A Dangerous Pathology

One of the things that is highlighted for me by my deidentified consultation report on data from the Parenting Practices Rating Scale and Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting is how exposed and vulnerable I am.  In every sentence I write, I’m being very precise in how I select my words and phrases now days.  Dangerous world.

I’m walking on the hair’s edge of professional destruction.  One wrong step, one wrong phrase, one wrong action, and I lose my license and livelihood.  Something to understand about working in court-involved psychology is that half of the legal profession wants to discredit and impeach you.  Nothing personal.  That’s their job representing their clients. 

So half of the legal profession at any one time wants to prove that I am awful and that the court shouldn’t listen to me because… reason, reason, reason.

Nothing personal in the reason, reason, reason.  Just doing their job.  Still, not pleasant for a clinical psychologist.  And they’re looking for reason, reason, reason.  I know that, one wrong sentence, one misstep…

We don’t have to deal with antagonistic attorneys when we’re treating ADHD and school behavior problems, or autism pathology.  Safe and comfortable.  Court-involved high-conflict divorce? Woowee, dangerous as all get out.

As a court-involved psychologist, it is my obligation to know the processes of the legal system; the scales of balance and fairness, and the blindfold of neutrality.  My role is neither to seek to evade nor impede the completely legitimate efforts of “opposing counsel”  to discredit and impeach me and my testimony.  Nothing personal, it’s their job. 

My role with court-involved psychology is to present my qualifications and my information openly and fully, and allow the court to make its decisions.  That’s why I have a Vitae Series on my YouTube channel.  I’m an open book, and this is the knowledge base I’m drawing on in my professional practice, including knowledge of community clinical psychology and organizational development, and knowledge of assessment protocol development for court-involved pathology.

Nevertheless, while making the legal world dangerous and highly uncomfortable for clinical psychologists, most attorneys are reasonable people doing their job.  Nothing personal.  However, court-involved practice becomes downright dangerous because of an aggressive group of legal professionals, the sharks.  An estimated six percent of the population has severe narcissistic personality pathology, and it doesn’t take many to become exceedingly dangerous.  That’s immensely stressful as a clinical psychologist.  I don’t have to deal with that when I’m treating ADHD or autism.  When I’m treating classroom behavior problems in a 10-year-old with ADHD, I don’t have to worry about an entire cadre of shark attorneys whose sole goal is to find ways to discredit, impeach, and destroy me.

Talk about pressure.  What rational clinical psychologist wants that kind of pressure?  When I was treating ADHD and school behavior problems my world was serene and peaceful, now there is a group of attorneys who are seeking to discredit, impeach and destroy me… and for some it’s personal.  Yikes.

That’s where we get forensic psychology.  The clinical psychologists don’t want to do it (too dangerous) so the forensic psychologists step in.  But the forensic psychologists practice in “safe-mode” – do nothing and solve nothing.  As long as the mental health person does nothing to disrupt the manifestation of the pathology, then the mental health person is safe.  It is only when the mental health professional tries to disrupt the pathology that their professional license is put at risk.

I notice the extent of my stress and pressure whenever I get a subpoena in the mail, my anxiety immediately shoots up the moment I see the envelope, and it remains elevated for a couple of hours as I process implications of the court documents, even minor stuff that doesn’t really involve me, may represent a threat to me, my stress and pressure goes up as I process the information from every conceivable angle.  Targeted parents know the feeling.  It’s the feeling when they receive an email from your ex-, “Ah jeez… what now…?” And the stress goes up for a couple of hours.  Even if it’s nothing… the stress is just there until I process all the various ramifications and make sure I’m safe and what my orientation should be.

High-conflict court-involved practice is incredibly dangerous for a clinical psychologist.  That’s why clinical psychologists don’t work court-involved high-conflict divorce.  Too dangerous.  And right now is the most dangerous time for me, Dr. Childress.  I’m exposed and I’m all alone. 

I’ve laid the groundwork carefully (Foundations), and I’ve been careful every step of the way.  And, right now, I’m standing all alone, waiting for voices from professional psychology to join me.  We need to protect these children, and this is the way to do it… a confirmed DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse – documented by the rating scales.

And actually, I’m not alone, because I’m reading reports written by mental health professionals citing AB-PA and Dr. Childress. 

We have an ally that I’ve known about all along… I’ve been sandbagging their existence.  It’s all the good and capable mental health professionals, the ones who want to do the right thing to protect the children but can’t figure out what that is, in the complexity of court-involved conflict.  They are joining with us in creating the solution, in protecting the children.  They “get it,” and they are standing up to protect the children from the psychologically abusive parenting of a narcissistic-borderline parent surrounding divorce.

