It warms me, Kay, that you were with your son again at his 19th birthday and my prayers are with you in your journey of healing.
The trauma was created several generations ago through a profound absence of parental empathy that deeply injured a child. That child victim of childhood attachment trauma then grew up to transmit their own childhood trauma to the next generation, again through a profound absence of empathy, a quality they never acquired from their own childhood. This pathology is one of great suffering, transmitted from one generation to the next; from one person to the next.
But we can bring it to a close… through empathy. The children of alienation were lost. The world of the narcissistic/borderline parent is an upside-down world where truth and reality change on the whim of the unstable parent, up is down, night is day, and love is conditional on their surrender to the parent.
To the child; we understand that. No worries. Welcome back. It is very much like waking up, and it’s good to have you back.
My goal is to heal this pathology for all parents and all children, from ages 4 to 40. And when the pathology begins to show itself after a divorce, any divorce, my goal is to have professional mental health jump on it in the first six months and stop it before it becomes established. That’s the goal.
We will be solving this pathology in stages.
The first immediate and pressing need is to stop the “bleeding out” of currently active “parental alienation” cases. This requires that we end the unproductive and extremely damaging debate within mental health regarding whether the pathology even exists. It exists. It is the expression of narcissistic and borderline personality pathology into family relationships following divorce, in which the child is being used as a “regulatory object” by the narcissistic/borderline parent to stabilize the pathology of this parent.
We need to wake up professional mental health from its decades-long slumber. Forget about PAS – old news – old debate. Gardnerian PAS is an old and stale debate.
We’re talking about the impact of narcissistic and borderline personality pathology on a family following divorce; following the rejection of the narcissistic/borderline parent by their spouse. In order to stabilize their own personality disorder pathology, the narcissistic/borderline parent engages the child into a role-reversal relationship in which the child is used as a regulatory object to stabilize the pathology of the parent.
While this may seem like foreign words to a targeted parent, this is standard mental health stuff to a competent mental health professional. Narcissistic/borderline personality; role-reversal relationship; regulatory object… yeah, I’ve got it. Makes total sense.
But so many in mental health are simply incompetent. They don’t know what they’re doing. We must clear them from the field of working with your children and families. How do we do this?
1. The APA
First we demand that the primary professional organization for mental health professionals, the American Psychological Association, step up to their responsibility under Standard 2.01 of their own ethics code and clear these incompetent mental health professionals from practice with your families. You must demand that the APA recognize your children and families as a “special population” requiring specialized professional knowledge and expertise to assess, diagnose, and treat.
It is NOT up to you to educate your therapist. Your therapist should ALREADY BE educated in the required information needed to accurately diagnose and effectively treat your children and familes.
But the APA has been locked into an unproductive debate as to whether the pathology even exists. This is a product of an extremely poor Gardnerian PAS model that allows the allies of the pathogen to discredit it as scientifically unsound. We MUST drop the Gardnerian PAS model in order to end the debate and activate the response of the APA. We must define the pathology entirely from within standard and accepted forms of psychopathology to which ALL mental health professionals can be held ACCOUNTABLE.
That’s what Foundations does.
So now, using the definition of the pathology provided by Foundations, it is up to you to DEMAND that the APA formally acknowledge that 1) the pathology of narcissistic and borderline personalities exists and will impact family relationship processes surrounding divorce, and 2) that your children and your families represent a “special population” requiring specialized professional knowledge and expertise to competently assess, diagnose, and treat.
If you’re sold a bad car, don’t stand there arguing with the salesperson, take the issue up to the manager, take it to the owner of the dealership, take it to the manufacturer. Go to the top. Don’t stand there arguing with the ignorant lackey. Give the salesperson a chance to make it right. If they don’t, ask to speak to the manager, then to the dealership owner, then take it to the manufacturer, and up and up the chain of command. Oftentimes it’s best to start at the top and let the letter of reprimand come down from one boss onto the head of the lower boss, onto the heal of the lower boss, onto the head of the salesperson.
