AB-PA is not the Moon

This is about professional competence.  All we are seeking is basic professional competence.

If a mental health professional is assessing, diagnosing, and treating an attachment-related pathology surrounding divorce, it is incumbent upon that professional to be professionally competent in the attachment system, what the attachment system is, how it functions, and how it characteristically dysfunctions.

If a mental health professional is assessing, diagnosing, and treating personality disorder pathology that is being expressed in the family, it is incumbent upon that professional to be professionally competent in the origins of personality pathology, its characteristic display, and the influence of parental personality pathology on family relationships.

If a mental health professional is assessing, diagnosing, and treating family pathology, it is incumbent upon that professional to be professionally competent in the family systems constructs of homeostasis, triangulation, and coalitions.

This is just a matter of basic professional competence.  We are just asking for basic professional competence.

AB-PA is not a new theory.  AB-PA is simply a return to the standard and fully established, fully accepted, scientifically validated constructs and principles of professional psychology.  It may seem “new” to some, but that’s only because they are ignorant of the standard and established, scientifically supported and scientifically validated constructs and principles of professional psychology.

If someone asks you for the peer reviewed research for AB-PA, give them my 40-page reference list.  That is the peer reviewed research for AB-PA.

Dr. Childress AB-PA reference list

Anyone who is asking for the “peer reviewed research” for AB-PA is simply exposing their ignorance for the standard, peer reviewed, and fully established information in professional psychology – Bowlby, Beck, Millon, Minuchin, and on and on.

Q:  “Dr. Childress, where in your reference list does it talk about AB-PA?”

On page 70 in Bowlby’s 1980 book on the attachment system and loss;

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

Based on the work of Bowlby – BASED on the work of Bowlby – AB-PA says that the child’s rejection of the parent is a variant of “pathological mourning” with the allied parent and child surrounding the divorce.

Q:  “AB-PA links the child’s rejection of the targeted parent – the “deactivation of attachment behavior” – to the personality disorder pathology of the parent.  Where in your reference list does it talk about the linkage of personality pathology to pathological mourning?”

On page 217 of his book on loss and mourning, Bowlby (1980) links disordered mourning to disturbances in personality formation.

 “Disturbances of personality, which include a bias to respond to loss with disordered mourning, are seen as the outcome of one or more deviations in development that can originate or grow worse during any of the years of infancy, childhood and adolescence.” (Bowlby, 1980, p. 217)

In the separate field of personality disorder pathology, Kernberg (one of the preeminent figures in narcissistic and borderline personality pathology) links the pathology of the narcissistic personality to disordered mourning;

“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)

AB-PA isn’t me, it’s Bowlby and Kernberg who said these things.  I didn’t say these things.  Bowlby said these things.  Kernberg said these things.  Not me.

Asking for peer-reviewed research for AB-PA is asking for the peer-reviewed research of Bowlby and Kernberg, and Beck, and Millon.  Bowlby said these things, not me.  If you have a problem with AB-PA, take it up with Bowlby because he’s the one who said it.

AB-PA is the finger pointing at the moon, it is not the moon.

AB-PA says that the pathology of a child’s rejection of a parent following divorce is called a “cross-generational coalition.”  I didn’t say this, Salvador Minuchin says this;

“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)

“The boundary between the parental subsystem and the child becomes diffuse, and the boundary around the parents-child triad, which should be diffuse, becomes inappropriately rigid.  This type of structure is called a rigid triangle… The rigid triangle can also take the form of a stable coalition.  One of the parents joins the child in a rigidly bounded cross-generational coalition against the other parent.” (Minuchin, 1974, p. 102)

I didn’t say this.  Minuchin said this.  If you have a problem with AB-PA, don’t take it up with me, take it up with Minuchin because he’s the one saying it.  If you want peer-reviewed research, then ask Minuchin for the peer-reviewed research for what he says, because he’s the one saying it.

This isn’t me saying this, this is Bowlby and Kernberg and Minuchin saying this.  AB-PA is nothing new.  It’s all just standard and established knowledge in professional psychology.

It only SEEMS new to some people because they are ignorant.  They don’t know Bowlby, and Kernberg, and Millon, and Haley, and Minuchin.  Because if they have this knowledge – this standard and established knoweldge from professional psychology – then they know the scientifically established ground for AB-PA.

If AB-PA as a construct vanished tomorrow, it would still be here.  Bowlby, Beck, Kernberg, Minuchin, Haley.  Nothing new.

