Initial Response to Karen Woodall

There is a group of professionals, of which I am a member, called the Parental Alienation Study Group which is led by Dr. William Bernet. 

The purpose of this group is to share knowledge and information regarding the pathology of “parental alienation” with the goal of resolving the “parental alienation” pathology.  In the November newsletter of the Parental Alienation Study Group, Dr. Karen Woodall offered her critique of an attachment-based model of “parental alienation.”

Unlike the prior critique offered by Drs. Bernet and Reay within PASG, I was not offered a prior opportunity to respond to Dr. Woodall’s critique, so the first I saw this critique was in the November Newsletter.  I wish to take this opportunity to respond to Dr. Woodall’s critique of an attachment-based model of “parental alienation.”

I have posted Dr. Woodall’s critique of an attachment-based model of parental alienation from the PASG Newsletter to my website for general reference regarding my response:

Karen Woodall: Parental Alienation and Paradigm Shifts: An unnecessary diversion for the UK

When I read Dr. Woodall’s critique in the Newsletter of PASG, I submitted the following response to the PASG Newsletter. I am also posting this response to my website for general reference:

Response to Karen Woodall’s Critique of Foundations


In my next blog post, I will have more to say regarding Dr. Woodall’s critique of Foundations and the response of Gardnerian PAS experts generally to an attachment-based model of parental alienation.  But prior to this upcoming post, I think it is important to read my Response to Karen Woodall’s Critique of Foundations for an understanding of how an attachment-based model is going to create a solution to the pathology of “parental alienation.”

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

 

The Shadow-Side of PAS

Not everything is “parental alienation.”

Our goal is to bring the unproductive and damaging debate surrounding the construct of “parental alienation” to an end.

On one side of this debate are those persons who are concerned about authentic sexual abuse, physical abuse, and domestic violence.

On the other side of this debate are those persons who are concerned about the psychological abuse inflicted on a child by the pathology of a narcissistic/borderline parent.

We are all on the same side. Protecting children from child abuse. We all want to protect all children from sexual abuse, physical abuse, domestic violence, and psychological abuse by a parent. There is no debate.

So how did this false divide within mental health occur? We must bring it to an end. We are all on the same side of protecting 100% of children 100% of the time from all forms of child abuse.

I want all targeted parents to go to a website page hosted by the Leadership Council on Child Abuse and Interpersonal Violence regarding:

Overview of Dr. Richard Gardner’s Opinions on Pedophilia and Child Sexual Abuse

Read the expressed views of Gardner on pedophilia and incest. This is the dark underside of Gardnerian PAS. The views of Richard Gardner on pedophilia and incest are vile and repugnant. There is NOTHING normative about pedophillia.  NOTHING.  And a child NEVER seeks sexualized contact with a parent. The suggestion that a child ever seduces a parent into incest is vile and reprehensible. The views of Richard Gardner regarding the normalcy of pedophilia and incest are as repugnant as they are false. There is nothing normative about pedophilia and incest.

Within this context of Gardner’s views on pedophilia and incest, when he proposed that children’s allegations of sexual abuse against a parent could be discounted because of a “new syndrome” that he had just discovered, a new syndrome that is unique in all of psychology with no established linkages to any other form of established and existing psychopathology in all of mental health, responsible mental health professionals who were rightfully and authentically concerned about child sexual abuse and domestic violence were justifiably concerned that this supposedly “new syndrome” would be used as a dodge by sexually abusive parents (fathers) and the violent ex-spouses of domestic violence (fathers) to deny and avoid responsibility for their sexual abuse of their children and for the consequences of domestic violence. The concern was – and remains – that by discounting the expressed reports of children, this “new syndrome” of “parental alienation” proposed by Gardner will result in re-exposing children to their abusers.

But why is the focus on fathers as the abusive parent?  Because Gardner proposed that this “new syndrome” was primarily used by mothers who made false allegations of sexual abuse against fathers.  In his initial proposal for a “new syndrome,” Richard Gardner introduced a gender bias in this supposedly “new syndrome.”

But the proposal by Gardner of a “new syndrome” and a gender bias are both wrong. The pathology of “parental alienation” is not a new syndrome unique in all of mental health – it is a manifestation of well-established and well-accepted forms of existing psychopathology in mental health – and the pathology of “parental alienation” is equally evidenced by both genders.

In his initial proposal of the PAS pathology, Gardner incorrectly introduced a gender bias in the pathology which he proposed was typically enacted by women toward fathers following divorce, and often contained false allegations of sexual abuse supposedly perpetrated by the fathers. Within the context of the false and repugnant views of Richard Gardner regarding pedophilia and incest, a maelstrom of controversy was created that has divided mental health ever since.

It is important to understand the context in which this division emerged.  According to this one man, Richard Gardner, who held such vile and reprehensible views on pedophilia and child incest, a “new syndrome” exists which he supposedly just “discovered” which permitted mental health professionals and the court to disregard allegations of child sexual abuse made by children against fathers because the mothers in these cases were supposedly inducing the child into making these false allegations. And the only basis for disregarding the child’s allegations of being sexually abused was because of this “new syndrome” – a “new syndrome” which is a unique form of pathology in all of mental health and which has no association with any other existing and accepted form of psychopathology.  Child allegations of being sexually abused can be discounted based solely on this new and unique form of pathology which was supposedly discovered by this one man based on his own assertion of its existence, and who had such exceedingly aberrant and reprehensible views regarding child sexual abuse as being a normal-range expression of adult sexuality.  

What was especially terrifying to responsible mental health professionals was that this supposedly “new syndrome” – a pathology unique in all of mental health – which was discovered and defined by a single individual out of thin air without any linkage to any other form of established pathology and without any scientifically supported evidence for its existence – could be used in court cases to discount authentic child protection concerns and would instead return the child to the sexually abusive or violent parent.

What? No way. No, no, no. We cannot re-expose children to the abusive parent based on such a flimsy, unsubstantiated, and ill-formed conceptual model. If this were 1985 – I’m on the side of the anti-Gardnerians. Where is the scientific evidence for this supposedly “new syndrome”? What are the diagnostic indicators for this alleged “new syndrome”? Wait a minute, you’re just making up these diagnostic indicators. They have no association with any other type of pathology in all of mental health. If this were 1985, I’m fighting AGAINST a Gardernian PAS model.

A campaign of denigration? – The child is saying they hate their father because the father sexually abused the child; or the child is saying they hate their father because of the domestic violence the child witnessed from the father. How do we differentiate a “campaign of denigration” from a child who authentically dislikes an abusive parent?

For weak and frivolous reasons? – By whose determination is a reason considered “weak and frivolous?” Yours, Richard Gardner? The child is saying they were sexually abused, and Richard Gardner is saying, “Look, sexual abuse and pedophilia are normal-range adult sexual activities. It’s not so bad, and we shouldn’t overreact” (read the quotes by Richard Gardner). Is that who we’re allowing to decide what represents a “weak and frivolous reason?” How are we deciding what is considered a “weak and frivolous reason?” – (“Your dad used to hit your mom and scream at you in fits of rage? Well that’s no reason for you to be afraid of him. You need to just get over it.”)

Borrowed scenarios? – Of course the child and favored parent are saying the same thing about the abusive parent, because they were both abused and victimized by this spouse and parent. It’s not a “borrowed scenario,” it’s the truth of their shared experience.

Independent thinker phenomenon? – So if the child asserts the reality of his or her experience this will simply be discounted as the “independent thinker phenomenon” – an entirely new form of proposed pathology by the way. This is a circular no-win symptom. If the child doesn’t disclose the abuse then you say there’s no evidence of abuse. If the child discloses the abuse then you say this is just the “independent thinker phenomenon” in which the child believes what the child is asserting. Of course the child believes abuse occurred when the abuse occurred – (“No, you didn’t really experience abuse, you’re just saying that you did because of the “independent thinker phenomenon”),

An authentically abused child will say the abusive parent is a bad person – but this authenticity in reporting of abuse is being twisted by Gardnerian PAS into a symptom as a “campaign of denigration” – and who’s defining what is a “weak and frivolous reason” or a “borrowed scenario,” and based on what decisional criteria? Are we going to rely on the belief and assertion of single man, a man who holds such aberrant and repugnant views on pedophilia and child incest? Is that our expert to make these decisions about what is a “weak and frivolous” reason? This is who we are relying on to unilaterally decide what represents a “campaign of denigration” as opposed to an authentic parent-child conflict caused by an abusive parent; for what represents a “weak and frivolous reason” rather than the child’s justified estrangement from an abusive parent; for what represents a “borrowed scenario” rather than the mutual experience of a protective parent and child of an abusive ex-spouse and parent?

And so the debate and controversy begins. I’ll bet that already many Gardnerians want to begin arguing with me about my criticisms.  A polarized debate begins between those seeking to protect children from authentic sexual abuse and domestic violence and those seeking to protect the child from the psychological abuse of “parental alienation.”

The supporters of the Gardnerian PAS model then began to address the concerns of the skeptical – and I would say rationally skeptical – critics of the proposed “new syndrome” of “parental alienation.”

The supporters of Gardnerian PAS respond that “parental alienation” does not exist if there is authentic child abuse.

The supporters of Gardnerian PAS repudiate Richard Gardner’s views on pedophilia and incest (yet the construct of PAS remains forever tainted by these vile and repugnant views).

The Gardnerian PAS supporters try to define that “weak and frivolous reasons” means this-and-that type of situation (Dr. Childress Comment: I still haven’t seen a clear operational definition for this construct within Gardnerian PAS).

The Gardnerian PAS supporters try to define that “borrowed scenarios” refers to this-and-that type of situation (Dr. Childress Comment: I still haven’t seen a clear operational definition for what constitutes a “borrowed scenario” according to Gardnerian PAS).

The Gardnerian PAS supporters try to define that the “independent thinker phenomenon” refers to this-and-that type of situation (Dr. Childress Comment: I still haven’t seen a clear operational definition of the independent thinker phenomenon).

And so it goes, the back-and-forth in this endless and needless debate. Sides are established. Professional mental health is split into two camps in which those who are advocating for a recognition of the “parental alienation” pathology are pitted against those who are trying to protect children from the authenticity of child sexual abuse and domestic violence.

But all of this has been an entirely unnecessary and extremely damaging division in professional psychology that has paralyzed the response of the mental health system to the very real pathology of “parental alienation.” There are no sides. We are all on the same side. We all seek to protect children 100% of the time from all forms of child abuse.

But a false division was created by Gardner’s proposal that the pathology of “parental alienation” represented a unique “new syndrome” in all of mental health, unlike any other form of recognized and existing pathology, and that this unique “new syndrome” which was defined by a similarly unique set of 8 vaguely defined diagnostic indicators which were simply made up by Gardner specifically for this supposedly “new syndrome,” then allows mental health professionals and the court to disregard child allegations of sexual abuse and domestic violence, based solely on a poorly defined set of anecdotal symptom identifiers created specifically for this supposedly “new syndrome” by a man who espoused that pedophilia and incest were normative expressions of adult sexuality and that children would seduce their fathers into sexual encounters because of the children’s sexual desires for the parent (ideas that are as abhorrent and repulsive as they are grossly irresponsible and flat out wrong).

Ending the Division

The pathology of “parental alienation” exists. It is not a “new syndrome.” It is a manifestation of well-established and fully accepted forms of pathology (personality disorder pathology; family systems pathology; attachment trauma pathology) as described in Foundations.

The pathology of “parental alienation” can be reliably identified and reliably differentiated from other forms of pathology by a set of 3 Diagnostic Indicators that are firmly anchored in established and accepted forms of pathology.

An attachment-based model of “parental alienation” will in no way, under any circumstances, re-expose a child to an authentically abusive parent. No way. Not under any circumstances.

Our goal is to protect 100% of children 100% of the time from all forms of child abuse; physical, sexual, and psychological. This goal can be accomplished.

There are no sides. We are all on the same side of protecting all children from all forms of child abuse.

In order to bring mental health together again and end this totally unnecessary and extremely destructive division within professional psychology, we must acknowledge the reasonable concerns of the other side regarding an ill-conceived Gardnerian PAS proposal of a “new syndrome” which is unique in all of mental health and which is identifiable by a similarly unique set of vague symptom identifiers that are simply made up specifically for this supposedly unique new form of pathology and that have no linkage or association to any other form of established or existing pathology in all of mental health.

In order to bring mental health together, we must recognize that what the critics of the Gardnerian model of PAS have steadfastly asserted for over thirty years is correct: that the Gardnerian model of PAS represents an inadequate professional model for describing the pathology. This is constructive criticism from reasonable and responsible mental health professionals.

But just because the Gardnerian description of the pathology is professionally flawed and inadequate, does not mean that the pathology of “parental alienation” doesn’t exist. It very much exists. It’s simply that Gardner’s description of it is flawed.

The pathology of “parental alienation” is NOT a new syndrome. It is a manifestation of well-established and fully accepted forms of existing psychopathology within mental health.

Family Systems Level of Analysis:

The pathology of “parental alienation” represents the cross-generational coalition of the child with a narcissistic/borderline in which the addition of the parent’s splitting pathology to the cross-generational coalition transforms the already pathological coalition into a particularly malignant and virulent form that seeks to entirely terminate the other parent’s relationship with the child; i.e., to make the ex-husband an ex-father, the ex-wife an ex-mother, consistent with the polarization of the splitting pathology.

Attachment System Level of Analysis:

The pathology of “parental alienation” represents the reenactment of attachment trauma patterns from the childhood of the narcissistic/borderline parent into the current family relationships.  The reenactment of the childhood trauma is in the trauma pattern of “abusive parent”/”victimized child”/”protective parent” – mediated by the narcissistic and borderline personality pathology of the allied parent.

Personality Disorder Level of Analysis:

The pathology of “parental alienation” represents the role-reversal use of the child by the pathology of the narcissistic/borderline parent as an external regulatory object to stabilize the pathology of the narcissistic/borderline parent which is collapsing in response to the rejection and abandonment inherent to the divorce (the loss of the attachment figure of the other spouse).

Take your pick of the descriptive level of analysis.  All of them are simultaneously true, it’s just a matter of which level of analysis one wishes to use to describe the pathology.

