I’m worried about Karen Woodall’s psychological state, but I’m in Los Angeles. Can someone over in England please check on her to make sure she’s okay.
Whenever I sign into my blog I get a newsfeed panel, and her blog has been showing up in this panel recently. I typically don’t read them. They’re just her own stuff without any scientific support. She’s just making stuff up. And as long as she’s basing her work on Gardnerian PAS, she’s pretty much irrelevant to any solution. Gardnerian PAS prevents the solution.
But recently I’ve been attending to her, because we’re shifting into solutions that are grounded in actual knowledge, and as we do that the Gardnerians, particularly Karen, are seeking to sow confusion, co-opting terms and constructs that don’t apply to the PAS model, but then using them as a way of sowing confusion. They want to pretend that there’s no such thing as AB-PA and Dr. Childress – a fantasy world where I don’t exist, so they can simply take all “my ideas” as their own.
Stupid pathogen. They’re not my ideas. Bowlby, Minuchin, Beck. But I guess if you don’t know Bowlby, Minuchin, and Beck, it might sound like their my ideas. None of this is Dr. Childress.
For the narcissistic personality – “Truth and realty are whatever I asset them to be… “I’ve always said…” No, you haven’t.
So I’m having to attend to the obstructionism of Karen Woodall, and Bill Benet, and the Parental Alienation Study Group (PASG). The PASG is essentially inert. It’s an organization created by Bill Bernet with the goal of studying “parental alienation,” as if after 40 years as a construct it needs more “study.”
Notice the difference between Bill Bernet and Dr. Childress, he forms a group to “study” “parental alienation,” I form a group to solve it. We don’t need to study it… we need to solve it. Different foundational attitudes.
Bill and I were in Venice last year presenting at a small conference. I invited him and his wife to dinner, along with my wife, Peter Knudsen who had arranged my presentation in Venice, and Dorcy, who had joined me over there for the talk and for the meeting with Dr. Bernet. We all met for dinner at the hotel.
I tried to convince Dr. Bernet to join us and collaborate on developing solutions. I offered to write two joint articles together, one on the history and future of “parental alienation.” In the first half of the article, Bill could describe the history of the struggle to solve “parental alienation” over the years. Then for the second half I could talk about future directions.
We could then write a second joint article on the DSM-5 diagnosis of “parental alienation,” with a proposal for an actual full diagnosis – not simply a mention – a full diagnosis in the DSM-5 for this pathology – in the Trauma Disorders section of the DSM-5 – with – get this – the SAME diagnostic criteria as Shared Psychotic Disorder from the DSM-IV. We’d bring back an already existing diagnosis in the DSM-IV (Shared Psychotic Disorder) and simply move it over to the Trauma Disorders section – the trans-generational transmission of trauma. I’ll talk more about this proposal when I get around to writing the second book in the trilogy – Foundations – Diagnosis – Treatment.
But Bill refused to work together. He insisted that I had to accept that there is a new form of pathology unique in mental health. It’s not true. There is no new form of pathology, the pathology is all entirely explainable using standard and established constructs and principles.
I must admit, I became frustrated at that point, and expressed my frustration to Bill, about all the children who would be lost, who would be sacrificed to this pathology because he was refusing to work together toward a solution. It breaks my heart each family, and each day without a solution is one day too long. And here Bill is being obstructionist, not because he thinks it will lead to a solution… he knows he has no solution… it’s because he wants to hold on to his beloved Gardner and the PAS model. And for that, he’s willing to sacrifice tens of thousands of children to the pathology – ONLY Gardnerian PAS is allowed to solve the pathology.
On something this important, that type of obstructionism is frustrating, and heartbreaking.
I suspect the reason these “experts” have become obstructionists instead of allies is that these “experts” are not really experts in anything. Once they lose this “new pathology” idea that they’re so fond of, they become ordinary. They don’t like being ordinary. I wonder why?
They’re special. They’re “experts” and everyone needs to listen to them, because they’re discovering this whole new form of pathology. They’re not. They’re just atrocious diagnosticians.
