The Battle to Reclaim Mental Health

The mental health system has failed you and your children.

It is the mental health system, not the legal system, that should identify the degree of psychopathology being expressed in your family.  Because the mental health system has completely failed you, the legal system does not receive clear direction from mental health as to what needs to be done to resolve the pathology and restore normal-range family relationships.

The current response of the mental health system to the pathology of “parental alienation” (as defined by an attachment-based model: Foundations) is replete with rampant ignorance, incompetence, and the general arrogance of mental health providers in diagnosing and treating the pathology. As a result, it falls upon you, the client, to know more than the mental health provider about the pathology and its diagnosis, and to educate the mental health provider in what should be their area of expertise.

This is analogous to knowing more about the law than your attorney so you can tell your attorney how to argue your case, or knowing more about medicine than your physician so you can instruct your physician in diagnosing and treating your illness.  Stupid.  But that’s what we’re looking at with mental health providers and the pathology of “parental alienation.”

That the mental health system is requiring clients to know more than the mental health providers in order to obtain professionally competent assessments and diagnoses of the family’s pathology is a professional disgrace. The American Psychological Association and other professional organizations should be ashamed that the professional response to the pathology of “parental alienation” is so incredibly inadequate that it is requiring clients to be more knowledgeable than providers in order to educate providers in the both nature of the pathology and its diagnosis in an effort to receive a competent professional response.

As professionally disgraceful as this may be, this is nevertheless the current state of affairs in the mental health system’s response to the pathology of “parental alienation” (as defined by an attachment-based model). It is what it is. So we might as well roll up our sleeves and set about changing the response of the mental health system to the pathology of “parental alienation.”

The Strategy for Change

The strategy to reclaim the mental health system as your ally involves two separate but interrelated assaults by contingents of targeted parents.

The first contingent of targeted parents represents our boots-on-the-ground infantry. These are the targeted parents with currently active cases of alienation which place them in direct contact with mental health providers and child custody evaluators. It is up to these targeted parents to educate the individual mental health providers one-by-one about the professionally competent assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of the pathology being expressed in your families. 

Be kind, but be relentless.  In seeking professional competence, you have as your weapon Standards 2.01, 9.01, and 3.04 of the ethics code of the American Psychological Association (but only if you use an attachment-based definition of the pathology, NOT if you use a Gardnerian PAS description)

These mental health professionals are likely to be ignorant and resistant to being educated. They are likely to be rudely dismissive and arrogant in their ignorance. Overcoming their ignorance, incompetence, and arrogance is your challenge. I never said that this fight would be easy.

Be kind. Be relentless, but be kind. When we argue with someone they feel threatened and their brain drops into lower brain systems of threat-based functioning involving the fight, flight, or freeze response to threat. There is a wonderful little YouTube clip on the art of winning an argument that would be useful to watch:

Why internet arguments are useless and how to start winning arguments

The second contingent of targeted parents are our cavalry who are flanking the mental health providers and are instead assaulting the citadel of establishment mental health directly. This contingent of targeted parents is seeking a change to the Position Statement of the American Psychological Association regarding the family pathology of “parental alienation” as the focal target of this assault. The cavalry might include targeted parents who have grown children now or who no longer have active contact with individual mental health providers but who want to bring an end to this pathology for all children and all families everywhere.  Your friends and family could participate in this effort as well. Actively alienated parents (our infantry) may also want to do something additional in their spare time to solve “parental alienation” for all children and all families.

The role of our infantry is to engage the battle one individual mental health provider at a time, educating them one-by-one in the professionally competent assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of the pathology. The role of the cavalry is to flank the individual treatment providers by engaging the citadel of establishment mental health directly, by demanding a change to the Position Statement of the American Psychological Association on the family pathology of “parental alienation” to:

1. Formally acknowledge that the pathology exists (i.e., a role-reversal relationship with a narcissistic/(borderline) parent in which the child is used as a “regulatory object” to stabilize the pathology of the parent etc. – you’ll need to know the correct professional terminology – the phase “parental alienation” carries no power).

