In a line of dominoes, the moment the first domino falls I know with absolute certainty that all the other dominoes will fall.
The moment the paradigm shifts with regard to how the pathology of “parental alienation” is defined in professional psychology – in fact, with the moment that Foundations was published in 2015 that activated Standard 2.01a of the APA ethics code – I knew, with absolute certainty, that the solution to “parental alienation” – the last domino – would fall.
The only question that now remains is how long it will take. This is in part dependent upon the collective efforts of targeted parents. The key first domino that must fall is the paradigm shift. As long as the Gardnerian PAS diagnostic model remains on the field as the dominant diagnostic paradigm that defines the pathology, the first domino of the paradigm shift is in the process of falling, but has not actively tipped the second domino – yet.
As long as professional psychology remains ignorant of AB-PA, that first domino is in the process of falling, but the second domino has yet to be toppled into activation by the paradigm shift.
The speed by which the solution arrives is also dependent upon the Gardnerian PAS “experts.” If they switch to the AB-PA diagnostic paradigm and begin actively and forcefully advocating for the AB-PA diagnostic paradigm, then the solution arrives more quickly. If they remain on the field sowing confusion in professional psychology, then the shift in paradigms will take longer.
So far, the Garderian PAS “experts” have withheld their support, and so far they appear to be sowing confusion within professional psychology by co-opting constructs from AB-PA and inaccurately applying them to Gardnerian PAS as if these constructs are relevant when applied to Gardnerian PAS, when they are not. This sows confusion within professional psychology which must then be overcome in enacting the paradigm shift, thus slowing the paradigm shift and slowing the falling of the first domino.
Setting up a chain of dominoes takes time and precision. That’s what I’ve been doing over the past decade; setting up all the dominoes. In 2015 with the publication of Foundations, I set the first domino in motion and it is currently falling. It will – inevitably – tip the second domino, which will – inevitably – tip the third domino, and eventually all the dominoes will fall and we will have the solution to “parental alienation” for all families everywhere.
In this blog post I will describe the other dominoes that will inevitably fall, one after the other, to create the solution to “parental alienation.” How long it takes for all the dominoes to fall is, to some extent, in your hands. When targeted parents come together as a force for change, you have more power than you know. But you must come together, you must act not only to solve this pathology for your family and for your children, but for all families and all children. You must work together and fight for each other.
I am a catalyst. I am your weapon. I am not your warrior. With Foundations I have given you power with professional psychology. I have activated Standards 2.01a and 9.01a of the APA ethics code for you. I have put all of the dominoes in a line and started the fall of the first domino. But these are your children. I am your weapon in your fight against the pathology, you are the warrior. You must pick up the weapons I have forged for you in your fight against the pathology. You are the warrior for your children.
I admire you and I respect you for your love, and for your enduring heartbreak. You are the chosen ones in this battle. You are on the battlefield now so that no other parent, no other family, must ever endure the heartbreak and emotional trauma that you’ve endured.
Here are the next dominoes to fall…
Domino 2: Assessment
Once the paradigm shifts, we can then require professional competence in assessment using Standard 9.01a of the APA ethics code.
Standard 9.01: Bases for Assessments
(a) Psychologists base the opinions contained in their recommendations, reports, and diagnostic or evaluative statements, including forensic testimony, on information and techniques sufficient to substantiate their findings.
The attachment system is the brain system governing all aspects of love and bonding throughout the lifespan, including grief and loss. A child rejecting a parent is fundamentally an attachment-related pathology.
The attachment system never spontaneously dysfunctions. The attachment system ONLY becomes dysfunctional in response to pathogenic parenting (patho=pathology; genic=genesis, creation). Pathogenic parenting is the creation of significant psychopathology in the child through aberrant and distorted parenting practices. Pathogenic parenting is an established construct in both developmental and clinical psychology and is most often used in reference to attachment-related pathologies, since the attachment system never spontaneously dysfunctions but ONLY becomes dysfunctional in response to pathogenic parenting.
