Second Response to Woodall

The Gardnerian PAS experts who are advocating that we hold onto the status quo of the failed Gardnerian PAS model are not your allies, they have become part of the problem.

In their rigid insistence that establishment mental health must accept a “new syndrome” which is unique in all of mental health they are provoking and maintaining the unproductive and unnecessary division in mental health that is failing to provide an appropriate diagnosis and appropriate resolution to the pathology being expressed in your families.

They live in an echo-chamber of their own self-creation which is out of touch with the broader field of establishment mental health – just look to the APA’s position statement on the “so called” Parental Alienation Syndrome – and they are therefore refusing to accept the constructive criticism being offered to them by establishment mental health that the Gardnerian PAS proposal of a “new syndrome” that is unique in all of mental health, with its eight equally unique symptom identifiers, is NOT at a professionally acceptable standard of theoretical rigor.  And, as a clinical psychologist, I actually agree with this assessment of the Gardnerian PAS model.

I teach graduate level courses in Diagnosis and Psychopathology.  If a student submitted the Gardnerian PAS model to me as a definition for the pathology of “parental alienation” I’d give it a D.

Stop it. 

This inflexible insistence that professional psychology must accept a “new syndrome” which is unique in all of mental health and which is defined by an equally unique set of eight symptom identifiers as a condition to solving the pathology of “parental alienation” is NOT serving the needs of targeted parents and their children.  We need to apply the professional rigor necessary to define the pathology of “parental alienation” from entirely – entirely – within standard and established psychological constructs and principles.  No “new syndrome” proposals.

Munchausen syndrome by proxy is not a recognized pathology, battered women’s syndrome is not a recognized pathology, Stockholm syndrome is not a recognized pathology, and Parental Alienation Syndrome is not a recognized pathology. Establishment mental health does not accept “new syndrome” proposals.  If a student submits a “new syndrome” proposal for defining a pathology, it’s going to get a D.  “New syndrome” proposals are intellectually lazy.  Do the work.  Define the pathology from within standard and established psychological principles and constructs.

Thirty years. Thirty years this has been going on.  Einstein offered a classic definition of insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. The Gardnerians put on a full-court press with the DSM-5.  The result?  Complete rejection.  Nada.  Zip.  Nothing.  Thirty years this has been going on and they have achieved EXACTLY the situation we have right now. What we have right now is the direct product of a Gardnerian PAS model.

And yet Karen Woodall contends that to switch away from the completely failed Gardnerian PAS model would represent an “unnecessary diversion.”  An unnecessary diversion from what? Another 30 years of absolutely no solution?  And let me just say something that is 100% obvious to EVERY targeted parent… Any solution that requires that targeted parents prove “parental alienation” in court offers NO solution whatsoever.

So why are they holding on so hard to a Gardnerian PAS model when an attachment-based model is defined entirely from within standard and established, fully accepted, scientifically supported psychological constructs and principles and provides an immediate DSM-5 diagnosis of the pathology as V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed?  From where I sit, it appears as if they would rather continue the unnecessary and unproductive struggle of the “heroic rebel alliance” against the “evil empire” of establishment mental health, than bring this struggle to an end.  They seemingly want to maintain the status quo of a failed Gardnerian PAS model.  Why? 

I’m a clinical psychologist, I know why.  But I suspect it may be becoming increasingly obvious to everyone else. Why are they fighting so hard to maintain the status quo of the Gardnerian PAS model?

An attachment-based model of the pathology offers you and your families an immediate DSM-5 diagnosis of the pathology as V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed based on the presence in the child’s symptom display of three definitive diagnostic indicators that are defined entirely by standard forms of existing and fully accepted symptomatology. And the Gardnerian PAS experts are saying, “No thank you. We don’t want a confirmed DSM-5 diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse for this pathology.”

Wow. Really? You’re being offered a confirmed DSM-5 diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse, made by ALL mental health professionals when the three diagnostic indicators of the pathology are present in the child’s symptom display, and you’re turning this down. Wow.

Let me turn to you, the targeted parents who are suffering from this extremely severe and tragic family pathology… will you accept a confirmed DSM-5 diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse regarding the parenting practices of your narcissistic/(borderline) ex- made by ALL mental health providers when the three diagnostic indicators of the pathology are present?

If so, then it looks like we’re going to have to go get it on our own, because your allies in the Gardnerian PAS contingent of mental health professionals are turning down this diagnosis.

We will have to fight for it. The ignorance and incompetence of the mental health system is profound. But we can achieve it.  But apparently you will see no allies coming from the Gardnerian PAS experts. They appear to be abandoning you to fight this coming battle on your own.

It appears that the Gardnerian PAS experts don’t want a confirmed DSM-5 diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse for this pathology if it means giving up the Gardnerian PAS model of the pathology that has provided NO SOLUTION to the pathology in over 30 years since it was first proposed. The Gardnerian PAS model has given us exactly the situation we have right now… and the Gardnerian PAS experts want to continue with this model of the pathology. Why?

Why aren’t they jubilant that we finally have a model of the pathology that provides a confirmed DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse made by ALL mental health professionals when the three diagnostic indicators of the pathology are evident in the child’s symptom display?  Why aren’t they bringing their banners onto the battlefield to join us in enacting this solution?  Why are they abandoning you to fight this battle on your own?

