The Solution: The Requirements

The mental health system response to the attachment-related pathology of “parental alienation” is massively broken.

The legal system response to the attachment-related pathology of “parental alienation” is massively broken.

The solution requires that we must first protect the child.  We cannot ask the child to expose the child’s authentic love for the targeted parent when the child faces psychological retaliation from the narcissistic/(borderline) personality parent.  The child is doing what the child has to do in order to survive with the pathology of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent.  We must first be able to protect the child.

REQUIREMENT 1:  We must first be able to protect the child before we can ask the child to reveal the child’s authenticity.  This requires a protective separation of the child from the psychological control and manipulation of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent during the treatment and recovery stabilization.

From a purely psychotherapy perspective, we would generally need about a six to nine-month period of protective separation in order recover and stabilize the child’s normal-range and healthy development.

There are, however, non-psychotherapeutic approaches (the High Road protocol) that can gently and effectively restore the functioning of the child’s normal-range attachment system within a matter of days through a series of catalytic steps rather than psychotherapy.

However, the High Road protocol is expensive, and is therefore beyond the financial reach of many families.  In addition, the child’s recovery stabilization following the High Road protocol still requires a period of protective separation of three- to nine-months following the recovery of the child’s normal-range and healthy attachment system.

Recovering the authentic child requires a period of protective separation from the pathogenic, manipulative, psychologically controlling, and pathological parenting of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent.  Obtaining a protective separation requires a Court order regarding custody.

REQUIREMENT 2:  A protective separation of the child from the manipulative psychological control of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent will require a Court order.  This means that the Court must be convinced that a protective separation is required to solve the pathology in the family.

However, any solution that requires targeted parents to prove “parental alienation” to the Court is prohibitively expensive for the vast majority of targeted parents who simply cannot afford the tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars needed to prove “parental alienation” in Court.

In addition, it can take years to prove “parental alienation” in Court, during which time the child’s pathology becomes ever more severe and entrenched.

And even if the Court can be convinced that “parental alienation” is occurring, the Court may still not order a “protective separation,” either from the Court’s own judgement or because of input from ignorant and incompetent mental health persons that it would be “traumatic” for the child to be separated from the supposedly bonded relationship the child has with the allied narcissistic/(borderline) parent.

Typically, this mental health input to the Court comes from the child’s individual therapist who has become an ally with the pathology, or from a child custody evaluator who recognizes the pathology but doesn’t know how to solve it.

The disorganized and imprecise approach in mental health surrounding how to diagnose and treat the pathology creates mixed messages to the Court on the need for a protective separation, and typically the Court is offered a mental health route of “reunification therapy” – a completely mythical and non-existent form of therapy.

There is no such thing as “reunification therapy.”  Nowhere in the professional literature is there any description of what reunification therapy is.  The construct of “reunification therapy” simply acts as a smokescreen cover for a snake-oil remedy that allows mental health persons to just make up stuff and to do whatever they want, all under the guise that they are doing “reunification therapy.”

If any mental health professional ever says that they do “reunification therapy,” ask them for a reference citation so that you can read up on “reunification therapy” and participate more fully in the therapeutic process – and then watch them sputter and spurt.  There is NOTHING in the professional literature that describes what “reunification therapy” is.  These ignorant and incompetent mental health persons are just going to make up what they’re doing from out of nothing, and they’ll present it as if their totally nonsensical “therapy” has value.  It doesn’t.  Snake oil.  Who knows what’s in it, and whatever’s in it, it’ll most likely kill ya.

Resolution of the child’s pathology requires a protective separation period.  Without a protective separation – unless we can first protect the child from the manipulative psychological control of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent – no form therapy will solve the pathology, including and especially a mythical form of therapy in which the therapist is just making stuff up (“reunification therapy”).

Typically, “reunification therapy” fails across three or four years of trying, and by that time the legal fight has lasted six or seven years – with no solution.

By now the pathology is firmly entrenched and the targeted parent has spent vast sums of money in the legal and mental health systems.  The financial cost often requires targeted parents to begin representing themselves in Court pro se, which then limits their access to the legal expertise that they would ultimately need to effectively prove “parental alienation” in Court.

If the targeted parent has not already become financially bankrupt by the legal system and incompetent mental health system, then a child custody evaluation is sometimes sought in the hopes that this will be able to prove “parental alienation” to the Court.

Child custody evaluations, however, are a financial racket pure and simple.  The evaluator spends hours-and-hours-and-hours of billable time collecting data, charging several hundred dollars an hour for time spent reading documents, interviewing people, scoring tests, going on home visits, all of the data gathering activities, and then the custody evaluator spends hours-and-hours-hours-and-hours of billable time writing a report, charging several hundred dollars an hour to report on the data that the evaluator collected.  Not to analyze the data, just simply to report on it.