Standard 9.01a of the APA ethics code requires that all psychologists base their diagnostic statements and forensic testimony on “information and techniques sufficient to substantiate their findings.”
If the psychologist has not even assessed for pathogenic parenting by an allied parent in a cross-generational coalition with the child against the other parent, then the diagnostic statements and forensic testimony of this psychologist CANNOT possibly be based on “information and techniques sufficient to substantiate their findings” and would therefore be in violation of Standard 9.01a of the APA ethics code.
Notice I never used the construct of “parental alienation.” No tooth fairy mythical pathologies.
In ALL cases of attachment-related pathology surrounding divorce, ALL mental health professionals must assess for pathogenic parenting by an allied parent who is in a cross-generational coalition with the child against the other parent in order to base their diagnostic statements and forensic testimony on “information and techniques sufficient to substantiate their findings” in compliance with Standard 9.01a of the APA ethics code.
The easiest and most efficient way to assess for pathogenic parenting by an allied parent in a cross-generational coalition with the child against the other parent is to use the Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting.
Notice the name of this instrument. It is NOT an assessment of “parental alienation.” It is a diagnostic checklist for pathogenic parenting. This is NOT an accident.
We are NOT assessing for “parental alienation,” we are assessing for pathogenic parenting; for parenting that is so aberrant and distorted that it is creating significant psychopathology in the child.
In all cases of attachment-related pathology surrounding divorce, the assessing mental health professional can use the Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting as an efficient means to document the child’s symptoms to remain compliant with Standard 9.01a of the APA ethics code.
Notice that a Secondary Diagnostic Criterion for the attachment system suppression of diagnostic indicator 1 is that the parenting practices of the targeted-rejected parent are broadly normal-range. In order to assess this component of pathogenic parenting, the assessing mental health professional should document their clinical judgement regarding the parenting practices of the targeted parent using the Parenting Practices Assessment Scale.
This creates a standardized assessment protocol of:
All mental health professionals will then be speaking with a single voice to the Court.
As this second domino becomes integrated into a standard of practice for assessing attachment-related pathology surrounding divorce, the 12 Associated Clinical Signs will become increasingly prominent diagnostic considerations. They are not diagnostic indicators, but some of them are almost 100% diagnostic of the pathology.
As I discussed in my afternoon presentation in Dallas, diagnosis is like putting together the pieces of a puzzle. While the puzzle Cats in the Garden will always have three specific pieces in three specific locations – and no other puzzle will have these three specific puzzle pieces in these specific locations – the puzzle is not Cats in the Garden because of these three pieces. It’s the puzzle Cats in the Garden because when we put all of the puzzle pieces together they create a picture of three cats playing in the garden, with a watering can over here, and butterflies over the flowers.
The key diagnostic indicators are the three symptoms of pathogenic parenting by an allied narcissistic/(borderline) parent. The 12 Associated Clinical Signs are all of the other puzzle pieces which form a picture of three cats playing in the garden, with a watering can over here, and butterflies above the flowers.
Domino 3: Diagnosis
Assessment leads to diagnosis.
Pathogenic parenting that is creating significant developmental pathology in the child (diagnostic indicator 1), personality 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.
If anyone wants to argue that producing a delusional psychiatric pathology in the child is NOT psychological child abuse, they can try. But I don’t see that as a credible argument, especially since the child’s encapsulated persecutory delusion is resulting in the loss for the child of an affectionally bonded relationship with a beloved and loving normal-range parent who is a vital component for the child’s healthy emotional and psychological development.
Compelling Professional Competence
Notice how we are compelling the assessment of pathogenic parenting by leveraging Standard 9.01a of the APA ethics code which was activated by the paradigm shift to AB-PA. Mental health professionals don’t have a choice, they MUST do a competent assessment.
Then notice how the assessment and subsequent identification of the symptoms of pathogenic parenting by an allied narcissistic/(borderline) parent then compels that an accurate diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse be made.
We are guiding all mental health professionals into professional competence that provides a single voice to the Court from all of professional psychology.