If we continue with the Gardnerian PAS model, everything stays just the way it is.  If we switch to an attachment-based model of the pathology this provides an immediate DSM-5 diagnosis of the pathology as V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed.  But apparently for Ms. Woodall, obtaining an immediately actualized DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed for the pathology of “parental alienation” represents an “unnecessary diversion.” 

Uhhh, okay…  So you continue on with what’s working for you.  The rest of us are going to go get the DSM-5 diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse for the pathology of “parental alienation” that’s offered by a switch to an attachment-based model.

Read the critique of Drs. Bernet and Reay of Foundations

Old Wine in Old Skins

According to Drs. Bernet and Reay, an attachment-based model of the pathology is nothing new, it’s just Gardnerian PAS with new words.

But these “new words” provide the DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed made by ALL mental health professionals when the three diagnostic indicators provided by these “new words” are present in the child’s symptom display.

But they would rather maintain the status quo.  Nothing new.  No changes. And no DSM-5 diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse for the pathology. Let’s keep everything just the way it is.

Read the critique of Foundations by Karen Woodall,

An Unnecessary Diversion for the UK

An attachment-based model for the pathology is giving you and your allies in mental health a confirmed DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse made by ALL mental health providers when the three diagnostic indicators of the pathology are present, and Karen Woodall is calling this an “unnecessary diversion.”  She would rather continue with things just the way they are.  Uhhhh, okay then.

I am astounded. And disappointed. But it is what it is. It appears you must fight this fight alone. Your allies among the experts in Gardnerian PAS have apparently abandoned you on this battlefield, seemingly because they would rather maintain the Gardernian PAS model than achieve a confirmed DSM-5 diagnosis of the pathology as Child Psychological Abuse made by ALL mental health professionals when the three diagnostic indicators of an attachment-based model are present in the child’s symptom display. They are turning down a DSM-5 diagnosis of the pathology as V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed because they expressly want things to remain exactly as they are because, and I’m not quite sure what their thinking is on this because they’re not telling us, they somehow envision that a Gardnerian PAS model is going to provide some solution.  What solution?  Lay it out for us.  Help us understand what the solution is that you envision from a Gardnerian PAS model.

For my part, I will stand with targeted parents and your children squarely in the center of this battlefield, and I will fight with you for your children.  The pathology of “parental alienation” is not a child custody issue, it is a child protection issue.

The Critiques of Foundations

The attacks on Foundations by the Gardnerian experts are weak and essentially nonsensical.

The attack of Drs. Bernet and Reay was that there is nothing new in an attachment-based model, it’s simply Gardnerian PAS with different words.

My Response: Three diagnostic indicators that yield a confirmed DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse. That’s new.

The attack of Karen Woodall was that an attachment-based model of “parental alienation” does not address cases of non-alienation when the targeted parent shares responsibility for the alienation (“hybrid cases”).

My Response: I’m only addressing cases of “parental alienation.” If the targeted parent is responsible for the child’s hostility and rejection, then this isn’t “parental alienation.”

But there are also several subtexts in Karen Woodall’s critique that I find disturbing:

1. “Hybrid” Cases:  I am deeply concerned by Karen Woodall’s assertion that in a majority of cases targeted parents share in the responsibility for their alienation, and I suspect that this assertion by Karen Woodall sends a chill down targeted parents.

It appears as if she is blaming you for your alienation and is criticizing Foundations because it is not also placing the blame on you for your child’s extremely distorted response to you (i.e., that Foundations does not address the supposed majority of “hybrid cases” when the targeted parent is also to blame for the child’s rejection and is only addressing the allegedly small percentage of cases in which the targeted parent is not also to blame for the alienation).

If the targeted parent is responsible for the child’s rejection, then this is not “parental alienation.” If, on the other hand, the targeted parent is not responsible for the child’s rejection (i.e., the rejection is “unwarranted”), then this is “parental alienation.”  I am only addressing cases of “parental alienation.”

2. No Protective Separation:  I am also deeply concerned that Karen Woodall advocates that we leave the child with the psychologically abusive narcissistic/borderline parent. I am in strong disagreement with this. In all cases of child abuse, physical child abuse, sexual child abuse, and psychological child abuse, our overriding concern should be ensuring the child’s protection from the abusive parent. We DO NOT leave the child in the care of an actively abusive parent. Ever.

We do not abandon the child to a physically abusive parent. We do not abandon the child to a sexually abusive parent. We do not abandon the child to a psychologically abusive parent. We do not abandon the child. Ever.

3. Advocacy:  Karen Woodall complains that targeted parents have become empowered to self-advocacy and now she is having to convince them not to fight for their children. If we as mental health professionals don’t fight for these children, then we leave the targeted parents with no choice but to fight themselves for their children. If you don’t want targeted parents to fight for their children, then I suggest you pick up your sword and spear and that you go to battle for them with the incompetent mental health professionals, because abandoning children to psychological child abuse is no longer an option.

The battle is here. You’re either on the battlefield with us, or we go it alone without you. But the only option that is NOT acceptable is the continued abandonment of children to psychological child abuse.

