The “Equation” of Parental Alienation

I’m going to expand on something Klara Gabanowicz wrote in a Comment to one of my blogs in which she proposed an analogy to math equations to explain the difference between Gardner’s model of “parental alienation” and Childress’ model of AB-PA.  Klara’s basic insight and her analogy to a math equation helps illuminate a basic feature of the difference between Gardner’s PAS model and AB-PA.

Klara indicated that she was so captivated by the analogy to a mathematical equation in comparing Gardner’s approach and my approach to defining the pathology that she was “walking in circles in my kitchen talking to myself.”  Don’t worry Klara, I know just how it gets when an idea captivates.

I initially began my response to Klara as a Reply to her Comment, but then I thought that both her analogy to a math equation and my response might be of broader general interest, so I’m turning it into a full blog post.

Kara’s basic analogy is that diagnosis is like a math equation – a “psychological equation,” if you will – with the individual “mathematical terms” of the equation being the symptom features and the psychological constructs of professional psychology.  I think that’s a pretty accurate analogy.

Gardner correctly recognized the existence of a pathology – a pattern of symptoms involving a child’s rejection of a normal-range parent following divorce.  The problem is that Gardner skipped the step of professional diagnosis.  The “psychological equation” he formed to define the pathology – the “Gardnerian Equation” – was too simplistic and fragile to be able to solve the pathology.

Diagnosis is the application of the standard and established constructs and principles of professional psychology to a set of symptoms – diagnosis is working out the “psychological equation” that defines the pathology.

Gardner skipped the step of diagnosis.  Instead, he proposed an entirely “new form of pathology” that he asserted was unique in all of mental health – the “Gardnerian Equation” for the pathology – that relied exclusively on entirely new and unique “mathematical terms” that were unlike any other pathology in all of mental health.

His 8 symptom identifiers were made up entirely by him and they were all unique symptoms in all of mental health, and his “psychological equation” relied almost exclusively on these symptoms.  He did not use any “mathematical terms” in his “psychological equation” (any constructs and principles) from any other form of established pathology.

As a result, the Gardnernian Equation for the pathology is extremely fragile and unstable, because it relies almost exclusively on symptom features and these symptom features are unique to the pathology – having no connection to any other pathology in all of mental health.  His “psychological equation” is over-reliant on a set of new and unique symptoms that Gardner simply made up to be specific to this form of pathology, without sufficient supporting constructs from professional psychology.

By over-relying on symptom features and not incorporating more substantial “mathematical terms” from standard and established psychological constructs and principles of professional psychology into his “psychological equation,” the “Gardnerian Equation” that he created to define the pathology is simply too weak and ill-formed to be able to solve the pathology.  When we try to use the Gardnerian “psychological equation” to solve the pathology, it breaks and fractures, and it is unable to solve the pathology.

Diagnosis involves the application of standard and established constructs and principles from professional psychology to a set of symptoms.  We just don’t go around making up “new forms of pathology” and calling that diagnosis.

Psychologist: “Your child has I Don’t Want to Eat Carrots Syndrome.  We can identify this pathology by a child’s rejection of carrots for weak and frivolous reasons.  A lack of ambivalence toward carrots.  The child uses borrowed reasons from other children for rejecting carrots (such as they taste bad).  The Independent Rejecter Phenomenon, which is when the child asserts it’s the child’s own independent beliefs that the child doesn’t like carrots.  The child also rejects other food on his or her plate that touches the carrots.

Psychologist: “You and your wife have Tuesday Evening Argument Syndrome.  We can identify this pathology by an argument between the two of you on Tuesday evenings for weak and frivolous reasons.  A lack of ambivalence in blaming each other for the argument.  The reasons for the argument are borrowed from past arguments.  The Independent Arguer Phenomenon in which you each assert that you actually independently believe your side of the argument is correct.  You argue with other people who take the same position as your spouse.

Coming up with unique new syndromes for each separate aspect of life is NOT diagnosis.  Diagnosis is the application of standard and established psychological principles and constructs to a set of symptoms.  Diagnosis using standard and established constructs and principles leads to a deeper understanding for the organizing core beneath the superficial features of symptom presentation.

Diagnosis is developing a “psychological equation” that defines the pathology within the organizing context of the established constructs and principles of professional psychology.

Was Gardner correct in identifying a pathology involving a child’s rejection of a normal-range parent surrounding divorce?  Yes.

He simply was a poor diagnostician.  He didn’t work out the “psychological equation” that defines the pathology.  Instead he proposed an entirely new form of pathology, an I Don’t Want to Eat Carrots Syndrome.

What I do in Foundations is diagnosis.  Foundations is a diagnostic workup of the pathology.

Foundations represents the “psychological equation” – all the psychological terms and constructs – that define the pathology.

The pathology called “parental alienation” represents a complex “psychological equation” of attachment-related constructs (pathological mourning and the trans-generational transmission of attachment trauma), family systems constructs (cross-generational coalition and an emotional cutoff), and personality disorder pathology (narcissistic/borderline personality traits and splitting).

The various structural diagrams I’ve produced to visually represent the pathology are essentially the “psychological equations” for the pathology.

Diagram of AB-PA Pathology

Schematic Diagram of  the Pathology

In proposing a “new form of pathology” – a “new syndrome” unique in all of mental health – Gardner essentially proposed a diagnosis of I Don’t Want to Eat Carrots Syndrome.

As a clinical psychologist, my analysis of Gardner’s “psychological equation” (the I Don’t Want to Eat Carrots Syndrome) is that it is incredibly simplistic and entirely inadequate to solve the complex attachment-related family pathology of “parental alienation.”  The “Gardnerian Equation” for the pathology is a really-really poor model for a pathology, and it is an extremely problematic “psychological equation” to define the pathology.

That’s why the “Gardnerian Equation” hasn’t been able to solve the pathology in 30 years, and – truth be told – the Gardnerian PAS “psychological equation” for defining the pathology is so poor it will NEVER be able to solve the pathology.

Solving the pathology requires a more conceptually anchored (rather than symptom anchored) “psychological equation” for defining the pathology.  That’s what I set about to do with an attachment-based model of “parental alienation” – AB-PA.

AB-PA is a “psychological equation” – a formal and complete diagnostic workup of the pathology – that provides the solid conceptual Foundations on which we can stand to solve the pathology.

When the three child symptoms of AB-PA (the Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting) are entered into the AB-PA “equation” for defining the pathology (Foundations),  the “psychological equation” of AB-PA produces the solution – a DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse that then provides the professional rationale for the protective separation of the child from the abusive parent.

Gardner’s “psychological equation” to define the pathology is too simplistic and ill-formed to be able to solve the pathology.

The “psychological equation” of AB-PA is strong enough and robust enough to solve the pathology.

What we now need to do is educate professional mental health that the AB-PA “psychological equation” for defining the pathology exists, and we must get professional psychology to begin using the AB-PA “psychological equation” for defining the pathology (the three diagnostic indicators of AB-PA; the Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting) in all cases of attachment-related pathology surrounding divorce.

Attachment-related pathology surrounding divorce – notice I did not use the term “parental alienation.

Analogy Explanation:  The reason I’m switching the language to attachment-related pathology, pathogenic parenting, and cross-generational coalition, is because these are the “mathematical terms” used in the “psychological equation” of AB-PA to define “parental alienation.”

In the “psychological equation” of AB-PA there is no “mathematical term” for “parental alienation” as a construct.  If you try to input the term “parental alienation” into AB-PA, the term just falls on the floor and lays there.  In the “psychological equation” of AB-PA the “mathematical terms” are attachment-related pathology, pathogenic parenting, and cross-generational coalition.

There are also “mathematical terms” for narcissistic and borderline personality pathology, splitting, and a host of others.  But there is no “mathematical term” in the “psychological equation” itself for “parental alienation.”

So, yes Klara, your analogy is accurate – which is why it captivated you so strongly in your kitchen.  I know exactly what that feels like.

If it’s okay with you, when I talk about AB-PA using a “psychological equation” analogy I’d like to give you credit for the idea by citing this blog post as a joint authorship (Gabanowicz & Childress, 2017), because your idea is correct and I’ve expanded upon it here.  So if that works for you, you might get yourself into the professional literature on this.

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

References

Gabanowitcz, K. and Childress, C.A. (2017). The “Equation” of Parental Alienation. Retrieved from https://drcraigchildressblog.com/2017/07/31/the-equation-of-parental-alienation/

United in a Single Voice

I hear people say, why can’t the Gardnerians and Childress just cooperate and come together in a single voice?

And the Garnerians are trying to pin the blame on me for not cooperating.  That I’m being “divisive” and that it’s me who’s unwilling to cooperate with them.  Nooooo, it’s the Garderian PAS “experts” who are being entirely obstinate and inflexible – and irrational.

It is the Gardnerian PAS “experts” who are not cooperating by insisting that we continue to diagnose the pathology in exactly the same way that is creating the current failed mental health and legal system response to the pathology.

I’m sure many of you are familiar with the communication pathology of your ex-spouse, who provoked, and provoked, and provoked you until you became angry, and then when you finally became angry, they blame you for being angry?  You all know the pathology of this.

The Garnerian PAS “experts” are being irrationally stubborn and inflexible, and then when I call them out for being irrationally stubborn and inflexible, they accuse me of creating division.

Let me be entirely clear, Dr. Childress is in 100% agreement that we should come together into a single voice.  So why aren’t the Gardnerian PAS “experts” joining us in a single voice?

Why can’t the Gardnerians support AB-PA and three diagnostic indicators of AB-PA that lead directly to a DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed?

This is really important to understand:

The three diagnostic indicators of AB-PA lead directly to a DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed.

The 8 symptom identifiers of Gardnerian PAS don’t.

That’s the truth.  It’s as simple as that.

I’m a clinical psychologist.  I can explain to you in detail why this is the simple truth.  But a far more obvious explanation is this:

We are currently using the 8 Gardnerian PAS symptom identifiers (or random derivatives), and using the 8 Garnerian symptom identifiers to diagnose the pathology is producing EXACTLY the situation we have right now.

If you’re happy with the situation we have right now, fine… let’s continue using the Gardnerian 8 symptom identifiers to diagnose the pathology.

If you’re not happy with the way things are right now, then we need to change how we are diagnosing the pathology.

I’m a clinical psychologist.  Diagnosing pathology is what I do.  I absolutely 100% guarantee that the moment we start using the three diagnostic indicators of AB-PA we will be able to get a DSM-5 diagnosis of the pathology as V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed.

