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:
Professional-to-Professional Letter: The Hostile-Rejecting Child
Professional-to-Professional Letter: The Hyper-Anxious Child
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:
Parental Alienation: An Attachment-Based Model 7/18/14: Masters Lecture Series California Southern University
Treatment of Attachment-Based Parental Alienation 11/21/14:
I wrote a booklet, Professional Consultation, for targeted parents to provide to mental health professionals involved with their families:
An Attachment-Based Model of Parental Alienation: Professional Consultation
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 firstname.lastname@example.org (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.
APA Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct
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.
Possible Licensing Board Complaint Letter
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.
Petition to Change the APA Position Statement on Parental Alienation
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
14 thoughts on “Demanding Professional Competence”
You forgot Michelle Jones…
Thank you for the letter to the licensing board. Parents have only a one time shot with the complaint. In other words they can not go back and file another one. So it is very important that they get it right the first time.
For those victim parents and patients in California, here is a link to the 2016 Laws and Regulations governing Psychologists: http://www.psychology.ca.gov/laws_regs/2016lawsregs.pdf
And how to file a complaint with the California Board of Psychology http://www.psychology.ca.gov/consumers/filecomplaint.shtml
Here are links to the ethics of the California Association of Marriage & Family Therapists (CAMFT) http://www.camft.org/IAS/COS/Default.aspx
and the California State’s licensing board:
Victim “patients” are often afraid to make complaints regarding professionals in their family law cases for fear of making the situations worse. In my experience not much is done with the Judicial Counsel regarding Judges or the State Bar regarding attorneys, but the Board of Psychology and BBS in California are much stricter and do take action if enough true victims complain. There is true power in numbers. Don’t let what happened to you and your children be allowed to happened to any other families. Take action, get support and compile evidence. It is also important to keep all complaints factual and non emotional and there will be better results.
Hope this helps.
Also in most states even non-custodial parents have a right to access their child’s mental health and academic records. In California for example, Family Code §3025 specifies: “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, access to records and information pertaining to a minor child, including, but not limited to, medical, dental, and school records, shall not be denied to a parent because that parent is not the child’s custodial parent” – See more at: http://codes.findlaw.com/ca/family-code/fam-sect-3025.html#sthash.IO0ZKfkr.dpuf
I filed a complaint: https://docs.google.com/document/d/16q-e-nzfXwSnsr2DgxgPMyDRVj3nQddgaHJoE7l-Tck/edit?usp=sharing By all accounts it was well written (except for a misspelling or two).
The board of licensing dropped it without contacting any of the professionals involved.
I contacted an attorney regarding a suit. He found out that the therapist is not obligated to adhere to the APA rules because she is not a member of the APA.
Each state has it’s own ethical rules. Legally a professional is bound to those rules. They are only bound to the APA rules if they choose to become a member of the APA (which is optional).
Because of a court order I continue to have to pay this woman for seeing my child. Two psychologists, a family therapist and other professionals involved in the case have observed the alienation and expressed concern. The result: This therapist has simply gotten more rigidly entrenched in attempting to treat my daughter like she an abused child (there is no evidence of this).
I thought your complaint to be well done.
Did you file with the state board she is governed under?
Yes, I filed under the state board of licensing. I got a letter stating they had assigned an investigator. Then another, eight months later, stating they had dropped the investigation. No reason given.
Can you ask for a reason why the complaint was dropped? I keep hearing the same thing from different target parents regarding complaints that are filed, that they are not taken seriously and end up being dropped or dismissed.
I agree with Dr. Childress that this is like the civil rights campaign. Each state is different and I believe that in many it is possible to file a class action suit against the state board of licensing. The first step it to build a registry of parent’s who have filed well documented complaints and had them blown off. Where possible, file class action suits, which will help publicity.
So many target parents run into the same thing when filing a complaint with the licensing boards, their complaints get dismissed. It seems they only care about sex with a client and improper insurance billing. Beyond that it seems it is all fair GAME for the mental health professional. I personally have been sitting on a complaint for months and have deleted and started over several times because I want it to be taken seriously. I want the bad behavior and lack of professional competence by the mental health professional to be addressed properly not just brushed off as the rantings of a disgruntled angry parent.