But the pathology of “parental alienation” is NOT a new syndrome that is unique in all of mental health. It is a manifestation of well-established and fully accepted forms of existing psychopathology within mental health that can be reliably identified through standard and established forms of accepted symptomatology.

Using an attachment-based model for identifying the pathology of “parental alienation” will in no way, under any circumstances, result in re-exposing any child to an abusive parent. No way. Not under any circumstances. The three diagnostic indicators of an attachment-based reformulation of the “parental alienation” pathology can reliably, 100% of the time, differentiate child symptoms resulting from authentic child abuse from child symptoms resulting from the pathology of a trauma reenactment narrative created by the psychological decompensation of narcissistic/borderline parental pathology as described in Foundations.

The Gardnerian 8 symptoms of “parental alienation” are not relevant to the diagnosis of this pathology, and are NOT to be used in identifying the pathology. To the extent that the 8 symptoms of Gardnerian PAS essentially represent the entirety of the Gardnerian model of PAS, then the Gardnerian model of PAS is not relevant to identifying the pathology.

For Wikipedia consideration:

In the view of Dr. Childress, the Gardnerian PAS model represents an historical curiosity which for thirty years, from 1985 to 2015, polarized the discussion surrounding “parental alienation” pathology, and which created an unnecessary and damaging internal division within mental health that paralyzed the mental health response to this form of interpersonal pathology. In its 30 years as the dominant paradigm for describing the pathology of “parental alienation,” the Gardnerian PAS model was never accepted by establishment mental health as a valid diagnostic description of the “parental alienation” pathology (with its most recent rejection in 2013 with the publication of the DSM-5).

In 2015, the Gardnerian model of PAS was supplanted by a more theoretically grounded attachment-based reformulation for the pathology (Childress, 2015). An attachment-based model describes the family pathology of “parental alienation” as representing the trans-generational transmission of attachment trauma from the childhood of a narcissistic/borderline personality parent to the current family relationships, mediated by the narcissistic and borderline personality pathology of the parent. In this attachment-based reformulation for the pathology of “parental alienation,” the child’s induced (manipulated) rejection of the targeted parent is being used (exploited) by the narcissistic/borderline parent to stabilize the decompensating psychological state of the narcissistic/borderline parent following divorce (i.e., the loss of the spousal attachment figure which represents both a narcissistic injury and abandonment by the attachment figure).

Childress, C.A. (2015). An attachment-based model of parental alienation: Foundations. Claremont, CA: Oaksong Press.

In order to end the unnecessary and extremely damaging division within mental health, the paradigm by which we define the pathology of “parental alienation” needs to change.

In order to re-unite mental health into a single voice in which we are all seeking to protect all children from all forms of child abuse – 100% of children 100% of the time – and bring to a close the unnecessary and extremely damaging division within mental health created by the Gardnerian model of PAS and Gardner’s extremely aberrant and morally repugnant views regarding the supposed normalcy of child sexual abuse, we must relinquish the Gardnerian PAS model.

There will be NO Gardnerian banner on this battlefield. The coming battle Foundations Banner Red-Blueto reunite mental health into a single force to protect all children from all forms of child abuse will be fought entirely under the battle flag of Foundations.

Foundations and an attachment-based model for the construct of “parental alienation” represent a full and complete, 100% break with the Gardnerian formulation for this pathology. I will in no way defend a Gardnerian PAS model for the pathology.

In all my writings I have never once advocated for adopting a Gardnerian PAS model of the pathology. I am an outsider to this “parental alienation” debate. I come from the fields of ADHD and early childhood mental health. An attachment-based model for the pathology of “parental alienation” represents an accurate clinical description of the pathology from entirely within standard and established forms of existing psychopathology in mental health.

I don’t care one whit for internecine professional debates and turf wars. The ONLY thing I care about is that we bring this pathology to an end as quickly as we possibly can for the sake of targeted parents and their children.

Compromise & Unity

We need to bring this unnecessary and damaging debate within professional psychology to a close, for the sake of targeted parents and their children. We are all on the same side. The advocates for recognition of the “parental alienation” pathology and the critics of the Gardnerian PAS model, we are all on the same side. We are all seeking to protect 100% of children 100% of the time from all forms of child abuse; physical, sexual, and psychological. We are all on the same side.

To bring us all together on the same side of protecting ALL children from ALL forms of child abuse, targeted parents and their supporters in professional mental health MUST relinquish their inflexible insistence that establishment mental health accept a “new syndrome” as defined by Richard Gardner.

In return, establishment mental health must acknowledge that the pathology of “parental alienation” exists, and that this pathology represents such a complex and interwoven network of attachment trauma pathology, family systems pathology, and personality disorder pathology that it REQUIRES a high level of professional expertise to competently assess, diagnose and treat, so that these children and families warrant the professional designation as a “special population” within mental health who require specialized professional knowledge and expertise to competently assess, diagnose, and treat.

Before entering private practice, I was the Clinical Director for a children’s assessment and treatment center dealing with children in the foster care system. I know what the psychological trauma of authentic child abuse is, and I know what it looks like, which is one of the reasons I find the views expressed by Richard Gardner on the normalcy of pedophilia and incest so highly disturbing and deeply repugnant.  

From my professional clinical experience with authentic child abuse, I know what authentic child sexual abuse looks like in the child’s attachment system and in the child’s symptom display, and from my professional clinical experience I also know what authentic physical abuse and domestic violence looks like in the child’s attachment system and in the child’s symptom display. Authentic parental violence and the sexual abuse of a child look very different in the attachment system and in the child’s symptom display than the role-reversal pathology of a child’s use (manipulation and exploitation) by a narcissistic/borderline parent as an external “regulatory object” for the parent’s own psychopathology. These are very different forms of psychopathology with very different manifestations in the child’s attachment system display and symptom features.

Capable and expert mental health professionals can reliably differentiate the two types of pathology 100% of the time. In order to reliably differentiate the differing pathologies, mental health professionals need to be expert in the manifestations of attachment trauma pathology, personality pathology, and family systems pathology. With this professional expertise, mental health professionals can reliably differentiate the two types of pathology 100% of the time.

Our goal is to protect 100% of children 100% of the time from all forms of child abuse.

All we are seeking from establishment mental health is:

1.)  Formal acknowledgement that the psychopathology of a narcissistic/borderline parent can have a substantially distorting influence on family relationships following divorce (i.e., that the pathology of an attachment-based model for the construct of “parental alienation” exists – as described in Foundations)

2.)  Formal recognition that the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of this type of complex and interwoven pathology requires a high level of professional expertise, which warrants the designation of these children and families as representing a “special population” within professional psychology requiring specialized professional knowledge and expertise to competently assess, diagnose, and treat.

That’s all we’re asking.

Formal acknowledgement that the pathology exists and formal recognition of these children and families as representing a “special population” requiring specialized professional knowledge and expertise to competently assess, diagnose, and treat.

The appropriate location for this formal acknowledgment is the official Position Statement of the American Psychological Association on the Family Pathology of Parental Alienation.

With the proper professional knowledge and expertise, we are absolutely able to differentiate a child’s symptoms created by authentic sexual abuse and parental violence from child symptoms that are the induced product of a role-reversal relationship with a narcissistic/borderline parent who is using (manipulatively creating and then exploiting) the child’s rejection of the other parent to stabilize the personality disorder pathology of the narcissistic/borderline parent.

False Allegations of “Parental Alienation”

Not everything is “parental alienation.”

In my private practice, approximately 20% of the cases that come to me alleging “parental alienation” actually turn out NOT to be “parental alienation.” In these cases, it often turns out that it is the supposedly targeted parent who is actually the narcissistic parent.

Narcissists externalize blame. In their grandiose narcissistic self-perception they perceive themselves as the ideal and “all-wonderful” person-and-parent, and they cannot recognize there being anything problematic with their parenting.

Yet the complete absence of empathy for the child by these narcissistic parents is emotionally and psychologically traumatic for the child. However, when the child tries to express this to the narcissistic parent, the narcissistic parent lacks the capacity for self-examination and instead externalizes blame onto the other parent (i.e., a false allegation of “parental alienation”).

In the mind of the narcissistic parent, the child cannot possibly have any problem with the ideal and “wonderfully perfect” person and parenting of the narcissistic parent. So in the mind of the narcissistic parent, the only possible reason for the child to be upset with the ideal and “wonderfully perfect” narcissistic parent is because of the negative influence of the other parent on the child.

Narcissistic Parent:  “I’m so wonderful and perfect as a person that the child cannot actually be upset with me. The only possible explanation is “parental alienation” by the other parent.”

In these cases, the child’s symptoms DO NOT evidence the 3 diagnostic indicators of attachment-based “parental alienation.” These cases are easily identified. I’ll explain all this for mental health professionals in my upcoming book on Diagnosis.

In addition, in some of these cases BOTH parents are pathological. In these cases, the child is a prize to be won in a pitched battle between the parents. This type of pathology is also easily recognized by an attachment-based model of “parental alienation,” although it is nearly impossible to solve.

In false allegations of parental alienation and cases where both parents are pathological, the primary guiding issue remains one of child protection. Once parental pathology enters into the picture, the clinical psychology issues shift from child custody and visitation to prominent child protection considerations.

Not everything is “parental alienation.” Authentic child abuse exists (dogs exist). The role-reversal pathology of a narcissistic/borderline parent also exists (cats exist).  In addition, false allegations of “parental alienation” also exist (ducks exist) and both parents being pathological exists (alligators exist).  All sorts of pathology exist.

When we relinquish the construct of Gardnerian PAS and return to standard and established forms of existing psychopathology, we are on much more solid ground, solid foundations, for our diagnosis and treatment.

From a clinical psychology perspective, the issues are those of “pathogenic parenting” (parenting practices that are so aberrant and distorted that they are creating significant psychopathology in the child) and corresponding child protection concerns.

By remaining grounded in the solid professional foundations of well-established and existing forms of psychopathology, an attachment-based model of “parental alienation” pathology can reliably, 100% of the time, diagnose authentic trauma caused by child abuse from the role-reversal pathology of a narcissistic/borderline parent, and from false allegations of “parental alienation” made by a narcissistic parent.

Not everything is “parental alienation.”

An attachment-based model can reliably differentiate between all of the differing possible pathologies.

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

How Soon?

I recently noted the following comment from Marsha in the Facebook group seeking a deeper Appreciation of my work and writings, and she suggested I respond in a blog.  I’m listening, and here is the blog.  Marsha suggests that I misled by implying that the battle would be quick, and that the solution would be soon, and now she and others are disappointed.

Here is the Facebook post from Marsha:

OK. @Dr Craig Childress,

I’m mad at you. Side note, I’m not really mad at you, was meant to be an ice breaker.* I don’t know you to be mad at you.

You got parents thinking that Foundations will change their situations, (I mention to people that Rome wasn’t built in a day). However, your wording about Foundations when it came out, really made parents think things were going to change quickly. Now, there are parents that have the book, watch your videos and don’t have the $$$ to back any of this up.

What am I or others supposed to tell these parents?

They are learning the dynamics and feeling more helpless, instead of empowered.

You said we are going to change things now.

Would you be open to making a blog post that is like “I know this is going to take time, and I know that it’s going to take more time if you’re a broke parent, significant change will probably take, let’s be realistic, at the very least 5 years?

You can’t just write a book and disappear!! Where are you?
We are trying to get your book out there to professionals.
For free we are advocating for YOU.

Please tell me what to say to parents that don’t see a way to fix their situation after reading Foundations. They are feeling more helpless!
You need to know this! Put your empathetic shoes on and feel what a desperate parent with no more income feels.

Help!!!! (I feel like breaking down in tears)


First, let me thank you Marsha for your courage in offering this challenge.  It’s not easy to take a contrary position, but it is often just these sort of contrary positions that deepen dialogue and deepen understanding.  So thank you.  As I address the issues you raise, I encourage you to hold on to the bumpy ride until you reach the conclusion of this post in No Worries.

To my friends who rose to my defense, my thanks to you as well.  I agree with the issues you raise.  Remember that dialogue and discussion is a good thing, and if everyone thinks alike then this stifles the exploration of issues and life is boring.  Not only do dogs and cats exist, so do monkeys and lizards and birds.  The existence of any one does not nullify the existence of another. 

So, to address the concerns you raise, Marsha…

I know how desperate you and others feel. These are your children. They are the love and light of your world. They mean everything to you, and “parental alienation” has turned your entire world into a nightmare.

With the publication of Foundations, I said the world was changing.  And now four months later, things are still the same. So what’s up with that? Why did I get your hopes up that things would be different quickly.

But you’re mad at me because “parental alienation” isn’t solved yet?

What are you taking about? Of course it’s solved. It was solved the moment Foundations was published. It’s now just a matter of enacting the solution. It’s just a matter of time now. 

When I drop my keys I know they’re going to hit the floor because of gravity.  Done deal.  My keys are going to hit the floor, it’s just a matter of time.  Bang, yep. 

Same thing.

By defining the pathology of “parental alienation” from entirely within well-established and fully accepted forms of existing pathology, the solution to the pathology traditionally called “parental alienation” is now available. It just waits to be enacted.  How long before it’s enacted?  How long before my keys hit the floor?  By introducing licensing board complaints I’m providing a turbo-charged boost.  The publication of Foundations has created the gravity that will inexorably result in the solution.  The only thing holding back the solution is a paradigm shift from the old Gardnerian PAS model for defining the pathology to the new attachment-based model for defining the pathology  The exact moment this paradigm shift occurs, that’s the exact moment the solution becomes enacted. 

In Stark Reality I said,

“If you are going to rely on me for that, I would anticipate that this will take between 10 to 15 years for an attachment-based model of “parental alienation” to achieve professional acceptance.”

My current goal is by Christmas 2016. I’m applying all the pressure I can to the process.  Waking targeted parents from their induced slumber of victimization. Wake up!  Empowering targeted parents to cause great pain to my incompetent professional colleagues  (On Notice).  Defining the road map for enacting the solution (the Empowerment video series).  Challenging the Gardnerian PAS experts to bring their influence to bear (which I do again in this post).  