At one point I tried to get Bill to activate the PASG into an advocacy organization. Imagine if the PASG were putting pressure on the APA and forensic psychology. Bill said no. He said that the PASG is a “Study” group, not an advocacy group. Its mission was to study “parental alienation,” not advocate for any changes to anything. PASG membership… did you know that? That your mission isn’t really to solve or change anything… it’s just to “study” the pathology – I guess at all those conferences you all like to get together at… to “study” the pathology.
Mind you, “study” refers to them all sitting around a table at their conferences and talking about it to each other, and this PAS “parental alienation” idea-thing has been around for 40 years, so they’ve pretty much talked themselves out. Unless someone like Karen starts to decompensate and begins “discovering” new things – things she didn’t discover for the past 40 years but is now miraculously “discovering” – some sort of boost in her mental capacity I suppose.
So PASG is inert. It will not do anything to advocate for change. Bill won’t let them. And he refuses to collaborate unless I accept that PAS is a real form of new pathology – which it isn’t… that’s a poison pill to our collaboration. I could find ways around our disagreement if we wrote a joint article (we wouldn’t look too close at our differences). But I will not wander into a false reality because Bill finds it warm and comforting.
We are solving this attachment-related family conflict pathology by returning to the established knowledge of professional psychology, Bowlby, Minuchin, Beck.
Karen Woodall is the most active obstructionist. This is because she has her personal finances at stake. She’s put all of her professional status into her Separation Clinic and drives the clinic’s marketing (her making money) by her being an “expert” in this new form of pathology. Apparently her husband, Nick, is in on this too, so it’s a whole family affair. If we return to the established knowledge of professional psychology – she’s no longer an expert and there goes all her marketing of herself and her clinic – and if we actually solve the pathology – there goes her entire clinic. Her entire world is built on her being an “expert” in a “new form” of pathology.
Neither one is true.
So she’s been the most active in scrambling to remain relevant by obstructing and creating confusion. To do this, she picks up on words or phrases I’m using and then mimics them, – but without meaning. She doesn’t really understand actual psychology – so she uses the terms but then kind of twists and distorts them into what she wants them to be. Sort of a, “Truth and reality are what I assert them to be” relationship with actual reality.
But recently I’ve been seeing a series of pictures come across my newsfeed for Karen’s Blog, and it has me worried. I’m a clinical psychologist. We look at multiple layers of stuff… like the possible symbolic meaning in the choices Karen is making for her pictures. I know, she thinks the pictures relate to her blog article… but both the blog article AND the pictures are also – also – reflections of her. It’s called projection. All of us do it all the time.
Even me, even now. I’ve got projective material wrapped up in this blog. Because it’s impossible not to. We all live in a brain, this brain has patterns, these patterns get imprinted on EVERYTHING we do. That’s the whole principle of Gestalt therapy. Gestalt therapy picks anything we do and then unravels it into everything we are. It’s really powerful.
So I have my projective nonsense wrapped up in everything I do as well… it’s just that I’m a clinical psychologist, so I remove a lot of my personal nonsense beforehand, maybe 10%, and then I hide as much of my personal material as possible from public display, maybe another 10%, and then the rest is unconscious and it just goes spilling out into whatever I’m doing. I don’t have huge nonsense, so it tends to be transparent.
Karen, though, doesn’t seem to be as sophisticated at not displaying her personal material. Because I’m a clinical psychologist (I trained as a Gestalt therapist in my younger days), I see a lot of it. She doesn’t realize she’s doing this, because she’s not very sophisticated, so her projective stuff is just all over the place. That’s one of several reasons I don’t read her stuff, it feels a little intrusive into her privacy, I see deeper than I think she’d like me to see, so I just don’t pay attention. Besides, as long as she’s holding onto Gardnerian PAS, she’s making herself entirely irrelevant.
But recently it’s gotten concerning. It’s the pictures.
Recently she started a descent into self-exposure with a gateway picture, the Fairy Tales picture. I commonly refer to her stuff as unicorns and mermaids – make believe fairy tales. So she’s announcing that shes going to enter her world of Fairy Tale beliefs. Interestingly, she adds this picture to another different title for her actual blog – something about this “splitting” kick she’s on. So this Fairy Tale addition is just that… an addition. That’s always significant, when something sticks out like that. There was no need for this… why did she add it… because it’s her material.
So this Fairy Tales signpost signals that we’re on a descent into her own material here, she is going to display her stuff. Please don’t, Karen. Too late.
