You are all in this together

I often receive phone calls and emails from targeted parents asking for my help. I’d like to take this opportunity to respond to targeted parents regarding your situation.


To targeted parents:

You cannot do this alone. 

Unless we solve “parental alienation” for everyone, we can solve it for no one.  You are all in this together.  There can be no solution to any individual family situation until we achieve a solution for ALL families experiencing parental alienation.

No solution exists under the Gardnerian PAS model.  The Gardnerian paradigm has been available for 30 years and it has given us exactly the current situation we have now.  Until the paradigm shifts from a Gardnerian PAS model to an attachment-based model, no solution to your individual family struggle will be available.  There is nothing you can do.  

Once the paradigm shifts from a Gardnerian PAS model to an attachment-based model, the solution becomes immediately available for all parents and children.  Then, and only then, will there be a solution available for your individual situation.

Unless and until we solve “parental alienation” for all families, there will be no solution available for any individual family.  You are all in this together. 

You must come together to fight for all of your children.

Let me explain.

Do you know any therapists in…?

I regularly receive emails and phone calls from targeted parents who ask,

“Do you know any therapists in <name the location> who treat parental alienation?”

This is fundamentally the wrong question.

The child is in a psychological hostage situation. How can we possibly ask the child to expose his or her authenticity if we cannot first protect the child from the certain retaliation that will be inflicted on the child by the narcissistic/(borderline) parent?

The child is in a very dangerous psychological situation with the narcissistic/(borderline) parent. You, of all people, should know this.

You know how angry and irrational that other parent is, how controlling and demeaning the other parent can be. You were married to them, and you divorced them.  You understand it because you experienced it.

When you were married to the other parent at least the child had you available to provide some protection for the child when the other parent’s pathology was triggered, and during the marriage most of the other parent’s pathology was directed at you so that the child was spared the intensity of a direct assault by the narcissistic/(borderline) parent’s pathology.

But now, following the divorce, the child is alone with the narcissistic/(borderline) parent. You escaped the pathology of the other parent by divorcing this parent, but the child is still trapped.  And you can’t directly protect the child anymore because you’re no longer there; the child is alone now with the narcissistic/(borderline) parent.  And the narcissistic/(borderline) parent is directing their spousal anger at you through the child, so the child is now directly in the line of fire.

If the child shows any bonding toward you, any kindness toward you, or is even simply not being rejecting enough of you, not being sufficiently hostile and demeaning toward you, then the child faces the fierce psychological retaliation of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent, and you know just how crazy and irrational, how angry and hostile, how subtly manipulative and controlling that onslaught can be.

Unless we can first protect the child, how can we ask the child to expose his or her authenticity to the full fury of the pathological onslaught that’s sure to follow from the narcissistic/(borderline) parent?

When you ask me if there is a therapist who treats “parental alienation” you are considering only your own needs, your own love for your child, but you are not considering the consequences for the child if we expose the child’s authenticity without being able to protect the child from the searing retaliation that is sure to follow.

I know you love your child.  I know how desperately you miss your child.  But we must first be able to protect the child before we can ask the child to expose his or her authenticity.

The Questions

The appropriate question is,

“Dr. Childress, how can I protect my child from the pathology of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent?”

The answer is, you can’t.

Don’t you see that? You cannot protect your child. And if you cannot protect your child then your child has to do whatever is necessary, including rejecting a relationship with you, in order to survive in the psychologically dangerous world in which the child must survive.

In order to protect your child, you must get the court to order a protective separation of the child from the pathology of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent during the active phase of the child’s treatment and recovery.

Unless you can get the court to order the child’s protective separation from the pathology of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent during the recovery of the child’s authenticity, then there is nothing that can be done, because you cannot protect your child and the child must do what is necessary to survive in the pathology surrounding the child.

“But Dr. Childress, I’ve tried. I’ve spent a fortune in legal bills, all the money I have and more,  I’ve gone into debt, I’ve borrowed from family, all in an effort to get the court to recognize the parental alienation, and the court doesn’t do anything. They write orders that are never enforced, the other parent simply ignores court orders and the court doesn’t do anything about it.  And they’ve reduced my time with the child to almost nothing.  The court won’t order a protective separation of my child from the narcissistic/(borderline) parent.”

“Dr. Childress, how do I get the court to order a protective separation of the child from the pathology of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent?”

You can’t.

Don’t you see that?  It is so clearly obvious.  Under the current Gardnerian PAS paradigm it is nearly impossible to get the court to order the child’s protective separation from the pathology of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent.

The family law system is massively broken. 

Judges don’t understand “parental alienation,” and it is nearly impossible to prove “parental alienation” in court. It takes years and years of legal battling in which the narcissistic/(borderline) parent delays and delays, throwing up roadblocks, allegations of abuse, blatantly disregarding court orders without any consequence, until you’ve spent all your money, you haven’t seen your kids in years, and things have gone from bad to horrible.

