Dorcy and I have a disagreement.
She cares so much about each kid and each family, that she struggles mightily trying to solve the problem of “parental alienation” for each individual kid she encounters, all in the face of a massively broken mental health system and rampant professional incompetence. What I suspect is so frustrating for her is that she has the solution right in hand, she just needs to be given the opportunity to enact the solution. Poof. All solved.
(On June 1, 2017 in Boston, at the AFCC Convention, we will explain exactly how the High Road protocol accomplishes this. Workshop 29; 3:30 -5:00.)
Me, on the other hand, I’m struggling directly with changing the overwhelming extent of profound professional ignorance and incompetence in mental health. Whew. Big system. Little me.
As an old-school clinical psychologist who values knowledge and believes professionals should know what they’re doing, I am deeply appalled by the extent and degree of wholesale and rampant professional ignorance and incompetence surrounding the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of this attachment-related family pathology.
Seriously, it is positively medieval. “Bring me the leeches, we need to bleed the child.”
And there is absolutely no excuse for such profound and rampant professional ignorance and incompetence. This is not some “new form of pathology.” It’s all standard and established stuff. It’s just that the vast majority of mental health professionals involved with this type of attachment-related pathology surrounding divorce are simply ignorant and incompetent. No excuses. They’re just stupid and incompetent (if you don’t like me calling you stupid… don’t be stupid – children’s lives are on the line).
We essentially have hair stylists doing open heart surgery. Guess what? All the patients are dying.
It is viscerally painful to me when I’m a consultant on a case to read the reports of the therapists and child custody evaluators because of the profound degree of ignorance and incompetence evidenced in these reports. Oh my God. It is absolutely appalling.
APA, you’ve got to do something. It’s really bad. The level of ignorance and incompetence is profound. Mental health professionals are assessing and treating families with absolutely no apparent understanding of family systems constructs. They’re just making up their case conceptualizations and treatments out of whole cloth – no grounding in any established principles or constructs of professional psychology. They’re just making stuff up and winging it.
Seriously, APA. The degree of professional incompetence out here with this form of attachment-related pathology is bad, bad, bad.
In my earlier career, I worked on a clinical research project with Keith Nuechterlien, Ph.D. at UCLA, one of the top-notch research investigators in schizophrenia. Later, I worked on a clinical intervention project with Jim Swanson, Ph.D. at UCI on identifying ADHD in preschool-age children. Jim Swanson is one of the top-level research investigators in ADHD.
I’ve worked at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles and then at Children’s Hospital of Orange County, two top-level institutions.
Later, when I was the Clinical Director for a children’s assessment and treatment center that was established within the auspices of California State University, San Bernardino’s Institute of Child Development and Family Relations, we based all of our clinical diagnosis and therapy in the latest scientific evidence on assessment and treatment of childhood disorders. We incorporated a collaborative effort of Cal State’s psychology department, Loma Linda University’s occupational therapy program, and the University of Redlands’ speech and language program. State of the art integrated assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of early childhood trauma in the foster care system.
My professional experience has always been around top-level professionals. I had no idea the extent and degree of professional ignorance and incompetence there is out here.
These mental health people are missing huge-huge indicators of family pathology, and they have no idea what they’re doing in terms of treatment. It is astounding – it is appalling.
These mental health people are treating an attachment-related pathology – the child’s rejection of a parent – and they have no knowledge whatsoever about how the attachment system functions. Zero. Nothing. Yet they’re treating an attachment-related pathology. Stop it. If you don’t know what you’re doing you’re going to hurt somebody. Too late.
If you have no idea what cancer is, you shouldn’t be assessing and treating cancer, because you’ll keep misdiagnosing it as diabetes. You’ll prescribe insulin for the supposed diabetes, and the patient will die from cancer.
Over and over again.
Look, mental health professionals, either:
A.) Learn what you’re doing;
B.) Go away.
C.) Completely destroying the lives of children and families;
Is NOT an option.
If you are assessing or treating a family – LEARN ABOUT FAMILY SYSTEMS – Minuchin, Haley, Bowen, Satir, Madanes. Holy cow people, how can you possibly assess and treat a family if you know NOTHING about how family systems function? You’d think that would be a no-brainer. If you’re going to assess and treat families then you should know about how families function.