One of the biggest turbo-charging boosts is coming from the immense courage of my professional colleague and your children’s steadfast advocate, Dorcy Pruter.  Right now and into the near future, she is exposing herself to be viciously attacked by the pathogen.  What the pathogen doesn’t realize, however, is that if it doesn’t succeed in destroying her then all of the dark energy it is expending to destroy her is going to create the very paradigm shift to an attachment-based model that will allow us to enact the solution to “parental alienation.”  There is a significant battle looming, and Dorcy is going to be the lightening rod who draws the savagery of the pathogen out into the open.  I will stand shoulder to shoulder with her in the center of this battlefield, and in defending her professional knowledge and expertise in this area, I too will draw the pathogen’s secondary fire, not as intense as the fire Dorcy draws, but still intense and savage.  This is about to get nasty.  But this is it.  The time for battle is now.

Gardnerian PAS offers no solution whatsoever. Switching to an attachment-based model as defined in Foundations provides a DSM-5 diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed, it provides a set of 3 diagnostic indicators that definitively identify “parental alienation” as either present or absent, and it defines a set of domains for professional knowledge required for the competent assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of “parental alienation” to which ALL mental health professionals can be held ACCOUNTABLE.

The moment the paradigm shifts from a Gardnerian PAS model to an attachment-based model, the solution becomes available immediately, because it is already here, just waiting for the paradigm shift. The solution is sitting right there, right on the table in front of you. Oooooo, so close, and yet still not quite here.

The fact that this solution now exists is what allows targeted parents to begin holding mental health professionals accountable by filing licensing board complaints for possible violations of APA ethics code Standards 2.01 and 9.01 regarding boundaries of professional competence and for a possible violation of the mental health professional’s “duty to protect.” The Gardnerian PAS model doesn’t allow us to hold mental health professionals accountable for their ignorance and incompetence.  An attachment-based model does.  Gravity.  The keys are going to hit the floor.

The only reason that these APA ethical code Standards are now active for you and other targeted parents is because the solution is here, right now. If the solution was five years away then the applicability of these APA ethical code Standards wouldn’t be available for another five years. But that’s not the case. They are available to you today, right now, because the solution is available today, right now.  Targeted parents are beginning to enact the solution as we speak.

What you’re referring to as “no solution” is that establishment mental health doesn’t yet know that an attachment-based model even exists. That’s true. But that’s not because the solution doesn’t exist, that’s just an ignorance factor.  Do you think it will take us five years to educate establishment mental health that an attachment-based model for the pathology exists?  Really?  I suspect once targeted parents start filing licensing board complaints you’re going to get the attention of establishment mental health pretty quick.  One or two malpractice lawsuits, a RICO lawsuit.  I think we can get their attention pretty quick here.

But how long this takes is not a me issue, it’s a you issue. These are your children. This is your fight. I have given you the tools and weapons you need to protect your children. But I am not your warrior, it’s you who are your children’s warrior. Stop waiting for someone to rescue you, because your children are waiting for you to rescue them.

Many targeted parents have been lulled into inaction by their powerlessness. Wake up.  Act.  Fight back.  “But you promised the solution would be here today.”  It is.  It’s sitting right there on the table in front of you.  It’s a sword you can use to fight for your children.

I also know that many targeted parents are exhausted by their traumatization.  I get it.  No worries.  This is a battle for ALL the children.  If you need to sit this out because of your trauma, no problem.  We’ll be fighting for your children as well.  One voice is quiet. Ten voices is heard.  A hundred voices is a movement, and thousand voices is an unstoppable force.  Become an unstoppable force.  Become a tsunami.  In Foundations you have a solid theoretical foundation on which to stand and fight.

There’s a story about a flood that comes to a small town. The townsfolk are told to evacuate to higher ground, but a devoutly religious man decides to remain at home because he has faith that God will protect him.

As the flood waters rise, a group of neighbors drive by and say, “Get in the car and come with us.” But the man says, “No thank you, I have faith that God will save me.” As the flood waters rise a canoe paddles by and the people in the canoe say, “Get on board and come with us.” And the man says, “No thank you, I have faith that God will save me.” The flood waters keep rising and the man climbs onto his roof. Soon a motorboat comes by and the rescuers say, “Get on board.” But the man says, “No thank you, I have faith that God will save me.” Soon the flood waters begin to lap around the man’s legs, and a helicopter comes and lowers a rope ladder, and the man is told to climb the ladder. “No thank you,” says the man, “I have faith that God will save me.” Finally the flood waters sweep the man off the roof and he drowns.

When the man gets to the gates of Heaven, Saint Peter is standing there and the man asks Saint Peter, “I kept believing in God, and I kept waiting and waiting for God to rescue me. Why didn’t God rescue me?” Saint Peter replied, “What are you talking about? First we sent you a car, then a canoe, then a motorboat, and we even sent a helicopter to rescue you.”

Dr. Childress, why haven’t you solved “parental alienation?” What are you talking about? First I gave you a solid theoretical foundation that defines the pathology as a DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed. Then I gave you a set of video instructions on exactly how to enact the solution. Then I gave you a booklet for an ABAB assessment and remedy protocol to provide to the court to seek a protective separation and remedy for the child’s “parental alienation” pathology.  Then I gave you a Professional Consultation booklet to give to your therapist to alert the therapist to the nature of the pathology.

Plus, the solution is available. Right now. This instant. The only thing that’s preventing the enactment of the solution is that we’re still operating under the old paradigm of Gardnerian PAS to define the pathology. The moment the paradigm shifts to an attachment-based model, the solution of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed becomes available immediately.  It’s already available.  If a child comes into my practice with the three diagnostic indicators, I’m making the diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed and I’m filing a suspected child abuse report with the Department of Children and Family Services.  Other mental health professionals can too.  Today.  Right now.  Based on the theoretical model provided by Foundations.  The keys are falling, they just haven’t quite hit the floor yet.

Why are You Working for Delay?

So if the only thing standing in the way of the solution is the change in paradigms from a Gardnerian PAS model to an attachment-based model, why are you mad at me when I’m the only one giving you all these various tools and weapons to fight for your children, but then you’re giving a free pass to all the Gardnerian experts who are continuing to work to actually maintain the old Gardnerian PAS model, which will only SLOW DOWN the pace by which the solution becomes available? Why are they doing that? I don’t know. Why don’t you ask them?

Why are Amy Baker, and William Bernet, and Linda Gottlieb, and all the Gardnerian PAS experts continuing to maintain their support for the Gardnerian PAS model, when in doing so they actually slow down the pace by which targeted parents acquire a solution? What solution does the Gardnerian PAS model offer?  None. In 30 years as the dominant paradigm defining the construct of “parental alienation” the Gardnerian PAS model has given you exactly what you have right now, which is no solution whatsoever. Meanwhile, a paradigm shift to an attachment-based model gives you an immediate solution, led by the DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed.

The “new syndrome” model of Gardnerian PAS requires the approval and acceptance of establishment mental health, which has been consistently and steadfastly denied for 30 years. But because an attachment-based model defines the construct of “parental alienation” from entirely within established and already accepted forms of existing pathology, there is nothing for establishment mental health to accept or reject. That’s why the solution already exists. Right now. This instant. The only thing standing in the way of enacting this solution is the paradigm shift from the Gardnerian PAS model to an attachment-based model.

So why are your Gardnerian allies withholding their active support to enact the paradigm shift? And in fact they’re actually acting to maintain the existing Gardnerian PAS model. Why are they doing that? Don’t they recognize that slowing down the paradigm shift to an attachment-based model actually slows down the enactment of the solution?

In the Parental Alienation Study Group, William Bernet and Kathleen Reay actually coauthored an article arguing that an attachment-based model was just PAS using different words.

Commentary to Foundations and Response from Dr. Childress: PASG Newsletter

What?  Why are they trying to morph a completely different attachment-based description of the pathology that is incredibly elaborate into just a form of PAS?   Really?  You’re really going to argue that an attachment-based model of “parental alienation” is simply Gardnerian PAS using different words?  That’s just mind-boggling.

Let’s put that idea to the test.  I’ll ask targeted parents, is an attachment-based model of “parental alienation” as described in Foundations simply Gardner’s model of PAS using different words?  What do you think?

If all that’s standing in the way of the solution to the pathology of “parental alienation” is a paradigm shift from the Gardnerian PAS model to an attachment-based model, why aren’t the Gardnerian experts using the power of their professional standing and their professional contacts to speed up this paradigm shift?  Imagine if Amy Baker announced that she was switching from a Gardnerian PAS model to an attachment-based model. That would represent a tectonic shift that would immediately grab the attention of establishment mental health, alerting them that a new paradigm existed.  Imagine if she was actively using her professional standing to promote a paradigm shift.

This past summer, there was a high-profile “parental alienation” case in Michigan involving Judge Gorcyca. Amy Baker did a radio interview (WDET 101.9 FM) surrounding the Michigan case. This radio interview offered Dr. Baker a perfect media opportunity to lend her support to a paradigm shift, to talk about a new attachment-based model that identifies the pathology as psychological child abuse with three definitive diagnostic indicators.  But she didn’t take this media opportunity to foster the paradigm shift.  Instead, she discussed the 8 symptom indicators of a Gardnerian PAS model. She continues to actively work to maintain the old Gardnerian PAS model that offers no solution whatsoever rather than working to foster a paradigm shift to an attachment-based model that provides an immediate solution to the pathology.  Why would she do that?  Why is she continuing to advocate for the Gardnerian PAS model when that model offers targeted parents and their children no solution whatsoever?  I don’t know.  Why don’t you ask her?

My goal is to have the solution enacted by Christmas of 2016. Imagine how much faster this could be achieved with the active support of Amy Baker, and William Bernet, and Linda Gottlieb. But not only are they withholding their active support, they are actually working to slow down the pace by which the paradigm shift occurs in establishment mental health. It’s almost like they’d wish an attachment-based model just disappear, even though an attachment-based model provides targeted parents with an immediate solution.

Oh well, I guess they have their reasons for sitting out this fight to recover your children. So I guess we’ll just have to go it alone.

“It is better to be on hand with ten men than absent with ten thousand.”
– Tamerlane

Battlefields

But my goodness, Marsha, don’t you realize that a major battle is coming? In your chastisement of me, you state,

“However, your wording about Foundations when it came out, really made parents think things were going to change quickly.”

That’s correct. The solution is now available. All it waits on is the paradigm shift. Read the Dominoes post. Right now establishment mental health doesn’t even know that an attachment-based model exists. Even though an attachment-based model provides an immediate solution, if no one knows it exists then how do you imagine that the solution is going to be enacted? It almost sounds like you’re in a bit of a fantasy world, that you’re not fully grasping the situation. So let me explain some things about the upcoming battle.

There is a pretty nasty battle that still awaits us. The pathogen isn’t just going to relinquish your children. Battlefields are bloody, and chaotic, and dangerous. People get hurt, sometimes substantially hurt. Battlefields are not a nice place to be. And I’m going to be standing square in the center of this battlefield.

I have empowered targeted parents to harm my professional colleagues by threatening the livelihoods of my professional colleagues. By filing licensing board complaints against these mental health professionals, targeted parents will be threatening the ability of my professional colleagues to financially provide for their children and families. Stop and think about the implications of that for a moment; I am empowering you to threaten the ability of my professional colleagues to financially provide for their children and families. How do you think my professional colleagues are going to respond to that? Do you think I’ll be making any friends within my professional colleagues? Doubt it.

If you think you became an outsider in the Appreciation Group when you expressed a divergent opinion, imagine what I’m going to face from my professional colleagues when licensing board complaints begin to be filed against them at my urging and with my support.

Battlefields are bloody and chaotic, and not at all pleasant places to be. We still have a battle ahead of us.

In my recent post, Psychopathology and Custody Evaluations, I expose the financial racket of child custody evaluations.  How do you think my professional colleagues in Forensic psychology are going to respond to my calling their work, their profession, a financial racket and shell game?  Conducting child custody evaluations is their career, it’s their livelihood, it’s how they support their children and families, and I’m threatening all of that.  How do you think they’re going to respond to me threatening their livelihood? 

Battles are bloody, dangerous, and chaotic. Battlefields are not at all nice places to be. People get hurt, sometimes substantially hurt. And I am taking a position right square in the middle of this battlefield, shield and battleaxe in hand, preparing to take on all comers. Am I doing this for me?  No.  Am I doing this for you?  No.  I’m doing it for your children. I am fighting for your children. I am exposing myself to all the dangers of this coming battle because I am fighting for your kids.

And let me offer one more insight on the coming battle, I’m not the only one who’s going to be hit. The one who is going to be most exposed is going to be Dorcy Pruter.  Why?  Because she has the solution to resolving the pathology in your children and for restoring their normal-range development within a matter of days. Because of this, she represents a tremendous threat to the pathogen. The attack leveled by the pathogen against her is going to be savage and exceedingly vicious. It’s already begun, and it’s going to get worse.

But in the High Road to Family Reunification protocol of Dorcy’s is the resolution of your children’s pathological rejection of you and the return of their authenticity. I have personally reviewed the High Road protocol. I understand exactly how it works to achieve the resolution of the children’s pathology within a matter of days.

About two years ago when I first met with Dorcy surrounding her protocol, I was working on a model of reunification therapy (the initial essay is up on my website). When Dorcy showed me what she had in the High Road protocol, I stopped work on a model of reunification therapy.  No point.  She’s got it nailed. Reunification therapy will take at least six to nine months of struggle. The High Road protocol can resolve the child’s symptoms and restore normal-range development within a matter of days. She has the solution in her hip pocket. That makes her incredibly dangerous to the pathogen. It is going to attack her with everything it has in an effort to destroy her.

So when it attacks, I am going to stand shoulder to shoulder with her in the center of this battlefield. This means that the pathogen will then attack me with the same viciousness. Look at one of the attacks already on the Internet,

“Should I be scandalised by the fact that Craig Childress endorses her [Dorcy Pruter]?  Not really, his own program calls his credentials and professional ethics into question, so why should he not endorse a quack, taking great pains to explain that Dorcy’s Program is “not therapy” but an “educational intervention”. (by the way, Dorcy Pruter has no credentials in education either).”

Just pure malevolence. Notice how the pathogen doesn’t attack substance, it attacks my “credibility” and “professional ethics.”   So not only have I riled up my professional colleagues by empowering you to file licensing board complaints and by calling out the financial racket of child custody evaluations, the pathogen is also going to attack me with sneering malevolence because I stand in its way of destroying Dorcy. This battle is going to be nasty.  Oh, did I mention I have no friends within the Gardnerian PAS ranks either?