I have already consulted with therapists who have used the three diagnostic indicators of AB-PA and who have given the DSM-5 diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse.  This diagnostic solution is available right now – today.

But I think it’s pretty goll darn obvious to everyone that using the Gardnerian PAS 8 symptom identifiers produces a completely failed mental health system response to the pathology.

If we switch to using the three diagnostic indicators of AB-PA (the Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting), then this leads directly to a DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed.

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) is a DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed.

I am a clinical psychologist.  I do diagnosis of pathology.  Let me assure you, there is NO WAY that using the Gardnerian 8 symptom identifiers will EVER lead to a DSM-5 diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse – EVER.  I can explain in detail why this is, but simply accept this:

If the Gardnerian 8 symptom identifiers COULD produce a DSM-5 diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse, don’t you think the pathology in your family would have received this diagnosis by now?

Has anyone out there gotten a DSM-5 diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse from a mental health professional using the Gardnerian 8 symptom identifiers?

Because the field of professional psychology is the currently using the Gardnerian 8 symptom identifiers (or random derivatives) to diagnose the pathology, so the response you are currently receiving from the mental health system is EXACTLY what is created by using the Gardnerian 8 symptom identifiers.

That’s really-really important for everyone to understand. The Gardnerians are sowing confusion by acting as if the 8 symptom identifiers of Gardnerian PAS lead to a DSM-5 diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse.  They don’t.

The Gardnerians are deceiving you by implying that “everyone agrees that parental alienation is child abuse.”  There is only one path to getting the DSM-5 diagnosis.  I’m a clinical psychologist.  Diagnosis of pathology is what I do.  There is NO WAY that the 8 symptom identifiers of Gardnerian PAS will EVER lead to a DSM-5 diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse.  Ever.

If the Gardnerians are going to maintain that the 8 symptom identifiers lead to a DSM-5 diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse (rather than to alternative diagnoses of “bad parenting” by the allied parent, or shared parenting problems, or claims of “justified estrangement”), then it is incumbent upon the Gardnerians to lay out this diagnostic claim at a professional-level of detail.

Because, for the life of me as a clinical psychologist, I can’t see it – and the current absence of this diagnosis is evidence that no one else sees it either since we are currently using the Gardnerian 8 symptom identifiers (or random derivatives) to diagnose the pathology and your family has not received the diagnosis of Child Psychological Child Abuse.

So if the three diagnostic indicators of AB-PA lead directly to a DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, and the Gardnerian 8 symptom identifiers don’t and never will, then why are the Gardnerian PAS advocates REFUSING to advocate that all mental health professionals begin using the three diagnostic indicators of AB-PA?

The Gardnerians can add their 8 symptom indicators of Gardnerian PAS to the three diagnositic indicators of AB-PA if they want to.  It doesn’t matter to me.

Once we start using the three diagnostic indicators of AB-PA, the 8 symptom indicators of Gardnerian PAS become superfluous and unnecessary, but if the Gardnerians want to add them and continue to use them, that’s fine with me. They can say the moon is made of green cheese for all I care, just let’s all start advocating that all mental health professionals begin routinely using the three diagnostic indicators of AB-PA in assessing attachment-related pathology surrounding divorce so that targeted parents and their children will be provided with a DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse for the pathology in their families.

The 8 symptom identifiers of Gardnerian PAS do NOT lead to a DSM-5 diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse.

The three diagnostic indicators of AB-PA do.

It is as simple as that.

The ONLY path to getting a DSM-5 diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse for the pathology is through the three diagnostic indicators of AB-PA, so let’s ALL start advocating that ALL mental health professionals routinely use the three diagnostic indicators of AB-PA in ALL cases of attachment-related pathology surrounding divorce.

But Bill Bernet and Karen Woodall and the other Gardnerian PAS “experts” are REFUSING to advocate that all mental health professionals routinely use the three diagnostic indicators of AB-PA (the Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting) in all cases of attachment-related pathology surrounding divorce.

Why are they refusing to join us in advocating for this?  The three diagnostic indicators of AB-PA lead directly to a DSM-5 diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse.

The REFUSAL of Bill Bernet and Karen Woodall and the other Gardnerian PAS “experts” to advocate that all mental health professionals routinely use the three diagnostic indicators of AB-PA (the Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting) is essentially denying countless families the DSM-5 diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse for the pathology.

Why are Bill Bernet, Karen Woodall, and the other Gardnerian PAS “experts” denying targeted parents and their children the DSM-5 diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse for the pathology?  It makes no sense.

Wouldn’t the position taken by Bill Bernet and Karen Woodall and the other Gardnerian PAS “experts” essentially mean that more children and more families would be unnecessarily sacrificed to the pathology when there is a path out of the pathology”?  Yes it would.

Why are they not joining us in providing targeted parents with the DSM-5 diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse for the pathology?  It makes no sense.

Actually, it does make sense once we recognize that they want to remain “experts,” and that the moment we switch to using the three diagnostic indicators of AB-PA, they cease to be “experts,” because they are only “experts” in Gardnerian PAS and its 8 symptom identifiers.

“But they can still add their 8 Gardnerian symptom identifiers to the three diagnostic indicators of AB-PA.”

Yes, I know.  But that’s not the point for them.  Once we switch to using the three diagnostic indicators of AB-PA, the 8 symptom indicators of Gardnerian PAS become superfluous and unnecessary, and they lose their importance as Gardnerian PAS “experts.”

Still, the Gardnerians can ADD whatever they want.  If they want to add the Gardnerian PAS 8 symptom identifiers, fine by me.  They can add that the moon is made of green cheese for all I care.  Just join us in advocating that all mental health professionals routinely use the three diagnostic indicators of AB-PA (the Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting) in all cases of attachment-related pathology surrounding divorce.

The problem I have with the Gardnerian PAS “experts” is that they are willing to sacrifice countless children and families to continued pathology – by withholding their support and needlessly delaying our ability to provide these parents and their families with the DSM-5 diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse available from the three diagnostic indicators of AB-PA, which then serves as the professional rationale for the protective separation.  I find their willingness to needlessly sacrifice more children and more families to the pathology to be reprehensible.

Why are they willing to deny targeted parents access to a simple diagnostic procedure (the Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting) that gives targeted parents and their families the DSM-5 diagnosis of Child Psychological Child Abuse for the pathology?

The Gardnerian 8 symptom identifiers do NOT lead to a DSM-5 diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse.  The three diagnostic indicators of AB-PA do.  It’s as simple as that.

And the thing is… the Gardnerian PAS “experts” know this.  Bill Bernet and Karen Woodall know this.

And yet, the Gardnerian PAS “experts” are advocating that we continue to do exactly the same thing we’re currently doing, that we keep everything exactly the same in how we diagnose the pathology, despite knowing that this creates EXACTLY what we have right now.

Oh, they ARE advocating that we increase the number of Gardnerian PAS “experts” from 100 to 200 (as if that’s going to do anything), but otherwise they are advocating that everything else remains exactly as it is, that how we diagnose the pathology remains exactly the same as what we’re doing right now.

Why are they doing this?  Why are they REFUSING to join us in seeking a DSM-5 diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse using the three diagnostic indicators of AB-PA?

And once we get the accurate DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse for the pathology, this then provides the professional rationale for the protective separation.  In all cases of child abuse – physical child abuse, sexual child abuse, and psychological child abuse – our first obligation is to protectively separate the child from the abusive parent.

Assessment lead to diagnosis, and diagnosis guides treatment.

Simple-simple-simple.

So why are the Gardnerian PAS “experts” – why are Bill Bernet and Karen Woodall – REFUSING to join us in our efforts to get the DSM-5 diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse and a protective separation for this family pathology?

Why are the Gardnerian PAS “experts” – why are Bill Bernet and Karen Woodall – REFUSING to join us in advocating that all mental health professionals routinely assess for the three diagnostic indicators of AB-PA that lead directly to a DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed?

Why are the Garnerian PAS “experts” – why are Bill Bernet and Karen Woodall – sowing discord and disharmony with Dr. Childress by REFUSING to join us in advocating that all mental health professionals routinely use the three diagnostic indicators of AB-PA that lead directly to a DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed?

And they then try to hold me responsible for creating the discord and disharmony.  When it’s their entirely stubborn and obstinate – and completely irrational – REFUSAL to join with us in obtaining the DSM-5 diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse that is creating the rift between us.

The Gardnerians can add the Garnderian 8 symptom identifiers if they like.  Fine by me.  Once we start using the three diagnostic indicators of AB-PA the Garnerian 8 symptom identifiers become superfluous and unnecessary, but my goodness gracious, I don’t care what the Gardnerians add.  If they want to propose that pathology is caused by ancient aliens, fine by me.  Just start using your power, position, and voice to begin advocating that ALL mental health professionals should begin routinely using the three diagnostic indicators of AB-PA so that we can get the DSM-5 diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse for this pathology.

But they refuse.

So for the people calling for unity between Dr. Childress and the Gardnerians, I’m all for that.  Woo hoo.  Let’s all come together into a single voice.

But I will not abandon targeted parents and their children as a price for this “professional unity,” and I will NOT sacrifice targeted parents and their children to the current situation if that is the price to be paid for “unity” in achieving a single professional voice.

The three diagnostic indicators of AB-PA lead directly to a DSM-5 diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse, and this then serves as the professional rationale for the protective separation of the child from the abusive parent.

Targeted parents and their children need this diagnosis and the protective separation treatment response to the pathology.  I will NOT compromise on giving this to them.  I will NOT abandon and sacrifice targeted parents and their children to the pathology as the price to be paid for inter-professional “peace.”

If, however, the Gardnerian PAS “experts” – Bill Bernet and Karen Woodall – begin to cooperate, and begin to advocate that ALL mental health professionals routinely use the three diagnostic indicators of AB-PA in their assessments of attachment-related pathology surrounding divorce – then targeted parents and their children will be provided with the DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse for the pathology – and then we will have peace between Dr. Childress and the Gardnerians – we will have a single united voice.

The Gardnerians can the add on whatever they want.  I don’t care.

But as long as the Gardnerians – Bill Bernet and Karen Woodall – REFUSE to advocate with us for the routine use of the three diagnostic indicators of AB-PA that will provide targeted parents with a DSM-5 diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse for the pathology in their families, then the Gardnerians become obstructionists who are seeking to maintain the status quo of no solution and rampant professional ignorance and incompetence – and they become willing to sacrifice targeted parents and their children to the pathology.  That is not acceptable.

