AB-PA and Forensic Psychology: Four Statements

Statement 1: The standards of practice in forensic psychology are substantially below the standards of practice in clinical psychology.

I suspect this statement will draw the ire of my colleagues in forensic psychology.  That’s not important.  The statement is true and needs professional focus and resolution.

Statement 2: The practice of child custody evaluations violates every professional standard of practice for the construction of an assessment procedure.

I suspect this statement will draw the ire of my colleagues who conduct custody evaluations.  That’s not important.  The statement is true and needs professional focus and resolution.

Statement 3: There is no such thing as “reunification therapy.”  It an undefined term for a snake-oil therapy of unknown and undetermined content.

I suspect this statement will draw the ire of my colleagues who conduct court-ordered “reunification therapy.”  That’s not important. The statement is true and needs professional focus and resolution.

Statement 4: The construct of “parental alienation” is disabling the mental health response to the pathology and is beneath professional standards of practice for defining and describing pathology.

I suspect this statement will draw the ire of my colleagues who use the construct of “parental alienation” to guide their practice.  That’s not important.  The statement is true and needs professional focus and attention.

A professional-level description of “parental alienation” depends on which information sets from professional psychology are applied to the clinical data, information sets from family systems therapy or information sets from attachment trauma and personality disorder pathology.

Family Systems Clinical Description of the Pathology: 

The child is being triangulated into the spousal conflict through the formation of a cross-generational coalition with the allied parent against the targeted parent, resulting in an emotional cutoff in the child’s relationship to the targeted parent (Minuchin, Haley, Bowen).

Attachment System Clinical Description of the Pathology:

The child’s rejection of a parent surrounding divorce represents the trans-generational transmission of attachment trauma from the childhood of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent to the current family relationships, mediated by the personality pathology of the parent that is itself a product of this parent’s childhood attachment trauma (Bowlby, Beck, Millon, van der Kolk).

An attachment-based description of attachment-related family pathology surrounding divorce, (attachment-based “parental alienation”; AB-PA) represents the return of clinical psychology to court involved consultation, court-involved assessment of pathology, and court-involved treatment of pathology. 

Nothing about AB-PA is new.  AB-PA represents the application of established constructs and principles of professional psychology to a set of symptoms (Bowlby, Minuchin, Beck, Bowen, Millon, Kernberg, Ainsworth, Linehan…).

An attachment-based description of the pathology is grounded entirely within the standard and established constructs and principles of professional psychology; the attachment system, personality disorder pathology, family systems therapy, and complex trauma.

Professional psychology has the obligation to provide the highest caliber of professional knowledge and standards of practice for all clients and for the court.  Forensic psychology is currently failing in this obligation.

An attachment-based model of “parental alienation” (attachment-related family pathology surrounding divorce) represents the return of clinical psychology to court-involved consultation, court-involved assessment of pathology, and court-involved treatment of pathology.

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

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