Dorcy knows full well the vicious malevolence that is coming for her, and I know full well the vicious attacks that are coming for me. But we will not waver in our fight for your children. We will stand squarely in the center of this battlefield and engage the fight for your children with equal determination. But Marsha, you act like you don’t even know this battle is coming. Where’s the solution, you ask? You expected the pathogen just to relinquish your children without a fight? Didn’t you hear me calling you to battle? Or didn’t you want to hear that part? For goodness sake, Marsha, steel your heart, pick up your sword and shield and join us on this battlefield. But trust me, battles are exhausting, sweaty, bloody, dangerous, chaotic, and not at all nice places to be.

But let me also say that I understand that many of you are emotionally and psychologically drained by the years of trauma and victimization.  I get it. No worries.  If you need to sit this one out, not a problem.  We’ll be fighting for your kids too, because this is a fight for ALL the children

In the coming days, you’ll see Dorcy and I standing squarely in the center of this melee. The job of targeted parents will be to keep your focus on the citadel of establishment mental health. Demand that the APA acknowledge that the pathology (as described in Foundations) exists . Break the pathogen’s veil of concealment. Expose it. And demand that your children and families be formally recognized as a “special population” requiring specialized professional knowledge and expertise to competently assess, diagnose, and treat. Demand professional competence.

Is the solution here?  Absolutely. But you need to fight to make it happen. You need to fight for your children. The pathogen isn’t simply going to give them up to you.

Where are You?

Marsha, you write,

“You can’t just write a book and disappear!! Where are you?
We are trying to get your book out there to professionals.
For free we are advocating for YOU.”

What?  Where am I?  Have you read any of my posts over the summer and fall?   I’m also writing the second companion book to Foundations, which is Diagnosis, and I’m writing the companion book to the ABAB design instructing mental health therapists in a structured six-session assessment of the pathology of “parental alienation” for the court.  Did I mention I have a private practice so everything I do on this is after my workday seeing patients and on the weekends.  Where am I?  I’m working my tail off for you and your children.

For free you are advocating for ME?  Well then stop it.  This isn’t about me. It’s about your children. I’m about to expose myself to vicious attacks and slander for you and your children. Enacting the paradigm shift is about solving the pathology of “parental alienation” for all of your children. If you don’t understand that, if you think you’re somehow doing this for me, then stop what you’re doing because you don’t get it.

“Please tell me what to say to parents that don’t see a way to fix their situation after reading Foundations. They are feeling more helpless!”

Tell them to stop being so narcissistic and thinking only of themselves. Tell them that we cannot solve “parental alienation” in any one specific family or with one specific set of children unless we first solve it for all families and all children. Tell them that the solution to “parental alienation” will come when targeted parents put aside their own individual self-interests and begin to work for each other. “What about me” is narcissistic. “What about you” is empathic. Don’t be narcissistic. The solution for narcissism is empathy. Tell them to steel their hearts, pick up their swords and shields, and prepare to engage in the coming battle for their children.

No Worries

No worries Marsha. I appreciate the courage it took to challenge me. I understand your deep grief and frustration, and your hopes that this nightmare will end. I’m out there leading, and you want me to make it end, “When will it end? Don’t tell me it’s today if it’s not today.” I get it. No worries. The tragedy and trauma of “parental alienation” that you and others have endured is profound.  Your frustration and helplessness is entirely understandable.  No worries on my end, Marsha.

But we’ve got a battle ahead of us. The solution is here, but we still need to wrest your children from the pathogenic grasp of the pathogen, who will not release them without a serious fight.

The Pathogen

I’ve seen occasional objections from the allies of the pathology regarding my use of the term “pathogen.” If you run into these objections, don’t worry, ignore them, I’ve got it covered.

The pathogen represents a characteristic set of distorted “information structures” in the attachment system of the narcissistic/borderline parent which were created by the childhood trauma of abuse (which then led to the formation of the narcissistic/borderline personality traits of this parent). This characteristic set of distorted “information structures” in the attachment system of the narcissistic/borderline parent is what is responsible for creating the child’s pathology. The term “pathogen” refers to an agent that creates pathology, like a virus. The pathogen creating the pathology of “parental alienation” is a characteristic set of distorted and damaged “information structures” in the attachment system of the narcissistic/borderline parent (like a computer virus) that is creating the narcissistic/borderline personality pathology of the parent and the “parental alienation” pathology in the child.

Attacks on Dorcy

Don’t worry about attacks on Dorcy either. That’s my job. But just for your information as you encounter these attacks, Dorcy and I have submitted a proposal to the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) for a joint professional presentation at their 2016 convention regarding the assessment of an attachment-based model of parental alienation in a legal context and its remedy.  If this presentation proposal is accepted, then as part of this professional presentation we will be describing the structure of the High Road protocol and how it achieves its effectiveness. One of the primary attacks on Dorcy and the High Road protocol will be that she is unqualified. Our response will come in this professional presentation, if the presentation proposal is accepted.

We have also submitted a similar proposal to Division 41: American Psychology-Law Society of the American Psychological Association for their 2016 convention. If this proposal is accepted, we will similarly be explaining the structure of the High Road protocol and how it achieves its effectiveness in resolving the pathology of attachment-based “parental alienation.” If either or both of these professional presentations are accepted, I guarantee talks that will knock your socks off. Guaranteed.

So you wanted a blog post from me, eh Marsha?  Be careful what you ask for because you just might get it <smile>.  Thanks again for your honesty and your challenge, I know it took great courage.  No worries on my end, and I hope this addresses your questions and concerns.

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

Psychopathology and Custody Evaluations

You want to hear something particularly disturbing? Child custody evaluators are actually instructed NOT to identify parental pathology in their reports. That’s right. They are specifically instructed by their Standards of Practice NOT to identify parental psychopathology in their reports.

Here is Standard 4.6c from the Model Standards of Practice for Child Custody Evaluation of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC), the umbrella professional organization for family law attorneys and child custody evaluators:

(c) Evaluators recognize that the use of diagnostic labels can divert attention from the focus of the evaluation (namely, the functional abilities of the litigants whose disputes are before the court) and that such labels are often more prejudicial than probative. For these reasons, evaluators shall give careful consideration to the inclusion of diagnostic labels in their reports. In evaluating a litigant, where significant deficiencies are noted, evaluators shall specify the manner in which the noted deficiencies bear upon the issues before the court.

Now first, let me acknowledge that Standard 4.6c does not specifically say, “don’t identify parental pathology.” It doesn’t say exactly that. It refers to “diagnostic labels” (such as narcissistic and borderline personalities), and it only cautions that evaluators “shall give careful consideration to the inclusion of diagnostic labels in their reports” (a professionally temperate euphemistic statement for don’t do it) because “diagnostic labels can divert attention from the focus of the evaluation.”

Actually, I would strenuously disagree with the premise that “diagnostic labels can divert attention from the focus of the evaluation.”  I firmly believe that diagnostic nomenclature actually advances our understanding of the CENTRAL feature of the evaluation, maintaining the child’s healthy emotional and psychological development. But I’ll defer this particular discussion for a bit.

But the implication of Standard 4.6c is clear, don’t label a parent’s pathology as borderline or narcissistic.

Why not? Because, according to the AFCC, the effects could be more “prejudicial than probative.”

Definition of Prejudicial: harmful to someone or something; detrimental

Definition of Probative: having the quality or function of proving or demonstrating something; affording proof or evidence

So here are my questions:

Question 1. So what are the “harmful” effects of identifying a parent as having a prominent borderline or narcissistic pathology, and are there potential harmful effects of NOT identifying a parent’s borderline or narcissistic pathology?

Question 2: Are there benefits from identifying a parent’s borderline or narcissistic pathology and using a diagnostic nomenclature to capture the description of the pathology.

Diagnostic Labels

Diagnostic labels aren’t just words applied to people, they represent complex psychological constructs of extensive meaning. That’s why we use them. They are a short-hand professional description for a complex network of associated pathologies.

For example, when I use the term narcissistic personality, this has a network of complex pathologies associated with it:

Splitting:  There is very likely to be splitting pathology in which perceptions of other people are polarized into all-good and all-bad extremes.

Projection:  There is likely to be a prominent use of projection. This means that the accusations that this person makes toward other people, such as the other spouse, are likely to be an indication of the narcissistic personality’s own psychological processes.

Pathological Mourning:  This person will have prominent difficulty processing sadness, grief, and loss, and we are highly likely to find problematic terminations to relationships involving a complete cutoff of the other person when they fail to provide the narcissistic personality with ongoing “narcissistic supply.”

Delusional Beliefs:  The narcissistic personality readily decompensates into delusional belief systems, so the presence of an encapsulated delusional belief regarding the other spouse is highly likely.

Degradation of Others:  The narcissistic personality is highly judgmental and contemptuous of others, so a demeaning and dismissive attitude toward the ex-spouse is very likely, and is highly likely to be communicated by the narcissistic parent to the children.

Lack of Empathy:  The narcissistic personality completely lacks the capacity for empathy. This means that a narcissistic parent will be unable to empathically attune to the child’s needs. Instead, the narcissistic personality parent will engage the child in a role-reversal relationship in which the child’s authenticity is obliterated and the child is expected to reflect the attitudes and beliefs of the narcissistic parent (including the contemptuous disdain for the other parent).

Subjective Truth:  Truth and reality are subjectively and arbitrarily defined by the narcissistic personality, and can often bear little resemblance to actual truth and actual reality. The narcissist often inhabits a fantasy world of their own construction. They feel that the normal rules that govern the actions of other people do not apply to them, so they frequently disregard restrictions on their behavior and they frequently disregard the rights of others. This creates a nearly impossible co-parenting relationship.

Vengeful: Narcissistic personalities are highly retaliatory and vengeful, particularly toward those who have caused a “narcissistic injury” to them, such as by rejecting the self-perceived magnificence of their narcissist’s grandiosity.

etc.

So the moment any mental health professional uses the diagnostic identification of “narcissistic personality” a whole set of associated meanings also constellate around this term. That’s why we assign terms to designate specific patterns of pathology, so that we don’t have to individually identify all the component aspects each time we discuss the pathology.

The use of diagnostic nomenclature also provides insights into the pathology that may not yet be evident in the clinical interview. For example, if I see a haughty and arrogant attitude and an absence of empathy, then by recognizing these as potential diagnostic indicators of a narcissistic personality I might then look for projective processes and splitting. If these are present, I might become more skeptical regarding this person’s assertions of reality, meaning that I’ll need to verify this person’s interpersonal perceptions with additional information.

The same is true if I identify a pathology as representing the diagnostic construct of a borderline personality structure. Immediately, a whole set of associated clinical constructs become active, such as abandonment fears, splitting, potential childhood sexual abuse, presentation as the “victim,” etc.

The reason we use this diagnostic nomenclature is because it conveys a complex network of meaning. If we restrict ourselves from using this diagnostic nomenclature, then we are reduced to identifying each component of an organized pathology as if it was a separate psychological process. It’s not. It’s all part of a single organized psychological process, a single pathological organization.

For mental health professionals to intentionally withhold information about parental psychopathology is highly questionable and it sounds manipulative. Rather than sharing accurate mental health information regarding the parents, we are seeking to intentionally influence the recipient’s response to the pathology by not disclosing the nature of the pathology. We are essentially colluding with the pathology by attempting to hide the pathology.

In my view, Standard 4.6c should state:

“If parental pathology is evident, then the extent and implications of this pathology should be described and explained.”

That’s it. Period. If that includes providing the relevant diagnostic nomenclature to organize the description of the pathology, then that’s fine; identify the nomenclature and the implications of the pathology.

If the parent’s behavior would meet diagnostic criteria for Bipolar Disorder, then the custody report should say that the parent’s behavior meets diagnostic criteria for Bipolar Disorder.

If the parent’s behavior would meet diagnostic criteria for Schizophrenia, then the custody report should say that the parent’s behavior meets diagnostic criteria for Schizophrenia.

If the parent’s behavior displays prominent narcissistic or borderline personality traits, then the custody report should say the parent’s behavior evidences prominent narcissistic or borderline personality traits.

The truth is what it is. Intentionally withholding or trying to “soften” the truth to protect the pathological parent, particularly with regard to legal/family decisions of profound consequence to the child, is, in my view, highly inappropriate professional behavior.

The truth is what it is.   We should not withhold psychological nomenclature from the court in an effort to influence the court’s decision.  The court should have access to all the relevant psychological information, including relevant psychological nomenclature for parental pathology, and it is then up to the court to determine how to weigh that information.

Consideration of Question 1: Prejudicial Impact

Question 1. So what are the “harmful” effects of identifying a parent as having a prominent borderline or narcissistic pathology, and are there potential harmful effects of NOT identifying a parent’s borderline or narcissistic pathology?

Someone is going to have to answer this for me, because I don’t see the harmful effects of identifying a parent’s narcissistic or borderline pathology in a child custody evaluation. The identification of parental pathology will lead to a better decision in support of the child’s healthy emotional and psychological development.

Hmmm, harmful to whom?  To the child?  How would identifying parental pathology in a child custody report be harmful to the child?  Nope. Don’t see it.  Harmful to the targeted parent?  Nope. Don’t see how identifying the parental pathology of one parent is harmful to the other parent.  Harmful to the pathological parent?  That seems to be the implication.  Don’t identify parental pathology because doing so will be harmful to the pathological parent.

That seems an odd mandate, for the AFCC to suggest that custody evaluators intentionally act to protect the pathological parent. That appears to represent the intentional imposition of an inherent bias into the evaluation process in favor of the pathological parent. When there is significant parental pathology, shouldn’t our sole focus be on protecting the child from the pathology of the parent?  And wouldn’t overtly identifying the nature and severity of the parental pathology help us to protect the child?

The identification of parental narcissistic or borderline psychopathology may mean that the narcissistic/borderline parent does not obtain custody of the child, or that the contact of this parent with the child may be restricted in some way due to the impact of this parental psychopathology, and I suppose someone could say that the narcissistic/borderline parent was therefore “harmed” by the identification of their pathology – but I find that kind of rationale highly convoluted.