I have incurred a lot of harm personally throughout this I so understand what you say when you say that the child has killed the child and that the child has killed the parent. It is that painful and keeps you in a state of constant recovery. Mourning and grief cannot be truly completed because that child that is dead is not (thank God) and yet they are and it is our hope that keeps us unable to mourn or grieve in order to move forward, which for most of us would mean abandoning the child. Getting blown off by a licensing board and having your complaint dismissed against an incompetent and often times unethical mental health professional who brought additional harm to your family, adds quite a bit to the weight of the pain that target parents carry with them every day.
You have done so much, I know I am grateful for your work because your words bring a bit of peace to my heart.
Incompetent mental health is not our ally, neither are the boards that allow it. Bringing accountability to mental health is not going to be accomplished if our complaints go unheeded by the boards. So next I guess (as if you havent done enough) how do we correct this in our state boards?
You are correct. It is a system that allows profound incompetence. The first step is to stand up and begin demanding professional competence. What did the civil rights movement do about racial discrimination during the 50s and 60s. Sit at the “whites only” lunch counters. Sit at the front of the bus. To change injustice we must demand justice.
Did these initial protests change racism? No. Not right away. But standing up, again, and again, and again. Each time calling attention to the injustice. Each time saying, “No. What is happening is not right.” This is the battle for change we must engage, each and every time.
Again, our goal is not to punish the incompetent mental health professional, our goal is to change what the mental health professional does. If they know that NOT assessing for the pathology will result in a licensing board complaint – supported by Dr. Childress and the diagnostic work described in Foundations – then each and every time the mental health professional will have to risk that the licensing board will not investigate… again. The mental health professional needs to rely on the professional irresponsibility of the licensing board 100% of the time. We just need one investigation to hurt the mental health professional.
Our goal is to provoke a “risk management” response from all mental health professionals of simply assessing for the pathology, using the Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting that’s up on my website. If the mental health professional is willing to risk a licensing board complaint over and over again, their choice. We need to ensure that they risk that over and over again. Each and every time.
This too, is where the APA initiative is important. If the APA recognizes the pathology by altering their position statement and convening a high-level conference of experts in attachment theory, personality disorder pathology, trauma, and family systems therapy to study parental alienation and produce a white paper regarding the pathology, then this will provide leadership to licensing boards nationwide.
We will not stop. We will not relent. Like waves crashing on the shore, we are stronger than the rocks that stand against us. In one voice we are powerless. In a thousand voices we have reclaimed our power. In 10,000 voices we become an unstoppable voice for change. Too many targeted parents have been lulled into slumber by the powerlessness and isolation imposed on them by the pathology. They must break free of their accepting the psychological abuse and trauma of parental alienation that is being imposed on them. They must reclaim their voice – and their power.
Did sitting at the “whites only” lunch counter in Greensboro change racial discrimination in the South. No. And Yes. Professional incompetence is not allowed under Standards 9.01a and 2.01a of the Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct of the American Psychological Association. This is a fact. We must begin to hold mental health professionals accountable. I cannot change how the licensing board handles professional incompetence. If they turn a blind eye, so be it. But we will not stop. We will not relent. Professional incompetence is in violation of Standards 9.01a and 2.01a of the ethics code of the APA and this is a fact, whether the licensing board wishes to acknowledge it or not.
And each and every time, we will place the incompetent mental health professional at risk – over and over again – until they start being professional competent.
Craig Childress, Psy.D.
Clinical Psychologist, PSY 18857
I just found the Citizens Commission on Human Rights a watch dog organization. They can help with board complaints.
That’s a Scientology organization…
Dr. Childress stated on April 27:
“Now is the time for all targeted parents, your family and friends, to write to the APA . . . Leadership within the community of targeted parents has the appropriate contact information for the APA . . .
Write to the APA . . . 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.’”
I looked for information today about which person or groups at the APA should be written to by us, contact info, or even just the fact that we need to write them about this, at the websites of the National Association of Targeted Parents, Howie Denison (Central Ohio Parental Alienation), the petition update page at change.org, and others, but found nothing. It would be better for this information to be posted prominently somewhere because few of us are going to reinvent the wheel and do a research project to track down these answers.
Let’s jump on this while we have a rare chance to actually do something about it.