I recently received an email asking if Standards 2.01 and 3.04 of the American Psychological Association’s Ethics Code here in the United States applied in Canada. No. Each nation has it’s own regulatory standards governing the practice of professional psychology.
To help this parent understand how to apply the principles of our struggle with the pathogen here in the United States to her struggles with the impact of the pathogen on her family in Canada, I googled the code of ethics for Canada and (with appropriate caveats to the parent that I am not a Canadian psychologist) I identified for this targeted parent similar standards in the Canadian Code of Ethics for Psychologists to Standards 2.01 and 3.04 in the Ethics Code of the American Psychological Association.
Based on the question of this parent, I thought it might be helpful at this point to formally recognize that the pathogen of attachment-based “parental alienation” (as defined in Foundations) is a trauma pathogen that has the same structural pattern in all nationalities, just like the trauma pathogens of domestic violence and physical child abuse are found and expressed in all nations.
The trauma pathogen of “parental alienation” (as defined and described in Foundations) represents the transmission of attachment trauma across several generations. The childhood developmental trauma experienced by the narcissistic/(borderline) parent resulted in a disorganized attachment system that subsequently coalesced during late adolescence and early adulthood into the narcissistic and borderline personalty traits that are now driving the pathology described in an attachment-based model for the construct of “parental alienation” (Foundations).
But the pathogen didn’t begin with the childhood of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent. Instead, the origins of the pathology likely extend back at least one generation earlier, to the parent of the current narcissistic/(borderline) parent. The Alpha parent for the pathology (i.e., the parent of the current narcissistic/(borderline) parent) was the likely recipient of the initial trauma experience, which then distorted this Alpha parent’s parenting practices with the narcissistic/(borderline) parent as a child that then produced the disorganized attachment that later coalesced into the narcissistic and borderline personality traits that are now driving the current “parental alienation” pathology.
This trauma pathogen likely extends across at least three generations, with the most recent trans-generational iteration of the original trauma being reflected in the symptoms of attachment-based “parental alienation.”
(Based on my analysis of the “information structures” of this pathogen, I suspect that the initial trauma that entered the family several generations earlier was sexual abuse, and was likely incest, so that the current expression evidenced in the symptoms of attachment-based “parental alienation” likely represents the trans-generational iteration of sexual abuse trauma – not in all cases, but in many. Once professional mental health moves beyond it’s current impasse regarding its response to this pathogen then we can begin to discuss and research these deeper issues regarding this particular pathogen.)
A trauma pathogen within the attachment system that is being transmitted through aberrant and distorted parenting practices will be the same in the United States as it is in other countries. It is reasonable to expect that the pathology will be the same in Australia, and Britain, and Poland, and Portugal, and South Africa, and the Netherlands, and Germany, and South America, and Asia, as it is in the United States, just like domestic violence and child abuse are trauma pathogens found across nationalities as well.
So while we are engaged in our battle with the pathogen here in the United States, families are struggling with the same pathology across all regions of the globe. So I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge this trans-global impact of the pathology, and to say once again, that we are all in this together. As we achieve advances against this pathogen here in the United States, this will help in the global struggle against the pathology of attachment-based “parental alienation.” Similarly, as advances are made in other nations, this will aid us here in the United States.
In adapting our struggle here in the United States to the struggles of targeted parents in other parts of the globe, the issue becomes identifying the applicable standards of professional practice for your country’s professional psychological association. In the struggle of targeted parents across the globe to obtain an appropriate response from professional mental health to the pathology of attachment-based “parental alienation” (i.e., to a cross-generational coalition of the child with a narcissistic/(borderline) parent involving the role-reversal use of the child as a regulatory object for the parent’s emotional and psychological state), targeted parents will need to identify the professional standards of practice applicable to the professional organization within their nation in order to apply these professional standards of practice to the expectation for professional competence.
Within the United States, what I have activated for targeted parents with Foundations (i.e., with an attachment-based reformulation for the construct of “parental alienation”) are Standards 2.01 and 3.04 of the American Psychological Association’s Ethics Code concerning “Boundaries of Competence” and “Harm to the Client.” What you will want to do in other countries is to look at the professional practice guidelines for professional psychology (typically codified as the Ethics Code) and look for these standards governing “Boundaries of Competence” and “Harm to the Client.”
As an illustrative example for this process, let me select the Australian Psychological Society Code of Ethics. From my informal read on the global battle against the pathogen of “parental alienation,” Australia seems to be the most advanced, slightly ahead of the United States in its recognition of the trauma pathogen, although all nations remain woefully inadequate in the responses of their mental health systems to the pathology. From what I’m told, Britain is reportedly one of the least advanced, although many nations could likely challenge for that dubious distinction.
