCC presentation with Dorcy.  This Boston presentation is significant and will alter the landscape of how the attachment-related family pathology of “parental alienation” is addressed in both the mental health and legal systems.

My Powerpoint is in-hand.  It is powerful.

There are at least 5 major – major – fulcrums of change contained in my Boston presentation. Any one of these fulcrums of change would be significant just by itself, and there will be at least five of them in my talk.

Two of these fulcrums of change – the Key to the family law solution and the explanation of the High Road protocol’s effectiveness – are shattering fulcrums of change that will ripple for years with major impact.

Systems change is slow.  There is an inertia that prevents change within systems.  This is especially true when the inertia of the status quo is locked into place by the profound indolence and sloth of professional ignorance and incompetence.

But the solution to the attachment-related family pathology of “parental alienation” is available today – now – this instant.  The ONLY barriers are professional ignorance and the incompetence that this ignorance spawns.

On June 1 in Boston we put an end to ignorance and we return to the solid foundation of professional knowledge.

On June 1 in Boston we draw a line in the sand that defines professional standards of practice and that challenges all mental health professionals into professional competence.

On June 1 in Boston we present the solution.  Simple.  Clear.  Direct.

On June 1 in Boston we explain exactly how the High Road protocol gently and effectively achieves a 100% success rate of restoring the child’s normal-range attachment bonding motivations toward the formerly targeted-rejected parent.

On June 1 in Boston, everything changes.

When a pebble is thrown into a lake, it takes time for the ripples to expand to the shores on which we stand.  Changing the inertia created by ignorance takes time. But there is no barrier except ignorance.  The solution is available – now – today.

Following my Boston presentation I will make my Powerpoint slides available on my website, but I will extract the slides related to the High Road protocol that might compromise the intellectual property of Dorcy Pruter in explaining how the High Road protocol creates change.

Dorcy has the legitimate right to protect her intellectual property.  The professional community also has a legitimate interest in understanding the change-mechanisms used.  Our Boston presentation balances these interests.

What the High Road protocol does is unlike anything we do in psychotherapy, and the catalytic change-agent mechanisms used by the High Road protocol have potential implications far beyond the restoration of the attachment system in “parental alienation.”  I suspect that our Boston presentation will initiate a gradually emerging dialogue in professional psychology about adapting the catalytic change-agent approach used by Dorcy to a broad-range of issues beyond the restoration of attachment bonding motivations.

Once we solve “parental alienation” – because that is THE most pressing issue – then expect a series of professional-level articles.  We just don’t have time yet.  We’re too busy solving “parental alienation” as fast as is humanly possible.

Following our presentation, Dorcy will have the full series of my Powerpoint slides related to the High Road protocol and she can make these slides available to individuals and in circumstances as she sees fit.  With the exception of these High Road slides, the remainder of my Powerpoint slides from Boston will be available on my website following our presentation.

I leave tomorrow for Boston.  The world is about to change.

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

Associated Clinical Signs: ACS-2 Empowering the Child

Empowering the child to reject the targeted parent is a key symptom feature of AB-PA because it is central to the underlying origins of the pathology in the narcissistic/(borderline) parent’s reprocessing of this parent’s own childhood trauma through its reenactment in current relationships.

The empowerment of the child represents a central – and indeed vital – “corrective change” to the original childhood trauma experience of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent-as-a-child that is key to the psychological reprocessing and working through of this childhood trauma experience for the narcissistic/(borderline) parent (which is the psychological function of the trauma reenactment).

In the original childhood trauma experience of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent-as-a-child, the narcissistic/(borderline) parent-as-a-child was helpless, vulnerable, and unable to stop the traumatizing psychological abuse of the experience.  Years later, when the divorce activates the attachment system of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent to mediate the loss of the spousal attachment relationship, the childhood trauma patterns contained within the narcissistic/(borderline) parent’s attachment networks also become reactivated.

This reactivation of the childhood trauma by the divorce (i.e., the rejection and abandonment by the attachment-figure) reactivates both the childhood trauma pattern (“abusive parent”/”victimized child”/”protective parent”) and also the immense childhood trauma anxiety of being a helpless, vulnerable, and “victimized child.”

The psychological identity of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent as the “victimized child” in the original childhood trauma experience fuses with the current child’s role as the supposedly “victimized child” in the trauma reenactment narrative.  In the fluid psychological disorganization the narcissistic/(borderline) mind, a psychological equivalency develops between the “victimized” narcissistic/(borderline) parent-as-a-child and the current child who occupies the role of the “victimized child” in the trauma reenactment narrative.  In the mind of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent, a diffusion of identity occurs that merges the parent’s childhood psychological experience of being the “victimized child” with the current role of the child as the “victimized child” in the trauma reenactment narrative.

The psychological function of the trauma reenactment is an unconscious repetition of the childhood trauma patterns in an effort to reprocess and work through the original trauma experience by altering certain key aspects of the original trauma experience in the current reenactment of the childhood trauma patterns.

In the original childhood trauma experience, the narcissistic/(borderline) parent was the helpless and vulnerable “victimized child.”

However, in the current reenactment of this childhood trauma experience, the current child is empowered by the supposedly “protective” narcissistic/(borderline) parent to be able to reject the allegedly “abusive parent.” This helps manage the narcissistic/(borderline) parent’s own reactivated trauma anxiety from their original childhood vulnerability.

In the current reenactment of this childhood attachment trauma of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent, the current child is not helpless, but is made to be powerful and empowered by the “protective” narcissistic/(borderline) parent in order to reject the “abusive parent” (the targeted parent’s role in the trauma reenactment narrative).

This empowerment of the child serves a critical function of reducing and regulating the re-activated and re-experienced trauma anxiety of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent that is embedded in the trauma networks of this parent’s attachment system by countering the helpless vulnerability of the “victimized child” (representing both the current child AND the narcissistic/(borderline) parent-as-a-child).

In the current trauma reenactment, the child is not helpless – the child is empowered.

The Empowered Child

The empowerment of the child to reject the supposedly “abusive” targeted parent in the kabuki theater display of the trauma reenactment narrative represents an important – and indeed vital – “corrective change” to the original childhood trauma experience of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent that is (unconsciously) designed to reprocess and work through the childhood trauma experience of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent.

Because of the key and central role that this empowerment symptom plays in the trauma reenactment narrative by providing the corrective change to the original childhood trauma experience of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent, and in reducing and regulating the reactivated trauma-related anxiety of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent, this symptom feature of empowering the child to reject the targeted parent is of central importance within the pathology and will therefore be present in all cases of AB-PA.

In all cases of AB-PA, the allied narcissistic/(borderline) parent will seek to empower the child to reject the targeted parent.

In juxtaposition to the child’s empowerment to reject the “abusive” targeted parent, is the equal requirement that the narcissistic/(borderline) parent supposedly becomes “helpless” (a false and feigned “helplessness”) to stop the child’s powerful rejection of the targeted parent.

This feigned helplessness on the part of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent to influence the supposedly “powerful child” is achieved in two themes:

First, the narcissistic/(borderline) parent claims parental incompetence (“What can I do?  I can’t force the child to…”), and

Second, the narcissistic/(borderline) parent presents as supposedly “respecting” the child’s “right” to make a supposedly “independent decision” to reject the targeted parent.

These two themes, feigned “helplessness” by the narcissistic/(borderline) parent and feigned “respect” for the child’s supposedly “independent decision” to reject the targeted parent, will be evident in the ACS-2 Empowering the Child symptom feature.

The three primary expressions of ACS-2 Empowering the Child are:

1.)  Child Deciding on Visitation.  Asserting that the child should be empowered to decide whether or not to go on visitation with the targeted parent (reflecting the “respect for the child” theme):

N/(B) Parent: “ The child should be allowed to decide on whether on not to visit the other parent.”

2.)  Listening to the Child.  The narcissistic/(borderline) parent will express variations of “listening to the child” (reflecting the “respect for the child” theme):

N/(B) Parent:  “We need to listen to the child” – “I’m just listening to the child” – “You should ask the child.  Just listen to the child.”

3.)  Child’s Testimony in Court.  The narcissistic/(borderline) parent will actively seek the child’s testimony in court to reject the targeted parent.

Child Testimony in Court

Seeking to have the child testify in court in order for the child to reject the other parent is so distinctive and pathology-specific a symptom, that when this particular sub-symptom of ACS-2 Empowering the Child by seeking the child’s testimony in court to reject the targeted parent is present, it is almost 100% characteristic of the corresponding presence of AB-PA.

NO normal-range parent who is capable of authentic empathy for the child would ever propose that the child testify in court in order to openly reject the other parent.  This sub-symptom of ACS-2 Empowering the Child is so significant and abhorrent that it will be addressed in a separate blog post.  But what should be noted here is that seeking the child’s testimony in court to reject the other parent is a sub-symptom of ACS-2 that is almost 100% characteristic of the absence of parental empathy in the allied narcissistic/(borderline) parent associated with the pathology of AB-PA.

All normal-range adults, legal professionals and mental health professionals alike, are extremely uncomfortable with putting the child in the position of testifying in court to openly reject a parent.  This is because normal-range adults have empathy for the child, and because of their empathy they realize the immense unconscious psychological stress and guilt this would create for the child.

In most cases, the child’s testimony is not allowed by the reasoned humanity of the judge because of this normal-range empathy for the stress and guilt such testimony would create for the child.  When testimony is allowed, the judge’s normal-range empathy and discomfort usually results in the child’s views being provided privately in the judges chambers.

A highly distinctive feature of the “seeking court testimony by the child”  sub-symptom of ACS-2 is that the narcissistic/(borderline) parent actually thinks the child being allowed to testify is a good thing.  While the idea of the child testifying in court to reject a parent makes all normal-range adults extraordinarily uncomfortable, the narcissistic/(borderline) parent cannot comprehend (because of the polarization of the splitting pathology) that the child could actually love the other parent.  That the child might actually love the targeted parent is a concept that simply does not perceptually register for the narcissistic/(borderline) parent.