These are the arguments offered by the Gardnerian PAS experts as to why they are turning down a confirmed DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse for your children and families when the three diagnostic indicators of the pathology are present (Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting).  There is no substance to their position.

The Gardnerian PAS model offers us more of the same.

More of the same is unacceptable.

What is the solution you’re proposing?  How long are you asking targeted parents to wait for your solution?  Another 10 years, 20 years?  It’s already been thirty years of the Gardnerian PAS model without a solution.  How much longer are you asking targeted parents to wait? And wait for what?  What specifically do you see as the solution?  Do you think establishment mental health is suddenly going to just go, “Oh. We’ve changed our mind and a unique new syndrome unrelated to any other pathology in all of mental health and defined by an equally unique set of diagnostic indicators that are also not associated with any other pathology in mental health, that’s now okay with us.”  Lay it out for us.  What’s your plan for the solution?

Because if you have no plan – and you don’t, because if you do, tell us what it is – then I suggest we go for a DSM-5 diagnosis of the pathology as V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed which is provided immediately by a switch to an attachment-based definition of the pathology. 

But I guess we can expect no help in this from Drs. Bernet or Reay, because they don’t see the difference between an attachment-based model of the pathology and a Gardnerian PAS model, or from Karen Woodall because she’s too busy with whatever solution she has going, and obtaining an immediate DSM-5 diagnosis of the pathology as V995.51 Child Psychological  Abuse, Confirmed from ALL mental health professionals would divert her attention from whatever solution she’s working on, or from any of the other Gardnerian PAS experts who are essentially ignoring that an attachment-based description of the pathology even exists,

So if targeted parents are to achieve an accurate DSM-5 diagnosis of this pathology as V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed then I guess it’s going to be up to us to create this change on our own, because apparently your allies among the Gardnerian PAS experts will hold to the Gardnerian PAS model which will give us nothing but more of the same. Your allies in the Gardnerian PAS contingent are apparently turning down an immediately available confirmed DSM-5 diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse regarding the parenting practices of your ex- which is being offered to them by a switch to an attachment-based model of the pathology because it’s an “unnecessary diversion” from… something, I don’t know what.  No one’s laid out an alternative plan except just more of the same.

I’m astounded.  But it is what it is.

Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed

Here’s the plan offered by an attachment-based model of the pathology

Assessment:

All mental health professionals are required by professional practice standards to provide an assessment “sufficient to substantiate” their diagnostic findings (Standard 9.01a APA Ethics Code)

Symptom Checklist:

When addressing possible “parental alienation” pathology, ALL mental health professionals must at least assess for the pathogenic parenting of a narcissistic/borderline parent (as described and detailed in Foundations) by assessing for the presence of the associated clinical pathology indicative of pathogenic parenting by a narcissistic/borderline parent (i.e., the Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting).

Diagnosis:

If the three diagnostic indicators of pathogenic parenting are present in the child’s symptom display, then ALL mental health professionals must give the appropriate DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed based on the presence in the child’s symptom display of severe developmental psychopathology (Diagnostic Indicator 1), personality disorder pathology (Diagnostic Indicator 2), and delusional psychiatric psychopathology (Diagnostic Indicator 3) that can only be the product of pathogenic parenting by a narcissistic/(borderline) personality parent.

Hammer:

If the mental health professional refuses to conduct an appropriate assessment of the child’s attachment system display, of potential personality disorder traits in the child’s symptom display, and of the potential presence of a delusional belief evidenced in the child’s symptom display, then the mental health professional must explain why he or she declined to assess for specific domains of accepted psychopathology as part of his or her diagnostic assessment (this would be analogous to bringing a child in for an assessment of ADHD but the clinician refuses to assess for hyperactivity or attention problems).

If the three diagnostic indicators of pathogenic parenting (notice I didn’t use the words “parental alienation”) are present in the child’s symptom display and the mental health professional does NOT give the DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed, then the mental health professional must explain why inducing severe developmental pathology (Diagnostic Indicator 1), personality disorder pathology (Diagnostic Indicator 2), and psychiatric psychopathology (a delusional belief) in a child in order to meet the emotional and psychological needs of the parent does NOT represent child psychological abuse which would activate a “duty to protect” the child from the pathogenic parenting practices of the narcissistic/borderline parent.

There’s my plan. An immediate DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse by ALL mental health professionals when the three diagnostic indicators of the pathology are present in the child’s symptom display.  Tag.  You’re it.  What’s your plan that you’re being diverted from?  How long do you think it will take to enact your plan that you’re being diverted from?  A year?  Five years?  Ten years?  How long are you asking targeted parents to wait for your solution?

Self-Advocacy

Note the nature of Karen Woodall’s criticism of targeted parents who advocate for an appropriate and legitimate diagnosis of the pathology.  You’re being criticized for being too strident, too assertive. Keep this in mind. This will be the criticism that you’ll receive when you begin trying to obtain professional competence.

In advocating one direction you will create a backlash in the other.

Watch the YouTube video on arguing:

Why internet arguments are useless and how to start winning arguments

(And while you’re at it, you may want to watch the Monty Python sketch on the Argument Clinic just to make you smile. Think of this sketch when you’re arguing with mental health professionals.)