Let me begin with the caveat that I am an American psychologist and am not an expert in the legal and ethical issues of Australian psychologists. I will defer to the analysis and judgement of Australian psychologists regarding the interpretation of their Code of Ethics.
I am offering my observations merely as an illustrative example for targeted parents on how to identify the relevant standards of practice for their professional organizations. The interpretation of these standards of practice in any country should be discussed with the psychologists in those countries.
I also want to acknowledge that I am leaving out professional organizations governing Master’s level mental health professionals. I am doing this entirely for the sake of simplicity There are a variety of additional professional organizations, each with their own ethics code, but I would venture to say that all of the ethics codes for these additional professional mental health organizations will contain explicit standards or language related to “Boundaries of Competence” and “Harm to the Client.” So entirely for simplicity’s sake I am going to remain focused on the professional organizations for psychologists, since I’m a psychologist.
With this caveat in mind, I wish to offer an example of how to recognize the relevant standards of practice for the professional organization in your nation.
APS Ethics Code
The Australian Psychological Society Ethics Code is available online, and can easily be retrieved for general review by a google search.
The first thing of note in this Ethics Code is Standard A.6 regarding the release of information. Standard A.6 states:
Release of information to clients
Psychologists, with consideration of legislative exceptions and their organisational requirements, do not refuse any reasonable request from clients, or former clients, to access client information, for which the psychologists have professional responsibility.
This standard seemingly gives targeted parents a right to request their children’s records from a treating psychologist.
In the U.S., specifically in California, psychologists can refuse this request if they believe it will be harmful to the client, but then they must document in the patient’s record what harm would be inflicted on the client by the release of information, and then they are still required to release the information to a mental health professional designated by the parent. This is a California state law, so you will need to check on the specifics of “release of information” laws for your specific jurisdiction.
Based on Standard A.6, it would seem that targeted parents in Australia may be able to use consultant psychologists as an aid to achieve professional competence. If Australian targeted parents could identify even a few capable and competent psychologists (Foundations) who would be willing to review the work of other mental health professionals, then the targeted parents could request that the treatment records for their children be sent to one of these capable and competent psychologists for review (the targeted parent would have to pay for the time that their consultant psychologist spent reviewing the case material; essentially they would be hiring a expert professional consultant). An outside professional review of the case records of the treating psychologist might encourage development of a broader level of general knowledge and competence from all mental health professionals through the guided mentorship of these expert psychologists.
For example, a targeted parent came into my office the other day for consultation. Based on this father’s situation we may be requesting the records of the treating clinician. In this particular case, there has been two years of “reunification therapy” involving just the child with no contact between the child and the targeted parent for the past two years because the child supposedly “wasn’t ready” (to be loved). Based on our discussion, we may need to find out more about what specifically is going on in terms of treatment, and we might actually wind up meeting face-to-face with this psychologist (the father and I together) to discuss diagnosis and treatment planning.
So a professional review of cases by your consulting psychologist may help to encourage all mental health professionals to become competent (Foundations) when assessing, diagnosing, and treating this “special population” of children and families.
Knowing that targeted parents WILL request the records of their children and that these records WILL BE REVIEWED by a psychologist familiar with the pathology of attachment-based “parental alienation” (Foundations) may encourage a general improvement in the quality of knowledge and services provided by mental health providers generally.
Next, in the APS Ethics Code note “General Principle B: Propriety,” which states
Psychologists ensure that they are competent to deliver the psychological services they provide. They provide psychological services to benefit, and not to harm. Psychologists seek to protect the interests of the people and peoples with whom they work. The welfare of clients and the public, and the standing of the profession, take precedence over a psychologist’s self-interest. (emphasis added)
This is the type of wording you’re looking for. This Standard would apparently require that psychologists are responsible for ensuring that they are competent and do not harm their clients. This means that it is NOT your responsibility to educate them. It is THEIR RESPONSIBILITY to “ensure that they are competent.”
Psychologists are not allowed to be incompetent and they are not allowed to harm their clients.
Then note what’s said in the “Explanatory Statement” that follows the initial general statement of the APS Ethics Code regarding professional competence:
Psychologists practise within the limits of their competence and know and understand the legal, professional, ethical and, where applicable, organisational rules that regulate the psychological services they provide. They undertake continuing professional development and take steps to ensure that they remain competent to practise, and strive to be aware of the possible effect of their own physical and mental health on their ability to practise competently. Psychologists anticipate the foreseeable consequences of their professional decisions, provide services that are beneficial to people and do not harm them. Psychologists take responsibility for their professional decisions. (emphasis added)
A key element of this Explanatory Statement of the APS Ethics Code is the requirement that the psychologists “take steps to ensure that they remain competent.” With regard to “parental alienation,” this would mean that they remain current regarding current theoretical models of “parental alienation” (Foundations).