The next picture shows the descent. It’s a puzzle and all the pieces are put together, the pieces of her psychological makeup are all organized… except there’s big missing holes. She presents as all put together, but if you know where to look, somethings missing, something’s not right. What do those missing pieces represent? Well, guess what, in this psychological process, that’s coming next. We’re going to drop into those missing pieces next.
The next picture will show us the missing pieces, so imagine we’re going to enter one of those missing pieces, to see what’s underneath the puzzle.
The next one is not unexpected, but it is concerning. Her actual psychological state is fractured. So while she gives the outward appearance of all the puzzle pieces put together, except for missing places, when we penetrate her surface presentation we find that the structure is an illusion and that the entire picture, her entire psychological state, is fractured. That shouldn’t be – especially for a mental health person. Our inner psychological state should NOT be this.
But now she’s entered too deeply. Beneath the cracked glass is a chaotic abyss, the glass is fragile, the glass will break, she has to return to the structured world of reality, to recompensate from her descent.
So the next picture returns to the world of everyday, announcing upcoming conferences of her being an “expert” – she is recompensating her ego, she got too close to her material and the glass threatened to break beneath her. So she came out and re-asserted – “I’m an expert.” Notice how this picture isn’t of the same type as the others, it’s a flyer, the others were graphics. She has to get far away from the fractured inner material she came close to. All the way back out, to an anchored world.
But then… the graphics are again, disturbing. A frayed rope, almost at its breaking point. So even while recompensating, she continues to express her troubling deeper material. I’m worried. If this is projective material she’s displaying, and it most likely is, she’s struggling.
Now Karen will have all sorts of real-world “explanations” for her choices in pictures. In clinical psychology, we understand that we all have a lot of choices – about everything… but we only choose one. Why that one?
Oh… okay. Whatever you say.
But are you familiar with the unconscious, and how that guides our actions?
So with her recompensation, as tentative as that is, we have nearly completed our journey. Karen has bounced down to her material, it threatened to lead her into her chaos, her fracturing of structure, so she had to pop out and restructure – a return to the real world – the outside world -with the assertion of her inflated ego-structure, “I’m an expert – everybody needs to listen to me.” The only thing left is the consolidation of the journey. The next image she selects will be her integration of the psychological journey into her inner material that she just went on.
Uh-oh. That’s not good.
I’m reminded of the dead at Pompeii. That… is a disturbing image, and if that represents Karen’s normal-consolidated integrated state, that’s not good.
Karen’s world is collapsing, and she can’t find a way to stop it. Her stable world of Gardnerian PAS and no solution is changing. There will be no Gardnerian PAS anymore, and she’s not going to be an “expert” anymore. She has an over-inflated ego of unjustified self-importance, that is collapsing.
Uh-oh. Would someone go check on Karen, make sure she’s doing okay. I know she’s trying to make all these positive and optimistic statements – but she’s in denial. AB-PA exists, Dr. Childress exists, and she’s in denial about that.
Her denial will save her structure for the time being. But not for long. No one is ever going back to Gardnerian PAS. That ship has sailed, in fact that ship has sunk. Titanic at the bottom of the ocean. We’re going to switch to jet airplanes, much more efficient.
Oh, I’m sure Karen will deny that she’s in any trouble psychologically. But still… I’m a clinical psychologist, I’m worried about her. From where I sit, I don’t think she’s holding up so well. Would somebody just check in with her, make sure she’s doing okay.
Karen… word of advice… stop trying to be more than you are. Once you release the psychological burden of having to be more, special, an expert – and just return to being ordinary, things will get a lot lot better.
I’m not an expert, Karen. I’m just a clinical psychologist. I’m a good clinical psychologist, but that’s all I am.
Being “more” creates a false-self presentation that is absolutely nasty on the inside. For an understanding of what happens when the ego becomes over-inflated, I’d turn to Jung, Karen. It’s not a good thing. The unconscious will emerge to balance, and typically through the Shadow. That’s that picture, the last one. That’s the shadow emerging.
For integration, all the air has to be let out of the ego, pffffffffffffffffffffftttt. It feels really empty at first. But this becomes the “fertile void” – that’s a Fritz Perls construct, I really love it… the fertile void for growth of self-authenticity. Just do your job. There’s a kid in front of you, there’s a parent… make contact… stay focused…. bring empathy, genuineness, and unconditional positive regard and fix things – simple, with that one child, with that one parent. That’s enough, it’s always enough.