Be kind. Use the suggestion of the Winning Arguments YouTube to ask the mental health professional to explain in detail why inducing pathology in a child is NOT psychological child abuse. Try not to be argumentative and assertive. Instead try to be relentlessly curious and inquisitive.

I’m sorry that you have to do all this. I’m sorry that you have to be smarter than the mental health professionals in order to educate them about things they should already know. And I’m sorry that the mental health professionals aren’t more mature and psychologically healthy themselves so you wouldn’t have to work so hard to take care of their egos.  But it is what it is.

Rosa Parks sat in the front of the bus. Why can’t Blacks just know their place? Why do they have to be so “uppity” and so angry all the time? Why can’t they just be satisfied with their own segregated schools, separate but equal. Why can’t they just accept their place?

Why can’t women just accept their role as mothers? Why do they want to have an education and career as well? There are basic gender differences between men and women. Women are supposed to be mothers, why can’t they just accept that? A woman’s place is in the home.

Why do gays and lesbians need to make such a big deal about their sexuality? Why do they have to push their sexual orientation on us all the time? Do I go around telling people I’m heterosexual? Why can’t they just keep it to themselves, I don’t want to know about it.

Ignorance is ignorance. It’s tough. I’m sorry professional mental health is so ignorant.

Why do you have to keep harping on this “parental alienation” thing? Why can’t you just accept that you’re a bad parent and that the child doesn’t want to have anything to do with you. You need to just take responsibility for your own bad parenting and stop blaming the other wonderful parent who the child clearly loves.

Sigh.

For those of you assaulting the citadel of the APA, shame them that you have to educate mental health professionals who should already be educated. Shame them that you have to know more than the mental health professionals. Shame them that you are treated with disrespect and contempt by ignorant mental health professionals when all you’re seeking is professionally competent assessment and treatment. Shame the APA.

There is NO WAY that you should ever be treated so disrespectfully by ANY mental health professional. It is completely 100% inappropriate professional conduct. You should ALWAYS be treated with respect as a collaborative partner by ALL mental health professionals.  Always. 100% of the time.

Even with an authentically problematic parent, the mental health professional should show empathy and patience in explaining exactly how and why the problematic parenting is producing exactly the child response seen. I do this all the time with Oppositional Defiant Disorder and family problems.

Always – always – parents should be treated with respect as collaborative co-partners in their children’s therapy.  Always.  This is an expectation of professional practice.

For those targeted parents who are dealing directly with mental health professionals, I’m asking you to be more. More patient, more empathetic, more mature, more knowledgeable, more respectful, and kinder than the mental health professional. Do it for your children. Don’t indulge in venting your anger and frustration. Let me be the one who carries that for you. Venting your anger and frustration will never do you or your children any good. Use this family tragedy as an opportunity to grow in miraculous ways.

Be kind. Be respectful. Be self-reflective. Consider the opinions of others. The hallmark of a narcissistic personality is to externalize blame and responsibility. It’s always other people’s fault. They never accept personal responsibility. Don’t be narcissistic.

We reveal who we are by our actions, not our words.

Child:  “You never listen to me.”

Parent:  “Yes I do.”

Dr. Childress:  No you don’t. You didn’t listen just then.

Child:  “You never listen to me.”

Parent:  “Really, you think I don’t listen to you?  What do you want me to listen to?  What is it that you want me to know?”

Dr. Childress:  The child is wrong. The parent does listen to the child.

Show the mental health professional by your actions that you are not a narcissistic parent who is simply trying to externalize blame and responsibility for your own “bad parenting.” Be curious about receiving productive criticism regarding your approach to parenting. I know the child is delusional and your parenting is entirely normal-range. I know the child’s attitude is hostile and contemptuous for no reason because of the child’s narcissistic/(borderline) personality traits acquired from the other parent. I know all this. I get it.

But the current mental health professional doesn’t. Be kind. Be empathic. Be flexible and cooperative with the therapist. Show who you are by what you do, not by what you say.

In offering to educate the mental health professional you WILL absolutely produce backlash. That’s just the way of things (there’s actually a therapeutic intervention that uses this backlash effect, it’s called a “paradoxical intervention.” When the therapist wants the patient to do X the therapist tells the patient, “Whatever you do, don’t do X.” The patient then pushes back and does X. We’re tricky sometimes, us therapists).

When you say Foundations, the therapist WILL say, “No.” Expect it.

Remember the videos, (both the one on Backlash and the Monty Python Argument Clinic one).

Parent:  It’s “parental alienation”

Therapist:  No it isn’t.

Parent:  Yes it is.

Therapist:  No it isn’t.

Parent:  Look, this isn’t helpful.

Therapist:  Yes it is.

Parent:  No it isn’t

Therapist:  Oh, are you here for the 10 minute argument or for the full one hour argument?

The research on persuasion indicates that presenting people with rational arguments or with emotional arguments BOTH produce a backlash of strengthening the other person’s position. That’s just the way it is. Expect it. What can you do? Ask the other person to explain in detail their position. I’ll bet if targeted parents worked together, you could come up with various sorts of scripts for asking therapists to explain:

Parent:  So do you see my child’s behavior as oppositional and defiant or as a response to something problematic in my parenting?