Many of you are only thinking of your specific case. You’re locked by your suffering into your own self-centered world. But we cannot solve “parental alienation” for any specific family until we solve it for ALL families. It is the mental health system itself that is failing you. We must first fix the mental health system so that you won’t have to educate the therapist, so that the therapist will ALREADY BE educated. This means that you must come together and target the APA. Demand that they REQUIRE professional competence consistent with Standard 2.01 of the Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct.
They’ll respond that they don’t accept Garnderian PAS. You respond that you’re not talking about Gardnerian PAS, you’re talking about the impact of narcissistic and borderline personality pathology (as identified by the DSM diagnostic system) on family relationships following a divorce. You’re talking about the role-reversal use of the child by a narcissistic/borderline parent as a regulatory object to stabilize the pathology of the narcissistic/borderline parent following a divorce. You’re talking about the trans-generational transmission of attachment trauma (disorganized attachment) from the childhood of the narcissistic/borderline parent into the current family relationships. Who’s talking about Gardnerian PAS? Not you. So they need to respond to what you’re talking about, the pathology of a narcissistic/borderline parent following divorce. This pathology exists. And it’s assessment, diagnosis and treatment requires specialized professional knowledge and expertise. Because of this, your families deserve formal recognition as a “special population” requiring specialized professional knowledge and expertise in personality disorder pathology, attachment trauma pathology, and family systems pathology.
I will not abandon you. Don’t abandon each other. Don’t fight for just your child, fight for all of the children. In solving this for all of the children we will solve it for your child. Demand that the APA enforce its requirement for professional competence. Demand that they acknowledge the pathology of narcissistic and borderline personality pathology that can distort family relationships following a divorce. Demand that they formally recognize your children and your families as a “special population” who require specialized knowledge and expertise in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of personality disorder pathology, attachment trauma pathology, and family systems pathology.
Do not abandon each other to fight this alone. Come together and go to the top. Let the boss send a letter of reprimand to the underboss, who sends a letter of reprimand to the underboss, who takes to task the ignorant and incompetent salesperson. Don’t stand there arguing unproductively with the salesperson. They’re an idiot. Go to the top. Come together. Fight for your neighbor’s children and let them fight for yours. Do not abandon each other.
The most fierce warriors on any battlefield are not the ones fighting to keep themselves alive, they’re the ones fighting for their buddies next to them. Ask any combat veteran. They’re not fighting for themselves, they’re fighting for their buddies. Come together, fight for each other.
We’re not talking about Gardnerian PAS, we’re talking about personality disorder pathology. We’re talking about the trans-generational transmission of attachment trauma from the childhood of the narcissistic/borderline parent into the current family relationships. These things exist. They understand these things exist. So let’s move the discussion to what do we do about these things and end this unnecessary and devastatingly destructive debate created by Gardnerian PAS as to whether this pathology even exists. It exists. Narcissistic and borderline personality pathology exists. Cross-generational coalitions exist. The reenactment of attachment trauma exists.
The domestic violence and child abuse people will raise concerns about “parental alienation” invalidating authentic domestic violence and authentic child abuse. Agree that these things also exist. No argument there. Domestic violence and child abuse exist – dogs exist. Personality disorder pathology also exists – cats exist.
Not all animals are dogs. Sometimes they’re cats. The existence of cats does not nullify the existence of dogs. Both dogs and cats exist. So can we please move on now to having a productive discussion within professional mental health regarding how we reliably identify cats from dogs – about the diagnostic features that differentiate a child’s response to authentic abuse from a role-reversal relationship with a narcissistic/borderline parent in which the child is being used as a regulatory object to stabilize the pathology of the parent (which has traditionally been called “parental alienation”). Can we begin to have that discussion please? Because there are thousands and thousands of children and parents who are currently being abandoned by professional mental health to the pathology of a narcissistic/borderline parent. Professional mental health can end this, but they first need to acknowledge that the pathology exists.