But when it comes to the conclusions and recommendations of the custody evaluation – they just make it up.  Seriously, they just make it up.

Child custody evaluations apply – or more accurately, don’t apply – principles and constructs from professional psychology in completely haphazard, random, and idiosyncratic ways based on the biases and personal attitudes of the evaluator, and there is absolutely no inter-rater reliability to the conclusions and recommendations reached by the child custody evaluator, meaning that two different evaluators can reach entirely different conclusions and recommendations based on the same data.

A foundational principle of assessment is that if an assessment procedure is not reliable (does not give stable results), then the findings of the assessment procedure CANNOT possibly be valid (true).

If I administer an intelligence test to you this week and you get a score of 120 (brilliant person), and then next week I administer the same intelligence to you and you get a score of 80 (not so smart), then the results of my intelligence test assessment CANNOT possibly be a valid (true) indicator of your intelligence because it does not give reliable (stable) results.  One time is says you’re brilliant, the next time is says you’re cognitively impaired.

If an assessment procedure is not reliable (not stable in the results it gives), the findings of the assessment procedure CANNOT possibly be valid (true).

The appropriate reliability measure for child custody evaluations would be “inter-rater reliability” – two evaluators reach the same conclusions and recommendations based on the same data.

There is NO inter-rater reliability for child custody evaluations.  Two evaluators can reach totally different conclusions and recommendations based on the same exact information.  If there is no inter-rater reliability for the assessment procedure of child custody evaluations, then the conclusions and recommendations produced by child custody evaluations CANNOT possibly be valid.

It’s entirely a crap-shoot what you’re going to get.  Might as well have a monkey throwing darts at a dart board.  Just divide up the dartboard into different custody time-share schedules, and let the monkey have at it.  Lots less expensive and just as valid.

Child custody evaluations violate every professional standard of practice in the development of an assessment procedure – no operational definitions for the key constructs of “best interests of the child” or “parental capacity” – no inter-rater reliability for the conclusions and recommendations reached by the assessment procedure – no established construct validity, content validity, predictive validity, concurrent validity, or divergent validity to the conclusions and recommendations of child custody evaluations.

As a clinical psychologist, I shudder.  It’s a financial racket, pure and simple.  If there is any forensic psychologist who disagrees, there is a Comments section to the blog – cite for me a single research study on the inter-rater reliability for child custody evaluations – and cite for me a single research study demonstrating the construct validity, content validity, predictive validity, concurrent validity, or divergent validity for the conclusions and recommendations from child custody evaluations… <crickets>

Furthermore, there is no scientific or theoretical information in the professional literature that would provide a supported rationale for a differential decision regarding the “best interests of the child” (an undefined construct) relative to a 60-40%, 70-30%, 80-20%, 90-10% or 50-50% custody timeshare in any specific case.  There are simply too many highly complex variables.  There is absolutely zero information in the scientific and theoretical literature that would allow professional psychology to form a supported opinion on the “best interest” outcomes of differing time-share alternatives in any specific case.   It’s all just guesswork and personal bias.

As far as the conclusions and recommendations from child custody evaluations, they just make up whatever they want based on their own personal beliefs and inherent personal biases, they then apply some psychological constructs in entirely haphazard and idiosyncratic ways to justify whatever biased and idiosyncratic conclusion was reached, and they usually take a middle-of-the road risk-management response of recommending the status quo with the addition of “reunification therapy” and an admonishment to both parents that the degree of parental conflict is harming the child and that the parents need to co-parent better.

The child custody evaluation step, when the targeted parent can financially afford the $20,000 to $40,000 cost of the assessment (it’s a financial racket, pure and simple), usually occurs several years into the failed “reunification therapy” approach.  The typical recommendations from the child custody evaluation is to maintain the status quo of favored custody to the allied parent and another round of failed “reunification therapy.”  The custody evaluation will typically not identify the narcissistic or borderline personality pathology of the allied parent because custody evaluators are actually discouraged by the Standards of Practice for conducting these evaluations from identifying “labels” that could be prejudicial to the “labeled” parent’s opportunity to have custody.

Q:  But isn’t withholding clearly relevant information from the Court in order to “not prejudice” the narcissisic/(borderline) parent’s case for custody actually prejudicing the decision against the normal-range parent (kinda putting your finger on the scale a little bit by withholding relevant information from the Court)?

A:  Yes it is.  Go figure. The professional Standards of Practice guidelines actually seek to favor the pathological parent by withholding relevant information about the parent’s pathology from the Court.  The custody evaluator softens the degree of the narcissisic/(borderline) parent’s pathology so as to not “prejudice” their ability to obtain custody of the child.