This empathetic insensitivity of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent emerges from four factors:

1)  Within the context of the childhood trauma themes of this parent’s trauma reenactment narrative, the narcissistic/(borderline) parent sees the empowerment of the “victimized child” to reject the “abusive parent” as a righteous and justified act;

2)  The narcissistic/(borderline) parent is characterologically incapable of empathy;

3)  Manipulation and exploitation of others are central features of the narcissistic/(borderline) personality pathology;

4)  The polarized splitting pathology characteristic of both the narcissistic and borderline personality cannot (at a neuro-biological level) accommodate to ambiguity.  If the narcissistic-borderline parent rejects other spouse – then the child must ALSO reject the other spouse (parent).  Because of the nature of the splitting pathology, it is (neurologically) impossible for the narcissistic/(borderline) parent to conceptualize that the child might actually love the other parent.

Manipulation and Exploitation

The manipulation and exploitation of other people are highly characteristic features of both the narcissistic and borderline personality pathology.

In ACS-2: Empowering the Child, the narcissistic/(borderline) first manipulates the child into becoming a mirror for the narcissistic attitudes and beliefs of the parent, and then the narcissistic/(borderline) parent exploits the child’s reflection of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent’s attitudes to achieve the desire interests of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent by empowering the child’s reflection of the parent.

In a narcissistic relationship, there is ONLY one person. The other person disappears and only the narcissist exists.

“In a narcissistic encounter, there is, psychologically, only one person present. The co-narcissist disappears for both people, and only the narcissistic person’s experience is important.” (Rappoport, 2005, p.3)

Once the child surrenders to the psychological domination (psychological control; Barber, 2002) of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent, the child’s manipulated beliefs, wants, and feelings are then exploited by the narcissistic/(borderline) parent to achieve the desired interests of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent.

If the child wants to play baseball but the narcissistic/(borderline) parent wants the child to play saxophone in the school band because that’s the instrument the narcissistic/(borderline) parent played in the school band, then the child suddenly “decides” that baseball isn’t fun and wants to take up the saxophone instead.  The targeted parent who is authentically empathetic with the child may continue to advocate for the child to play baseball because this parent’s empathy for the child knows how much the child actually enjoys baseball.  But the narcissistic/(borderline) parent first manipulates the child through methods of psychological control into expressing a desire to quit baseball and play the saxophone, and then empowers this supposedly “independent decision” with phrases such as, “We need to listen to the child” when the child’s expressed desires have obviously been manipulated by the narcissistic/(borderline) parent.

“Psychological control refers to parental behaviors that are intrusive and manipulative of children’s thoughts, feelings, and attachment to parents.” (Barber & Harmon, 2002, p. 15)

“Specifically, psychological control has historically been defined as psychologically and emotionally manipulative techniques or parental behaviors that are not responsive to children’s psychological and emotional needs. Psychologically controlling parents create a coercive, unpredictable, or negative emotional climate of the family, which serves as one of the ways the family context influences children’s emotion regulation.” (Cui et al., 2014, p. 48)

Oftentimes, the manipulative exploitation of the child is combined with a role-reversal hiding behind the child’s (manipulated) “decision” (ACS 10: Role-Reversal Use of the Child).

N/(B) Parent: “It’s not me, it’s the child who…” (“…doesn’t want to go on visitations” – “…doesn’t want to talk to his mother on the phone” – “…doesn’t want her dad at at her graduation” – “…wants to play saxophone rather than play baseball”)…

Manipulation and exploitation are hallmarks of the narcissistic and borderline personality.  Both the narcissistic and borderline personality are masters at manipulation and exploitation.  There is none better.

Manipulating and the exploiting the child is highly characteristic of this type of parental personality pathology and will be evidenced in ACS-2 Empowering the Child and the feigned supposed powerlessness of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent to alter the “independent decision” of the “powerful child” to reject the other parent.

The classic tripartite sentence of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent combines ACS-10 Role-Reversal Use of the Child and ACS-1 Use of the Word Forced in the service of ACS-2 Empowering the Child:

N/(B) Parent:  “It’s not me, it’s the child (ACS-10) who doesn’t want to go on visitations with the other parent.  I encourage the child to go on visitations, but what can I do, I can’t force the child to go (ACS-1).  The child should be allowed to decide whether or not to go on visitations.  We need to listen to the child.” (ACS-2)

Knowledgeable clinical interviewing can then typically elicit ACS-11, that the  Targeted Parent “Deserves” to be Rejected, following the tripartite display of the ACS-10-1-2 series, resulting in an ACS 10-1-2-11 boxed set of Associated Clinical Signs in a linked succession.

That a model of pathology (AB-PA) can not only predict the use of specific words (ACS-1: Use of the Word “Forced”) but also specific sentences and specific combinations of sentences is remarkable, and represents strongly confirming evidence for the accuracy of AB-PA as an explanatory model for the pathology.

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

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 (p. 15-52). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Cui, L., Morris, A.S., Criss, M.M., Houltberg, B.J., and Jennifer S. Silk, J.S. (2014). Parental Psychological Control and Adolescent Adjustment: The Role of Adolescent Emotion Regulation. Parenting: Science and Practice, 14, 47–67.

Rappoport, A. (2005). Co-narcissism: How we accommodate to narcissistic parents. The Therapist.

 

 

 

Boston and the High Road Protocol

On June 1 from 3:30 to 5:00 in Boston, Dorcy Pruter and I will be presenting on AB-PA and the High Road protocol.  In this presentation, we will unpack the High Road protocol at a professional level of analysis and we will explain exactly how the High Road protocol both gently and effectively restores the normal-range functioning of the child’s attachment system within a matter of days.

I just finished my Powerpoint slides for my professional-level description of the High Road protocol.  They are amazing.  I guarantee – guarantee – that by the end of our presentation everyone at that presentation will know exactly how the High Road protocol restores the child’s normal-range attachment bonding motivations toward the targeted parent within a matter of days.  Guaranteed.

I said Dallas was going to be powerful – and it was.  Boston is going to be equally amazing, but in a different way.  Boston is for the professional organization that unites family law professionals with psychology professionals, the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC).  This is a high-level professional organization for legal professionals and court-involved mental health professionals.

In Dallas, Dorcy and I presented separately and our overarching agenda was to describe the framework for the solution to “parental alienation.”

In Boston, Dorcy and I are presenting collaboratively on a tight framework describing assessment, diagnosis, and treatment, with a particular focus on the catalytic psycho-educational intervention of the High Road protocol as an augmentation to traditional therapeutic approaches.

In Dallas, I described the general framework in which the High Road workshop fits within the overall recovery of the child.

In Boston, I’m going to unpack the protocol itself at a professional level of analysis, and I’ll describe exactly how it achieves the success it does.  If anyone wants to know exactly how the High Road protocol achieves the restoration of the child’s normal-range attachment bonding motivations toward the formerly targeted-rejected parent in a matter of days – come to Boston.

If you are a family law attorney who works with cases of “parental alienation” – you will want to hear this talk.  If you are a legal professional (judge, minor’s counsel, GAL) who wants to know how the High Road achieves the success it does – you’ll want to hear this talk.  If you are a child custody evaluator or court-involved therapist; you will most definitely want to hear this talk.  Guaranteed.  I’ve seen my Powerpoint slides describing the High Road protocol.  Guaranteed, you’ll want to hear this.

For legal and mental health professionals who can’t attend this talk… sucks for you.  I am not going to release my Powerpoint slides for this particular talk.  Dorcy’s protocol is hers.  It is her intellectual property.  In Boston I will provide a professional-level description of exactly how the High Road protocol restores the child’s normal-range attachment bonding motivations toward the targeted parent, and I will do so while also protecting the intellectual property rights of Dorcy.  Can I do both?  Absolutely.  I’ve already done it.  I’ve already created my Powerpoint slides for my description for how the High Road protocol achieves the success it does.

But following Boston, I am not going to release this professional-level analysis generally because I want to respect Dorcy and her rights.  It’s her protocol.  I am going to give my slides describing the High Road protocol to Dorcy and she can choose to use them as she sees fit.  It’s her protocol.

I’m anticipating speaking for about 45 minutes on AB-PA.  I’ll then present a professional-level analysis of the High Road protocol.  Then Dorcy and I will transition into her talk.

If you’re a legal or court-involved mental health professional who wants to know how the High Road protocol achieves its success… come to Boston.  If you’re not at Boston on June 1 from 3:30 to 5:00… sucks for you.  Or talk to Dorcy.

Will this be the only talk Dorcy and I give together?  Probably not.  We’ll probably submit joint presentation proposals to various organizations in the future.  Most likely she and I will submit to the Family Law division of the APA during the fall proposal submission period.  It’s up to the APA if they want to hear from us.  I’ll also likely be submitting to the APA for a solo convention presentation on just AB-PA.  But the submission period is in the fall for the presentations at the 2018 convention.  Long ways away.  And who knows if the APA will accept our presentation proposals.

So Boston’s it.  Nothing’s on the calendar after Boston.  And the information that’s on its way for Boston is guaranteed amazing.  Remember how I said there’s going to be a before Dallas and an after Dallas.  Well in terms of the family law and professional psychology interface, there’s going to be a before Boston and an after Boston.

If you have any interest in understanding how the High Road protocol achieves its success in restoring the child’s normal-range attachment bonding motivations toward the targeted parent in a matter of days, come to Boston.  If you’re not in Boston June 1… oh well, sucks for you.  Maybe later.

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

Associated Clinical Signs: ACS-1 “Forced”

In my afternoon talk in Dallas, I began to more fully unpack the diagnosis of AB-PA.

Professional diagnosis is more than simply the identification of symptoms. Diagnosis involves recognizing the underlying causal origin of the pathology that leads to the pattern of symptoms.

In my Dallas talk, I drew the analogy of diagnosis to putting together the pieces of a puzzle.  The symptoms are the variously shaped and colored puzzle pieces.  The diagnosis is the completed picture that’s made when all the puzzle pieces are put together.

Imagine different types of puzzles (analogous to different types of pathology).  There’s the puzzle Cats in the Garden that depicts three cats playing in a garden among flowers and butterflies.  There’s a different puzzle depicting a train traveling through the mountains, and there’s another type of puzzle of boats sailing on a lake. 

With each puzzle there are a set of characteristic puzzle pieces (diagnostic indicators) that can be used to identify the puzzle.  But the puzzle is more than this limited set of characteristic pieces.  The type of puzzle (the type of pathology) is the actual picture that’s made when ALL the puzzle pieces are put together.