The pathology of the parent is what it is. We are considering the healthy development of the child. I am not willing to sacrifice the child’s healthy emotional and psychological development to collude with the psychopathology of the parent by hiding the nature and extent of the parent’s psychopathology. If the parent has prominent narcissistic/borderline personality traits then the parent has prominent narcissistic/borderline personality traits. The truth is the truth. If the child needs to be protected from the psychopathology of the narcissistic/borderline parent then child needs to be protected from the psychopathology of the narcissistic/borderline parent. The truth is the truth.

To suggest that we somehow bend or distort the truth is, in my view, highly unprofessional conduct. The truth is what it is. Yet the AFCC appears to be instructing child custody evaluators to consciously introduce bias in favor of the pathological parent into child custody reports by consciously withholding relevant information about the organized pattern of pathology evidenced by the parent.  What we should do is deal with the truth. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work. We don’t shut our eyes and pretend it doesn’t exist.

Diverting Attention?

The AFCC believes that:

“the use of diagnostic labels can divert attention from the focus of the evaluation”

I absolutely 100% disagree. The use of professionally sound diagnostic nomenclature to describe parental psychopathology can highlight the issues CENTRAL to the focus of the evaluation. The presence of profound parental psychopathology, such as narcissistic and borderline personality pathology is of CENTRAL importance to comprehending the pathology and conflict within the family and evaluating the healthy developmental needs of the child.

In my view, the AFCC is trying to protect the pathology of the narcissistic/borderline parent from exposure, and is doing so at the expense of the child. The truth is the truth.

If schizophrenic pathology is present in a parent, say so.  

If bipolar pathology is present in a parent, say so.

If obsessive-compulsive hoarding pathology is present in a parent, say so.

If narcissistic/borderline personality pathology is present in a parent, say so.

To attempt to manipulate the response of the court to the truth by withholding or distorting the information we provide to the court is, in my opinion, unprofessional conduct. And, in my opinion, it is reprehensible to protect exposing the pathology of the parent at the expense of the child’s healthy development.

In my view, Standard 4.6c of the AFCC is seeking to prevent the exposure of the narcissistic/borderline parent’s psychopathology at the expense of protecting the child’s healthy development.

Q: Are there potential harmful effects of NOT identifying a parent’s borderline or narcissistic pathology?

Yes, absolutely.  When we intentionally withhold relevant psychological information in an effort to influence the outcome of decisions, we foster and support ignorance in decision making.  From the ignorance we foster regarding the full nature of the pathology evidenced by the parent, ignorance which is created when we intentionally withhold relevant psychological information (the diagnostic nomenclature describing a coherent complex pattern of parental pathology), we increase the likelihood that an incorrect decision regarding the child’s well-being will be made. Because we have intentionally withheld relevant psychological information from the court, the court may not fully appreciate the nature and extent of the parental psychopathology or the need to protect the child from the distorting effects of the parental psychopathology.

Our professional obligation is to provide the court with the psychological facts. All the psychological facts. Our role is not to shade the facts in this way or that in an effort to influence the outcome in some way. We are serving as psychological consultants to the court. The court has THE RIGHT to the psychological facts… all of the psychological facts… including the psychological nomenclature describing the organized pattern of psychopathology evidenced by a parent.

In my view, the AFCC is 100% wrong in trying to manipulate an outcome in favor of the pathological parent by shading the facts presented to the court.  The truth is the truth, including the appropriate psychological nomenclature used in professional psychology to describe the organized pattern of pathology evidenced by the parent.

We should simply speak the whole truth.

FBI Analogy:  What if the policies and procedures of the FBI crime lab were to routinely not report on some category of ballistic evidence because it might have a prejudicial effect on the outcome of the trial. That’s not a decision for the FBI crime lab to make. They are to analyze the ballistic data and report on the findings… ALL of the findings.

Same for psychologists. The truth is what it is. We should provide the court with the full psychological truth. If this includes the psychological nomenclature for describing the pattern of pathology evidenced by a parent, then this includes the psychological nomenclature for the pattern of pathology evidenced by a parent.

I am both surprised and appalled that it is acceptable to the court that the information they receive from child custody evaluations is systematically distorted in favor of not identifying parental pathology, which introduces a systematic bias into child custody evaluations in favor of the pathological parent. And this is okay?

Apparently it is… at least for the present.

Question 2: Benefits to Disclosing Pathology

Question 2: Are there benefits from identifying a parent’s borderline or narcissistic pathology and using a diagnostic nomenclature to capture the description of the pathology.

I think there are. Recognizing standard and established forms of pathology grounds our assessment in standard and established psychological principles and constructs. 

The use of appropriate professional categories for identifying pathology organizes our assessment process and provides theoretical coherence to the interpretation of the clinical information. The use of appropriate professional nomenclature for pathology identifies the disparate aspects of parental psychopathology as representing an organized pattern of problematic parenting with predictable expressions and predictable consequences on family relationships.

The truth is the truth.  Recognizing and identifying the truth allows us to make better decisions than would otherwise occur through intentionally withholding relevant psychological information from the court.

The court has a right to know.  It is not up to us to decide what professional information to make available to the court and what information to withhold from the court in an effort to influence the decision the court makes.  Our professional obligation is to provide the court with the relevant psychological information.  What the court does with this information is the court’s responsibility.

RICO

Systematically distorting the reporting of parental pathology in an effort to hide the nature and severity of this parental pathology is only one of a number of highly problematic features associated with child custody evaluations.  My prediction is that within the next five years the AFCC, the APA, and child custody evaluators are going to be hit with a class action RICO lawsuit. The practice of child custody evaluations in the family law system is an organized racket for financial gain.

No Scientific Validity

There is no scientific evidence for the validity of the conclusions and recommendations of child custody evaluations.  None.  There is no evidence of construct validity, no evidence of content validity, no evidence of predictive validity, no evidence of concurrent validity, no evidence of discriminant validity.  None.  There is no scientific evidence for the validity of the conclusions and recommendations of child custody evaluations. NONE.

No Theoretical Foundation

While child custody evaluations involve extensive data collection (which, by the way, is what makes them so exceedingly expensive – it’s the data collection process not the quality of the findings that makes child custody reports so expensive), no established psychological models from professional psychology are applied to the interpretation of this data. No established psychoanalytic model, no established humanistic or existential model, no family systems model, no cognitive-behavioral model, no established model of professional psychology is applied to the interpretation of the collected data. Child custody evaluators simply make up whatever interpretations, conclusions, and recommendations they want without reference to any established psychological model, principles, or constructs (even the DSM-5 is prohibited by Standard 4.6c according to the AFCC).

The conclusions and recommendations of child custody evaluations are simply made up, with no inherent linkage to any of the data they collected earlier. I’m hoping that an attorney is beginning to see the RICO lawsuit.  It’s an organized racket.  Charge for extensive data collection, but then simply make up the findings and recommendations however you like.  There is NO linkage of the conclusions and recommendations to the extensive (and expensive) data collection phase, and there is no consistent or reliable application of established psychological principles or constructs to the interpretation of the collected data or the recommendations made by the evaluation.

No Key Definitions

There are no operational definitions for the two key constructs of child custody evaluations, “parental capacity” and the “best interests of the child.” Without operational definitions for these key constructs, these constructs are without defined meaning. This allows the custody evaluators to essentially make up whatever conclusions and recommendations they want, and then post hoc, after the fact, define these conclusions and recommendations as being in the “best interests of the child” (simply because the custody evaluator says so, and this is acceptable because there are no operational definitions for what these terms mean).

An Organized Racket

There is absolutely NO VALIDITY to the conclusions and recommendations of child custody evaluations. Zero.

That’s a bold and assertive statement. There is a comment section to this post. I challenge anyone to cite me the research support for the construct validity, content validity, predictive validity, concurrent validity, or discriminant validity of the conclusions and recommendations made by child custody evaluations… <crickets>  There is none.

At $20,000 to $40,000 per single child custody evaluation, it is a very lucrative organized racket. By providing “standards” for child custody evaluations, the AFCC becomes the organized syndicate, and the evaluators are the capos.  The parents are “the marks” in a confidence scheme, a shell game.  I suspect a RICO lawsuit is coming in the next five years.

If an attorney wants to know exactly where to go to uncover the shell game, look to the interface between the two parts of the custody evaluation.  Part 1 is the data collection and report writing that documents the collected data. This is where all the money is made by conducting exceedingly extensive data collection without clear theoretical focus.  They substitute quantity of information collected for focused quality of information.  They do this because they don’t know what they’re looking for.  And in truth, it actually doesn’t matter what they’re looking for because they just make up Part 2, the interpretation and recommendations, anyway, so it doesn’t really matter what the data is.

The two parts to the child custody evaluation:

Part 1 – Data Collection and Reporting:

The first part is an exhaustive (and expensive) collection and reporting of data. This involves interviewing all the family members on multiple occasions, conducting home visits and observations, administering, scoring, and interpreting a variety of test instruments, interviewing collateral informants and reviewing collateral documents, and then there is the report writing in which they document all the information that was collected.

All of this time is billed at hundreds of dollars an hour. This would be fine if this data collection actually meant something, but it doesn’t. It doesn’t mean a damn thing, because of Part 2 – Data Interpretation and Recommendations.

Part 2 – Interpretation and Recommendations

There are absolutely NO guidelines for how the data collected in Part 1 is interpreted, nor are there any guidelines governing what recommendations should be made from this data. Child custody evaluators just make it up. Seriously. They just make this part up.

The Public: “Surely you’re exaggerating, Dr. Childress. They’re not just making up their interpretations and recommendations.”

Dr. Childress: No, actually I’m not exaggerating. They are entirely making up their interpretations of the data and their recommendations based on whatever whim moves them at moment.

I’ll explain this more fully in future posts. But the racketeering issue is what occurs between Part 1 (the billable hours part of data collection) and Part 2 (the make-it-up interpretation and recommendations part).

It’s a shell game. Watch the moving shells of data collection, interviews, testing, home observation, all to distract you from the key moment when the custody evaluation switches from data collection to data interpretation. At that moment the custody evaluator palms the pea.

So which shell is the pea under? Oooooo, so sorry. Better luck next time and thanks for playing. That will be $30,000 please. Next. Step right up. Try your luck at custody evaluation.

Parent: But what about the clearly evident psychopathology of the other parent?

I’m sorry, we don’t identify psychopathology. It might prejudice the case against the pathological parent. Don’t blame me, it’s the AFCC’s rules… don’t identify pathology, too prejudicial against the pathological parent if we identify their pathology.

RICO, RICO, RICO.

Think I’m wrong…

I challenge professional psychology, the APA or AFCC, to cite for me the research support for the construct validity, content validity, predictive validity, concurrent validity, or discriminant validity of the conclusions and recommendations of child custody evaluations.

I challenge professional psychology, the APA or AFCC, to provide me with the operational definitions for the key constructs of “parental capacity” and “best interests of the child” that are used in interpreting the data of child custody evaluations.

I challenge professional psychology, because they know I’m right.  They know that establishing the validity of an assessment procedure and operationally defining the key constructs used in the assessment are foundational to ALL assessment procedures.  Personality assessment, Intelligence assessment.  Achievement testing.  They know that.

I teach courses in Assessment and Psychometrics at the graduate level.  I know that establishment mental health knows that demonstrating validity and providing operational definitions for the key constructs of the assessment are foundational to the assessment process. Establishment psychology, you know that, and I know you know that. So why aren’t you doing what’s right? Why aren’t you demanding that your professional membership do scientifically sound and professional assessments.

“Because we don’t know what that is with regard to child custody.”

Exactly.  Once you admit that, then we can begin the process of building professionally sound and scientifically supported assessments.  We can do it.  We did it for the constructs of intelligence.  We did it for the constructs of personality.  We can do it for the constructs of parental capacity and the best interests of the child.  Is it hard?  Yep.  Is it complicated?  Yep.  So’s intelligence, so’s personality. 

We start by offering definitions for the constructs “parental capacity” and “best interests of the child.” Then someone disagrees and offers a counter definition.  Then five different groups offer five alternative definitions… and we set about the process of defining the constructs.

Then, once we have the constructs defined (even if we have yet to settle on a consensus definition) we set about developing the methods for how we assess for that operationally defined construct. And once we have developed our assessment procedures, we subject our assessments to reliability and validity studies.  We absolutely know how to do this.  So why aren’t we doing it?

Establishment mental health, you may not like what I’m saying in calling out the racket of child custody evaluations, and you may see me as your enemy, but I’m actually your best friend.  I’m actually on your side.  We know how to do the right thing, and the current practice of child custody evaluations is NOT it.  Intelligence testing is the right way.  Personality testing is the right way.  The Rorschach lacked scientific validity. So Exner fixed it.  We know what to do.  Do the right thing.  I know you know what that is.  The RICO lawsuit is on its way.  I’m just trying to alert you.  I’m your best friend.

If an assessment process lacks scientifically established validity and lacks operational definitions for its key constructs, then it is not professionally acceptable. Establishment psychology knows that, and I know they know it. So the question for establishment mental health becomes, what are you going to do about it?

It is directly analogous to the NFL and the issue of player concussions. The medical evidence of football-related concussions leading to long-term brain damage in NFL players was there for decades, but the NFL turned a blind eye because football was so financially lucrative. The NFL tried to suppress this medical information, and eventually it took a players’ lawsuit to bring the medical evidence to light and achieve an $870 million dollar settlement against the NFL.

The professional organizations in psychology now face a similar moment of truth. There is no scientific support for the practice of child custody evaluations. Zero. It is a shell game.  Watch the moving data collection while the pea is palmed in the interpretation and recommendations.

There’s no point attacking me.  I’m not the problem.  The lack of scientifically established validity and operational definitions for key constructs is the problem.  I’m just the kid on the side of the road saying, “Hey look mommy, the emperor has no clothes.”

I’m not the problem. If you want to be wearing some clothes, then go put some clothes on.

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

We Will Not Abandon You

We Will Not Abandon bannerKay offered a Comment to my On Notice post, and I wanted to respond more fully, so I decided to respond as a separate blog.

It warms me, Kay, that you were with your son again at his 19th birthday and my prayers are with you in your journey of healing.