2. Formally recognize that the complexity of the pathology warrants the designation of your children and families as a “special population” who require specialized professional knowledge and expertise to competently assess, diagnose, and treat.

So let me describe the battle plans for each of these contingents of targeted parents.

The Infantry: Protect the Child

We cannot ask the child to reveal their authentic love for you until we are able to first protect the child from the brutal psychological retaliation and guilt-inducing manipulation of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent that is sure to follow any display by the child of affectionate bonding with you, or even for not rejecting you with a sufficient enough display of hostility and contempt.

Any effort to restore the normal-range authenticity of the child will simply turn the child into a psychological battleground between our efforts to restore the child’s normal-range authenticity and the continual efforts of the pathological narcissistic/(borderline) parent to maintain the child’s symptomatic rejection of you, and turning the child into a “psychological battleground” will be destructive of the child’s healthy emotional and psychological development.

We must first protect the child.

This is critical to understand. The pathology of attachment-based “parental alienation” is NOT a child custody and visitation issue, it is a child protection issue. The correct clinical term for the pathology of attachment-based “parental alienation” is “pathogenic parenting.”

patho = pathology
genic = genesis; creation

Pathogenic parenting refers to creating severe psychopathology in the child through highly aberrant and distorted parenting practices.

When the three diagnostic indicators of attachment-based “parental alienation” are present in the child’s symptom display, the pathogenic parent is the allied and supposedly favored parent. There is no question about it. The ONLY way this specific set of three disparate symptom displays can be evidenced by a child is through the pathology of attachment-based “parental alienation” as described in Foundations.  That’s the only way.  No other type of pathology will produce this specific set of three diagnostic indicators.

The presence of the three diagnostic indicators in the child’s symptom display will accurately identify the pathology of “parental alienation” 100% of the time and will also accurately differentiate the pathology of “parental alienation” from all other types of parent-child conflict (such as pathogenic parenting by the targeted parent).

Child Psychological Abuse

Pathogenic parenting by a narcissistic/(borderline) parent that is inducing severe:

Developmental pathology (Diagnostic Indicator 1)

Personality pathology (Diagnostic Indicator 2)

Psychiatric pathology (Diagnostic Indicator 3)

in the child as a means to stabilize the emotional and psychological functioning of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent, and which causes the developmental loss for the child of an affectionally bonded relationship with a normal-range and affectionally available parent, reasonably represents a DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed.

The DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed activates the mental health professional’s “duty to protect” which must then be discharged by taking an affirmative action to protect the child and documenting this action in the patient’s record.

On this, there is no compromise. The pathology of attachment-based “parental alienation” is psychological child abuse.

To say that it is not child abuse is to argue that it is acceptable parenting to induce severe developmental, personality disorder, and psychiatric pathology in a child in order to stabilize the emotional and psychological state of the parent.

Inducing severe developmental pathology (Diagnostic Indicator 1), personality pathology (Diagnostic Indicator 2), and psychiatric pathology (Diagnostic Indicator 3) in a child in order to stabilize the emotional and psychological functioning of a narcissistic/(borderline) parent represents psychologically abusive parenting, especially when the child’s induced pathology results in the loss for the child of an affectionally bonded relationship with a normal-range and affectionally available parent.

Our first obligation with all forms of child abuse is to protect the child. Our response to the psychological abuse of “parental alienation” should be commensurate with our response to any other form of child abuse.

Protective Separation:

In all forms of child abuse, physical, sexual, and psychological, our first response to the abuse of the child is to protectively separate the child from the abusive parent and place the child in kinship care of an affectionally available and protective caregiver. We do this for a child exposed to a physically abusive parent, we do this for a child exposed to a sexually abusive parent, we do this for a child exposed to a psychologically abusive parent.

