I want to talk about my November seminar series with Dorcy. 

Here is what I’m going to talk about.

I’m going to start the morning of the first day talking about the foundations of the pathology.  I will assume everyone at the seminar knows Foundations, so I’m going to take a line that moves into diagnosis, that will be on the attachment trauma line, the reenactment narrative and delusional pathology.

In the afternoon of the first day I’m going to cover diagnosis.  I am going to assume everyone knows the three diagnostic indicators.  I am going to focus on the clinical diagnosis of the attachment pathology in the child, and the 12 Associated Clinical Signs (ACS).  Each of the ACS symptoms has a reason.  I will explain the reason for each of them.

The morning of the second day, I’m going to start Assessment.  I’m a clinical psychologist, my goodness, assessment is what we do.  If you want to know the sweet-spot of professional expertise in assessment… that’s clinical psychologists.  Personality assessments, educational assessments, MMPIs, Rorshachs.  Want a Rorshach Inkblot Test?  Sure I can do that.  Time consuming and better ways to get the information, but sure, I can do that.  The most interesting case I ever had where I used the Rorshach was to diagnose possible childhood schizophrenia.  It can be difficult to separate psychosis from pretend-fantasy in a child, and the Rorshach helped.

I was mostly over in learning disability, ADHD, and educational assessments, intelligence tests, child behavior tests.  That’s what psychologists are trained to do, specifically that.  Assessments.  Design assessments, develop assessment instruments, research assessment, clinical assessment, personality, behavioral… that’s what we do.  All things assessment, that is spot-on the professional specialty of clinical psychologists.

Psychiatrists  prescribe medication, MFTs provide therapy, architects build buildings, plumbers fix sinks, psychologists do assessment.  That’s what we do.  Day two with Dr. Childress is assessment of this pathology.

I’m going to start with a collection of skill sets.  So the morning of day two I’m going to discuss the behavior-chain sequence and behavior-chain interviewing (before-during-after; thoughts-feelings-actions) and I’m going to describe stimulus control.  This is from Applied Behavioral Analysis. 

Another assessment skill will be response to intervention.  This diagnostic skill will be used during the afternoon’s discussion of the six sessions of the clinical assessment protocol, it’s used during the sessions with the children and parent together.  Change things and see what happens.  Change what things?  That’s what we’ll talk about.  It’s called response-to-intervention (RTI). Used extensively in school-based psychology and is sometimes used by psychiatrists with medication in achieving diagnostic clarity.

I will close the morning by discussing the Assessment Report.  There are structures for these things.  I will offer examples of several alternative structures for reporting on the results for court-involved pathology… for court-involved pathology.  If the report were headed to the school system and IEP hearings, that has a structure and format based on its function.  These assessment reports should be assumed to be headed to the court.  There’s a format to clinical psychology reports.

If a report is to be used in court-involved family conflict, then it should consider certain professional standards of practice in format.  Clinical psychology reports are not child custody reports.  We are streamlined and we are efficient, and we do not disclose private information without a purpose.  If private information is not relevant to the diagnosis or treatment, then it is not relevant for disclosure in a report for distribution.  If the content area is of note, then we frame the issue with as much protection of privacy as possible in the report.

Clinical psychologists are not forensic psychologists.  We don’t disclose privacy unless it’s relevant to the solution, and then only as much privacy as is relevant to the solution.  Even if we can, we don’t.  That’s clinical psychology.  We’ll talk about reports from clinical psychology on the morning of the second day.

On the afternoon of the second day, I’m going to talk about each of the six sessions of a treatment-focused assessment protocol.  Sessions one and two are with each parent individually.  Doesn’t really matter which one you start with, advantages and disadvantages to each option.  Then two sessions with the targeted parent and child together.  You want to see the child’s symptoms directly, and the targeted parent’s behavior.  This is where behavior-chain interviewing and response to intervention probes come in.  Then two sessions to finish the assessment protocol, one with each parent.  Provide them with feedback from your assessment and note their response. This is an assessment of their schema organization for processing information.

That’s the afternoon of the second day.  Day two is entirely assessment.

Then I have a day off.  Dorcy is going to talk to them.  Yay for that.  They will learn oodles from her.

I’ll let Dorcy decide on what she tells the mental health people.  I’ll be with my popcorn in the back.  She has dealt with mental health professionals for so long, some huge number of ineffective mental health people in childhood family conflict, and lots and lots of mental health people now that she’s working with this court-involved pathology.  I have complete confidence that she know exactly what they need to learn.

She was that child, in that family.  She recovers that child, in that family.  I am a psychologist consultant to her. I have co-presented with her at the AFCC national convention in Boston, and at the APA national convention in Chicago.  I have received a client from the High Road workshop and I served as the maintenance care provider for the family.

As far as I’m concerned, the High Road workshop is evidence-based practice for recovery of children from complex trauma and child abuse.  The High Road ABA single-Slide1case data is remarkable and compelling.  The High Road workshop is phase B on that chart.   A rocket from 1s and 2s to 5s and 6s. Two days.

She recovered the child’s healthy normal-range emotional and psychological development in two days, after three years of documented child abuse by the father, documented by three separate mental health professionals over the three year period.  Two days, full recovery.

Not a doubt in my mind that Dorcy will provide the mental health professionals with valuable information for recovering kids from complex trauma and child abuse.

She also has three things beyond her knowledge, the High Road workshop, a parenting curriculum, and the Custody Resolution Method.  Court-involved psychologists should learn about all three.  Learning the skill sets for maintenance care is also valuable in case you get a client out of a High Road workshop.  She is not training in how to do the High Road workshop.  She is providing knowledge on recovering children from complex trauma and child abuse.

You’ll get more practical information from Dorcy in ten minutes than you’ll get from hours of AFCC lectures.  If they could solve it, they’d solve it.  Dorcy solves it, empirically validated.  She collects PC-RRS outcome data on every single workshop client.  Collect follow-up PC-RRS data, and there’s your replication. Every single workshop is a single-case ABA research quality clinical intervention, N=1.  That is the highest quality of clinical intervention, a single-case ABA design.

Yeah, she’ll figure out what to tell them.

Fourth day, Dr. Childress and Dorcy Pruter talk treatment and solutions in a family therapy context.  There will be discussion of solution-focused therapy and trauma pathology, of parent and child support, and of written treatment plans.  Examples of written treatment-plan components will be discussed.  Outcome measures will be discussed. 

Family therapy insights from Cloe Madanes, from her 2018 book Changing Relations: Strategies for Therapists and Coaches will be discussed.  Strategic family systems therapy.  Very powerful.  I’ll introduce the Contingent Visitation Schedule, a Strategic family systems intervention designed for this type of trans-generational trauma pathology.  Fourth day morning, family therapy and family solutions.

On the afternoon of the fourth day, I will discuss the ABAB single case clinical intervention and assessment protocol.  Dorcy absolutely loves the single-case ABAB design, and she’s right.  Single case research methodology applied in a clinical setting is considered the highest caliber of assessment and intervention. Each case is a research study with an N=1. 

In the application of the single-case ABAB design to assessment and intervention, the child is systematically moved through a structured series of steps, conditions, the A-B-A-B sequence, and the child’s response is measured using a designated outcome measure.  There is no doubt on establishing causality and the solution using the single-case ABAB design. It is an established research design used for exactly this purpose when applied in clinical practice; to determine causality and solution.

Dorcy loves it, the ABAB single-case assessment and remedy.  I keep telling her that she won’t find anyone in forensic psychology world to run an ABAB single-case clinical intervention.  We’d have to grab someone from autism world or school learning disabilities and cross-train over to high-intensity family conflict.  Welcome to the jungle.  My poor little autism therapist or school-based learning disabilities therapist would be over-matched trying to handle this high-intensity family conflict pathology.  Eaten alive.

It’s gotta come from trauma and IPV.  Running the ABAB single case protocol has to come from trauma and IPV pathology, we can cross-train to the program’s structure.  Easy-peasy, simple as pie.  Single-case research protocols are simple.  Define the phases, define transition criteria, identify the outcome measure, move though the sequence of phases collecting data.  Not complicated, just gotta stay structured to the defined criteria, collect data.  The data will answer the questions.

The afternoon of day four, I’ll speak to the ABAB single-case design.  Dorcy likes role-play active experiential learning.  I’m lazy, I’ll let her do that.  We’ll see how much of an Eveready bunny she is on the afternoon of the forth day.

Then, after the first of the year I’ll start online clinical case consultation groups.  These will be with four or five clinicians, once a month clinical case consultation discussions for six months.  I would anticipate each participant in the consultation group to have one or two scheduled case presentations during this period, and still allow time for material of the moment.

These are separate from the November and spring trainings, but enrollment is limited to participants in a training series with me.  I don’t want to teach basic things at the same time as provide clinical psychology consultation on a client.  Know basic things, so we can talk psychotherapy with a complex and difficult client system.  Once we work together in a seminar to establish the basic stuff, then clinical consultation groups with Dr. Childress become available. 

Six month series, four to five therapists, based on demand.  Each participant is anticipated to present a scheduled case presentation at least once during this six month period.  Ongoing case material will also be addressed.  Don’t share identifying patient information, confidentiality is maintained, and a collective decision-making approach of inter-professional consultation on difficult cases improves the quality of professional care by improving the quality of professional decision-making.

The clinical case consultation groups depend on demand.  Four to five clinicians.  One group.  More, two groups.  More, three groups.  No demand, no groups.

I’m a resource.  You’re the ones who need to do this, you, the mental health people. That’s your client in your office. I’m in Southern California.  That family is not my client.  I’m a resource to you, you’re the source of change for this family.  You’re the catalyst, change will occur because you apply knowledge to solve pathology. 

I’ll do what I can to provide support.  You, the mental health professional, are the source of change.  Your power is diagnosis.  You’re licensed to identify and diagnose pathology.  That’s what your license means.  We need an accurate trauma-informed diagnosis for the child and family, so we can develop an effective treatment plan.

The courts and children deserve the highest quality in professional standards of care.  That’s considered standard of practice in clinical psychology.  In clinical psychology, competence is defined as knowing everything there is to know about that pathology, and then reading journals to stay current.  That means if you’re treating attachment pathology, you know everything there is to know about the attachment system, and then read journals to stay current.  Same for the trans-generational transmission of trauma, same for family systems therapy, everything there is to know, then read journals to remain current.

Dust off your copy of Boszormenyi-Nagy’s Invisible Loyalties: Reciprocity in Intergenerational Family Therapy.  Everything to know, and then read journals to remain current.

If that’s too much, then don’t work with children and the courts.  Decisions made by the court are too important in the lives of these children and these parents.  Expected standard of practice for professional competence is to know everything there is to know about the pathology, and then read journals to remain current.

That was the standard of practice at UCLA when I worked there. That was the standard of practice when I worked at Children’s Hospitals.  That was the standard of practice at UCI when I worked there.  That has been the expected standard of practice everywhere I have ever worked… know everything there is to know about the pathology, and then read journals to stay current.  That is the standard of practice for court-involved family conflict.  Because that’s just the expected standard of practice in clinical psychology.

In November, I’ll begin teaching to that standard.

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

Parallel Process: Staff Splitting

Parallel Process

I find it stunning.  I find it appalling.  That I would have to educate my professional colleagues before I can have a professional level discussion with them.

That should not be.  If you are a licensed psychologist, I should not have to first educate you to be able to have a professional-level patient care discussion with you.  That should not be.

I was the Clinical Director for a three-university assessment and treatment center for children ages 0-5 in the foster care system.  I’ve also served as the Clinical Director for a FEMA/DOJ project to develop a national model for the mental health assessment of juvenile firesetting behavior, a court-involved forensic pathology.

I am senior clinical staff. 

If you are a licensed psychologist, I should not have to educate you before I can have a professional-level discussion with you about patient care.

If I have to first educate you in order to have a professional-level discussion about patient care, then I’m recommending you be placed on remediation and that your patient care duties be suspended until a remediation plan has been completed.

I’ll tolerate some ignorance from a pre-doctoral intern, we have supervision pretty tight on them.  I will tolerate only a little ignorance from a post-doctoral fellow, they need to get to work and learn.  I will not tolerate having to first educate licensed staff in order to have a professional-level discussion of patient care with you.

That is a fact.  And yet, in forensic psychology I find myself in exactly that position, of having to educate all of forensic psychology in order to have a professional-level discussion of patient care with them.  I find that stunning.  I find it appalling.  That is not acceptable.

That should never be.  You are an ignorant psychologist, and that is unacceptable in patient care.


So, let me begin the remediation.  The first construct is parallel process.  It’s application is to you, the psychology person (when you act like a professional, I will call you a professional – until then, you are a psychology person).  You are manifesting a parallel process, you most likely don’t know what that is, and you certainly don’t realize that you are captivated by it.

That is the start of your remediation.  Parallel process, what it is, and how you are manifesting it as a mental health person.

You are working with borderline personality pathology.  You do understand that, right?  Or are you so ignorant that you don’t even realize that the “high-conflict” court involved divorce cases often involve (always involve) narcissistic and borderline personality pathology.  Do you not even realize that yet?

Because if that’s the level of your professional ignorance, that you don’t even realize that you’re working with narcissistic and borderline parental personality pathology (splitting; “sides,” absence of empathy, lots of continual high-conflict drama), then your remediation program is more extensive (there are many of you in this category of extensive remediation). 

For the remainder, those of you mental health people who recognize that “high-conflict,” high-intensity, court-involved family conflict often involves narcissistic and borderline personality pathology, I’m confident that you then have learned about narcissistic and borderline personality pathology, right?

You wouldn’t be assessing, diagnosing, and treating a pathology you know nothing about. That’s absurd. So clearly, you have taken it upon yourself to learn about borderline and narcissistic personality pathology.

Let’s start with borderline.  So you realize that a lot of the “high-conflict” court-involved families you work with involve borderline personality pathology to varying degrees, right?  So you would want to lean about borderline personality pathology, right?

Who do you turn to for that?  Marsha Linehan, no doubt.  Dialectic Behavior Therapy (DBT), all the rage.  Marsha Linehan is undeniably top-tier on borderline personality pathology.  So you’d get her book, right?  On borderline personality pathology, Marsha Linehan’s book.  You’d read that, right?

Linehan, M. M. (1993). Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder. New York, NY: Guilford

Marsha Linehan, Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder, you’ve read that, right?  Because you’re working with borderline personality disorder, so you’d read Marsha Linehan, right?

And in reading about treating borderline personality pathology, you’d read about the splitting pathology which is so central to borderline (and narcissistic) personality pathology.  And you’d read how this splitting pathology can spread to the mental health professionals working with the borderline pathology, right?

You know, parallel process.  Or is this the first time you’ve heard of parallel process? 

You know, when the mental health professionals begin to mirror the pathology they’re treating.  Marsha Linehan calls it “staff splitting,” it’s when the splitting pathology (the polarized side-taking) spreads to the mental health providers and they also divide into polarized “sides” – the parallel process of splitting.

