Any solution to “parental alienation” that requires that we prove “parental alienation” in Court is a failure.
1. Financially Prohibitive: Proving “parental alienation” in Court is simply too expensive for the vast majority of targeted-rejected parents. The financial costs associated with proving “parental alienation” in Court places it beyond the means of 95% of targeted-rejected parents.
Any solution that requires proving “parental alienation” in Court is only a solution for 5% of targeted-rejected parents. This is no solution.
2. Requires Egregious Displays of Alienation: Proving “parental alienation” in Court is only possible in the most egregious cases of alienation. The more subtle cases of insidious alienation are nearly impossible to prove in Court.
Any solution that requires proving “parental alienation” in Court is only a solution for the limited number of targeted-parents who have sufficient financial resources and only in the most egregious cases. So now we’re down to 1-2% of the cases of “parental alienation.”
While proving “parental alienation” in Court may seem like a solution to professionals who work within the Court system. For those of us who work in the daily lives of people who cannot financially afford attorneys and child custody evaluations, it is no solution at all.
3. Robbing the Child: The high financial costs of fighting “parental alienation” in Court robs the child of what should be his or her college education fund. Every dollar paid to an attorney or child custody evaluator harms the child by taking money from the child that should be going to his or her college education.
Any solution that requires proving “parental alienation” in Court harms the child by draining financial resources from the family that should be going toward the child.
4. Too Slow: Proving “parental alienation” in Court can often take years of protracted legal battles. During this time, important child developmental phases come and go, and are lost forever. Lost childhood can never be reclaimed. A mother only has 365 days of her child being 8 years old, that’s it. And not a single lost day can ever be reclaimed. A father only has a brief time with daddy’s little girl, with his princess. Once lost, this time never returns.
Years to enact a solution is simply too long. Months are too long a timeframe. Any solution to “parental alienation” should be able to be enacted within weeks in the life of the child. If we require months, so be it, but definitely not years.
Any solution that requires proving “parental alienation” in Court irrevocably harms the child by robbing the child of important and irretrievable developmental phases and experiences with a loving and affectionally available parent. It simply takes too long.
Of note is that I recently had the opportunity for a conversation with Ms. Dorcy Pruter (http://www.consciouscoparentinginstitute.com). During our conversation she said she can enact the child’s restoration with the targeted-rejected parent in a matter of days, once the Court orders a protective separation of the child from the alienating parent, and based on my initial review of her approach during our conversation I suspect her treatment model can accomplish what she claims for it. Just to be generous, I’ll give her some leeway and say weeks rather than days (yet days makes sense to me based on her description of the model), but the point is, in a very short time frame. Her approach seemingly has the proper components to accomplish what she claims for it.
Once we achieve a protective separation of the child from the ongoing pathogenic parenting of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent, restoration of a normal-range and affectionally bonded relationship with the targeted-rejected parent is relatively straightforward because we are working WITH the normal-range functioning of the child’s own attachment system. The child’s authentic brain WANTS to bond to the targeted-rejected parent. We just need to provide the setting, structure, and guidance to allow the child’s natural attachment bonding motivations to achieve completion.
Once the child’s attachment bonding motivations are able to achieve completion, the child’s (misinterpreted) grief response resolves, and the impact on the child of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent’s distorted and pathogenic parenting practices is eliminated. We have recovered the authentic child. We then take steps to build the child’s “psychological immune system” relative to the pathogenic parenting of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent and then we can begin to restore the child’s relationship with the narcissistic/(borderline) parent.
If the narcissistic/(borderline) parent cooperates with the treatment process, that would be wonderful. If not, then we need to take steps to ensure the child’s ongoing stability and balance in response to the narcissistic/(borderline) parent’s continuing pathogenic parenting.
Any solution to “parental alienation” that requires that we prove “parental alienation” in Court is no solution at all because of the immense financial barriers, legal hurdles, and inherent harm to the child’s normal-range developmental trajectory associated with the long and arduous task of trying to prove “parental alienation” in Court.
An attachment-based model of “parental alienation” provides a solution. Once the paradigm shifts away from a Gardnerian PAS model to an attachment-based model, the solution becomes available immediately.
An attachment-based model of “parental alienation” immediately identifies a set of standards of practice for professional competence involving an advanced level of professional understanding for the attachment system (and intersubjective system), and a professionally advanced level of understanding for narcissistic/borderline personality dynamics, their characteristic displays, their underlying dynamics, and processes of their manifestation in family relationships.