On and on it goes, for years, with no solution and, in fact, with continuing deterioration of the family into the pathology.  By the time the children are in the 14-16 age range, the targeted parent is being completely rejected and the Court is now taking into consideration the expressed desires of the children.

In some cases, minor’s counsel is appointed for the child.  The appointment of minor’s counsel is essentially appointing legal counsel to represent the interests of the pathology.  So each parent is represented by counsel, and the pathology has it’s own separate legal counsel (minor’s counsel) representing the pathology.

In some cases, a Guardian ad Litem is appointed.  Much of the time, the GAL is little more than minor’s counsel – a representative for the pathology who colludes with enacting the pathology.

In maybe 5% of the cases of this pathology, the “parental alienation” is so over-the-top severe that everyone sees it and the Court orders a protective separation.  But these cases require that the stars align just right – the pathology has to be extreme – the targeted parent has to be able to financially afford the years of legal battle, possibly into the hundreds of thousands of dollars – and the judge needs to be insightful and capable.

When the stars align just right, the clouds part, and a protective separation of the child from the pathogenic parenting of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent is granted.

But even in these 5% of cases where a protective separation can be achieved, it has typically taken five years or more of legal battles and failed “reunification therapy” to get to that point – which is five years (or more) of lost parent-child bonding and lost childhood.

In addition, even if the protective separation is achieved, the pathology is typically highly entrenched by that point and the treatment response from therapists remains extremely problematic, since there is no treatment model for a “new form of pathology” that’s unique in all of mental health.  This means that there is no theoretically established foundation for what therapy of “parental alienation” entails, so that treating mental health professionals wind up just winging it – just making stuff up as they go.

The mental health system’s response to the pathology is massively broken.

The legal system’s response to the pathology is massively broken.

REQUIREMENT 3:  Any solution that requires targeted parents to prove “parental alienation” in court is no solution at all.

Proving “parental alienation” in court is way too expensive to serve as a solution route for the vast majority of families.  And it takes far too long, leading to lost years of parent-child-bonding, increased entrenchment and severity of the pathology, and lost years for the child of a normal-range childhood.

Years of lost childhood and lost parent-child bonding during the fleeting years of childhood can never be recovered.  A child is only 10 years old for a year, a child is only 12 years old for a year.  Once lost, these developmental periods are gone forever.  A later relationship can be established, but the years of childhood that are lost to family conflict, and the years of lost parent-child bonding, are lost forever.

REQUIREMENT 4:  Any solution to the pathology of “parental alienation” must be able to completely solve the pathology in less than six months from the time it first presents itself to a mental health professional.

Any solution to the pathology of “parental alienation” must meet these four requirements:

REQUIREMENT 1:  We must first be able to protect the child before we can ask the child to reveal the child’s authenticity.  This requires a protective separation of the child from the psychological control and manipulation of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent during the treatment and recovery stabilization.

REQUIREMENT 2:  A protective separation of the child from the manipulative psychological control of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent will require a Court order.  This means that the Court must be convinced that a protective separation is required to solve the pathology in the family.

REQUIREMENT 3:  Any solution that requires targeted parents to prove “parental alienation” in court is no solution at all.

REQUIREMENT 4:  Any solution to the pathology of “parental alienation” must be able to completely solve the pathology in less than six months from the time it first presents itself to a mental health professional.

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

6 thoughts on “The Solution: The Requirements”

  1. This describes my experience of the last ~10 years so well I think I will now go and vomit. What a nightmare. God Bless you Dr. Childress, and may you have the energy and enthusiasm to continue the fight. I know how frustrating this has been for me, who did not know any of “this”. I can only imagine how frustrating it must be for you, you knows “this” just too well.

    Thank you.

    1. WOW, unbelievable that I finally found this article and that it’s a recent work..so much has been said to me, by current Legal “professionals” to undermine what I said is happening-except that it is being csrried on by the children of the ex-partner that did it to us in the first place and to their half-brother. I feel they have no clue that what they are doing is criminal. Yet they are considered ‘adults’. What can we do in Canada to help with this work?

  2. Cold comfort to most of us who have been down the rabbit hole… But I must say I believe you are spot on, I am encouraged by your work, and hope that somehow the fear of change (fear of malpractice lawsuits, smarting of egos and admission of wrong) will be overcome by the mental health community who owns the solution to this horrible problem. Thank you for doing what you do. Fixing this mess and the pain it continues to cause is, righteous, virtuous, good, honorable, upright, decent, worthy, moral, and ethical, Turning a blind eye to it is simply evil.

  3. With every fiber of my being, I hope this gets them on board.
    What can we do to help?
    Thank you again!

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