Richard Gardner recognized a pathology. But he too quickly abandoned the professional rigor required for professional diagnosis. Diagnosis is the application of standard and established constructs and principles to a set of symptoms.
Instead of applying standard and established constructs and principles to a set of symptoms, Gardner proposed that what he was seeing represented a completely “new form” of pathology that was unique in all of mental health – a “new syndrome” – which was identifiable by a new set of symptoms that he made up for this specific pathology alone based on his anecdotal clinical experience, symptoms that were equally unique in all of mental health.
The moment he proposed a “new syndrome” rather than apply the professional rigor necessary for a professional diagnosis, Gardner led everyone AWAY from the path of professional psychology and into the wilderness of “new forms of pathology.” And when he did that, he invited the profound level of professional incompetence we’re currently witnessing surrounding the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of this attachment-related family pathology.
If Richard Gardner can simply make up a “new form of pathology,” then everyone can simply start making things up. What we see right now is that every individual mental health professional is free to simply make up whatever they want surrounding the pathology of “parental alienation.” They can deny that it exists. They can say it exists but use a hodge-podge of symptoms. They can blame both parents for the “parental alienation” (using another entirely made up construct – “justified estrangement”).
They can just make stuff up. Whatever they want. They can even make up a new form of therapy – “reunification therapy” – that is totally without any guiding principles and description for what it is. They can just make it up as they go and call it “reunification therapy.”
Everyone – each mental health professional individually – can simply make stuff up. From assessment, to diagnosis, to treatment, they can just make up whatever they want, and do whatever they want, because no one is required to ground their assessment, diagnosis, or treatment in established professional constructs and principles. They just use the term “parental alienation” (or its associated made up form of therapy: “reunification therapy”) and then they just make stuff up.
This made up world of supposedly “new forms of pathology” leads to the profound professional incompetence we are currently witnessing in the assessment and diagnosis of “parental alienation.” And under the Gardnerian model of PAS, a supposedly “new form of pathology,” targeted parents are unable to hold mental health professionals accountable to any domains of professional competence.
Since each individual mental health professional is simply allowed to make up whatever they want about the construct of “parental alienation,” there are no defined domains of knowledge that we can require for professional competence, which then allows professional ignorance and incompetence to run rampant and unchecked.
With AB-PA I am leading us out of the wilderness, out of the swamps and quagmires of professional incompetence, and placing us back onto the path of professional psychology. Once we return to the path of professional psychology, the attachment-related family pathology commonly called “parental alienation” becomes immediately solvable.
Once we return to the path of professional psychology, we can identify the professional domains of knowledge needed for professional competence:
Personality disorder pathology
Family systems pathology
Complex trauma pathology
If a mental health professional is not knowledgeable in each and all of these domains of professional psychology, then that professional is practicing beyond the boundaries of their professional competence, in violation of professional standards of practice (APA Standard 2.01a).
APA Ethics Code
Standard 2.01 Boundaries of Competence
(a) Psychologists provide services, teach and conduct research with populations and in areas only within the boundaries of their competence,
If a mental health professional has not acquired an understanding for AB-PA – and note, it’s been two years since the publication of Foundations, and there are free online seminars available on AB-PA (California Southern University Masters Lecture Series) from three years ago, and Dr. Childress also offers to consult with any mental health professional without charge, and parents are providing mental health professionals with books and handouts on AB-PA – then that professional has not undertaken “ongoing efforts to maintain their competence” in violation of professional standards of practice (Standard 2.03).
APA Ethics Code
Standard 2.03 Maintaining Competence
Psychologists undertake ongoing efforts to develop and maintain their competence.
Since the attachment system ONLY becomes dysfunctional in response to pathogenic parenting, if a mental health professional has not even assessed for pathogenic parenting surrounding an attachment related pathology (note I did not say “parental alienation”), then the diagnostic statements and forensic testimony of that mental health professional cannot possibly be based on “information and techniques sufficient to substantiate their findings,” which is in violation of professional standards of practice (Standard 9.01a).
APA Ethics Code
Standard 9.01 Bases for Assessments
(a) Psychologists base the opinions contained in their recommendations, reports and diagnostic or evaluative statements, including forensic testimony, on information and techniques sufficient to substantiate their findings.
If a mental health professional is not basing his or her professional work on the “established scientific and professional knowledge” of the attachment system (Bowlby), personality disorder pathology (Beck, Kernberg, Millon), and family systems therapy (Bowen, Haley, Minuchin), then that mental health profession is in violation of professional standards of practice (Standard 2.04).