You can’t get the court to order a protective separation on your own, you’re not powerful enough. You need an ally. You need mental health to stand by your side and say with decisive clarity to the court that the child is being “alienated” from you by the pathology of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent, and that the child’s healthy development REQUIRES that the child be protectively separated from the pathology of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent during the period of treatment as we recover and stabilize the child’s authenticity.

“But Dr. Childress, I’ve tried. I’ve been in therapy for years. We’ve had a child custody evaluation that said the other parent was “alienating” the child but the evaluator still recommended shared custody. We’ve been in reunification therapy and the therapist acts like the distortions the child is saying are true, and the therapist has even asked me to apologize to the child for my past “failures,” when I didn’t do anything wrong. Years of supposed therapy and nothing changes, things actually get worse. And I never get to speak with the child’s individual therapists. No one in mental health is my ally. What can I do?”

“Dr. Childress, how can I convince mental health professionals to be my ally in obtaining the child’s protective separation from the pathology of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent?”

You can’t. You’re still not understanding. The mental health response to your family is completely ignorant and incompetent, and the current Gardnerian PAS paradigm allows this professional ignorance and incompetence.

The mental health professionals diagnosing and treating your family are entirely and completely incompetent. They’re plastic surgeons diagnosing and treating cancer. They have no idea what’s wrong and they have even less of an understanding for what to do about it.

The custody evaluation is going to take months and cost tens of thousands of dollars, but the conclusion is (almost) pre-written, joint custody to both parents. Split the difference. Middle of the road. It doesn’t matter what’s actually going on, that’s irrelevant. The answer is going to be to recommend the middle, split the difference, joint custody to both parents (or less custody time to you because the child is saying that the child doesn’t want to be with you).

Therapists are pointless. Individual therapists will simply “validate the child’s feelings” which is essentially validating and colluding with the pathology. And the typical justification for this insane collusion with psychopathology is that they’re “giving the child a safe place to talk about their feelings.” Nonsense. Therapy isn’t a safe place for the alienated child.  After every session (if the narcissistic/(borderline) parent even allows therapy sessions to occur), the child is asked by the narcissistic/(borderline) parent to report on what occurred during the therapy session.  Therapy just becomes another place for the child to display to the narcissistic/(borderline) parent the child’s allegiance to the narcissistic/(borderline) parent. We might as well have the narcissistic/(borderline) parent sitting in the supposedly “individual” child therapy sessions.

And psychologically the child is entirely captured by the role-reversal relationship. There is no authentic child present. The child is like a ventriloquist’s puppet, mouthing the words placed there by the narcissistic/(borderline) parent.

(In the scientific literature, this loss of authenticity is called a “role-reversal” relationship in which the child is being used as a “regulatory object” by the narcissistic/(borderline) parent to regulate the emotional and psychological state of this parent.)

Joint parent-child “reunification therapy” is equally as pointless, as I’m sure you’re aware. First off, there is no such thing as “reunification therapy.” This term is used by therapists as a cover which allows the therapist to essentially do anything under the guise of “reunification therapy.”  There is no defined model for what “reunification therapy” is.  The therapist does whatever seems to make sense to the therapist at the moment under the pretense that there is some sort of strategy or approach to restoring the parent-child bond. But there is no strategy or approach, because these therapists have no idea what they’re treating, and they have even less understanding for how to treat the pathology that sits before them.

They’re treating cancer with leeches. Not only don’t they understand what they’re treating, their treatment is positively medieval in its approach so that it has no hope of resolving the severity of the pathology.

Mental health isn’t your ally. They are ignorant, and in their ignorance they are only colluding with, and further entrenching, the pathology.

“So Dr. Childress. What can I do?”

Nothing.

Is There a Solution? No. (and yes).

What you’re facing is a manifestation of the childhood trauma pathology that created the narcissistic/(borderline) pathology of the other parent, which is now being reenacted on you.

In the childhood trauma of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent, the narcissistic/(borderline) parent as a child was being psychologically abused by his or her own parent, and there was nothing the narcissistic/(borderline) parent-as-a-child could do back then to escape the abuse. They were powerless to make their suffering stop.

That was the initial trauma that is now being reenacted on you.

You, as the recipient of the trauma reenactment narrative, are being psychologically abused and there is nothing you can do to escape the abuse.

There is no solution for you.

But, there is a solution.

In order to solve this nightmare of “parental alienation” for you, we must solve it for EVERYONE, for ALL targeted parents. When we solve “parental alienation” for ALL targeted parents, then we will solve it for you.

Your individual solution will be found in the collective solution. Until we solve parental alienation for everyone, we can solve it for no one.