In the case of “parental alienation” pathology, the kinship care is with the normal-range and affectionally available targeted parent.

In all cases of child abuse, once we have protectively separated the child from the abuse of the parent, we then provide the child with appropriate trauma-focused therapy to resolve the consequences of the child’s exposure to an abusive parent. We do this for a child exposed to a physically abusive parent, we do this for a child exposed to a sexually abusive parent, we do this for a child exposed to a psychologically abusive parent.

In attachment-based “parental alienation,” this involves helping the child process the grief surrounding the divorce and the previously lost relationship with the targeted parent which occurred as a result of the psychologically abusive parenting of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent. The child’s grief is processed and resolved by helping the child re-bond to the formerly targeted-rejected parent.

We do not re-expose a child to an abusive parent until we are confident that the formerly abusive parent will not continue to abuse the child. We do this for a child exposed to a physically abusive parent, we do this for a child exposed to a sexually abusive parent, we do this for a child exposed to a psychologically abusive parent.

In all forms of child abuse, prior to re-exposing the child to the abusive parent we require that the abusive parent receives adequate therapy that specifically addresses and resolves the psychological issues that led to their prior abusive parenting practices. We do this for a child exposed to a physically abusive parent, we do this for a child exposed to a sexually abusive parent, we do this for a child exposed to a psychologically abusive parent.

If the previously abusive parent fails to obtain treatment and continues to pose a risk of ongoing child abuse, then we actively restrict, monitor, and supervise this parent’s contact with the child. We do this for a child exposed to a physically abusive parent, we do this for a child exposed to a sexually abusive parent, we do this for a child exposed to a psychologically abusive parent.

Paradigm Shift

Richard Gardner took us down the wrong road when he proposed a “new syndrome” in mental health that was unique in all of professional psychology, which included an equally unique set of eight vaguely defined symptom identifiers which had no underlying conceptual foundation for the pathology.

The pathology of “parental alienation” is NOT a new and unique syndrome in all of mental health. It is a manifestation of well-established and fully accepted forms of psychopathology (personality disorder pathology, family systems pathology, attachment trauma pathology).

An attachment-based reformulation of the pathology of “parental alienation” corrects the error of Richard Gardner and places us back onto the proper path of defining the pathology entirely from within standard and fully accepted forms psychopathology. And when we do this, the pathology of “parental alienation” becomes defined as severely “pathogenic parenting” which warrants the DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed.

An argument used against the Gardnerian PAS model of the pathology is that this supposedly unique new syndrome of “parental alienation” is not a recognized DSM-5 diagnosis. Once we shift to an attachment-based model for defining the pathology of “parental alienation,” the pathology is immediately in the DSM-5… it’s a DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed. There. Right there. See, on page 719,,, the pathology of “parental alienation” is already in the DSM-5: V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed

To achieve this DSM-5 diagnosis we MUST give up the Gardnerian PAS model and switch to an attachment-based definition of the pathology that is based entirely within standard and well-established forms of existing psychopathology. Which model is being used will be evidenced by the diagnostic indicators being applied to the pathology:

Gardnerian PAS: Eight diagnostic indicators (campaign of denigration, weak and frivolous reasons, borrowed scenarios, etc.)

Attachment-Based Model: Three diagnostic indicators evidenced in the child’s symptom display:

1. Attachment Suppression

2. Personality Disorder Traits

3. Delusional Belief

Any mental health professional who is continuing to advocate for a Gardnerian PAS model and its eight diagnostic indicators rather than a switch to an attachment-based model and its three diagnostic indicators is delaying the necessary paradigm shift to defining the pathology as a DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed.

The Gardnerian PAS model does NOT provide the DSM-5 diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed because the Gardnerian PAS model defines the pathology as a “new syndrome” which is unique in all of mental health, with no association to any other form of established and existing psychopathology within mental health. In order for this “new syndrome” model to provide a solution, it must first be accepted by establishment mental health as a “new syndrome” or else the pathology it describes doesn’t formally exist.