A similar requirement in the Ethics Code of the American Psychological Association is Standard 2.03 on “Maintaining Competence” which states that,
“Psychologists undertake ongoing efforts to develop and maintain their competence.”
If a psychologist fails to “undertake continuing professional development” (Foundations) in order to “ensure that they remain competent“ this would seemingly represent a violation of the professional standards of practice (or practise) as mandated by the APS Ethics Code.
Again, it is of note that it is NOT the client’s responsibility to educate the psychologist. It is the psychologist’s responsibility to already BE competent and to REMAIN competent.
As a targeted parent, it would seemingly be polite on your part to nicely (not angrily, not arrogantly; be kind) notify the psychologist that your expectation is that they are competent in the relevant domains of knowledge necessary to competently assess, diagnose, and treat the special circumstances surrounding your children and family (Section Four; Foundations). But with or without your notification, psychologists are nevertheless responsible for knowing personality disorders, the attachment system, the decompensation of personality disorders into delusional beliefs, and the basic family systems concepts of the child’s triangulation into the spousal conflict through the formation of a cross-generational coalition with one parent against the other.
These are some of the professional words-of-power from Foundations. It is important to remember that the term “parental alienation” has NO power. Absolutely none. To activate professional standards of practice you MUST use the professional-words-of-power that I provide in Foundations.
Targeted parents become empowered by the professional words-of-power I’ve provided in Foundations. I didn’t write Foundations to explain “parental alienation” to targeted parents (well, sort of, but that wasn’t its main purpose). I wrote Foundations to empower targeted parents to hold mental health professionals ACCOUNTABLE.
Standard B.1 Competence
So after reading the broad ethical principles, examine the specific Standards of the ethics code. There will almost always be specific Standards covering “Boundaries of Competence” and “Harm to the Client.” With the APS Ethics Code, this is Standard B.1, which states:
B.1.1. Psychologists bring and maintain appropriate skills and learning to their areas of professional practice.
B.1.2. Psychologists only provide psychological services within the boundaries of their professional competence. This includes, but is not restricted to:
(a) working within the limits of their education, training, supervised experience and appropriate professional experience;
(b) basing their service on the established knowledge of the discipline and profession of psychology;
(c) adhering to the Code and the Guidelines;(emphasis added)
Psychologists must know what they’re doing. The issue is whether the psychologist who is assessing, diagnosing, and treating the pathology being expressed by your children and in your family is competent to do so based on his or her education, training, and supervised experience?
And this is where Foundations comes into play. In the first three sections of Foundations I define and describe the areas of necessary professional competence from entirely within standard and established psychological principles and constructs. This then defines the “boundaries of competence” needed to assess, diagnose, and treat this “special population” of children and families. Then, in Section Four I take it one step further. I specifically identify the domains of knowledge needed for professional competence (based on the material in the preceding three sections) and I even identify specific literature defining these domains of knowledge.
This activates the Standards in the Ethics Code for the professional psychological organization in your country regarding “Boundaries of Competence.”
The relevant domains of professional knowledge described and defined in Foundations for assessing, diagnosing, and treating an attachment-based reformulation for the pathology of “parental alienation” would include the following:
- The Attachment System: This includes the reenactment of attachment trauma (called “the transference” when enacted within the therapist-client relationship; called “core schemas” by the preeminent theorist Arron Beck; called “internal working models” of attachment by the preeminent attachment theorist John Bowlby).
- Narcissistic and Borderline Personality Dynamics: This includes the characteristic presentation of narcissistic and borderline personality dynamics in clinical interviews, the psychological decompensation of narcissistic and borderline personality processes into delusional beliefs, and the role-reversal relationship in which the child is used as a “regulatory object” by the narcissistic/borderline parent to stabilize and regulate the emotional and psychological state of the parent.
- Family Systems Constructs: This includes constructs of the child’s triangulation into the spousal conflict through the formation of a cross-generational coalition with the allied parent (the “favored” parent) against the other parent. This would also include a professional understanding for the impact on family relationships from the addition of the “splitting” dynamic characteristic of narcissistic and borderline personality processes to the cross-generational coalition.
I describe all of these constructs in Foundations and apply them to the pathology of “parental alienation.” You will need to read Foundations to begin to acquire these professional words-of-power. Don’t worry about the technicalities. Remember, it is the RESPONSIBILITY of the mental health professional, not you, to know this material. But unfortunately, given the general state of professional ignorance, you’re going to have to at least become familiar with the professional words-of-power. Dorcy Pruter has established her own companion site to my Empowerment videos that can also help guide you through understanding and using the professional words-of-power.
