Really, Dr. Mercer? Really?

Holy cow, Jean Mercer is still at it.  In her most recent post on her “ChildMyths” blog (you know, I’m beginning to think her blog title is self-referential), she takes on Dorcy Pruter because Dorcy is not a psychotherapist.

Are “Coaches” the Same as Psychologists or Psychotherapists

She concludes by somehow trying to use my testimony in support of Dorcy Pruter to imply some sort of questionable ethical malfeasance by Ms. Pruter:

“Craig Childress’ statement that a coach does not have to conform to ethical guidelines tells us much about the possible outcomes of choosing a coach over a licensed mental health professional.”

So let me be abundantly clear on this:

I consider Dorcy Pruter to be a professional colleague of the highest caliber.  I consider Ms. Pruter’s ethical standards to be exceptional.  Ms. Pruter and the High Road protocol have my 100% complete and unqualified endorsement.  I have personally reviewed the High Road protocol and I understand exactly how it achieves its record of 100% success in gently and effectively restoring the child’s normal-range attachment bonding motivations toward the normal-range and affectionally available parent.  And I AM held to the ethical standards of the APA.

Clear enough?

Oh, by the way, Dr. Mercer… Dorcy doesn’t have to conform to the ethical standards of architects either (American Institute of Architects), or dentists for that matter (American Dental Association).

Outside of my testimony in support of Dorcy Pruter, the only time I have ever discussed the issue of Untitled 3coaching is in the Proposed Treatment Team essay up on my website, in which I propose a model of treatment that incorporates a coach-consultant acting as the organizing interface between the parent and a comprehensive treatment team of legal and mental health professionals.

Proposed Treatment Team Model

Note that this essay was written two years ago, in 2014.  I’d also like to note in particular a statement I made in this essay:

“The goal of mental health assessment should never be to establish the presence of attachment-based “parental alienation.”  The goal should ALWAYS be the accurate diagnosis of the child’s symptom display. All possible differential diagnoses should be considered and diagnostic determinations should be based on the constellations of clinical evidence.

“In some cases the diagnosis may be an attachment-based model of “parental alienation” involving the induced suppression of the normal-range functioning of the child’s attachment system as a product of distorted parenting practices from a narcissistic/(borderline) parent.  In other cases the diagnosis will be that some other causative agent is responsible for the excessive parent-child conflict within the family.  Mental health assessment should always be balanced and should always evaluate all possible differential diagnoses under consideration.  The assessment and diagnosis should then follow the clinical evidence and be based on the emerging constellations of the clinical evidence. This approach will result in an accurate diagnosis of the child’s needs, on which effective treatment can be delivered to resolve the child’s symptoms and restore the child’s healthy emotional and psychological development.” (Childress, 2014, p. 4)

So with this general framework for clinical assessment and diagnosis in mind, let me address Dr. Mercer’s latest efforts to continue the professional collusion of mental health with the psychological abuse of children.  I will address Dr. Mercer’s unfounded and unprofessional slander of Dorcy Pruter in two blog-post responses:

Part 1:  Jean, you need to answer my questions. 

I have asked you three questions, Dr. Mercer.  If you don’t answer my very simple and very basic questions, then you will have demonstrated that you really don’t have anything relevant to add to the discussion.  

My three very simple questions to you are:

Question 1: Do you agree or disagree that parental psychological control of children exists? (as defined in the scientific research literature I’ve previously cited, e.g., Barber, 2002; Kerig, 2005)

That is a very simple question, Dr. Mercer.  A quick yes or no will suffice.  Do you believe that the psychological control of children exists? (e.g., through manipulative guilt induction, contingent withdrawal of love, things like that).

If you don’t think that parental psychological control exists, I’d be interested in hearing why you don’t accept the findings of over 40 empirically based scientific studies cited by Barber in his book Intrusive Parenting: How Psychological Control Affects Children and Adolescence (published by the American Psychological Association) in Table 1 on pages 29-32.  Forty scientific studies, Dr. Mercer.  Forty. 

But I’ll accept a simple yes or no to my question. 

Question 2: Do you believe narcissistic and borderline pathology exists?  Will you please describe for us the psychological response of a narcissistic or borderline parent to the rejection and abandonment inherent to divorce?

I’ll admit, the answer to this question does take a tiny bit of professional thought in conceptualizing and describing the response of a narcissistic/borderline parent to rejection and abandonment.  But actually, this is pretty simple too.  Basically what I’m asking is that you demonstrate that you know the basics of personality disorder pathology.  What happens to a narcissistic personality in response to rejection; and what happens to a borderline personality in response to abandonment.  Pretty basic clinical psychology stuff.

