Dorcy Pruter & the High Road Protocol

The narcissistic Dark Triad personality is an empirically validated constellation of personality traits involving:

  1. Narcissism
  2. Psychopathic personality traits
  3. Machiavellian manipulativeness

Psychopathic narcissistic manipulation.  Cold, unfeeling, uncaring – manipulative cruel and deceitful.

At the clinical level of this pathology, this particular personality constellation is extremely dangerous because it is extremely vengeful

And it lies.  It manipulatively weaves a veil of lies to conceal its malevolence as it enlists and exploits naïve allies into colluding with the pathology.

The psychopathy presents as superficially charming and engaging.  The Dark Triad personalty uses its superficial charm and its wholesale distortions to truth to manipulate other people into becoming allies who it then exploits to achieve its desired ends.  Psychopathic.  Narcissistic.  Manipulative.  The Dark Triad.

That’s the nature of the pathology.

  • Empirical research has demonstrated that this constellation of personality characteristics is associated with the capacity for human cruelty (Jonason & Krause, 2013; Wai & Tiliopoulos, 2012).
  • Empirical research has demonstrated that this constellation of personality characteristics is associated with vengefulness (Giammarco & Vernon, 2014; Rasmussen & Boon, 2014).
  • Empirical research has demonstrated that this constellation of personality characteristics is associated with lying, with fabrication, and with manipulative deceit for self-serving motivations (Jonason, Lyons, Baughman, & Vernon, 2014; Baughman, Jonason, Lyons, & Vernon, 2014)
  • Empirical research has even associated the core of this constellation of personality characteristics with the definition of “evil” (Book, Visser, & Volk, 2015)

In their article, Unpacking ‘‘evil’’: Claiming the core of the Dark Triad, Angela Book and her colleagues identify the core of the Dark Triad personality as representing the core of evil:

“Researchers have proposed various models to account for the common core of these antisocial personalities [of the Dark Triad] – a core that might well be considered the psychological equivalent of the core of “evil.” (Book, Visser, & Volk, p. 29)

“Our two studies represent the first empirical comparison of all the major theories explaining the core of the Dark Triad, a cluster of traits that fits the English definition of evil.” (Book, Visser, & Volk, p. 35)

This pathology is extremely malevolent and extremely dangerous.

And that’s why Dorcy Pruter’s courage is so remarkable.  Dorcy has the courage – the courage – to walk straight up to this dark and malevolent pathology, stare evil directly in the eye, and say, “Give me back the child.”

I am in awe of her courage.

Dorcy Pruter is placing herself at personal risk in order to protect your children.  Dorcy is directly challenging the vengeful malevolence of this dark pathology in order to rescue your children from the evil and malignant grasp of the narcissistic Dark Triad parent.  She is remarkable.

And for her courage in facing this malevolent pathology to recover your loving children for you, for her courage in fighting to rescue your children from the vicious and dark psychopathic and narcissistic pathology of the allied parent, she is now being slandered and viciously attacked in an effort by the narcissistic Dark Triad pathology to destroy her personally and professionally, and destroy her ability to rescue your children.

The High Road Protocol

I am a licensed clinical psychologist.  I have personally reviewed the High Road protocol.  I have had extensive professional-level discussions with Dorcy Puter.  I consider her to be a professional colleague and a well qualified expert in the resolution of this form of pathology.  All of the accusations made against her and the High Road protocol are false.

They are lies and malicious slander born in the manipulative and malevolent psychopathy of the narcissistic Dark Triad pathology that seeks to remain hidden by attacking with lies, distortions, and fabrications those who seek to protect and rescue the child from the psychological control of the manipulative psychopathy of the Dark Triad parent.  The malicious attacks against Dorcy and the High Road protocol are a symptom of the pathology.

The power of this particular pathogen – the narcissistic and psychopathic power to manipulate and exploit –  comes from remaining concealed.  From its hidden place of concealment the narcissistic Dark Triad personality weaves its lies, falsely accusing others of alleged “abuse” – falsely accusing the normal-range targeted parent of being an “abusive” parent – falsely accusing the High Road workshop of being “abusive” – falsely accusing those who seek to protect the child from the manipulative narcissistic pathology of the Dark Triad parent of somehow “forcing” the child to have a loving relationship with a normal-range and lovingly affectionate parent.  Lies, falsehood, distortions, deceit; all designed to manipulate from its place of concealment those who are naïve and unknowledgeable into becoming allies of the pathology – the narcissistic, psychopathic, manipulative pathology of the Dark Triad personality.

