A recent comment to my Facebook page by a parent asked what needs to be done to “keep things moving.” I thought my response might be more broadly of interest, so I am turning my response into a full post on my Facebook and blog pages.
We need to have all mental health professionals assess for the three symptom features listed in the Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting.
All three of these symptom features are standard forms of symptom pathology (attachment pathology, personality disorder traits, encapsulated persecutory delusion), so there is absolutely zero reason for any mental health professional to refuse to even assess for these symptom features.
I recently met jointly with two activist attorneys here in the Southern California area regarding how to begin creating the solution within the legal system. They both completely understand the strategy.
We need to get a proper assessment using the Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting, and since all three of these symptoms are standard and established psychological constructs and principles, there is absolutely zero reason that a court-involved mental health professional should refuse to assess for these symptoms.
The mental health professional doesn’t even need to agree with AB-PA (although I don’t see any reason for them not to agree), they still have no reason whatsoever for refusing to even assess for these three standard and established symptoms.
So the attorneys will be developing this request into Court orders for assessment. They will also be trying to obtain Court orders for a treatment-focused assessment.
That is step 1, we need to get ALL mental health professionals to assess for the three symptom indicators on the Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting (attachment pathology, personality disorder symptoms, and an encapsulated persecutory delusion). Even if the mental health professional doesn’t find these symptoms, at least it is documented and the targeted parent can enter a dialogue about what factors in the symptom display of the child are missing.
Remember, I’m willing to provide a professional-to-professional consultation with any mental health professional – (my consultation has to be with the mental health professional, not with the targeted parent). All the mental health professional needs to do to request a professional-to-professional consultation with me is send me an email with the heading Professional Consultation.
I even have a 50-page booklet, Professional Consultation, that can be given to the mental health professional
Remember, always be kind. Don’t allow yourself to feed the false narrative of you being “angry and controlling.” Be kind. Be relentless, but be kind. Always be kind.
We also would like all mental health professionals to document their assessment of the parenting practices of the targeted parent using the Parenting Practices Rating Scale. We can’t compel this, but we really want to encourage the documentation of the mental health professional’s assessment of the parenting of the targeted parent.
Too often the targeted parent is critiqued for parenting that is supposedly “contributing” to the child’s angry-hostile rejection. We want this clearly documented – documented; a key construct in the solution. This will allow targeted parents to understand specifically what aspects of their parenting are the focus of treatment and need to change (in the mental health professional’s opinion) in order to see changes in the child’s behavior. This becomes integral into an evidence-based approach to treatment.
Treatment plans and documentation, that’s what we want.
2) Documenting the Parent-Child Relationship
This is not integral for the change, but I recommend this step.
Targeted parents should begin documenting their child’s behavior when the child is in their care using the Parent-Child Relationship Rating Scale (note that there is also an “Excessive Texting” version of this rating scale).
Again, this is about evidence-based decision making. These completed parent rating scales can be provided to mental health professions as documentation of the parent-child relationship issues from the parent’s perspective. These ratings can also be incorporated into parent-child therapy as a discussion aid in therapy by seeking to understand the ratings of the parent and reach consensus among the parent, child, and therapist relative to the child’s behavior and the treatment goals.
Documentation of symptoms. Evidence-based decision making. Clear treatment plans. This is what we’re trying to achieve.
3) The American Psychological Association
We need to continue to advocate with the APA to change their position Statement on Parental Alienation Syndrome to recognize and incorporate the existence of a second model of the pathology – AB-PA – that is based entirely within standard and established constructs and principles of professional psychology.
Notice how the Statement of the APA has been co-opted by the domestic violence protection advocates. An official Statement about “parental alienation” should be about the pathology in your family, the Statement should belong to you. It’s time we take back the focus of the discussion, it’s about “parental alienation.”
We would like the APA to convene a high-level conference of experts in attachment theory, personality pathology, family systems therapy, and childhood trauma to consider the issues surrounding high-conflict divorce and attachment-related pathology, leading to a white paper on the issue.
