In my younger days I used to go backpacking in the Sierras. I’d load up my pack with a couple of weeks of food and gear, leave my car at the trailhead, and begin my hike up endless switchbacks into the mountains.
I wasn’t in the best of shape physically, not bad, but just not a tiger either; and those switchbacks into the mountains were tough, with a full pack, by myself, with me carrying all the gear – food, stove, fuel, tent, pots and pans, etc. – it was tough. But I learned something valuable. You can accomplish anything if you just don’t stop.
There were points where I was so exhausted that I would just look down at my feet, willing each foot, one after the other, to just take one more step, just one more step, just one more step…
And you know what? If I just didn’t stop, then I would at last find myself in the backcountry; beautiful mountain lakes, majestic peaks, wonderous stars… wonderful-wonderful.
You can accomplish anything in life if you just don’t stop.
Solving “Parental Alienation”
When I first encountered the attachment-related pathology of “parental alienation” it was so absolutely horrific, and the mental health and legal system responses were so incredibly broken, that I simply had to do something to make it stop. So I set about analyzing what the problem was, and then I began working out what the solution needed to be.
Once I had the path laid out that led all the way to the solution, I then set about creating that solution – AB-PA is that solution.
A foundational premise of the solution is that any solution that requires targeted parents to prove “parental alienation” in court is no solution at all. The core of the solution is therefore to be found in the mental health system, not the legal system.
Gardner took everyone off the established path of professional psychology by proposing that a child rejecting a normal-range parent following divorce represented an entirely unique new form of pathology – a “new syndrome” – that was supposedly identifiable by an equally unique new set of symptom identifiers, symptoms that are unlike any other symptoms in all of mental health, symptoms that are unique to this new form of pathology alone, symptoms that Gardner simply made up.
In proposing a “new syndrome,” Gardner led everyone off the path of professionally established practice. In proposing a unique “new syndrome,” Gardner skipped the crucial step of diagnosis – i.e., the application of standard and established psychological constructs and principles to a set of symptoms. Instead he opted for the diagnostically lazy – and professionally inappropriate – approach of simply proposing an entirely “new form of pathology” unique in all of mental health – a “new syndrome.”
In doing so, Gardner led everyone off the path of established professional practice and into the overgrowth and brambles, and ultimately into the swamp and quagmires of professional incompetence. The Gardnerian model of PAS leads directly to the rampant professional incompetence in mental health that currently surrounds us. I could explain in detail why this is, but I can do it much more succinctly: Scoreboard.
Thirty years of the Gardnerian PAS model has given us exactly the situation we have right now. This situation, the current situation, is the product of 30 years of Gardnerian PAS.
What we have right now, the profound professional incompetence, the massively broken mental health system response, and the massively broken legal system response to this attachment-related pathology surrounding divorce is exactly what Gardnerian PAS leads us to. Thirty years of Gardnerian PAS and this is the result. Scoreboard.
So, recognizing this, the solution I have been leading us toward is to put us back on the path of established professional psychology by defining the attachment-related pathology of a child rejecting a normal-range parent following divorce (what is typically called “parental alienation”) from entirely – entirely – within standard and established constructs and principles of professional psychology.
That’s called diagnosis.
I returned to the step that Gardner skipped – diagnosis – and I applied standard and established constructs and principles of professional psychology to the set of symptoms.
AB-PA leads us out of the swamps and undergrowth and puts us back onto the established path of professional practice.
We can now demand professional competence in standard and established domains of professional psychology.
The Attachment System: The characteristic functioning and dysfunctioning of the attachment system;
Personality Disorder Pathology: Recognition of personality disorder pathology and its effects on family relationships following divorce;
Family Systems Therapy: The established constructs of family systems therapy; triangulation, cross-generational coalition; emotional cutoffs.
We can now demand professional competence in the assessment of standard and established forms of fully accepted pathology.
