We are bringing an end to the family nightmare of “parental alienation.”
The reason “parental alienation” continues is because of a fundamental failure within professional mental health to accurately diagnose the pathology.
The reason professional mental health is failing to accurately diagnose the pathology is the professional ignorance and incompetence regarding personality disorder and attachment-trauma pathology of the specific mental health persons who are assessing and diagnosing the pathology within the family,
These mental health persons simply don’t know what they’re doing.
Ignorance and professional incompetence is not allowed by professional standards of practice governing the licenses of these mental health persons.
For psychologists, Standard 2.01a of the American Psychological Association states:
2.01 Boundaries of Competence
(a) Psychologists provide services, teach and conduct research with populations and in areas only within the boundaries of their competence, based on their education, training, supervised experience, consultation, study or professional experience.
For marriage and family therapists, Standards 3.1 and 3.10 of the Code of Ethics for the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy states:
3.1 Maintenance of Competency
Marriage and family therapists pursue knowledge of new developments and maintain their competence in marriage and family therapy through education, training, and/or supervised experience.
3.10 Scope of Competence.
Marriage and family therapists do not diagnose, treat, or advise on problems outside the recognized boundaries of their competencies.
For Master’s level mental health counselors, Standard C.2.a. of the Code of Ethics for the American Counseling Association states:
C.2.a. Boundaries of Competence
Counselors practice only within the boundaries of their competence, based on their education, training, supervised experience, state and national professional credentials, and appropriate professional experience.
For social workers, the Ethics Code of the National Association of Social Workers states:
Ethical Principle: Social workers practice within their areas of competence and develop and enhance their professional expertise. Social workers continually strive to increase their professional knowledge and skills and to apply them in practice.
(a) Social workers should provide services and represent themselves as competent only within the boundaries of their education, training, license, certification, consultation received, supervised experience, or other relevant professional experience.
In Canada, the Values Statement for Principle II, Responsible Caring, of the Canadian Code of Ethics for Psychologists states:
In order to carry out these steps, psychologists recognize the need for competence and self-knowledge. They consider incompetent action to be unethical per se, as it is unlikely to be of benefit and likely to be harmful. They engage only in those activities in which they have competence or for which they are receiving supervision, and they perform their activities as competently as possible. They acquire, contribute to, and use the existing knowledge most relevant to the best interests of those concerned.
II.6 Competence and self-knowledge
Offer or carry out (without supervision) only those activities for which they have established their competence to carry them out to the benefit of others.
In Australia, Standard B.1.2.a of the Australian Psychological Society Code of Ethics states:
B.1.2. Psychologists only provide psychological services within the boundaries of their professional competence. This includes, but is not restricted to: (a) working within the limits of their education, training, supervised experience and appropriate professional experience
In Great Britain, Standard 2 of the Code of Ethics and Conduct of the British Psychological Society states
2 Ethical Principle: COMPETENCE
Statement of values
Psychologists value the continuing development and maintenance of high standards of competence in their professional work, and the importance of preserving their ability to function optimally within the recognised limits of their knowledge, skill, training, education, and experience
Professional incompetence is a violation of ethical standards of practice for all mental health professionals everywhere.
This means that if a mental health professional is assessing and diagnosing personality disorder and attachment-trauma pathology manifesting in family relationships, that mental health professional MUST BE COMPETENT in the assessment and diagnosis of personality disorder and attachment-trauma pathology as it manifests in family relationships (notice I did not say “parental alienation” pathology).
Mental health professionals are NOT ALLOWED to be incompetent.
Our goal is to ensure that whenever there is evidence of an attachment related disorder following divorce – i.e., the suppression of the child’s normal-range attachment bonding motivations toward a parent – that ALL mental health professionals working with your children and families properly assess for the presence of narcissistic and borderline personality disorder pathology and attachment-trauma pathology within the family that is influencing family relationships and creating the attachment-related pathology displayed by the child.
Notice I never said “parental alienation.” In professional psychology, the construct of “parental alienation” does not exist. Personality disorder pathology exists. Attachment-trauma pathology exists. We are going to begin holding ALL mental health professionals who are assessing and diagnosing the pathology in your families accountable for professional competence in the assessment and diagnosis of personality disorder pathology and attachment trauma pathology.
