Dominoes Falling: The Sequence

This is the second post of a two-part series.  The initial post in the series is “Dominoes Part 1: Paradigm Shift


We cannot solve “parental alienation” for any individual family until we solve it for all families.  And solving parental alienation” for all families will require a paradigm shift away from a Gardnerian PAS model to an attachment-based model that has its foundations in established scientific principles and constructs of professional psychology (see Dominoes Part 1: Paradigm Shift post).

Once that first domino of the paradigm shift occurs, a series of dominoes will follow, beginning with diagnosis, followed by protective separation, and leading to the final domino of treatment and restoring the child’s healthy development. 

But we cannot achieve the final domino of the restoration of the child’s healthy and normal-range development until the first set of dominoes have fallen.

The Second Domino: Diagnosis & Defined Standards of Professional Competence

Once the first domino of the paradigm shift falls, the second domino will immediately fall.  Immediately with the paradigm shift the three definitive Diagnostic Indicators for attachment-based “parental alienation” become operative (see Diagnostic Indicators and Associated Clinical Signs).

We will then have a clear and definitive set of diagnostic criteria for identifying attachment-based “parental alienation” in all cases, and to which ALL mental health professionals can be held accountable

Professional accountability is key to achieving professional competence.  Since the Gardnerian PAS model is not defined through established psychological principles and constructs, and instead proposes a “new syndrome” within psychology, the PAS model does not allow us to establish defined domains of knowledge or professional practice to which ALL mental health professional can be held accountable

Under the PAS proposal of a “new syndrome,” resting as it does on poorly defined theoretical foundations, mental health professionals are allowed to say, “I don’t believe in parental alienation” and this is acceptable.  Mental health professionals are free to accept or not accept this proposed “new syndrome” of PAS, so that “I don’t believe in parental alienation” and “parental alienation doesn’t exist” are acceptable statements.  Ignorant perhaps, but acceptable.

An attachment-based model solves this. Because it is defined entirely from within standard and scientifically established professional constructs and principles, adherence to an attachment-based paradigm is not a matter of belief, it becomes an expectation.

Furthermore, the Diagnostic Indicators for attachment-based “parental alienation” are dichotomous, meaning that “parental alienation” is either present or absent. No grey areas.  Which means that mental health professionals can no longer avoid identifying the pathology by assigning “shared responsibility” to “both parents.”  The diagnostic presence of attachment-based “parental alienation” is the SOLE result of the distorted parenting practices of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent.

When the three Diagnostic Indicators of attachment-based “parental alienation” are evident, the targeted parent is NOT responsible for producing any aspect of the child’s symptoms.

The three Diagnostic Indicators of attachment-based “parental alienation” focus solely on the child’s symptom display,

We do not need to evaluate the narcissistic/(borderline) parent.  The child’s symptom characteristics provide all the definitive proof necessary for identifying the source of the child’s symptoms as being the distorted pathogenic parenting practices by the narcissistic/(borderline) parent.

This is important, we are not proving “parental alienation” through the Diagnostic Indicators, we are proving pathogenic parenting” (patho=pathology; genic=genesis, creation).  Pathogenic parenting is the creation of significant psychopathology in the child through aberrant and distorted parenting practices. 

Our sole diagnostic focus is on the child’s symptom display for indicators of the characteristic pathology that can ONLY be the product of severely pathogenic parenting by an allied and supposedly favored narcissistic/(borderline) parent, i.e., the three Diagnostic Indicators of attachment-based “parental alienation.”

When all three of the definitive Diagnostic Indicators of attachment-based “parental alienation” are present, ALL mental health professionals will make exactly the same diagnosis regarding the presence of “parental alienation” given the same clinical information. It’s no longer a matter of belief or opinion. It becomes an expectation of competent professional practice

If a mental health professional does not make the accurate diagnosis in response to the displayed presence of the three definitive Diagnostic Indicators, then the mental health professional can be held accountable for the misdiagnosis.

By establishing clear domains of knowledge and professional expertise required to work with this “special population” of children and families, we can eliminate the involvement of incompetent and fundamentally ignorant mental health professionals. Only mental health professionals who possess the necessary professional knowledge and expertise needed to competently diagnose and treat this special population of children and families will be allowed to work with this group of children and families.

If you are going to work with attachment-based “parental alienation” you MUST know what you are doing.  That is not a suggestion.  It is a requirement.

The moment we have a professionally established diagnosis for the construct of “parental alienation,” mental health can begin to speak with a single voice. The division in mental health created by the controversy surrounding the Gardnerian PAS construct will be ended.

Both sides in the debate were right.

Gardner was correct, there is a valid clinical phenomenon involving a child’s induced rejection of a relationship with a normal-range and affectionally available parent,

AND…

The critics were right, Gardner’s PAS definition of this clinical phenomenon lacked the necessary scientific foundation in established psychological principles and constructs.

Once the first domino falls and the paradigm shifts to an attachment-based model for the construct of “parental alienation,” the second domino of diagnosis immediately falls, and mental health becomes united into a single voice that establishes clearly defined domains of knowledge and professional practice for identifying professional competence in diagnosing and treating this “special population” of children and families, to which ALL mental health professionals can be held accountable.

The Third Domino: Protective Separation

Once the second domino of diagnosis falls, the third domino falls. In every case of diagnosed attachment-based “parental alienation” professionally responsible treatment REQUIRES the child’s protective separation from the pathogenic parenting of the allied and supposedly favored narcissistic/(borderline) parent during the active phase of the child’s treatment and recovery stabilization period.

This is a treatment-related requirement in every case of identified attachment-based “parental alienation” (i.e., the presence in the child’s symptom display of the three Diagnostic Indicators of attachment-based “parental alienation”).