Question 3: Do you agree or disagree that pathogenic parenting which is creating significant developmental pathology in the child, personality disorder pathology in the child, and delusional-psychiatric pathology in the child in order to meet the emotional and psychological needs of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent represents a DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed?

Again, this isn’t tough, Dr. Mercer.  A simple yes or no is all it requires.

Although again, if you think that a parent who is creating significant developmental pathology, personality pathology, and delusional-psychiatric pathology is not psychologically abusive, then I’d be interested in your reasoning as to why you believe inducing significant psychopathology in the child is acceptable parenting.

In my next post, Part 2, I’ll address Dr. Mercer’s using the credibility of her professional degree to specifically slander Dorcy Pruter (pretty unseemly and unprofessional Dr. Mercer, considering you’ve never reviewed the High Road protocol so you have absolutely no understanding whatsoever for what you’re talking about).  But I don’t want to distract from the basic issue that Dr. Mercer is avoiding my questions.

Question 1: Does parental psychological control of children exist?

Question 2: Please describe the response of the narcissistic and borderline personality to the rejection and abandonment inherent to divorce.

Question 3: Is pathogenic parenting that is creating significant developmental pathology in the child, personality disorder pathology in the child, and delusional-psychiatric pathology in the child in order to meet the emotional and psychological needs of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent psychological child abuse?

Because if you don’t answer my questions, Dr. Mercer, then your blog posts are not designed to engage in a professional illumination of the issues, as you deceptively present them to be, but are instead designed simply to advance a personal agenda through slander and innuendo under the guise of false “professionalism” – an agenda, by the way, that is colluding with the psychological abuse of children by narcissistic and borderline personality parents.

Are you familiar with the construct of projection, Dr. Mercer?  I find it intriguing that “ChildMyths” appears self-referential about the content of your blogs, and you express concern about mental health professionals colluding with child abuse when your own expressed position is to collude with the psychological abuse of children by a narcissistic/borderline parent (a Dark Triad and Vulnerable Dark Triad personality parent).

Projection is defined by the American Psychiatric Association as:

“The individual deals with emotional conflict or internal or external stressors by falsely attributing to another his or her own unacceptable feelings, impulses, or thoughts.” (American Psychiatric Association, 2000, p. 812)

“… falsely attributing to another…”

I’ll address your unprofessional slander of Ms. Pruter in my next post.  But let me preface my next post with one additional question:

Question 4:  Dr. Mercer, have you ever personally reviewed the content of the High Road intervention protocol of Ms. Pruter?

Because if you haven’t – and you haven’t – then I would respectfully submit that you don’t know what you’re talking about. 

Talking about things that you know nothing about is called ignorance.

From Dictionary.com:

       Ignorance:

  1. lacking in knowledge or training
  2. lacking knowledge or information as to a particular subject or fact
  3. uninformed
  4. due to or showing lack of knowledge or training

“Lack of knowledge,” Dr. Mercer, “lacking in knowledge.”

At this point, Dr. Mercer, I’m calling your professional knowledge of the relevant domains of clinical psychopathology into question.  You need to answer my three questions or else you will have demonstrated that you are inappropriately using your professional degree to advance a personal rather than professional agenda that colludes with the psychological abuse of children by narcissistic and borderline personality parents.

I posed my questions to you over a month ago.  I’m waiting…

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


References for Psychological Control:

Barber, B. K. (Ed.) (2002). Intrusive parenting: How psychological control affects children and adolescents. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Barber, B. K., & Harmon, E. L. (2002). Violating the self: Parenting psychological control of children and adolescents. In B. K. Barber (Ed.), Intrusive parenting (pp. 15-52). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Soenens, B., & Vansteenkiste, M. (2010). A theoretical upgrade of the concept of parental psychological control: Proposing new insights on the basis of self-determination theory. Developmental Review, 30, 74–99.

Stone, G., Buehler, C., & Barber, B. K.. (2002) Interparental conflict, parental psychological control, and youth problem behaviors. In B. K. Barber (Ed.), Intrusive parenting: How psychological control affects children and adolescents. Washington, DC.: American Psychological Association.