If the mental health professional does not know how to assess for the presence of narcissistic and borderline personality disorder pathology and attachment-trauma pathology within the family that is influencing family relationships and creating the attachment-related pathology displayed by the child – then they are practicing outside the boundaries of their competence in violation of their ethical standards of practice.
If the mental health professional does not know how to diagnose the presence of narcissistic and borderline personality disorder pathology and attachment-trauma pathology within the family that is influencing family relationships and creating the attachment-related pathology displayed by the child – then they are practicing outside the boundaries of their competence in violation of their ethical standards of practice.
This is not negotiable. Mental health professionals must be professionally competent. If they are assessing and diagnosing personality disorder and attachment-trauma pathology within the family, then they must be professionally competent in the assessment and diagnosis of personality disorder and attachment-trauma pathology as expressed within the family’s relationships.
Accountability: Defining the Pathology
This has been my goal since day one, to eliminate the profound degree of professional incompetence in mental health surrounding the diagnosis of “parental alienation” pathology by holding mental health professionals ACCOUNTABLE.
We cannot hold them accountable to the construct of “parental alienation” since the construct of “parental alienation” is not an accepted or well-defined construct in professional psychology. So I had to define the pathology of “parental alienation” entirely from within standard and fully established psychological principles and constructs. That’s what I set about doing, uncovering layer upon layer of the pathology, working out the details of its structure and diagnosis.
With the publication of An Attachment-Based Model of Parental Alienation: Foundations in June of 2015, we can now hold all mental health professionals accountable for professional competence. In Foundations, the pathology of “parental alienation” is fully explained and described as a manifestation of narcissistic/(borderline) personality disorder pathology and attachment-trauma.
Yet I also understand that the many ignorant and incompetent mental health professionals have not read Foundations.
I wrote professional-to-professional letters and posted them to my website that targeted parents could provide to mental health professionals working with their families to explain the pathology:
I wrote a professional-to-professional handout and posted it to my website so that targeted parents could provide it to mental health professionals working with their families to explain the pathology:
I filmed YouTube videos that are publicly available for mental health professionals to watch that explain the pathology. I presented two Master’s Lecture Series seminars for California Southern University describing the pathology that are available online:
I wrote a booklet, Professional Consultation, for targeted parents to provide to mental health professionals involved with their families:
I am offering professional-to-professional Skype and telephone consultation to other mental health professionals who are assessing, diagnosing, and treating this form of family pathology.
I don’t know what else I can do. At this point, their professional ignorance and incompetence in personality disorder and attachment-trauma pathology becomes their problem, because they are NOT ALLOWED to be incompetent under established ethical principles governing the practice of professional psychology.
We must begin to hold mental health professionals ACCOUNTABLE for professional competence in the assessment and diagnosis of personality disorder and attachment-trauma pathology as it is being manifested in family relationships following divorce (a family pathology that is commonly referred to in the popular culture as “parental alienation”).
The way to hold mental health professionals accountable for professional competence is to file licensing board complaints and malpractice lawsuits for professional incompetence in the assessment and diagnosis of the personality disorder and attachment-trauma pathology being evidenced in your family (notice I did not use the term “parental alienation”).
Our ultimate goal is not to seek revenge or retaliation for professional incompetence – it is to provoke a “risk management” response throughout the entire mental health system in which ALL mental health professionals begin properly assessing for the personality disorder and attachment-trauma pathology involved in your families. Our goal is to make it professionally painful for them to remain incompetent so that they will begin to assess for the personality disorder and attachment-trauma pathology not because they are nice people, but to avoid being hit with a licensing board complaint by the targeted parent because they refused to assess for the pathology.
I have made it incredibly simple for them to assess for the pathology. I have posted to my website a diagnostic checklist of symptom features of the pathology:
Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting
The mental health professional simply needs to review each symptom category and put a check in the appropriate box, then document the results of this assessment in the patient record. Documentation can be as simple as placing the Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting in the patient record. Easy.