An attachment-based model corrects this error. By defining the pathology of “parental alienation” from entirely within standard and well-established forms of accepted psychopathology within mental health, an attachment-based model activates the construct of “pathogenic parenting” which then activates the DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed.

An attachment-based model of “parental alienation” gives you the DSM-5 diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed; a Gardnerian PAS model doesn’t.

The pathology of “parental alienation” is NOT a child custody and visitation issue, it is a child protection issue. This is the unrelenting message that our infantry will carry to each and every mental health provider involved with their children and families. Initially, this will be discounted and scoffed at by mental health professionals. But the truth is the truth. Try out that Socratic questioning method described in the YouTube video on arguments. Ask the mental health provider to educate you as to why inducing severe developmental pathology, personality pathology, and psychiatric pathology (a delusional belief) is NOT abusive parenting.  So inducing severe pathology in your child is acceptable parenting?  Really?

The correct clinical term for “parental alienation” is “pathogenic parenting” (i.e., parenting practices that are so aberrant and deviant that they are creating severe psychopathology in the child).

The pathology of attachment-based “parental alienation” is a DSM-5 diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse and warrants the same child protection response from mental health that we provide to all forms of child abuse; i.e., a protective separation of the child from the pathology of the abusive parent and placement of the child in protective kinship care, which in the case of “parental alienation” pathology is with the affectionally available and normal-range targeted parent.

The moment the paradigm shifts for defining the pathology of “parental alienation” is the exact moment that this solution becomes available. Until the paradigm shifts, no solution is available.

Standard 9.01: Assessment

I want ALL targeted parents to go to the online version of the APA’s ethics code and read for yourself Standard 9.01a of the Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct of the American Psychological Association. Go and read it, just to let it fully sink in. This code of practice is the defined standard of practice for ALL psychologists, and Standard 9.01 defines the standard of practice regarding the assessment of pathology.

It reads:

9.01 Bases for Assessments
(a) Psychologists base the opinions contained in their recommendations, reports and diagnostic or evaluative statements, including forensic testimony, on information and techniques sufficient to substantiate their findings.

“…base their opinions contained in their… diagnostic… statements… on information and techniques sufficient to substantiate their findings.”

So psychologists are REQUIRED to conduct assessments that are sufficient to substantiate their diagnostic findings.

When assessing the pathology of “parental alienation” (i.e., a role-reversal relationship of the child with a narcissistic/(borderline) parent… etc.), psychologists are REQUIRED to conduct an assessment sufficient to substantiate their diagnostic findings.

What is an assessment “sufficient to substantiate their findings” regarding the pathology of “parental alienation”?  Glad you asked.

Up on my website is a Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting (either the three diagnostic indicator short form or the Extended Version that includes the Associated Clinical Signs).

Also up on my website is a pdf of my blog post on Diagnosing Parental Alienation. My blog post on Diagnosing Parental Alienation can be used as a companion piece for the Extended Checklist that includes Associated Clinical Signs.

Using the Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting to identify the presence or absence of established and accepted forms of symptom displays (the child’s attachment system display, standard DSM defined personality disorder traits, standard DSM defined phobic anxiety symptoms, and standard DSM defined delusional beliefs – all representing standard and established forms of mental health pathology) would represent an assessment “sufficient to substantiate” their diagnostic findings in assessing the pathology of attachment-based “parental alienation” (i.e., the cross-generational coalition of the child with a narcissistic/(borderline) parent in which the child is being used in a role-reversal relationship as an external “regulatory object” to stabilize the pathology of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent, etc.)

If the psychologist or mental health professional DOES NOT assess for these specific symptom features (as identified on the Checklist; i.e., the child’s attachment system display, personality disorder traits, phobic anxiety, and delusional beliefs), then this would NOT be an assessment “sufficient to substantiate” their diagnostic findings, in possible violation of Standard 9.01a of the Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct of the American Psychological Association.