Since you certainly read Marsha Linehan’s book on borderline personality pathology because you are working with borderline personality pathology, then you obviously read her description of the parallel process of staff-splitting

From Linehan:  “Staff splitting,” as mentioned earlier, is a much-discussed phenomenon in which professionals treating borderline patients begin arguing and fighting about a patient, the treatment plan, or the behavior of the other professionals with the patient.” (Linehan, 1993, p. 432)

From Linehan:  “Arguments among staff members and differences in points of view, traditionally associated with staff splitting, are seen as failures in synthesis and interpersonal process among the staff rather than as a patient’s problem… Therapist disagreements over a patient are treated as potentially equally valid poles of a dialectic.  Thus, the starting point for dialogue is the recognition that a polarity has arisen, together with an implicit (if not explicit) assumption that resolution will require working toward synthesis.” (Linehan, 1993, p. 432)

You, all of you forensic psychology people, are living a parallel process of splitting.  Yes you are.  You are polarized into two sides by the construct of “parental alienation.”  That’s the pathogenic function of the construct.  It is a symptom of the pathology.   The construct of “parental alienation” is a symptom of the pathology.  Its function is to create discord and division in professional psychology, the polarized sides, the parallel process.

You don’t think parallel process happens consciously, do you?  Heavens no, it’s entirely an unconscious process.  Look at yourself, you’ve all been doing it for years and years and haven’t even realized it.  I’m having to now educate you on parallel process and “staff splitting” as a construct in working with borderline personality pathology to get you to self-reflect.

Once you self-reflect, you’ll go “Oh, I see it now.  Wow, I never saw that before.”  Yeah, because parallel process is unconscious. 

But you are the mental health person.  I shouldn’t have to educate you about this.  You should already have known this (all of you), and you should already have stopped doing it… all of you.

Just look at Gardner’s PAS.  Have you ever seen a more polarizing construct ever?  Holy cow, the vitriol that flew back and forth.  Polarized sides – all of professional psychology began “arguing and fighting about a patient, the treatment plan, or the behavior of the other professionals with the patient.”

A circular and entirely non-productive argument between two polarized sides.  Sound familiar?  That’s the pathology isn’t it.   I am talking about the pathology, right?  A circular and entirely non-productive argument between two polarized sides that goes on for years without end.

Or am I talking about the endless circular round-and-round argument in professional psychology surrounding the construct of “parental alienation.”

Can’t tell, can you.  That’s what parallel process is. The process in the mental health people mirrors exactly the process of the pathology.

Parallel process.  In this case, sides, endless unproductive conflict.

What if we stopped using the construct of “parental alienation,” what would happen?  We would have to apply knowledge, like family systems therapy.  We would then recognize that the child is being triangulated into the spousal conflict through the formation of a cross-generational coalition with one parent against the other parent, resulting in an emotional cutoff in the child’s relationship with the targeted parent (Minuchin, Bowen, Haley, Madanes; family systems therapy).

My goodness, we might even apply Boszormenyi-Nagy, a family systems therapist who literally wrote the book on loyalty conflicts in the family:

Boszormenyi-Nagy, I., & Spark, G. (1973; 1984). Invisible Loyalties: Reciprocity in Intergenerational Family Therapy. New York: Harper & Row. (Second edition, New York: Brunner/Mazel)

Or we might apply the scientific research on the attachment system (Bowlby, Ainsworth, Sroufe, Tronick), since a child rejecting a parent is a problem in love-and-bonding, in the attachment system.  And then, when we did that, we would obviously apply Bowlby’s statement that a breach in the attachment bond is the result of “pathological mourning.”

From Bowlby:  “The deactivation of attachment behavior is a key feature of certain common variants of pathological mourning.” (Bowlby, 1980, p. 70)

Once we did that, then we would clearly be able to link the pathological processing of sadness inherent to narcissistic and borderline pathology to the “pathological mourning” described by Bowlby for “deactivating” attachment bonding.  You do know about that, right?  Kernberg?

From Kernberg:  “They [narcissists] are especially deficient in genuine feelings of sadness and mournful longing; their incapacity for experiencing depressive reactions is a basic feature of their personalities.  When abandoned or disappointed by other people they may show what on the surface looks like depression, but which on further examination emerges as anger and resentment, loaded with revengeful wishes, rather than real sadness for the loss of a person whom they appreciated.” (Kernberg, 1977, p. 229)

As a psychologist working with borderline and narcissistic pathology, you’re certainly familiar with Otto Kernberg.  He literally wrote the book on narcissistic and borderline personality pathology:

Kernberg, O.F. (1975). Borderline Conditions and Pathological Narcissism. New York: Aronson.

You certainly wouldn’t be working with borderline and narcissistic pathology without having read Kernberg.  Literally, he wrote the book on the pathology.  So obviously you know that narcissistic and borderline personalities have an inherent problem in processing sadness.  You know that, right?

You don’t, do you.  You’ve never read Linehan or Kernberg, have you. <sigh>  Okay.

So, as part of your remediation plan, all of you, start with reading Marsha Linehan regarding borderline personality disorder pathology, she literally wrote the book on it.  Know what you are doing.  Then read Otto Kernberg on the borderline personality and pathological narcissism.  He also literally wrote the book on the pathology, one’s CBT one’s psychoanalytic.  Read both.

Or do you think it’s okay to be ignorant about what you’re doing? Because it’s not.  If I’m the Clinical Director, I’m pulling your patient contact until you know what you’re doing.  This is the remediation plan, start with Linehan and Kernberg.

Minuchin and Bowen are on the reading list, as is Bowlby and van der Kolk.  But start with Linehan and Kernberg, because this is important, the parallel process, the endless circular non-productive sides that directly mirrors the pathology of endless conflict.

PAS is Pathogenic

Gardner’s PAS model is atrocious.  It is designed to sow discord and division in professional psychology.  Look what happens the moment we stop using it… all the discord and division in psychology stops, we apply knowledge, and we solve the pathology.

What happens when we use the construct of “parental alienation” – 40 years of endlessly circular and non-productive fighting and arguing in professional psychology, a division, a rift, polarized sides… parallel process.

All mental health professionals – you, the professionals – who know knowledge and apply knowledge – must STOP using the construct of “parental alienation” and must no longer participate in the parallel process of “staff splitting” created by the construct of “parental alienation.”

All mental health professionals, you, the professionals, must ONLY rely on the established constructs and principles of professional psychology to which everyone agrees – offering multiple citations to leading figures like John Bowlby, Salvador Minuchin, Murray Bowen, Theodore Millon, Marsha Linehan, Otto Kernberg, Bessel van der Kolk, or Edward Tronick to support your statements, or citations to the scientifically established research literature.

No “new pathology” proposals will be entertained for consideration until AFTER – AFTER – you have applied the established knowledge of professional psychology, and then only based on your argument offered AFTER you apply knowledge that some area of family systems therapy, and attachment research, and research into complex trauma, personality disorders, and the neuro-development of the brain is somehow inadequate to the task of diagnosis and treatment. 

Because they’re not.  The application of knowledge in professional psychology will absolutely solve the pathology.  Apply knowledge to solve pathology.

The construct of “parental alienation” is pathogenic; it creates pathology.  It creates the pathology of staff splitting in professional psychology, endless argument, entirely unproductive, round-and-round, thereby disabling the mental health system’s response to the pathology.  That’s its function.

That’s one of the reasons I have always put the term “parental alienation” in quotes.  It is toxic.  It is a pathogenic construct, it creates the parallel process of staff splitting in professional psychology (thereby disabling the mental health system into endless argument).  I will not use it in a professional capacity.  Ask Dorcy, I write a lot of reports for her CRM data profiles, I never once use the construct of “parental alienation” and they are powerful reports.

Once we drop using the construct of “parental alienation,” the solution becomes available immediately; family systems therapy, complex trauma, attachment pathology.

Look what Marsha Linehan says about what we must do to escape the parallel process of endless non-productive fighting and arguing in professional psychology, we must work toward synthesis.

From Linehan: “…resolution will require working toward synthesis.” (Linehan, 1993, p. 432)

That’s what an attachment-based description of the pathology provides (AB-PA), a way of synthesis, of rejoining the two “sides” split into conflict in professional psychology.  We give up the construct of “parental alienation” and in instead we apply the established knowledge of family systems therapy, and personality disorders , and complex trauma, and the attachment system.

We then solve the family conflict and restore healthy bonds of love and affection throughout the family.  If there is disagreement about some aspect of an AB-PA model, then what does the research on attachment say?  Or the research on personality disorders?  Or on family systems therapy? 

There is ground, professional ground foundation, to stand on to address and resolve professional disagreements; Bowlby, Minuchin, Beck, van der Kolk, Tronick and all of the scientific research from 100 years of professional psychology.

Beginning with diagnosis… assessment leads to diagnosis, and diagnosis guides treatment.

That is foundational to clinical psychology.  Apply the DSM-5.  What is your diagnosis?  That, then, will guide your treatment.

But that’s another area of your remediation, the diagnosis of delusional pathology and Factitious Disorder Imposed on Another.  During that remediation domain we’ll discuss the BPRS (the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale) for the assessment of delusional pathology, we’ll discuss a shared psychotic disorder (folie a deux; ICD-11 F24) and Factious Disorder Imposed on Another (Munchhausen by Proxy; DSM-5 300.19).

But start with the parallel process of splitting, staff splitting.  The construct of “parental alienation” when used in a professional capacity creates endless and non-productive division, discord, and argument about the construct.

From Linehan:  “Staff splitting,” as mentioned earlier, is a much-discussed phenomenon in which professionals treating borderline patients begin arguing and fighting about a patient, the treatment plan, or the behavior of the other professionals with the patient.”

Stop it.  The construct of “parental alienation” promotes “arguing and fighting about a patient, the treatment plan, or the behavior of the other professionals with the patient.”  Parallel process – staff splitting – stop it.  Stop doing it.

What to do instead?

From Linehan:  “Arguments among staff members and differences in points of view, traditionally associated with staff splitting, are seen as failures in synthesis and interpersonal process among the staff rather than as a patient’s problem.

It’s our problem, as mental health professionals, we have to be aware and we have to stop doing it. We are allowing ourselves to become polarized into sides.  It is OUR continued polarization into sides (our failures in synthesis), and we must stop doing that.  We must come together, in professional psychology. 

We will drop the divisive (and pathogenic) construct of “parental alienation” and instead apply constructs from family systems therapy (triangulation, cross-generational coalition, emotional cutoff, multi-generational trauma; Minuchin, Bowen, Haley, Madanes) which are fully defined, which are fully accurate, and which everyone in professional psychology accepts as valid.

From Linehan: “Therapist disagreements over a patient are treated as potentially equally valid poles of a dialectic.”

The Gardnerian model of PAS is the worst model for a pathology ever proposed in the history of mankind.  Establishment psychology is absolutely correct in rejecting it, and I agree with them.  Gardnerian PAS (“parental alienation”) is an absolutely atrocious professional description of a pathology. 

That pole in the dialectic is entirely valid.

There is also a pathology present, it involves the collapse of a narcissistic-borderline personality parent under the stress of the marital failure and divorce. The child is being triangulated into the spousal conflict through a cross-generational coalition with this narcissistic-borderline parent, resulting in an emotional cutoff in the child’s relationship with the targeted parent (Bowlby, Minuchin, Beck, van der Kolk, Tronick).

That pole in the dialectic is entirely valid.

There is a pathology present.  That is factually correct.  The diagnostic model of “parental alienation” is an atrocious description of the pathology and should NOT be used in a professional capacity.  That is also factually correct.

From Linehan: “Therapist disagreements over a patient are treated as potentially equally valid poles of a dialectic.”

What then?

From Linehan: “Thus, the starting point for dialogue is the recognition that a polarity has arisen, together with an implicit (if not explicit) assumption that resolution will require working toward synthesis.” (p. 432)

First, you, the licensed psychologists, must recognize “that a polarity has arisen” – you must first see the parallel process before you can stop doing it.  It is an unconscious process.  If you don’t see it, you live it, you become the parallel process of endless, circular, non-productive argument and discord.  You must first recognize “that a polarity has arisen.”  First step.

Then, we must work toward… synthesis.  Establishment psychology correctly objected to the construct of “parental alienation” because it has no scientifically formulated foundations to it.  So then, let’s apply the scientific knowledge of professional psychology (Bowlby, Minuchin, Beck, van der Kolk, Tronick; attachment, family systems therapy, personality disorders, complex trauma, the neuro-development of the brain). There, scientifically established foundations, all solved.

We move, we discontinue the use of “parental alienation” in a professional capacity and we apply only the established knowledge of professional psychology, we move toward synthesis.

Then from the other side of the pole, parents require that the pathology be recognized and diagnosed.  Fair enough, the pathology exists, narcissistic and borderline personality exist, cross-generational coalitions exist, emotional cutoffs and multi-generational trauma exist.

Establishment psychology then also moves toward synthesis, recognizing the pathology and diagnosing the pathology using the scientifically established constructs of professional psychology (Bowlby, Minuchin, Beck, van der Kolk, Tronick).  They move, they acknowledge the pathology exists and they define domains of applied knowledge necessary for professional competence (family systems therapy, attachment, personality disorders, complex trauma, the neuro-development of the brain in childhood).

We move, they move, we find common ground in the scientifically established knowledge of professional psychology.  We end the parallel process, we end the endless round-and-round of non-productive argument and discord, we end the polarization into sides.

We’re the psychologists after all.  That’s our job.

Remediation & Patient Contact

However… if you are a licensed professional, I shouldn’t have to first educate you about parallel process and staff splitting surrounding borderline personality pathology in order to have a professional-level discussion with you.  You should ALREADY have known this, and you should have ALREADY made it stop.  Marsha Linehan’s book was 1993.  Salvador Minuchin’s structural family diagram for EXACTLY this pathology was 1994.  Kernberg’s book was 1977, Minuchin’s on family therapy was 1974, Bowen’s was 1978.

This is not new knowledge.  Why did no one, in forty years of parallel process, ever see the parallel process, and why did no one ever return to applying knowledge to solving pathology?  Sloth.  Because you were lazy.

That should never be.  That is not acceptable from any licensed psychologist.

Working with this pathology for 20 years is NOT something I would advertise as a professional qualification.  Doing something entirely wrong for 20 years is not a positive job qualification.

Standard 2.04 of the APA ethics code requires – requires – that you apply the scientifically established knowledge of professional psychology.  If you have not done that – and you have not – then you have been an unethical psychologist for your entire practice.  How long are you saying you’ve been an unethical psychologist, 20 years?  Being an unethical psychologist (an ignorant charlatan and fraud) for 20 years is hardly a recommendation.

I’m senior staff, and I am not at all happy about having to educate licensed staff in order to have a professional-level discussion of patient care.

You are working with borderline and narcissistic personality pathology.  The parallel process of staff splitting has emerged (for 40 years), created by the atrocious construct of “parental alienation” and the wholesale abdication by everyone of reliance on established constructs and principles (Bowlby, Minuchin, Beck, van der Kolk, Tronick). 

