Consultation Group: Improving the Quality of Clinical Care

The goal and mission of the AB-PA pilot program for the family courts in Houston, is to provide the court with the highest caliber of professional knowledge and standards of practice in clinical psychology.  The AB-PA pilot program for the family courts represents the return of clinical psychology to court-involved consultation, court-involved assessment of pathology, and court-involved treatment of pathology.

A component of the AB-PA pilot program for the Houston family courts are monthly online clinical case consultation groups.  The case-presentation consultation group format is a standard clinical training methodology, and case consultation groups elevate the quality of professional decision-making.  These online clinical case consultation groups can be attended by the court’s family law amicus attorney.

The Houston AB-PA pilot program for the family courts has approximately 15 family therapists (seminar training in May), divided into three online clinical case consultation groups.  We will meet monthly.  I just sent out my introductory “hello” email to each of the three groups.

I want to share my consultation group introduction email to the family therapists in the AB-PA program because this introduction email establishes the structure for the clinical care expectations within the AB-PA pilot program for the family court.



Introduction email to the online clinical case consultation groups:

Hello everyone,

It’s a pleasure to meet you.  I’m looking forward to our discussions.  Many of you may be familiar with the group case consultation model from prior training experiences, the only wrinkle here is that we’ll be doing it online through Go-To-Meeting rather than face-to-face.

Case Consultation Model:  Group case consultation improves clinical care by bringing multiple professional minds to clinical case decision-making.  The basic format will revolve around individual case presentation and discussion (appox. 40 min per case).  If, during this early period we don’t have cases to discuss, I’ll find out a little more about your clinical experience and preferred approach to therapy (psychoanalytic; cognitive-behavioral, humanistic-existential, family systems).

Client Identification:  We have two clients; the child and the court.  Our primary client is always the child and the child’s best interests.  Our additional client is the court.  I fully anticipate that the requirements of the court regarding our consultation, assessment, and treatment will always be aligned with the best interests of the child.  Our responsibilities to the court add to our responsibilities to the child (surrounding high caliber professional knowledge, standards of practice, and excellence in documentation), and our primary professional obligation is always to the best interests of the child.

Assessment Consultation:  As cases enter the program, they will begin with the six-session assessment protocol.  I recently completed a handout that I’m supplying to family law attorneys generally that describes the six-session assessment protocol.

Professional Consultation

The assessment protocol is structured around the two data documentation instruments – the Diagnostic Checklist and the Parenting Practices Rating Scale.  The six clinical interview sessions are designed to provide a range of interactions allowing you to gather the necessary information to complete the Diagnostic Checklist and Parenting Practices Scale.  If for some reason you need more than six sessions to collect the information required to complete the Diagnostic Checklist and Parenting Practices Scale, that’s fine.

Diagnostic Checklist: Are these three symptoms present in the child’s symptom display?

Parenting Practices Scale: Categorize the parenting of the targeted-rejected parent; is it normal-range or deviant?

Diagnostic and treatment-related decisions are based on the documented clinical data; evidence based practice.

The actual assessment protocol is very straightforward – it’s designed to be highly structured in order to standardize the assessment of attachment-related family pathology across all jurisdictions everywhere, from Houston to New York to Amsterdam.  A six-session treatment focused assessment protocol involves documenting clinical data using these two data documentation instruments.

From a clinical psychology perspective, the assessment is highly interesting for the information it can reveal.  We’ll be covering that in the first four to six consultation groups.

Treatment: As more cases move from assessment to treatment, our consultation focus will begin to examine treatment issues with each family. The treatment model is solution-focused family therapy – representing an integration of standard family systems therapy (mostly Minuchin; some Bowen; some Haley and Madanes), with solution focused therapy.  Therapy will be structured around the collection of symptom data from the targeted parent using the Parent-Child Relationship Rating Scale.

If you would like additional training seminar support from me regarding family therapy, we can develop an additional online seminar surrounding family systems therapy. 

Both the treatment focused assessment protocol and the solution-focused family therapy are data-driven, reflecting the emphasis of the AB-PA pilot program for the family courts on evidence based practice.  The goal and mission of the AB-PA pilot program for the family courts is to provide the court with the highest caliber of professional knowledge and professional standards of practice in professional psychology.

If something arises between our consultation groups and you would like support consultation; discuss this with your clinical director.  If you both believe my additional consultation would be helpful, your clinical director can arrange a separate online case consultation with me regarding the issues.  Additional consultation is fine with me.  I am here to support you.  Your clinical director is your first-line of support.

Welcome to the AB-PA pilot program for the family courts. 

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

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