We are also seeking two things from the change in the APA Position Statement:
1.) Acknowledgement of the Pathology – a formal recognition that the pathology exists, using whatever label-name for the pathology they like – attachment trauma pathology surrounding divorce; a cross-generational coalition; “parental alienation” – whatever they want to call it – just acknowledge that it exists
2.) Special Population Status – a designation of the children and families evidencing attachment-related pathology surrounding divorce as representing a “special population” requiring specialized professional knowledge and expertise to competently assess, diagnose, and treat.
From my understanding, the APA is in the process of forming a working group on the issue of… something – I don’t have information on the actual topic area for this working group. But there appears to be some movement on this. The APA needs to hear from you.
I’d recommend a brief one to two-page letter to the APA. Letters are stronger than emails. If you send an email, be very brief in the email section and direct the reader to the attached one to two-page letter. In your letter, be brief and concise in describing your loss and your heartbreak, and describe the lack of response from professional psychology. The details of the case are less important than the tragedy of your heart.
Psychologists respond to pain and suffering. We want to end pain and suffering. That’s why we chose to become psychologists. Show the APA your pain and suffering, and ask for their help in restoring your beautiful and loving authentic children to you.
Don’t use the construct of Gardnerian PAS. The APA does NOT like the Gardnerian construct of a “new form of pathology.” Use constructs like the narcissistic and borderline personality pathology of the ex-spouse, triangulation of the child into the spousal conflict by the ex-spouse, and the cross-generational coalition of the child with your ex-spouse.
You can also reference the work of Brian Barber on psychological control – his book was published by the APA.
Barber, B. K. (Ed.) (2002). Intrusive parenting: How psychological control affects children and adolescents. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
From Chapter 2 of Barber’s Book: “Psychological control refers to parental behaviors that are intrusive and manipulative of children’s thoughts, feelings, and attachment to parents. These behaviors appear to be associated with disturbances in the psychoemotional boundaries between the child and parent, and hence with the development of an independent sense of self and identity.” (Barber & Harmon, 2002, p. 15)
From Chapter 3 of Barber’s Book “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)
You can even reference the Dark Triad personality:
You can note the research linking the Dark Triad personality to high-conflict communication, revenge-seeking against intimate partners, lies and deception, and the absence of empathy.
4) Updating Child Abuse Reporting Laws
An accurate diagnosis of the pathology of AB-PA leads directly to a DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed.
With regard to amending child abuse reporting laws, we want to add a piece in child abuse reporting laws that specifically states that a DSM-5 diagnosis of child psychological abuse made by a mental health professional is reportable under mandated reporting laws.
This makes the professional responsibility of the mental health professional explicit: assess for psychological child abuse (pathogenic parenting) and if it is present, file a child abuse report.
These are the four areas I would urge for “moving things forward.”
In April, Dorcy Pruter and I will be presenting at a Symposium in Texas.
In June, Dorcy Pruter and I will be presenting at the annual convention of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC), the major legal-psychological professional organization.
Just the other week, I was slated to provide expert testimony in a case. The involved mental health professional contacted me at the request of the attorney for a professional-to-professional consultation on assessment. I sent the mental health professional an email describing a treatment-focused assessment protocol:
Following the professional-to-professional consultation email, the attorney contacted me and said my expert testimony was no longer needed because the involved mental health professional had conducted the assessment and made an accurate diagnosis of the pathology. That’s exactly how it should work.
The involved mental health professional sent me a brief follow-up email in which he said:
“Thank you Thank you, The information is very helpful.”
We are making progress. We are moving forward. We will not stop until all of your authentic and loving children are back in your arms.
I urge targeted parents to come together into a single voice for change. You are all in this together. We cannot solve this pathology in any one case, in your individual family, until we solve it for all children and all families. You are all in this together.
In one voice you are powerless. In 100 you have reclaimed your voice. In 1000 you have reclaimed your power. In 10,000 you become an unstoppable force for change. Join us. Join together.
Craig Childress, Psy.D.
Clinical Psychologist, PSY 18857