First thing, you must stop using the construct of “parental alienation” in a professional capacity and you must rely ONLY on the established knowledge of professional psychology, which means you must KNOW the established knowledge of professional psychology. 

THAT… is a requirement of Standard 2.01a of the APA ethics code, you must know the knowledge for the domain of pathology you are treating, it’s called your “boundaries of competence.”

You should NOT be working with patients until you know what you are doing.  If I’m your Clinical Director, I’m pulling your patient contact and putting you on a remediation plan, starting with lots of reading, Bowlby’s three volumes on Attachment, Separation, and Loss.  Minuchin and Bowen on family systems therapy.  Beck, Linehan, Kernberg, and Millon on personality disorders and van der Kolk for complex trauma.  Siegel and Tronick are essential for the neuro-development of the brain in the parent-child relationship.  Then I’ll add a bunch of articles, research studies like the Mineka study on parental emotional signaling of parental anxiety in the creation of child anxiety.

Or is ignorance acceptable?  Do you think that it doesn’t matter if your heart surgeon knows anything about open heart surgery.  They’ll wing it.  Is that acceptable, if your cancer specialist doesn’t really know anything about cancer or its diagnosis or treatment.  Is that okay?

No, it’s not.  You are a licensed mental health professional.  Your obligation is both to know knowledge and apply knowledge.  My dog can do ignorant diagnosis and treatment, and a five-year-old child can make stuff up.  You are a professional.  Act like it.  Know what you’re doing.

Is it okay for psychologists to not know about families and how families function when they are assessing, diagnosing, and treating families?  No, it is not.

Is it acceptable for psychologists to know nothing about the attachment system even though they are assessing, diagnosing, and treating a child who is rejecting a parent, an attachment pathology?  No, it is not.

Is it acceptable for psychologists to be entirely ignorant yet make recommendations that separate parents from children… entirely ignorant decisions that destroy the lives of children and devastate parents in traumatic grief and loss, is that acceptable?

No, it’s not.

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

The Spanish Pyrenees

I’m home.  From the Pyrenees, from Barcelona, from an interesting adventure, a journey of note.  Since returning home, I’ve slept for most of two days straight.  The physical exhaustion of travel and jet lag are components, and sleep has helped integrate information, lots and lots of information.  Travel and 15-hour plane flights are in themselves exhausting, but my journey also moved at a deeper level, opening and organizing things within me.

You are not an easy clientele to work with.  You hold a great deal of suffering, grief, and loss within you… immense suffering.  We are entering a new phase of solution.  It is time to begin moving forward on the processing and resolution of immense sadness and suffering.

The phase of solution is shifting which means my relationship with your suffering is shifting.  I am a clinical psychologist.  I am a resonant instrument.  I experience my clients, they live within me.

There are four primary schools of psychotherapy; psychoanalytic, humanistic-existential, cognitive-behavioral, and family systems.  The doctoral program at Pepperdine University offered year-long specialty training tracks in each of four possible schools, one for each school of psychotherapy.  But, with the first year of entry and the last year of internship, we were limited.   We could only choose two of the four for our specializations. 

I chose the humanistic-existential track and the family systems track.

A PsyD degree is the best-of-the-best in clinical psychology.  We sacrifice coursework in research methodology (and therefore our careers in university-based academic settings) in order to obtain greater specialization training and expertise in psychopathology and psychotherapy.  I’m a PsyD clincal psychologist, I’m the best at what I do; psychopathology and psychotherapy.  My core expertise is in humanistic-existential psychotherapy and family systems therapy.

You’ve seen what my specialty in family systems therapy can produce – Minuchin, Bowen, Haley, Madanes, Satir, Whitaker, Framo, Boszormenyi-Nagy.  Family systems therapy can and will solve this entire court-involved family conflict pathology.  Add attachment, add trauma, add the neuro-development of the brain in childhood for even greater and more complete solutions. 

You are not aware of what the humanistic-existential side of my knowledge is doing.  I am a resonant instrument.  A humanistic-existential psychotherapist is an active participant in the change process; Fritz Perls, Carl Rogers, Irving Yalom, Victor Frankel, Martin Buber and the I-thou relationship. 

We are active participants in the therapeutic process, we are the instruments of change.  Enter a weekly therapy relationship with me and in a year to a year-and-a-half your life will be different.  Not because I do something, but because I am something.  The relationship with me, in itself, will create growth and change.  It will free you from your fears, free you from your past, and you will embrace your authenticity with excitement and vitality.  Not because of something I do, but because of who I am.

That is a humanistic-existential psychologist.  We are the instruments of the change process.  Rogers; empathy, authenticity, freedom from our “conditions of worth.”  Perls; freedom born from responsibility, contact with life in the here-and-now.  Frankel; meaning, our freedom and our choices.

Empathy is my link into my work.  I understand, I see the client’s authenticity, and fears, and suffering.  In my empathy then, the client also sees their authenticity, their fears, and the origins of their suffering.  I must go there first. 

If I am personally uncomfortable with sadness, I won’t go there in my empathy… and the client will not grow into this area because of my limitations.  If I am uncomfortable with anxiety, or anger, or love, or joy, or any of a thousand experiences, I won’t go there in my empathy… and the client will not grow into this area because of my limitations.

Your world is one of suffering.  Immense suffering, grief, and loss.  It has an impact on the resonant instrument, empathy for your world is challenging.  It’s not something to be “cleansed” or “processed” – because it is real, it is authentic.  It needs to end, not be “healed” or “adjusted to.”  I carry it, your suffering.  Not to your degree, my limit is my empathy.  I share, I don’t become.  Yet sharing your world of suffering and loss is immensely painful, as you know.

It is difficult to hold empathy for you because your suffering is so deep, your pain is so immense, your grief is so heartbreaking… it moves beyond endurance.  You know.  It is your world.  I know, because I have empathy. 

Yet my empathy without boundaries of separation would prevent my work on your behalf, I would become a ball of deep-sadness, unable to do anything but cry for the suffering… cry for a long-long time because your grief and loss is so immense.  I don’t mind.  It’s what I do, empathy.  I’d rather have empathy and share grief and loss in suffering, than to be without empathy for the suffering and loss.

I’d rather love, even though love is painful.  We will lose everything we hold dear in life. That is a fact of time.  I was once a young man, now I’m an old man, soon I will die and leave.  My children were once children, now they are fine young adults, and yet, my children are gone.  I love my two dogs very much, we’re a pack the three of us.  They’re getting older, I see it.  Soon one will die, then the other, and my grief will be immense.  Sadness is woven into the fabric of love.

Should we not love to avoid sadness and grief at loss?  That is a choice some make.  That is not a choice I make, I choose to love, knowing full well the depth of grief and sadness this entails.

That is the Western spiritual choice, exemplified in the Christian story of Jesus, suffering immensely on the cross because he loves.  A choice to love becomes an equal choice to embrace the suffering and sadness of that love, for everything we hold dear will be taken from us.  That is the nature of life, and death.  That is the truth made actual in existential psychology.

The Eastern approach to spiritual choice is exemplified in Zen Buddhism.  It is locating the shifting flow of change and our flow within it.  In this choice, we detach from the illusions of existent reality and move more completely into our flow within a broader flow, the Tao.  We escape suffering by detaching from the illusion and finding our truth of being within the larger flow.  Buddha said there were four noble truths, 1) life is suffering, 2) we suffer because we are attached, 3) we escape suffering by detaching, 4) we detach by following an 8-fold path to enlightenment.

Choice.  Love and suffer, or detach and achieve enlightenment.  I choose to love.  You suffer because you love.  You love your children so much, with all your hearts and souls.  Your suffering is immense.  I know.  I have empathy.

The solution is not to heal, or cope, or fight.  The solution is to end your loss, to return your children to you.  That is the only acceptable solution.  This suffering needs to end.

So I have defenses in working with you, personal defenses that keep your suffering from becoming my suffering through empathy.  All humanistic-existential psychologists must finely hone our defense structures, knowing exactly how and when they are active, knowing what’s me and what’s you.  I must be able to enter your world, and the world of the child, and the world of the other parent, with empathy, to understand. 

It is this line of empathy that will heal.  I am a resonant instrument.  To be in relationship with me is to grow.  Forensic psychology will be entering into relationship with me.  The fire I bring is obvious, but it will be the empathy line that brings change.  I will expose the depth of your suffering and loss, and I will expose the depth of your suffering simply because I will live it in my truth and authenticity.  It lives in me.

To know me is to know your loss, your deep-deep sadness and grief, unendurable grief.  Forensic psychology will come to know me, and through me they will see themselves, and when they see themselves they will recover their empathy for suffering, for your suffering, and for your child’s grief and loss.

The absence of empathy creates the capacity for human cruelty (Baron-Cohen; the origins of evil).  This is a pathology of immense cruelty.  We are going to recover empathy.  I am the resonant instrument in that.

My Journey to the Spanish Pyrenees

Let me tell you of my journey to Barcelona and the Spanish Pyrenees.

I met with a group of wonderful parents for the first two days upon arrival.  They had so many questions, they were so desperately seeking solutions for their pain and grief and loss.  I enjoy being with the parents, all of you.  It helps my shared-suffering of empathy if I can help you find a path or way to recovering your children. 

We met the first day in a medieval town of Ordino in the Pyrenees nation of Andorra, about three hours north of Barcelona.   I had just flown in, it was my first day of crazy-eyed jet lag recovery.  I offered to meet with any parents who were willing to make the three hour drive to Ordino, and three parents came to meet with me.  We talked about their situations, we talked about bringing change to Spain (to Europe generally, to Spanish language countries in Central and South America – to all children and families everywhere).

I discussed a potential approach of replicating what happened in the Netherlands.  Parent advocates there arranged with a local university, the Erasmus Medical Center, to host a conference of family attachment trauma in the courts.  In arranging this conference symposium, I recommended including local-area Dutch experts in attachment and trauma pathology, and I strongly recommended against including any “parental alienation” speakers… we are returning to the application of real knowledge, established knowledge – no new form of pathology proposals, only the application of knowledge.

I presented in the morning at the Rotterdam conference, followed by Dutch psychologists presenting on attachment, trauma, and family conflict in the courts.  The symposium ended with a panel Q&A and Dorcy was invited to sit on this panel to answer questions.

What I suggested to the Spanish parents would also be my suggestion to all parents everywhere, the Netherlands model is how to bring change.  Start with persuading a local area university to hold a conference symposium on Attachment Trauma in the Family Courts, with Dr. Childress presenting in the morning followed by local area psychologist expertise in attachment, in trauma, and in IPV (Intimate Partner Violence; domestic violence).

No Gardnerian PAS.  I will not speak at a conference or symposium event with Gardernian PAS “experts.”  If I ever find myself in a position where I’m on the bill with a Gardnerian PAS “expert” or “researcher,” I will likely spend my entire presentation time attacking Gardnerian PAS in detail.  The construct of “parental alienation” is beneath professional standards of practice to use in a professional capacity, and represents a violation of Standard 2.04 of the APA ethics code.

If Dr. Childress is going to speak at your event, I will not speak as part of a PAS panel of speakers.  If I do speak at an event with a Gardnerian PAS speaker, it’s likely that I will be using my time to describe in detail how the other speaker is violating the APA ethics code by using the construct of “parental alienation” in a professional capacity, and I will spend my entire time destroying Gardnerian PAS as a professional-level construct.  Probably not a productive use of my time.

I will speak at events with attachment psychologists, with trauma psychologists, and with domestic violence (IPV) psychologists.  I will describe this court-involved family conflict pathology using established constructs and principles of attachment, complex trauma, family systems therapy, personality pathology, and the neuro-development of the brain – which is exactly what I did in the Netherlands at Erasmus Medical Center.

That’s day 1; Dr. Childress framing the issue followed by speakers in attachment, in complex trauma, and IPV (domestic violence).

Day 2 would be a separate seminar from Dr. Childress and Dorcy Pruter on solutions.  This would be separate from, but associated to the university symposium event the day before on attachment trauma in the family courts.  In our Day 2 seminar, Dr. Childress would present in the morning on diagnosis and treatment of complex family conflict surrounding divorce, and Dorcy Pruter would present in the afternoon on recovering the authentic child from family conflict and stabilizing a healthy family that includes both parents actively involved in the child’s life.

That is an excellent weekend of information.  That is what I suggested to the parents in Spain.  One of the parents suggested the University of Granada as a possible host for a one-day symposium on Attachment Trauma in the Family Courts.  I thought that was an excellent idea.  Universities of Barcelona and Madrid would work equally well.  Whatever doors the universe opens.

I would present in the morning, followed by Spanish psychologists in attachment, complex trauma, and domestic violence (IPV), concluding in a Q&A panel.  Following that, Dorcy and I will then present a seminar on the second day, Solutions for Complex Family Conflict in the Family Courts.  That would be my suggestion, and that’s what we discussed in Ordino. 

Of note is that in the Netherlands solution, Dorcy and I also attended an invited meeting with the Dutch Ministry of Justice.  We suggested at that meeting that the Dutch courts and government conduct pilot programs of potential solutions.  Develop three pilot program models (AB-PA/High Road provides one, develop two more).  Recruit university involvement for outcome data research.  Implement the comparative pilot programs, see what works, and do that.

That would be my similar suggestion in Spain, in Israel, in Sweden, in England, in Australia, in New York, in Boston, in Seattle.  Develop three pilot program models (AB-PA/High Road provides one, develop two more).  Recruit university involvement for outcome research.  Implement the comparative pilot programs, see what works, do that.

On my second day in Spain I drove down to Barcelona to then meet with a larger group of Spanish parents.  I spent the day answering their questions, from 11 am to 8 pm.  I loved every second of it.  They had so many questions.

They filmed the whole thing for Facebook.  I’m fine with that, everything I say is on the record.  It was apparently watched in Mexico and South America and is probably floating around the Internet somewhere.  I want to get Spanish language translations of my essays and work, that will be an upcoming focus of mine.  The parents were wonderful humans, and the opportunity to answer their questions that are of such deep significance and importance for their lives was wonderful.

There Are No Maps, There are Journeys

Then I traveled into the Pyrenees.  I hadn’t come to meet with parents.  The universe arranged that.  I came for the mountains. 

An adventure began when I abruptly learned that my cell phone company doesn’t cover the micro-nation of Andorra in the Spanish Pyrenees in their roaming data plan.  It seems that whenever I was in Andorra my data cost was massively heavy, and the end result was that I ran out of data and was blocked from further data.  I learned via text from the phone carrier that I was being cut off from further data just as I was driving out of Ordino into the Spanish Pyrenees… meaning I lost my GPS map… and I had no other map.

Of course.

I’m alone, in a foreign country, in the mountains, without a map, and no phone.  Okay.  I hate adventures, they make you late for second breakfasts.  I had no GPS map for the rest of my trip.  That’s the way of these things, these journeys.  They have a life of their own and abundance comes from following that life.  I was alone in a foreign country, in the mountains, on an adventure.  Works for me, let’s see what happens.

