The AB-PA pilot program for the family court begins May 22, 23, and 24 in Houston, Texas. It represents the solution to attachment-related family pathology surrounding high-conflict divorce.
How can I be so sure? Because nothing about the pilot program is Dr. Childress. Everything is standard and established professional clinical psychology.
We can absolutely solve attachment-related family pathology surrounding divorce, once we return to the standard and established constructs and principles of professional psychology.
Introduction to the Court: Clinical Director
I will soon be working collaboratively with the court system in Houston. When I testify as an expert witness for the Court, my testimony typically begins with the attorney reviewing my qualifications as an expert.
I wish to take a blog post to introduce myself to the Court surrounding the AB-PA pilot program.
This is not my first time putting something like this together. Two similar projects I’ve done in the past are my Clinical Director experiences:
FEMA/Department of Justice: This project involved developing a national model for the mental health assessment of juvenile firesetting behavior in collaboration with fire agencies. I worked closely with an internationally recognized expert in juvenile firesetting behavior, Dr. Kenneth Fineman, and an organizational psychologist, Dr. Brett Patterson, to develop a national model for a structured and standardized mental health assessment protocol for juvenile firesetting behavior, including an initial screening of risk factors by fire agencies. This project was funded through FEMA and the Department of Justice.
Early Childhood Assessment and Treatment Center: As Clinical Director for an early childhood assessment and treatment center, I developed the structured assessment and treatment protocols for trauma impacted children in the foster care system. The clinic was operated under the auspices of California State University, San Bernardino’s (CSUSB) Institute for Child Development and Family Relations, and included integrated assessment and treatment coordination with Loma Linda University’s occupational therapy department and the University of Redlands Truesdail Center for Communicative Disorders, both of whom provided senior staff and trainees on site to the clinic.
As part of this early childhood treatment clinic, we also developed and implemented a teacher training program for preschool teachers regarding child development and intervention with children presenting behavior problems in the classroom. This extended to providing training opportunities to undergraduate students at CSUSB, beginning with their providing childcare at the clinic’s parenting education classes, progressing to providing therapeutic childcare at the clinic itself, and leading to advanced training to provide in-classroom support services to children in the preschool system.
If you look on my resume, that’s what all the preschool teacher trainings were about. We first recruited undergraduate students from CSUSB to serve as childcare staff at our parent training courses. In return for the student’s time, we offered a series of seminars to them on child development, including pathology in early childhood. We then recruited the best of these childcare staff to serve as therapeutic childcare staff at our clinic, and we provided these students with an even more advanced set of educational seminars. The best of these therapeutic childcare staff we then recruited to serve as paid para-professional staff to provide direct support services to children in the classroom or directly in the foster home placement. These trained para-professional student aides were supervised by senior clinical staff on individual cases.
Clinical Research Foundation
I have also worked with a variety of high-level clinical research projects over the years:
UCLA Schizophrenia: For a major portion of my early career development I coordinated the research arm of a multi-faceted longitudinal clinical research project on schizophrenia at UCLA with Dr. Keith Nuechterlein. I understand how major clinical research projects are structured and how they operate. I was also trained to diagnostic reliability on the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale (BPRS), an 18-item seven-point symptom inventory, and for nearly 15 years I participated in annual inter-rater reliability standardization training on diagnostic symptom identification and rating provided through the Diagnostic Unit at the Brentwood VA.
I know what symptom features look like across 18 standard symptoms in professional psychology, each symptom rated along a seven-point scale. I also know what inter-rater reliability training looks like.
UCLA Prader-Willi Syndrome: Also earlier in my career, I was involved in a research project on Prader-Willi Syndrome, a genetic disorder that results in severe pediatric over-eating and obesity, cognitive deficits, and potential mental retardation. I was not responsible for developing the assessment protocol for this project. My role with this project was to administer a structured and standardized assessment protocol, including the Structured Clinical Interview for the DSM (SCID). The SCID is a structured clinical interview assessment protocol for diagnosis of pathology. The SCID is a long and thorough structured assessment instrument that is often used in clinical research projects to establish and confirm diagnosis.
CHLA Cognitive Remediation in Pediatric Cancer Patients: While at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, I participated in a clinical research project on the cognitive remediation of attention deficits in children with neurologically involved cancer treatments (brain surgery or chemotherapy affecting the cerebrospinal fluid; “intrathecal” chemotherapy). This was a multi-site research project involving the top pediatric cancer programs in the country, headed by Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Center for Childhood Cancer Research. While I was with this project, I traveled to the University of Texas, MD Anderson Childhood Cancer Center for training in a standardized assessment and treatment protocol for attention deficits in pediatric cancer patients.
UCI Child Development Center Preschool ADHD: This was a collaborative project between Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC) and the University of California, Irvine Child Development Center (UCI-CDC; James Swanson, Ph.D.) on the identification and remediation of attention deficits in preschool-age children. I was the lead clinical psychologist on this project, hired through the CHOC part of the collaboration. We developed a comprehensive parenting training program across several counties for families of preschool age children. Layered into this program was a research intervention component for the cognitive remediation of attention deficits using a computerized intervention. We also developed a teacher training component for preschool teachers in Functional Behavioral Analysis.