The trauma was created several generations ago through a profound absence of parental empathy that deeply injured a child. That child victim of childhood attachment trauma then grew up to transmit their own childhood trauma to the next generation, again through a profound absence of empathy, a quality they never acquired from their own childhood. This pathology is one of great suffering, transmitted from one generation to the next; from one person to the next.

But we can bring it to a close… through empathy. The children of alienation were lost. The world of the narcissistic/borderline parent is an upside-down world where truth and reality change on the whim of the unstable parent, up is down, night is day, and love is conditional on their surrender to the parent.

To the child; we understand that. No worries. Welcome back. It is very much like waking up, and it’s good to have you back.

My goal is to heal this pathology for all parents and all children, from ages 4 to 40. And when the pathology begins to show itself after a divorce, any divorce, my goal is to have professional mental health jump on it in the first six months and stop it before it becomes established. That’s the goal.

We will be solving this pathology in stages.

The first immediate and pressing need is to stop the “bleeding out” of currently active “parental alienation” cases. This requires that we end the unproductive and extremely damaging debate within mental health regarding whether the pathology even exists.  It exists.  It is the expression of narcissistic and borderline personality pathology into family relationships following divorce, in which the child is being used as a “regulatory object” by the narcissistic/borderline parent to stabilize the pathology of this parent.

We need to wake up professional mental health from its decades-long slumber. Forget about PAS – old news – old debate. Gardnerian PAS is an old and stale debate.

We’re talking about the impact of narcissistic and borderline personality pathology on a family following divorce; following the rejection of the narcissistic/borderline parent by their spouse. In order to stabilize their own personality disorder pathology, the narcissistic/borderline parent engages the child into a role-reversal relationship in which the child is used as a regulatory object to stabilize the pathology of the parent.

While this may seem like foreign words to a targeted parent, this is standard mental health stuff to a competent mental health professional. Narcissistic/borderline personality; role-reversal relationship; regulatory object… yeah, I’ve got it. Makes total sense.

But so many in mental health are simply incompetent. They don’t know what they’re doing. We must clear them from the field of working with your children and families. How do we do this?

Two ways…

1. The APA

First we demand that the primary professional organization for mental health professionals, the American Psychological Association, step up to their responsibility under Standard 2.01 of their own ethics code and clear these incompetent mental health professionals from practice with your families. You must demand that the APA recognize your children and families as a “special population” requiring specialized professional knowledge and expertise to assess, diagnose, and treat.

It is NOT up to you to educate your therapist. Your therapist should ALREADY BE educated in the required information needed to accurately diagnose and effectively treat your children and familes.

But the APA has been locked into an unproductive debate as to whether the pathology even exists. This is a product of an extremely poor Gardnerian PAS model that allows the allies of the pathogen to discredit it as scientifically unsound. We MUST drop the Gardnerian PAS model in order to end the debate and activate the response of the APA. We must define the pathology entirely from within standard and accepted forms of psychopathology to which ALL mental health professionals can be held ACCOUNTABLE.

That’s what Foundations does.

So now, using the definition of the pathology provided by Foundations, it is up to you to DEMAND that the APA formally acknowledge that 1) the pathology of narcissistic and borderline personalities exists and will impact family relationship processes surrounding divorce, and 2) that your children and your families represent a “special population” requiring specialized professional knowledge and expertise to competently assess, diagnose, and treat.

If you’re sold a bad car, don’t stand there arguing with the salesperson, take the issue up to the manager, take it to the owner of the dealership, take it to the manufacturer. Go to the top. Don’t stand there arguing with the ignorant lackey. Give the salesperson a chance to make it right. If they don’t, ask to speak to the manager, then to the dealership owner, then take it to the manufacturer, and up and up the chain of command. Oftentimes it’s best to start at the top and let the letter of reprimand come down from one boss onto the head of the lower boss, onto the heal of the lower boss, onto the head of the salesperson.

Many of you are only thinking of your specific case. You’re locked by your suffering into your own self-centered world. But we cannot solve “parental alienation” for any specific family until we solve it for ALL families. It is the mental health system itself that is failing you. We must first fix the mental health system so that you won’t have to educate the therapist, so that the therapist will ALREADY BE educated. This means that you must come together and target the APA. Demand that they REQUIRE professional competence consistent with Standard 2.01 of the Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct.

They’ll respond that they don’t accept Garnderian PAS. You respond that you’re not talking about Gardnerian PAS, you’re talking about the impact of narcissistic and borderline personality pathology (as identified by the DSM diagnostic system) on family relationships following a divorce. You’re talking about the role-reversal use of the child by a narcissistic/borderline parent as a regulatory object to stabilize the pathology of the narcissistic/borderline parent following a divorce. You’re talking about the trans-generational transmission of attachment trauma (disorganized attachment) from the childhood of the narcissistic/borderline parent into the current family relationships. Who’s talking about Gardnerian PAS?  Not you. So they need to respond to what you’re talking about, the pathology of a narcissistic/borderline parent following divorce. This pathology exists. And it’s assessment, diagnosis and treatment requires specialized professional knowledge and expertise. Because of this, your families deserve formal recognition as a “special population” requiring specialized professional knowledge and expertise in personality disorder pathology, attachment trauma pathology, and family systems pathology.

I will not abandon you. Don’t abandon each other. Don’t fight for just your child, fight for all of the children. In solving this for all of the children we will solve it for your child. Demand that the APA enforce its requirement for professional competence. Demand that they acknowledge the pathology of narcissistic and borderline personality pathology that can distort family relationships following a divorce. Demand that they formally recognize your children and your families as a “special population” who require specialized knowledge and expertise in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of personality disorder pathology, attachment trauma pathology, and family systems pathology.

Do not abandon each other to fight this alone. Come together and go to the top. Let the boss send a letter of reprimand to the underboss, who sends a letter of reprimand to the underboss, who takes to task the ignorant and incompetent salesperson. Don’t stand there arguing unproductively with the salesperson. They’re an idiot. Go to the top. Come together. Fight for your neighbor’s children and let them fight for yours. Do not abandon each other.

The most fierce warriors on any battlefield are not the ones fighting to keep themselves alive, they’re the ones fighting for their buddies next to them.   Ask any combat veteran. They’re not fighting for themselves, they’re fighting for their buddies. Come together, fight for each other.

We’re not talking about Gardnerian PAS, we’re talking about personality disorder pathology. We’re talking about the trans-generational transmission of attachment trauma from the childhood of the narcissistic/borderline parent into the current family relationships. These things exist. They understand these things exist. So let’s move the discussion to what do we do about these things and end this unnecessary and devastatingly destructive debate created by Gardnerian PAS as to whether this pathology even exists.  It exists.  Narcissistic and borderline personality pathology exists. Cross-generational coalitions exist. The reenactment of attachment trauma exists.

The domestic violence and child abuse people will raise concerns about “parental alienation” invalidating authentic domestic violence and authentic child abuse.  Agree that these things also exist.  No argument there.  Domestic violence and child abuse exist – dogs exist.  Personality disorder pathology also exists – cats exist.

Not all animals are dogs. Sometimes they’re cats. The existence of cats does not nullify the existence of dogs. Both dogs and cats exist. So can we please move on now to having a productive discussion within professional mental health regarding how we reliably identify cats from dogs – about the diagnostic features that differentiate a child’s response to authentic abuse from a role-reversal relationship with a narcissistic/borderline parent in which the child is being used as a regulatory object to stabilize the pathology of the parent (which has traditionally been called “parental alienation”). Can we begin to have that discussion please? Because there are thousands and thousands of children and parents who are currently being abandoned by professional mental health to the pathology of a narcissistic/borderline parent. Professional mental health can end this, but they first need to acknowledge that the pathology exists.

Let’s stop arguing about Gardnerian PAS. That just continues the unproductive debate. Fine. We’ll give up and let go of the Gardnerian PAS model. BUT… in its place we have a more detailed attachment-based model of the pathology. Let’s talk about the attachment-based model. The pathology exists, and an attachment-based model describes it in full and complete detail across three separate and integrated levels of analysis. Cats exist.

Once we have mental health as your ally, the next set of dominoes will begin to fall quickly.

The pathology of attachment-based “parental alienation” is already in the DSM-5 – it’s on page 719: V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed – pathogenic parenting that is producing severe developmental pathology (diagnostic indicator 1), personality pathology (diagnostic indicator 2), and psychiatric pathology (diagnostic indicator 3) which then results in the loss for the child of a normal range affectionally bonded relationship with a normal-range and affectionally available parent, all in order to stabilize the pathology of a narcissistic/borderline personality parent, represents the psychological abuse of the child by the narcissistic/borderline parent.

The pathology of “parental alienation” is not a child custody issue, it is a child protection issue.

2. Become Dangerous

The second way to clear out professional incompetence is to become exceedingly dangerous to incompetence.

The goal is to make professional practice in this sub-specialty area of psychology extraordinarily dangerous to mental health professionals.

If they make a diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed then they will face a licensing board complaint from the narcissistic/borderline parent:

“How dare you say I’m abusing my child, we have a wonderful relationship. You’re incompetent.”

If, on the other hand, they DON’T make a diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed when the three diagnostic indicators of the pathology are present, then they will face a licensing board complaint from the targeted parent:

“By not accurately identifying the pathology when the diagnostic indicators of the pathology were present, you lack the professional knowledge and expertise in personality disorder pathology, attachment trauma pathology and family systems pathology necessary to competently assess, diagnose, and treat my children and my family, in possible violation of Standards 2.01 and 9.01, which has caused harm to my children and myself, in possible violation of Standard 3.04.

Either way, no matter what they do, the mental health professional is going to face a licensing board complaint. Pretty much guaranteed.

So then what are they going to do?

Many will simply stop accepting this type of case. It’s simply too dangerous.

Good. This is exactly what we want. If the mental health professional withdraws because you, the targeted parent, have become empowered to demand professional competence, this is EXACTLY the binding-site-of-ignorance we want to clear out. This is exactly what we want.

Your allies in mental health, the mental health professionals who get it, who understand the pathology – we will remain. We will NOT be intimidated by the threats of the narcissistic/borderline parent. The number of mental health professionals in your area treating this type of pathology may drop from 100 to 2, but the two that remain will know what they’re doing – and the two that remain WILL MAKE the diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed when it is warranted by the presence of the three diagnostic indicators in the child’s symptom display.

And… these mental health professionals will be hit with a licensing board complaint from the narcissistic/borderline parent. That’s what you, the targeted parent, need to understand. When competent mental health professionals make an accurate diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed they will be hit with a retaliatory licensing board complaint from your narcissistic/borderline ex-.

If you want mental health professionals to stand up and face the sure-to-follow retaliation of the narcissistic/borderline parent, then you MUST protect them.

We cannot expect the child to reveal authentic love for you unless we are FIRST able to protect the child from the retaliation of the narcissistic/borderline parent.

We cannot expect mental health professionals to stand up for you and your child unless we are also able to protect them from the retaliation of the narcissistic/borderline parent.

How do we protect them?

First, by Foundations. That’s one of the reasons I had to work out the pathology in such detail. In Foundations I provide mental health professionals with the theoretical justification for making the diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed. The mental health professional can stand on the solid bedrock of Foundations in making the diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed.


Chart Note in the Patient’s Record:

“According to the model described by Childress (2015), the child met the three diagnostic indicators for the pathology of an attachment trauma reenactment pathology of the parent. As articulated by Childress (2015), when the three diagnostic indicators for this pathology are present in the child’s symptom display, the appropriate DSM-5 diagnosis is:

DSM-5 Diagnosis

309.4 Adjustment Disorder with mixed disturbance of emotions and conduct

V61.20 Parent-Child Relational Problem

V61.29 Child Affected by Parental Relationship Distress

V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed

A diagnostic checklist of the child’s symptom presentation was completed and is included in the patient’s record. On this symptom checklist, the child evidenced all three of the diagnostic indicators described by Childress (2015) and also evidenced numerous diagnostically confirming associated clinical signs of the pathology. The presence in the child’s symptom display of the three diagnostic indicators of the pathology detailed by Childress (2015) warrant a DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed. This DSM-5 diagnosis activates this psychologist’s duty to protect, which was discharged by filing a suspected child abuse report with the appropriate child protection agency. Met with both the mother and father and explained this diagnosis and the recommended treatment plan needed to restore the child’s healthy development.”


If the mental health professional makes a chart note such as this, then I am optimistic that the mental health professional will be safe from a retaliatory licensing board complaint by the narcissistic/borderline parent. Not only does Foundations provide the mental health professional with the theoretical foundations for the diagnosis, but child abuse reporting laws typically indemnify the therapist from complaints for having filed the suspected child abuse report.

Through this type of documentation, the mental health professional is showing professionally responsible practice grounded in established psychological principles and constructs in which patient protection considerations were of primary concern. I would be exceeding surprised if the licensing board takes any action under these circumstances.

Is it dangerous? Working with narcissistic and borderline personality pathology is always professionally dangerous. These types of personalities are extremely revengeful and retaliatory, and truth and reality have little relevance to them. So, of course it’s professionally dangerous. So is working with suicidal patients, yet we still work with suicidal patients. We just need to know what we’re doing and document appropriately and we’ll be safe.

You, the targeted parent, can also help protect your mental health allies from the retaliation of the your narcissistic/borderline ex-.  How?  In the same way as before, get the APA to formally acknowledge the existence of the pathology and the need for specialized professional knowledge and expertise in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of the pathology. This will alert everyone, child protective services, licensing boards, educational institutions, that the pathology of a narcissistic/borderline parent distorting family relationships following divorce is a recognized pathology within the domain of professional psychology. Then, when your narcissistic/borderline ex-spouse tries to retaliate, the licensing board will understand the pathology and will recognize the responsible professional practice of the therapist.

In addition, once the APA acknowledges the pathology and formally designates your families as a “special population,” then this will also alert all Child Protection Services agencies regarding the existence of this type of pathology, so that when the mental health professional files a suspected child abuse report with them they will apply the same diagnostic criteria, reach the same diagnostic conclusion, and will potentially enact the protective separation of the child from the pathogenic parenting of the narcissistic/borderline parent for the active phase of the child’s treatment and recovery stabilization. The pathology of “parental alienation” is not a child custody issue, it is a child protection issue.