I traveled with friendly mountain trolls and a magical goat to the small town of Torla-Ordesa near a national park in the Pyrenees – magnificent, the National Parque was magnificent.  The universe will provide me with a great gift if it allows me to return to the Parque Nacional de Ordesa in the Pyrenees.

I’m home in the mountains.  For most of my life I’ve traveled to the mountains.  In my childhood it was yearly family vacations to Yosemite, in my adult life I would backpack every summer in the Sierras.  Occasionally I took friends with me, mostly I went alone.  It’s dangerous to backpack weeks into the wilderness alone.  If something bad happens… sucks for you, you’re dead.  But I found the benefits of being solitary in the mountains to be well worth any danger.  We die, everything’s a risk, there’s always a price to pay for adventures.

The Parque Nacional in the Pyrenees is the same as my mountains, and yet different.  The similarity relaxed my being, the difference sparkled my senses, same, but somehow different, and magnificent.  There’s a reason places are designated as National Parks.  I’m home there, in the mountains, among the trees and stones and stars.

I’m an experienced traveler on these journeys.  I know to begin with a couple of days to clear civilization and the self-of-the-world, it typically takes about three days to shut down verbal mind.  On this journey, that function was served by the medieval town of Ordino, it was the transition time.  Meeting with parents was part of that process, a transitioning away, yet also the opening theme for my journey.

The next phase is to travel to the gateway, the opening of being phase.  This is where being relaxes into its authenticity.  In the Sierras, it was when I reached tree-line and the lakes.  In Spain, that was Torla and the Parque Nacional.  I hiked up the trail, then left the trail to enter the forest, found a spot, sat and opened to where I was.  I spent several days in The Parque Nacional de Ordesa, with the trees, with the mountains.

This is often the end for many adventures, leading then to the transition home.  But this was a more complex journey, it had a second phase, something to be done.  Who knows what has to be done, that’s what makes it an adventure, a journey without a map, into the unknown.  Following, not leading.

From Ordesa, I drove through the mountains into France, and then along the foot of the Pyrenees toward the coast, into the Basque region, another delightful region, shifting cultures, shifting familiar into unknown.  I drove to the town of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in southwest France.  It sits at the base of a pass from France to Spain, and the town has served as the starting point for an important pilgrimage from the middle ages til now, the Way of St. James to the Spanish church the Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, in northwestern Spain. 

Since medieval times to present, pilgrims have walked the Way of St. James across the Pyrenees, starting at Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, to worship at a symbol of their faith, a relic from a history they revere, the bones of St. James the Apostle which were brought to Spain after his death because, according to the legend, he had preached in Spain during his lifetime.

The medieval village of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port is one primary street, and a small river that intriguingly unites the village by dividing it.  The bridge across the Nive saint-jean-pied-de-port-bords-de-niveriver is the town’s principle dramatic view.  Most of the historic village are the homes and shops along this single street, built in 16-1700 they are warmly picturesque.  Some areas of the village were older, such as the church in the center of town and the fortress rising above the village, which were from the 14th century. 

The entire village street can be leisurely strolled in less than two hours.  I did that on my arrival day, then had dinner at the café overlooking the river with a view of the bridge.  I spent three days in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port.

The village street is entirely a tourist mecca, offering the primary pastime of eating and drinking.  Eating in Spain and France is interestingly restricted to certain hours of the day, and in-between the specified eating times it appears drinking wine or beer is the preferred pastime.  I didn’t quite adjust to the eating rhythm, I always wanted to eat during drinking time, and I’m not all that interested in drinking as an activity.  So this overall routine did not adjust to me at all.  Instead, I found a different way to spend my time.

The medieval city street of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port hosts about five hostels along it, providing lodging for the travelers on the Way of St. James to the Santiago de Compostela in Spain, to the relic, the symbol of their faith in a larger source.  I was surprised at the number of people lining up outside these hostels to register for a bed, starting at about three in the afternoon.  During the middle ages, the pilgrimage of the Way of St. James to Santiago de Compostela apparently ranked alongside pilgrimages to Rome and Jerusalem in importance.  In 2017, over 300,000 pilgrims made the pilgrimage of St. James to Santiago de Compostela.

The village of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port is not a town, it is a point, an anchor on a journey, the doorway to pilgrimage.  The location today is simply a picturesque street, a river’s bridge, and a church… a medieval 14th century church.  That’s where I found myself.  It was to this medieval church that I kept returning, sitting with the ghosts of time, drinking of life’s journey, our pilgrimage of faith, our journey through a life embedded in a larger essence, a larger source that leads and guides our journey.

It’s a small Gothic church with three beautiful stained glass windows behind the glassalter.  The light from stained glass in a 14th century medieval church is impactful.  It’s meant to be.  To the left of the central alter are many lighted candles.  I kept returning to this church to sit.  Empty of thought, but not of being.  During my time in that church I had very few actual thoughts, but I was in an evolving state of being, rich in an inner dialogue.

I brought you.  Much of the being state was your sadness and grief.  It is so immense.  My professional background is from Children’s Hospitals and the foster care system.  Tragedy and suffering are nothing new to me.  My defenses against allowing difficult emotional material to enter me are pretty good.  But your grief and loss is so immense and so profound, that it moves through any possible defenses.

I brought your grief and loss to that church, because it lives in me, through empathy.

I emptied myself of my self in the mountains of the Pyrenees.  At a church, at the start of a path of pilgrimage, the Way of St. James, I brought your sadness, your loss, you suffering, your grief, through me.  Not for resolution, not for solution, not for purpose.  Simply because it lives in me.

Such is the nature of adventures, never know what’s going to happen, until we find out.

Over the days, as I watched the flickering lights from the candles in the special light created by stained glass in a medieval church, a movement took place within me.  A motivation to light a candle for you, for your suffering, for your loss and grief.  I offered no words of prayer, nor even a thought beyond the movement within me.  Just your pain, your loss, your suffering, shared through a link of empathy and compassion. 

After I lit the candle, I looked up at the alter figure.  Who the icon statue at the alter was hadn’t been important before, it was the candle, the moment of being, of candlebringing your suffering to a source of larger being, that was the focus of my action.  When I looked up, it was the Madonna and child, with the child reaching out in embrace.

In that moment, the universe wove itself as my core collapsed into my complete humility.  No words, but recognition.  Emptiness into being.

Of course.  Of course it is the Madonna and child.

There is not a doubt in my mind, the universe has this.  I remained until the movement shifted, we move forward.

We are on a journey, walking a path to recover your children and families, to recover love in the parent-child bond, to recover ourselves and our capacity for human empathy.  No one should ever have to go through what you are being made to go through.  We are bringing an end to suffering, grief, and loss, for all parents and for all children, everywhere. 

If anybody asks, we have a patron saint now, St. James the Greater.  There is not a doubt in my heart or mind – the universe absolutely has this.  We each have our role, yours, as the parent, is the most important one of all.  Act with integrity, show your character.  Speak the truth and with kindness.  Your strength is in your suffering, not your anger.

Time takes from us everything we hold dear.  My father is dead, my mother is dead, both of my older brothers are dead.  My family of origin is at an end, I am the last.  Soon I will leave.  What makes everyone think we have time?  We have no time except now.  The best time to restore love is now.  The second best time is now….

I have two magnificent children, a son and daughter.  We have many-many magnificent children, they belong to all of us, because we understand.  It’s called empathy.  My children have started their lives of adulthood and have flown the nest.  It is the way of things, it is the flow of life.  I am happy and I am sad.  Joy for the lives that are, sadness for the lives of childhood now gone.  It is the way of life, it is the flow.

Our journey for your children is not one of healing, for your grief and loss are real, the loss and sadness are authentic of life born from your love.  Your sadness, grief, and loss are not distortions to be healed – it is suffering to be ended by love restored.

The brutal acts of a distorted parent who is using the child as a weapon to create immense suffering, supported by the cruelty born in an absence of empathy from professional psychology and the courts, needs to end.  The healing is to end the suffering, end the loss, and to restore love and bonding.  Life’s suffering imposed by the flow of time is within the flow of life, death is within the flow of life, but the cruel and brutal suffering inflicted on each other is beyond unnecessary, it is savage and cruel, and it needs to stop.  Our trauma, our collective human trauma, needs to end.

There is a deeper path we are walking, a pilgrimage of restoring love and bonding to the family, because that is healthy, and because it is the right thing to do.  I brought candle 2you with me to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port.  I thought you should know.  And I lit a candle for you and your children.  No words of prayer, just your suffering and grief, as it lives in me. 

We will bring your suffering to an end, and we will return childhoods to your children.  We will end the rippling of trauma from one generation to the next, and we will free your children, our children, into their own authentic destinies, free from our traumas and with our abundant love and our empathy for the authenticity of their own unique journey through life.

Returning Home

I left Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port at eight in the morning, with a six-hour drive ahead of me to Barcelona.  In the early morning of the Pyrenees, I drove past the intrepid pilgrims walking the way with their backpacks and walking sticks, trekking across the Pyrenees in their act of faith, an act linked across centuries to all who came before.   A trans-generational flow of being, lives lived now gone, struggles endured so that new lives can come forth, our lives, moving toward solutions, moving toward love.

I spent a day in Barcelona before my flight home.  I walked and walked and walked.  Barcelona is the most beautiful city in the world, not a doubt.  I’ve seen Paris and Rome, New York and San Francisco.  Barcelona is the most beautiful city on the planet.  I would have no problem relocating to Barcelona, or Ordino, or Torla for my end of days, which, for my part, was what I wanted to know from this journey.  We’ll see what the universe brings into my life’s adventure.

The rest, all of that was a surprise.  It was an adventure after all, one never knows what’s going to happen on an adventure.  There is no map, it’s an adventure. 

I’ve slept for the past two days.  Time to get back to work.  Lots to do, we gotta get your kids back… all of them.

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



Stupid Pathogen: Damaged Executive Function

The pathogen can’t reason.

The set of damaged information structures in the attachment system, damaged by childhood trauma, the pathogenic structures that are at the root of this family conflict pathology moving across generations, that pathogen shuts down frontal lobe “executive function” systems for logical reasoning, foresight, and planning.

That’s why I call it the “stupid pathogen” – I’m highlighting this symptom feature of the trauma pathogen, it’s inability to track logical reasoning.

The reason it’s unable to reason, is that unresolved trauma needs to alter reality in stressful situations in order for the person to remain emotionally and psychologically organized and regulated. If the trauma-impacted person doesn’t alter reality perception, then they’re going to collapse into painful psychological and emotional disorganization.

So the trauma-impacted brain alters reality perception as a coping response to stress. And reasoning, logical reasoning, gets in the way of that.

If the person needs to alter what reality is, then they can’t be held within the confines of structures like logical reasoning. So the brain inhibits the operation of these systems for reasoning. Have you ever watched Monty Python’s She’s a Witch? Logical reasoning is lost in trauma pathology.

As we’ve been resolving our trauma across historical generations, our reasoning is getting better (Childress & Pruter, 2019; deMause, 1974; Grille, 2013), look… the industrial revolution, the information revolution.

“I got better.”

But we’re still rippling trauma, and it’s captured by the symptom feature of ignorance. The trauma pathogen shuts down frontal lobe executive function systems for logical reasoning.

Ever say or hear this said to the allied parent:

“What do you mean you can’t “force” the child to xyz?  Can you “force” them to go to the dentist, can you “force” them go to school?”

That’s people responding to the “illogic symptom” of the trauma pathogen. I use it in my clinical interviews, the “illogic symptom,” it’s one of the symptom features of unresolved trauma – the inability to track a logical sequence; damaged frontal lobe, unresolved trauma.

The other thing the frontal areas of the brain do, the executive function systems, is they anticipate into the future – it’s the executive function systems that do all the “what if” scenarios needed to plan ahead.

That’s why 18-20 year old young people are okay with reasoning, their frontal lobes are mostly active, but it’s their anticipation, planning, and foresight that are still fragile until about 22-24. It’s a brain maturation thing… frontal lobes for reasoning and foresight-planning are the last to develop (Sapolsky)

A Web of Lies

The pathogen has three defenses, it hides, it seeks allies, and it attacks threat to put the threat of exposure on the defensive.

The pathogen lies.  All the time.

It fluidly “creates” its reality, remember what I just said about it needing to alter reality to remain regulated?  The pathogen lies – that’s it altering reality.  The point of my repeating “all the time” is to indicate that, yes, indeed, it is ALL the time… because it is a symptom feature of the pathology – the lies (distorting-altering reality).

It’s not actually “lies” so much, it is a symptom feature of delusional pathology, the continual fluidity and distortion to consensual reality… it constantly twists and distorts reality, that’s the impact of unresolved trauma.  It’s analogous to a “black hole” in the psychology of the person, we can’t see it directly but we can see its effects, its influence on surrounding gravitational bodies, it distorts reality.

The pathogen loves ignorance, that’s it’s ally.  It uses ignorance to hide.  Ignorance believes the lies.

The pathogen hates knowledge.  Knowledge knows reality, knowledge sees the lies.  The pathogen can’t understand knowledge, it’s reasoning systems are shut down.  The pathogen fears knowledge, it can’t understand knowledge.

The pathogen hates knowledge.  Ignorance is the ally of the pathogen.

And knowledge, then, becomes the anti-viral agent that cleanses the pathogen’s allies from the system.  When we require knowledge, the allies of the pathogen in professional psychology, the ones with their own unresolved trauma (called “counter-transference”), won’t be able to understand knowledge.  What will they do?

They will resist, and then they will flee.  The pathogen is timid, you see, it’s afraid.  It hides and savages because of its fear, it manipulates and controls, and it hides.  When it is exposed, however, when it is seen… it is afraid.  The allies of the pathogen will not stand their ground on ignorance, there is no ground to stand on.

Their frontal lobe reasoning systems are shut down… stupid pathogen… does she weigh as much as a duck?  When knowledge is required, ignorance will move on, into other cracks in the dark fabric of unresolved trauma.  But it will be gone from here.  We are cleansing the pathogen by cleansing ignorance from professional psychology.

We are standing on true, and just, and proper grounds, anchored in the established foundations of professional knowledge, Bowlby, Minuchin, Beck, van der Kolk, Tronick, anchored on the bedrock foundations of professional practice as codified in the Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct for the American Psychological Association (Standards 2.04, 2.01, 2.03, 9.01a, 3.04a, duty to protect, Principle D).

The allies of the pathogen will resist the application of knowledge… because learning knowledge is beyond their capability.  They only survive in a professional world were everyone makes up whatever they want.

Know and apply actual knowledge?  Uh-oh.  The pathogen-brain, a brain with unresolved trauma, can’t know knowledge…  the frontal lobes are not working.

That’s AB-PA.  It’s an anti-pathogen, anti-viral agent.  It’s entering the meme-scape (Dawkins) of professional psychology, it is designed to cleanse the allies of the pathogen (ignorance) from professional psychology… it’s knowledge… AB-PA… Foundations… is the application of knowledge.