I will NOT sacrifice targeted parents and their children to the pathology as the price to be paid for professional peace with the Gardnerians.  They have it in their power to bring peace between themselves and Dr. Childress.

They must join us in advocating that all mental health professionals routinely use the three diagnostic indicators of AB-PA (the Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting) that will provide targeted parents with a DSM-5 diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse for the pathology in their families, and that will then provide the professional rationale for the necessary protective separation period.

On that you will have no compromise from me.  I will NOT sacrifice children and families to the pathology in order to achieve peace with the Gardnerians.

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

The Enabling Allies of the Pathogen

The pathogen has three defensive structures:

1.)  Remain hidden;

2.)  Seek allies;

3.)  Attack threats of exposure with great viciousness.

I want to talk about the second defensive structure, seek allies.  There are several types of allies that the pathogen recruits.

Ignorant Activating Allies:  The most obvious allies that the pathogen enlists are the ignorant and incompetent mental health persons who actively collude the pathology because of their profound professional ignorance and incompetence.

The pathogen seeks ignorance, and turns ignorance into an ally.  That’s key to remember.

Pathological Activating Allies:  In some cases, these mental health allies move from being just plain ignorant and incompetent allies into being pathological allies who are vicariously working through their own childhood trauma histories through their collusion with the false trauma-narrative of the alienation: “abusive parent”/”victimized child”/”protective parent.”

In professional psychology, this is called the therapist’s own “counter-transference” (the patient has “transference” – the therapist has “counter-transference”; transferring childhood patterns to current relationships).  These mental health persons have been captivated in their interpretations of the current situation by the “schemas” of their own childhood trauma.

The trauma reenactment narrative of “abusive parent”/”victimized child”/”protective parent” is, psychologically, an incredibly captivating narrative – and it represents the psychological hook that’s used to capture and enlist the ally.

Flying Monkey Allies:  Another level of allies are the general “flying monkey” people, these are people like Jean Mercer and the various obsessed general population people who will glom onto a case and escalate the rhetoric with hyperbolic accusations that Gardner, or Childress, or Pruter are evil people seeking to return abused children to their abuser.

This group is similar to the pathological mental health allies in that both groups are working out their own childhood attachment trauma issues by self-adopting the role in the false trauma-reenactment narrative as the “protective ally.”  The degree of the inner pathology that’s driving them is evidenced in their obsessional fixation that entirely captivates these flying monkey allies of the pathogen.

The flying monkey allies are typically also the carriers for the pathogen’s third defensive process, attack threats of exposure with great viciousness.

Because the pathogen disables (inhibits) frontal lobe executive function logical reasoning systems of the brain, these flying monkey allies – and all of the pathogen’s allies – are stupid as sin.  But the flying monkey allies are also incredibly vicious in their attacks (such as the attack that Gardner was a “pedophile”).  They seek to destroy the person.  Incredibly vicious.

Because the pathogen is stupid as sin, the attacks emanating from the pathogen aren’t rational.  What the attacks lack in rational logic, however, they make up for in sheer number.  The attacks emanating from the pathogen are vented a wild barrage of hyperbolic and extreme accusations that are spewed forth in a rapid progression of false allegations, lies, and distortions.

The goal of the pathology is to put the target of the attack on the defensive in order to divert the focus of attention AWAY from the pathogen and thereby relieve the threat of exposure for the pathogen posed by the target.  A general rule of thumb for the pathogen is, “When threatened, create complete chaos.”

In addition to putting the target/threat on the defensive, the barrage of accusations is also a strategy to compensate for the pathogen’s inability to logically reason.  The pathogen – or more accurately the brain inhabited by the pathogenic structures in the attachment networks – cannot logically reason to be able to figure out what represents rational and reasoned attacks, so instead it throws out a thousand attacks, no matter how irrational, and then follows-up with whatever attacks appeared to gain traction.  It’s an interesting strategy for self-defense by a brain in which logical reasoning has been inhibited.

These are the Activating Allies of the pathogen.  But there’s a second group of allies, the Enabling Allies of the pathology whose role is to remain hidden beneath the veil of concealment while acting to disable the mental health system’s response to the pathology.  As a clinical psychologist, uncovering this aspect of the pathology has been incredibly intriguing, leading to a variety of insights into attachment-related pathology and it’s spread among collateral receptive brain systems.

The Enabling Allies are a trickier group of allies because they operate beneath the pathogen’s veil of concealment – they remain hidden.  These allies aren’t as overtly obvious as the Activating Allies, but both groups of allies exhibit the same distinctive inhibition of frontal lobe executive function reasoning systems.

However, the Enabling Allies do not display the same attack motivations as the Activating Allies.  Instead, the Enabling Allies exhibit an inhibition of the attack response and a pronounced motivation to seek a stupor of shared-mind states that are marked by a distinctive inhibition of frontal lobe critical thinking.  The absence of the attack motivation and the propensity to develop a shared-mind cognitive stupor apparently allows these covert allies to remain hidden and unexposed beneath the pathogen’s veil of concealment, which allows them to then enact their role of deactivating the mental health response to the pathology.

Since the role of these Enabling Allies within the pathology’s social expression is to disable the mental health system’s response to the pathology, putting any solution in place will require that this function of these Enabling Allies of deactivating the mental health system’s response to the pathology must be interrupted, otherwise the pathogen will be successful in continuing to enact itself for another five years or longer, depending on how long the Enabling Allies of the pathogen are able to deactivate the mental health response to the pathology.

Because we will be striving to put into place the solution to “parental alienation” in the coming time period, I need to take steps to interrupt the ability of the pathogen’s Enabling Allies to continue disabling the mental health system’s response to the pathology.  To do this, I first need to expose the functioning of these Enabling Allies from beneath their veil of concealment.  The first defense of the pathogen is to remain hidden.

Known Pathology

Professional psychology has known exactly what this pathology is for 30 years.

It is abundantly clear to any rational mental health professional that a child’s rejection of a parent is a pathology of the attachment system.  The attachment system is the brain system that governs all aspects of love and bonding throughout the lifespan, including grief and loss.  A child rejecting a parent is clearly an attachment-related pathology.

That this truth has not been addressed in 30 years by the Gardnerian PAS “experts” represents an appalling absence of professional competence that speaks directly to their absence of motivation to actually solve the pathology.

Are the Gardnerian PAS “experts” really that stupid that they have not recognized in 30 years that a child’s rejection of a parent is fundamentally a pathology of the attachment system? (inhibition of frontal lobe executive function reasoning systems?)

Or are they simply that unmotivated to actually work out and solve the pathology?

Actually, it’s both; the inhibition of frontal lobe reasoning systems and the inhibition of motivation to solve the pathology.

In 1980 – 35 years ago – John Bowlby, the preeminent authority on the attachment system, identified that the “deactivation of attachment behavior” (such as a child rejecting a parent) was the result of “pathological mourning” (the pathological processing of sadness, grief, and loss).

Yet despite this completely available information, nowhere in the literature of Gardnerian PAS over the past 30 years has the linkage to “pathological mourning” ever been identified or examined.  This represents an appalling absence of basic professional competence in the assessment and diagnosis of a clearly attachment-related pathology, and it speaks directly to the absence of motivation in the Gardnerian PAS “experts” to actually solve the pathology.

I used to supervise interns and post-doctoral fellows.  If a trainee had brought me a case of a child rejecting a parent surrounding divorce, the first thing I would have done is instruct the trainee to read Bowlby’s three volumes on the attachment system, because a child rejecting a parent is clearly – clearly – an attachment-related pathology.  But the Gardnerian PAS “experts” never appeared to have done that.  In 30 years, they don’t appear to have cared enough to actually try and understand and diagnose the pathology.

That’s just profound professional sloth bordering on professional negligence.

Q:  Why were they so incredibly passive in trying to figure out the nature of the pathology?

A:  Gardnerian PAS.

These self-appointed “experts” in a supposedly “new form of pathology” were lulled into a professional slumber by the abject simplicity of the Gardnerian PAS model, which supposedly represented a “new form of pathology” that was entirely unique in all of mental health.  They didn’t undertake the proper – the proper – professional responsibility of responding to an attachment-related pathology by becoming knowledgeable and competent about the attachment system.

Shame on them.  The degree of professional indolence and sloth displayed by the Gardnerian PAS “experts” across 30 years while thousands and thousands of children and families were destroyed represents, in my mind, professional negligence.  I would NEVER have accepted such professional indolence and sloth from any mental health intern I supervised, and there is NO excuse from a licensed mental health professional for such indolence and sloth.

A child rejecting a parent is CLEARLY an attachment-related pathology.

The absolutely first thing for ANY mental health professional to do who is assessing, diagnosing, or treating an attachment-related pathology is to read Bowlby’s three volumes on the attachment system.  That’s just a basic-basic issue of professional competence.

Furthermore, in 1993 – 25 years ago – the renowned family systems therapist, Salvador Minuchin, in his book with Michael Nichols, Family Healing, provided a structural family diagram depicting the pathology that people have been calling “parental alienation.”  This structural family diagram depicts the child’s triangulation into the spousal conflict through the formation of a cross-generational coalition with the father against the mother.  Notice the breaks in the lines from the mother to the father and to the child.  That’s called an emotional cutoff, and this type of family pathology has been extensively described by the renowned family therapist Murray Bowen (Bowen, 1978; Titelman, 2003).

That break in the lines depicted in Munichin’s structural family diagram (the “emotional cutoff” in the child’s relationship with the mother) represents the child’s rejection of the parent that everyone is calling “parental alienation.”  The correct clinical psychology term for this pathology in family systems therapy is an “emotional cutoff.”  Same exact pathology.

Listen to Salvador Minuchin’s description of the consequences of a child’s cross-generational coalition with the mother against the father following the parents’ divorce:

“An inappropriately rigid cross-generational subsystem of mother and son versus father appears, and the boundary around this coalition of mother and son excludes the father.” (Minuchin, 1974, p. 61-62)

“The parents were divorced six months earlier and the father is now living alone… Two of the children who were very attached to their father, now refuse any contact with him.  The younger children visit their father but express great unhappiness with the situation.” (Minuchin, 1974, p. 101)

Isn’t that an exact description of the pathology people call “parental alienation” – following the parent’s divorce the children are rejecting one parent (the father in this case) because of a coalition of the children with their mother that “excludes the father.”  Look at the date; 1974.  Over forty years ago, and fully ten years before Gardner proposed his supposedly “new form of pathology” – his Parental Alienation Syndrome.