If the mental health professional refuses to undertake even the most basic assessment of personality disorder and attachment-trauma pathology manifesting within the family’s relationships (as described in Foundations) after the targeted parent has specifically requested that this assessment of personality disorder and attachment trauma pathology be made (along with providing appropriate support materials to the mental health professional), then I would recommend that the targeted parent begin laying the paper trail for the licensing board complaint. This begins with:
1. The Request: Request that the mental health professional assess for the personality disorder and attachment-trauma pathology of pathogenic parenting by the allied parent in the cross-generational coalition with the child (notice I did not use the term “parental alienation”). Be nice. Be kind. Be cooperative. No not be demanding and argumentative and strident. Don’t let the mental health professional use your attitude of anger and frustration against you. Be nice. Be kind. Be cooperative. But be relentless.
2. Support Materials: Provide the mental health professional with the Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting from my website, along with support materials, such as the professional-to-professional letters, my booklet Professional Consultation, and perhaps the links to my online Masters Lecture series through California Southern University. Indicate that Dr. Childress has offered to provide Skype or telephone professional-to-professional consultation with the mental health professional if this would be helpful, and that the mental health professional should send me an email to email@example.com (note: professional practice standards and laws governing the practice of psychology prevent me from providing consultation directly to targeted parents. I can only provide professional consultation and expert testimony to targeted parents and their attorneys regarding court cases).
3. Refusal: If the mental health professional refuses to assess for the personality disorder and attachment-trauma pathology (notice I did not say “parental alienation”), then remain kind and oh-so-pleasant. Document this refusal of the mental health professional to assess for the pathology in a polite letter (that will ultimately be submitted to the licensing board – so while you’re sending the letter to the mental health professional, you’re actually writing the content as documentation for later review by the licensing board). State your understanding in this letter that despite your request that the mental health professional specifically assess for personality disorder and attachment-trauma pathology (notice I did not say “parental alienation”) and to document this assessment in the patient record, the mental health professional is refusing to assess for this pathology.
4. Records: If you have joint legal custody for your child, write a letter to the mental health professional documenting your request for a review of the patient records regarding the treatment of your child. Ask for a copy of the records. Things will get very interesting at this point. A request for records terrifies mental health professionals. It means you’re up to something and that they are going to be held accountable. They may also not have kept very good records, so they might be afraid that their poor documentation will be revealed. They might refuse to release records under an assertion of confidentiality, but if you have joint legal custody for your child then you are the child’s legal representative and you have the right to review the patient records. They might refuse to release the records claiming that such a release would somehow be harmful to the child. If this is the justification, then laws in your state may require them to release the records to another mental health professional of your choosing for external review. I’ll address all of this in a future blog post, but for right now simply request their records. Even if they don’t release them you can still proceed, but this step might lead to additional violations of professional practice standards by the mental health professional.
5. Termination: At this point, the mental health professional may terminate services with you and your family (you’ve scared them). Their termination of a client has to be handled appropriately, with a proper transfer of care, otherwise it is considered “patient abandonment” which is a violation of professional practice standards. You are making the mental health professional navigate a mine field of possible violations. An abrupt termination would likely be considered “patient abandonment.”
6. The Complaint: I am only going to address filing a licensing board complaint against a psychologist in the United States, since this is my profession and these are my colleagues. I don’t feel comfortable stepping outside of my professional colleagues. Our goal, however, is not retaliation or revenge, it is to provoke a “risk management” response in mental health professionals in which it is easier to assess for the pathology than it is to remain incompetent.
Licensing boards do not care about the specifics of your case.
What they care about are violations of professional practice standards by the mental health professional, such as the violation of ethical standards of practice. So let me be abundantly clear, the licensing board will not care that the psychologist did not diagnose “parental alienation” – what the licensing board will care about is whether the psychologist was practicing beyond their boundaries of competence (relative to personality disorder and attachment-trauma pathology; notice I did not say “parental alienation”).
It’s like an appeals court in the legal profession, only this is psychology. The appeals court is NOT going to retry the facts of the case. The only thing the appeals court will consider is if there were procedural violations of the rights of the litigants. The licensing board is NOT going to review the details of your case to determine if a correct diagnosis was made. The only thing the licensing board will consider are violations of ethical standards of practice.