We are not allowing them be incompetent.

The APA ethics code is the anvil and the Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting is our hammer.  Using these two together, we will forge an accurate diagnosis of the pathology.

If the mental health professional does not conduct an assessment sufficient to substantiate their diagnostic findings, then they are in violation of Standard 9.01a. If they don’t use the Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting – which is simply a set of three established forms of pathology; attachment pathology, personality pathology, psychiatric pathology – then they will need to explain why they refused to assess for these established forms of psychopathology.

They are really going to have to fight to remain professionally incompetent.  On the other hand, it is incredibly easy to be competent in the assessment of the pathology.  Just complete the Checklist. If the symptom indicators are present in the child’s symptom display, then make the appropriate DSM-5 diagnosis:.

DSM-5 Diagnosis

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

The first diagnosis of Adjustment Disorder is the primary diagnosis. The three V-code diagnoses are modifiers that describe why the child is having an adjustment problem. Notice the third V-code diagnosis.

Pathogenic parenting that is inducing significant developmental pathology (Diagnostic Indicator 1), personality disorder pathology (Diagnostic Indicator 2), and psychiatric pathology (Diagnostic Indicator 3) in the child in order to stabilize the psychopathology of a narcissistic/(borderline) personality parent, and which is causing the developmental and potentially permanent loss for the child of a healthy and affectionally bonded relationship with a normal-range and affectionally available parent, represents Child Psychological Abuse. That these three symptoms are evident in the child’s symptom display Confirms the psychological child abuse.

I’m not giving mental health professionals the option to be incompetent. I know they are incompetent. I know they’re arrogant and aren’t listening to you. But if they do not conduct an assessment “sufficient to substantiate” their diagnostic findings, then they are in violation of Standard 9.01a of the Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct of the American Psychological Association.

Psychologists are NOT ALLOWED to be incompetent. You have a right to expect – and to demand – professional competence. Be kind. But be relentless. You have a right to expect that the mental health professionals who are diagnosing and treating your children and families conduct an assessment “sufficient to substantiate” their diagnostic findings (Standard 9.01a).

Are you starting to understand the strategy?  Is it starting to make sense? Are you beginning to see the solution? Be kind. Don’t be angry and demanding. Be kind, and oh so relentless.  Think Gandhi.  Think Martin Luther King.  Kind.  Reasonable.  And relentless.

Even if the mental health professional doesn’t agree with an attachment-based model of the pathology, or doesn’t want to learn about it, ask them to fill out the Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting just as a personal favor to you, just to get their perceptions documented. Their answers on the Checklist could then serve as a starting point for their more complete understanding of the child’s symptoms, and the mental health professional may become open to learning more about an attachment-based model of the pathology.

The Cavalry – Demand Competence

But educating mental health professionals one-by-one is going to take too long.  Every day that you are separated from your child is one day too long.  Isn’t there something we can do to speed up the process?

Yes.

Lay siege to the citadel of establishment mental health, the American Psychological Association.  The focal goal is the official Position Statement of the APA on the family pathology of “parental alienation.”

You will be talking to establishment mental health so you have to use the professional words of power I’ve given you in Foundations.  The term “parental alienation” has no power.

The pathology is:

The influence on family relationships of the pathology of a narcissistic/borderline personality parent following a divorce – this pathology exists.  The divorce represents a narcissistic injury and activates the narcissist’s retaliatory anger.  The divorce activates the borderline personality’s fears of abandonment and perception of being abused by the abandoning attachment figure of the spouse.

The pathology of the narcissistic/borderline personality engages the child in a “role-reversal” relationship with a narcissistic/borderline parent in which the child serves as an external “regulatory object” (also called a “regulatory other”) in order to stabilize the decompensating psychological and emotional state of the narcissistic/borderline parent surrounding the divorce and their rejection by the other spouse.