This is not some “new form of pathology.”  We know exactly what this is.  We just need to return to the standard and established constructs and principles of professional psychology.

And then there’s the personality pathology.  Gardner identified the “lack of ambivalence” displayed by the child as one of his 8 symptoms of this supposedly new form of pathology.  The symptom of a “lack of ambivalence” is called splitting in professional psychology, and is a highly indicative symptom – in fact it’s an exclusive symptom – of narcissistic and borderline personality pathology.  Why didn’t Gardner call it splitting?  Why didn’t he work out the narcissistic and borderline personality pathology component of the pathology?

This isn’t some sort of “new pathology,” Gardner and the other Gardnerian PAS “experts” are simply poor diagnosticians – in fact, really poor diagnosticians if they have to resort to creating an entirely “new form of pathology.”  Let that sink in for a moment.  These so-called “experts” are actually horrific diagnosticians, and yet they view themselves as some sort of “experts.”  Pretty low bar for “expertise” if you ask me.

Attachment pathology (pathological mourning), family systems pathology (cross-generational coalition and emotional cutoff), personality disorder pathology (narcissistic and borderline personality pathology).  Standard and fully established stuff just waiting for us to leave the wilderness of Gardnerian PAS and return to the path of established professional psychology.

Why did this wait 30 years?  Not one – not one – of the Gardnerian PAS experts in 30 years put in the professional effort to work this out.  Sloth.  It’s all been there for the entire time if anyone – if any one of them – had been sufficiently motivated to put in the effort to work it out.

Why did I work it out?  Because I am motivated to solve the pathology.

Why didn’t the Gardnerian PAS “experts” work it out?  Because they are NOT motivated to solve the pathology.

Simple as that.

But they write articles.  They provide testimony.  They advocate for PAS to be included in the DSM diagnostic system.  Surely they want to solve the pathology?

Writing professional articles as “experts” in a supposedly new form of pathology feeds their inflated narcissistic opinion of themselves as “experts.”  Providing “expert” witness testimony feeds their inflated narcissistic opinion of themselves as “experts.”  Advocating that PAS be included in the DSM diagnostic system feeds their inflated narcissistic opinion of themselves as “experts.”

They’re not fighting for you.  In fact, 30 years – no solution – they are completely impotent in “fighting” for you and your children.  And they did not lift a finger to understand and identify the pathology using standard and established constructs and principles that would have provided you and your children with an immediate solution.  Why?

Because they don’t want a solution.  They want to be “experts.”

They recently had a echo chamber conference in Prague and what did they come up with, all these “experts” in “parental alienation”?   That they’re “experts” in “parental alienation.” Seriously.  That’s their big news from their conference.  Narcissistic self-inflation.

In 30 years they did not do the professional work needed by targeted parents and their children.  Why not?   Because they don’t actually care about solving the pathology – they just want to satisfy their narcissistic ego-inflation as “experts” in a new form of pathology.

I am waking everyone up to these Enabling Allies of the pathology.   We are going to be solving this pathology for all children and all families, and the professional ignorance and incompetence of these Gardnerian PAS “experts” who are actively disabling the mental health system’s response to the pathology needs to stop.

They are false allies to targeted parents and to the children who have endured decades of professional incompetence and professional impotence because of their professional indolence and sloth.  They present a fair-face, but they are actually disabling the mental health system’s response to the pathogen.  They are false allies to you and your children.

By proposing and supporting a clearly – clearly – inadequate and flawed model of pathology – for 30 years – the Gardnerian PAS “experts” created and continue to create a schism in professional psychology that has disabled the professional response to the pathology in endless and needless debate and internecine professional conflict.

Rather than acting from the proper professional path of describing the attachment-related family pathology using the standard and established – fully available – constructs and principles of professional psychology, these ignorant and incompetent, abhorrently slothful and professionally negligent, Gardnerian PAS “experts” have inflexibly insisted – insisted – that establishment psychology submit to a clearly inadequate and massively flawed model of pathology.   And for 30 years, establishment psychology has consistently given them abundantly clear constructive feedback that the Gardnerian PAS model is simply too flawed as a model of pathology.

And it is.  It is an absolutely horrific model for a pathology.

Did the Gardnerian PAS “experts” ever take this constructive feedback and set about doing the work necessary to figure out what the attachment-related family pathology of a child rejecting a parent surrounding divorce actually represents?  No.

Instead they continued to inflexibly – obstinately – stubbornly – insist that establishment psychology must submit and accept a massively flawed model of pathology.   Stupid.

In doing so, they created a vacuum of professional competence.  Gardnerian PAS was NOT accepted, but no other model for the pathology was proposed.  Into this vacuum of ignorance and incompetence created by the Gardnerian PAS model flowed the massive professional ignorance and incompetence that currently inhabits every corner of the mental health response to the pathology.

The massive professional ignorance and incompetence in the mental health system’s response to this pathology is the DIRECT RESULT of Gardnerian PAS and the professional ignorance, sloth, and incompetence of the Gardnerian PAS “experts.”  They are the Enabling Allies of the pathogen.  They are the hidden allies of the pathogen who have acted across 30 years to disable the mental health system’s response to the pathology.

How did the pathogen captivate them?  By linking into their grandiose narcissistic ego-structures that desire to be regarded as “experts.”

Once the pathogen has them as allies – as Enabling Allies – the pathogen then shuts off their frontal lobe executive function critical thinking systems so they become intellectually slothful and lazy.  They like the Gardnerian PAS model because it’s simple.  Never mind that its a horrible model of pathology.  It’s simple. They can grasp it.  It doesn’t make these “experts” think too hard.

And through the motivational networks available from the attachment networks, the pathogen captivates their self-inflated narcissistic motivation to be “experts” while simultaneously inhibiting their motivation to actually solve the pathology.  For 30 years they write articles and hold conferences, they advocate and they pontificate – all because they are “experts” in this supposedly new form of pathology.  But do they actually solve the pathology.  No.

They are not motivated to solve the pathology – they are ONLY motivated to be “experts” in their mythical new form of pathology.

Look what I’ve done with AB-PA.  Why?  How?  Because I am motivated to solve the pathology, not simply be an “expert” in the pathology.

This solution has always – always – been available to the Gardnerian PAS “experts.”  From day one.  I’m not special; I just care.  My motivation is to solve the pathology.  Their motivation is to be an “expert.”

Bowlby is not new.  1980.  Over 35 years ago.

Minuchin is not new. 1974. Over 40 years ago.

The Gardnerian PAS “experts” have ALWAYS had the ability to solve the pathology – if they had simply wanted to.

They didn’t want to.

Instead, they have locked up the professional response to the pathology in controversy, endless debate, and profound professional ignorance and incompetence – all so they could fulfill their narcissistic self-inflated ego-desires to be “experts.”

Experts.  Ha.  Stupid as sin.

In terms of actually working to solve the pathology – they have been slothful, intellectually lazy, and entirely impotent in protecting you and your children from the scourge of this horrific pathology – for decades.

The Gardnerian PAS “experts” are the Enabling Allies of the pathogen.  They are hiding their ignorance and incompetence behind a false-face of being allies to targeted parents and their children – but they are abandoning – they are sacrificing – targeted parents and their children to the continuation of the pathology, all so that these Gardnerian PAS “experts” can remain narcissistically self-absorbed “experts” in their supposedly new form of pathology.

Their conferences are nothing more that self-congratulatory echo chambers for their own self-aggrandizement, and they will continue to try to lock up the professional response to the pathology in the endless and entirely unnecessary professional “controversy” surrounding their failed, massively flawed, and entirely inadequate model of pathology.

As Enabling Allies of the pathogen, the Gardnerian PAS “experts” will seek to continue to mire professional psychology in a general confusion regarding PAS and AB-PA in order to prevent clarity from emerging that will lead to a solution to “parental alienation.”  They will co-opt concepts of AB-PA and associate them with Garnerian PAS even though these concepts are NOT applicable to Gardnerian PAS, all to obfuscate and confuse.

What they seek is to mire the professional discussion surrounding AB-PA in confusion, and because of this AB-PA will be dismissed as simply being Gardnerian PAS and it will take us fully five additional years to undo the damage created by this Gardnerian induced confusion.

All the while, more and more families will be needlessly sacrificed to the pathology, awaiting a solution that is bogged down by the general confusion in professional psychology created by these Gardnerian PAS “experts.”

They have not fought for you.  There is no fight in them.  But by God, there is fight in me.  They are false allies who seek to continue disabling the mental health response to the pathology in order to satisfy their narcissistic self-inflation as “experts” in a mythical form of pathology.

They are now witnessing what “fighting” for targeted parents and their children looks like.

Ignorance from mental health persons will no longer be tolerated.  Professional sloth from mental health persons will no longer be tolerated.  Professional incompetence from mental health persons will no longer be tolerated.  Allies of the pathogen – both Activating Allies and Enabling Allies – will no longer be tolerated.

We will no longer stand by impotently while countless children and their beloved parents are sacrificed to this pathology.

We are going to fight for your children.  We are going to bring this pathology to an end.

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

Bowlby, J. (1980). Attachment and loss: Vol. 3. Loss: Sadness and depression. NY: Basic Books.

Bowen, M. (1978). Family Therapy in Clinical Practice. New York: Jason Aronson.

Minuchin, S. (1974). Families and Family Therapy. Harvard University Press.

Minuchin. S. & Nichols, M.P. (1993). Family healing: Strategies for hope and understanding. New York: Touchstone.

Titelman, P. (2003). Emotional cutoff in Bowen family systems theory: An Overview.  In Emotional cutoff: Bowen family systems theory perspectives, P. Tetelman (ed). New York: Haworth Press.

Karen Woodall – Stop It

Karen Woodall, stop trying to co-opt my work and present it as your own.

In your most recent blog (Taken at the Flood) you state:

Dr Childress’s recent blog called The Structure of the Pathology, I sat down with my mouth open, because in this blog is the description of exactly that which I discussed at the first meeting of the European Association of Parental Alienation Practitioners in Prague.

Karen Woodall, stop trying to co-opt my work and present it as if it was your own.  Within exactly the same sentence that you reference my work you claim it as your own.