Here in the United States, if a psychologist asserts that he or she possesses the necessary competence to assess, diagnose, and treat this “special population” of children and families, then my next sentence will be,
“Can you please document for me how you acquired your training and expertise in these areas?” – which is essentially saying “prove it” it formal-speak.
On the other hand, they can simply avoid this whole challenge to their professional competence by just reading Foundations and doing the right thing when the three definitive diagnostic indicators of attachment-based “parental alienation” are present (i.e., make the appropriate DSM-5 diagnosis as described in Foundations, which includes the DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed).
If they do the right thing, then my next sentence is,
According to Standard B3 of the APS Ethics Code:
B.3. Professional responsibility
Psychologists provide psychological services in a responsible manner. Having regard to the nature of the psychological services they are providing, psychologists:
(a) act with the care and skill expected of a competent psychologist;
(b) take responsibility for the reasonably foreseeable consequences of their conduct;
(c) take reasonable steps to prevent harm occurring as a result of their conduct;
(d) provide a psychological service only for the period when those services are necessary to the client;
(e) are personally responsible for the professional decisions they make; (emphasis added)
When the three diagnostic indicators of attachment-based “parental alienation” (i.e., of a cross-generational coalition of the child with a narcissistic/(borderline) parent involving the role-reversal use of the child as a regulatory object for the parent’s emotional and psychological state) are present, if the psychologist does not make an accurate diagnosis of the pathology then the “reasonably foreseeable consequences” would be the child’s loss of a developmentally healthy and bonded relationship with a normal-range and affectionally available parent, and the developmental pathology imposed on the child by the pathogenic parenting of the narcissistic/borderline parent. These “reasonably foreseeable consequences” would be harmful for both the child and for the normal-range and affectionally available targeted parent.
I’m an American psychologist, and I wouldn’t want to presume on the practice of psychologists in other jurisdictions, so I would defer to the judgement of Australian psychologists in the matters I have discussed in this post. I simply want to illustrate how targeted parents in other countries can locate the professional practice standards for the relevant professional organization (start with google). And then how to read these professional practice standards for the standards relevant to your children and families.
I would strongly urge you to discuss these standards with the diagnosing and treating psychologist. We’re not out to blindside anyone or hurt anyone. However, you have the right to expect professional competence that does not destroy your children’s lives and your life. The trauma of “parental alienation” stops. Today. Now. The citadel of establishment mental health cannot expect you to just stand by and do nothing while your children and families are destroyed.
You have a right, defined for you in the standards of practice for mental health professionals, to expect professional competence. It is NOT up to YOU to educate mental health professionals. The standards of practice for mental health professionals requires that they already be educated and competent BEFORE delivering services. It is their responsibility, not yours, for them to already be educated.
What Foundations does for you by defining the construct of “parental alienation” from entirely within standard and established psychological principles and constructs, is it activates for you these relevant standards of professional practice.
The words “parental alienation” will NOT activate these standards of practice. Only the professional words-of-power I give you in Foundations will activate these standards.
The pathogen of “parental alienation” is a trauma pathogen (i.e., it was created by trauma and it inflicts trauma) that represents the transmission of attachment trauma across several generations. This trauma pathogen is contained in the neural networks of the attachment system (the brain system responsible for love) and it is being transmitted from one generation to the next through aberrant and distorted parenting practices.
This trauma pathogen is the same in all countries, just like the related trauma pathogens for domestic violence and child abuse are found across nationalities as well. We are all in this together. We cannot solve attachment-based “parental alienation” in any specific case until we fix the mental health and legal systems’ response to the pathogen, and when we fix the mental health and legal systems’ response to the pathology, we fix it for ALL parents and ALL families.
We start with mental health. Then, once the mental health response is fixed we’ll turn to the legal system.
And let’s not forget those families of “parental alienation” with now-adult children. Lets work to get these now-adult children back into the arms of their loving parents as well. Because these now-adult children are cut off from their authentic parent and don’t yet have a road back, you will need to generate lots and lots of media focus onto your “insurgency of authentic parents” in order to surround these now-adult children with outreach, The media is not going to be interested in “parental alienation,” but they will be interested in your fight to protect your children.
We will not abandon a single child to the pathology of “parental alienation” – nor will we abandon a single authentic and loving parent. We want all of your children back in your arms. All of them.
Craig Childress, Psy.D.
Clinical Psychologist, PSY, 18857