The manipulation of the narcissistic Dark Triad parent falsely accuses the normal-range parent of “abuse,” and immediately the normal-range parent is placed on the defensive.  That’s the manipulative intent of the allegation, to immediately place the other person on the defensive.  The allegation is a SYMPTOM of the manipulative pathology of the Dark Triad personality.

By placing the other person on the defensive, the narcissistic Dark Triad pathology distracts away from a focus on its pathology by alleging that it is the other person who is pathological, that it is the other person who is “abusive.”

The narcissistic Dark Triad pathology seeks to manipulate and exploit the “child protection response” that the allegation of “abuse” immediately provokes in others.  The focus of attention immediately becomes whether the other person is “abusive” – the other person is (manipulatively) placed on the defensive and the “child protection response” of others is exploited by the narcissistic Dark Triad pathology to enlist them as allies in enacting the pathology.  The allegation is a SYMPTOM of the manipulative exploitation of the narcissistic Dark Triad pathology.

When this manipulative exploitation of others is directed against the normal-range and loving targeted parent, the “child protection” response of others prevents the child from being with the normal-range parent while an “investigation” is conducted.  The narcissistic pathology of the Dark Triad parent has successfully manipulated and exploited the system though lies and deception into giving the child solely to the Dark Triad parent.

Empirical research has demonstrated that the Dark Triad constellation of personality characteristics is associated with lying, fabrication, and manipulative deceit for self-serving motivations (Jonason, Lyons, Baughman, & Vernon, 2014; Baughman, Jonason, Lyons, & Vernon, 2014)

When the investigation is finally completed and the allegations are determined to be “unfounded,” the damage is already done.  The narcissistic Dark Triad parent has had months of sole-possession of the child during which to work the parent’s manipulation, and to clearly demonstrate to the child the power of the Dark Triad parent. 

The Dark Triad parent has the power to nullify Court orders for shared custody and visitation.  The Dark Triad parent has the power to take the child away from the other parent… and the child is powerless to escape.  The narcissistic Dark Triad parent has also clearly and definitively shown the child that the other parent is powerless to protect the child.

Power – control – and domination; the hallmarks of domestic violence.  This is a form of unrecognized and undiagnosed domestic violence involving the psychological intimidation, manipulation, and control of the child.

The child is alone in coping with the narcissistic Dark Triad pathology of the parent.  In the child’s psychological isolation, the narcissistic Dark Triad parent psychologically forces the child to surrender to the dark and manipulative psychological control of the Dark Triad parent, or else the child will face this parent’s vengeful emotional and psychological retaliation.

Manipulation through lies and false allegations are a SYMPTOM of the Dark Triad personality pathology.

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

The false allegation being leveled against Dorcy Pruter that the High Road protocol is somehow “abusive” toward the child represents a SYMPTOM of the Dark Triad pathology at work. 

The false allegation that Dorcy Pruter is not an eminently qualified expert in resolving the influence of this form of Dark Triad pathology on the child’s attachment system represents a SYMPTOM of the Dark Triad pathology at work.

The Truth

The Basis of My Professional Opinion: I am a licensed clinical psychologist with an expertise in child and family therapy, diagnosis and psychopathology, and child development.  I have personally reviewed the High Road protocol and I have had extensive professional-level discussions with Dorcy Pruter.  

My Conclusions Regarding Ms. Pruter’s Professional Expertise:  I consider Dorcy Pruter to be a professional colleague of the highest caliber and an expert in resolving the effects of attachment-based “parental alienation” (i.e., the psychological manipulation and control of the child by a Dark Triad narcissistic parent) on the child’s attachment bonding motivations toward a normal-range and affectionally available parent (i.e., the targeted parent).

My Conclusions Regarding the High Road Protocol: Any allegation that the High Road protocol is coercive is false.  Any allegation that the High Road protocol is “abusive” is false.  Any allegation that the High Road protocol is in any way problematic for the child is false.

False allegations represent a symptom of the Dark Triad pathology that are designed to manipulate and exploit others (Jonason, Lyons, Baughman, & Vernon, 2014; Baughman, Jonason, Lyons, & Vernon, 2014), and represent a professional occupational hazard of working with this severe form of highly malignant and dangerous psychopathology.

As a clinical psychologist, I have described the content of the High Road protocol in an Appendix to my book, Single Case ABAB Assessment and Remedy, and have posted this Appendix to my website for both public and professional review and scrutiny:

Analysis of the High Road Protocol

This description of the High Road protocol is designed to provide an appropriate explanation of the protocol’s nature and its effectiveness while at the same time protecting Ms. Pruter’s intellectual property rights regarding the exact structure of the protocol.  Respect for Ms. Pruter’s intellectual property rights regarding the exact nature of the protocol is warranted and necessary in order to maintain the fidelity of the intervention.