Cite for me where you structurally linked the family systems pathology to the personality disorder pathology to the attachment system pathology.

Cite for me where you described the structural underbelly of the pathogen and the three defensive structures, and the inhibition of the executive function system, the identity system, and the memory system.

Karen Woodall, stop trying to co-opt MY work and present it as if it was your own.

It is professionally unseemly, it is professionally inappropriate, and it is professionally disrespectful to try to co-opt the work of another as if it was your own.  Stop it.

I don’t care what you spoke about in Prague, it is not “exactly” like what I presented in my blog.  I am outraged that you would try to co-opt my work as if it was your own.

Just because you present a pretty picture of objects on desk does not mean that you have worked out the structure of the pathogen.  My work is not “exactly” what you may have spoken about it Prague.  Stop trying to co-opt my work and present it as if it was your own.

This is analogous to what Dr. Bernet initially tried to do in his Old Wine in Old Skins commentary on Foundations and AB-PA, by claiming that AB-PA was nothing new, just the same old stuff everybody was talking about.

Dr. Bernet’s assertion was complete and utter nonsense.  An attachment-based model of “parental alieantion” (AB-PA) as put forth in Foundations is not simply Gardnernian PAS using “a new set of terms.”  Words convey meaning.  New “terms” create new meaning.  The “new terms” of AB-PA do NOT convey the same meaning as the old terms used in Gardnerian PAS.  Words having meaning.

You and Dr. Bernet want to pretend that AB-PA doesn’t exist, that it’s “nothing new” – because you are desperately trying to hold on to your status as “experts” in a mythical “new form of pathology” called “parental alienation.”

I, on the other hand, am trying to take us back to the path of established professional psychology – established professional constructs and principles – real and actual forms of psychological pathology.  NO “new forms of pathology” unique in all of mental health that require an equally new and unique set of symptom identifiers developed uniquely and specifially for this supposedly new form of pathology.

No.  The pathology we are dealing with is a manifestation of standard and fully established forms of pathology that are extensively and fully described in the professional literature.  It’s NOT a “new form of pathology.”  No.

We must return to the path of established professional psychology.  No mythical “new forms of pathology.”  ONLY – ONLY – real and established – actual forms of pathology that are fully defined and fully accepted within professional psychology.

AB-PA accomplishes this.  AB-PA defines the attachment-related family pathology people are calling “parental alienation” entirely – entirely – from within the standard and established forms of pathology in professional psychology, without having to rely on a wild proposal for the existence of some entirely new form of pathology that is unique in all of mental health.

There is no such thing as “parental alienation.”  It is a mythical form of pathology; unicorns and mermaids.

There is attachment-related pathology.

There is personality disorder pathology.

There is family systems pathology.

There are a lot of real pathologies.  But there is no such thing as a new and entirely unique form of pathology called “parental alienation.”  The pathology people are calling “parental alienation” is a manifestation of standard and fully established forms of existing pathology.  The term “parental alienation” is a popular culture term used to describe an attachment-related clinical pathology (called pathogenic parenting and pathological mourning in the professional literature).

Being an “Expert”

But the moment we return to the path of professionally established constructs and principles, the moment we stop proposing an entirely “new form of pathology,” then you and Dr. Bernet and all the other Gardnerian PAS “experts” cease to be “experts,” because you are only experts in unicorns and mermaids.  You need to hold on to mythical forms of new pathology – to the existence of unicorns and mermaids – because then you can hold on to your status as an “expert.”

Don’t believe me?  Answer me this one simple question… what is the path to a solution using Gardnerian PAS?  Lay it out for us.  Tell us, what is the path to a solution that you envision using Gardnerian PAS?

I’ve described, in detail, the path to a solution using AB-PA on multiple occasions (Ex: Dominoes Part 1: Paradigm Shift; Dominoes Falling: The Sequence)

I’m asking you a really simple and direct question.  Tell us the path to a solution using a Gardnerian PAS model.  Targeted parents deserve an answer to this question.  What is the path you propose to a solution using a Gardnerian PAS model?

Because if you have NO solution, if Gardnerian PAS offers NO solution except 30 more years of the same, then why are you still holding on to it?  AB-PA offers an immediate solution the moment the paradigm shifts.

So please – please – answer me that simple-simple question, what is the path to a solution that you envision using Gardnerian PAS?  Lay it out for us.

Because if you don’t answer that question yet you continue to hold on to Gardnerian PAS as a model for the pathology, then I’m going to call you out as being a false ally who only wants to remain an “expert” rather than achieve an actual solution.

It’s a simple question.  We have a right to know.  What is the solution you envision using a Gardnerian PAS model?  Lay it out for us.

As a clinical psychologist, I notice little things about a person’s self-expression.  Sometimes these little things tell us a lot.

I’m struck by the difference in the sub-headings for my blog and yours.

The sub-heading on my blog reads: Attachment-Based Parental Alienation (AB-PA).  A Scientifically Based Model of “Parental Alienation”

I’d call your attention to several things about this sub-heading.  First, I emphasize the model for the pathology.  Second, I reference establishing a scientifically based foundation for the model.  Third, I put the term “Parental Alienation” in quotes because it is not a real form of pathology – the term “parental alienation” is a term used in the popular culture to refer to an attachment-related pathology (called pathological mourning; Bowlby, 1980).

Now let’s look at the sub-heading for your blog. It reads: Parental Alienation Expert.

Hmmm.  Note the difference.  To a clinical psychologist, your sub-heading seems to suggest an ego-investment in being an “expert” – it’s all about you – you’re an “expert.”

But then that will create a problem when we return to standard and established professional constructs and principles to define and diagnose the pathology.  The moment we return to the standard and established constructs of professional psychology, the moment we leave the realm of mythical “new forms of pathology” – you’ll cease to be an “expert.”  Uh oh.

That’s the problem – the dilemma – you face.  The path to the solution requires a return to the standard and established constructs and principles of professional psychology.  But in returning to the path of established professional psychology, you’ll cease to be an “expert.”  What are you going to do?  That is the question you face.

Do you want to directly face that question? Here is your dilemma in a nutshell:

Q:  Describe the path to a solution that you envision using a Gardnerian PAS model.

That answer – or lack of answer – to THAT question is at the heart of your dilemma.

What are you going to do?  Remain an “expert” or enact the solution?

AB-PA gives an immediate DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed.  But only if you use the three diagnostic indicators of AB-PA, and the three diagnostic indicators are only available to you if you switch to an AB-PA model of the pathology.  The 8 Gardnerian PAS symptoms do not lead to a DSM-5 diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse.  You know it, and I know it.

What are you going to do?  Remain an “expert” or enact the solution?

Actually, you don’t have a choice.  Because the solution is coming, it’s already underway, and your “expertise” in unicorns and mermaids is going to become irrelevant.  You and the other Gardnerian PAS experts are currently living in a echo chamber of self-aggrandizement – “we’re experts” – “let’s define what experts are, and we’ll be them.”

What will happen when you cease to be an “expert”?  What will happen when mental health professionals all across Great Britain and Europe are accurately diagnosing the attachment-related pathology using an AB-PA model as being a DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse.  What happens to “parental alienation” experts when the pathology is solved?

I can totally understand why you and the other Gardnerian PAS “experts” want to hold on to the mythical “new form of pathology” – you’ve been “experts” in this mythical new form of pathology for so long it’s become a part of the very fabric of your professional identity.  I imagine it’s very disorienting to watch your “expertise” in this “new form of pathology” disappear as we return to the standard and established path of professional psychology, and as we achieve the solution – all done, solved – to the attachment-related pathology that you’re calling “parental alienation.”

But while you seek to be an “expert” in unicorns and mermaids, I am an expert in real forms of pathology.

You know what being an expert in real forms of pathology is called? — it’s called being a clinical psychologist.  That’s it.  I’m just a clinical psychologist.

And being a clinical psychologist means that I an an expert in real forms of psychopathology, from autism to ADHD, from attachment-related pathology to personality pathology.  That’s what being a clinical psychologist means.

Real Pathology

So if you want to believe in unicorns and mermaids so that you can be an “expert” in unicorns and mermaids, that’s up to you.  The rest of us are going to be experts in real forms of pathology, attachment-related pathology, personality pathology, family systems pathology.

But even if you’re an “expert” in unicorns and mermaids, that still does NOT release you – and all of the other Gardnerian PAS “experts” – from your professional obligation – your professional obligation – to ALSO know, assess, diagnose, and treat actual real forms of pathology.

If you are assessing, diagnosing, and treating attachment-related pathology without a professional-level of knowledge regarding the functioning and characteristic dysfunctioning of the attachment system, then you are practicing beyond the boundaries of professional competence with REAL forms of pathology.

If you are assessing, diagnosing, and treating personality disorder pathology without a professional-level of knowledge regarding the origins, functioning, and characteristic dysfunctioning of personality disorder pathology as expressed within the family, then you are practicing beyond the boundaries of professional competence with REAL forms of pathology.

If you are assessing, diagnosing, and treating family pathology without a professional-level of knowledge regarding the fundamental constructs and principles of family systems and family system therapy, then you are practicing beyond the boundaries of professional competence with REAL forms of pathology.

That means that you must – as a real mental health professional – assess for and document the symptoms associated with these real forms of pathology.

The easiest way to do this for attachment-related pathology surrounding divorce (notice I did not use the term “parental alienation”: I’m talking about real forms of pathology) is to use the Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting.  If the three diagnostic indicators are present, the DSM-5 diagnosis is V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed.

Easy-peasy.

Documenting the presence of the 12 Associated Clinical Signs is also recommended as confirming data.

If you are NOT using the Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting in your standard assessment of attachment-related pathology surrounding divorce, why not?

Why aren’t you using the Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting that can immediately give you a DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed?

You can still go ahead and be an “expert” in unicorns and mermaids too, if you want.  Personally, being a clinical psychologist is enough for me; an expert in real forms of pathology – from autism to ADHD, from attachment-related pathology to personality disorder pathology.  But if it’s important for you to also be an “expert” in unicorns and mermaids, whatever floats your boat.

But you must ALSO be competent in real forms of pathology as well.  That is your professional obligation.

Origins of “Protective Separation”

While I’m here, Karen, I would appreciate the professional courtesy of your providing me with professional citation when you use the construct of a “protective separation.”  I am the one who introduced that construct into the professional dialogue. It’s considered professionally courteous and respectful to acknowledge the contributions of other mental health professionals.