No “made up” stuff – no “new theories” – no, stupid pathogen… it’s the application of knowledge.

Once ignorance is gone, and once knowledge is applied, the lies are exposed, truth and reality are fully evident, we stop the pathogen’s pathological manifestation of its unresolved trauma, and we fix things so the children can have their normal childhoods back.

Children need love from mom, lots and lots of mom-love, 100 mom-love – and children need love from dad, lots and lots of dad-love, 100 dad-love.

This is not complicated.  Diagnosing the pathology is incredibly easy… when we apply knowledge.

Ignorance will solve nothing.  I know.  Ignorance is an ally of the pathogen.  Of course, ignorance will solve nothing.  It wants nothing solved.

Ignorance is the pathogen’s ally.  The pathogen loves ignorance… and hates knowledge.

Changes.  Knowledge.

Well guess what’s on the way, stupid pathogen… knowledge.  Betcha didn’t see that one coming, did ya?  I know, damaged foresight and planning – not a clue as to what’s coming, no anticipation, very now-focused orientation.

A trauma-impacted brain that contains the pathogen-structures is very now-oriented, whatever works now, whatever needs to be said now, truth and reality are irrelevant – now, constantly regulating themselves now.

No frontal lobe for planning.  That’s why none of your families have treatment plans… no foresight or planning.

Written treatment plans require foresight and planning.  The pathogen-brain won’t be able to do that.  Unresolved trauma is inhibiting frontal lobe executive function systems for foresight and planning.

So… let’s start asking for written treatment plans.  That will be spot-on the vulnerability of a trauma-impacted pathogen brain, the ally of the pathogen.

The pathogen thinks this is “new theory” – that’s what it’s been playing for 40 years with the Gardnerian PAS “experts” – “new theory.”

Now it thought it had a “new theory” again – Dr. Childress (Gardner) and AB-PA (PAS).  I know, stupid pathogen.  Because you can’t reason, and you don’t have knowledge… because knowledge doesn’t make sense to you… too complicated, all that knowledge stuff… keep it simple.

That’s the pathogen-brain of unresolved trauma, damaged frontal lobe executive function systems for logical reasoning and foresight-planning.  What AB-PA does is inputs a… meme-structure… an intervention… a catalytic agent… that divides brains in professional psychology.

One set of psychology brains will see the knowledge and apply the knowledge.  AB-PA will be adopted by them, because they understand that there is no such thing as AB-PA, there is only knowledge, the scientifically established knowledge of professional psychology.  They know knowledge, they apply knowledge… that is an attachment-based model of “parental alienation” (pathogenic parenting surrounding divorce).

A second set of brains will be unable to learn and comprehend knowledge, Bowlby, Minuchin, Beck. These are the brains of ignorance, that make up things, that lack knowledge, that are the pathogen’s allies of ignorance in disabling the immune system response of professional psychology to a pathology-toxin of severe family conflict.

When ignorance is the “expert,” we are in the world of unresolved trauma… if she weighs as much as a duck, she’s a witch, the ignorance of trauma, damaged frontal lobe reasoning and executive function systems.  Truth and reality become fluid constructs, supposed knowledge housed in the anointed “experts” of special understanding, the “inquisitors” and “evaluators” judging human frailty.

Science is based on research.  Dr. Childress is not strong enough to leverage change in systems, no “new theory” provides solution.  With AB-PA, however, I stand on the shoulders of Galileo, Newton, Faraday, Darwin, Bohr, Bowlby, Beck, Tronick… science.

In the world of science, questions are answered… “What does the research say?” – then that’s the answer. 

Not what do “experts” say… that’s not science.  Opinions are all very interesting in that they might lead to research, but opinions are not relevant… what does the research say?  Even Einstein got it wrong sometimes (cosmological constant), everyone does, even Aristotle, even Issac Newton, even Freud, everyone.  We don’t do “expert” – we do science.  It’s called science.  We follow where the data and research leads.

What does the research say?  That’s the answer. Whatever the research says… that’s the answer to whatever the question is. That’s called science.  The scientifically established knowledge of professional psychology: Bowlby, Minuchin, Beck, van der Kolk, Tronick.

Returning from Complex Trauma

We’re cleansing professional psychology of the pathogen’s allies.  The pathogen uses their ignorance to hide beneath its lies.  Bye-bye.  Knowledge is required, as is planning and foresight, written treatment plans.

Stupid pathogen. It’s not “new theory” – it’s Dr. Childress.  I’m a clinical psychologist.  That’s all.  That’s enough.

A clinical psychologist knows everything there is to know about the pathology they work with… including you, stupid pathogen.  I see you as clear as day.  I know you’re afraid, nothing bad will happen, everything is going to be okay, for everyone.

Unresolved trauma rippling through generation; AB-PA.

The application of knowledge, Bowlby, Minuchin, Beck.

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

Monty Python: She’s a Witch


Phases of Immediate Solution

When Dr. Childress provides training to Child Protective Services, at that point we will have reached the end. That is the arc we are on. It will eventually result in ether Dr. Childress providing training to CPS, or if I’m not around, then the rest of clinical psychology will be providing training for Child Protective Services.

There are points along the path. The publication of Foundations was a substantial step forward along that path.  The presentation to the APA of the paper, Empathy, the Family, and the Core of Social Justice (Childress & Pruter, 2019) at the national APA convention represents another milestone point along the path.

Beginning the Journey to (Immediate) Solution

I had the structure of AB-PA by 2013, you can see that from my posts to my website: 

Childress, (2013) Reconceptualizing Parental Alienation: Parental Personality Disorder and the Trans-Generational Transmission of Attachment Trauma

Childress, (2013) Parental Alienation and Boundaries of Professional Competence

I didn’t think this knowledge would be used at the time, it was too early in the process. But one of the primary principles guiding my work throughout has been to make the information available as quickly as I had it.  If it can help one person, one family as we shift into system-wide solutions, then the knowledge and information is available.

Public Education Responsibilities

Part of our role as clinical psychologists is to provide the public with knowledge from professional psychology when that knowledge would be helpful for solving problems.

For example, in school-based clinical psychology (ADHD, learning disabilities, behavior problems) we are often in the role of educating teachers about the knowledge of professional psychology and interventions in the classroom. If we do an assessment and the child has a learning disability, autism-spectrum pathology, or ADHD-spectrum pathology, we explain the child’s difficulties to the parents, teachers, and school in language and ways they can understand, that will help the child receive the proper support and treatment. In our reports we provide specific recommendations for solutions that parents and teachers can use at home and in the classroom to reduce the child’s pathology and maximize the child’s development and education.

Take a look at my vitae (Childress Vitae). Toward the back you’ll see where I have all those preschool training seminars. That corresponds to my work at Children’s Hospital and the University of California Irvine (UCI), Child Development Center. I was out providing education seminars for preschool teachers on ADHD-spectrum issues in children, and solutions for the preschool-age child.

Who was paying me to do that? Not the preschools. Choc and UCI Child Development Center had grants from the state and county, and part of the grant money allowed me to provide training for preschool teachers on issues like school readiness, child development, functional behavioral analysis (FBA), and behavioral and attachment issues. Preschool age is a prominent age for attachment and separation issues.

I’m not the “AMAZING” Dr. Childress, “expert” in child development. I’m just a clinical psychologist doing what we all do, in our areas of knowledge. If a clinical psychologist works with eating disorders, they educate the public with whom they interact about eating disorders, same for a psychologist who works with schizophrenia, or autism, etc. That’s what we do, that’s part of our job.

Sometimes it’s one-on-one with a teacher, sometimes it’s in session with our specific client, sometimes it’s more general seminars for the public on our domain of pathology knowledge.  For me as a school-oriented clinical psychologist, I provided seminars for teachers or the PTA (parents).  I once provided a day-long seminar arranged through the UCI Child Development Center (Dr. Swanson) for all of the county’s Head Start teachers.  Several  years later, while in private practice, I provided a seminar for all the summer camp counselors for Los Angeles county, several hundred summer counselors, on handling and responding to autism-spectrum pathology in children.  

That’s what clinical psychologists do.  Commonly.  We educate, about pathology, about solutions.

We’re not “experts” – we’re clinical psychologists. We have knowledge, we apply knowledge, that’s what we do. Most of the time, no one notices us. We work with the client child and parents, in our office, confidential, no one sees… we change things by applying knowledge.

What knowledge? Anything we need. We know everything about the pathology we’re working with, and if we shift pathologies, we learn everything there is to know about the new pathology. That’s called “boundaries of competence” – the “boundary” is knowing everything about that pathology. Everything.

Knowledge & Boundaries of Competence

On my Vitae, you can see when I expanded into early childhood and attachment I took additional training in diagnosis and treatments related to early childhood mental health, and an additional seminar series from Fielding Graduate University in infant psychology.  I was already a clinical psychologist working with ADHD and autism, and when I expanded to early childhood more generally, I sought out additional training.  You can see it on my vitae.

If a clinical psychologist is working with a pathology, that clinical psychologist knows everything there is to know about that pathology.  That’s called standard of practice for a clinical psychologist.

That’s what I find so amusing and frightening about these people calling themselves “experts” over here in forensic psychology.  If they know everything there is to know about the complex attachment-trauma family systems personality disorder pathology they are involved with, then they have just reached the ground foundational level of a clinical psychologist.

Hi.  Glad to see you.  I’ve been waiting to have a discussion about the epigenetic transfer of a fear-organized brain from trauma instead of a healthy brain organized by healthier attachment bonding motivations.  And I’ve been dying to discuss the hyper-aroused intersubjective field from selective affective attunement and misattunement, the child as a regulatory object, and the child’s disordered emotional regulation during the breach-and-repair sequence.  Clearly this is a cross-generational coalition and emotional cutoff from multigenerational trauma, in which unresolved parental anxiety from childhood trauma is intruding into and overwhelming the child’s psychological boundaries, creating the enmeshed over-involved relationship that is compensated for by the emotional cutoff.

Perry, Sapolsky, Stern, Tronick, Minuchin, Bowen.

That discussion would be basic competence for a clinical psychologist.  Over here in forensic psychology, those sentences are like speaking Martian to another professional.  Parents shouldn’t understand what I just said and engage me in professional dialogue on each of those three points (there are only three points in all of that, one for each sentence).  Nor should legal professionals necessarily know what I just said and be able to engage in professional dialogue about those three issues.

But every single mental health professional working with this pathology should absolutely understand the full meaning and impact of all three issues raised by that paragraph, and should be able to dialogue about each one at a professional level.

Number four is, to what degree is the delusional pathology related to disorganized attachment pathology in the parent?  There’s four issues that should be easily conversant for the clinical psychologist.

If the “expert” knows everything there is to know about attachment, and trauma, and family systems therapy, and personality pathology, and the neuro-development of the brain in the parent-child relationship, then… they have reached the standard level of a clinical psychologist working with that pathology. 

So on a scale of 1-to-100, if a clinical psychologist knows 99-100, everything there is to know about the pathology… what’s the rating for an “expert” over here in forensic psychology?

From what I’ve seen, it’s about 0-to-5.  Seriously, that is what I see.  I see a lot of made up stuff, no actually grounded application of knowledge.

But the “experts” are claiming some sort of superior special “knowledge” beyond everything there is to know in multiple domains of psychology (attachment, family systems therapy, personality disorders, complex trauma, the neuro-development of the brain; Bowlby, Minuchin, Beck, van der Kolk, Tronick).  Yet they don’t even actually apply any of the existing knowledge of professional psychology. 

And they are supposedly the “experts” in the pathology.  A truly remarkable phenomenon of the social distribution of narcissistic pathology when ignorance becomes the “expert.”

In ADHD, Russell Barkley, Keith Conners, and Jim Swanson would all be considered preeminent “experts” – but it is others who look to them in that role, they don’t claim to be “experts” – we, the rest of us, see it in their body of work.  They are the producers of the knowledge through their research, often clinical research, and yet we all know exactly the same knowledge – every one of us knows the same knowledge.  We’re clinical psychologists working with ADHD, we know everything there is to know about the pathology, the recognized preeminent figures are the ones generating knowledge, we all know the same knowledge, we learn, we apply, we all know the same knowledge.

We, clinical psychologists, also rely heavily on the research, that’s why we basically know the same knowledge across all clinical psychologists working with any given pathology. We learn everything there is to know, then we read journals to stay current. That’s true of the clinical psychologists working with eating disorders, or autism, or attachment pathology, or ADHD. That’s considered standard of practice.

It’s been a while since I was directly involved with autism, but back in the day I would have considered Stanley Greenspan (Floor Time) the preeminent “expert” among many. Autism clinical psychology relies heavily, heavily, on research knowledge. I studied directly with Dr. Greenspan.  You see that DMIC diagnostic system on my vitae?  That’s from Dr. Greenspan and the Interdisciplinary Council.  For DMIC diagnostic training, I went back to Virginia for a 4-day series of training seminars in that early childhood diagnostic system.  

The DMIC is way more sensitive to autism-spectrum symptom features than the DSM-IV back then, but the DSM-5 revision caught up to some degree, I like the direction of the DSM-5 revisions to the autism-spectrum diagnosis.  The other early childhood diagnostic system on my vitae, the DC:0-3, is wonderfully sensitive to attachment symptoms and features.  It’s become established as THE early childhood diagnostic system for clinical care.  For billing purposes the DSM-5/ICD-10 system remains required, but the DC:0-3 is the clinical care diagnostic system for early childhood (attachment-spectrum pathology).

When we work with a pathology, a clinical psychologist knows everything there is to know about that pathology.  Everything.  Everything.  That’s called the boundary of our competence… everything there is to know, that is the boundary.  When we reach everything, then we reach the boundary and are now competent with that pathology.

In trauma, the recognized “experts” are Bruce Perry and John Briere for death-trauma and Bessel van der Kolk for complex trauma (relationship-based trauma in childhood). Death-oriented trauma is when the nervous system becomes overwhelmed by fear and arousal.  That’s from community violence or combat exposure, or rape. Perry and Briere are the leading figures there.  Then there’s a second type of trauma where the nervous system never becomes overwhelmed by fear, but is always bathed in constant unrelenting stress and fear.  That’s called “complex trauma” and the leading figure in complex trauma is Bessel van der Kolk.  I am a huge-huge fan of van der Kolk in childhood trauma.

When I was Clinical Director for an early childhood assessment and treatment center, our clinical staff participated in a three-day online seminar with Bruce Perry on trauma.  Remarkable.  His work on full trauma is remarkable, spot-on.  Briere is wonderful, I am fully in line with Bruce Perry for trauma.

Yet we all know the same knowledge, they are leaders in finding that knowledge. They share it.  We learn it. We use it.  We teach it.  The scientifically established knowledge is what it is.