APA Ethics Code
Standard 2.04 Bases for Scientific and Professional Judgments
Psychologists’ work is based upon established scientific and professional knowledge of the discipline.
If the ignorance and incompetence of the mental health professional then results in harm to the client child and targeted parent caused by the professional’s ignorance and incompetence (such as by supporting the pathology and not resolving the lost affectional attachment bond between the child and the normal-range and affectionally available targeted parent), then the mental health professional is in violation of professional standards of practice (Standard 3.04).
APA Ethics Code
Standard 3.04 Avoiding Harm
(a) Psychologists take reasonable steps to avoid harming their clients/patients, students, supervisees, research participants, organizational clients, and others with whom they work, and to minimize harm where it is foreseeable and unavoidable.
If a mental health professional refuses to engage in professional-to-professional consultation to address their areas of professional ignorance and incompetence, they are in violation of professional standards of practice (Principle B).
APA Ethics Code
Principle B: Fidelity and Responsibility
Psychologists consult with, refer to, or cooperate with other professionals and institutions to the extent needed to serve the best interests of those with whom they work.
If the ignorance and incompetence of the mental health professional results in their not properly assessing for and accurately diagnosing child abuse, then that mental health professional may also be in violation of their “duty to protect,” which is one of two foundational obligations (“duties”) incumbent upon ALL mental health professionals (the other being a “duty of care”).
Leaving the Wilderness
Once we leave the conceptual and diagnostic wilderness of “parental alienation” into which Richard Gardner led us with his proposal for a “new form of pathology” that was unique in all of mental health – a “new syndrome” – and once we return to the path of established psychological constructs and principles of professional psychology, we can now hold mental health professionals accountable for professional competence.
Three critical slides from my Dallas Keynote – critical and turning point slides – are slides 43, 44, and 45.
Slide 43: Attachment System Competence
Mental health professionals who are assessing, diagnosing, and treating attachment-related pathology need to be professionally knowledgeable and competent in the attachment system, what it is, how it functions, and how it characteristically dysfunctions.
Failure to possess professional-level knowledge regarding the attachment system when assessing, diagnosing, and treating attachment-related pathology would represent practice beyond the boundaries of professional competence in violation of professional standards of practice.
Slide 44: Personality Disorder Competence
Mental health professionals who are assessing, diagnosing, and treating personality disorder related pathology as it is affecting family relationships need to be professionally knowledgeable and competent in personality disorder pathology, what it is, how it functions, and how it characteristically affects family relationships following divorce.
Failure to possess professional-level knowledge regarding personality disorder pathology when assessing, diagnosing, and treating personality disorder related pathology in the family would represent practice beyond the boundaries of professional competence in violation of professional standards of practice.
Slide 45: Family Systems Competence
Mental health professionals who are assessing, diagnosing, and treating families need to be professionally knowledgeable and competent in the functioning of family systems and the principles of family systems therapy.
Failure to possess professional-level knowledge regarding the functioning of family systems and the principles of family systems therapy when assessing, diagnosing, and treating family pathology would represent practice beyond the boundaries of professional competence in violation of professional standards of practice.
The turning point of Dallas is in holding ALL mental health professionals accountable for professional-level knowledge and professional competence in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of this attachment-related, personality disorder related, family systems pathology.
Notice I did not say “parental alienation.” We cannot hold them accountable for “parental alienation.” We can ONLY hold them accountable when we define the pathology entirely using standard and established constructs and principles. That’s what AB-PA does. It gives you the constructs you need to hold all mental health professionals accountable to the Standards of the APA ethics code requiring professional competence.
AB-PA activates the Ethics Code Standards of the APA for you. Understand?
Gardnerian PAS does not. Is that clear? If you try to use the term “parental alienation” you will fail. The construct of “parental alienation” does not activate the APA Ethics Code Standards for you.
With AB-PA you can now hold ALL mental health professionals accountable for their knowledge in certain defined domains of professional psychology – the attachment system, personality disorder pathology, and family systems therapy – NOT “parental alienation.” Understand?
By leaving the wilderness of Gardnerian PAS and returning to the yellow brick road of established professional constructs and principles (follow the yellow brick road of AB-PA), we can find our way out of OZ and return back home to be reunited with our loved once more.
And in truth, you had the power the entire time. John Bowlby identified and described the attachment system in the 1970s, Otto Kernberg was describing narcissistic and borderline personality pathology in the 1970s, Jay Haley, Salvador Minuchin, and Murray Bowen were describing cross-generational coalitions and emotional cutoffs in the 1970s. This solution has been available for nearly 40 years (which then begs the question, why didn’t any of the Gardnerian PAS experts ever take this solution?… and why are they resisting it now? Why are they insisting on a “new form of pathology” that provides no solution whatsoever? I know exactly why.)