Diagnosis of pathology is knowing how the puzzle pieces fit together to create a picture when all the puzzle pieces are assembled.  It’s the puzzle Cats in the Garden because the puzzle pieces create a picture of three cats playing in the garden.  It’s not a picture of a train in the mountains.  It’s not a picture of boats on a lake.

Sometimes the puzzle Cats in the Garden has four cats instead of three.  And sometimes there’s a watering can over in this area, and sometimes there isn’t.  The cats can even be different colors sometimes.  But the puzzle Cats in the Garden is always a picture of cats playing in the garden.  In Cats in the Garden, there’s always flowers in this area, there’s always a couple of butterflies over here, and there’s always a wooden fence along this side.

When the entire symptom picture is put together, Cats is the Garden is never a picture of a train, and Cats in the Garden never depicts boats sailing on a lake.

In addition, the puzzle Cats in the Garden ALWAYS has three characteristic puzzle pieces that always show up in the puzzle Cats in the Garden, and that NEVER show up, all three together, in any other puzzle (in any other form of pathology).  In the puzzle Cats in the Garden, there is always a yellow piece in this location, a blue piece in this location, and a red piece in this location.  None of the other puzzles have these three specific pieces in these specific locations.

So if these three specific puzzle pieces are present (these three specific symptoms), then the puzzle MUST be Cats in the Garden, because no other puzzle has all three of these pieces (all three of these symptoms) in these specific locations.

But at the professional level of diagnosis, the puzzle isn’t Cats in the Garden simply because of these three pieces alone.  It’s the puzzle Cats in the Garden because when you put ALL the puzzle pieces together they create a picture of three cats playing in the garden, with butterflies over here, and a fence over here.  It’s not a picture of a train in the mountains, and it’s not a picture of boats on a lake.

In my descriptions of the diagnosis of AB-PA up until now, I have limited my discussion to the three definitive diagnostic indicators of AB-PS: 

1.)  Attachment System Suppression:  The suppression of the child’s attachment bonding motivations toward a normal-range and affectionally available parent;

2.)  Narcissistic Personality Traits:  The presence in the child’s symptom display of five specific narcissistic personality traits;

3.) Encapsulated Persecutory Delusion:  A fixed and false belief evidenced in the child’s symptom display regarding the child’s supposed “victimization” by the normal-range parenting practices of the targeted-rejected parent (an encapsulated persecutory delusion).

Up until now, I’ve not wanted to extend the discussion into the 12 Associated Clinical Signs of AB-PA because I didn’t want to confuse the issue of diagnosis.  The DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed is based solely on the presence of the three characteristic and definitive diagnostic indicators of AB-PA.  No other pathology in all of mental health (no other type of puzzle) will create this specific set of three symptoms other than AB-PA as described in Foundations.  If these three symptoms are present in the child’s symptom display, the puzzle must be Cats in the Garden.

However, it’s not a clinical diagnosis of AB-PA simply because of these three puzzle pieces.  It is a clinical diagnosis of the attachment related, personality disorder, family system pathology of AB-PA because when all the puzzle pieces are put together they create a picture of three cats playing in the garden.  The 12 Associated Clinical Signs represent some of the other puzzle pieces that are often present in the attachment-related pathology of AB-PA (the butterflies, the flowers, the watering can).

Sometimes the puzzle of Cats in the Garden has a watering can over here, and sometimes it doesn’t.  So sometimes one of these Associated Clinical Signs may be present, and sometimes not.  But the puzzle Cats in the Garden (the pathology of AB-PA) ALWAYS has three specific puzzle pieces (the three definitive diagnostic indicators of AB-PA).

The Associated Clinical Signs

The time has come for me to now start unpacking and describing the 12 Associated Clinical Signs of AB-PA. 

In addition to the three definitive diagnostic indicators of AB-PA and the 12 Associated Clinical Signs, there are also other diagnostic features that also create the overall picture of the pathology, such as the construct of “stimulus control” drawn from behavioral psychology that can be used to differentiate authentic from inauthentic parent-child conflict, and the construct of the “inverted family hierarchy” drawn from structural family systems therapy that identifies the presence of a cross-generational coalition within the family,

Foundations provides an overarching description of the origins of the pathology and its symptoms from within and across three distinct and separate levels of analysis (the family systems level, the personality disorder level, and the attachment system level).  This overarching description of the pathology serves as the foundation for understanding the complex origins of the pathology that lead to the diagnostic symptom pattern.  In my upcoming book, Diagnosis, I will more fully describe the professional assessment process and the complete diagnostic picture created by AB-PA.  Beginning with this blog post though, I want to begin describing the 12 characteristic Associated Clinical Signs of AB-PA.

ACS-1 Use of the Word “Forced”

This is a very common associated clinical feature of AB-PA.  It is a symptom feature most often displayed by the allied narcissistic/(borderline) parent, although the child will often evidence this symptom feature as well.  In its most common form, the allied narcissistic/(borderline) parent will characterize the situation surrounding the child’s relationship with the targeted parent using the specific word “forced,” such as:

N/(B) Parent:  “I can’t force the child to go on visitations with the other parent.”

N/(B) Parent:  “I can’t force the child to get in the car.”

N/(B) Parent:  “The child shouldn’t be forced to have a relationship with the other parent.”

This latter statement is often accompanied by ACS-2 of empowering the child:

N/(B) Parent:  “The child shouldn’t be forced to have a relationship with the other parent.  The child should be allowed to decide whether the child wants to go on visitation with the other parent.”

This  symptom of characterizing the child as being “forced” to be with the other parent represents a sophisticated manipulative control of language to both define the other parent as “abusive” and to disempower therapeutic efforts to create a positive relationship of the child with the targeted-rejected parent.

Narcissistic and borderline personalities are masters at manipulation.  There is none better.

By manipulatively characterizing the child as being “forced” to go on visitations with the targeted parent, this subtly but clearly defines the targeted parent as being an “abusive parent” and the child as being a “victimized child” within the false trauma reenactment narrative.

Why else would the child need to be “forced” to be with the other parent if it weren’t for that parent being a bad and “abusive” parent?  We don’t have to “force” children to be with a loving and kind parent.  If we are having to “force” the child to be with the other parent, it must be because of the bad and “abusive” parenting practices of the other parent.

In addition, mental health professionals are typically respectful of people’s autonomy and decision-making rights.  Mental health professions don’t want to “force” someone to do something.  By characterizing treatment-related efforts to foster the child’s development of a positive relationship with the targeted parent as “forcing the child,” this disempowers the mental health professional’s ability to encourage the child’s involvement and contact with the targeted-rejected parent.

When this symptom feature is displayed by the child, it is often accompanied by the phrase “I’m not ready” and occasionally with the offer of a possible future reconciliation if the child is allowed to reject the parent now:

Child:  “I shouldn’t be forced to spend time with the other parent if I don’t want to.  I’m not ready to be with that parent.  Maybe if the other parent listens to me and lets me stop visiting now, then maybe in the future I’ll be ready at some point.”

This offer of possible future relationship if the child is allowed to reject the targeted parent now represents bait for the naïve and ignorant mental health professional. When combined with the characterization of the child’s relationship with the targeted parent as the child being “forced” to be with the targeted parent, the ignorance and naivete of an incompetent mental health professional will lead them into becoming an ally of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent in enacting the pathology:

MH Professional:  “The child “isn’t ready” for visitations yet.  The child needs more time become “ready.”  The child should receive additional individual therapy to help the child become “ready.”

Narcissistic and borderline parents are masters at recruiting allies.  The narcissistic personality recruits allies with the presentation of powerful self-assurance and a gregarious self-confidence.  The borderline personality recruits allies through the presentation of helpless vulnerability and victimization that manipulatively elicits nurturance and “protection” from ignorant and naïve mental health professionals.

Once this manipulative ploy of “not being ready” is accepted by the naïve and incompetent mental health professional, the child will never be “ready,” and the pathology of a child rejecting a normal-range and affectionally available parent will be locked into place by the ineffective and pointless therapy conducted by an ignorant and incompetent therapist.

The Truth

Sharing and receiving love between a parent and child is always a good thing.  The targeted parent simply wants to love the child.  There is nothing at all wrong about a child receiving love from a parent.  That’s a good thing.  Children want to be loved by parents.  For a child not to want to be loved by a parent is really weird and it is a prominent indicator of significant pathology, either from the targeted parent (i.e., child abuse) or from the child (AB-PA).

In assessing this symptom feature, since the characterization of “forcing” the child to be with the targeted parent carries the implication of child abuse by the targeted parent, it is important to first rule out actual child abuse by the targeted-rejected parent as the source of this symptom feature. 

Q:  Is there any credible indication that the targeted parent presents a risk of physical or sexual abuse of the child?

If the targeted parent does present a credible risk of physical or sexual child abuse, or of severely problematic parenting (Categories 1 or 2 on the Parenting Practices Rating Scale), then this parental risk to the child needs to be fully and appropriately addressed, and the family pathology is not likely to be AB-PA because the targeted parent is not a “normal-range” parent required to meet diagnostic indicator 1 for AB-PA and the child’s belief in victimization has a reality base and is not delusional, so the child will not meet diagnostic indicator three either.

As part of all clinical assessments, the parenting practices of the targeted parent should be documented using the Parenting Practices Rating Scale.  The documentation chart notes in the patient record that accompany the clinician’s ratings on the Parenting Practices Rating Scale should include examples of the parenting practices that justify the rating made by the clinician.  In all cases of clinical assessment for AB-PA, the problematic or normal-range parenting by the targeted parent should be documented on the Parenting Practices Rating Scale.

If the clinical assessment of the parenting practices of the targeted parent – documented with the Parenting Practices Rating Scale – indicates that the parenting practices of the targeted parent are broadly normal-range, then the characterization by the allied parent of the child being “forced” to be with a normal-range and affectionally available targeted parent represents a clinical sign of a manipulative use of language consistent with narcissistic and borderline manipulation, and consistent with an effort to implicitly create the false trauma reenactment narrative of AB-PA pathology (“abusive parent”/”victimized child”/”protective parent”).

When the narcissistic/(borderline) attempts to manipulatively characterize the child as being “forced” to have a relationship with the normal-range and affectionally available targeted parent, the immediate response from mental health and legal professionals should be to reframe this characterization into a normal-range and accurate characterization of the child having “the opportunity” to have a positive relationship with both parents.