We could consider the leaders in finding the knowledge, Perry, Briere, van der Kolk in trauma; Barkley, Connors, Swanson for ADHD; Bowlby, Ainsworth, Sroufe for attachment; Minuchin, Bowen, Madanes in family systems therapy; Kernberg, Beck, and Millon in personality disorders, they could be considered the “experts” in their respective fields because they generate the scientifically established knowledge… but we all know the same knowledge, and we all apply the same knowledge, the scientifically established knowledge of professional psychology.

Through scientifically grounded research, they find knowledge and share knowledge, we learn knowledge and we apply knowledge.  Everyone knows the same knowledge in whatever field we work, and we always know everything there is to know about the pathology, that is the entry into professional competence in working with that pathology.

So the knowledge of professional psychology moves from its source in the scientific research out into application through the clinical psychologist.  They find it in research, we apply it in practice.

In personality disorders, it is absolutely start with Otto Kernberg (depth), that’s what I Kernberg book coverwas told by Dr. Schfranske when I entered personality disorders, that’s what I would tell a post-doc entering personality disorders – start with Kernberg.  Then expand to Theodore Millon (descriptions), Aaron Beck (models), and Marsha Linehan (treatment). All four are essential, each has a different orientation, they blend into a comprehensive understanding of “personality disorder” pathology.  I put quotes around “personality disorder.”  

With this pathology, you’ll also want to know the Dark Triad personality.

Paulhus, D. L., & Williams, K. M. (2002). The Dark Triad of Personality: Narcissism, Machiavellianism, and Psychopathy. Journal of Research in Personality, 36, 556–563.

From Giammarco & Vernon: “First cited by Paulhus and Williams (2002), the Dark Triad refers to a set of three distinct but related antisocial personality traits: Machiavellianism, narcissism, and psychopathy. Each of the Dark Triad traits is associated with feelings of superiority and privilege. This, coupled with a lack of remorse and empathy, often leads individuals high in these socially malevolent traits to exploit others for their own personal gain.” (Giammarco & Vernon, 2014, p. 23)

Personality disorders as a separate pathology are going away.  They almost went away with the DSM-5.  The research is identifying “personality disorders” as trauma-related pathology, particularly complex trauma attachment-related pathology.

For attachment pathology, the grand-god is John Bowlby.  The grand-pantheon of clinical psychology is Freud, Beck, and Bowlby.  My personal pantheon is Stern (neuro-development), Ainsworth (attachment research), and Minuchin (family systems therapy).

Bowlby has three volumes, Attachment, Separation, and Loss.  For me, Mary Ainsworth symbolically represents all of the research handbook of attachmenton the attachment system from the past 50 years.  There is substantial research on the attachment system, it is one of the best research data sets in professional psychology, rivaling autism and surpassing ADHD in my opinion.  The attachment research even extends down to the neuro-biological level (right prefrontal orbital cortex; Shore). 

The central organizing book for the research information is the Handbook of Attachment: Theory, Research, and Clinical Application.  If I was training a post-doc in attachment, this is the book I would assign the post-doc to read.  For a post-doc under my supervision, I would require all of the book (it’s a thick book) and about 20 additional articles I’d select, for a pre-doctoral intern, I’d assign three or four chapters from this book and two articles if the intern was working with attachment pathology under my supervision.

But that is definitely not all that’s needed from attachment.  Fonagy is must, Stern is a must, Tronick is a must, Sroufe’s longitudinal research is a must… all four… must know.  Siegel, The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Developing MindBrain Interact to Shape Who We Are is an entry book.  Siegel is not the direct line researcher (Stern, Tronick, Shore, Trevarthan, others) but he pulled all of the knowledge into one organized book place.

We all know what each other knows.  Research.  It is all based on the scientific research.  Some, like Ainsworth and Stern and Tronick, generate the research, some like Siegel and Shore organize the research into single location books.  The rest of clinical psychology learns and applies the research when working with the pathology, any pathology, all pathology.

That’s how clinical psychology works throughout all of the rest of professional psychology… except here, in court-involved forensic psychology, a “special” type of psychology.  

When a clinical psychologist is working a pathology, that psychologist knows everything there is to know about that pathology… everything.  That is called the “boundary” of our competence – knowing everything about the pathology.  Once we reach everything we cross the boundary into competence.

Everything.  Then we read journals to stay current. That is the boundary.  If that is true, then you are competent to practice with that pathology.  If that is not yet true, then you are not yet competent to practice with that pathology and you need to learn more until that becomes true – know everything.

APA Ethics Code
Standard 2.01 Boundaries of Competence 
(c) Psychologists planning to provide services, teach, or conduct research involving populations, areas, techniques, or technologies new to them undertake relevant education, training, supervised experience, consultation, or study.

That’s why you will typically not see clinical psychologists with a very wide spread of treatment specialties, because we need to know EVERYTHING about the pathology in order to add it to our competence… everything = basic competence.  If you don’t know everything, then you need to “undertake relevant education, training, supervised experience, consultation, or study” – that’s not optional, that’s required, mandatory.

The APA ethics code is not optional for psychologists.  Mandatory, required.

What’s pretty “special” over here in forensic psychology are the huge number of “experts” of all hues and shades.   Positively awash in “experts” and entirely absent of applied knowledge, a remarkable phenomenon.  Rather than knowing everything about a pathology being standard of practice for professional competence, instead we have “experts” describing ideas without any research foundation to support them. It’s a loose definition of “knowledge” that’s not linked to any actual reality.

From everything I see as a clinical psychologist, the “experts” here in forensic psychology are actually ignorant.  That is not a personal criticism, that’s simply language.

Google search: ignorant ADJECTIVE
1. lacking knowledge or awareness in general; uneducated or unsophisticated.
2. lacking knowledge, information, or awareness about a particular thing.

The glaring absence of knowledge is in family systems therapy.  Attachment is another area of complete ignorance.  Again, that’s language.

Google search: ignorance NOUN
1. lack of knowledge or information.

The neuro-development of the brain in the parent-child relationship is another area of complete ignorance (language: a complete lack of knowledge and information).

Complex trauma is still another area of near-complete ignorance, and even for personality disorders there is only marginal knowledge only occasionally displayed.

In order to be competent with complex family conflict surrounding divorce, the mental health professional must be knowledgeable in five areas of professional psychology (i.e., know everything), 1) attachment, 2) family systems therapy, 3) personality disorders, 4) complex trauma, 5) the neuro-development of the brain in the parent-child relationship.

Bowlby – Minuchin – Beck – van der Kolk – Tronick.

Yet none of the mental health professionals here in forensic psychology possess all five domains of required knowledge, and most of them possess none of the necessary knowledge… zero.  They are, by definition, ignorant… and yet they self-assert that they are “experts.”  I fell down the rabbit hole into Wonderland, a world where ignorance is the “expertise.”

So, the “experts” who are claiming to be an “expert” when I am identifying merely as a clinical psychologist (Bowlby, Minuchin, Beck are “experts” if anyone is), these “experts” here in forensic psychology are claiming that they know more about court-involved complex family conflict pathology than Dr. Childress… who is simply a clinical psychologist, and that they are at some higher top-tier echelon of professional psychology, the level of Bowlby, Minuchin, Beck, Kohut, Rogers, Bowen, and above that even since they are applying none of that knowledge.

Me, Dr. Childress, I am no different than any of my professional colleagues, any other clinical psychologists, except in the pathologies we work.  I am simply a clinical psychologist, it is my professional obligation of competence to know everything there is to know about any pathology I work with.  If I don’t know everything, I refer the patient to someone who does and I set about learning everything there is to know about the pathology.

I have worked with many pathologies over my career, so I know a lot of stuff.  I am competent in many areas of professional practice.

I have worked with the following pathologies, I would consider each one to be within the boundaries of my professional competence, meaning that I know everything about that pathology;

ADHD, oppositional-defiant behavior, learning disabilities, mental retardation and developmental disabilities, conduct disorder, personality disorders, schizophrenia, depression of adults and children, anxiety disorders of adults and children, autism-spectrum pathology, pediatric-medical psychology, substance abuse disorders, attachment pathology, trauma and complex trauma, family and marital therapy, and the  procedures for assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of pathology.

I have worked with each of those listed pathologies, which means that I am competent in each of those domains, which means I know everything there is to know about each one of those listed domains of knowledge.  Everything there is to know. 

Don’t believe me, ask me a question.  Knowing everything means that I am at a fundamental level of competence as a clinical psychologist in that pathology.

Do you want your heart surgeon to know everything there is to know about heart surgery?  Do you want your oncologist to know everything there is to know about cancer?  If your child has autism, do you want your clinical psychologist to know everything there is to know about autism? 

Of course.  Of course.  Of course.

Keith Nuechterlein, a leading figure in schizophrenia, a researcher generating the scientifically established knowledge for understanding and unlocking schizophrenia, and everyone at the UCLA Aftercare Clinic where I worked, knows everything there is to know about schizophrenia.  Every one of them. 

Jim Swanson and everyone at the UCI Child Development Center knows everything there is to know about ADHD. All pediatric psychologists at all Children’s Hospitals know everything there is to know about pediatric-medical psychology.  That’s called standard of practice and boundaries of competence… everything = competence.

The term for knowing everything is “competence” – the “boundary” for competence is everything there is to know.   Once you know everything there is to know, then you are competent.  Is there an acceptable level of ignorance for your heart surgeon?  No.  Is there an acceptable level of ignorance for your child’s clinical psychologist?  No.

Master’s Level Acceptable Ignorance

It could be argued that there is an acceptable level of ignorance for Master’s level mental health professionals because their work is more limited in scope and less sophisticated in application (the construction worker does not need the knowledge of the architect, the front-line soldier does not need the guiding knowledge of the officer). 

I don’t believe that.

I’ve worked with a lot of Master’s level clinicians over the years in many-many settings, and all of them have held themselves to the “knows everything there is to know” standard for professional competence in the domain of pathology they work.  

Psychiatrist Boundary of Professional Competence

For psychiatrists, they are MD doctors with nearly zero education or training in clinical psychology, psychological psychopathology, or psychotherapy.  Psychiatrists go to medical school.  They are MD doctors.  Toward the end of medical school, they specialize, some become heart surgeons, some become pediatricians, some go into psychiatry where they learn everything there is to know (competence) about the many-many types of medications for all the many different types of mental disorders in the DSM-5. That is their specialty, medications.  They are MD doctors.

Clinical psychologists know some information about medication if we are working with a medication-involved pathology, such as ADHD, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia, but we always defer to the greater knowledge of psychiatrists regarding medication-related decisions.  They are MD doctors, their specialty is medication.

I have worked with some top-tier psychiatrists and developmental pediatricians (my favorite medical professional is a developmental pediatrician, more than psychiatry).  These top-tier psychiatrists and developmental pediatricians have always been excellent in insight and applied knowledge, and have deferred as warranted to the greater knowledge of the clinical psychologist on matters of clinical psychology.  Keith Nuechterlein is a PhD psychologist.  Jim Swanson is a PhD psychologist.  In the domain of psychology, the clinical psychologist is the top professional.  In the realm of medicine, the physician is the top professional.  In law, the attorney is, in construction it’s the architect and engineer.

In trauma, the clinical psychologist is typically in charge of the trauma recovery team. Sometimes a pediatric trauma-recovery nurse will take charge of the trauma recovery team.  In some cases of organized post-trauma community response mental health teams, an experienced Master’s level trauma therapist can take clinical care leadership of the mental health community response team.  Rarely, almost never, is it an MD psychiatrist in charge.  They are physicians, medical doctors.  They are an integral part of the team, not central and direct.  That’s the clinical psychologist in every psychological pathology.

Clinical psychologists are the… psychologists.  For issues related to psychology and psychotherapy… that’s us.  Not Master’s, not psychiatrists.


As a clinical psychologist, I am not an “expert” – I am just a clinical psychologist.  I know everything about the pathology with which I work… everything… that is considered the boundary that defines professional competence – the boundary for competence is knowing everything there is to know about the pathology.

Right now, for me as a clinical psychologist working with this court-involved pathology, I’m working with family systems therapy, attachment pathology, complex trauma in mid-generational transmission, personality disorder pathology, and brain regulatory networks of meaning construction, self-identity formation, affect regulation, attachment bonding, and intersubjectivity.

Which means… if I’m working with all of that, then I know everything there is to know about all those areas. I’m a clinical psychologist. Everything there is to know = competence.

That’s not unusual for clinical psychologists. That’s expected. It defines the “boundary” of competence.  What’s the “boundary” – i.e., when do we cross over and achieve professional competence in a pathology? A: When we know everything about the pathology, then we read journals to stay current.

Do you want your child’s oncologist to know everything about cancer? Do you want your heart surgeon to know everything about heart surgery? Everything? Of course.  That’s not considered being an “expert” – that’s called professional competence in heart surgery and oncology. 

If you don’t know everything about cancer, you’re not an oncologist. If you don’t know everything about heart surgery, you’re not an open-heart surgeon.

So that is the… interesting… thing over here in forensic psychology, where you can’t hardly turn around without bumping into an “expert.” Someone who asserts they know MORE than a clinical psychologist, MORE than everything there is to know about a pathology and all of professional clinical psychology, more than a Licensed Clinical Psychologist who works with the pathology. That’s quite the claim.

I don’t believe you.

Applying Knowledge

In 2013 I had the structure of the pathology understood. I made this knowledge available immediately to the public, educating the public on the established knowledge of professional psychology, and its application. That basic principle of clinical psychology, among many, has guided me throughout. The moment I have knowledge it becomes immediately available.

This is a trauma pathology in open ongoing abuse, emotional brutality, and developmental damage. It is an ongoing IPV spousal-abuse trauma pathology of brutal emotional abuse of the ex-spouse, and for the child it is a deeply damaging pathology of complex trauma and Child Psychological Abuse (DSM-5).

In 2014, I provided two online seminars for the Master’s Lecture Series of California Southern University: Parental Alienation: An Attachment-Based Model (7/18/14) and Treatment of Attachment-Based Parental Alienation (11/21/14).  The information from both remains entirely accurate today, in 2019.

Foundations coverThe following year, in 2015, I published Foundations.  The world shifted at that point, the moment knowledge becomes available and is applied the solution becomes inevitable, it is just a matter of how long it will take.

Back in my college days, I put myself through part of my Master’s program by working as a construction worker for a while, hanging drywall on a subcontracting crew. Construction always begins by laying the foundation, those are the first people on the job site… level the ground, lay the foundations.

That’s the start for building any and all structures, including the structure for a solution to court-involved family conflict. We start by laying the foundation first, before we start any of the other work.  A structure is only as strong as its Foundations.

Based on the solidly grounded foundations of established professional knowledge (Bowlby, Minuchin, Beck), I then constructed the diagnostic assessment instruments for the pathology.

Remember, the PsyD after my name means I know everything there is to know about assessment, everything about diagnosis, everything about attachment, everything about personality disorders, everything about family systems therapy, everything about oppositional-defiant behavior, everything about trauma and complex trauma, everything about all forms of psychotherapy, and everything about the neuro-development of the brain in childhood. That’s called being a clinical psychologist, that’s call boundaries of competence… knowing everything.

