My Ethical Obligations

In my role as a professional consultant in legal cases I have often been asked to review the professional reports of other assessing and treating psychologists. 

In this review, I frequently find myself deeply troubled by the seemingly sub-standard and exceptionally poor professional practices of my professional colleagues in these cases.

As a clinical psychologist, I am required by Standards 1.04 and 1.05 of the APA ethics code to take steps when I become aware of possible ethical violations by other psychologists.

1.04 Informal Resolution of Ethical Violations
When psychologists believe that there may have been an ethical violation by another psychologist, they attempt to resolve the issue by bringing it to the attention of that individual, if an informal resolution appears appropriate and the intervention does not violate any confidentiality rights that may be involved.

1.05 Reporting Ethical Violations
If an apparent ethical violation has substantially harmed or is likely to substantially harm a person or organization and is not appropriate for informal resolution under Standard 1.04, Informal Resolution of Ethical Violations, or is not resolved properly in that fashion, psychologists take further action appropriate to the situation. Such action might include referral to state or national committees on professional ethics, to state licensing boards, or to the appropriate institutional authorities.

Psychologists are not allowed to be ignorant and incompetent, and through their ignorance and incompetence to then harm their clients.  Professional ignorance and incompetence that then harms the client is a violation of the Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct of the American Psychological Association.

APA Ethics Code

My professional colleagues should maintain the highest standards of professional practice.  Failure to possess the required foundational knowledge needed for professional competence is a violation of Standard 2.01a of the APA ethics code. 

If this absence of appropriate professional knowledge required for professional competence then results in an inadequate assessment, this would represent a violation of Standard 9.01a of the APA ethics code.

If the absence of appropriate professional knowledge required for professional competence results in harm to the child, parent, and family, this would be a violation of Standard 3.04 of the APA ethics code. 

If a violation of Standards 2.01a and 9.01a of the APA ethics code “has substantially harmed or is likely to substantially harm a person or organization… psychologists take further action appropriate to the situation.” (APA ethics code, Standard 1.05)

Standard 2.01: Domains of Knowledge

The Attachment System:

Mental health professionals who are assessing, diagnosing, and treating attachment-related pathology need to be professionally knowledgeable and competent in the attachment system, what it is, how it functions, and how it characteristically dysfunctions.

Failure to possess professional-level knowledge regarding the attachment system when assessing, diagnosing, and treating attachment-related pathology would represent practice beyond the boundaries of professional competence in violation of professional standards of practice.

Personality Disorder Pathology

Mental health professionals who are assessing, diagnosing, and treating personality disorder related pathology as it is affecting family relationships need to be professionally knowledgeable and competent in personality disorder pathology, what it is, how it functions, and how it characteristically affects family relationships following divorce.

Failure to possess professional-level knowledge regarding personality disorder pathology when assessing, diagnosing, and treating personality disorder related pathology in the family would represent practice beyond the boundaries of professional competence in violation of professional standards of practice.

Family Systems

Mental health professionals who are assessing, diagnosing, and treating families need to be professionally knowledgeable and competent in the functioning of family systems and the principles of family systems therapy.

Failure to possess professional-level knowledge regarding the functioning of family systems and the principles of family systems therapy when assessing, diagnosing, and treating family pathology would represent practice beyond the boundaries of professional competence in violation of professional standards of practice.

Notice nowhere I have I referred to “parental alienation” as a pathology.  

Psychologists – ALL psychologists – are required to be knowledgeable about real domains of pathology when treating patients, children, and families.  This is not Dr. Childress saying this, this is the professional standards of practice of the American Psychological Association saying this; Standards 2.01a, 9.01a, 3.04, and 2.03.

The attachment-based model of “parental alienation” (AB-PA) activates Standards 2.01a, 9.01a, 3.04, and 2.03 of the APA ethics code by defining the pathology entirely within standard and  established constructs and principles of professional psychology (Bowlby; Minuchin; Beck, et al.)

An attachment-based model of “parental alienation” (AB-PA) makes the targeted-chosen parent dangerous to professional ignorance and incompetence. 

To My Professional Colleagues: If you’re going to assess, diagnose, and treat attachment-related pathology surrounding divorce, you absolutely need to know what you’re doing.  Your assessment needs to be appropriate, your diagnosis needs to be accurate, and your treatment needs to be effective.

If a psychologist is unwilling to conduct an appropriate assessment, make an accurate diagnosis, and provide effective treatment, then that psychologist needs to go away and work with some other form of pathology.

The world is changing.  Professional competence is an expectation.

If you are an ignorant and incompetent mental health professional, you’d better hope that I don’t review your reports… because I am bound by ethical Standards 1.04 and 1.05 of the APA ethics code.  You’re not allowed to destroy the lives of children and families because of your professional ignorance and incompetence.

“If an apparent ethical violation has substantially harmed or is likely to substantially harm a person or organization and is not appropriate for informal resolution under Standard 1.04, Informal Resolution of Ethical Violations, or is not resolved properly in that fashion, psychologists take further action appropriate to the situation…”

“…Such action might include referral to state or national committees on professional ethics, to state licensing boards, or to the appropriate institutional authorities.” (APA  Standard 1.05)

To my professional colleagues:  You’re aware of my ethical obligations.  I’m aware of yours.

The era of rampant professional ignorance and incompetence is over.  There are standards of professional practice to which ALL mental health professionals are held accountable.

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

 

 

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