N/(B) Parent:  “What can I do?  I can’t force the child to go on visitations with the other parent.”

MH/Legal Professional:  “The child isn’t being ‘forced.’  The child is being given the ‘opportunity’ to have a loving and bonded relationship with both parents.  That’s a good thing.”

Resistance by the N/(B) Parent

While normal-range parents have empathy for their children and will recognize that it is emotionally and psychologically healthy for children to have a positive relationship with both parents, the narcissistic/(borderline) parent is completely absent of authentic empathy for the child, and the narcissistic/(borderline) parent will therefore be unable to recognize that the child’s having a positive relationship with both parents is emotionally and psychologically healthy for the child.  Instead, the narcissistic/(borderline) parent will characterize the loss of the child’s relationship with the other parent as being a good thing because the other parent “deserves” to be rejected (ACS-11).

In an appropriately skilled interview, the mental health (or legal) professional can elicit additional Associated Clinical Signs by pressing the issue of the child being given the “opportunity” to have a loving and bonded relationship with the targeted parent.  When it is suggested that the child be provided with an opportunity to bond to the targeted parent, this activates both the abandonment anxiety and the childhood trauma anxiety associated with the underlying borderline personality processes of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent.  With skilled clinical questioning, the interviewer can elicit a variety of additional AB-PA features emanating from these core parental anxieties.

If the issue of providing the child with the “opportunity” to bond to the targeted parent is pressed by the mental health professional who is conducting the interview, two of the most common Associated Clinical Signs to emerge are:

ACS-2 Empowering the Child: The narcissistic/(borderline) parent will respond in a way that empowers the child to reject the targeted parent (“the child should be allowed to decide“);

ACS-10 Role-Reversal Use of the Child: The narcissistic/(borderline) parent abdicates parental authority and hides their manipulative parental influence of the child behind the child’s supposed “decision” (“I encourage the child to go, but what can I do?  I can’t force the child to go on visitations.  It’s not me, it’s the child who…).

Additional Associated Clinical Signs that may emerge if the issue of “opportunity” to bond is further probed in skilled questioning are:

ACS-5 The Unforgivable Event: The narcissistic/(borderline) parent justifies the child’s rejection of the targeted parent by citing a past “unforgivable event” or incident between the child and targeted parent.

ACS-7 Themes for Rejection: The narcissistic/borderline parent will offer of one of the characteristic themes for the child’s rejection of the targeted parent, such as the targeted parenting being “too controlling” or that the targeted parent’s relationship with his or her new spouse takes away from the child’s special time with just the targeted parent. 

In some cases, the narcissistic/(borderline) parent will offer a clear display of psychological boundary dissolution between the experience of the parent-as-a-spouse and the experience of the child by offering a supposedly supportive statement that, “I know just what the child is going through.  The other parent was just like that with me during our marriage.”

ACS-8 The Unwarranted Use of the Word “Abuse”:  Sometimes, if the clinical interviewer presses the reframing of “forced” into the child being given the “opportunity” to bond to the other parent, the abandonment anxiety and childhood trauma anxiety of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent will be revealed in the unwarranted use of the word “abuse” to characterize the parenting of the targeted parent (ACS-8).  All allegations of abuse must always receive a full and proper assessment.  In addition, borderline personality pathology frequently characterizes the actions of other people as being “abusive.”  When the word “abuse” is used to characterize someone’s behavior, two differential diagnoses immediately emerge, 1) authentic abuse, 2) borderline personality processes.  Both differential diagnostic possibilities should receive full and appropriate assessment whenever the word “abuse” is used to characterize the actions of another person.

ACS-11 Targeted Parent “Deserves” to be Rejected:  This is also a very common response from the narcissistic/(borderline) parent in response to being pressed on providing the child with an “opportunity” to bond to the other parent.  The narcissistic/(borderline) parent will not display an understanding for the important emotional and psychological benefits to the child from an affectionally bonded relationship to the other parent, but will instead advance the theme that the targeted parents “deserves” to be rejected.

Providing the child with an opportunity to form an affectional attachment bond to the targeted parent directly activates substantial anxiety in the narcissistic/(borderline) parent for a variety of clinical reasons (Foundations).  As a result, clinical interviewing that presses this reframing of the child being given the “opportunity” to bond to the targeted parent will often result in a wide display of Associated Clinical Signs and other characteristic features of the pathology, such as the almost obsessive need of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent to be the “protective parent.”  In addition, a skilled clinical interviewer can often draw out a complete display of the false trauma reenactment narrative of “abusive parent”/”victimized child”/”protective parent” just in the skilled exploration and elaboration of ACS-1 Use of the Word “Forced.”

Skilled clinical interviewing will also often elicit a highly characteristic triad combination of Associated Clinical Signs:  ACS-1 – ACS-2 – ACS-10, often beginning with the abdication of parental power and authority:

N/(B) Parent:  “What can I do?  I can’t force the child to go on visitations with the other parent.  I encourage the child to go, but it’s not me, it’s the child who doesn’t want to go, and I’m merely respecting the child’s decision.  The child should be allowed to decide whether to go on visitations with the other parent.  I’m just listening to the child.  Ask the child. We need to listen to the child.”

A professional-level diagnosis is based on the entire picture that’s created when all the symptom features are put together.  The picture that’s created is of three cats playing in the garden, with a watering can over here, and butterflies over here above these the flowers.  Sometimes there are four cats instead of three, and sometimes the flowers are blue instead of yellow.  But the picture is always of cats playing in the garden.  It’s not a picture of a train in the mountains, and it’s not a picture of boats on a lake.

And the picture will ALWAYS have three specific pieces (three definitive diagnostic indicators) in specific locations:

1.)  Attachment System Suppression toward a normal-range and affectionally available parent (diagnostic evidence of an attachment-related pathology created by pathogenic parenting);

2. )  Narcissistic Personality Traits in the child’s symptom display (representing the “psychological fingerprints” in the child’s symptoms of the coercive psychological control and influence on the child by a narcissistic parent);

3.)  An Encapsulated Persecutory Delusion regarding the child’s supposed “victimization” by the normal-range parenting of the targeted parent (diagnostic evidence for the false trauma reenactment narrative of AB-PA).

No other pathology in all of mental health will produce this specific set of symptoms in the child’s symptom display other than AB-PA as described in Foundations.

In addition, a professional-level diagnosis involves a full and complete professional-level understanding for the causal source of the symptom features (Foundations) that allows the mental health professional to assemble the entire picture created by the pathology – it’s the pathology of Cats in the Garden because the assembled puzzle pieces (symptom features) create a picture of three cats playing in the garden.

Special Population: Professional Expertise

AB-PA is a complex pathology.  It is also a consistent pathology.  When the mental health professional knows what signs, symptoms, and features to look for, the pathology jumps out into clear view.  But for mental health professionals who lack the necessary training, knowledge, and expertise, the pathology can remain hidden behind the exceptionally manipulative psychological control and influence on the child by the narcissistic/(borderline) parent.

“Parental psychological control is defined as verbal and nonverbal behaviors that intrude on youth’s emotional and psychological autonomy.” (Stone, Buehler, & Barber, 2002, p. 57)

“Psychological control refers to parental behaviors that are intrusive and manipulative of children’s thoughts, feelings, and attachment to parents.” (Barber & Harmon, 2002, p. 15)

“Psychological control has historically been defined as psychologically and emotionally manipulative techniques or parental behaviors that are not responsive to children’s psychological and emotional needs.  Psychologically controlling parents create a coercive, unpredictable, or negative emotional climate in the family.” (Cui, Morris, Criss, Houltberg, & Silk, 2014, p. 48)

“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)

“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 parent’s 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)

The attachment-related pathology of AB-PA is sufficiently complex that it warrants this group of children and families receiving the professional designation as a “special population” who require specialized professional knowledge, training, and expertise to competently assess, diagnose, and treat.

All mental health professionals who are assessing, diagnosing, and treating this complex attachment-related, personality disorder, family systems pathology should possess professional-level knowledge in the following domains of professional practice needed for professional competence:

1.)  The Attachment System: The nature, functioning, and characteristic dysfunctioning of the attachment system;

2.)  Personality Disorder Pathology: The nature, development, and expression of personality disorder pathology in family relationships, particularly surrounding divorce and loss;

3.)  Family Systems Therapy: The characteristic processes of family systems involved in their healthy adaptation and functioning in response to transitions and change, and in their development of maladaptive and dysfunctional patterns of relating;

4.)  Complex Trauma: the authentic (and inauthentic) features of complex trauma exposure, including trauma reenactment processes.

Failure to possess the necessary professional expertise in the domains of professional competence required to conduct an appropriate assessment that leads to an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment for this attachment-related family pathology surrounding divorce would likely represent practice beyond the boundaries of professional competence in violation of professional standards of practice.

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

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: How psychological control affects children and adolescents. Washington, DC.: American Psychological Association.

Cui, L., Morris, A.S., Criss, M.M., Houltberg, B.J., and Jennifer S. Silk, J.S. (2014). Parental Psychological Control and Adolescent Adjustment: The Role of Adolescent Emotion Regulation. Parenting: Science and Practice, 14, 47–67.

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.

Professional Competence Applies to the Gardnerians Too

It became abundantly apparent to me the other day that it’s reached the point that the continuing intransigent ignorance of the Gardnerian PAS “experts” needs to be fully addressed.

The Gardnerian PAS model is in the process of being replaced by the more professional sound and scientifically grounded AB-PA model described in Foundations.  These “experts” in Gardnerian PAS will soon become irrelevant because the model they’re holding onto will become irrelevant.  We are going to completely solve the pathology of “parental alienation” without reference to the Gardnerian PAS model.  Everything is going to be solved.

But it has become apparent to me that the continued propagation of the flawed constructs of Gardnerian PAS actually presents a risk to my kids – (your kids ARE “my kids”) – so I need to take active steps to address and counter the ignorance and professional incompetence surrounding Gardnerian PAS as well.

The professional requirement that ALL mental health professionals be knowledgeable and competent applies to ALL mental health professionals, including the Gardnerians.  They too must be knowledgeable in the attachment system, personality disorder pathology, and family systems constructs at a professional level, and they too MUST assess for pathogenic parenting associated with an attachment-based pathology in ALL cases in which attachment-related pathology is evident.