Based on these foundations of professional psychology, I constructed the assessment instruments, the Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting and the Parenting Practices Rating Scale, along with the symptom documentation instrument (monitoring three brain-relationship systems; attachment, emotional regulation, and arousal-mood), the Parent-Child Relationship Rating Scale (PC-RRS). 

That’s what clinical psychologists are trained by education and clinical experience to do… construct assessment instruments and assessment protocols.  We know everything there is to know about constructing assessment instruments and assessment protocols.

I also provided a beautiful Strategic family systems therapy intervention, the Contingent Contingent Visitation booklet pictureVisitation Schedule, although the world will not be prepared to comprehend and apply it for awhile. There’s a lot of catch-up that needs to occur first. I anticipate the Contingent Visitation Schedule may become an important treatment-related factor in about five or ten years, when other things have evolved and are in place, along ABAB booklet coverwith the Single-Case ABAB Assessment and Remedy protocol.

I published booklets of educational material (trying to keep them to about 50 pages), providing the knowledge of professional psychology Narcissistic Parent booket coverwhich parents could pass along to their involved professionals, The Narcissistic Parent for legal Professional Consultation coverprofessionals, and Professional Consultation for mental health professionals.

Do you see the multiple lines of solution forming? Establish the foundations of professional knowledge. On these foundations of established professional knowledge, begin to construct the assessment and diagnostic protocol.

This led to the publication of the assessment protocol in 2016, the Assessment of assessment booklet pictureAttachment-Related Pathology Surrounding Divorce. I am a clinical psychologist. Constructing assessment protocols for pathology is what we do. I know everything there is to know about the construction of an assessment protocol. That’s what it means to be a clinical psychologist.

If I was an architect, I’d know about designing buildings, if I was a lawyer, I’d know about the law.  I’m neither of those things, I’m a clinical psychologist, we know everything there is to know about developing assessment instruments and assessment protocols for psychopathology.

I have done this before for a court-involved pathology (juvenile firesetting) for FEMA and the DOJ. There is work product from that assessment protocol posted to my website for review (Screening Instrument, semi-structured Clinical Interview, and Data Summary form).

Construction of assessment protocols for pathology is what clinical psychologists are specifically trained to do.

The High Road Workshop

In 2013/2014, Ms. Pruter recognized my application of knowledge from professional psychology, even through she is not a psychologist, and she understood the approach toward solution.  She and I had brief encounters across several “parental alienation” events, culminating in an office meeting and my review of her High Road workshop protocol.

I know everything about attachment, trauma, complex trauma, family systems therapy, all forms of psychotherapy, and everything about the neuro-development of the brain in child development. I had never seen the type of intervention change agents used in the High Road workshop. It is gentle and entirely effective.

It’s not what we do in any of our forms of psychotherapy. 

Ms. Pruter also described how the High Road workshop protocol is an off-shoot of another curriculum model she’s developed called Higher Purpose Mastery, applicable to a range of trauma-related pathologies.

It works phenomenally well, remarkably well. I understand how it works, I have personally observed all four days of the workshop.  I have received a client from the High Road workshop into my clinical practice, the client entered my therapy entirely normal-range and with an entirely normal-range and bonded relationship to the formerly targeted-rejected parent.  Two days of the High Road workshop achieved a full and complete recovery from years of documented complex trauma and child abuse.

The moment I became aware of the High Road protocol in 2014, my first referral and top recommendation is to Ms. Pruter and the High Road workshop. I included reference to and a description of the High Road workshop in my book, Foundations, and provided declarations to the court in support of the workshop protocol.

In 2017, I accompanied Ms. Pruter to the AFCC national convention in Boston where we presented on a return to established knowledge (AB-PA) and the High Road workshop, and we explained how the High Road protocol achieves its remarkable success. The Powerpoint slides from our 2017 AFCC presentation are available on my website.

Childress & Pruter: 2017 AFCC Presentation 

In 2018, I developed an AB-PA pilot program for the family courts in support for an independent group in Houston. I also traveled to Washington, DC with parent advocates, Wendy Perry and Rod McCall, to hand-deliver the Petition to the APA to the APA. This petition signed by over 20.000 parents and still available on, identifies the specific ethical code violations within forensic psychology, and seeks three specific remedies.

In 2019, I began active collaboration with Ms. Pruter as a consulting clinical psychologist writing reports for the Custody Resolution Method (CRM), a data tagging and data compilation method applied to documented data surrounding family conflict (archival data; emails, texts, reports, court records, etc.).

In association with my work for CRM, in 2019 I also created a Psychology Tagging protocol, the Checklist of Applied Knowledge, for tagging and providing professional critique and analysis of mental health reports.

In August of 2019, Dr. Childress and Dorcy Pruter presented a paper to the American Psychological Association,

APA: Empathy, the Family, and the Core of Social Justice
(Childress & Pruter, 2019)

Powerpoint of APA Paper Presentation

This paper expands and anchors the discussion into core human rights issues and the trans-generational transmission of trauma, and documents the recovery from complex trauma achieved by the High Road workshop, an evidenced-based approach for recovering children from complex trauma and child abuse. The data is lock.

The only methodological issue with a single-case research design is replication. Ms. Pruter welcomes outreach, discussion, and proposals from university based researchers for professional collaboration surrounding the High Road workshop and surrounding extensions of the workshop and skill-based approach to recovery from other trauma-related pathologies.  Ms. Pruter is a businesswoman and a child of complex trauma, and recovery.  You are the researchers.  Develop collaboration.

Ms. Pruter also routinely collects the Parent-Child Relationship Rating Scale (PC-RRS) for all High Road workshops. Additional collection of PC-RRS data from the follow-up maintenance care therapist will turn each High Road workshop into another replication of a single case ABA design, and success for each family enrolled in the workshop is documented for each child and parent-child relationship.  The professional term for that is “evidence-based practice” – success in each case is documented by evidence, by data.

In the High Road single-case ABA data presented to the APA Division 24, the child’s ending scores on the PC-RRS are highly positive ratings of 5-6 at the two-day point of the High Road workshop.  This is evidence that the child is immensely relaxed and happy, high affection, high cooperation, high sociability.  He was very happy.  Recovery from complex trauma and child abuse feels good.

Upcoming 2019

The next phase begins in the fall, when Dr. Childress and Dorcy Pruter offer a comprehensive training seminar series for mental health professionals in AB-PA and solutions for complex family conflict surrounding divorce.

I am a clinical psychologist competent across multiple domains of pathology. Ms. Pruter is a top-tier trauma recovery specialist, she is my first referral and my first recommendation as a clinical psychologist.

If the High Road workshop is not available in a specific case, then the next option becomes traditional solution-focused family systems therapy to restore the parent-child attachment bond and stabilize family functioning into a healthy post-divorce separated family structure.

Dorcy Pruter and Dr. Childress will also be providing a separate seminar for legal professionals in the fall, describing an alternative treatment-oriented argument package for the court, centering around a trauma-informed clinical psychology assessment of the family conflict with the referral question of:

Referral Question: Which parent is the source of pathogenic parenting creating the child’s attachment pathology, and what are the treatment implications?

If a trauma-informed assessment of pathogenic parenting returns a DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, then the targeted parent and legal counsel return to the court seeking a protective separation order based on a DSM-5 diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse made by a licensed mental health professional.

If there is disagreement surrounding the diagnosis, then get a second opinion. That’s how diagnostic issues are addressed in clinical psychology and in medical care. A physician’s diagnosis of cancer is not litigated by trial. If the diagnosis is in question, get a second opinion.

In the fall of 2019, top-level professional seminars with Dr. Childress and Dorcy Pruter for both mental health professionals and legal professionals will be held.

Writing – Writing – Writing

In September, I will be traveling to Barcelona and the Spanish Pyrenees on a personal scouting trip for my next phase, settling into semi-retirement writing books and journal articles. First up is the book Diagnosis

The paper for the APA represents the opening journal article writing phase for me, it is time for me to start writing professional journal articles and the additional books in the series – Foundations – Diagnosis – Treatment, and then more beyond that.

One of the benefits of being an old clinical psychologist is that we know a lot of stuff about psychology. The more pathology we have worked with, the more we know. I’ve worked with a lot of pathology, I know a lot.

The downside of being an old clinical psychologist… is that we’re old. My career is winding down, I’ll be headed off to book writing and working to solve the terrorist mind of pathological anger and pathological hatred.

All the tools needed for solving complex family conflict surrounding divorce are available. I am your advocate within professional psychology, I am your weapon.  You are the warriors, you are the healthier parent, you are the parent chosen by the child to lead the family out of conflict and into healthy family stability. 

This has always been solvable immediately… from the start, with the application of the established knowledge of professional psychology; Bowlby, Minuchin, Beck, van der Kolk, Tronick (attachment, family systems therapy, personality disorders, complex trauma, neuro-development of the brain during childhood).

Family systems therapy provides a full solution, the addition of attachment knowledge and complex trauma provides even further clarity in diagnosis and treatment, the addition of personality disorder pathology domains of knowledge provide crystal clarity on the diagnosis and treatment, and the addition of neuro-developmental knowledge provides a full and complete diagnostic explanation and clear treatment directions.

This next phase will likely extend for several years, and it will end with Dr. Childress or clinical psychology providing training seminars for Child Protective Services.  That will mark the final step in achieving a solution to complex court-involved family conflict surrounding divorce.

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

Scandinavian Ethics Code for Psychologists


I was emailed a google-translate of the Etiske Principper for Nordiske Psykologer Denmark.Sweden.Norway and I was asked for comment regarding possible ethical violations for Scandinavian psychologists similar to the professional concerns surrounding American psychologists, and others internationally.

I cannot make official comment on the Scandinavian ethics code until I locate an official English translation, then I can provide formal comment and analysis because then I’ll be on solid ground regarding what’s being said by the constructs used, but I can provide some initial thoughts based on this translation.

Professional Competence is discussed in Section II.2

II.2 Competence

The psychologist strives to develop and maintain a high level of professional qualifications in his work.

First, I would note how they incorporated “high level” as the standard for practice.  I am unaware of the translated construct in the original language, but if an appropriate construct was used that would bear the weight of argument, I would emphasize that the ethics code for Scandinavian psychologists specifically designated a “high level” of professional practice.

That would mean application of knowledge – Bowlby, Munuchin, Beck, van der Kolk, Tronick – that is entirely consistent with “high level” – and failure to apply established knowledge would NOT meet this “high level” standard.

From the Translation: The psychologist seeks awareness of his professional and human strengths and weaknesses so that he can realistically assess with which competence he can take on tasks.

This sentence says… “It is your responsibility as a psychologist to know what the limits of your competence are.”  It’s not up to you, the consumer, to identify it… it’s up to them to know their limitations, and to practice only within those limitations, which is the next sentence.

From the Translation:  The psychologist takes on only the tasks, offers only the services and uses only those methods he is qualified by virtue of education, training and experience.

That’s the core sentence.  What Foundations does, and an attachment-based model of pathogenic parenting surrounding divorce does (AB-PA), is establish that a knowledge of five domains of professional psychology are needed for competence,

  • Attachment
  • Family systems therapy
  • Personality disorders
  • Complex trauma
  • Neuro-development of the brain in childhood

I use a main person in each field to represent each domain, Bowlby (attachment), Minuchin (family systems therapy), Beck (personality disorders), van der Kolk (complex trauma), and Tronick (neuro-development of the brain).  This is established knowledge. 

Working with complex family conflict surrounding divorce requires professional competence in all five of these domains of knowledge.  That’s what the work of Dr. Childress asserts.  It is now up to them to either,

A.)  Know and apply the knowledge domains, i.e., be competent, or,

B.)  Defend why they don’t need to know that knowledge domain for the type of work they do.

Notice too, the method of qualification, “education, training, and experience” – that’s their vitae.  Show us, on your vitae, where is your “education, training, and experience” in those five domains of knowledge.

I suspect that no psychologist currently has professional-level “education, training, and experience” in all five of those domains of knowledge.  I do, because I’m competent in what I do.  If I need to know it, I know it.  But for other psychologists, that then becomes the leverage point for them to receive additional training for professional competence. 

Do I care what type of training?  No, I don’t. 

As long as every mental health professional on the planet who is working with court-involved pathology receives additional training in whatever they don’t know from those five domains.  If you know attachment and trauma, but don’t know family systems therapy… hurry-hurry, all five for competence… go get “education, training, and experience” in family systems therapy – hurry-hurry, required for competence.

I might be asked to help in the transition, but I don’t speak Swedish, or Spanish, or Japanese.  Each country will need to develop its own “high level” of professional knowledge applied.  I can help, it’s up to you to do it, because you want to do it. It is the right thing to do… apply knowledge to solve pathology.  It’s what we do as psychologists.

I’m a catalyst for change.  I established the solid foundations of knowledge that change can rest on, the scientifically grounded foundations of professional psychology, where debate is answered by the question and answer, “What does the research say?”  That’s the answer.

I recently provided an invited lecture at the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam.  I was part of a panel, with additional Dutch psychologists from attachment and trauma also presenting.  Yay.  Exactly as it should be.  There was no “parental alienation” on the panel – that is a construct beneath professional standards of practice – trauma… attachment… family systems therapy… personality disorders… the neuro-development of the brain in childhood – Bowlby, Minuchin, Beck, van der Kolk, Tronick.

I am not the source of knowledge, but I can be a helpful orienting conduit TO the knowledge during a transitional up-grade in professional standards of practice.  I don’t speak Danish.  I don’t speak French.  I don’t speak Italian. Each nation will have to find psychologists within your country who step up to deliver the highest level of professional practice for the courts.

The courts deserve the HIGHEST standards of professional practice.  Lives hang in the balance of court decisions.  Professional standards of practice for court-involved psychology need to excel, they need to be at the absolute-top in the application of knowledge and scientific research to the information and to decision-making.  People’s lives hang in the balance of the court’s decision, there is no tolerance for professional ignorance and sloth.

There will be a transition period.  We need indigenous psychologists within each country to understand their professional responsibilities in this regard, and the professional responsibilities of their colleagues.  Continuing education on the matter of foundational knowledge is warranted as the application of scientifically established knowledge is increased.

Reading the Scandinavian ethics code, there are exceedingly positive indicators of sanity.  The next sections reveal these.

Ethical Awareness

From the Translation: A prerequisite for a high professional competence is that the psychologist is aware of the ethical principles and integrates ethical assessments into its professional practices.

This establishes, clearly establishes, that the line of discussion and critique we are taking into professional dialogue is a requirement of consideration for all psychologists in Scandinavia.  Ethical practice is central to the required “high level” of professional practice.

Competence and Skills Development

From the Translation: The psychologist works in accordance with scientific principles and substantiated experience and endeavors for continuous professional development. The psychologist acquires knowledge about scientific and professional development within its scope of work.