Let me explain the origin of the term “protective separation” – my conscious and intentional decision to introduce that construct into the meme-space (Dawkins, 1989) of the professional discussion.

In my initial analysis of the various meme-structures of the pathogen, a central core meme-structure is the effort by the allied narcissistic/(borderline) parent to adopt and then conspicuously display the false trauma reenactment role as the “protective parent.”

When I set about constructing the anti-pathogen meme-structure, I formulated the linkage of the pathology (pathogenic parenting) to a DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse.  I then formulated the link from a formal DSM diagnosis of child abuse to the treatment-related response of separating the child from the abusive parent.

But as I selected my words, I intentionally added the word “protective” to the word “separation” to actively challenge the false meme-structure being propagated by the pathogen that it was the allied narcissistic/(borderline) parent who was “protecting the child.”  No.  We are the ones protecting the child.  We are going to fight for that role of protecting the child.

WE are the ones protecting the child.  That’s what the meme-structure of the “protective separation” is specifically – and intentionally – designed to address.

I also knew, from my analyses of the pathogen’s meme-structures as they are propagated within its allies, that the counter meme-structure that the pathogen would offer is that separating the child from the supposedly “favored” parent would be “traumatic” for the child.  By adding the word “protective” to the construct of a protective separation, I was introducing a meme-structure to counter the “traumatic” argument that would be offered by the pathogen – it is NOT “traumatic”  to “protect” a child from child abuse.

Notice too in all my writings I have added the word “supposedly” to the phrase “favored parent” – and will often put the word “favored” in quotes – thereby creating the phrase: supposedly “favored” parent.  We are even going to fight the pathogen’s meme-structure that the allied narcissistic/(borderline) parent is the “favored” parent.  No.  That relationship is actually an insecure attachment.  The secure attachment is to the targeted parent.

So, while the meme-structure of the “supposedly ‘favored’ parent” is somewhat cumbersome, I’m not going to give an inch to the pathogen.  We are going to fight every single pathogenic construct.

So in creating and introducing the meme-structure of “protective separation,” I had two fully conscious and fully intentional clinical psychology reasons for adding the word protective to the construct of separation, and you’ll see this term from the very start of all my writings five or six years ago.

If you don’t think I know exactly what I’m doing, you’re wrong.

So when you use the term “protective separation,” Karen, you are referencing a construct that I specifically developed and that I intentionally introduced into the meme-space (Dawkins, 1989) of the professional discussion.  When you use the term “protective separation” I would appreciate the common professional courtesy and display of professional respect of citing me as the originator for this construct, rather than ignoring my contribution and co-opting the construct without proper citation as if you were the orginator of it.

The professional reference citation I would prefer would be to Foundations.  So when you use the term, at least the first time in each document, the citation to me as the originator for the construct would look like this:

“…words-words-words protective separation (Childress, 2015) words-words-words…”

With a citation to Foundations in your References:

Childress, C.A. (2015). An Attachment-Based Model of Parental Alienation: Foundations. Claremont, CA: Oaksong Press.

Or you can simply eschew from adding the word protective to the construct of separation, and simply refer to the child’s separation from the allied parent, in which case you won’t need to cite me as a the originator for the construct of a “protective separation.”

That’s called professional courtesy and respect.

If you choose not to reference me as the originator for the construct of a “protective separation,” as you have been doing up to this point, and you instead try to co-opt my work as if it was original to you, there’s nothing I can do about that.  But it’s considered a matter of professional courtesy and respect to cite the originator for ideas and constructs (for example, my citation of Dawkins relative to the construct of memes).

Structure of the Pathogen

But for you to claim that my work on defining and describing the structure of the pathogen is “exactly” what you’ve already done goes way-way too far. It is outrageous and insulting.

Cite for me where you structurally linked the family systems pathology to the personality disorder pathology to the attachment system pathology.

Cite for me where you described the structural underbelly of the pathogen and the three defensive structures, and the inhibition of the executive function system, the identity system, and the memory system.

Stop trying to co-opt my work and pass my ideas and my work off as your own.  It is outrageous and insulting.

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

Dawkins, R. (1989). The selfish gene. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Douglas Darnall

I just learned of the passing of Dr. Douglas Darnall.  He is a strong and valued voice for children and families in their fight against the pathology of “parental alienation.”

My prayers are with Doug as he travels home, and are with his family who mourn his loss.

May peace and love be with you.

Craig Childress, Psy.D.
Psychologist, PSY 18857

The Structure of the Pathology: Advanced Material

This is for mental health professionals, and I’m going to be introducing some advanced material here about the pathology.  Consider this blog my indulgence.  I find this interesting, so I’m going to blog about it because I can.


Sometimes my brain gets captivated with information that just has to get out, and until it gets out my brain just feels full.  It’s a weird experience, almost like the information in my brain is separate from me.

The moment I get the information out, it feels like there’s less pressure in the information-thinking areas of my brain and I can get back to work.

This happened over the past few days with a couple of diagrams.  I’ll be using these diagrams to explain the pathology in my November AB-PA training for mental health professionals.

The training is going to be in two parts.

Basic Certification in AB-PA:  On Saturday and Sunday I will lead two 6-hour training seminars in the basics of AB-PA, it’s assessment, diagnosis, and treatment (including instruction on constructing and running the Contingent Visitation Schedule).

Advanced Certification:  On that Monday, I’ll be offering a third 6-hour training on Advanced issues in AB-PA.  This is where all the really interesting stuff is going to be, the incest themes in the pathology, the pathogen’s formation, its structure, and its functioning, malignant narcissism and gaslighting, the linkages of the pathogen into other brain networks and systems, implications for other complex-trauma pathologies (pathological hatred, racism, and terrorism).

The diagrams that entered my brain and needed to get out are for the third day, the Advanced Certification training.  I thought I’d post them to my website just to get the information out there in case the universe calls me home before I’m able to get this information out in formal trainings.  If I’m called home by the universe, then at least this information won’t be entirely lost.  And besides, I just think this information is fascinating and I thought I’d share it for any young mental health professionals just starting out – guideposts into a very intriguing form of attachment-related pathology created in complex trauma.

The first diagram is an overall visual depiction of the pathology across three levels, the attachment system level, the personality disorder level, and the family systems level.

Pathology Schema Diagram

I’m going to use this diagram in my November seminar by first presenting a broad overview of the “meme-structures” of the pathology as they flow through the various levels.   I’ll have this diagram in the background on my Powerpoint (and as a handout) as I move through the various levels, describing the flow of meme-structures through the levels.

Once I provide this broad orientation to the pathology, my next few Powerpoint slides will be for each individual level, and I’ll go through each of the nodal points in each level of pathology, unpacking more fully the information at each nodal point of each separate level.

Finally, I’ll return to the overarching diagram again and flow through it once more for a final overall integration of the information within the pathology’s structure.

The legend for this diagram is:

The Attachment System Level

1.)  The attachment system (and component information structures)
2.)  Disorganized attachment (the core attachment “pattern” and origin of the inability to process sadness)
A.)  Splitting
3.)  Anxious-ambivalent overtones (borderline pathology); anxious-avoidant overtones (narcissistic pathology)
4.)  Self and Other representational networks
5.)  Core schemas of self-inadequacy and rejection/abandonment by the other
6.)  The central schema pattern of the trauma and trauma reenactment (“abusive parent”/”victimized child”/”protective parent”)

Personality Pathology Level

7.)  Personality pathology containing core schemas (and inability to process sadness)
8.)  Narcissistic personality pathology and borderline core
9.)  Borderline style response (containing core schemas of self-inadequacy and other-abandonment)
10.  Projective displacement of core schemas onto the ex-spouse and hyper-anxious presentation display
11.)  Narcissistic style response (containing core schemas of self-inadequacy and other-rejection)
12.)  Projective displacement of core schemas onto the ex-spouse and hostile-angry retaliatory presentation display
A.)  Splitting

Family Systems Pathology Level

13.)  Family challenge of transition to a separated family structure (triggering loss and sadness, triggering the attachment networks to mediate loss and sadness)
14.)  Regulation of “homeostatic balance” and imposition of collapsing personality disorder pathology in response to rejection-abandonment inherent to divorce.
15.)  Triangulation of the child; cross-generational coalition; emotional cutoff in the family between the child and targeted parent
A.)  Splitting

Trans-Generational Level

16a. Incest-related trauma theme of rejecting a parent
16b. Incest-related trauma theme of rejecting a parent

Now… imagine that this diagram is a three-dimensional model, like the molecule-models that chemists build using wooden balls and sticks.  So the diagram isn’t actually flat, each of the nodal points kind of comes forward or recedes somewhat to give a three dimensional structure to the pathology in space.

So now imagine that you’re holding this three-dimensional model, kind of turning it over this way and that, looking at it from one angle and then from a different angle; turning it to look at it from the bottom, so that the attachment information structures are up close and the other structures recede into the background along lines of perspective; or turning it to look at it from the attachment-personality disorder side, looking up close at how the disorganized attachment nodes lead into the narcissistic and borderline symptoms, while the rest of the model is in the more distant background.

Now imagine that you flip the model entirely over, looking at it from it’s backside – from its underbelly if you will.  As you flip it over you’ll notice that the three levels are structurally organized into a sort of cup shape, and you’ve been looking at the outside of the cup, but when you flip the structure over you have an entirely new perspective, you’re now looking inside the cup formed by the structure of nodal points contained in the three levels.

And low-and-behold, when you flip it over you see additional structures, additional nodal points that weren’t evident when you are only looking at the outside of the “cup” shape.  These nodal point structures only become visible when you flip the structure over.

That’s the second diagram, the Underbelly diagram.

The Underbelly of the Pathology Diagram

The Underbelly nodal points are what we see when we flip the structure of the three levels over and look inside the “cup” shape formed by the three levels of the pathology.

At the core of the Underbelly is the emotion regulation system (1), and it’s an absolute chaotic mess, as we would expect from a “disorganized” attachment system, childhood trauma exposure, and narcissistic/borderline personality pathology.  There’s an emotional abyss of deep-seated core-emptiness along with massive amounts of fragmenting anxiety (trauma-fear).

The chaotic and disorganized emotional regulatory system is linked up into the personality pathology (2), which is linked over to the attachment system damage and trauma (3).  These two nodal points are the linkages into the outside of the “cup” that we just looked at in diagram 1.  So these two nodal points in the Underbelly are the linkages into all the nodal information points on the outside of the cup (diagram 1).