Notice I did not use the term “parental alienation” in any of that statement – we are returning to standard and established constructs and principles of professional psychology to which all mental health professionals – ALL, including the Gardnerians – can be held accountable.

If the Gardnerian “experts” believe themselves to be “exempt” from professional standards of practice regarding professional competence (Standard 2.01a of the APA ethics code) because they are somehow “special” – they’re not.

And if the Gardnerian PAS “experts” think that they are exempt because of their “specialness” from the professional requirements of Standard 9.01a of the APA ethics code regarding their assessment and diagnosis of attachment-related and personality disorder related pathology surrounding divorce – they’re not.

Failure to conduct a proper professional assessment for pathogenic parenting associated with an attachment-related pathology would represent a violation of Standard 9.01a of the APA ethics code for ALL mental health professionals, including the Gardnerian PAS experts.

The statements contained in Slides 43-45 from my Keynote address in Dallas apply equally to the Gardnerian PAS “experts” as they do to every other mental health professional.

Slide 43:  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.

Gardnerian PAS “experts” are not exempt from standards for professional competence in their assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of attachment-related family pathology.

Slide 44: Personality Disorder Competence

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 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.

Gardnerian PAS “experts” are not exempt from standards for professional competence in their assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of personality disorder pathology as expressed within family relationships.

Slide 45: 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.

Gardnerian PAS “experts” are not exempt from standards for professional competence for family systems constructs and principles in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of family pathology.

Professional knowledge and competence is required from ALL mental health professionals, including the Gardnerian PAS “experts.”

Gardnerian-Based Ignorance

The need for professional competence from the Gardnerian PAS “experts” became evident to me from a recent website post by Michael Bone, Ph.D., a self-proclaimed “expert” in Gardnerian PAS.

Michael Bone: The Eight Symptoms of PA: Absence of Guilt over Cruelty to and/or Exploitation of the Alienated Parent

I don’t pay much attention to the Gardnerians.  Their continued intransigence in holding onto a failed and inadequate model of pathology is simply irrelevant.  Gardnerian PAS is going to be replaced by AB-PA.  That’s just a fact.  So if they choose to hold onto Gardnerian PAS in an effort to remain relevant as “experts” in an outdated and inadequate model of pathology, rather than contribute their professional effort and voices to creating an actual solution to the pathology (AB-PA), then they will ultimately simply recede into irrelevance along with their model of pathology as it’s replaced by the more professionally sound and scientifically grounded model of AB-PA (as described in Foundations).

But I became aware of this article by Dr. Bone when it was linked in a parent support group.  The information Dr. Bone presented in this article is deeply troubling because it has the potential to hurt my kids – your kids ARE “my kids.”

The information shared in this article by Dr. Bone was so troubling that I had to respond directly to it in the support group and correct this misinformation propagated by Dr. Bone (who is relying on a Gardnerian model of PAS).  Here is my response that I posted in this parent support group:

I generally try not to comment on information shared in support groups as I don’t want to intrude into the discussion. However, in this case I feel obligated to say something to protect the child. This statement is not exactly accurate. The symptom is not an absence of guilt, the symptom is an absence of empathy (a narcissistic trait acquired through the psychological control of the child by a narcissistic/(borderline) parent).

The child actually feels a lot of guilt surrounding having to reject the beloved targeted parent. The child is in a psychological hostage situation. Imagine a wartime hostage who is forced by his or her captors to make derogatory statements about the United States. That soldier feels tremendous guilt about making those statements, even though it was under coercion. That soldier feels like a traitor.

The child of alienation feels tremendous guilt. And in moving forward with the recovery of the child’s healthy love and bonding to the formerly targeted-rejected parent, it is vital for all of the involved adults – therapists and recovered parents alike – to fully understand and provide empathy for the child’s feelings of guilt. We understand. No worries, sweetie. Things got a little out of hand, We can move forward, no worries about it.

In recovering the child, and in providing the child with authentic empathy, we must understand the deep-deep guilt that the child feels for rejecting the beloved targeted parent. Grief and guilt are central to the child’s experience.

The symptom is NOT an absence of guilt. It is an absence of empathy during the active phase of the pathology due to the psychological influence and control of the child by a narcissistic parent who characterologically lacks the capacity for empathy. The child’s symptom of an absence of empathy is coming from the allied narcissistic parent’s absence of empathy.

The authentic child loves the targeted parent, and the authentic child feels tremendous guilt over rejecting the beloved targeted parent. We must be aware of the authentic child in order to provide authentic empathy to the authentic child who is caught in a terrible situation. Empathy heals trauma.

I normally don’t like to intrude, but my client children would want me to clarify this for them. I understand what Gardner was going for with that symptom (i.e., the absence of empathy), but it’s incorrect if we frame it as the absence of guilt.

Craig Childress, Psy.D.
Psychologist, PSY 18857

It was this troubling ignorance from Dr. Bone that made me realize that the time has come to apply standards for professional competence to ALL mental health professionals, including the Gardnerian PAS “experts.”  Professional ignorance – and the subsequent incompetence that comes from ignorance – is no longer acceptable… from anyone.

When I read further from this article by Dr. Bone I was also deeply troubled by his apparent absence of professional acumen in his reliance on constructs derived from “mysticism” rather than from professionally established constructs and principles of professional psychology.  In his article, Dr. Bone abundantly references the child entering a “trance state” when criticizing the targeted parent. The use of such loose “mystical” terminology by a mental health professional is troubling.  Mental health professionals are just that – professionals.  We should be describing pathology using the standard and established constructs and principles of the profession. Reliance on constructs derived from “mysticism” – such as “trace states” – is simply unacceptable from a mental health professional.

I understand what Dr. Bone is trying to get at.  The proper professional term is a “dissociative state.”  Dissociative symptoms are associated with identity disorders, trauma disorders, and are loosely associated with both psychotic disorders and thought disorders. There is a general constellation of pathology in which dissociative symptoms might be evident.  Interestingly, dissociative symptoms have also been associated with the psychological decompensation of borderline personality pathology in response to stress:

From: Carlson, E.A., Edgeland, B., and  Sroufe, L.A. (2009). A prospective investigation of the development of borderline personality symptoms.  Development and Psychopathology, 21, 1311-1334

“Correlational analyses confirmed expected relations between borderline symptoms and contemporary adult disturbance (e.g., self-injurious behavior, dissociative symptoms, drug use, relational violence) as well as maltreatment history.” (p. 1311)

“Trauma and maltreatment undermine the child’s capacity to attend to, recognize, and interpret accurately the cues and affective states of others and by extension, the self. Dissociative processes instill a sense of passivity whereby events are perceived as happening to the individual or controlled outside of the self (i.e., without volition; Breger, 1974; Bowlby, 1969/1982). Children become hypervigilant to the attitudes and intentions of others, further compromising emergent self-awareness, a sense of authorship, and the ability to attend to internal cues, emotional needs, and thoughts.” (p. 1314)

If Dr. Bone, a mental health professional, is going to use “mysticism” terms to describe the child’s symptoms as a “trance state,” then he should at least indicate that he understands the professional pathology he’s describing by referencing the professional terminology of “dissociative state.”

If I wanted to use the construct of a “trance” (and trust me, I wouldn’t) in a sentence to describe the child’s symptom, I might say something like, “In many respects, severely alienated children operate in a kind of trance state (called a dissociative state) where they too may believe the things they are saying, when they are saying them.”  This would represent professional practice of indicating that Dr. Bone at least understands the professional construct and it’s associations.

I understand what Dr. Bone is reaching for.  The underlying symptom that Dr. Bone is identifying is the encapsulated persecutory delusion of the child (diagnostic indicator 3), and he more directly references this in the second part of his sentence that “they too may believe the [false] things they are saying.”

But Dr. Bone is not applying an AB-PA model.  He is trying to fit the child’s pathology into the inadequate Gardnerian PAS model.  So he wanders off into “trance states” and absence of guilt rather than remaining professionally grounded in the established professional constructs of dissociative symptoms, encapsulated persecutory delusions, and the absence of empathy associated with narcissistic personality pathology.

It was this display of troubling professional ignorance by Dr. Bone in falsely asserting that these children have an “absence of guilt” and then wandering into the mysticism of “trance states” that made me realize that the time has come to hold ALL mental health professionals accountable to standards for professional competence – even the Gardnerians.  The troubling assertion that these children are absent a sense of guilt might lead to efforts to trigger guilt in these children, which would be both cruel and would likely provoke increased rejection symptoms.  The use of mystical constructs such as “trance states” rather than a reasoned professional description explaining the presence of dissociative symptoms also further damages our collective professional credibility with establishment psychology (such as with the APA).

Mental health professionals are NOT ALLOWED to be ignorant and incompetent in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of your children and families.  None of them.  Not even the Gardnerian PAS “experts.”  It’s time to require professional competence from ALL mental health professionals, even the Gardnerians.

Boundaries of Professional Competence

So I decided to look into this a bit more by examining Dr. Bone’s vitae for evidence of professional competence in the attachment system, personality disorder pathology, and family systems therapy.

Based on my review of Dr. Bone’s vitae, I see no evidence of training or education in the attachment system, personality disorder pathology, or family systems therapy which would be required for professional competence in assessing, diagnosing, and treating attachment-related pathology involving parental personality disorder pathology expressed within family relationships.

Is it any wonder then, that Dr. Bone continues to maintain and propagate a flawed and inadequate Gardnerian PAS model of the pathology, since once the paradigm shifts to AB-PA his “expertise” in Gardnerian PAS will not suffice.  Once AB-PA replaces Gardnerian PAS, Dr. Bone will actually need to develop a new expertise in the attachment system, personality disorder pathology, and family systems therapy.  It’s much easier, I suppose, to simply hold onto Gardnerian PAS than it is to expend the professional effort needed to obtain true competence in established forms of pathology.  With Gardnerian PAS, everyone can just kind of make stuff up without the annoying limitations imposed by having to explain anything using the standard and established constructs and principles of professional psychology.

But the problem is that under the model of professional accountability I described in my Dallas Keynote address, Dr. Bone’s absence of knowledge regarding attachment-related pathology, personality disorder pathology, and family systems constructs would represent a violation of Standard 2.01a of the APA ethics code.  Well that’s unfortunate for Dr. Bone.  If we establish domains of professional knowledge necessary for professional competence, then he’ll fall into the incompetent area of not knowing what he’s talking about.