The goal is to obtain the needed protective separation through Child Protective Services, sparing the targeted parent from having to enter the court system to obtain the necessary protective separation.

This solution is coming in stages. There’s a battle ahead of us. The battle is not for your specific child and family, it is for all children and all families. Don’t fight for yourself alone, come together and fight for your neighbor and let them fight for you. The focus of our struggle is the citadel of establishment mental health, the APA. We want them to formally acknowledge that the pathology of narcissistic/borderline parents exists and can severely distort family relationships following divorce, and we want them to designate your children and families as a special population requiring specialized professional knowledge and expertise to assess, diagnose, and treat.

To our colleagues overseas, my goal is to re-take the citadel of the American professional psychology, the APA.  This will hopefully trigger the citadels of establishment mental heath in other countries to follow suit.  If you reclaim your citadel of establishment mental health before we reclaim ours, great, this will signal our APA to follow suit.  We are all in this together.

I know you understand this, Kay. I’m glad my determination to bring an end to this terrible suffering helped inspire you to continue in your struggle. I am also confident that your steadfast determination will help inspire and lead others in finally achieving a solution to the nightmare of “parental alienation.”

My best wishes, to you and to your children, and to all of the authentic parents of wonderful children who are trying to protect, recover, and restore the authenticity of your children. We will not abandon you in your struggle, we will not abandon your children to the pathology.

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

On Notice – 10/1/15

I am sometimes asked by an attorney representing their client to provide expert testimony in an ongoing court case involving the pathology of attachment-based “parental alienation.”   These requests will typically ask that I provide my expert opinion from the perspective of clinical psychology, child and family therapy, and child development, regarding information provided to me, such as child custody evaluations and treatment progress reports from therapists.

My consultation services were recently engaged by a parent for a slightly different purpose than expert testimony in child custody litigation. This parent (a father) had endured a year and a half of incompetent family therapy from a court-appointed “parenting coordinator” who had been tasked by the court with resolving the parent-child conflict between the children and their father.

The father provided me with five treatment progress reports by this “parenting coordinator” to the court over the year and a half period of intermittent treatment, as well as the child custody evaluation and additional reports from the visitation monitor.

Based on this information, I was asked to provide my professional analysis as a clinical psychologist regarding the professional practices of the “parenting coordinator” who was tasked by the court with “reunifying” the father with his children. The father was not seeking my analysis to use in any ongoing custody litigation, the custody litigation is a separate issue. Instead, he wanted my analysis of the treatment progress reports to potentially support a licensing board complaint and malpractice lawsuit toward the “parenting coordinator.”

In my professional work I strive to enter each situation without an agenda. I don’t care what the puzzle picture turns out to be – I don’t care whether the puzzle turns out to be a picture of “boats on a lake” or “train in the mountains” or “horses in the meadow” or “cats in the garden” – it doesn’t matter to me what the puzzle is. Once we see what the puzzle is, we can set about fixing the situation. The important thing is not what the puzzle is, it’s that we have an accurate picture of that puzzle to work from. So in each case I simply begin putting the puzzle pieces together to describe what the puzzle picture is that’s created when we put the puzzle pieces together.

Based on my analysis of the clinical data I reviewed, I believe that the professional practices of the “parenting coordinator” warrant administrative review by her licensing board for potential violation of multiple ethical standards of the American Psychological Association. A malpractice lawsuit may also be warranted. If the father decides to pursue these options, my analysis as contained in my report will be available to possibly support his complaint to the licensing board and his malpractice lawsuit.

In the body of my report I provide a detailed analysis of the professional practices of the “parenting coordinator” as evidenced in each of her progress reports. Her combined progress reports to the court are about 50 pages long. My analysis of these progress reports is also about 50 pages long.

My analysis begins with an opening summary regarding the professional practice areas of concern evidenced in the clinical data that will be addressed – in detail – in the body of the report. I then provide a detailed analysis of the treatment progress reports of the “parenting coordinator,” one by one, relative to documenting these broader areas of concern. I conclude my report with a summary of the areas of professional practice which may have been in violation of APA Standards of professional practice.

I have de-identified the opening summary of my report and the closing summary of my report, and have posted this de-identified extract from my report to my website. A direct link to these opening and closing summaries is:

De-Identified Summaries of Report Regarding Domains of Professional Concern

I am making these de-identified opening and closing summaries available for two educational purposes.

1. Model of Complaint Structure

I am offering these opening and closing summaries as a possible model for targeted parents regarding how to frame a licensing board complaint about the professional practices of a mental health professional. The licensing board does not care about the specifics of your case. They are not going to micro-manage treatment to decide if the right diagnosis was made or the right treatment implemented. Your saying, “the therapist didn’t identify parental alienation” will have no effect.

The licensing board is only concerned as to whether there were violations of professional standards of practice. For psychologists, these are defined by the Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct of the American Psychological Association. You must identify what standards of practice were violated and then provide supporting reasons for your contention that a violation of professional standards of practice occurred.

Standard 2.01: Boundaries of Competence

In cases of attachment-based “parental alienation” the potential violations likely center on Standard 2.01: Boundaries of Competence, in which the mental health professional failed to possess the necessary knowledge and professional competence in personality disorder pathology, family systems pathology, and attachment trauma pathology necessary to assess, diagnose, and treat the particular type of pathology being evidenced in your family.

The term “parental alienation” has NO power. There is no such thing as “parental alienation.” There are, however, defined pathologies of personality disorders (involving the pathology of “splitting”), family systems pathologies (involving the triangulation of the child into the spousal conflict through the formation of a cross-generational coalition with one parent against the other parent), and attachment trauma pathology (including the trans-generational transmission of attachment trauma through the delusional reenactment of childhood trauma patterns into current family relationships).

The domains of competence must be defined within established and accepted forms of psychopathology. I define these domains of professional competence in Chapter 11 of Foundations, specifically on pages 341-351. I did this for you. You can use the description of the required “Domains of Professional Competence” for the pathology of an attachment-based model of “parental alienation” (i.e., attachment-trauma reenactment pathology mediated by narcissistic/borderline personality pathology) to establish the boundaries of professional competence required under Standard 2.01 (and 9.01) of the Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct of the American Psychological Association.

But the words “parental alienation” will have no power. In my 50-page analysis of the psychologist’s progress reports, I never once use the term “parental alienation.” Not once. In Foundations I have given you the necessary professional words of power to define the pathology entirely from within standard and established forms of existing psychopathology. Briefly stated:

Family Systems – Personality Disorder Description:  The pathology involves the addition of the “splitting” pathology of a narcissistic/borderline parent to the child’s triangulation into the spousal conflict through a cross-generational coalition with one parent (the allied parent) against the other parent (the targeted parent). The addition of splitting pathology to a cross-generational coalition transforms the already pathological cross-generational coalition (i.e., the “perverse triangle” described by Haley, 1977) into a particularly malignant form that seeks to entirely terminate the child’s relationship with the other parent (as a reflection of the splitting pathology of the narcissistic/borderline parent).

Personality Disorder – Attachment Trauma Description: The pathology involves the trans-generational transmission of attachment trauma (disorganized attachment) from the childhood of the allied narcissistic/borderline parent to the current family relationships, mediated by the personality disorder pathology of the allied parent that is itself a product of the childhood attachment trauma experienced by this parent.

Fundamentally, it’s not important that you fully understand these professional words of power, it is important that the therapist understand them (i.e., boundaries of competence) and that the licensing board understands them (i.e., boundaries of competence). I define the necessary “Domains of Professional Competence” in Chapter 11 of Foundations and you can reference this in any complaint you may choose to file.

“Childress (2015) defines the domains of professional competence needed to competently assess, diagnose, and treat the pathology evidenced in my family situation. This description of the necessary domains of knowledge for professional competence is appended as Appendix 1 to this complaint.”

Childress, C.A. (2015). An Attachment-Based Model of Parental Alienation: Foundations. Claremont, CA: Oaksong Press

The goal of any board complaint or malpractice lawsuit is NOT to retaliate or get revenge. Retaliation and revenge are narcissistic personality traits.

Nor is the goal of any board complaint or malpractice lawsuit to hurt the mental health professional (although it might have that effect).

The goal is to require professional competence in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of your children and your families pursuant to Standard 2.01 of the Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct of the American Psychological Association.

Standard 9.01: Competent Assessment

A second potentially relevant Standard is 9.01 requiring competent professional assessments. Standard 9.01 states:

9.01 Bases for Assessments
(a) Psychologists base the opinions contained in their recommendations, reports and diagnostic or evaluative statements, including forensic testimony, on information and techniques sufficient to substantiate their findings.

If the mental health professional did not conduct an adequate assessment of the personality disorder pathology, family systems pathology, and attachment trauma pathology “sufficient to substantiate their findings” contained in their “recommendations, reports and diagnostic or evaluative statements, including forensic testimony” then they may be in violation of Standard 9.01.

If the therapist only met with the child (and allied parent), and never met with the targeted parent to obtain relevant family history information from this parent’s perspective, then this may represent insufficient information to “substantiate” the diagnostic findings of the mental health professional, in possible violation of Standard 9.01.

If the therapist failed to properly consider and assess the potential influence of the narcissistic/borderline personality pathology of the allied parent on the child’s expressed pathology toward the targeted parent, then this may represent insufficient information to “substantiate” the diagnostic findings of the mental health professional, in possible violation of Standard 9.01.

If the therapist failed to properly consider and assess the potential role-reversal relationship of the child with the allied parent in which the child is being triangulated into the spousal conflict through the formation of a cross-generational coalition with the allied parent against the targeted parent in order to stabilize the pathology of the allied narcissistic/borderline parent, then this may represent insufficient information to “substantiate” the diagnostic findings of the mental health professional, in possible violation of Standard 9.01.

Standard 3.04: Do No Harm

If the absence of professional competence and/or inadequate professional assessment results in harm to the client, this may then be a violation of Standard 3.04 which states:

3.04 Avoiding Harm
Psychologists take reasonable steps to avoid harming their clients/patients, students, supervisees, research participants, organizational clients and others with whom they work, and to minimize harm where it is foreseeable and unavoidable.

Duty to Protect

Mental health professionals also incur an obligation to protect their clients, which is referred to as a professional “duty to protect.”

If the distorted parenting practices of a narcissistic/borderline parent are inducing severe developmental pathology (attachment system suppression), personality disorder pathology (narcissistic/borderline personality traits), and psychiatric pathology (delusional beliefs) in a child as a direct result of  highly aberrant and distorted parenting practices, in order to stabilize the narcissistic/borderline psychopathology of the parent, and this then results in the loss for the child of a normal-range and affectionally bonded relationship with a normal-range and affectionally available parent, this reasonably represents a DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, either at the lower threshold of “Suspected” or more reasonably at the higher threshold of “Confirmed” based on the pathology evident in the child’s symptom display.

Mental health professionals are responsible for knowing all of the diagnoses in the DSM-5 and for making the appropriate and relevant diagnoses when indicated. If the mental health professional fails to make the DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse when this DSM-5 diagnosis is warranted, then this may represent a failure in the mental health professional’s “duty to protect.”

If the mental health professional makes a DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, then this requires that the mental health professional take some form of affirmative protective action to discharge the mental health professional’s “duty to protect,” and this affirmative protective action needs to be documented in the patient record (if it’s not documented in the chart it never happened). Failure to take an affirmative protective action and document this action in the patient record when a diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse is made may represent a failure in the mental health professional’s “duty to protect.”

To Mental Health Professionals:

I am no nonsense on this. We’re playing hardball. If the DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse is warranted… then make it.

If you don’t make the diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse (either Suspected or Confirmed – I’d say Confirmed by the pathology evident in the child’s symptom display) when it is warranted, then this may represent a failure in your professional duty to protect, and you can discuss this with your licensing board and we’ll let your licensing board decide which of us is correct.  If you’re fine with that, so am I.  It’s not my license at risk.

If you do make the diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, then you must do something to protect the child (i.e., to discharge your duty to protect). I’d recommend filing a suspected child abuse report with the appropriate child protection agency, but it’s up to you what affirmative action you take. But whatever affirmative action you take to protect the child, you must document this action in the patient record.

If you make the diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse and yet don’t take any affirmative action to protect the child, then this may represent a failure in your professional duty to protect, and you can discuss this with your licensing board and we’ll simply let your licensing board decide which of us is correct.

I am deadly serious on this. Mental health professionals are NOT ALLOWED to collude with psychopathology that destroys the lives of children.  

Mental health professionals are NOT ALLOWED to abandon children to psychological child abuse.

The pathology of attachment-based “parental alienation” (attachment-trauma reenactment pathology) is not a child custody issue, it is a child protection issue. Mental health professionals must step-up and do the right thing to protect the child from the evident psychopathology of a narcissistic/borderline parent who is using the child in a role-reversal relationship to stabilize the pathology of the parent by inducing the child’s rejection of the normal-range and affectionally available targeted parent.

Mental health professionals need to step-up and do the right thing, make the proper diagnosis, and take affirmative action to protect the child from the severe psychopathology of a narcissistic/borderline parent that is inducing severe developmental pathology, personality pathology, and psychiatric pathology in the child that is then resulting in the loss for the child of a normal-range and affectionally bonded relationship with a normal-range and affectionally available parent.

Coming Together

Targeted parents need to come together into workshop self-help groups to assist each other in the phrasing and procedures of licensing board complaints.

It’s too expensive for you to hire me as your individual consultant on each and every specific case. Save the money you’d be spending on my consultation and use it for your child’s college education. Come together into self-help workshops with more experienced parents helping less experienced parents navigate the mental health system to achieve professional competence. I’ve given you the tools you need, Foundations, Professional Consultation, and the Single Case ABAB protocol.

Some initial suggestions:

  • Request the treatment records of the mental health professional. Your state will have laws governing the release of mental health treatment notes. Research the laws in your state and help each other understand your rights to access the treatment records of your children. The laws governing California are on my website.
  • Request the vitae of the mental health professional. Review this vitae for evidence of professional training and experience in personality disorder pathology, family systems pathology, and attachment pathology.
  • Read the ethics codes governing the various categories of mental health professionals: psychologists, MFTs, MSWs. Identify the relevant ethical standards in each of the codes. Help each other frame complaints in terms of violations of ethical standards of practice rather than specifics of the individual case.