All mental health professionals operate under two professional obligations, our duty of care and our duty to protect.  We have a professional obligation to stand up and protect the children.  I’ll stand here.  You can stand with me.  Here is supported by Bowlby, Minuchin, and Beck.  Here is supported by a structured assessment protocol and data documentation instruments.  We can be safe taking on the dangerousness of the pathogen as long as we stand here – Parenting Practices Rating Scale; Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting.

Everything is documented:  Assessment of Attachment-Related Pathology Surrounding Divorce, Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting, Parenting Practices Rating Scale, Parent-Child Relationship Rating Scale, Contingent Visitation Schedule, ABAB Single Case Design.

Everything is completely transparent.

We’re standing on solid ground.  Bowlby, Minuchin, Beck.

This is the most dangerous pathogen on the planet, and right now I am at my greatest risk.  I need to be exceedingly careful.

This is the most dangerous moment for me because it’s the time before the APA takes a position.  Once the APA takes a position, the orientation of professional psychology to AB-PA will be clear.  Until then, I’m on my own. 

The truth is the truth, and I also need to be exceedingly careful in everything I say and do.  There is a deeply malevolent force lurking that wants to destroy me, personally and professionally, in order to discredit and prevent the solution that is available from AB-PA.  Shark attorneys are most certainly swimming in the waters. 

Hey, APA.  I could use a little help here.  I’m out here exposed to narcissistic and borderline personality pathology in high-conflict court-involved divorce, with attorneys and family hostility and conflict and inflamed passions.  I could use a little help because it’s dangerous for a clinical psychologist to fulfill his or her duty of care and duty to protect obligations under such constant threat.

Yoo-hoo, Parental Alienation Study Group (PASG), are you going to leave me exposed and vulnerable?  Or will you come to support me?  You see what I’m doing.  These parents and I sure could use your help.  How about a statement from the PASG in support of the Petition to the APA?  Sure would be helpful in not leaving me out all alone with no support.  Oh, that’s right… you’re not actually an organization that does anything, just studies things.  Sure could use your help.

American Journal of Family Therapy editors… you’ve published a lot of articles on “parental alienation.”  I know you rejected my article submission in 2013 because the approach described did not pay sufficient homage to Gardner, but now five years later, perhaps you see more deeply into the solution being implemented through AB-PA, and perhaps you would like to support those changes?  You have my email address, invite an article from me.  Invite several, let’s publish an entire issue.  I can provide three articles (foundations and diagnosis; assessment and treatment; and solutions for the family court; and you can invite additional responding articles from whomever you want.  Sure could use your help.

I’m saddened that the International Conference on Shared Parenting in Strasbourg this coming November didn’t think that Dorcy and I had anything important to add to the conversation.  We submitted proposals, but they were rejected.  My proposal contained the additional note that I could present on whatever they wanted me to present on, and that this submission was just my proposal if you’re asking me.  But whatever they want, with possible suggestions listed.  I was rejected.  I have nothing relevant to add to the discussion.  It’s a reindeer game thing, I’m not allowed to play.

That’s a pity, because if our presentations had been accepted, Dorcy and I would be preparing to present in France in a couple of weeks, and we would have been able to provide additional presentation seminars for government officials, legal representatives, and mental health representatives in Europe.  Lost opportunity, I’d say.  Pity.  But hey, I suppose they know best, Dorcy and I have nothing of importance to contribute… or a lost opportunity.

Sure could use your support.  Or not.  I’ll do this alone if you make me.  I’d prefer you join me.  Either way, though… solution is coming.  We will not tolerate the continuation of this pathology and the family wreckage it creates.  We are going to bring this to an end, and we are going to do it by returning to the standard and established constructs and principles of professional psychology; the attachment system, personality disorder pathology, family systems therapy, and complex trauma.

I hope everyone can see that this is not about who the “expert” is.  I don’t want to be an expert.  I want to go away.  I want to go back to ADHD.  But this is important, we have to get this solved.  This pathology needs to end.  We need to provide these children and families with the professional knowledge and competence necessary from their mental health providers to solve the pathology.  Professional psychology needs to speak with clarity to the court, and the court needs to listen.

Add whatever pretty bells and dancing ponies you want to AB-PA, but let’s solve this, and we can solve this… using Bowlby, Minuchin, Beck.  So let’s do that.

Ultimately, we’re going to do away with “experts,” replaced with capable expertise across the profession, who possess specialized knowledge in attachment pathology, in family systems pathology, in personality disorder pathology, and in complex trauma pathology.  Let’s argue about dancing ponies later, add whatever ponies you want, but can we just solve this right here first, can we come together for this common purpose now.

