Renewing the Focus on the APA

Prior to my presentation to the Pennsylvania House Children and Youth Committee, I was speaking with some parents who were in attendance regarding the important role of the American Psychological Association in achieving the professional competence necessary to solve the attachment-related family pathology of “parental alienation (AB-PA).
 
I’ve been so tied up in producing the resources of the treatment-focused assessment protocol and the Contingent Visitation Schedule, and then preparing for my presentation in Pennsylvania and now my Certification seminars, that I haven’t been able to spare the time to focus on the APA front.
 
That’s going to change once the Certification seminars are completed this weekend. The APA is the next focus.
 
The American Psychological Association is an excellent professional organization.  They will become our allies in solving this attachment-related family pathology.
 
They have become inert and inactive in their role of ensuring professional competence because of the failure and abject inadequacy of the Gardnerian PAS diagnostic model to adequately define the pathology.  The Gardnerian PAS diagnostic model is an exceptionally bad model for a pathology for a variety of reasons.  It has divided professional psychology and has allowed professional ignorance and incompetence to overtake the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of the pathology.
 
The reason we don’t have a solution to this attachment-related family pathology is NOT because of the APA or establishment professional psychology, including the DSM diagnostic system.  The reason we don’t have a solution to the attachment-related family pathology is because of the inadequacy of the Gardnerian PAS model in defining the pathology.
 
We must return to the standard and established constructs and principles of professional psychology in order to reunite with establishment professional psychology, including the American Psychological Association, and set about solving this, not only in solving the attachment-related pathology of “parental alienation” (AB-PA), but also solving the broken interface of professional psychology with the legal system surrounding child custody decision-making.
 
The APA and establishment psychology are NOT our adversaries, they are our allies… they just don’t know it yet.
 
All we are seeking is professional competence.  This is a right granted to all clients of mental health services by Standard 2.01a of the APA ethics code.
 
The attachment-related family pathology of “parental alienation” is a blend of four domains of professional psychology, 1) attachment-related pathology, 2) personality disorder pathology, 3) family systems pathology, and 4) complex trauma pathology.  Professional competence REQUIRES a professional-level of knowledge in all four of these domains.
 
After this weekend, we will have the first mental health professionals with this required professional expertise – AB-PA Certified mental health professionals.  These mental health professionals will provide the standard for professional excellence in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of attachment-related family pathology surrounding divorce.
 
All mental health professionals treating the attachment-related family pathology MUST be professionally competent in the attachment system, personality disorder pathology, family systems therapy, and complex trauma.  Otherwise, they are in violation of Standard 2.01a of the APA ethics code.
 
There are three components – three things – we want from the APA in achieving professional competence in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of the attachment-related family pathology of “parental alienation” (AB-PA).
 
1. Press Release Statement:
At the very least – the very least – a statement from the APA indicating that:
 
Requested Statement: “The assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of attachment-related pathology in high-conflict divorce requires specialized professional knowledge in a variety of professional domains. It is the expectation of the American Psychological Association that all psychologists who are assessing, diagnosing, and treating attachment-related pathology surrounding divorce possess the require professional knowledge needed for professional competence, consistent with Standards 2.01a and 2.03 of the APA ethics code.”
 
This is a middle-of-the-road statement in support of Standard 2.01a of the APA ethics code and professional competence.  This statement avoids the controversy surrounding “parental alienation” that is created by the inadequacy of Gardnerian PAS, and it avoids any need to endorse AB-PA and a return to standard and established constructs and principles.  It simply reminds all psychologists that they are required to possess the necessary knowledge for professional competence (Standard 2.01a) and that they are required to “undertake ongoing efforts to develop and maintain their competence” (Standard 2.03).  This proposed statement requested from the APA simply asks them to affirm the Standards of their own ethics code.
 
2. Change in Position Statement:
We want the APA to change their position Statement on Parental Alienation Syndrome to either,
 
1)  Take into consideration and address the fact that there are now TWO models defining the pathology (AB-PA being the second definition of the pathology), or
 
2)  Withdraw their statement and make no statement whatsoever, consistent with having “no position.”
 
If the APA chooses to make a statement about the attachment-related pathology described as “parental alienation” in the popular culture, then we want two things:
 
First, formal acknowledgement that the pathology exists – using whatever term they want for the pathology, “parental alienation,” cross-generational coalition, attachment-related pathology, cutoff family structure, obstructed bonding – they can call it Bob for all it matters – simply acknowledge that the pathology exists.
 
Second, that this group of children and families represents a “special population” requiring specialized professional knowledge and expertise to competently assess, diagnose, and treat.
 
3.  Conference of Experts:
We would like to APA to hold a formal high-level conference of experts to examine the interface of professional psychology with the legal system surrounding divorce and child custody.
 
This conference of experts would include expertise in the attachment system, personality disorder pathology, family systems therapy, complex trauma (including child abuse and domestic violence), along with representatives from forensic psychology with expertise in child custody decision-making.
 
This conference of experts would produce a white paper for the APA regarding the interface of professional psychology and the legal system surrounding child custody decision-making, discussing professional standards of practice in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of family pathology impacting child custody recommendations and child custody decision-making.
 
In early 2017, the APA said they wanted to form a committee to “study” the issues surrounding professional ignorance and incompetence in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of the attachment-related pathology of “parental alienation.”  It is now a year later.  The trauma and tragedy of destroyed childhoods and destroyed families continues unabated. 
2018 is the year we focus on enlisting the help of the American Psychological Association in guaranteeing professional knowledge and professional competence in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of attachment-related pathology surrounding divorce.
Silence and inaction in response to professional incompetence is complicity.
 
Craig Childress, Psy.D.
Clinical Psychologist, PSY 18857

One thought on “Renewing the Focus on the APA”

  1. Dr. Childress, How will AB-PA certified professionals be identified? Will this be the long-sought holy grail – parents being able to find a resource who “understands” what is at play in the loss of their children, and who can guide them/us to resolution?

    I sit here in the pre-dawn, hopefully imagining that one day there is a far & wide network of such certified, knowledgable professionals who can actually instantiate the constructs you have illuminated over the last few years.

    That – is the holy grail.

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