Diagnostic indicator 1: Attachment system suppression toward a normal-range and affectionally available parent;
Diagnostic indicator 2: Specific narcissistic personality disorder traits in the child’s symptom display;
Diagnostic indicator 3: An encapsulated persecutory delusion regarding the child’s supposed “victimization” by the normal-range parenting of the targeted-rejected parent.
We can now demand professional competence in diagnosis:
Pathogenic parenting (i.e., parenting that is so aberrant and distorted that it is creating psychopathology in the child) that creates 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.
And we can now define the parameters of appropriate professional treatment:
In ALL cases of child abuse – physical child abuse, sexual child abuse, and psychological child abuse – the required professional response is to protect the child.
In ALL cases of child abuse – physical child abuse, sexual child abuse, and psychological child abuse – the appropriate professional response is to protectively separate the child from the abusive parent, and then to treat the impact of the abuse on the child in order to restore the child’s normal-range and healthy development. Then, when the child’s normal-range and healthy development has been recovered and stabilized, the child is reintroduced to the formerly abusive parent with sufficient safeguards to ensure that the child abuse does not resume.
During the protective separation period, the abusive parent is typically required to obtain individual therapy to gain and demonstrate insight into the causes of the prior child abuse, and the level of insight gained and demonstrated by the formerly abusive parent is typically used as an indicator for the degree of safeguards needed to ensure the continued protection of the child.
This is the standard approach of professional psychology to physical child abuse. This is the standard approach of professional psychology to sexual child abuse. This is the standard approach of professional psychology to psychological child abuse.
Assessment leads to diagnosis. Diagnosis guides treatment.
Climbing the mountain that’s ahead of us to achieve the solution offered by AB-PA will take a whole lot of effort because we’re leading the entire mental health system out of the brambles and undergrowth of poorly defined constructs and back onto the established path of professional psychology. The level of professional ignorance and incompetence currently out there is profound.
Our efforts are made even more difficult by the entrenched recalcitrance of the Gardnerian PAS “experts” to leave the swamp and undergrowth of professional incompetence created by the Gardnerian model of PAS.
It has become abundantly evident that the Gardnerian PAS “experts” have a personal agenda of seeking to remain “experts” in “parental alienation,” even if that means it takes longer to achieve the solution. To put it bluntly, they would rather remain “experts” in “parental alienation” than solve “parental alienation.”
AB-PA offers an immediate solution. Yet if they switch to an AB-PA model then they cease to be “experts.” Tough choice. Even more problematic for them, is that the moment AB-PA solves “parental alienation” they will immediately become irrelevant – “parental alienation” is solved. The entire “heroic struggle” of their “valiant rebel alliance” against the “evil empire” of professional psychology will vanish… poof… all gone. Everything’s solved.
I suspect that these “experts” are going to feel very disoriented for a while, once “parental alienation” is solved using AB-PA. They’re going to have to find an entirely new focus for their professional careers. Wow. That would be disorienting. That’s why they hate me. I’m disrupting their comfy world by having the temerity to actually solve “parental alienation” surrounding high-conflict divorce.
So in their effort to remain relevant, you’ll hear them pontificating about what criteria makes for a true and bonafide “parental alienation” expert (them, of course); and you’ll hear about how (after 30 years of Gardnerian PAS) they’ve now suddenly developed new treatment approaches; and you’ll hear about how they’re offering “consultation” for targeted parents from their expertise and “training” for therapists in “parental alienation,” all from a Gardnerian perspective of course… all in an effort to retain their status as “experts.”
But you will know the tree by its fruit. Are they advocating for and using the three diagnostic indicators of AB-PA that provide an immediate solution to the attachment-related pathology of “parental alienation” (assessment – diagnosis – treatment), or are they continuing to use the eight failed symptoms of Gardnerian PAS that have no linkage to any established form of pathology in all of mental health, and that lead to the rampant professional incompetence that currently surrounds us?