Domino 4: Treatment
Assessment leads to diagnosis, and diagnosis guides treatment. This is a foundational principle of clinical psychology.
In all cases of child abuse, physical child abuse, sexual child abuse, and psychological child abuse, the professional standard of practice and “duty to protect” requires the protective separation of the child from the abusive parent.
When domino four falls, we will have all mental health professionals speaking with a single voice to the Court. The pathology is AB-PA, the diagnosis is Child Psychological Abuse, and the treatment is a protective separation from the abusive parent.
Domino 5: Child Protective Services
Whenever a mental health professional diagnoses child abuse, this activates a legally obligating professional “duty to protect” that requires the mental health professional take affirmative action to protect the child. One such affirmative action that the mental health professional could take in order to discharge his or her “duty to protect” is to file a suspected child abuse report with Child Protective Services (CPS).
Once the paradigm shifts to an AB-PA diagnostic model, the CPS system will increasing be receiving suspected child abuse reports from mental health professionals with a confirmed DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse.
Initially, the CPS system won’t know what to do with these reports and they will not adequately investigate these reports nor will the CPS system appropriately address these child abuse reports from mental health professionals. Eventually, however, the CPS system will become sufficiently annoyed by the continuing flow of these reports into the CPS system that they will seek to become more knowledgeable about AB-PA which is generating all of these reports of child psychological abuse from mental health professionals, and these CPS agencies will then seek additional training in AB-PA.
I would recommend to CPS that within each CPS agency, a select group of 3 to 5 social workers be identified as AB-PA specialists who are trained to a high-level of competence in the assessment and diagnosis of the AB-PA pathology. Every referral from a mental health professional with a diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse should then be assigned to one of these AB-PA specialists within the CPS system for investigation.
The AB-PA specialist social worker in the CPS system can then efficiently apply the same diagnostic criteria of AB-PA (the Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting) and will confirm the diagnosis made by the referring mental health professional.
Notice that the CPS system does not need to make the diagnosis. The CPS system is already receiving a referral from a mental health professional who has made a confirmed DSM-5 diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse. The CPS specialist in AB-PA simply needs to apply the diagnostic criteria and confirm the diagnosis of psychological child abuse already made by the mental health professional.
Once the CPS social worker confirms the diagnosis of child psychological abuse made by the mental health professional, then we have two independently made diagnoses of child psychological abuse, one of which is from CPS.
The CPS system can then initiate the child protection response of the child’s protective separation from the psychologically abusive pathogenic parent.
The Court then receives a request from CPS for removal of the child based on two independently made confirmed diagnoses of child psychological abuse from the mental health system, and a request from CPS to place the child in the protective “kinship care” of the normal-range and affectionally available targeted parent.
The mental health system is then speaking to the Court in a single unified voice. The pathology is AB-PA, the diagnosis is Child Psychological Abuse, and the treatment is a protective separation from the abusive parent.
When the Court receives a clear and consistent communication from the entire mental health system, then the Court can act with the decisive clarity necessary to solve the pathology.
When we eventually reach this stage of the solution, the targeted parent won’t have to prove “parental alienation” in Court because the entire pathology is being systematically handled within the mental health system.
The moment an attachment related pathology surrounding divorce is identified by the Court or anywhere within the mental health system, a standard of practice Treatment-Focused Assessment is conducted using the Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting.
If the three diagnostic indicators of AB-PA are present, then the mental health professional completes a Treatment-Focused Assessment Report for the Court if the assessment is Court-ordered, and the mental health professional files a suspected child abuse report with CPS with a confirmed DSM-5 diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse in order to discharge the mental health professional’s “duty to protect.”
CPS then assigns this incoming child abuse report from a mental health professional that contains a DSM-5 diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse to a trained AB-PA specialist social worker in the CPS system. This trained AB-PA specialist social worker then assesses for the three diagnostic indicators of AB-PA, documenting the symptoms’ presence or absence using the Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting.