The narcissistic/borderline parent is “manipulating” the child into rejecting the targeted parent (manipulation is a key feature of borderline pathology) and is exploiting the child’s rejection of the targeted parent (exploitation is a key feature of narcissistic pathology) to define the targeted parent as the rejected and inadequate parent/(spouse)/(person), thereby restoring the narcissistic defense which was challenged by the divorce experience.

“Oh God, Dr. Childress, these are such complicated descriptions.”

I know. The pathology is very complicated. But it is always the same, so it becomes increasingly familiar with repeated explanation. The more you hear the explanation of the pathology, the more it will make sense.  But you’re right, it’s very complicated.  Which is exactly why you and your children warrant the professional designation as a “special population” who require specialized professional knowledge and expertise to competently assess, diagnose, and treat.

Not any old average mental health professional is capable of recognizing and understanding the complex nature of this pathology.  It requires specialized expertise. That’s point two of your demand from the APA. You shouldn’t have to know more than your therapist about the pathology.  They should explain it to you, you shouldn’t have to explain it to them.

The Position Statement

I want you to notice several things about the official Position Statement of the APA on the family pathology of “parental alienation.” 

1.) The Title

The title of the Position Statement is about “Parental Alienation Syndrome.”  So right away it is out of date.  We’re not talking about PAS.  We’re talking about an attachment-based description of the pathology that defines the pathology from entirely within well-established and fully accepted forms of mental health pathology (personality disorder pathology, family systems pathology, attachment trauma pathology). 

No one is talking about PAS.  So this Position Statement needs to be updated to reflect the current models of the pathology.

2.)  The Length

Two sentences.  That’s all the APA deems worthy to give the family pathology and family tragedy of “parental alienation.”  Two measly sentences.  And the first sentence is about domestic violence. So actually, the position statement is only one sentence long.  Wow. This severe form of family pathology and child psychological abuse, that destroys the lives of targeted parents and their children, merits only a single measly sentence. That’s insulting

3.  Out of Date Citation

Notice that this position statement references a Task Force from 1996.  From 20 years ago.  That is incredibly out of date, especially considering the emergence of a new attachment-based reformulation for the pathology that defines the pathology of “parental alienation” from entirely within standard and well-established forms of mental health pathology.

4. Lack of Support

The single sentence position statement also states that this 20 year old Task Force noted “the lack of data to support the so called “Parental Alienation Syndrome.”

Okay.  But that’s irrelevant.  Because no one is talking about Parental Alienation Syndrome.  We’re talking about the influence on family relationships of a narcissistic/(borderline) personality parent following divorce. 

We’re not talking about Parental Alienation Syndrome.  We’re talking about the pathogenic parenting of a narcissistic/(borderline) parent and the creation of severe developmental pathology, personality disorder pathology, and psychiatric pathology in the child as a means to stabilize the emotional and psychological state of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent.

We’re not talking about Parental Alienation Syndrome.  We’re talking about the trans-generational transmission of attachment trauma from the childhood of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent to the current family relationships, mediated through a false attachment trauma reenactment narrative in the pattern of “abusive parent”/”victimized child”/”protective parent” which is contained in the internal working models of the attachment trauma networks of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent.

We’re not talking about Parental Alienation Syndrome.  We’re talking about the addition of the splitting pathology of a narcissistic/(borderline) parent to a cross-generational coalition of the child with this narcissistic/(borderline) parent in which the polarization of the splitting pathology requires that the ex-spouse also become an ex-parent; the ex-husband must become an ex-father, the ex-wife an ex-mother, consistent with the polarization of the splitting pathology.

This pathology exists. It is NOT a “so called” pathology.  It exists within the standard and established pathology accepted by professional mental health. 

And this pathology is so complex that it warrants the designation of these children and families as a “special population” requiring specialized professional knowledge and expertise to competently assess, diagnose, and treat.