I can see why he wouldn’t want AB-PA to become established.  But AB-PA offers an immediate solution to the pathology.  Quite the dilemma for Dr. Bone.  Remain an “expert” or solve “parental alienation.”  By his recent post, he’s appeared to have chosen to remain an “expert” in Gardnerian PAS at the sacrifice of a solution to the family pathology of “parental alienation.”

But then, wouldn’t a violation of Standard 2.01a of the APA ethics code make him vulnerable to a licensing board complaint?  Yes it would… if Dr. Bone was licensed.  But it appears that Dr. Bone isn’t licensed.  He apparently surrendered his license in 2007 in order to avoid sanctions.  So at this point, as far as I know, Dr. Bone is simply a self-proclaimed “expert” in Gardnerian PAS.  And as soon as Gardnerian PAS is replaced by AB-PA, Dr. Bone’s sole “expertise” vanishes.

Curiosity then captured me.  What about some of the other prominent Gardnerian PAS “experts,” such as Dr. Bernet, a leading and continuing advocate for Gardnerian PAS?  Does he possess the necessary background and training in the attachment system, personality disorder pathology, and family systems therapy necessary to meet professional competence criteria for assessing, diagnosing, and treating attachment-related pathology manifesting through parental personality disorder pathology being expressed in family relationships?  So I looked at Dr. Bernet’s vitae for evidence of knowledge, training, and experience in attachment-related pathology, personality disorder pathology, and family systems therapy.

I could find no evidence of a professional level of knowledge or training in the attachment system, personality disorder pathology, or family therapy in Dr. Bernet’s vitae either.

Based on the standards set forth in my Dallas Keynote address that ALL mental health professionals who are assessing, diagnosing, and treating attachment-related and personality disorder pathology that is being expressed within the family need to possess professional-level knowledge of the attachment system, personality disorder pathology, and family systems therapy (Slides 43-45), wouldn’t Dr. Bernet’s seeming absence of professional-level knowledge in these domains mean that he is practicing beyond the boundaries of professional competence in violation of Standard 2.01a of the APA ethics code?  Yes it would.

Well that’s unfortunate for Dr. Bernet.  So should we just not establish professional standards for knowledge and competence so that Dr. Bernet can continue to be an expert?  Or maybe should we provide Dr. Bernet with a “special exception” to the requirement for professional knowledge needed for professional competence?  Or should we simply hold ALL mental health professionals accountable to the same standards of practice for professional competence, and ask Dr. Bernet to become knowledgeable about the attachment system, personality disorder pathology, and family systems constructs in order to be considered professionally competent in assessing, diagnosing, and treating this form of attachment-related, personality disorder related, family systems pathology?

But still, wouldn’t the violation of Standard 2.01a of the APA ethics code make Dr. Bernet vulnerable to a licensing board complaint?  No.  Because Dr. Bernet is an M.D. psychiatrist, not a clinical psychologist, so Dr. Bernet is not subject to the same professional requirements for competence that would bind a clinical psychologist.  Whew.  Lucky for Dr. Bernet.

What about Amy Baker?  So I decided to look at the vitae of Amy Baker.  What’s important to note about Amy Baker is that she is not a licensed clinical psychologist.  She is a researcher.  So she’s never actually assessed, diagnosed, or treated any form of pathology.  So her vitae is full of research articles, but no actual experience with assessing, diagnosing, and treating any form of pathology.  As I reviewed the titles of her research studies, there are some studies regarding sexualized behavior in children, some studies of children in residential treatment facilities, some studies surrounding Head Start programs.  These types of topics are peripherally related to the attachment system.  But there is no clear evidence of any studies or professional expertise acquired regarding attachment-related pathology.  No reference to insecure attachment types in any of her studies.  No indication of the Adult Attachment Interview being used in any of her studies.  And there is clearly no indication of any reference to personality disorder pathology or family systems therapy in any of her research.

So if Amy Baker doesn’t have a professional-level of knowledge, training, and expertise in the attachment system, personality disorder pathology, and family systems therapy, wouldn’t that mean she is practicing beyond the boundaries of her competence?  No.  Because she is not a clinical psychologist who is conducting any sort of assessment, diagnosis, or treatment regarding this form of attachment-related family pathology.  She is merely a researcher, and her primary area of research expertise appears to be in trying to document a proposed new form of clinical pathology that is supposedly unique in all of mental health called “parental alienation.”

I will admit that all three of these Gardnerian PAS “experts” are clearly “experts” in Gardnerian PAS.  Problem is, there’s actually no such thing in clinical psychology as PAS.  I’m a clinical psychologist.  I know this sort of stuff.  That’s my job.   There’s no such thing in clinical psychology as PAS.  There’s attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, there’s autism spectrum pathology, there’s oppositional-defiant and conduct disorder pathology, there are trauma and complex trauma pathologies, there are anxiety disorders, and depressive disorders, and psychotic disorders.  There’s all sorts of stuff in clinical psychology.  There are even attachment-related pathologies arising from insecure attachments and pathogenic parenting.  There’s just nothing about PAS in actual clinical psychology.

Psychological control? Oh yeah, there’s a lot of literature and research about the psychological control of children (see for example, Barber, 2002).  There’s stuff about the Dark Triad personality of narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellian manipulation, and research that links the Dark Triad personality to revenge in romantic relationships and high-conflict patterns of communication.  There’s a lot of research surrounding psychological boundary violations in parent-child relationships and families, including role-reversal relationships in which the child is used to meet the emotional and psychological needs of the parent.  All that stuff exists in clinical psychology.  Just not PAS.

If we turn to family therapy, there’s the “triangulation” of the child into the spousal conflict through the formation of a “cross-generational coalition” with one parent against the other parent that results in an “emotional cutoff” in family relationships as described by the preeminent family systems therapists Murray Bowen, Jay Haley, and Salvador Minuchin.  Family systems therapy is one of the four primary schools of psychotherapy (the others being psychoanalytic, cognitive-behavioral, and humanistic-existential therapy), and family systems therapy is the ONLY school of psychotherapy that addresses the process of resolving current family relationship problems.  All the other schools of psychotherapy are individual-oriented models of psychotherapy.

Murray Bowen, Jay Haley, and Salvador Minuchin are among the preeminent figures in family systems therapy, and all of them have addressed, described, and defined this form of family pathology.  In fact, on page 42 of his 1993 book, Family Healing, the preeminent family therapist Salvador Minuchin even provides a structural diagram of the family involving triangulation, a cross-generational coalition, and emotional cutoff.

So there’s all sorts of stuff in actual clinical psychology.  There’s just no established and defined pathology of PAS, which is unfortunate for the Gardnerian PAS “experts” because it means that they’re “experts” in a nonexistent form of pathology.

So what happens when we return to standard and established constructs and principles of professional psychology to which ALL mental health professionals can be held accountable?  What happens when Gardnerian PAS is replaced by AB-PA?  What happens to their status as “experts”?  It vanishes.  Poof.  Once the mythical pathology of “parental alienation” vanishes (notice I’ve always put the term in quotes, from the very beginning of my writing on this topic), so too does their “expertise” because none of these Gardnerian PAS “experts” are expert in actual true forms of attachment-related, personality disorder related, family systems pathologies.

Well, no wonder that none of these Gardnerian PAS experts have come forward to support AB-PA.  Why would they support AB-PA if this means they cease to be “experts” in “parental alienation.”  I suppose bringing an end to the pathology of “parental alienation” might possibly be a motivation for supporting AB-PA, but obviously not motivation enough.

It’s clear that they want to stop AB-PA from taking hold.  They’re trying as hard as they can to simply ignore AB-PA in hopes that it will just go away.  I’ve worked in the professional worlds of schizophrenia, and ADHD, and autism, and this is the most interesting thing I’ve ever seen, where a group of professionals act as though significant advancements simply don’t exist.  I’m like Lord Voldemort – he who cannot be named.  It’s really fascinating to watch.

Allies of the Pathogen

I also find it interesting that there are two groups that want to stop AB-PA.  The flying monkey allies of the pathogen, and the Gardnerian PAS experts.  Don’t you find that interesting?  That these two groups should be on the same side in wanting to stop the solution afforded by AB-PA?

We are reclaiming the citadel of professional psychology for targeted parents and your children.  By defining this attachment-related pathology entirely from within standard and established constructs and principles of professional psychology, AB-PA identifies clear domains of professional competence needed for the competent assessment, accurate diagnosis, and effective treatment of this attachment-related, personality disorder family pathology.  In defining established domains of knowledge needed for professional competence in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of this pathology, AB-PA activates the Standards of the APA ethics code for you and your families, so that you can now hold ALL mental health professionals accountable.

When Gardner led everyone away from the path of professional psychology and into the wilderness of “new forms of pathology,” he allowed the citadel of professional psychology to become infected by the pathogen through its allies, who have effectively disabled the mental health response to this family pathology.

This attachment-related (trauma-related) pathology generates two types allies, the overt “activating ally” and the covert “enabling ally.”

The flying monkey allies of the pathogen are the overt “activating allies” of the pathology who actively collude in the creation of the pathology in order to meet their own (unconscious) psychological needs to be the “protective ally” of the allied narcissistic/(borderline) parent and supposedly “victimized” child.

The Gardnerian PAS “experts” are the covert “enabling allies” of the pathology who (unconsciously) enable the activation of the pathology in order to meet their own (unconscious) psychological needs to play the role of the “protective ally” of the targeted parent and the child.  By leaving the path of established professional psychology, the Gardnerian PAS contingent have enabled the profound professional ignorance and incompetence that has effectively disabled the mental health response to this pathology for 30 years.

If the Gardnerian PAS experts are allowed to just make stuff up, then everyone is allowed to just make stuff up, which has led to the rampant and unchecked professional ignorance and incompetence currently surrounding the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of this attachment-related family pathology.  Gardnerian PAS acts to enable the pathogen’s expression by allowing rampant professional ignorance and incompetence that effectively disables the mental health response to this form of attachment-related family pathology.

The supposedly protective “activating ally” of the pathogen who actively colludes with enacting the pathology, and the supposedly protective “enabling ally” who is supposedly the “helpless and ineffectual” ally of the targeted parent and child, are simply flip sides of the same trauma-reenactment coin.  Both are meeting their own personal unconscious psychological needs to be the “protective other” in the kabuki theater display of a trauma reenactment narrative.