But now notice something very-very interesting.  The attachment system is a “primary motivational system of the brain.”  As a primary motivational system of the brain, the attachment system therefore has links into motivational networks (4).  That’s what makes this pathology so incredibly amazing, unlike any other form of pathology I’ve ever run across.  Once it captures the brain, it has access to the person’s motivation.

Over the course of my professional career, I’ve worked with ADHD pathology and autism-spectrum disorders, with oppositional-defiant and conduct disorder spectrum pathology, I’ve even worked with schizophrenia and bipolar disorders in adults.  I’ve worked with just about every type of child and family pathology at some point or another, and I have never, ever, seen anything like this.  The pathology itself has motivation.

The pathology has motivation (albeit primitive, but motivation nevertheless) because it is embedded in the attachment system, and the attachment system is a “primary motivational system” of the brain with links into motivational networks.

It was sometime in… probably 2010 to 2012 when I first flipped the imagery-model over and saw the Underbelly.  “Holy cow.  Now, look at this…”

The motivational networks link into three “defensive structures.”  The pathogen actively seeks (has motivation) to defend itself, and to prevent efforts at disabling the pathology.  Holy cow.  I have never-ever seen anything like this.  The pathology seeks to defend itself – is motivated to actively defend itself if we try to get rid of it.

“Hey!  Yooo hooo.  Mental health people.  You gotta see this.  This is incredible.  The pathology has structures that seek to defend the pathology.”

The three defensive structures are:

Remain Hidden (5).  This is the primary defensive structure, and in the Advanced seminar in November I’ll explain where this defensive structure comes from, we’ll flip the model of the pathology over-and-back and see the formation of this defensive structure in the trauma pathology that created the damaged information structures of the attachment networks.

Seek Allies (6).  This is another extremely intriguing feature of the pathology.  It actively seeks out allies.  The pathology is motivated to seek and form allies, to both enact the pathology and also to help it remain hidden.  In November, we’ll do the same thing with this defensive structure of flipping the model back-and-forth to see specifically how this defensive structure originates from the trauma, and this particular structure will shed light on other types of narcissistic-origin pathologies, such as cult formation and terrorist group formation.  The pathogen “motivates” the formation of ally groups to enact the pathology (hence the “flying monkey” feature of the pathology).

Attack Threats with Great Viciousness (7).  This is THE most dangerous psychological pathogen on the planet.  It’s the same core-structure pathogenic agent responsible for the Nazis and for terrorism; different surrounding meme-structures (nodal points on the outside of the “cup,” but same core trauma-structure “backbone” and Underbelly.  This particular defensive meme (this particular set of information structures in the brain that contains the meme-structures of this pathogen), is responsible for the violence and cruelty of the pathogen’s expression, from the psychological violence toward the targeted parent in “parental alienation,” to the violence of terrorist bombings, to the violence of African child-soldiers, to the violence of Nazi concentration camps.  Same core structural nodal points on the outside of the “cup” (similar, not exactly the same), leading to the same Underbelly, the attachment system links into motivational networks, and the nodal point of “Attack Threats with Great Viciousness.”

The motivation to attack perceived threats (whether it’s Richard Gardner surrounding exposing the pathology of “parental alienation,” or the perceived “threat” supposedly posed by Jews that leads to antisemitism, or the “threat” perceived by racists from persons of color that motivates the horrific cruelty of racial lynchings, or the terrorist motivation to construct a bomb with nails to viciously kill and injure “non-believers” in a supposed holy jihad), all of this vicious and violent cruelty originates from this “defensive” nodal point (7) that exists within the structural context of this particular psychological trauma-pathogen.

In November, on day 3 of the seminar, I’ll unpack the origins of this meme-structure nodal point in the trauma and explain exactly where it comes from and how it was created in the trauma.

But there’s more…

This pathogen, the damaged and broken information structures in the attachment system on the outside of the “cup” (foundational nodal box 1 of the Levels of Pathology diagram), also links into other areas of the brain, inhibiting the full operation of these other brain areas.

In particular, it attacks and inhibits three main brain areas,

1)  Executive Function – Logical Reasoning (8):  The reason the pathogen inhibits logical reasoning is because the brain needs to “regulate” intensely painful emotions and can’t, unless it alters truth and reality.  In order to regulate the chaotic and intensely painful emotions, the person, the brain, needs to be able to alter truth and reality (“Truth and reality are whatever I assert them to be”).  This is what leads to the delusional component of the pathology.

As an aside, we can see this feature of inhibited logical-reasoning on prominent display in a certain political figure who has narcissistic pathology; “Truth and reality are whatever I assert them to be.”

As a second aside, we can also see this feature of inhibited logical-reasoning being prominently displayed by the Gardnerian PAS “experts.”  This has important implications for understanding their reluctance to switch to an AB-PA model of the pathology.

2)  Self-Identity Networks (9):  This particular inhibition pathway has an interesting origin in the original trauma.  It essentially involves the meme-structures in the pathology that require the other person’s psychological submission to the domination and control of the narcissistic personality.  In order to facilitate the person’s submissive response to the dominating narcissistic personality (to “mein Fuhrer” – the dominating-controlling narcissist), the pathogen shuts off (inhibits) areas of the person’s self-identity that would otherwise prevent the person’s psychological submission.  Self-identity then becomes a fused “social identity” (called “enmeshment” in the psychological pathology of “parental alienation”).

3.)  Memory Networks (10):  Why does the pathogen attack and inhibit the memory system?  Memory is linked to self-identity.  In order to shut down self-identity, the pathogen has to “erase” from awareness the memories that serve as the substrate for the person’s self-identity.

The first two days of the AB-PA Certification training in November will cover the basic foundation of the pathology, the three diagnostic indicators and 12 Associated Clinical Signs, the Treatment-Focused Assessment Protocol, and models of therapy (including the Contingent Visitation Schedule).  Mental health professionals who take the two-day AB-PA Certification course will be fully expert in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of the pathology.

Targeted parents and the Court will be able to fully rely on these mental health professionals, that they possess the highest level of professional skill and expertise in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of attachment-related family pathology surrounding divorce.

The optional third day… the Advanced seminar… is when I’ll unpack the really-really interesting stuff.

I’m looking forward to November.  It’s only July and my brain is already popping out the information of its own accord.   But there’s still things to do before November.

On October 20th in Houston I will be giving a 4-hour seminar on AB-PA and the Key Solution pilot program proposal for the family court system.  If you are a family law legal professional or a court-involved mental health professional and have any ability to be at this talk, I highly recommend it.

Targeted parents, if you have any interest in becoming an advocate for changing the family court system response to “parental alienation” and you’re able to attend the October 20th seminar, I’d highly recommend attending this talk on October 20th in Houston.

The October 20th seminar on AB-PA is being organized and hosted by Children 4 Tomorrow in Houston.  I’ll have more information about this as we get closer to the seminar date.

The change began in Dallas, it traveled to Boston, and it’s returning to Texas, October 20th – Houston.

Craig Childress Psy.D.
Clinical Psychologist, PSY 18857

Response 2 to the APA: Stop Lying to these Parents

One of the many parent-warriors received this response from the APA regarding a revision of their official Statement on Parental Alienation Syndrome

Mr. Dennison,
Your message to several of our board members was forwarded to me for a response.  The American Psychological Association has no official position on “parental alienation syndrome,” but because significant public concern about the related issues has been expressed to APA, the association plans to appoint a working group to review the scientific literature on high-conflict family relationships in which children are involved and recommend next steps for advancing knowledge development and application in this area.”

In my post, Response to the APA, I addressed the core issue that the APA has yet to understand; this isn’t about Parental Alienation Syndrome or high-conflict divorce.  This is about professional incompetence – rampant and unchecked professional incompetence.

Let me now respond to a second major problem with the APA’s response… they’re lying when they say “The American Psychological Association has no official position on parental alienation syndrome.”

To the APA:  I’m a clinical psychologist.  You can bulls*** the general public and they may not know how to respond, but I’m a clinical psychologist.  You can’t lie to me.  What you’re doing is called a “double-message” that creates a “double-bind” for the recipient in the communication process

You are using the Statement to take a position, but then you deny that you are taking a position.

In your “no position statement” you cite task force conclusions from 20 years ago that dealt with a peripherally related different topic (family violence) to denigrate the construct of “parental alienation,” using the pulpit of the APA to make the “Statement” that “parental alienation” lacks supporting scientific data , that it is a “so-called” pathology rather than a real form of pathology, and you use the voice of the task force to raise the APA’s professional “concerns about the term’s use.”

You absolutely 100% take a position, and your position is 100% clear.  It’s simply that you then verbally deny the obvious, “However, we have no position on the purported syndrome” which creates a double message.  One message, the APA’s position against the construct of “parental alienation” is being so STRONGLY suggested and clearly implied that it is abundantly obvious to all who read the Statement of the APA, but then the second message denies the existence of the first.  This creates a “double bind.”

Wikipedia: Double Bind.  A double bind is an emotionally distressing dilemma in communication in which an individual (or group) receives two or more conflicting messages, and one message negates the other.  This creates a situation in which a successful response to one message results in a failed response to the other (and vice versa), so that the person will automatically be wrong regardless of response.

So if we respond to the APA’s Statement on Parental Alienation Syndrome by asking that the APA change it’s position statement on “parental alienation,” the APA says, we have no position on “parental alienation,” yet if we don’t respond by asking for a change to the position statement of the APA, then the APA’s position that “parental alienation” is a “so-called” form of non-existent pathology that lacks scientifically supporting data, and that the APA has “raised concerns” about the use of the construct all are allowed to be propagated into the general discussion.

That’s the double-bind that your double-message creates for the parents exposed to this pathology.  No matter how they respond, they’re wrong.

You know it’s a double-message.  I know it’s a double-message.  You’re just denying it’s a double-message.  You know what denying a double-message is called?  Crazy making.

Psychology Today: How to Handle a Crazymaker.  Kimberley Key; 3/18/14

“Crazymaking is when a person sets you up to lose, as in the examples above: You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. You’re put in lose-lose situations, but too many games are being played for you to reason yourself out of it.”

To the APA:  STOP IT.

You absolutely know exactly what you’re doing.  You’re psychologists.  I absolutely know exactly what your doing.  Stop it.   Your double-message to these parents is crazymaking.  Stop it.