Professional Presentation:  Ms. Pruter and I have submitted proposals to the APA and AFCC for professional conference presentations at which Ms. Pruter will present and describe the structure of the High Road protocol to a professional audience.  A professional conference presentation to the APA or AFCC is the appropriate professional venue for a more complete discussion of the protocol’s structure and effectiveness.

My Introduction to the High Road Protocol

I first met Dorcy several years ago during a period when I was working on a model for “reunification therapy” to address the form of family pathology I describe in Foundations (i.e., the trans-generational transmission of attachment trauma from the childhood of the allied narcissistic/(borderline) parent to the current family relationships, mediated by the personality pathology of the allied narcissistic/(borderline) parent which is itself a product of the childhood attachment trauma of this parent).  Our professional-level conversation that day lasted about six hours as we extensively discussed and exchanged ideas regarding the nature of this form of pathology and its resolution.  About three hours into this professional-level discussion, Dorcy showed me the High Road protocol. I immediately recognized how this structured psychoeducational workshop achieves its success in restoring the normal-range functioning of the child’s attachment system. 

It is unlike how psychotherapy achieves change.  The High Road protocol is a catalytic intervention, in which the child is led through a series of structured activities that have the catalytic effect of restoring the normal-range functioning of the child’s attachment system. 

There is no blaming of either parent for family problems, and there is no effort to resolve prior family conflict.  That’s not how the intervention works.  It is a solution-focused catalytic intervention.

A direct result of my professional review of the High Road protocol is that I discontinued my work on developing a model for “reunification therapy.”  There was no longer a need for “reunification therapy” since the High Road protocol could gently and effectively restore the normal-range functioning of the child’s attachment system within a matter of days.  It is really quite an elegant intervention.  I’m impressed.  And it’s unlike anything we do in psychotherapy.

By way of disclosure, I have no financial interest in the High Road protocol nor do I have any association with the Conscious Co-Parenting Institute of Dorcy Pruter.  In fact, it would likely have been in my personal financial and professional interest to continue my work in developing a model for “reunification therapy.”  However, after reviewing the High Road protocol I believe it would be professionally unethical to conduct “reunification therapy” that would require months of extended therapy involving parent-child conflict when an alternative intervention model exists that can gently and effectively restore the normal-range functioning of the child’s attachment system within a matter of days.

Let me be entirely clear on this…

I have personally reviewed the High Road protocol as a professional clinical psychologist.  Based on this professional review of the protocol, I believe it would be unethical professional practice NOT to use the High Road protocol as the first-line intervention to restore the normal-range functioning of the child’s attachment system (which has been distorted by the psychological manipulation and control of the child by a narcissistic Dark Triad parent).

What Dorcy Does

Dorcy is not a mental health professional.  Dorcy does not diagnose.  When a mental health professional makes a diagnosis of pathogenic parenting, Dorcy will work with the mental health professional.  Dorcy will conduct the four- to five-day High Road workshop – a structured psycho-educational intervention of watching videos of family stories, much like one would see on Saturday morning television, integrated with a series of structured communication and problem-solving activities.  Once the normal-range functioning of the child’s attachment system is recovered through this structured series of family activities, Dorcy turns over the follow-up recovery stabilization care to the mental health professional.

That’s what Dorcy does.  She conducts a four- to five-day structured psycho-educational workshop that gently and effectively restores the normal-range functioning of the child’s attachment system through a series of catalytic interventions of watching videos and participating in structured family problem-solving communication exercises. 

Restoring the normal-range functioning of the child’s attachment bond to a loving and affectionally available parent is a good thing.  It is healthy for the child.

The parent-child bond that has been reestablished after having been distorted by the highly manipulative and psychologically controlling parenting practices of the formerly allied Dark Triad narcissistic parent requires a period of recovery stabilization before the pathogenic parenting of the narcissistic Dark Triad parent is reintroduced.  This “recovery stabilization therapy” is conducted by a mental health professional.

A premature reintroduction of the pathogenic parenting of the narcissistic Dark Triad parent will result in the child’s relapse into pathology.  A period of protective separation of the child from the manipulative and psychologically controlling pathogenic parenting of the narcissistic Dark Triad parent is needed in order to provide follow-up therapy the opportunity to stabilize the recovery of the normal-range functioning of the child’s attachment system.

Pathogenic parenting that is creating significant psychopathology in the child is not a child custody issue; it is a child protection issue.