Therapist:  Well, the child is saying that you’re too controlling.

Parent:  So is that what’s causing this? That I’m somehow trying to over-control my child?

Therapist:  Yes, it seems to be.

Parent:  In what way am I being over-controlling?

Therapist:  Well the child is saying that he/she doesn’t want to go on visitations with you and you’re forcing the child to do this.

Parent:  So wanting to see my child is being “over-controlling?”  But I love my child so much. I want to spend time with my child. Is that unusual? For a parent to love their child and want to spend time with the child?

Therapist:  No, that’s not unusual.

Parent:  Then how is loving my child and wanting to spend time with my child being too “controlling?”

Therapist:  Uhhh, I don’t know

Remember the Backlash video on arguing. We don’t understand things nearly as well as we initially think we do. If you can draw out the mental health professionals into explaining to your sincere curiosity, then you may be able to help them begin to question their incorrect beliefs.

Again, I’m sorry you have to do this. It shouldn’t be your job to educate mental health professionals. But it is what it is.

To Mental Health Allies

To all authentic mental health allies of targeted parents who are joining us on this battlefield to reclaim the mental health system from its ignorance, if we abandon these parents to professional incompetence then these parents must advocate for themselves. We must be the ones, those of us who are the mental health allies of these parents, we must be the ones to carry the advocacy to our colleagues – professional to professional. If we advocate, if we assert, if we push our colleagues for professional competence, then targeted parents won’t have to.

In this interim transition period in the paradigm shift, I can definitely see a role for authentic mental health allies of targeted parents to step-up and actively and assertively advocate for professionally competent practice and the DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed. If there were one to two mental health consultants available to these targeted parents in every major city who targeted parents could turn to and hire as consultants who would meet with the involved therapists and advocate for an attachment-based assessment of the parental alienation pathology, professional to professional, and for the proper DSM-5 diagnosis when the three diagnostic indicators are present in the child’s symptom display, then targeted parents wouldn’t need to self-advocate. They need allies in mental health who will carry the burden of advocating with the other mental health professionals in their specific case.

To targeted parents:  If you had a mental health professional available in your area who was knowledgeable in Foundations and an attachment-based model of “parental alienation” who you could hire as a professional consultant to meet with the current therapists involved in your family, would you hire this mental health consultant? 

You could meet with this consultant two or three times to explain your situation, and then the consultant could schedule meetings with the involved therapists (no release of information is necessary because we’re not asking the therapist to disclose information, the information is already disclosed to the consultant by the targeted parent). The consultant could then meet with you again to explain the outcome of these meetings. Would that be helpful to you?  Would you hire such a mental health consultant for your family?

If there are any mental health professionals who are knowledgeable about Foundations and an attachment-based model and are willing to serve targeted parents in the role of “mental health consultant” feel free to email me at drcraigchildress@gmail.com and I will post your names to my Facebook page and on my website. Targeted parents need authentic allies in mental health who are willing to advocate for them to obtain the legitimate and proper diagnosis of the pathology as V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed.

And if any mental health professional agrees to serve as a consultant to a targeted parent, I am also available to provide secondary consultation as needed to this boots-on-the-ground consultant regarding an attachment-based model of “parental alienation.” If desired, I could even set up a periodic online GoToMeeting supervision group with these mental health consultants to talk about consultation experiences.

It’s not up to targeted parents to educate their mental health providers. That should be our job. Targeted parents need allies in mental health. Feel free to contact me if you’re willing to be such an ally.

The Gardnerian Response

I have heard anecdotally from targeted parents that the response of several Gardnerian PAS experts to an attachment-based model of “parental alienation” is “no comment,” and that these Gardnerian PAS experts see my work and position as being “divisive.”

To the extent that the motivation of these Gardnerian PAS experts is to maintain the status quo, they are 100% correct, I am being divisive because my motivation is to create change.

The status quo is unacceptable to me.

But from my perspective, I could equally argue that they are being divisive by not joining us in working for change, in not working for a DSM-5 diagnosis of the pathology as V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed, and by instead doing everything they can to maintain the status quo of Gardnerian PAS which provides no solution whatsoever.

So the perception of who’s being “divisive” is, I guess, just a matter of opinion. But from my perspective, I would tend to say that the person standing with the targeted parents is on the right path and that the one standing apart from targeted parents and who is advocating for the status quo that provides no solution is most likely on the wrong path. But that’s just me.

I find it intriguing that not a single Gardnerian PAS expert has broken ranks and advocated for a paradigm shift to an attachment-based model. Maybe they’re hoping that if they all hang together they can suppress this upstart attachment-based model from gaining acceptance.  I dunno.  It’s just intriguing.

From the initial critiques coming from the Gardnerian contingent of professionals there seem to be a couple of themes. The most prominent theme is that I’m not acknowledging the contribution of other “experts.” This is essentially an inter-professional argument that says I’m not allowing the other kids to play in the sandbox (“Who does that ol’ Dr. Childress think he is. This is our sandbox.”) 

My response: who cares.

The sandbox is going to become an attachment-based model of “parental alienation” because an attachment-based model provides targeted parents with a confirmed DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse and will bring establishment mental health on board into a single voice, whereas a Gardnerian PAS model divides mental health into controversy and endless argument and it provides no DSM-5 diagnosis and no solution for the pathology.