We’re not talking about Parental Alienation Syndrome.  We’re talking about a DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed.

So can you, the APA, please address what we’re talking about, because your current position statement is irrelevant and out of date.

5.  Disputed Terminology

The position statement expresses concern about the use of the term “parental alienation.”  Okay.  We can call the pathology something different if you’d like. What would you like to call it?  As long as you formally acknowledge that the pathology exists, by whatever terminology you choose to label it.

Shall we call it pathogenic parenting?  That seems the most straightforward. 

Or we could call it an attachment-trauma reenactment pathology.  That’s the most accurate label.

But whatever you want.  We just want you, the APA, to acknowledge that the pathology exists, and to designate these children and families as a “special population” requiring specialized professional knowledge and expertise to competently assess, diagnose, and treat.

That is an entirely reasonable request.

6.  Stay Focused APA

We’re not addressing the issue of domestic violence.  We’re talking about the pathology of a narcissistic/(borderline) parent who is using the child in a role-reversal relationship as an external regulatory object to stabilize the pathology of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent.  The position statement needs to stay focused on the relevant issues.

APA Divisions

The American Psychological Association has different Divisions.  Contacting the leadership of the relevant Divisions of the APA may be one means of obtaining responsiveness to your needs to have the pathology of attachment-based “parental alienation” acknowledged and your status as a “special population” of children and families recognized.

Among the relevant Divisions I might recommend starting with would be:

Division 12 Society of Clinical Psychology

Division 37 Society for Child and Family Policy and Practice

Division 41 American Psychology-Law Society

Dorcy Pruter and I have a submission pending to this Division for a proposed presentation at the 2016 APA Convention in Denver regarding the assessment and remedy of “parental alienation” pathology in a legal setting.  Hopefully this proposal gets accepted.  I guarantee it will be an amazing presentation.

Division 43 Society for Couple and Family Psychology

Division 53 Society of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology

Division 56 Trauma Psychology

The targeted parent mothers out there may also wish to contact:

Division 35 Society for the Psychology of Women

There is a variant of “parental alienation” involving a narcissistic husband who psychologically abuses the wife during their marriage consistent with the domestic violence themes of power, control, and domination.  When the wife eventually divorces this psychologically abusive narcissistic husband she creates a narcissistic injury by rejecting his self-perceived magnificence. 

This abusive narcissistic husband then seeks to retaliate against the now ex-wife but can no longer abuse the wife directly, because she’s no longer living with him.  So he instead uses the children as his weapons to inflict retaliatory suffering on his now ex-wife.  This abusive ex-husband enlists the children as his proxy abusers.  Instead of using his fists to beat his ex-wife, he uses the children’s hostile contempt and rejection of her to inflict his retaliatory revenge.

This variant of the “parental alienation” pathology essentially represents a variant of the domestic violence themes of power, control, and domination.  It essentially represents domestic violence by proxy – using the children as his weapons.

I believe this variant very much relates to the psychology of women as relevant to Division 35 of the APA.  For those targeted parent mothers out there, you may wish to get ahold of the leadership of Division 35 to seek their help in the recognition of this severe form of unrecognized complex domestic violence.

The Goal

My goal is to have the solution to “parental alienation” in place and available by Christmas of 2016.  There is nothing standing in the way of the solution except professional ignorance that an attachment-based model of the pathology even exists.  The moment the paradigm shifts is the moment we have a solution.

The Diagnostic Checklist of Pathogenic Parenting will identify the three diagnostic indicators of the pathology of attachment-based “parental alienation.”

When the three diagnostic indicators are present in the child’s symptom display, the accurate DSM-5 diagnosis is V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed which then activates the mental health professional’s “duty to protect” which requires that the mental health professional take affirmative action to protect the child and then document this affirmative action in the patient’s record.

Our response to the Child Psychological Abuse of “parental alienation” should be commensurate with our response to all forms of child abuse.  We first protectively separate the child from the abusive parent and place the child in kinship care, which in the case of “parental alienation” pathology is with the normal-range and affectionally available targeted parent.