In order to solve this attachment-related family pathology we must leave the wilderness of “new forms of pathology” and return to the established path of standard and established professional constructs and principles – to which ALL mental health professionals can be held accountable – including the Gardnerian PAS experts.  No mental health professional is allowed to just make stuff up.  No one.

So Michael Bone, if you want to assert that these children evidence an “absence of guilt,” you’re going to have to explain to me – in detail and at a professional level of analysis – exactly the mechanisms by which the child acquires an “absence of guilt” surrounding the rejection of a parent, because I’m telling you that the symptom displayed by the child is NOT an absence of guilt, it’s an absence of empathy associated with the psychological control of the child (Barber; Kerig) by a narcissistic/(borderline) parent (Beck, Kernberg, Millon) who is the actual source of this symptom display by the child.

I will describe – in detail and at a professional level of analysis; using the standard and established constructs and principles of professional psychology – exactly the mechanisms by which each of the diagnostic indicators and associated clinical signs of AB-PA are created.  That’s the standard for professional competence.

So Michael Bone, if you’re going to assert that these children enter a “trance state,” then you’re going to have to explain to me – in detail and at a professional level of analysis – exactly the mechanisms by which this “trance state” is created and triggered.  Because I can explain to you – in detail and at a professional level of analysis – exactly how dissociative symptoms emerge from complex trauma, an encapsulated persecutory delusion, and the collapse of parental borderline personality pathology as a result of psychological stress.  I can also link these dissociative symptoms to identity pathology in the attachment networks and the trans-generational transmission of trauma.

We are done making stuff up.  Done.  That applies to ALL mental health professionals, even the Gardnerian PAS “experts.”  Bring your “A” game or go away, because these children and families deserve our absolute best.  Nothing less is acceptable.

We lead by example.  If we expect all mental health professionals to evidence the highest standards for professional knowledge, expertise, and competence, then we must display ourselves the highest standards of professional practice and professional competence.  Nothing less than our absolute “A+” game is acceptable.

Domains of Knowledge and Competence

So to Bill Bernet, Amy Baker, Michael Bone and all of the continuing Gardnerian PAS “experts,” you need to identify – specifically – what component of Slides 43-45 from my Dallas Keynote address is wrong.

Because if the statements contained on these Slides are correct, and they are, then you will need to explain why these standards of practice don’t apply to you; why, of all mental health professionals, you are “entitled” to not be competent in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of an attachment-related pathology.

If you assert that a child’s rejection of a parent is not an attachment-related pathology, then you will have to explain – in detail and at a professional level of analysis – why a child rejecting a parent is not an attachment-related pathology and you will have to explain – in detail and at a professional level of analysis – why Bowlby’s statement that the “deactivation of attachment behavior” is a key symptom of “pathological mourning” is not true.

Professional competence applies to ALL mental health professionals – Gardnerians included.   We lead by example.  No mental health professional is exempt from standards of practice for professional competence.

If Gardnerians PAS “experts” are allowed to just make stuff up, then everyone can just make stuff up and we dissolve into rampant and unchecked professional ignorance and incompetence.

The Gardnerian PAS experts are unconsciously acting as covert “enabling allies” of this attachment-related family pathology who are colluding with the disabling of the mental health response to this form of attachment-related family pathology.

All mental health professionals – each and every single one – must now be professionally knowledgeable and competent in the attachment system, personality disorder pathology, and family systems therapy.  If you don’t want to bring your absolute “A+” game to the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of this attachment-related family pathology, then go away, because nothing less than that is acceptable.

We are returning to the path of professional psychology in which all – ALL – mental health professionals will be expected to assess for pathogenic parenting surrounding an attachment-related pathology (using the Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting), including mental health professionals who continue to hold and espouse a Gardnerian PAS model for the pathology.  There is no excuse or justifiable reason for ANY mental health professional, including Gardnerian PAS “experts,” not to assess for the three diagnostic indicators of AB-PA pursuant to Standard 9.01a of the APA ethics code for professionally competent assessment.

If you are not going to assess for pathogenic parenting associated with an attachment-related pathology, then you must provide a cogent justification at a professional level of analysis as to WHY you refuse to even assess for pathogenic parenting when assessing attachment-related pathology.

We are leaving the wilderness of “new forms of pathology” and we are returning to the world of professional competence.

If you wish to argue that you are somehow entitled (a narcissistic symptom) to be exempt from the rules that govern all other – “ordinary” – mental health professionals (also a narcissistic symptom) because you alone somehow occupy a special status or elevated position (also a narcissistic symptom), you can try – but it’s not going to work.  ALL mental health professionals are accountable to standards of professional practice – including you.

“As a means of demonstrating their power, narcissists may alter boundaries, make unilateral decisions, control others, and determine exceptions to rules that apply to other, ordinary people.” (Beck et al., 2004, 251)

Slides 43-45 of the Dallas Keynote apply to ALL mental health professionals. There are no “exceptions to rules that apply to other, ordinary people” regarding the professional obligation for professional knowledge and competence.  I don’t care how important and special you may think you are (grandiosity is a narcissistic symptom), the rules of professional competence apply to you as well.

The statements made in Slides 43-45 of my Dallas Keynote address apply to ALL mental health professionals.

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

Dallas Keynote Address

Slide 43:  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.

Slide 44: Personality Disorder Competence

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 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.

Slide 45: 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.

Unpacking Dallas and Leaving OZ

Richard Gardner recognized a pathology.  But he too quickly abandoned the professional rigor required for professional diagnosis.  Diagnosis is the application of standard and established constructs and principles to a set of symptoms.

Instead of applying standard and established constructs and principles to a set of symptoms, Gardner proposed that what he was seeing represented a completely “new form” of pathology that was unique in all of mental health – a “new syndrome” – which was identifiable by a new set of symptoms that he made up for this specific pathology alone based on his anecdotal clinical experience, symptoms that were equally unique in all of mental health.

The moment he proposed a “new syndrome” rather than apply the professional rigor necessary for a professional diagnosis, Gardner led everyone AWAY from the path of professional psychology and into the wilderness of “new forms of pathology.”  And when he did that, he invited the profound level of professional incompetence we’re currently witnessing surrounding the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of this attachment-related family pathology.

If Richard Gardner can simply make up a “new form of pathology,” then everyone can simply start making things up.  What we see right now is that every individual mental health professional is free to simply make up whatever they want surrounding the pathology of “parental alienation.”  They can deny that it exists.  They can say it exists but use a hodge-podge of symptoms.  They can blame both parents for the “parental alienation” (using another entirely made up construct – “justified estrangement”).

They can just make stuff up.  Whatever they want.  They can even make up a new form of therapy – “reunification therapy” – that is totally without any guiding principles and description for what it is.  They can just make it up as they go and call it “reunification therapy.”

Everyone – each mental health professional individually – can simply make stuff up.  From assessment, to diagnosis, to treatment, they can just make up whatever they want, and do whatever they want, because no one is required to ground their assessment, diagnosis, or treatment in established professional constructs and principles.  They just use the term “parental alienation” (or its associated made up form of therapy: “reunification therapy”) and then they just make stuff up.

This made up world of supposedly “new forms of pathology” leads to the profound professional incompetence we are currently witnessing in the assessment and diagnosis of “parental alienation.”  And under the Gardnerian model of PAS, a supposedly “new form of pathology,” targeted parents are unable to hold mental health professionals accountable to any domains of professional competence.

Since each individual mental health professional is simply allowed to make up whatever they want about the construct of “parental alienation,” there are no defined domains of knowledge that we can require for professional competence, which then allows professional ignorance and incompetence to run rampant and unchecked.

With AB-PA I am leading us out of the wilderness, out of the swamps and quagmires of professional incompetence, and placing us back onto the path of professional psychology.  Once we return to the path of professional psychology, the attachment-related family pathology commonly called “parental alienation” becomes immediately solvable.

Once we return to the path of professional psychology, we can identify the professional domains of knowledge needed for professional competence:

Attachment pathology
Personality disorder pathology
Family systems pathology
Complex trauma pathology

If a mental health professional is not knowledgeable in each and all of these domains of professional psychology, then that professional is practicing beyond the boundaries of their professional competence, in violation of professional standards of practice (APA Standard 2.01a).

APA Ethics Code
Standard 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,

If a mental health professional has not acquired an understanding for AB-PA – and note, it’s been two years since the publication of Foundations, and there are free online seminars available on AB-PA (California Southern University Masters Lecture Series) from three years ago, and Dr. Childress also offers to consult with any mental health professional without charge, and parents are providing mental health professionals with books and handouts on AB-PA – then that professional has not undertaken “ongoing efforts to maintain their competence” in violation of professional standards of practice (Standard 2.03).

APA Ethics Code
Standard 2.03 Maintaining Competence

Psychologists undertake ongoing efforts to develop and maintain their competence.

Since the attachment system ONLY becomes dysfunctional in response to pathogenic parenting, if a mental health professional has not even assessed for pathogenic parenting surrounding an attachment related pathology (note I did not say “parental alienation”), then the diagnostic statements and forensic testimony of that mental health professional cannot possibly be based on “information and techniques sufficient to substantiate their findings,” which is in violation of professional standards of practice (Standard 9.01a).

APA Ethics Code
Standard 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 is not basing his or her professional work on the “established scientific and professional knowledge” of the attachment system (Bowlby), personality disorder pathology (Beck, Kernberg, Millon), and family systems therapy (Bowen, Haley, Minuchin), then that mental health profession is in violation of professional standards of practice (Standard 2.04).

APA Ethics Code
Standard 2.04 Bases for Scientific and Professional Judgments

Psychologists’ work is based upon established scientific and professional knowledge of the discipline.

If the ignorance and incompetence of the mental health professional then results in harm to the client child and targeted parent caused by the professional’s ignorance and incompetence (such as by supporting the pathology and not resolving the lost affectional attachment bond between the child and the normal-range and affectionally available targeted parent), then the mental health professional is in violation of professional standards of practice (Standard 3.04).

APA Ethics Code
Standard 3.04 Avoiding Harm
(a) Psychologists take reasonable steps to avoid harming their clients/patients, students, supervisees, research participants, organizational clients, and others with whom they work, and to minimize harm where it is foreseeable and unavoidable.