The sandbox is going to become an attachment-based model.

Besides, the sand in the Gardnerian PAS sandbox has all sorts of cat poop in it. Just look at Gardner’s statements on pedophilia and incest (see The Shadow Side of PAS). And the sand in the Gardnerian sandbox is more like mud. The Gardnerian “new syndrome” proposal is not based in any established form of accepted and defined mental health pathology.

I don’t want to contaminate the sand in the attachment-based sandbox with the sand from the Gardnerian PAS sandbox. If you want to continue to play in the sandbox of Gardnerian PAS, more power to you. But I’m not going to play in that sandbox.

If mental health professionals want to be part of the solution to “parental alienation” that I describe throughout my blogs and in my most recent response to Karen Woodall, then they will need to join us in the attachment-based sandbox. We have lots of toys for everyone in this sandbox. The three diagnostic indicators offer a wonderful and much improved operational definition of the pathology for research purposes, and all of the associated clinical signs offer wonderful opportunities for correlational research in identifying the different variants of the pathology.  In terms of diagnosis, wouldn’t you love to get your hands on those 12 associated clinical signs of the pathology, things like the Exclusion Demand, the use of the word “forced” to describe being with the targeted parent, the Unforgiveable Event, or advocating for the child’s testimony in court.  Those juicy associated clinical signs are just waiting for you to switch to an attachment-based model, and I can explain each of them at a specific level, why they occur, from within an attachment-based model.

But a Gardnerian PAS model doesn’t give you a single one of those 12 associated clinical signs.  Pity.  Do you really think it’s in the best interests of targeted parents and their children to continue to hold onto a failed Gardnerian PAS model.  Really?

And an attachment-based model offers oodles of opportunities when it comes time for the DSM-5.1 revision in a few years.  I’ve already laid the seed for this effort with the “attachment-trauma reenactment pathology” label for the pathology.  With an attachment-based model of the pathology we have established constituencies with the DSM committees, particularly the Trauma and Stress Related Disorders committee with an argument for the trans-generational transmission of developmental trauma mediated by the personality disorder pathology of the parent. A much-much stronger case than a “new syndrome” unique in all of mental health effort – yet again.  And the diagnosis for this new trauma-related diagnosis uses the previously accepted DSM-IV criteria of a Shared Delusional Disorder. We just move this previously accepted DSM-IV diagnosis (and currently available ICD-10 diagnosis F24) from the Psychotic committee of the DSM to the Trauma committee.

There’s all sorts of toys for everyone over in this attachment-based sandbox. Come and play with us.

But I’m not going to play in that stinky ol’ Gardnerian PAS sandbox. It’s all full of cat poop and the sand is more like mud than sand.  If you want to play with us, you’ll need to play in the fresh sand of an attachment-based model of the pathology that gives us a confirmed DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse.

But as far as I’m concerned, I don’t care one whit for inter-professional arguments about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. The only thing I care about is creating a solution to the deep family tragedy of “parental alienation” as quickly as is humanly possible. We sure could use all the help we can get with this.

The DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed for the pathogenic parenting practices evidenced in the three diagnostic indicators of an attachment-based model of “parental alienation” are available today.  Right now. This instant.

Not only that, it’s also the correct and accurate clinical diagnosis.

The only thing that is stopping this solution from being actualized right now, today, this instant, is the generalized ignorance within mental health that an attachment-based model exists.

My estimate is that with the active advocacy of our boots-on-the-ground infantry of targeted parents and our flanking cavalry assaulting the citadel of the APA, we can achieve a solution to the pathology of “parental alienation” by Christmas of 2016. That’s my goal, that by Christmas of 2016 this will all be over. My goal is to have all the current children of currently active alienation back in the arms of their authentic parents by Christmas of 2016.  Then we set about recovering the adult children of childhood alienation.

Could we achieve the solution sooner?  Possibly.  It sure would help if we had the active support of the Gardnerians to create this change.  But it is what it is.  During the first round of education there will be backlash.  But we are relentless.  We are fighting for your children.  Join together.  Become a tsunami.  Become an unstoppable force.

I offer an open call to all mental health professionals who understand the family tragedy of “parental alienation” and want to bring it to an end to join us in our effort to acquire the DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed for the three diagnostic indicators created by the pathogenic parenting of a narcissistic/(borderline) parent surrounding divorce.

I will fight ferociously for the authentically protective parents who are targeted by this extreme and malicious pathology, and for their children. My adversaries in this battle are all mental health professionals, on any side, who seek to prevent the actualization of a DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed for the pathogenic parenting evidenced in the three diagnostic indicators of attachment-based “parental alienation.”

We must bring the division in mental health into a “synthesis” of both sides of the issue and bring to an end this decades long unproductive and unnecessary debate. An attachment-based model of “parental alienation” offers both sides this synthesis.

It addresses the needs of establishment mental health to define the pathology entirely from within standard and established psychological principles and constructs and does not demand that establishment mental health accept any form of “new syndrome” proposal for the pathology as being unique in all of mental health.

It addresses the needs of targeted parents and children to obtain an accurate diagnosis of the pathology from all mental health professionals as Child Psychological Abuse by the narcissistic/(borderline) parent.