The solution is sitting right there.  Right in front of us.  It’s available tomorrow.  The only thing standing in the way of this solution is professional ignorance.  The paradigm needs to shift from a rejected Gardnerian PAS model for defining the pathology to a theoretically grounded attachment-based formulation of the pathology.  The moment the paradigm shifts is the moment we have the solution.

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

6 thoughts on “The Battle to Reclaim Mental Health”

  1. Many thanks, your posts are always helpful in furthering my understanding.
    Do you have a checklist that can be used for a child who is resisting the narcissistic parent i.e. has not succumbed but is at risk of it? Three of my four children would fulfil the diagnostic criteria, but the fourth, who is now the subject of court proceedings, would not because she is holding out and still wants a relationship with me. However, she is being subjected to enormous pressure and is at risk of folding.
    Also, I wish there was a way of diagnosing other pressures brought on the child from community and religion. I left a fundamentalist religious community and from my lay perspective it seems to me the community collectively has a narcissistic/borderline personality disorder. It seems to me my children have a double-whammy – a narcissistic parent and a narcissistic community. I wish there was a way of clinically diagnosing the impact this has on children.
    Grateful for any input.

    1. I’m sorry I don’t have resources for the situations you describe… yet. We first have to solve the core issue, and then we can move to the variants. I will address the issue of religious communities down the road. Once we’ve solved the current situation with “parental alienation” I’m going to be discussing the specific nature of the distorted and damaged “information structures” of the pathogen (I refer to them as “meme-structures”). This will open a lot of doors to understanding. But I have to wait for mental health to catch up to simply recognizing that the pathology exists and its identification of the pathology as child psychological abuse. Then we can take it into the next step of understanding. We are actually on the road to a deep solution to a lot of developmental trauma issues.

      1. Thank you! While of course it’s frustrating not to have all the answers yet, I do think your work is on the right track, and it’s an exciting one because as you say, we are on the road to a deep solution to a lot of developmental trauma issues. It seems to me that there are many overlaps between the ‘cultic’ experience I had of living in my previous community, the ‘re-wiring’ process I went through in the process of leaving, and the susceptibility my children had to their minds being completely captured and turned against me by their father and community when I left. The impact of group trauma – in my case perhaps the holocaust – seems to me overlaid onto the individual family trauma.

        The main way I counteract it now is by remaining rock-solid and incorruptible myself, and dealing with any weaknesses in my own psychological makeup. I have the good fortune of being in a relationship with an exceptionally good psychotherapist and I am constantly reflecting on the psychological processes that are going on. I’m sure we are on the right track, but it often feels experimental. It also takes a long time to effect change, particularly because so few people in the mental health and legal professions really get what is going on and know how to respond effectively.

        Sometimes it does my head in thinking about all this and how deep it goes. Thank you for your work and I look forward to learning more.

  2. I think a very valid question to ask the PA experts, and possibly mental health professionals, is:

    Do you see a problem with defining the various aspects of “parental alienation” using standard and established psychological principles and constructs?

    I think this is a good question because I see so much literature on “parental alienation” that describes so many different aspects of it, but hardly ever touches on how those things fit in with existing pathologies and diagnoses. So “is” there a problem with it that they aren’t telling us? Why go into so much detail explaining why this means that and that means something else without attempting to make parallels with existing psychological ideas and principles? It seems so odd to me.

  3. Dr Childress,
    Sometimes the child(ren) are not the only proxy. Some times the therapists that are involved do not want to look any further than the combined narrative of the child and parent. They get sucked into the triangulation and become a rescuer to the cross-generational coalition , but then they become a hammer to the targeted parent. The child ends up with the wrong message is further damaged and the target parent further bruised.
    How do parents who find themselves in this situation address what has occurred whether they are addressing the therapist or whether they are addressing a board?

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