Let’s stop arguing about Gardnerian PAS. That just continues the unproductive debate. Fine. We’ll give up and let go of the Gardnerian PAS model. BUT… in its place we have a more detailed attachment-based model of the pathology. Let’s talk about the attachment-based model. The pathology exists, and an attachment-based model describes it in full and complete detail across three separate and integrated levels of analysis. Cats exist.
Once we have mental health as your ally, the next set of dominoes will begin to fall quickly.
The pathology of attachment-based “parental alienation” is already in the DSM-5 – it’s on page 719: V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed – pathogenic parenting that is producing severe developmental pathology (diagnostic indicator 1), personality pathology (diagnostic indicator 2), and psychiatric pathology (diagnostic indicator 3) which then results in the loss for the child of a normal range affectionally bonded relationship with a normal-range and affectionally available parent, all in order to stabilize the pathology of a narcissistic/borderline personality parent, represents the psychological abuse of the child by the narcissistic/borderline parent.
The pathology of “parental alienation” is not a child custody issue, it is a child protection issue.
2. Become Dangerous
The second way to clear out professional incompetence is to become exceedingly dangerous to incompetence.
The goal is to make professional practice in this sub-specialty area of psychology extraordinarily dangerous to mental health professionals.
If they make a diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed then they will face a licensing board complaint from the narcissistic/borderline parent:
“How dare you say I’m abusing my child, we have a wonderful relationship. You’re incompetent.”
If, on the other hand, they DON’T make a diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed when the three diagnostic indicators of the pathology are present, then they will face a licensing board complaint from the targeted parent:
“By not accurately identifying the pathology when the diagnostic indicators of the pathology were present, you lack the professional knowledge and expertise in personality disorder pathology, attachment trauma pathology and family systems pathology necessary to competently assess, diagnose, and treat my children and my family, in possible violation of Standards 2.01 and 9.01, which has caused harm to my children and myself, in possible violation of Standard 3.04.
Either way, no matter what they do, the mental health professional is going to face a licensing board complaint. Pretty much guaranteed.
So then what are they going to do?
Many will simply stop accepting this type of case. It’s simply too dangerous.
Good. This is exactly what we want. If the mental health professional withdraws because you, the targeted parent, have become empowered to demand professional competence, this is EXACTLY the binding-site-of-ignorance we want to clear out. This is exactly what we want.
Your allies in mental health, the mental health professionals who get it, who understand the pathology – we will remain. We will NOT be intimidated by the threats of the narcissistic/borderline parent. The number of mental health professionals in your area treating this type of pathology may drop from 100 to 2, but the two that remain will know what they’re doing – and the two that remain WILL MAKE the diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed when it is warranted by the presence of the three diagnostic indicators in the child’s symptom display.
And… these mental health professionals will be hit with a licensing board complaint from the narcissistic/borderline parent. That’s what you, the targeted parent, need to understand. When competent mental health professionals make an accurate diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed they will be hit with a retaliatory licensing board complaint from your narcissistic/borderline ex-.
If you want mental health professionals to stand up and face the sure-to-follow retaliation of the narcissistic/borderline parent, then you MUST protect them.
We cannot expect the child to reveal authentic love for you unless we are FIRST able to protect the child from the retaliation of the narcissistic/borderline parent.
We cannot expect mental health professionals to stand up for you and your child unless we are also able to protect them from the retaliation of the narcissistic/borderline parent.
How do we protect them?
First, by Foundations. That’s one of the reasons I had to work out the pathology in such detail. In Foundations I provide mental health professionals with the theoretical justification for making the diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed. The mental health professional can stand on the solid bedrock of Foundations in making the diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed.