I’m taking the stand out here alone so that others can follow.  That’s part of my role in this.  I will support the mental health professional who follows standards of professional practice and applies the knowledge of professional psychology; the six-session treatment focused assessment protocol and AB-PA; Bowlby, Minuchin, Beck.  I will step up and propose the structure for the assessment protocol and for the interpretation of data, and I will steadfastly defend the structure of the assessment protocol and interpretation of the data for all mental health professionals who rely on it:

Parenting Practices Rating Scale
Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting

If other mental health professionals follow my suggestions for the clinical psychology assessment of attachment-related family pathology surrounding divorce, you will have my full voice of support and the support of Foundations.  Foundations is a diagnostic explanation of the pathology using four information sets from professional psychology; the attachment system, personality pathology, family systems therapy, and complex trauma.  Diagnosis is the application of standard and established constructs and principles to a set of symptoms.  Using multiple separate information sets from professional psychology to triangulate on the pathology provides a valid and reliable diagnosis.

I will become the target for the pathogen and its allies.  I’m okay with that.  Dangerous world, court-involved high-conflict divorce.  Knew that coming in.  That’s my role in this, to use my professional knowledge garnered over a career in clinical child and family therapy to help families and the court unravel attachment-related family pathology surrounding divorce. 

I am asking my professional colleagues who know the right thing, to do the right thing, make an accurate DSM-5 diagnosis, and shift the vulnerability and threat to me in whatever way you need to.  If that means that you do not overtly document the DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, we can deal with that as long as you complete the symptom documentation instruments.  You do not even have to write a report or interpret their meaning, simply document whether the symptoms are present or absent.

It helps if you stand up, but I understand the danger.  It’s real.  Shift whatever threat you need to shift over to me.  Just document the presence or the absence of the family features and symptoms.  We need you to do that.  Say what you see, we can take it from there.  Or join us and tell what you see.

As a mental health professional, you do not need to complete a Parenting Practices Rating Scale on the allied narcissistic-borderline parent unless you have the information and professional courage to document this parent’s deficits in a statement to be used by the courts.  It takes a lot of professional courage to do that, and I understand if that’s beyond your comfort level for threat and danger surrounding your professional practice. 

We just need the Parenting Practices Rating Scale for the targeted parent and the Diagnostic Checklist for the child’s symptoms.  The Parenting Practices Rating Scale will document normal-range parenting for the targeted parent relative to diagnostic indicators 1 and 3 of the Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting.  It’s that set of information that we need documented.  What Level parenting is the targeted parent, and are these three child symptoms present, sub-threshold, or absent?

I know exactly how dangerous the pathogen is, and I am fully cognizant of my daily threat of misstep that could undermine my entire career.  If clinical psychology is going to reestablish its involvement with court-involved consultation, assessment of pathology, and treatment of pathology, we need to be able to provide protection to the mental health professionals who wonderfully select to work with this extremely difficult and extremely dangerous pathology.

Ultimately, we are going to be elevating these mental heath professionals to the highest caliber of professional respect, expertise, and knowledge in attachment pathology, personality disorder pathology, family systems therapy, and complex trauma.

As professional standards of practice form, protection is provided first by defined structure and clear documentation. 

I have a professional obligation to the child from my duty of care and my duty to protect as a clinical psychologist.  This obligation requires that I act to solve the high-conflict family pathology created by the parent’s narcissistic and borderline pathology that is leading to severe psychopathology in the child (diagnostic indicators 1, 2, and 3) and the loss of a loving parent-child bond from the child’s life.  My actions in developing the six-session limited scope treatment focused assessment protocol, the Strategic family systems intervention of the Contingent Visitation Schedule, and the ABAB single case design assessment and remedy protocol is toward fulfilling my obligations as a clinical psychologist in my duty of care and my duty to protect.

I also have a professional obligation through my decision to enter court-involved professional practice to be knowledgeable and always cognizant of my role and obligations within the legal system for fairness, balance, and neutrality, and to provide the court with the highest caliber of professional knowledge and standards of practice.

When in danger, vulnerability is not always a weakness, and truth is always a valuable ally.

If you think I’m defenseless standing out here all by myself… come give it a go and I’ll show you just how defenseless I am.  Oh, and I’m not quite alone.  There are 20,000 voices to the Petition to the APA who are standing right here beside me.  Heavens, I’m not alone.  Have you met Wendy Perry and Rod McCall, and all the parents they represent?  No, I’m not alone.  And hey, have you met Dorcy Pruter?  Oh my goodness gracious, you have to talk to Dorcy.  She’s standing right here next to me, here Dorcy, say something to the clever pathogen.  I’m not alone.

Everything I do is out in the open. I tell everyone ahead of time what it is I’m going to do and how I will interpret the data when it’s collected.  Nothing hidden.  The pathogen likes to hide.  We’re not going to let it hide.  Two data documentation instruments, that’s all we need.  Tell us what you see.

It’s time for all of us in clinical psychology who know the right thing to do the right thing.  I’ve staked out the ground so you can be safe identifying the presence of the pathology.  We need to protect these children.  Join me in protecting these children.

It’s the right thing to do.

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


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