If CPS confirms the mental health professional’s diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse, then the CPS system initiates a child protection response of protectively separating the child from the psychologically abusive pathogenic parent and placing the child in the “kinship care” of the normal-range and loving targeted parent.
The targeted parent does not need to file a suspected child abuse report – that report is coming from the mental health professional who has done a standardized assessment of the family’s attachment-related pathology.
The targeted parent does not need to seek a protective separation – the request to the Court for a protective separation is coming from the CPS system.
Sometimes a line of dominoes splits into two paths. The solution to AB-PA has some of these split pathways into related solution pathways.
False Allegations of Child Abuse
Currently there is no negative consequence for filing a false allegation of child abuse into the CPS system, and often these false allegations have the “secondary gain” for the allied narcissistic/(borderline) parent of terminating the targeted parent’s involvement with the child pending the outcome of the CPS investigation.
With the paradigm shift to AB-PA, however, a false allegation becomes a double-edged sword for the narcissistic/(borderline) parent. If a CPS investigator believes that the allegation of child abuse may be a case of AB-PA, then this CPS investigator can refer the case to the CPS specialist in AB-PA for additional investigation. If the CPS specialist in AB-PA confirms child psychological abuse by the allied parent who filed the false allegation, based on the symptom indicators of AB-PA, then CPS may seek a protective separation of the child from the psychologically abusive allied parent who filed the false allegation of abuse.
This could potentially reduce the motivation of the allied narcissistic/(borderline) parent for filing false allegations of child abuse, since these false allegations might result in the child’s protective separation from the narcissistic/(borderline) parent.
Contingent Visitation Schedule
In August of 2017, a 50-page booklet will become available through Amazon.com that describes a Strategic family systems intervention of a Contingent Visitation Schedule.
While the standard of practice and “duty to protect” the child in all cases of child abuse requires the child’s protective separation from the abusive parent, in treating attachment-related pathology surrounding divorce a potential Strategic family systems intervention may be available to simultaneously resolve the family pathology while also protecting the child from the abusive pathogenic parenting of the allied parent.
This Strategic family systems intervention involves a Contingent Visitation Schedule in which custody visitation time with the allied pathogenic parent is made contingent upon the child remaining symptom-free.
As long as the child remains symptom-free (as determined by daily/weekly ratings on the Parent-Child Relationship Rating Scale), then the standard Court-ordered visitation schedule is in effect. For treatment-related purposes, a balanced 50-50% shared custody visitation schedule would provide the best treatment-related support.
A successful symptom-free day is defined as ratings of 4 or higher on all three relationship scales of the Parent-Child Rating Scale, 1) Hostility to Affection, 2) Defiance to Cooperation, and 3) Withdrawn to Social.
A successful symptom-free week is defined as five successful symptom-free days during a seven-day week period. As long as the child has a successful symptom-free week with the targeted parent, then the Court-ordered visitation schedule is followed.
If, however, the child fails to have a successful symptom-free week with the targeted parent (less than five successful symptom-free days during a seven-day period), then the transfer to the pathogenic care of the allied parent is delayed pending resolution of the child’s increased symptoms. Before the child is transferred to the custody care of the pathogenic allied parent, the child must evidence three consecutive successful days with the targeted parent. Once the child exhibits three consecutive successful days with the targeted parent, then the normal Court-ordered custody visitation schedule is resumed.
The Contingent Visitation Schedule is essentially a graduated protective separation from the psychologically abusive pathogenic parenting of the allied parent that is based on the child’s display of symptoms or absence of symptoms. As long as the child remains symptom-free, then the standard Court-ordered visitation schedule is followed. If the child becomes symptomatic, with the presumed cause being the pathogenic parenting coalition with the allied parent, then the child’s time with the allied pathogenic parent is reduced in order to reduce the pathogenic influence of the allied parent who is creating the child’s symptoms, and the child’s time with the targeted-rejected parent is increased to provide more treatment-related time with the targeted parent to restore the parent-child bond of shared affection that is being damaged by the pathogenic parenting of the allied psychologically abusive parent.