An attachment-based model of the pathology of “parental alienation” offers synthesis. It offers the solution.

The only thing it waits on is enacting this solution. I am calling on all targeted parents, your family and friends, and on all mental health professionals to join us in creating this solution. The battle to reclaim mental health as the ally of targeted parents and their children is here. We are on the battlefield. The time is now. Join us.

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

9 thoughts on “Second Response to Woodall”

  1. Dear Craig Childress
    as you know I am a supporter of your work. I have benefitted enormously from your writings.
    I am also a supporter of the work of Karen Woodall. I have benefitted enormously from her writings, advice and support.
    I am also the wife of a father alienated, in the pure sense, from his son, and caught up in the court system in the UK.
    As all these things I can see, very very clearly, how the pathologies you describe have infected my step-son to such an extent that he has had no choice, in order to survive, but to disown his father and his entire wider paternal family.
    I have several years experience now of helping my husband try to get recognition and understanding, let alone action, within the UK court system, for what is actually happening within the family dynamics. So sadly and painfully I know, at first hand, how the system is beset, at all levels, with professional ignorance, lack of care, lack of competence and lack of accountability. The court and child welfare system here was, in our case and anecdotally in many many others, unwilling to take on responsibility for really getting to the bottom of what was actually happening. It was unwilling to go beyond the ‘expressed wishes and feelings of the child’ to look at the behaviours and ask those simple questions that if this doesn’t seem normal, is extreme in nature without good reason, and there is a previously good relationship history, they why does the child act and speak as they do.
    Dr Childress, we couldn’t even get anyone to accept that the reams of evidence about disrupted contact, and emotional pressure over the son on the part of the Mother should in any way even be censured. And we tried very hard, time after time after time, using your words just as much as Karen Woodall’s. To no avail, because the system here, especially outside the capital, is backward and in need of change. That change in the UK is coming, very very slowly. In part it is coming through the work that Karen Woodall does day in and day out – by her writings and by her persistence in the face of opposition. In part it is coming because of the changes Sir James Munby, as President of the Family Division of the High Court of England and Wales, is putting in place with regard to transparency in court reporting, meaning that cases where PA is identified are more often now coming out into the public domain. And in part it is coming because Karen Woodall is starting to make an impact where it is needed here, with the very practitioners who are charged with identifying what is going on in these cases – she’s starting to work much more with the very people who sit in front of these children and are charged with finding out what is going on, and crucially charged with coming up with a solution that is truly, really, in the best interest of the child.
    But it is slow. I wish it were not so. I wish courts here took a stronger, more proactive position much more quickly when child protection issues, in relation to the psychological abuse a child is experiencing, as opposed to the much more easily visible physical abuse, become evident. But we are a way behind that, although things are slowly slowly changing.
    So my point here is that I am saddened by your attack on Karen Woodall’s critique of your work. Saddened because you speak so eloquently yourself of the splitting within the profession, and that isn’t what is going on here. Karen knows the system here and her approach is child focussed – which is to say focussed on the child sat in front of her, and trying to do what’s in that child’s best interest.
    You both have done so much for the parents who read your work, who find comfort, and also much deeper pain, in the recognition of their own miserable experiences, and hope in the realisation that there are solutions, even if they can’t yet (or ever) be applied in their own personal cases.
    I understand why your approach needs to be so actively resolute, but the adversarial nature of your choice of words in response to Karen Woodall’s review feels, to me, like a friend needlessly taking pot shots at another friend. I know neither of you are my friend, but I think you could do well to acknowledge how Karen’s response is professionally respectful, and acknowledges the challenges you both face, operating in two completely different systems.
    There is space for both approaches, in a world where any advance is a good advance, and all of it, in the end, will hopefully help the children and parents caught up in the nightmare of un-recognition.
    Respectfully yours.

  2. Foundations has been out for 5 months now, but to my knowledge, no one has:
    1.) provided an explanation for how the three symptoms of pathogenic parenting can be caused by something other than bad parenting
    2.) identified an actual child with those three symptoms that got them from some other method than bad parenting
    3.) said those symptoms do not justify V995.51

    Blogs/videos that say the same thing as Foundations has been out for a few years

    1. Target parents are like a tiger in a cage, walking back and forth, salivating to get their cubs back. But, controlling enough not to do anything foolish. Target parents are like an ape that has been constantly beat down, so now they cower in the corner and hide their face. But, trust me, open either of those cages and we will get our children back. The cages have been opened, we are just now getting adjusted to the sunlight.
      Please, for the sake of all that is good, stop with the Gardnerian approach! WE need you!
      I ask success rates from Amy Baker, she didn’t answer. A percentage, perhaps? No answer.
      I respectfully ask Karen Woodall, what is your success rate average and what approach do you use, and how is the family after 1 year, 3 years and 5 years. Surely someone has done this research while using the Gardnerian guidelines?

      But, now, the Target parents (the tigers and apes) are acclimating to our environment. We want you to HELP our children. We don’t care if you have 1000 degrees in psychology. So…big deal, I’d rather have someone that knows what works and why and how than a bunch of theories, any day.
      If my toilet is leaking, I’m going to hire the plumber that can FIX it, not the plumber that is going to talk about a theory and then leaves, and my toilet is still leaking. You certainly won’t get paid.