That’s way enough for me. I don’t want to be an “expert” – pfft. I’m just a clinical psychologist. I just want to fix that one kid, that one parent who is sitting in front of me. But I can’t, because the systems are broken. So… I guess I have to fix the systems so I can fix my kiddo… but the only reason I’m fixing systems… is because of that one child, that one parent.
The world is changing, Karen. I’m not an enemy, I’m not someone to fight against and “stop”… I’m simply being a clinical psychologist, doing what I do. I have a kid that needs fixing – I can’t fix my kid until I fix the systems that surround my kid. Dang. So back in 2010 I set about fixing systems, not because I’m special… but because my kid needs the systems fixed so I can fix my kid.
I think you’ve gotten lost, Karen. Lost from why we do this. It’s not for us. Its not to make us big and wonderful. It’s for that one kid sitting across from me, that one parent in tears. That is the entire world, Karen. We expand out from there to do what we need to do… to fix things for that child, and that parent.
I’m not from this world of forensic psychology, Karen. I come from obscurity, from the foster care system. No one ever becomes famous by working in the foster care system, that’s basic county-funded work. These are the rejected and abandoned children, our unloved children. That’s where I was, because they need me the most over there.
Look at my vitae. That’s not a vitae for fame and fortune. Once I left the clinic and entered private practice, I was happily on my way to retirement and writing books about curing ADHD. I had zero, in fact negative, interest in “high-conflict” divorce. But I had a child. He was 10. He said to me, well, not in words, but he said… “Can you help me, Dr. Childress.” I’ll see what I can do, buddy. So he took me by the metaphorical hand and led me over here, to “high-conflict” divorce. Oh, it’s a nightmare over here.
Since then, I’ve met so many kids, and their parents. A lot of parents. We need to fix this.
But I didn’t come here to be a famous “expert” – I’m here for that one kid, that one parent, who is sitting across from me. I’ve met more of them, so many more, since being over here. This isn’t about us, Karen.
The world is changing because it has to. In order to fix the systems, we have to return to the established knowledge of professional psychology – all of us. Even you. That way, we all can come together in agreement – ALL of professional psychology, on the ground foundations of established knowledge – Bowlby, Munuchin, Beck.
And from this foundation of knowledge, we can change how the systems work in response to this pathology. We can get proper assessments and accurate diagnoses, and most importantly, we can get effective treatments… all by returning to the established knowledge of professional psychology, Bowlby, Minuchin, Beck.
We’re ordinary, Karen. We’re not Bowlby, we’re not Aaron Beck. Stop trying to be more than you are. I’m just a clinical psychologist – I’m a really good clinical psychologist, personally I think I’m the best – but I’m the best, Karen, because I know a lot of stuff, not become I have some “special” expertise personally. I just know stuff. I know Bowlby, and Beck, and Millon, and Tronick… and so much. Do you know why I know so much?
Because I’m from the foster care system… I’m from our abandoned, unloved, and brutalized children. You need to know a lot for them, don’t ya think? With all they have going on in their world… they need the best. No fame, no fortune. Just work, for each child and each parent that sits across from me, they are the world.
I’m worried about you, Karen. The world is changing, that is a fact. As I said, I’m a really good clinical psychologist, we create change. I’m doing that.
Think about it, Karen. Think about releasing into the change rather than fighting to stop the change.
Ohhh, but that will mean you’ll have to give up Gardnerian PAS entirely, to return entirely to the established knowledge of professional psychology – Bowlby, Minuchin, Beck, Tronick (yeah, there’s a neuro-social piece, ya gotta understand the brain).
Let go, Karen. Just be normal. Holding on is fighting the ocean, and the over-inflation of ego is not going to turn out well. Ever try to fight an ocean wave? Not a chance. Release into change. But that means you won’t be an expert anymore.
But you want to know something that’s so much better than being an “expert”? Solving this pathology for all kids everywhere, now and into the future. We do that by changing systems, and we change systems by returning to the standard and established constructs of professional psychology – all of us. Even you.
Craig Childress, Psy.D.
Clinical Psychologist, PSY 18857