You are more powerful than you know. Write to the APA. The key slide in Dallas for the APA is slide 33.
Slide 33: The APA
The American Psychological Association should provide clear guidance to all of its members that specialized professional knowledge and professional competence is required in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of attachment-related and personality disorder related family pathology surrounding divorce.
Notice I did not say “parental alienation.” We must return to the path of established psychological principles and constructs. There is NO power in the construct of “parental alienation.” Understand? The ethics code of the APA ONLY becomes active if you use standard and established constructs and principles – which is what AB-PA gives you.
If you try to use Gardnerian PAS, you will fail.
But if you use AB-PA, the solution becomes immediately available.
What you want to ask for from the APA is contained in Slide 34.
Slide 34: The APA Position Statement
Change to their official position statement on “Parental Alienation
1. ) Acknowledge that the pathology exists – by whatever name they want to call it;
2.) Designate children and families experiencing this form of attachment-related pathology as a “special population” requiring specialized professional knowledge and expertise to competently assess, diagnose, and treat.
Assessment leads to diagnosis.
Diagnosis guides treatment.
The final slide I want to highlight from the Dallas Keynote is slide 70.
Slide 70: DSM-5 Child Psychological Abuse
Pathogenic parenting that is creating 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 confirmed DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse.
Assessment leads to diagnosis.
The statement contained in Slide 70 is the lynchpin between the assessment of the three diagnostic indicators of AB-PA and a DSM-5 diagnosis of Child Psychological Child Abuse.
Standard 9.01a requires assessment “sufficient to substantiate” their diagnostic statements. Identification of the three diagnostic indicators of AB-PA requires a DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed. See the linkage?
AB-PA activates the APA Ethics Code. The APA Ethics Code requires appropriate assessment. Appropriate assessment then leads to an accurate DSM-5 diagnosis as Psychologcial Child Abuse. The dominoes fall, one after the other, from AB-PA.
We are requiring – requiring – professional competence – once we switch from a Gardnerian PAS model to an AB-PA model. Understand? See how it works?
By defining the domains of professional competence, we can then require – REQUIRE – under Standard 9.01a of the APA ethics code (Slides 59-60) that ALL mental health professionals assess for “pathogenic parenting associated with an attachment related pathology” (Slide 62).
Assessment leads to diagnosis (Slide 70).
Diagnosis then guides treatment. Which was my afternoon talk, and I’ll unpack that in future blog posts.
We are not giving them a choice any longer to be ignorant and incompetent. If they choose to remain ignorant and incomptent, then file a licensing board complaint for violations of Standards 9.01a, 2.01a, 2.03, 2.04, 3.04, Principle B, and failure in their “duty to protect.”
The licensing board doesn’t care about the specifics of your case. The licensing board ONLY cares about what standards of practice were violated – Standards 9.01a, 2.01a, 2.03, 2.04, 3.04, Principle B, and failure in their “duty to protect.” Make the licensing board tell us, over-and-over again, that they will not enforce professional standards of practice. Make the ignorant and incompetent mental health professional play Russian roulette, over-and-over again, with their license on the line.
Mental health professionals are not allowed to be ignorant and incompetent. Make the APA and the licensing board tell you, over-and-over again, that they will not enforce their ethics code and standards of practice, that it’s okay with them that mental health professionals are profoundly ignorant and incompetent in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of your children and families.
BUT – BUT – this ONLY becomes available to you if you use the proper constructs. If you try to hold mental health professionals accountable for “parental alienation,” you will fail. Understand?
THAT is the importance of Dallas. There is a before Dallas, and an after Dallas. The paradigm has shifted to AB-PA and we can now hold mental health professionals accountable, but only if you use the constructs of AB-PA to define the attachment-related family pathology.
You have more power than you know. It is time to live into your power to recover your beloved children from the attachment-related, trauma-related, personality disorder and family systems pathology of AB-PA.
It’s a complicated pathology. No doubt about that. But we absolutely know what it is (and I fully describe it in Foundations).
And don’t ever let anyone tell you that this pathology (label it whatever you want) is not in the DSM-5. It most certainly is in the DSM-5. On page 719. V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed.
It is time we start calling this pathology by its proper name; Child Psychological Abuse.
This is NOT a child custody issue, this is a child protection issue.
You are more powerful than you know. Let’s go get your beloved children back.
Craig Childress, Psy.D.
Clinical Psychologist, PSY 18857