The Contingent Visitation Schedule can be used as a six-month Response-to-Intervention trial (RTI). If the Contingent Visitation Schedule successfully resolves the child’s pathology during the six-month RTI, then a protective separation period is not required. As long as the child remains symptom-free, then the standard Court-ordered custody visitation schedule is followed.
If, however, a six-month RTI with the Contingent Visitation Schedule is not successful in resolving the child’s attachment-related pathology, then a move into a 9-month protective separation period would be warranted as a standard of practice response to the DSM-5 diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse which, based on the results of the RTI with the Contingent Visitation Schedule, cannot otherwise be resolved without a protective separation of the child from the abusive pathogenic parent.
AB-PA Pilot Program for the Family Courts
I am current collaborating with Children4Tomorrow in Houston, Texas to establish a pilot program in the Houston family court system using AB-PA as the intervention model for attachment-related pathology in high-conflict divorce. On October 20th I will be presenting a 4-hour seminar in Houston, hosted by Children4Tomorrow, on AB-PA and the family court pilot program proposal.
In August of 2017, a 50-page booklet will become available through Amazon.com describing the proposal for a family court pilot program for resolving attachment-related pathology in high-conflict divorce.
The pilot program proposal for the family court system is to team an AB-PA Certified mental health professional with an AB-PA Knowledgeable amicus attorney. At the first indication of attachment-related pathology surrounding divorce, the Court orders an assessment with an AB-PA Certified mental health professional using the six-session Treatment-Focused Assessment Protocol. If the assessing AB-PA Certified mental health professional identifies the attachment-related pathology of AB-PA (using the Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting) then the Court will assemble a Key team of a new, treating AB-PA Certified mental health professional and an AB-PA Knowledgeable amicus attorney to stabilize the family’s functioning and to assume leadership in assisting the family in transitioning to a stable and healthy separated family structure.
The AB-PA Certified mental health professional would be trained in creating and managing a Contingent Visitation Schedule if this is ordered by the Court, and would be trained and capable of restoring the child’s normal-range attachment system through family therapy with the targeted parent if a protective separation is ordered by the Court. The AB-PA Certified mental health professional would be responsible for managing the family’s conflict in coordination with the amicus attorney serving as the interface into the legal system.
The AB-PA pilot program proposal for the family courts includes an outcome evaluation research component integrated into the program’s structure, and if it is accepted as a pilot program model then it can serve as a high-conflict family intervention model for family courts in other jurisdictions. If this pilot program proposal is adopted as an intervention model for high-conflict divorce in the family court system, then this approach can also potentially serve as an intervention model internationally for addressing attachment-related pathology in high-conflict divorce.
Comparison of Pathways to Solution
These four blogs describe the pathway to a solution offered by a paradigm shift to AB-PA:
The Solution: The Dominoes
I have asked that by September 2, 2017 the Gardnerian PAS “experts” describe the pathway to solution that they envision using the Gardnerian PAS model so that we can put the two paths to solution side-by-side, compare them, and reach a reasoned decision on the path forward.
For three years I have been asking the Gardnerian PAS “experts” to describe the pathway to a solution that they envision using the Gardnerian PAS model and for three years the Gardnerian PAS “experts” have refused to describe the path to a solution that they envision using the Gardnerian PAS model, and at the same time they refuse to support the AB-PA diagnostic model
It is important to the solution offered by AB-PA that all mental health professionals be accountable to professional standards of practice for professional competence in attachment-related pathology, personality disorder pathology, and family systems pathology. This includes the Gardernian PAS “experts.”
They are free to add to and expand on the core of AB-PA however they may want. But they are not exempt from professional standards of practice regarding real pathologies of the attachment system, personality disorders, and family systems.
I look forward to the response from the Gardnerian PAS “experts” describing the path to solution that they envision using the Gardnerian PAS model. We can then place these two paths for a solution side-by-side and make a reasoned decision on our path forward.
Craig Childress, Psy.D.
Clinical Psychologist, PSY 18857