Wait, there’s more. If you are assessing or treating an attachment-related pathology (such as a child rejecting a parent) – LEARN ABOUT THE ATTACHMENT SYSTEM – Bowlby, Ainsworth, Mains, Fonagy. Another seemingly obvious statement that I guess isn’t so obvious to many mental health people (I refuse to call them “professionals” at this point – they’re not. They are simply ignorant and incompetent people who are irrevocably destroying the lives of children and families as a result of their negligent ignorance and incompetence).
Look, if you’re treating cancer, learn about cancer; learn about its assessment, its diagnosis, and its treatment.
If you’re treating heart disease, then learn about heart disease; learn about its assessment, diagnosis, and treatment.
If you’re treating eating disorders, learn about eating disorders; learn about the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of eating disorders. Seems pretty obvious to me.
So if you’re treating families, learn about family systems; learn about the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of families.
If you’re treating attachment-related pathology, learn about the attachment system; learn about its assessment, diagnosis, and treatment.
Yet these mental health people who are assessing and treating your children and your families remain grossly and negligently ignorant – and therefore grossly and negligently incompetent.
Appalling. Just appalling.
APA – do something. How can you simply stand by and allow so many families to be destroyed – forever destroyed – by such profound professional incompetence. Does Standard 2.01a of your ethics code mean nothing? If it’s not enforced, it sure does mean nothing.
This is children’s childhood. Once gone, it can NEVER be recovered. And APA, your allowing these ignorant and incompetent people who are masquerading as psychologists to irrevocably destroy these children and families. How can you just stand by and watch. Do something. Lives are being destroyed. Children’s lives are being destroyed.
APA, if you do nothing to stop the incompetence, then you are complicit.
“If I were to remain silent, I’d be guilty of complicity.” – Albert Einstein
Each day that passes without a solution is one day too long. This must stop.
So Dorcy covers each child against the storm of child abuse, and she screams to the storm – “STOP, you will not have this child, you will not destroy this child.”
Meanwhile, I struggle to work whatever magic I can muster to call forth the winds of change that will blow the storm entirely away, so that all children and all families can grow in the warmth of their parents’ love and affection.
At the recent fundraising event for the documentary, Erasing Family (www.erasingfamily.org), that is currently filming and that needs your financial backing and support, many people that night made the point that, “children have the right to love both parents.”
At one point during the evening, I turned to Dorcy who was sitting beside me and said,
“That’s only half of it. Yes, children have the right to love both parents. But equally important is that children have the right to RECEIVE THE LOVE of both parents in return. Children flourish when they are loved. In “parental alienation,” there are parents, and grandparents, and aunts, and uncles, and cousins – all of whom desperately want to love the child. The child has a RIGHT to receive that love. That love will only help that child flourish. Love is always a good thing for a child.”
Yes, children have the right to love both parents, and children also have the RIGHT to RECEIVE the love of both parents – and grandparents – and aunts, and uncles, and cousins – in return.
There is absolutely zero reason to ever withhold love from a child. Withholding love from a child is NEVER a good thing.
The construct of “erased families” is a good thing because it highlights that this isn’t JUST about parents – it’s about families – erased families.
Grandparent love can be some of the bestest lovin’ on the planet. The love of uncles, aunts, cousins, all enrich a child’s life. More love is always a good thing for a child.
The documentary-in-progress, Erasing Family, also uses the construct of “obstructed bonding.” Another good phrase. It highlights the blockage of children’s right to receive love from everyone who loves them.
There’s no need to get locked into the terms – I don’t care what we call it. We can call it by any of a thousand names; obstructed bonding – “parental alienation” – pathogenic parenting – a cross-generational coalition – pathological mourning – call it whatever you want, just make it stop.
We all know what it is. Call it what you want. Me? I think I’ll call it child abuse.
Children have the fundamental right to love both parents, and children have the fundamental right to receive the love of both parents in return.
… and the love from grandparents, and from aunts, and uncles, and cousins, and brothers, and sisters, and everyone else who loves that child.
Love is always a good thing for a child to receive.
On that, Dorcy and I are in full agreement.
Craig Childress, Psy.D.
Psychologist, PSY 18857