So what’s the solution? Mental health MUST become your ally, so that working together we have enough power to protect your child. We start with mental health.

First, we must demand – not seek – we must demand professional competence. We must banish professional ignorance and incompetence.

Gardner’s PAS model won’t allow us to demand professional competence because he proposed a “new syndrome” which has been rejected by establishment mental health for 30 years as lacking in scientifically established foundation. 

The Gardnerian PAS paradigm allows for exactly the professional incompetence we are witnessing.  After 30 years of the failed Gardnerian PAS paradigm that should be patently obvious.  The Gardnerian PAS paradigm is giving us exactly what we have.  So why are we holding onto the Gardnerian PAS paradigm that allows for such extensive professional incompetence?  I have no idea. 

We need a change.

An attachment-based model of “parental alienation” provides this change.

It doesn’t propose a “new syndrome” but instead defines what “parental alienation” is entirely using standard and accepted, scientifically sound and supported, psychological constructs and principles. This redefinition of “parental alienation” from entirely within standard and established psychological principles and constructs then allows us to define “domains of professional competence” required for treating this “special population” of children and families:

  • Attachment theory
  • Personality disorder dynamics
  • Family systems constructs

We can then require that all mental health professionals diagnosing and treating this “special population” possess the necessary knowledge for competent professional practice.

Then, once we banish ignorance and obtain professional competence, the three diagnostic indicators of attachment-based “parental alienation” in the child’s symptom display will identify the presence of parental alienation in every case.

Finally, you will have a definitive diagnosis from mental health. And this diagnosis will include the DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.57 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed.

And because we have achieved professional competence, gone will be pointless individual child therapy, gone will be un-defined “reunification therapy.”

Therapy for attachment-based “parental alienation” REQUIRES the child’s protective separation from the pathology of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent during the active phase of treatment and recovery stabilization from the role-reversal relationship with the narcissistic/(borderline) parent in which the child is being used as a “regulatory object” by the narcissistic/(borderline) parent for the psychopathology of this parent.

Because we have achieved profession competence, no therapist, ANYWHERE, will treat a case of attachment-based “parental alienation” without first obtaining the child’s protective separation from the pathology of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent. Mental health will, at last, be your ally.

THEN, we turn back to the court system. When mental health speaks with a single voice, the legal system will be able to act with the decisive clarity necessary to solve parental alienation.

Judges will be presented with a mental health diagnosis of V995.57 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed from ALL mental health professionals involved with your child and family, and no therapist anywhere will treat the child without the court first ordering the child’s protective separation from the pathology of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent.

Before we can ask the child to expose his or her authenticity, we MUST first protect the child.

While it is possible that judges may still not order a protective separation, it will be extremely hard for them not to order a protective separation when ALL mental health professionals are giving the child a DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.57 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed, and the entire field of professional psychology is saying that the child’s treatment REQUIRES the child’s protective separation from the psychopathology of the allied and supposedly favored narcissistic/(borderline) parent. For a judge to simply disregard all of professional mental health regarding the child’s pathology and treatment needs is going to be very hard for the judge to do.

Once we have a protective separation of the child from the pathology of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent, then we can restore the child’s authenticity and the child’s loving bond to you.

But we must solve “parental alienation” for ALL families in order to solve it for any one family.

And then, once we have stopped the continual bleeding-out of current “alienation,” we can next turn our focus on the adult-children of “alienation,” the adult survivors of childhood “parental alienation.”

With the media attention we can generate surrounding the solution for current “alienation” we can broaden the focus to include the adult survivors of childhood “parental alienation” so that we can set about healing this nightmare for everyone.  For everyone.

As targeted parents, you are in this together. We cannot solve this for any one family unless we solve it for all families.

We can solve it for all families.

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

2 thoughts on “You are all in this together”

  1. As always a helpful read – never easy, but illuminating.
    I’d like to ask if you can, at some point, write from the perspective of the child, detailing in your own way the emotions they have felt and are going through, the situations and conflicts that they have and do experience, and how they might balance this out for themselves at some future point and seek to restore their lost relationship(s).
    Ideally for my situation this would be from the perspective of a teenager (an only child), who until early teens had a close relationship with his loving, emotionally available father, and an equally close relationship with his difficult, narcissistic mother, but that following his parent’s separation suffered the effects of alienation (compounded by a blind court system) and now has no direct contact with his father (nor has had for 2 years), and no contact at all with his extended paternal family.
    I’ve read a number of times, in a number of places, where adults say they read something, or heard someone speak, and say they suddenly understood what has happened to them, and what they have suffered. I’d really appreciate it Dr Childress if you could write your version of a child’s experience, in a way that one day might do the same for the son lost to the father in my life.

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