Their pain and suffering is too great and is too authentic for you to be playing these cruel types of mind-games with them.

If you have no position on “parental alienation,” then take down your Statement and have no position.  Simple as that.

No Position = No Statement.

Do you have a position on the Loch Ness monster?  No?  Where’s your Statement indicating that you have no position on the Loch Ness monster?  There is none.  You know why?  Because you have no position on the Loch Ness monster.

Or else openly acknowledge the obvious, that you do have a position on Parental Alienation Syndrome. That you believe it lacks scientific support, that it is a “so-called” non-existent form of pathology (not a real form of pathology), and that you have grave concerns about the term’s use.

I’m totally fine with that.  In fact, I’m in 100% agreement with that.

Dr. Childress Statement on Parental Alienation Syndrome

There is no such thing as Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS).  The construct of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) lacks scientific support because it is an ill-conceived and ill-defined form of supposed pathology.  Dr. Childress has significant professional concerns about the how the construct of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is defined through a set of made-up symptom identifiers.

Because the construct of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) emerged in response to an actual attachment-related pathology surrounding divorce, a more general construct of “parental alienation” has developed to label the underlying attachment-related pathology that can occur in the context of divorce.

However, because the construct of “parental alienation” is also inadequately defined from a professional standpoint, Dr. Childress calls directly upon all responsible mental health professionals to STOP using the construct of “parental alienation” in professional-level discourse.

Yet, because the more general term of “parental alienation” has become so completely embedded in the popular-culture as a common-use label for a form of attachment-related family systems pathology surrounding divorce, professional psychology will be obliged to continue the use of the term “parental alienation” in broader discussions with the general public, but all professional-level discussions should return to using only standard and established constructs and principles involving only established and defined forms of pathology.

The construct of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) with its eight supposed symptom identifiers should be entirely retired from professional-level discussion.

No double-message there.  I’m clear as a bell.  Parental Alienation Syndrome is a horrific model of pathology.   No doubt about it.

That does not, however, mean that there is not an actual form of pathology captured by the common-culture label of “parental alienation.”  Absolutely the pathology exists.  It’s just not a “new syndrome” that is unique in all of mental health, as proposed by the Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) model of the pathology.

The pathology people are calling “parental alienation” is a standard form of attachment-related pathology called “pathological mourning” (Bowlby, 1980) involving the trans-generational transmission of attachment trauma from the childhood of a narcissistic/(borderline) personality parent to the current family relationships, mediated by the personality disorder pathology of the parent which is itself a product of this parent’s childhood attachment trauma.

And this isn’t me saying this.  This is John Bowlby and Arron Beck and Theodore Millon and Otto Kernberg and Salvdor Minuchin and Jay Haley and Murry Bowen and Bessel van der Kolk and countless others in the scientific and theoretical literature who are describing and defining the pathology.  I’d be more than happy to point you to the specific literature where these preeminent figures in professional psychology describe the pathology.

“The deactivation of attachment behavior is a key feature of certain common variants of pathological mourning.” (Bowlby, 1980, p. 70)

“They [narcissists] are especially deficient in genuine feelings of sadness and mournful longing; their incapacity for experiencing depressive reactions is a basic feature of their personalities.  When abandoned or disappointed by other people they may show what on the surface looks like depression, but which on further examination emerges as anger and resentment, loaded with revengeful wishes, rather than real sadness for the loss of a person whom they appreciated.” (Kernberg, 1977, p. 229)

“An inappropriately rigid cross-generational subsystem of mother and son versus father appears, and the boundary around this coalition of mother and son excludes the father.  A cross-generational dysfunctional transactional pattern has developed” (Minuchin, 1974, p. 61-62)

“The parents were divorced six months earlier and the father is now living alone… Two of the children who were very attached to their father, now refuse any contact with him.  The younger children visit their father but express great unhappiness with the situation.” (Minuchin, 1974, p. 101)

In 2002, fifteen years ago, Brian Barber and his colleague Elizabeth Barber in his book Intrusive Parenting: How Psychological Control Affects Children and Adolescents (2002), published by the American Psychological Association (you guys – you guys published this) defined the construct of a child’s psychological control by a parent:

“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)

Manipulation and exploitation are hallmarks of the narcissistic and borderline personality pathology. Do I really need to cite the literature on that?  Really?

Barber and Harmon (2002) cite over 30 empirically validated scientific studies measuring the construct of parental psychological control with children, and nearly 20 additional studies on constructs related to psychological control.

Stone, Buehler, and Barber (2002) describe the process of the psychological control of children by parents:

“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)

In their study on the psychological control of children, Stone, Buehler, and Barber establish the link between parental psychological control of children and marital conflict:

“This study was conducted using two different samples of youth. The first sample consisted of youth living in Knox County, Tennessee.  The second sample consisted of youth living in Ogden, Utah.” (Stone, Buehler, and Barber, 2002, p. 62)

“The analyses reveal that variability in psychological control used by parents is not random but it is linked to interparental conflict, particularly covert conflict.  Higher levels of covert conflict in the marital relationship heighten the likelihood that parents would use psychological control with their children.” (Stone, Buehler, and Barber, 2002, p. 86)

Stone, Buehler, and Barber even provide an explanation for their finding that intrusive parental psychological control of children is related to high inter-spousal conflict:

“The concept of triangles “describes the way any three people relate to each other and involve others in emotional issues between them” (Bowen, 1989, p. 306).  In the anxiety-filled environment of conflict, a third person is triangulated, either temporarily or permanently, to ease the anxious feelings of the conflicting partners.  By default, that third person is exposed to an anxiety-provoking and disturbing atmosphere.  For example, a child might become the scapegoat or focus of attention, thereby transferring the tension from the marital dyad to the parent-child dyad.  Unresolved tension in the marital relationship might spill over to the parent-child relationship through parents’ use of psychological control as a way of securing and maintaining a strong emotional alliance and level of support from the child.  As a consequence, the triangulated youth might feel pressured or obliged to listen to or agree with one parents’ complaints against the other.  The resulting enmeshment and cross-generational coalition would exemplify parents’ use of psychological control to coerce and maintain a parent-youth emotional alliance against the other parent (Haley, 1976; Minuchin, 1974).” (Stone, Buehler, and Barber, 2002, p. 86-87)

APA, you guys pubished this 15 years ago – 15 years ago.  Do you really need a “working group” on this?  Really?  Don’t you even read your own stuff?

This is not Dr. Childress saying this stuff.  This is John Bowlby, Otto Kernberg, Theodore Millon, Aaron Beck, Salvador Minuchin, Jay Haley, Murray Bowen, and the list goes on and on…

The pathology most definitely exists, it’s just that Gardner’s PAS model is a horrific model of pathology.

It’s time we returned to standard and established constructs of professional psychology and leave the wilderness of supposedly new forms of pathology – “new syndromes” – behind us.

But APA, stop giving crazy-making double-messages to these parents.

The pathology these parents are addressing already has a prominent double-bind “crazy-making” component as an embedded feature of the narcissistic/(borderline) personality pathology at the casual roots of the pathology.  So when you take a position and then deny taking a position, this just adds to the trauma-experience of these parents.  Stop it.

I am totally fine with getting rid of Gardnerian PAS entirely.  Woo hoo.  Let’s return to standard and established constructs and principles of professional psychology.  I’m all for that.

But just don’t do your crazy-making double-messages with these parents.  They deserve better from you.

If the APA has no position on “parental alienation” derivative constructs, then the APA’s Statement on this should be right next to their no-position Statement on Loch Ness monsters and Sasquatch.

No Position = No Statement.

But stop the crazy-making double-messages.  That’s beneath you as a professional organization of psychologists.  You should know better, and you should do better. Stop it.

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

To targeted parents: Do you hear how the pathogen has infected the APA?

“It’s not me, it’s the child who doesn’t want to…”

“It’s not the APA, it’s (the child) the APA Presidential Task Force who says this.”

How much more blatantly obvious can the pathogen’s presence in the APA be?  “It’s not me, it’s the child (it’s not me, it’s the 1996 APA task force).”

Double-messages, double-binds, crazy-making communication.  The pathogen has infected the APA and is disabling the APA’s response to the pathology.  The APA is essentially a collusive ally to the psychological abuse of the child.

The APA is not doing this as a conscious choice.  They are simply ignorant and are being used by forces within the APA that are infected with the pathogen (i.e., who seek to be the “protective other” in a false trauma reenactment narrative – called “counter-transference” and the “parallel process” of splitting.)

One of the leading experts on borderline personality pathology, Marsha Linehan, describes the parallel process of spitting that can arise in mental health professionals who are treating borderline personality pathology:

“Staff splitting,” as mentioned earlier, is a much-discussed phenomenon in which professionals treating borderline patients begin arguing and fighting about a patient, the treatment plan, or the behavior of the other professionals with the patient… arguments among staff members and differences in points of view, traditionally associated with staff splitting, are seen as failures in synthesis and interpersonal process among the staff rather than as a patient’s problem… Therapist disagreements over a patient are treated as potentially equally valid poles of a dialectic.  Thus, the starting point for dialogue is the recognition that a polarity has arisen, together with an implicit (if not explicit) assumption that resolution will require working toward synthesis.” (Linehan, 1993, p. 432)

By defining the pathology from entirely within standard and established constructs and principles of professional psychology, AB-PA serves in working toward synthesis between “equally valid poles in a dialectic.”

Gardnerian PAS is a horrific model of pathology – AND – the pathology most definitely exists and is fully described and identifiable using standard and established constructs and principles of professional psychology.  Synthesis.


 

Barber, B. K. (Ed.) (2002). Intrusive parenting: How psychological control affects children and adolescents. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Barber, B. K. and Harmon, E. L. (2002). Violating the self: Parenting psychological control of children and adolescents. In B. K. Barber (Ed.), Intrusive parenting (pp. 15-52). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Bowlby, J. (1980). Attachment and loss: Vol. 3. Loss: Sadness and depression. NY: Basic Books.

Kernberg, O.F. (1975). Borderline conditions and pathological narcissism. New York: Aronson.

Linehan, M. M. (1993). Cognitive-behavioral treatment of borderline personality disorder. New York, NY: Guilford

Stone, G., Buehler, C., & Barber, B. K. (2002) Interparental conflict, parental psychological control, and youth problem behaviors. In B. K. Barber (Ed.), Intrusive parenting: How psychological control affects children and adolescents. Washington, DC.: American Psychological Association.