If a mental health professional refuses to engage in professional-to-professional consultation to address their areas of professional ignorance and incompetence, they are in violation of professional standards of practice (Principle B).

APA Ethics Code
Principle B: Fidelity and Responsibility

Psychologists consult with, refer to, or cooperate with other professionals and institutions to the extent needed to serve the best interests of those with whom they work.

If the ignorance and incompetence of the mental health professional results in their not properly assessing for and accurately diagnosing child abuse, then that mental health professional may also be in violation of their “duty to protect,” which is one of two foundational obligations (“duties”) incumbent upon ALL mental health professionals (the other being a “duty of care”).

Leaving the Wilderness

Once we leave the conceptual and diagnostic wilderness of “parental alienation” into which Richard Gardner led us with his proposal for a “new form of pathology” that was unique in all of mental health – a “new syndrome” – and once we return to the path of established psychological constructs and principles of professional psychology, we can now hold mental health professionals accountable for professional competence.

Three critical slides from my Dallas Keynote – critical and turning point slides – are slides 43, 44, and 45.

Slide 43:  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.

Slide 44: Personality Disorder Competence

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 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.

Slide 45: 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.

The turning point of Dallas is in holding ALL mental health professionals accountable for professional-level knowledge and professional competence in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of this attachment-related, personality disorder related, family systems pathology.

Notice I did not say “parental alienation.”  We cannot hold them accountable for “parental alienation.”  We can ONLY hold them accountable when we define the pathology entirely using standard and established constructs and principles.  That’s what AB-PA does.  It gives you the constructs you need to hold all mental health professionals accountable to the Standards of the APA ethics code requiring professional competence.

AB-PA activates the Ethics Code Standards of the APA for you.  Understand?

Gardnerian PAS does not.  Is that clear?  If you try to use the term “parental alienation” you will fail.  The construct of “parental alienation” does not activate the APA Ethics Code Standards for you.

With AB-PA you can now hold ALL mental health professionals accountable for their knowledge in certain defined domains of professional psychology – the attachment system, personality disorder  pathology, and family systems therapy – NOT “parental alienation.”  Understand?

By leaving the wilderness of Gardnerian PAS and returning to the yellow brick road of established professional constructs and principles (follow the yellow brick road of AB-PA), we can find our way out of OZ and return back home to be reunited with our loved once more.

And in truth, you had the power the entire time.  John Bowlby identified and described the attachment system in the 1970s, Otto Kernberg was describing narcissistic and borderline personality pathology in the 1970s, Jay Haley, Salvador Minuchin, and Murray Bowen were describing cross-generational coalitions and emotional cutoffs in the 1970s.  This solution has been available for nearly 40 years (which then begs the question, why didn’t any of the Gardnerian PAS experts ever take this solution?… and why are they resisting it now?  Why are they insisting on a “new form of pathology” that provides no solution whatsoever?  I know exactly why.)

You are more powerful than you know.  Write to the APA. The key slide in Dallas for the APA is slide 33.

Slide 33:  The APA

The American Psychological Association should provide clear guidance to all of its members that specialized professional knowledge and professional competence is required in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of attachment-related and personality disorder related family pathology surrounding divorce.

Notice I did not say “parental alienation.”  We must return to the path of established psychological principles and constructs.  There is NO power in the construct of “parental alienation.”  Understand?  The ethics code of the APA ONLY becomes active if you use standard and established constructs and principles – which is what AB-PA gives you.

If you try to use Gardnerian PAS, you will fail.

Clear?

But if you use AB-PA, the solution becomes immediately available.

What you want to ask for from the APA is contained in Slide 34.

Slide 34: The APA Position Statement

Change to their official position statement on “Parental Alienation Syndrome

1. )  Acknowledge that the pathology exists – by whatever name they want to call it;

2.)  Designate children and families experiencing this form of attachment-related pathology as a “special population” requiring specialized professional knowledge and expertise to competently assess, diagnose, and treat.

Achieving Competence

Assessment leads to diagnosis.

Diagnosis guides treatment.

The final slide I want to highlight from the Dallas Keynote is slide 70.

Slide 70:  DSM-5 Child Psychological Abuse

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) in order to meet the emotional and psychological needs of the parent represents a confirmed DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse.

Assessment leads to diagnosis.

The statement contained in Slide 70 is the lynchpin between the assessment of the three diagnostic indicators of AB-PA and a DSM-5 diagnosis of Child Psychological Child Abuse.

Standard 9.01a requires assessment “sufficient to substantiate” their diagnostic statements.  Identification of the three diagnostic indicators of AB-PA requires a DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed.  See the linkage?

AB-PA activates the APA Ethics Code.  The APA Ethics Code requires appropriate assessment.  Appropriate assessment then leads to an accurate DSM-5 diagnosis as Psychologcial Child Abuse.   The dominoes fall, one after the other, from AB-PA.

We are requiring – requiring – professional competence – once we switch from a Gardnerian PAS model to an AB-PA model.  Understand?  See how it works?

By defining the domains of professional competence, we can then require – REQUIRE – under Standard 9.01a of the APA ethics code (Slides 59-60) that ALL mental health professionals assess for “pathogenic parenting associated with an attachment related pathology” (Slide 62).

Assessment leads to diagnosis (Slide 70).

Diagnosis then guides treatment.  Which was my afternoon talk, and I’ll unpack that in future blog posts.

We are not giving them a choice any longer to be ignorant and incompetent.  If they choose to remain ignorant and incomptent, then file a licensing board complaint for violations of Standards 9.01a, 2.01a, 2.03, 2.04, 3.04, Principle B, and failure in their “duty to protect.”

The licensing board doesn’t care about the specifics of your case.  The licensing board ONLY cares about what standards of practice were violated – Standards 9.01a, 2.01a, 2.03, 2.04, 3.04, Principle B, and failure in their “duty to protect.” Make the licensing board tell us, over-and-over again, that they will not enforce professional standards of practice.  Make the ignorant and incompetent mental health professional play Russian roulette, over-and-over again, with their license on the line.

Mental health professionals are not allowed to be ignorant and incompetent.  Make the APA and the licensing board tell you, over-and-over again, that they will not enforce their ethics code and standards of practice, that it’s okay with them that mental health professionals are profoundly ignorant and incompetent in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of your children and families.

BUT – BUT – this ONLY becomes available to you if you use the proper constructs.  If you try to hold mental health professionals accountable for “parental alienation,” you will fail.  Understand?

THAT is the importance of Dallas.  There is a before Dallas, and an after Dallas.  The paradigm has shifted to AB-PA and we can now hold mental health professionals accountable, but only if you use the constructs of AB-PA to define the attachment-related family pathology.

You have more power than you know.  It is time to live into your power to recover your beloved children from the attachment-related, trauma-related, personality disorder and family systems pathology of AB-PA.

It’s a complicated pathology.  No doubt about that.  But we absolutely know what it is (and I fully describe it in Foundations).

And don’t ever let anyone tell you that this pathology (label it whatever you want) is not in the DSM-5.  It most certainly is in the DSM-5.  On page 719.  V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed.

It is time we start calling this pathology by its proper name; Child Psychological Abuse.

This is NOT a child custody issue, this is a child protection issue.

You are more powerful than you know.  Let’s go get your beloved children back.

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

Dallas Powerpoints

Before the Dallas Symposium on Parental Alienation, we were focused on the problem of “parental alienation.” 

Now – after the Dallas Symposium – we are focused on the solution to “parental alienation.”  Every step we now take is a step closer to the solution.

We are on a different path now.

My deep appreciation to Wendy Perry and to her husband Rob, and to all of your many colleagues who helped you to put together and host a wonderful event in Dallas.  It was a delight and privilege to be invited to speak.

It was also my deep pleasure to meet so many parents, step-parents, and families affected by “parental alienation.”  I am honored that so many of you traveled such distances to attend the event.  My appreciation.

I also want to acknowledge Rod McCall and his son Eryk – who lives in Rod’s heart, and now in mine as well.  It was an honor to hear Rod’s story of love.  Rod has written a book For the Love of Eryk: Surviving Divorce, Parental Alienation, and Life After.  It was my deep privilege to meet Rod and his son Eryk who lives in his love.  I recommend that everyone buy and read For the Love of Eryk.

From Dallas on, we are now moving toward the solution.

The solution to the attachment-related pathology of “parental alienation” is available right now, today.  The ONLY thing preventing the solution is the profound degree of ignorance and incompetence in professional psychology.

We absolutely know what this pathology is, and once we return to the proper professional path of established psychological principles and constructs – to which ALL mental health professionals can be held accountable, this form of attachment-related pathology surrounding divorce becomes completely solvable, right now.  Today.

Our only enemy is ignorance.  The solution is knowledge.

I have posted my Powerpoint slides from my morning and afternoon Dallas talks to my website.

Dallas Keynote Powerpoint: 4/29/17

Dallas Second (Afternoon) Presentation Powerpoint: 4/29/17

They belong to you.  The knowledge belongs to you.  You have a right to expect and receive professionally knowledgeable and competent assessment, diagnosis, and treatment for your children and families.  That is your right, and that is the right of your children.

In order to achieve professional competence, we must define the pathology using standard and established constructs and principles of professional psychology to which ALL mental health professionals can be held accountable.  AB-PA accomplishes that.

Mental health professionals are NOT ALLOWED to be ignorant and incompetent. Every ethics code of professional psychology has a Standard that requires professional competence.  Professional competence in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of your children and your families is your right.

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 let anyone ever tell you that the pathology of “parental alienation” is not in the DSM-5.  It absolutely is in the DSM-5.  On page 719.  V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed.

I will be posting more discussion about my Dallas Powerpoint slides in the days to come.  I’m still on the road, I have another presentation in Houston tomorrow – Texas is rockin’ – don’t mess with Texas.  In fact, the entire country is rocking.  I’m hearing ripples of change occurring in many-many locations.

I need to get back to work preparing for tomorrow’s talk in Houston.  But I wanted to say thank you to Wendy and to everyone who helped make Dallas such a wonderful experience, and I want to make my Powerpoints available to everyone.  They belong to  you.

Things have changed.  We are now on the path to the solution.  This pathology ends.  That is a certainty.

Craig Childress, Psy.D.
Psychologist, PSY 18857