The three violations of ethical standards of practice for psychologists that we are going to focus on are Standard 9.01a regarding proper assessment to reach a diagnostic conclusion, Standard 2.01a regarding boundaries of competence, and Standard 3.04 regarding preventing foreseeable harm to the client.
I have just posted to my website a template letter you may want to use in formulating your licensing board complaint against an incompetent psychologist.
Again, our purpose in filing licensing board complaints against incompetent mental health professionals is NOT revenge or retaliation, it is to provoke a system-wide “risk-management” response in ALL mental health professionals of simply assessing for the pathology rather than face a licensing board complaint.
For all mental health professionals, we want to make taking one path – professional incompetence – very dangerous; dark woods full of dangerous wolves and scary monsters. We want to make their taking the other path – assessment for the pathology – very easy; a bright sunlit path through flowers and singing birds. For all mental health professionals… we’re just doing it one-by-one until they recognize what we’re doing and their choice in paths. Then ALL mental health professionals will begin making “risk management” decisions of simply assessing for the pathology (using the simple Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting).
Malpractice Lawsuits: If the licensing board finds any violation of ethical or professional practice standards, then this potentially becomes grounds for a legal malpractice lawsuit. Mental health professionals dread malpractice lawsuits because there is always a very real possibility that the malpractice insurance carrier will SETTLE the lawsuit rather than take it to trial because it is less expensive for them to settle the lawsuit – especially if there are ethical violations substantiated by the licensing board – than to take the case to trial. If the malpractice insurance carrier settles before trial, this will become a permanent black-mark on the mental health professional’s record. Malpractice lawsuit; Outcome – settled.
Again, our goal is not retaliation or revenge, it is to provoke a system-wide “risk-management” response of simply assessing for the pathology because it is too professionally dangerous NOT to assess for the pathology.
The APA Solution
I’ll be posting more about licensing board complaints in the future. But hopefully this won’t be necessary. Hopefully, the American Psychological Association will take leadership in requiring professional competence from its members (consistent with its own ethics code) by convening a conference of high-level professional expertise in attachment theory, personality disorder pathology, trauma, and family systems therapy to study the issue of “parental alienation” and produce a white paper regarding its findings. This solution is currently being sought by leadership within the community of targeted parents.
Now is the time for all targeted parents, your family and friends, to write to the APA requesting that they convene this high-level conference of experts in attachment theory, personality disorder pathology, trauma, and family systems therapy. Leadership within the community of targeted parents has the appropriate contact information for the APA (Howie Dennison, Jason Hofer, Phil Taylor, Kay Johnson and the National Alliance of Targeted Parents are leading this effort).
This proposal for a high-level conference of experts must pass two committees in order to be submitted to the Board of Directors of the American Psychological Association for its consideration. In April of 2016 the proposal was passed by the first of these committees. It will soon be considered by the second committee.
Write to the APA. The American Psychological Association cares about you and your children. Let them hear your voice. Let them know your immense suffering and that of your children. Tell them about the failure of the mental health system. Ask for their help in bringing your suffering to an end. Ask that they convene this high-level conference of experts to address the pathology of “parental alienation.”
We don’t need a “new theory” of pathology in mental health. We simply need an accurate diagnosis of the pathology using standard and well established psychological principles and constructs of personality disorder and attachment trauma pathologies.
Pathogenic parenting is the correct clinical psychology term for the pathology that is described in the common-culture as “parental alienation” (patho=pathology; genic=creation). Pathogenic parenting is the creation of significant psychopathology in the child through aberrant and distorted parenting practices.
Pathogenic parenting that is creating significant developmental pathology in the child (diagnostic indicator 1), personality disorder pathology in the child (diagnostic indicator 2), and delusional-psychiatric pathology in the child (diagnostic indicator 3) in order to meet the emotional and psychological needs of the parent represents a DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed.
Once we correctly and accurately diagnose the pathology of “parental alienation” using standard and established psychological constructs and principles, we will find that the pathology is already in the DSM-5 – on page 719 – it’s a diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed.
Pathogenic parenting is not a child custody issue; it is a child protection issue.
All we need is the necessary professional competence to produce an accurate diagnosis of the pathology. The time is now. Write to the APA.
Craig Childress, Psy.D.
Clinical Psychologist, PSY 18857