Since all therapists treating attachment-based “parental alienation” will have established professional competence and expertise, no therapist, anywhere, will treat attachment-based “parental alienation” without first acquiring the child’s protective separation from the pathogenic parenting of the allied and supposedly favored narcissistic/(borderline) parent.

When mental health speaks with a single voice, the Court will be able to act with the decisive clarity needed to solve the pathology of “parental alienation.”

Once the paradigm shifts, so that established standards of professional practice allow us to eliminate professional incompetence from diagnosing and treating this “special population” of children and families, then the knowledge and expertise in mental health will require that no therapist anywhere will treat a case of attachment-based “parental alienation” without first obtaining the child’s protective separation from the pathogenic parenting of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent.

The Court will then have two choices, either order the child’s protective separation from the allied and supposedly favored parent during the active phase of the child’s treatment and recovery stabilization period, or abandon the child to psychopathology.

But there’s more. When the three Diagnostic Indicators of attachment-based “parental alienation” are present, standards of professional practice will require that the clinical diagnosis of attachment-based “parental alienation” must be made by the mental health professional.  This is where the quote marks around “parental alienation” become relevant.  The clinical diagnosis of “parental alienation” is not the DSM diagnosis.  The DSM-5 diagnosis will be an Adjustment Disorder, AND the additional DSM-5 diagnosis of,

V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed.

Here’s the linkages:

The presence of the three diagnostic indicators requires a clinical diagnosis of attachment-based “parental alienation”

A clinical diagnosis of attachment based “parental alienation” triggers the DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed

The DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed requires a child protection response from the mental health professional. 

This duty to protect can be discharged by the mental health professional filing a child abuse report with an appropriate child protection agency

Initially, the child protective service agency receiving these reports won’t know what to do with these reports of child abuse. They will have three choices:

1.  Ignore the report. It is unlikely that they will choose this option.

2.  They can accept the diagnosis made by the mental health professional and take the appropriate child protection response of removing the child from the care of the allied and supposedly favored narcissistic/(borderline) parent and placing the child in the protective care of the targeted parent, thereby enacting the protective separation required for treatment of attachment-based “parental alienation” without having the targeted parent spend years of expensive litigation trying to prove “parental alienation” in Court.

3.  They can conduct their own independent investigation.

If they choose option 3, then all of their investigators who respond to these reports will need to learn the attachment-based model of “parental alienation,” thereby further eliminating professional ignorance and incompetence in working with this “special population” of children and families.

And once they learn an attachment-based model of “parental alienation” they will apply the same diagnostic standard of the three definitive Diagnostic Indicators for attachment-based “parental alienation. When the three Diagnostic Indicators are present, the investigator will confirm the diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse made by the reporting mental health professional, and the child protective services agency will then remove the child from the care of the allied and supposedly favored narcissistic/(borderline) parent and place the child in the protective care of the healthy and normal-range targeted parent.

The necessary child protection response of the child’s protective separation  from the pathogenic parenting of the narcissistic/(borderline) will be achieved without needing extensive litigation within the Court system.

If the Court reviews the placement decision made by the child protection agency, then the Court will be presented with two independent DSM-5 diagnoses of Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed, one made by an expert in this specialty area of professional practice, and one made independently by the child protection agency.

Two independently established DSM-5 diagnoses of Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed are sufficient to warrant the removal of the child from the pathogenic parenting of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent, so that the child can be placed in the protective care of the normal-range parent during the period of the child’s active treatment and recovery stabilization.

Once the child’s symptoms have been resolved and stabilized, the pathogenic parenting of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent can be reintroduced with treatment monitoring to ensure that the child’s symptoms do not reemerge.

If the child’s symptoms reemerge upon reintroducing the pathogenic parenting of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent, then another period of protective separation and supervised visitation would be warranted.

When mental health speaks with a single voice, the legal system will be able to act with the decisive clarity needed to solve “parental alienation.”

The Fourth Domino: Treatment

Once the third domino of the child’s protective separation is achieved, the fourth domino will fall.

My first book on the theoretical foundations of an attachment-based model is due out shortly. The first domino of the paradigm shift is falling. I’m anticipating my second book on diagnosis to appear this summer. The second domino will begin to fall. I’m anticipating my third book on treatment for around this time next year. The last domino will begin to fall.

The treatment domino is the most exciting. There are some things about treatment I haven’t yet shared. 

I am optimistic, I am convinced, that when we reach this phase of the solution we will be able to resolve the child’s symptoms (with a protective separation in place) within a matter of days.  Days.

We will still need a period of protective separation from the pathogenic parenting of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent in order to stabilize the child’s recovery.  But I am convinced that we can achieve an initial resolution of the child’s symptoms within a matter of days.

This last domino is in the works.

Imagine resolving the child’s symptoms of “parental alienation” within a matter of days. This is my goal, our goal, and I am convinced it is achievable.

The Solution

We must achieve the solution for all families, or we can achieve the solution for no families.

The solution requires a series of dominoes to fall, and the first domino is the paradigm shift from the Gardnerian paradigm of PAS to an attachment-based model of parental alienation which is based entirely within standard and established psychological principles and constructs.

Whether this first domino takes one year or ten is up to you, the community of targeted parents. I’m doing what I can, but I can only do so much on my own.

The reason mental health professionals can say “I don’t believe in parental alienation” is because the Gardnerian PAS model allows them to say this.

An attachment-based model will not allow them to say that they “don’t believe in parental alienation,” because the principles on which an attachment-based model are constructed are not a matter of opinion or belief, they are established and scientifically validated facts.

The solution to “parental alienation” awaits the falling of the first domino, the change in paradigm. Once the first domino falls the remaining dominoes will begin to fall in succession.

In order to achieve a solution for any individual family we must achieve a solution for all families.

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

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