      I beg of you, Karen Woodall, your writing is so eloquent and touches our hearts, you have a gift. I beg you to work alongside Dr Childress’ without losing your own self, but adding to the table. You have so much to offer!
      Help us!
      If we have to help ourselves and advocate for ourselves, so be it.
      We will.
      But, I’m positive you would love seeing parents and their children reunited. Be a part of this!
      You have too much to offer, to not be. 💜

  3. I fail to see how Karen is *not* helping, there is not one person who had all the answers, Any Baker, Karen Woodall, Ryan Thomas and Craig Childress combined are formidable, if it becomes about division we all lose, especially or children. Did anyone read Karen’s singular response to Craig? I did.

  4. In the UK the answer provided to the question
    “Parent: Then how is loving my child and wanting to spend time with my child being too “controlling?””
    would be
    Therapist (or most likely CAFCASS officer): Yes, you are focusing on your own need. Try to see this from your child’s point of view. Your child has a busy life but will also want to see you and contact you when he/she wants to. Show your child some respect and listen to his/her wishes.

    Where should the parent go from here?

    1. I understand. And I am deeply sorry for the cruelty expressed by therapists. The response you describe represents a profound absence of empathy. The absence of empathy is the source of cruelty.

      Baron-Cohen, Simon (2011). The Science of Evil: On Empathy and the Origins of Cruelty. New York: Basic Books.

      The response you describe reflects trauma in the person making such a response. They do not comprehend the love of a parent for a child, or for a child to a parent. I understand there is little you can do in the face of such cruelty and absence of empathy. My response to such cruelty would be to try to activate the other person’s empathy system. To lose a child to “parental alienation” is as if the child had died. One day you have a child, the next you don’t. The grief and loss is profound. I would strive through my questions of the “therapist” (and I use this term exceedingly loosely in this case) to help them empathize with the grief of loss. I might also turn this to the child’s loss.

      “If I never see my child, it’s as if my child has lost his mother. What do you think will be the consequences for my child of his mother’s death at such a young age? What do you think will be the consequences for my child in growing up without a mother?”

      I’m not saying this will help with this person, because the trauma that destroyed this person’s empathy system has destroyed the fundamental humanity of this person. But that’s where I would respond into, to see if I could activate any remnant of empathy.

      Once the battle is fought and won, and there is time for reflection, I am going to discuss the immense vulnerability of this specific pathology to the “counter-transference” of the mental health professional. We all live in an attachment system. The attachment system is the brain system for all things love and bonding. Even therapists live in an attachment system, and therapists often enter the field of psychology, not because we’re psychologically healthy, but as a means to try to understand and heal our own childhood traumas. But with this particular pathogen, this makes us extraordinarily vulnerable to our own distortions of attachment.

      If we have mother-issues or father-issues, these can become enacted in our response to the pathology. If we unconsciously hate our own parent, and are hurt by our own parent, and want revenge and retaliation on our own parent, these beliefs will be expressed in our response to this particular pathogen. When we finally achieve “special population” status for your children and families, one of the essential requirements of professional expertise is personal therapy for the therapist surrounding his or her own attachment issues to minimize this otherwise immense vulnerability to counter-transference.

      Again, I am so sorry that people who are supposed to be healers can be so profoundly cruel. The absence of empathy is the source of human cruelty, and the absence of empathy is the central feature of this pathology.

      Craig Childress, PsyD.

      1. Thank you for your kind reply, which indeed does make some sense of the feeling of having the carpet pulled from underneath you and an abyss opening up when initially faced with that kind of reply. I have since come to see this as a culture that surrounds the family courts in the UK.”The child will not suffer because the child made the decision, and if the parent dares to talk of his/her own suffering it is evidence of that parent’s selfishness and lack of capacity as a parent” Bob Geldorf was the first to express this sentiment publicly in his documentary about the family courts more than a decade ago (little has changed):above all make sure you never state that you love your child.

        Nevertheless my understanding of what you are trying to achieve is to avoid having to prove alienation to the courts and instead leaving it in the hands of the mental health professionals to present a case to the court where alienation is one symptom of a pathological relationship between the alienating parent and the child. Please correct me if that interpretation is wrong. I personally see a shift from “PAS” as a pathology mainly residing in the child (which I agree is a very unhelpful construct) to a focus on the pathology of the personality disordered parent as a significant step forward. However, this leaves the difficulty of how to get a child seen by a mental health professional in the first place. How do you envisage this to happen if not ordered by the courts? In which case the courts must be convinced that something is wrong and subsequently that something is so wrong that it warrants removal of the child rather than support of the parent to parent the child?

    2. In the UK, in our situation, the lack of empathy and judgements made according to personal values and beliefs extended even to one of the judges. My husband in court one time had asked for his ‘contact’ time overnight, once a week, to be extended to include taking his son to (primary) school the next morning (he had previously taken his son many many times and it had been a fun happy time they’d shared). The judge refused saying that he (the judge) had never taken his own children to school and it hadn’t done them any harm. And there’s just no comeback to that kind of opinion, or you’re labelled controlling.

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