This is an interesting statement, “in accordance with scientific principles and substantiated experience”- that seems identical to Standard 2.04 of the APA ethics code requiring the application of scientifically established knowledge.  An English translation, however, may not capture nuanced complexity to the original language terms used, so I will defer to a native interpretation for this requirement. But it seems to me, it’s saying that you must apply Bowlby, Minuchin, Beck, van der Kolk, and Tonick.

Limitations of Competence

From the Translation: The psychologist works within the limits on his own competence that stems from education, training, experience and personal strength and limitation, and seeks professional help and support in difficult situations.

You are not allowed to be incompetent.  You need to know what you’re doing if you are going to do it.  Note again, the qualifications, “education, training, experience.”  Note also, the direction made to psychologists to seek professional consultation support in difficult situations, again deferring to meaning in the original-language as to intent.

Method Limitations

From the Translation: The psychologist is aware of the limitations that lie in the methods and methods of the subject, and the limitations that must be placed on the conclusions that can be drawn.

Know your limitations.

As psychologists, we shouldn’t be in the business of judging human frailty and vulnerabilities to decide who “deserves” to be a parent.  We fix things.   We shouldn’t go beyond the scope of what we know and what we can do.  Parents – normal-range parents – should be afforded wide latitude to parent according to their cultural, personal and spiritual values.  If it’s not child abuse, then we should not be judging human frailty, that’s not the role of psychologists.

Be aware of our limitations, and the limitations of what the scientific evidence will support and will allow us to say.  What are the psychometric properties of your assessment protocol, what is your referral question?  Stay within the limitations of our professionally grounded knowledge.

Limitations of the Framework Conditions

From the Translation: The psychologist is aware of how social and working conditions can promote or inhibit the appropriate use of his competence and methods.

We are working with the court.  The court appreciates evidence.  In clinical psychology, our term is documentation.  In research methods, the term is data.  Professional psychology should ground its interactions with the court in clean documentation and clean data for decision-making. 

Not a problem.  Clearly documented assessment, clearly documented diagnosis, case conceptualization and written treatment plan, and outcome measures documenting treatment response and treatment outcome should be standard of practice.

The lives of multiple people, including children, hang in the balance of the court’s decisions surrounding the family.  It is essential that court-involved professional psychology provides the court with the highest standards in the application of professional knowledge and standards of practice.  It is vital for court-involved professional psychology to be aware of how its input to the court can have dramatic long-term impacts on multiple people, necessitating the highest standards of practice in the application of professional knowledge.

The Liability section contains the provisions regarding Avoiding Harm

II.3 Liability

From the Translation: The psychologist is aware of the professional and scientific responsibilities he has for its clients and that organization and the community in which he lives and works.

We have responsibilities.

From the Translation: The psychologist avoids causing harm and is responsible for his actions.

The psychologist avoids causing harm and is responsible for his actions. That seems simple, direct and clear.  There are no exclusions noted.  There was no, “avoids causing harm, except with parent litigants in divorce – them… it’s okay to harm them, but not other people.”  It doesn’t say that.  No exceptions were indicated.

The statement was clear and direct in its simplicity, and the psychologist is clearly held accountable, no “just following instructions” excuses… “responsible for his actions” – “the psychologist avoids causing harm.”

Did the actions of the psychologist, either directly or through failed application of knowledge (a violation of II.2 Competence)… harm you?

With the mere assertion of this, it then becomes incumbent upon the psychologist to DEMONSTRATE through vitae and in their documentation of their assessment, diagnosis, and treatment… that they applied knowledge; Bowlby, Minuchin, Beck, van der Kolk, and Tronick – attachment, family systems therapy, personality disorders, complex trauma, the neuro-development of the brain in childhood, consistent with their obligations under II.2 Competence.

From the Translation: Secures as far as possible that his benefits are not abused.

It’s not simply that the psychologist avoids harming people – anyone – even you – the psychologist must also “secure” (defer to the original term) that BENEFITS are indeed benefits, and are not misused and abused.

The Scandinavian professional ethics code expects a “high level” of professional responsibility.  Know what you’re doing, make sure it helps and doesn’t hurt, and that is YOUR responsibility to ensure, not someone else’s.


From the Translation: The psychologist takes responsibility for himself the quality and consequences of its work, but at the same time be aware of, that he is experienced by others as a representative of his stand.

Do quality work, and also understand that you represent the entire field of professional psychology.  Represent well, the professional standards of practice for psychologists.

Avoidance of Abuse / Injury

From the Translation: The psychologist strives to avoid that psychology professional knowledge or practice being abused and taking responsibility for, that an injury is inevitable, and which can be foreseen will be as small as possible.

This seems identical to Standard 3.04 of the APA ethics code.  Psychologists are not allowed to hurt people – anyone, there are no exceptions noted in the code – and when harm is “inevitable” (defer to the original term), then psychologists make it as “small as possible” (defer to the original term).


The Scandinavian ethics code for psychologists contains nearly identical standards in II.2 Competence as in the APA ethics code Section 2: Competence.  The Scandinavian ethics code for psychologists mandates knowing the established domains of psychology relevant to the domain for practice:

From the Translation:  The psychologist takes on only the tasks, offers only the services and uses only those methods he is qualified by virtue of education, training and experience (APA: Standard 2.01a)

And the ethics code for Scandinavian psychologists mandates the application of scientifically established knowledge:

From the Translation: The psychologist works in accordance with scientific principles and substantiated experience and endeavors for continuous professional development. The psychologist acquires knowledge about scientific and professional development within its scope of work. (APA: Standard 2.04)

These requirements would seemingly mandate knowing and applying the scientific principles” (defer to original term) for attachment, family systems therapy, personality disorders, complex trauma, and the neuro-development of the brain in childhood – Bowlby, Minuchin, Beck, van der Kolk, Tronick.

Where questions are answered with the question and answer of, “What does the research say, that’s the answer.”

The ethics code for Scandinavian psychologists also has nearly an identical Avoiding Harm standard as APA Standard 3.04 Avoiding Harm.

From the Translation: The psychologist avoids causing harm and is responsible for his actions.

Psychologists are not allowed to be ignorant or incompetent (II.2 Competence), and psychologists are not allowed to hurt people – even you – (II.3 Liability).  You might want to check the exact cultural-legal use of the term, because the term “liability” has legal responsibility meaning in the United States.

Craig  Childress, Psy.D.
Clinical Psychologist, PSY 1885

Difficult Position

Karen Woodall, I have been in a difficult position since reading one of your recent blogs (Karen’s blog).  In your blog you indicated that you are beginning a personal “research” study (without IRB oversight or review) with adult children of child abuse and childhood trauma. 

In your blog, you announced that you had begun recruiting for your personal research study in order for you to learn from these now-adult survivors of childhood trauma, and that you were going to use what you learned from your “research” to develop a new form of therapy for them.  Here is your exact statement:

From Karen Woodall:  “Last week I put a call out to adults alienated as children, inviting them to take part in my research which will form the basis of a new therapy for this group of people.”

That you would need to conduct “research” to develop a “new therapy” means that you don’t already know what the therapy is for adult children of child abuse and that you have to do “research” to learn what you are doing – to create your “new therapy.”

Those are your words, Karen.  That is your sentence statement.  You are conducting your own personal “research” so that you can learn how to do therapy – this “new therapy” you are creating – for adult survivors of childhood trauma. 

Which means that you currently don’t know how to do therapy with adult survivors of trauma, necessitating your need to conduct your “research.” 

The ethical issue of using people as guinea pigs for your “research” and your new experimental forms of therapy, without IRB oversight and review, is concerning.

The fact that you will be conducting therapy with a new population without proper education, training, and background to ALREADY know the treatment for adult survivors of child abuse would likely represent a violation of Standard 2.01a of the APA ethics code regarding boundaries of competence.  Every ethics code for every level of professional in every country, has a Standard regarding boundaries of competence.

If you have to do “research” on the people in order to learn therapy with that population, that means you are currently not competent to treat that population, and that treating them would be beyond the boundaries of your competence.

Standard 2.01c of the APA’s ethics code on competence governs the requirements for a psychologist expanding an area of practice.

Standard 2.01 Boundaries of Competence
(c) Psychologists planning to provide services, teach, or conduct research involving populations, areas, techniques, or technologies new to them undertake relevant education, training, supervised experience, consultation, or study.

If you look on my vitae, Karen (Childress Vitae) you will see after I list my work experience, I list a section of Early Childhood Training.  Do you see that?  That involved my expansion of practice into early childhood mental health from ADHD and school-involved psychology. 

Mind you, while at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles I had early childhood training with the therapeutic preschool there, and at Choc-UCI I was working with ADHD in preschoolers… still, when I moved to early childhood I went and got training.  See that?  That’s what is required when we shift areas of practice.

Interesting note, look right above my Early Childhood Training, since coming over here I’ve taken training in Divorce Mediation.  With everything I know, Karen.  I went and got training in Divorce Mediation.  That’s what we do, Karen.

So it becomes professionally disturbing to hear you “put out a call” for “research” subjects on whom you can practice with your new new forms of experimental therapy.  If you have to research how to do therapy, you don’t yet know how to do therapy with this population.

I do, Karen.  I already know how to do therapy with adult survivors of child abuse.  That is already within the scope of my practice.  I know what the therapy is, and I have treated a range of adult child abuse survivors, including from this divorce-involved psychological abuse.  I already know what the therapy is, and I’ve already worked directly with the population of adult survivors of child abuse (including psychological abuse surrounding divorce).

If you have to do “research” in order to learn what the therapy is for adult survivors of childhood trauma and abuse, you are not currently competent to practice with this population, and according to APA Standards, you should seek additional training, supervised experience, or consultation. 

I’d be more than happy to provide education, training, or supervision for your expansion of practice into adult survivors of childhood abuse and trauma, but for consultation with this population, I would instead refer you to Dorcy Pruter. 

I suspect you will be unwilling to avail yourself of my offer to train or supervise your practice expansion, and I also know that you’ll not find another person as familiar with adult children from this specific “alienation” form of child abuse trauma as Dorcy, she’s world-class in that regard.  If you want to learn therapy for adult survivors of this form of child abuse, turn to Dorcy Pruter for professional consultation, Karen.

I fully understand that you believe yourself to be in some “battle of experts” with me.  I’m not, Karen.  Every act, every sentence, is as a clinical psychologist.  There are professional standards of practice, Karen.  They exist to protect the patient.  It is unwise to flout and disregard professional standards of practice.

When entering a new area of practice, seek training, consultation, or supervision.

If I were to expand my practice into veteran combat PTSD – even with all my background in trauma, I’d be taking at least three trainings and I would be consulting for the first 18 months.  And I am already well familiar with PTSD in combat veterans.

Look at everything I know, Karen, how fully established my vitae is over here, books and everything.  I took a training course in divorce mediation.  Boundaries of competence, that’s what we’re supposed to do. 

I’m not taking any training in child custody evaluations because I’m never doing one.  If I did, I would.  I would not conduct a child custody evaluation (ever) without first receiving additional training.  My child custody evaluation would be a magnificent professional work, far exceeding any standards of practice in child custody evaluations.  I would still seek additional training before conducting a child custody evaluation (never) because that’s what we do.

So, Karen.  If adult survivors of childhood trauma is a new domain for you… seek consultation.  Who is the top professional in adult children of “alienation” – Dorcy.  Stronger even than me.  I will absolutely consult with her on cases of adult children of “alienation” – any hint of a question for me, that’s who I would turn to for professional consultation.

No ego, Karen.  These kids need the best.  Put your ego aside and work to learn before you enter a new area of practice.  That is the Standard that is expected of us.

You also indicated that your “research” subjects would be receiving your new experimental therapy. 

From Karen Woodall:  “Alongside the research, I will treat those adult children who are coming forward using a combination of therapeutic approaches which I consider fits the needs of this overlooked cohort of traumatised individuals.”

So you are serving as both the treating clinician and the Principle Investigator of your private research, without any IRB oversight or review, that sounds like a dual role called a “multiple relationship.” Are you charging your “research” subjects for their new experimental therapy you are providing to them?  That would likely be viewed as exploiting your multiple relationship with them, one serving the other, and both serving your interests.

Here’s an ethical concern if I’m sitting on your IRB, might your role as a treating clinician influence the perceived freedom and self-autonomous decision-making of the research participant regarding their research participation decisions.  Might they agree to participate in new experimental treatments because they want to please you as the treating therapist and keep you as a therapist, rather than from a truly autonomous informed consent for the nature of the experimental research procedures you’re doing.

And if one of your “research” subjects alleges that your therapy harmed them, then your statement that you are doing research in order to learn how to do therapy with that population, meaning that you do not already know what the therapy is for adult children of child abuse and trauma, they are likely to have a very strong legal case.

Are you using an informed consent for treatment or an informed consent for research, or both?  Have these been reviewed?  By whom?  If not, I would recommend you post your Informed Consent for Research to obtain at least some degree of professional review.  I’m seeing liability issues for you on a fairly substantial scale if you fail in your professional obligations surrounding research.

People are not your guinea pigs for your learning.  There are ethical standards of practice, Karen.  If you are entering a new field, seek additional education, training, supervision, or consultation – I suspect your ego will not permit my involvement in your education – but your ego should NOT interfere with your professional duty of care to the client… seek professional consultation with Dorcy, she will substantially improve the quality of care you provide to adult survivors of childhood trauma and child abuse – specifically this type – this “alienation” type of attachment trauma.

This is not an ego thing, Karen.  I know you think you’re in some sort of battle of “experts” with Dr. Childress – because you’re stuck in a mindset of “experts” – that’s all going away, Karen.  Even me. 

This is not an ego thing, Karen.  If you’re moving into treating adult children of “alienation” you must, absolutely beyond all shadow of doubt, consult with Dorcy Pruter.  If it were me, I’d do two-hours monthly, and I’d seriously consider two-hours weekly, for about six months.

No doubt on that, you heard how I phrased that… If it were me.  No ego on this, Karen.  Dorcy absolutely knows her stuff, and, regarding adult children… she is one.  Dang, she will tell you everything you need to know Karen.  Dorcy would be absolutely the person I would consult with personally, no ego. The only thing I care about is the quality of care to my kid, my client.  If Dorcy’s understanding improves that, I’m there, absolutely.  Patient care… my kid… always comes first.  No ego.

If you start working with adult children of child abuse and trauma and you don’t consult substantially with Dorcy… I don’t know what to say, Karen.  That’s getting your ego wrapped up in the quality of care you provide to your patients.  I just can’t understand that type of thinking, Karen.  Where ego takes precedence over patient care.

There are professional standards of practice, Karen. They’re there for a reason. They’re there to protect our patients… and us.  It’s not a good idea to disregard them, Karen.  When going into a new area, seek additional education, training, supervised practice or consultation.  Karen, we’re working with children and families, leave your ego at the door and worry more about the quality of your work, than who’s the “expert.” 

I understand if you won’t accept my knowledge, but then seek and accept Dorcy’s.  This is not a competition… this is not a game of “experts” – we need to have a solution now.  Today.  Yesterday would be even better. 

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