The period of the child’s protective separation from the pathogenic parenting of the narcissistic Dark Triad parent requires a Court order from a judge.  Dorcy Pruter is not a judge.  Dorcy does not order protective separations of the child from the pathogenic parenting of the narcissistic Dark Triad parent.

If a judge, after hearing the evidence in the case, reaches a conclusion that the child’s relationship with the targeted-rejected parent would benefit from the restoration of the child’s normal-range attachment-bonding motivations toward this parent (which were distorted by the pathogenic parenting of a narcissistic Dark Triad parent), then the judge can order a protective separation of the child from the pathogenic parenting of the allied parent, and the judge can order the implementation of the High Road protocol to gently and effectively restore the normal-range functioning of the child’s attachment system within a matter of days.

The judge orders a protective separation; not Dorcy. 

When a judge orders a protective separation and the High Road workshop, Dorcy will conduct the workshop in accord with the Court order, and she will restore the normal-range functioning of the child’s attachment system. That’s what Dorcy does.

Once she has restored the normal-range functioning of the child’s attachment system, then Dorcy will turn over follow-up recovery stabilization therapy to a licensed mental health professional.  If there is a premature breach in the protective separation that allows the child to be prematurely re-exposed to the pathogenic parenting of the narcissistic Dark Triad parent, then the child symptoms will relapse.

It is my professional recommendation, after professionally reviewing the content and structure of the High Road protocol, that the High Road protocol should be Court ordered in every case in which the Court seeks to restore the normal-range functioning of the child’s attachment system when, in the Court’s determination (and in appropriate consultation with diagnostic information provided by mental health professionals) the child’s relationship with the targeted parent was damaged by the pathogenic parenting of a narcissistic Dark Triad parent. 

It is my professional recommendation, after professionally reviewing the content and structure of the High Road protocol, that the High Road protocol of Dorcy Pruter should be the first-line intervention ordered by the Court in cases of attachment-based “parental alienation” (as described in Foundations):

i.e., the trans-generational transmission of attachment trauma from the childhood of the allied narcissistic/(borderline) parent (the Dark Triad/Vulnerable Dark Triad parent) to the current family relationships, mediated by the personality pathology of the parent which is itself a product of the parent’s childhood attachment trauma (i.e., a disorganized attachment).

Slander and Lies Are a Symptom

The Dark Triad narcissistic personality lies, distorts, and makes false allegations as a manipulative tactic to place the other person on the defensive and thereby take pressure off of having its manipulative control of the child exposed from its concealment.  It does this with the targeted parent, and it does this with anyone who seeks to protect the child and expose the pathogenic parenting of the narcissistic Dark Triad parent.

The unfounded, distorted, and malicious attacks on Dorcy Pruter and the High Road protocol are a SYMPTOM of the narcissistic Dark Triad pathology, just like the false, distorted, and malicious attacks on the normal-range and affectionally available targeted parent are a SYMPTOM of the narcissistic Dark Triad pathology. 

The Dark Triad pathology seeks to maintain its concealment so that it can manipulate and exploit naïve and unknowledgeable mental health and legal professionals into becoming allies of the pathology.  Once the manipulative deceit and distortions of the narcissistic Dark Triad personality are exposed, and once they are recognized for what they are, a symptom of pathology, then the pathology will lose its power. 

But until the distorted and false attacks are recognized as a manipulative symptom of the narcissistic Dark Triad pathology, naïve mental health and legal professionals will continue to be exploited by the narcissistic Dark Triad pathology of the pathogenic parent, and they will continue to collude with the pathology and with the psychological abuse of the child.

Dr. Jean Mercer

Dr. Jean Mercer’s false innuendos and allegations directed toward Dorcy Pruter are a SYMPTOM of the narcissistic Dark Triad pathology that we are diagnosing and attempting to resolve.  In making these false and distorted innuendos and allegations, Dr. Mercer becomes an ally of the manipulative distortions and lies inherent to the pathology of the narcissistic Dark Triad personality.

It is incumbent upon mental health professionals to be knowledgeable about the pathology they are addressing.  Dr. Mercer does not appear to possess an adequate professional knowledge of the narcissistic Dark Triad (and borderline Vulnerable Dark Triad) personality pathology needed to render professionally responsible statements.  Dr. Mercer’s innuendos and allegations appear professionally ill-informed and evidence a deeply concerning irresponsible and reckless disregard for the impact of her statements in impugning the professional reputation of Ms. Pruter.

Dr. Mercer’s statements are a symptom of the pathology.

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


References for the Dark Triad Personality:

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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