You will know the tree by its fruit; and you will know the intent of the professional by the diagnostic indicators the professional uses.
One of the things I learned from backpacking is the central importance of the map. You plan your route through the mountains using the map and you follow the map during your trek in order to reach your destination.
The Gardnerian PAS model has NO map for a solution. Gardnerian PAS gives us nothing but more of the same.
For several years now I have been asking the Gardnerians to lay out their map for a solution using the Gardnerian PAS model. Crickets. Nothing. They have no map to a solution, just more of the same. Garnerian experts, please, tell us, how will Gardnerian PAS lead to a solution? What’s the map to a solution using Gardnerian PAS?
AB-PA offers a clear path to the solution. Come close everyone, gather ’round and look at this, let me show you the map of AB-PA:
Assessment leads to diagnosis. Diagnosis guides treatment.
Any solution that requires targeted parents to prove “parental alienation” in court is no solution at all. With AB-PA, the solution is entirely within the mental health system.
With AB-PA the mental health professional assesses for three standard symptoms that are fully established symptoms in mental health; and when the three symptoms are present, the mental health professional makes the DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed based on the presence of the three diagnostic indicators of pathogenic parenting in the child’s symptom display.
When the mental health professional makes the DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed, this then activates the mental health professional’s “duty to protect” – a standard and fully recognized obligation of all mental health professionals. The mental health professional can discharge his or her “duty to protect” by filing a child abuse report with Child Protective Services, consistent with mandated child abuse reporting laws.
CPS social workers can then apply the same diagnostic criteria that were used by the mental health professional in identifying child psychological abuse, and the CPS investigators will reach the same diagnostic finding of confirmed child psychological abuse. We will now have two independently made confirmed diagnoses of child psychological abuse.
Child Protective Services can then exercise their legal mandate to protect the child by protectively separating the child from the abusive parent – consistent with the mental health response to all forms of child abuse – and place the child in “kinship care” with the normal-range and affectionally available targeted parent. Knowledgeable and competent therapists can then treat the child for the effects of the prior psychological abuse in order to restore the child’s normal-range and healthy development.
Once the child’s normal-range and healthy development has been recovered and stabilized, then the child can be reintroduced to the formerly abusive parent with sufficient safeguards to ensure that this parent’s psychological abuse of the child does not resume.
See the map? We need to go around these three peaks over here, we’ll cross this pass to travel down this valley, and we’ll reach our destination – Solution. See the map?
But just because we know where we’re going on the map, doesn’t mean we’re there yet. There’s still a lot of the path to travel. And it’s exhausting, I know… you’re weighed down with grief and trauma. You just wish we were there right now. Sometimes it gets so exhausting that all we can do is just look at our feet, one foot forward, then the other.
But this I know… we will, with absolute 100% certainty, reach the destination – we will absolutely achieve the solution – because we just won’t stop. We will be relentless. We have truth and love on our side; and we just won’t stop.
AB-PA will, with 100% certainty, lead to the solution. I’ve shown you the map. We will not stop until all of your beloved children – all of them – are back in your arms.
Returning to the Established Path
The time has come to return to the path of established professional psychology, to climb out of the mud and undergrowth, to scramble up the hillside, and return to the path of established professional psychology.
The Gardnerian PAS experts have decided to remain behind. They’ve decided to remain in the quagmire and undergrowth of Gardnerian PAS because they don’t want to give up their coveted roles as “experts.” We cannot wait any longer for them. We’re going to have to leave them behind. They have decided that they won’t be coming with us. They have chosen not to be your allies in creating the solution. If they insist that they are your allies, ask them to show you their map.
You will know the tree by its fruit; the three diagnostic indicators of AB-PA that are grounded in established psychological constructs and principles, or the eight symptom indicators of Gardnerian PAS that lead to professional incompetence, controversy, and the current quagmire of no solution whatsoever. You will know the tree by its fruit.
Craig Childress, Psy.D.
Psychologist, PSY 18857