I’m an old clinical psychologist who received his foundational training in behavioral psychology as an undergraduate at UCLA. I might be one of the few remaining clinical psychologists who learned the principles of behavior therapy from teaching a rat to press a lever in the laboratory. Behavior is controlled by the cue, not the consequence.
Since my early professional career as a behavior therapist, I have extended my psychotherapy skill set into humanistic-existential psychology, psychoanalytic psychotherapy, and family systems therapy. My primary model of therapy for children is family systems therapy.
I have taught courses at the graduate level in:
Assessment and Treatment Planning
Diagnosis and Psychopathology
Psychometrics of Assessment
Models of Psychotherapy
I fully understand the content from each of these domains of professional practice.
I understand how to develop and implement clinical intervention programs.
I know how to integrate a clinical intervention program into high-level research collaborations with university partners.
I understand how to develop and implement structured and standardized assessment protocols that are consistent with the highest standards of professional clinical psychology, and with the requirements of structured research protocols.
Attachment Pathology: I have a strong professional background in attachment-related pathology from my role as Clinical Director for an early childhood assessment and treatment center. Early childhood is the formative period for the “internal working models” of attachment bonding. It is essential for early childhood mental health professionals to have a strong professional understanding for the attachment system, it’s formation, functioning, and characteristic dysfunctioning.
In addition, our clinic dealt primarily with children in the foster care system who had been exposed to childhood trauma (or neuro-developmental damage from prenatal exposure to drugs and alcohol). Child abuse severely damages attachment bonding and the development of schemas (“internal working models”) within the attachment system. I understand what trauma looks like and how it affects attachment bonding and the attachment system. This also means that I know what trauma DOESN’T look like, when the attachment-related pathology is a false construction of a parent weaponizing a child in the spousal conflict.
My doctoral degree is in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University. The doctoral program at Pepperdine University is a strong and substantial program for education and training in clinical psychology.
The Court System
You’ll note that none of my foundational professional background is with high-conflict divorce in the court system. That domain of professional expertise began approximately a decade ago when I entered private practice. It was when I entered private practice that I encountered first hand the attachment-related pathology commonly called “parental alienation” in the popular culture.
As a clinical psychologist, I do not recognize the pathology of “parental alienation” as an established clinical pathology. In my view, it is a common culture term used to describe a particular type of attachment-related family pathology surrounding divorce. In my clinical psychology work, I prefer to rely solely on the standard and established constructs and principles of professional psychology.
I am a clinical psychologist. The role of a clinical psychologist is to solve pathology, whether that pathology is juvenile delinquency, childhood attachment problems, childhood trauma, or spousal and family conflicts. The solution to all forms of pathology is the same, through the application of the standard and established, scientifically grounded, constructs and principles of professional psychology to the solution.
For the past decade I have worked toward providing a clinical psychology solution to the attachment-related family pathology surrounding high-conflict divorce. This solution is available through the application of standard and established psychological constructs and principles, including established professional standards of practice, to the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of attachment-related family pathology surrounding divorce.
I am the author of:
An Attachment-Based Model of Parental Alienation: Foundations
The Assessment of Attachment-Related Pathology Surrounding Divorce
Strategic Family Systems Intervention for AB-PA: Contingent Visitation Schedule
The Narcissistic Parent: A Guidebook for Legal Professionals Working with Families in High-Conflict Divorce
The Petition to the APA
I have presentations available online for viewing regarding attachment-related family pathology surrounding divorce:
Master Lecture Series; California Southern University.
Theoretical Foundations of Attachment-Based Model of “Parental Alienation.”
July 18, 2014; Irvine, CA.
Master Lecture Series; California Southern University:
An Attachment-Based Model of “Parental Alienation”: Diagnosis and Treatment.
November 21, 2014; Irvine, CA.
Legislature Briefing. Pennsylvania State Legislature; House Children and Youth Committee:
Solutions to High-Conflict Divorce in the Family Court.
November 15, 2017; Harrisburg, PA
I have made additional presentations, such as a 6/1/17 seminar at the annual convention of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts on an attachment-based model of “parental alienation,” only these additional seminars are not available online for viewing.
I recently presented with Clarke Young, a family law attorney, at the California Association for Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors on 4/20/18 regarding:
Emerging Career Opportunities for LPCCs in Family Law: Parent Alienation Testing, Orders and Treatment in BPD/NPD Custody Proceedings.
This seminar was filmed and should be available for viewing online within the next several weeks.
I am scheduled to present on 6/20/18 at the EFCAP Congress (European Association for Forensic Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychology, and other involved Professions) in Venice, Italy regarding:
An Attachment-Based Model of Parental Alienation: Solutions for the Family Court
The AB-PA pilot program for the family courts will provide the necessary professional knowledge and skill sets to the Court that are needed to solve attachment-related family pathology surrounding high-conflict divorce.
Craig Childress, Psy.D.
Clinical Psychologist, PSY 18857