Chart Note in the Patient’s Record:
“According to the model described by Childress (2015), the child met the three diagnostic indicators for the pathology of an attachment trauma reenactment pathology of the parent. As articulated by Childress (2015), when the three diagnostic indicators for this pathology are present in the child’s symptom display, the appropriate DSM-5 diagnosis is:
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
A diagnostic checklist of the child’s symptom presentation was completed and is included in the patient’s record. On this symptom checklist, the child evidenced all three of the diagnostic indicators described by Childress (2015) and also evidenced numerous diagnostically confirming associated clinical signs of the pathology. The presence in the child’s symptom display of the three diagnostic indicators of the pathology detailed by Childress (2015) warrant a DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed. This DSM-5 diagnosis activates this psychologist’s duty to protect, which was discharged by filing a suspected child abuse report with the appropriate child protection agency. Met with both the mother and father and explained this diagnosis and the recommended treatment plan needed to restore the child’s healthy development.”
If the mental health professional makes a chart note such as this, then I am optimistic that the mental health professional will be safe from a retaliatory licensing board complaint by the narcissistic/borderline parent. Not only does Foundations provide the mental health professional with the theoretical foundations for the diagnosis, but child abuse reporting laws typically indemnify the therapist from complaints for having filed the suspected child abuse report.
Through this type of documentation, the mental health professional is showing professionally responsible practice grounded in established psychological principles and constructs in which patient protection considerations were of primary concern. I would be exceeding surprised if the licensing board takes any action under these circumstances.
Is it dangerous? Working with narcissistic and borderline personality pathology is always professionally dangerous. These types of personalities are extremely revengeful and retaliatory, and truth and reality have little relevance to them. So, of course it’s professionally dangerous. So is working with suicidal patients, yet we still work with suicidal patients. We just need to know what we’re doing and document appropriately and we’ll be safe.
You, the targeted parent, can also help protect your mental health allies from the retaliation of the your narcissistic/borderline ex-. How? In the same way as before, get the APA to formally acknowledge the existence of the pathology and the need for specialized professional knowledge and expertise in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of the pathology. This will alert everyone, child protective services, licensing boards, educational institutions, that the pathology of a narcissistic/borderline parent distorting family relationships following divorce is a recognized pathology within the domain of professional psychology. Then, when your narcissistic/borderline ex-spouse tries to retaliate, the licensing board will understand the pathology and will recognize the responsible professional practice of the therapist.
In addition, once the APA acknowledges the pathology and formally designates your families as a “special population,” then this will also alert all Child Protection Services agencies regarding the existence of this type of pathology, so that when the mental health professional files a suspected child abuse report with them they will apply the same diagnostic criteria, reach the same diagnostic conclusion, and will potentially enact the protective separation of the child from the pathogenic parenting of the narcissistic/borderline parent for the active phase of the child’s treatment and recovery stabilization. The pathology of “parental alienation” is not a child custody issue, it is a child protection issue.
The goal is to obtain the needed protective separation through Child Protective Services, sparing the targeted parent from having to enter the court system to obtain the necessary protective separation.
This solution is coming in stages. There’s a battle ahead of us. The battle is not for your specific child and family, it is for all children and all families. Don’t fight for yourself alone, come together and fight for your neighbor and let them fight for you. The focus of our struggle is the citadel of establishment mental health, the APA. We want them to formally acknowledge that the pathology of narcissistic/borderline parents exists and can severely distort family relationships following divorce, and we want them to designate your children and families as a special population requiring specialized professional knowledge and expertise to assess, diagnose, and treat.
To our colleagues overseas, my goal is to re-take the citadel of the American professional psychology, the APA. This will hopefully trigger the citadels of establishment mental heath in other countries to follow suit. If you reclaim your citadel of establishment mental health before we reclaim ours, great, this will signal our APA to follow suit. We are all in this together.
I know you understand this, Kay. I’m glad my determination to bring an end to this terrible suffering helped inspire you to continue in your struggle. I am also confident that your steadfast determination will help inspire and lead others in finally achieving a solution to the nightmare of “parental alienation.”
My best wishes, to you and to your children, and to all of the authentic parents of wonderful children who are trying to protect, recover, and restore the authenticity of your children. We will not abandon you in your struggle, we will not abandon your children to the pathology.
Craig Childress, Psy.D.
Clinical Psychologist, PSY 18857