Once the paradigm shifts to an attachment-based model of “parental alienation” these children and families become immediately identified as a “special population” requiring specialized professional knowledge, training, and expertise to diagnose and treat.
Once professional practice in this specialty field is limited to a qualified set of highly trained and knowledgeable experts, the diagnosis of pathogenic parenting associated with an attachment-based model of “parental alienation” is established in a clearly defined set of three Diagnostic Indicators (see Diagnostic Indicators and Associated Clinical Signs post), supported by an additional set of confirming clinical signs.
This set of three clearly defined and dichotomous (i.e., present or absent) Diagnostic Indicators has a corresponding DSM-5 diagnosis of:
309.4 Adjustment Disorder with mixed disturbance of emotions and conduct
V61.20 Parent-Child Relational Problem
V61.29 Child Affected by Parental Relationship Distress
V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed
(for an analysis of the DSM-5 diagnosis of an attachment-based model of “parental alienation” see “Childress, 2013: DSM-5 Diagnosis of ‘Parental Alienation’ Processes” on my website)
All specialized experts in High-Conflict Family Divorce (HCFD specialty practice) will make the same DSM-5 diagnosis in response to the identifiable set of three clearly defined and dichotomous (present-absent) Diagnostic Indicators of attachment-based “parental alienation” (i.e., pathogenic parenting).
This means that all HCFD specialty psychologists will make a DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed.
In making the DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed, these HCFD specialty psychologists then engage a professional responsibility to take protective action for the child. Chief among these protective steps, and an option that I strongly urge them to enact, is to make a child abuse report to Child Protective Services (CPS) regarding their diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed.
CPS workers will initially not know how to deal with the influx of child abuse reports by this group of specialist psychologists who are providing a DSM-5 diagnosis of v995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed along with their report. CPS agencies will have one of three possible options,
1. Ignore the reports (which is an unlikely response, especially as these reports continue to come in)
2. Accept the DSM-5 diagnosis of the HCFD specialist and remove the child from the custody of the alienating (pathogenic) parent and place the child in the custody of the targeted, normal range and healthy parent (i;e;, engage a protective separation of the child from the psychopathology and pathogenic parenting practices of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent).
3. Conduct their own investigation of possible child psychological abuse.
I suspect that CPS agencies will choose option 3.
In the context of having a clinical psychologist who is expert in High-Conflict Family Divorce provide a confirmed DSM-5 diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse, if the CPS system wants to conduct their own investigation then they will need to obtain similar training in the assessment of an attachment-based model of “parental alienation” upon which the psychologist’s diagnosis is based (i.e., CPS case workers will need to develop professional competence in the specialty practice area of identifying child psychological abuse that occurs within high-conflict family divorce settings) since this knowledge base serves as the foundation for the diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed made by the HCFD specialist psychologist.
So ALL CPS workers everywhere will receive training in an attachment-based model of “parental alienation” and the three definitive diagnostic indicators of pathogenic parenting associated with the child’s cross-generational coalition with a narcissistic/(borderline) parent against the other parent that is inducing significant developmental (Diagnostic Indicator 1), personality (Diagnostic Indicator 2), and psychiatric (Diagnostic Indicator 3) pathology in the child.
The Diagnostic Indicators for attachment-based “parental alienation” are clearly defined and dichotomous, either attachment-based “parental alienation” is present or absent. Once CPS has a set of clearly defined dichotomous criteria by which to identify pathogenic parenting associated with an attachment-based model of “parental alienation,” they will become empowered and confident in removing the child from the care of pathogenic narcissistic/(borderline) parent in every case where the three Diagnostic Indicators are present.
Once a case of pathogenic parenting associated with an attachment-based model of “parental alienation” enters the specialty practice of an HCFD specialist psychologist, a child abuse report will be filed with CPS that includes the psychologist’s diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed. Once the report enters the CPS system, the CPS case worker will confirm the presence of the three Diagnostic Indicators of pathogenic parenting and will confirm the DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed, so that the diagnosis has now been confirmed by two independent assessments of mental health professionals expert in the family processes associated with high-conflict divorce.