The psychological fusion between the child and the allied parent, the “enmeshed” relationship, the shared psychological state of the child and the allied parent, that’s described by the preeminent researchers in psychological development and the neuro-development of the brain, Daniel Stern and Edward Tronick;

“Our nervous systems are constructed to be captured by the nervous systems of others.  Our intentions are modified or born in a shifting dialogue with the felt intentions of others.  Our feelings are shaped by the intentions, thoughts, and feelings of others.  And our thoughts are cocreated in dialogue, even when it is only with ourselves.  In short, our mental life is cocreated. This continuous cocreative dialogue with other minds is what I am calling the intersubjective matrix.” (Stern, 2004, p. 76)

“In response to their partner’s relational moves each individual attempts to adjust their behavior to maintain a coordinated dyadic state or to repair a mismatch.  When mutual regulation is particularly successful, that is when the age-appropriate forms of meaning (e.g., affects, relational intentions, representations) from one individual’s state of consciousness are coordinated with the meanings of another’s state of consciousness — I have hypothesized that a dyadic state of consciousness emerges.” (Tronick, p. 475, 2003)

This isn’t me saying this, this is Stern and Tronick saying this.  If you have a problem with this, take it up with Stern and Tronick, they have a massive research base of evidence supporting their statements.

AB-PA is not Dr. Childress, it’s not “new.”  AB-PA is all just standard and scientifically established knowledge in professional psychology.  Want the peer reviewed research for AB-PA.  Sure, no problem:

Dr. Childress AB-PA reference list

I’ve made it even easier.  For anyone who is asking about peer reviewed research support for AB-PA, on my website is a Checklist of Component Pathology.  Simply identify what part of AB-PA you’d like more peer reviewed research support for, and I’d be glad to provide it.

If they’d like the peer-reviewed support for all of AB-PA:

AB-PA Reference List

All we are asking for is professional competence in standard and established areas of professional psychology.  That’s all.

That’s not a lot to ask for, competence.  Basic competence.

In fact, professional competence is a right of all clients that is guaranteed to them by all professional ethics codes.  Professionally competent assessment, diagnosis, and treatment is the RIGHT of all targeted parents and their children (Standard 2.01a of the APA ethics code).

AB-PA is leading us out of the world of mythical “new forms” of pathology and we are returning to the path of scientifically established constructs and principles of professional psychology.  No unicorns, no mermaid songs.  We are returning to the world of science and professional psychology.

The data sets from Bowlby, Beck, Millon, Kernberg, Linehan, Minuchin, Haley, Bowen, Stern, Tronick, van der Kolk and the surrounding scientific literature can fully describe and solve the attachment-related pathology of a child rejecting a parent surrounding divorce.

We don’t need “new and unique” forms of pathologies.  We are returning to established professional practice, we are returning to a scientifically grounded professionally established foundation.  No unicorns, no mermaid songs.

AB-PA is established fact.  Why?  Because there is no such thing as AB-PA.  It is Bowlby, and Millon, and Beck, and Haley, and Minuchin, and Kernberg and all of the already scientifically established fact of professional psychology.  Poof.  There is no AB-PA, there is only Bowlby, and Beck, and Kernberg, and…

The finger pointing at the moon is not the moon.

Jason Hofer completely understands:

From Jason Hofer: “AB-PA is not the solution. The PAS mindset is “one model to solve them all,” but that is not what AB-PA brings to the table.

The solution is the psychological knowledge behind AB-PA.  Attachment theory, family systems theory, personality disorders, all of it.  When a therapist has all of that knowledge they can use all of it to make whatever diagnosis is necessary, whether it leads to AB-PA or something else.

The usefulness of the knowledge behind AB-PA far, far outweighs the usefulness of AB-PA itself.  If you were to have a therapist study everything found in the reference section of “Foundations”, but not read “Foundations” itself, I guarantee they’ll be able to make the right diagnosis that child psychological abuse is taking place.  That’s the beauty of it.  The finger pointing at the moon is not the moon.  The solution to PA is not AB-PA.  AB-PA points to the solution, but it is not the solution in-and-of itself.

The real solution is having therapists with a deep understanding of all of the psychological components that make up AB-PA.  Whether they *use* AB-PA itself or not doesn’t really matter.  All AB-PA provides is a well-thought out way to use all that knowledge to make a certain specific type of diagnosis.  So, AB-PA may not account for all the subtler cases, but the knowledge required to use AB-PA certainly does, and then some.”

You are absolutely correct Jason.  You get it.  That is spot-on, 100% accurate.

There is absolutely zero reason why all mental health professionals everywhere should not join us in our call for all mental health professionals to be professionally competent in the standard and established, fully accepted, fully scientifically validated constructs and principles of professional psychology.

There is no AB-PA.  The finger pointing at the moon is not the moon.

“Look everyone… the moon” (Bowlby, Beck, Millon, Kernberg, Minuchin, Haley…)

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

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

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

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

Stern, D. (2004). The Present Moment in Psychotherapy and Everyday Life. New York: W.W. Norton & Co. (emphasis added)

Tronick, E.Z. (2003). Of course all relationships are unique: How co-creative processes generate unique mother-infant and patient-therapist relationships and change other relationships. Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 23, 473-491.

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