From Stone, Buehler, and Barber:

“The central elements of psychological control are intrusion into the child’s psychological world and self-definition and parental attempts to manipulate the child’s thoughts and feelings through invoking guilt, shame, and anxiety.  Psychological control is distinguished from behavioral control in that the parent attempts to control, through the use of criticism, dominance, and anxiety or guilt induction, the youth’s thoughts and feelings rather than the youth’s behavior.” (Stone, Buehler, and Barber, 2002, p. 57)

From Soenens and Vansteenkiste:

“Psychological control can be expressed through a variety of parental tactics, including (a) guilt-induction, which refers to the use of guilt inducing strategies to pressure children to comply with a parental request; (b) contingent love or love withdrawal, where parents make their attention, interest, care, and love contingent upon the children’s attainment of parental standards; (c) instilling anxiety, which refers to the induction of anxiety to make children comply with parental requests; and (d) invalidation of the child’s perspective, which pertains to parental constraining of the child’s spontaneous expression of thoughts and feelings.” (Soenens & Vansteenkiste, 2010, p. 75)

From Barber and Harman:

“Numerous elements of the child’s self-in-relation-to-parent have been discussed as being compromised by psychologically controlling behaviors such as…

individuality (Goldin, 1969; Kurdek, et al., 1995; Litovsky & Dusek, 1985; Schaefer, 1965a, 1965b, Steinberg, Lamborn, Dornbusch, & Darling, 1992);

individuation (Barber et al., 1994; Barber & Shagle, 1992; Costanzo & Woody, 1985; Goldin, 1969, Smetana, 1995; Steinberg & Silverberg, 1986; Wakschlag, Chanse-Landsdale & Brooks-Gunn, 1996 1996);

independence (Grotevant & Cooper, 1986; Hein & Lewko, 1994; Steinberg et al., 1994);

degree of psychological distance between parents and children (Barber et all, 1994);

and threatened attachment to parents (Barber, 1996; Becker, 1964)” (Barber & Harmon, 2002, p. 25; emphasis added).

From Kerig in the Journal of Emotional Abuse:

“Rather than telling the child directly what to do or think, as does the behaviorally controlling parent, the psychologically controlling parent uses indirect hints and responds with guilt induction or withdrawal of love if the child refuses to comply.  In short, an intrusive parent strives to manipulate the child’s thoughts and feelings in such a way that the child’s psyche will conform to the parent’s wishes.” (Kerig, 2005, p. 12)

References for the Dark Triad Personality:

Paulhus, D. L., & Williams, K. M. (2002). The dark triad of personality: Narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. Journal of Research in Personality, 36, 556–563.

Miller, J.D., Dir, A., Gentile, B., Wilson, L., Pryor, L.R., and Campbell, W.K. (2010). Searching for a Vulnerable Dark Triad: Comparing Factor 2 psychopathy, vulnerable narcissism, and borderline personality disorder. Journal of Personality, 78, 1529-1564.

Research has linked the Dark Triad personality constellation with the absence of empathy:

Jonason, P. K. and Krause, L. (2013). The emotional deficits associated with the Dark Triad traits: Cognitive empathy, affective empathy, and alexithymia. Personality and Individual Differences, 55, 532–537

Wai, M. and Tiliopoulos, N. (2012). The affective and cognitive empathic nature of the dark triad of personality. Personality and Individual Differences, 52, 794–799

To vengefulness in romantic relationships:

Giammarco, E.A. and Vernon, P.A. (2014). Vengeance and the Dark Triad: The role of empathy and perspective taking in trait forgivingness. Personality and Individual Differences, 67, 23–29

Rasmussen, K.R. and Boon, S.D. (2014). Romantic revenge and the Dark Triad: A model of impellance and inhibition. Personality and Individual Differences, 56, 51–56 

To lying, manipulative fabrication, and deception:

Jonason, P.K., Lyons, M. Baughman, H.M., and Vernon, P.A. (2014). What a tangled web we weave: The Dark Triad traits and deception. Personality and Individual Differences, 70, 117–119

Baughman, H.M., Jonason, P.K., Lyons, M., and Vernon, P.A. (2014). Liar liar pants on fire: Cheater strategies linked to the Dark Triad. Personality and Individual Differences, 71, 35–38

To attachment-related pathology:

Jonason, P.K., Lyons, M., and Bethell, E. (2014). The making of Darth Vader: Parent–child care and the Dark Triad. Personality and Individual Differences, 67, 30–34

To high-conflict patterns of communication:

Horan, S.M., Guinn, T.D., and Banghart, S. (2015). Understanding relationships among the Dark Triad personality profile and romantic partners’ conflict communication. Communication Quarterly, 63, 156-170.

And to the core of evil:

Book, A., Visser, B.A., and Volk, A.A. (2015). Unpacking ‘‘evil’’: Claiming the core of the Dark Triad. Personality and Individual Differences. 73 (2015) 29–38.

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