CPS will then immediately remove the child from the custody of the alienating narcissistic/(borderline) parent (i.e., a protective separation of the child from the psychopathology of the pathogenic parent) and place the child with the normal-range and healthy targeted parent to allow for the treatment and resolution of the child’s symptoms.
This establishes the necessary protective separation conditions for a Pruter-style model of treatment that resolves the child’s symptoms within days or weeks. Once the child’s symptoms have been resolved under the treatment guidance of an HCFD specialist psychologist, the child’s own “psychological immune system” can be strengthened to resist “reinfection” by the distorting pathology of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent, and the child’s relationship with the narcissistic/(borderline) parent can be reestablished.
Of note is that Ms. Pruter also indicated that she has a treatment protocol component for the alienating parent to complete as a requirement for their “reunification therapy” with the child.
This solution never enters the Court system.
- It provides an immediate protective separation of the child from the psychopathology of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent.
- It solves the family conflict in a matter of weeks and so restores the child to a normal-range developmental trajectory quickly.
- It is relatively cost free to the parent so that it does not require an extensive parental financial investment of funds that should be allocated to the child’s future college education.
This is the solution.
If the case does enter the Court system, the judge can order a Treatment Needs Assessment report, which would be a targeted assessment by an HCFD specialist for the presence or absence of the three Diagnostic Indicators of pathogenic parenting associated with an attachment-based model of “parental alienation.” The targeted Treatment Needs Assessment would be focused and so less extensive than a full child custody evaluation. Since all child custody evaluators would have become HCFD specialists, this could be a secondary professional service available from them.
My estimate of a Treatment Needs Assessment is that it could be completed in four to six weeks and could provide a clear directive to the Court regarding the treatment needs of the child. If the three Diagnostic Indicators of pathogenic parenting associated with an attachment-based model of “parental alienation” are present, then the HCFD specialist psychologist conducting the assessment would make the appropriate DSM-5 diagnosis of the child (relative to the issue of pathogenic parenting) which would include the DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed.
Upon receiving the report from the HCFD psychologist that contains the DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed, the judge could order removal of the child from the custody of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent and placement of the child with the targeted, normal-range and healthy parent during the active phase of the child’s treatment and recovery. Under the guidance of an HCFD specialty psychologist, the child and targeted parent could receive a Pruter-style treatment protocol that would restore their relationship within weeks, followed by building the child’s “psychological immune system” response to the distorted pathogenic parenting practices of the narcissistic/(borderline) parenting, culminating in “reunification therapy” between the child and the narcissistic/(borderline) parent.
This is the solution.
Enacting the Solution
I have created the solution. All the dominoes are in line, and through my writings on my website and blog I have tipped the first domino. In my view, it is just a matter of time now.
My estimate is the change in paradigm will take about 10 years. The solution I have enacted has no natural allies. Establishment mental health has little to no interest in “parental alienation.” Their interest tends toward Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and the typical types of parent-child conflict. “Parental alienation” isn’t really on their radar. They are likely to simply equate an attachment-based model of “parental alienation” with the Gardnerian PAS model as being “controversial” (when actually an attachment-based model is not at all controversial – all of the constructs are standard and accepted psychological principles and constructs).
The Gardnerian PAS experts are likely to be reluctant to see the end of their favored paradigm for conceptualizing “parental alienation” because they have fought for it for so long and hard. To see it simply disappear and be replaced by a new paradigm about which they are entirely unfamiliar will likely be hard for them. The Gardnerian PAS experts are likely to simply ignore an attachment-based model and to continue their efforts to seek Court-based solutions for the PAS model.
So an attachment-based paradigm for “parental alienation” will probably languish in obscurity for a while. Eventually it will get picked up (for a variety of reasons, one of the primary reasons will be its promise for guiding future research efforts). It will likely become established through the efforts of a new generation of psychologists and mental health professionals who will see the value in a paradigm shift because they have no prior attachment to the PAS model. They will have an easier time letting go of the PAS model and adopting a new paradigm for describing and understanding “parental alienation” processes.
Eventually the paradigm will shift. The moment it does the other dominoes will begin to fall. There is actually a line of dominoes that will also begin to fall that will solve the issue of false allegations of child abuse that are such a troubling part of “parental alienation,” but I’ll leave a description of that line of dominoes for another post.
It’s just a matter of time.
Craig Childress, Psy.D.
Clinical Psychologist, PSY 18857