I don’t have the time to work with 10,000 targeted parents individually and it is too expensive for you. Put the money you save toward your kid’s college education. Come together into self-help groups. This is your fight.  It’s up to you to become strong enough to rescue your children.  I am not your warrior, I am your weapon.

We are expecting – we are requiring – professional competence under Standards 2.01 and 9.01 of the Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct of the American Psychological Association.

I’m not likely to be making many friends within professional psychology. The Gardnerians will be upset with me because their paradigm is being replaced. Establishment mental health will be upset with me because I’m empowering targeted parents to file licensing board complaints. But you know what? Don’t care. This is a child protection issue. Professional collusion with psychopathology that destroys the lives of children needs to stop. Today. Now.

Parents have the right to both expect and demand professional competence in the diagnosis and treatment of their children and families. That’s all we’re asking for.

The APA can solve this quickly by changing their position statement to acknowledge the existence of the pathology and designating your children and families as a “special population” requiring specialized professional knowledge and expertise to competently assess, diagnose, and treat. Done. We won’t need to enforce professional competence because the APA is requiring it.

Otherwise, until the APA requires professional competence from its membership, we will be forced to require competence one binding-site-of-ignorance at a time, and it will be painful to the professionals involved. Sorry. Don’t want to do it. But you are not allowed to be ignorant and incompetent, and destroy the lives of children and families. Not allowed. Know what you’re doing and do the right thing.

2. Putting Mental Health Professionals On Notice

The second reason I am posting to my website the de-identified opening and closing summaries from my report is to educate mental health professionals. If you are not competent, this might be what you’re looking at.

Do you really want Dr. Childress reviewing your assessment, your diagnosis, and your treatment – in detail – and writing a 50-100 page critical analysis of your professional practices for the targeted parent to use as support for a licensing board complaint against you? Do you REALLY want that? Then know what you’re doing and do the right thing.

If you choose to remain ignorant and incompetent then understand this: that all of the force and power of Foundations will be brought down upon your head with the sole goal of having sanctions placed on your license. If you choose to remain ignorant and incompetent then you will have to defend yourself against the theoretical formulations described in Foundations.

If, however, you stand-up and do the right thing, then all of the theoretical formulations described in Foundations come to your aid.

I’ve given you diagnostic checklists.

I’ve specified the three definitive diagnostic indicators for you.

I’ve specified the complete DSM-5 diagnosis for you when the three definitive diagnostic indicators are present.

And I’ve given you a strong and integrated theoretical foundation to stand on. If you stand-up and do the right thing, you can stand on the solid bedrock of Foundations.

If you choose to remain ignorant and incompetent, if you choose to continue to collude with the psychopathology of the narcissistic/borderline parent, if you continue to destroy the lives of children and families because you steadfastly choose to maintain your ignorance and professional incompetence, despite reasonable efforts to educate you and guide you into professional competence, then I will become your worst nightmare.

I’d be happy to provide a 50-100 page detailed analysis of your professional practices, reviewing your notes and progress reports – in detail. Do you REALLY want that?

It’s not my license on the line, so I’m up for it if you are.

The destruction of children’s lives needs to stop. The deep sorrow and tragedy inflicted on targeted parents needs to stop. The collusion of mental health professionals with the psychopathology of a narcissistic/borderline parent needs to stop. The psychological abuse of children by the pathology of a narcissistic/borderline parent needs to stop. All of it needs to stop. Today. Now.

To mental health professionals: As of October 1, 2015 you are on notice.  If you choose to remain ignorant, if you choose to remain incompetent, if you continue to collude with the pathology, and if through your ignorance and incompetence you continue to destroy the lives of children and families… look for me… because I’m coming for you.  

I’ve already started my second report, this time on a child custody evaluation.  You don’t think I’m coming for you?  I am.  Professional collusion with the psychopathology of a narcissistic/borderline parent that destroys the lives of children will stop.

The pathology of attachment-based “parental alienation” is not a child custody issue, it is a child protection issue.

Mental health professionals need to stand-up, make the correct diagnosis, and do the right thing to protect the healthy development of children from the psychopathology of a narcissistic/borderline parent.  On this, there will be no compromise.

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

The Bystander Role

The “bystander” role in the trauma reenactment narrative is critical. 

The choice before the mental health professionals, attorneys, and the court in their role as the “bystander” in the trauma reenactment narrative is to either abandon the child to the psychological abuse inflicted on the child by the psychopathology of a narcissistic/borderline parent, or to enact their duty to protect and rescue the child from the psychological abuse being inflicted on the child by the pathology of the parent, and to thereby restore the child’s healthy and normal-range development.

Descriptions of the Pathology: 

The pathology of “parental alienation” represents the addition of the splitting pathology of a narcissistic/borderline parent into a cross-generational coalition of the parent with the child against the other parent.

The pathology of “parental alienation” represents the reenactment of attachment trauma from the childhood of the allied narcissistic/borderline parent into the current family relationships, mediated by the personality disorder pathology of the allied parent, which is in the false trauma-reenactment pattern of “abusive parent”/”victimized child”/”protective parent.”

Perlman and Courtois (2005) identify four roles in the trauma reenactment narrative,

“Reenactments of the traumatic past are common in the treatment of this population and frequently represent either explicit or coded repetitions of the unprocessed trauma in an attempt at mastery. Reenactments can be expressed psychologically, relationally, and somatically and may occur with conscious intent or with little awareness. One primary transference-countertransference dynamic involves reenactment of familiar roles of victim-perpetrator-rescuer-bystander in the therapy relationship. Therapist and client play out these roles, often in complementary fashion with one another, as they relive various aspects of the client’s early attachment relationships” (p. 455; emphasis added).

In the pathology traditionally called “parental alienation,” therapists, attorneys, and the courts enact the role of “bystander” in the false and delusional trauma reenactment narrative. To ignorantly and unwittingly enact the role of the bystander in the false and delusional trauma reenactment narrative is to collude with the psychological abuse of the child.

To ignorantly and unwittingly enact the role of the bystander in the false and delusional trauma reenactment narrative is to collude with the psychological abuse of the child.

Inducing significant developmental pathology (diagnostic indicator 1), personality pathology (diagnostic indicator 2), and psychiatric pathology, (diagnostic indicator 3) in a child in order to stabilize the psychopathology of the parent reasonably represents a DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed.

Failure to make this DSM-5 diagnosis when it is warranted represents a failure in the mental health professional’s duty to protect.

Making a DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed engages the mental health professional’s duty to protect requiring the mental health professional to take some form of affirmative action to discharge this duty to protect, and to document this affirmative action in the patient’s record.

Failure to take an affirmative action to discharge the mental health professional’s duty to protect, and to then document this affirmative action in the patient’s record, represents a failure in the mental health professional’s duty to protect.

The pathology of “parental alienation” is not a child custody issue, it is a child protection issue.

The choice for the “bystander” mental health professionals, attorneys, and the court is whether they will abandon the child to the psychological child abuse being inflicted on the child by the psychopathology of a narcissistic/borderline parent and thereby allow, and indeed collude with, the child abuse and destruction of the normal-range development of the child, or whether they will rescue the child from the psychological child abuse inflicted by the psychopathology of the narcissistic/borderline parent, and restore the child’s healthy and normal-range development.

The role of the “bystander” is critical.  It is in their hands to either abandon the child to the child’s psychological abuse, and to the destruction of the child’s normal-range and healthy development, or they can rescue the child from the psychological child abuse and restore the child’s healthy and normal-range development.  That is their choice.

The following excerpt is from my book, Foundations, regarding the role of the “bystander” in the trauma reenactment narrative.

From Foundations (p. 252-258):


The Bystander Role

Perlman and Courtois (2005) identify four characteristic roles in the reenactment of trauma; the “roles of victim-perpetrator-rescuer-bystander.” The three primary roles in the trauma reenactment of attachment-based “parental alienation” are:

  • The “abusive parent” role, corresponding to the “perpetrator” role identified by Perlman and Courtois,
  • The “victimized child” role, corresponding to the “victim” role identified by Perlman and Courtois
  • The “protective parent” role, which corresponds to the “rescuer” role of Perlman and Courtois.

In addition to these three primary trauma reenactment roles, the “bystander” role identified by Perlman and Courtois also plays an important part in the trauma reenactment narrative of attachment-based “parental alienation.” The role of the “bystander” in attachment-based “parental alienation” is filled by all the various therapists, attorneys, judges, teachers, and extended family members. These “bystanders” serve three separate functions in the trauma reenactment narrative of attachment-based “parental alienation.” The role of the “bystander” is first to legitimize the “truth” of the reenactment narrative. The second role of the “bystander” in the trauma reenactment narrative is to publicly shame the targeted parent. The “bystander” role also acts to provide “narcissistic supply” by legitimizing the wonderful-parent presentation of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent.

Legitimize the Reenactment Narrative

By accepting the reenactment narrative as being true, the “bystanders” validate the legitimacy and authenticity of the reenactment narrative. The trauma reenactment narrative of attachment-based “parental alienation” actually represents a false drama created by the narcissistic/(borderline) parent. In truth, the targeted parent is not abusive, the child is not a victim, and the narcissistic/(borderline) parent is not protecting the child. In truth, the targeted parent is a normal-range and affectionally available parent, the child is a normal-range child who loves both parents, and the narcissistic/(borderline) parent is using the child as a weapon to inflict suffering on the targeted parent. The reenactment narrative created by the narcissistic/(borderline) parent is a delusion.

Yet when the “bystander” therapists and attorneys accept the trauma reenactment narrative as being a reasonable explanation for the child’s rejection of the targeted parent, they are allowing their power and authority in their role as therapist or attorney to be used by the pathology of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent to confirm the legitimacy of the trauma reenactment narrative. Their acceptance of the reenactment narrative legitimizes the truth of the reenactment narrative. The reenactment narrative of “abusive parent”/”victimized child”/”protective parent” becomes true because the “bystanders” in the trauma reenactment narrative accept it as being true. The role of the “bystander” in attachment-based “parental alienation” is to validate the truth of the trauma reenactment narrative.

When therapists and children’s attorneys accept the validity of the false drama created by the pathology of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent in attachment-based “parental alienation,” they are inadvertently fulfilling their “bystander” roles within the trauma reenactment narrative. By conferring legitimacy to the delusional construction of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent, these “bystander” mental health professionals and attorneys are actively colluding with the psychopathology. Through their ignorance regarding the psychopathology involved in attachment-based “parental alienation,” these “bystander” mental health professionals and attorneys are allowing their professional standing to be exploited by the psychopathology of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent to confer legitimacy to a delusional belief and false drama that ultimately destroys the lives of both the child and the targeted parent.

Shaming of the Targeted Parent

The “bystander” role in the trauma reenactment narrative of attachment-based “parental alienation” also serves to confer public shaming onto the targeted parent. The “bystanders” bear public witness to the exposed parental (personal) inadequacy of the targeted parent. The “bystanders” provide the audience for the public humiliation of the targeted parent, who is being rejected by the child for being an “abusive” and inadequate parent (person).

The divorce represents a narcissistic injury in which the inadequacy of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent as a spouse is publicly exposed. The narcissistic/(borderline) parent is being publicly rejected as a spouse by the targeted parent because of the inadequacy of the narcissistic/(borderline) personality. This public exposure of the inadequacy of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent threatens to collapse the narcissistic defense against the experience of primal self-inadequacy. The processes of attachment-based “parental alienation” represent the efforts of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent to restore the narcissistic defense by projectively displacing onto the targeted parent the fears of inadequacy and abandonment. The child’s rejection of the targeted parent defines the targeted parent as being the inadequate and rejected parent (person).

The role of the “bystander” is to provide social validation for the inadequacy and abandonment of the targeted parent. Within the reenactment narrative, the fundamental inadequacy and “abusive” parenting of the targeted parent is being publicly exposed to the social community, represented by the “bystanders” in the trauma reenactment narrative. The public display to the “bystanders” through the trauma reenactment narrative of the child’s rejection of the targeted parent represents a public shaming of the targeted parent for his or her primal inadequacy as a parent (person).

The “bystanders” act as the social community for this public shaming of the targeted parent. By publicly exposing the fundamental inadequacy and abandonment of the targeted parent to the social community represented by the “bystanders,” the narcissistic/(borderline) parent is able to counteract and repair the public exposure of his or her own inadequacy as a spouse that was triggered by the targeted parent through the divorce.

Witness to Narcissistic Grandiosity

The “bystanders” in the trauma reenactment narrative also serve as public witness to the displayed magnificence of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent as the wonderfully nurturing and “protective parent.” In choosing to reject the “abusive” and inadequate targeted parent in favor of being with the narcissistic/(borderline) parent, the child is used to validate to the “bystanders” the magnificence of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent as being the ideal and wonderful parent. The possession of the narcissistic object of the child represents a symbol of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent’s superiority and victory over the targeted parent. It is the targeted parent who is rejected as the inadequate parent (person) by the child. The narcissistic/(borderline) parent is the all-wonderful and perfect parent (person) who is being selected by the child.

The narcissistic/(borderline) parent is secure in the child’s well-rehearsed criticisms of the targeted parent:

  • The child hates being with the targeted parent because of some past parental failure or inadequacy. This past parental failure by the targeted parent is simply too heinous to be forgiven.
  • The child is afraid of the targeted parent, having panic attacks and stress at simply the thought of being with the targeted parent, or at having the targeted parent attend the child’s event or activity.
  • The targeted parent never spent enough special time with the child in the past, and is too involved with the new spouse.
  • The targeted parent is too controlling and never listens to what the child wants. The targeted parent is too insensitive to the child’s feelings.
  • The child wants to be allowed to “decide” which parent the child wants to be with, and maybe, if the targeted parent “respects the child’s wishes” and allows the child to be completely with the allied and supposedly favored narcissistic/(borderline) parent, then maybe the child might want to spend time with the targeted parent sometime in the future (maybe).

Confident in the child’s oft-rehearsed criticisms of the targeted parent, the narcissistic/(borderline) parent will eagerly present the child to the “bystanders” of therapists and attorneys, which allows the narcissistic/(borderline) parent to conspicuously display for the “bystanders” the coveted role as the wonderfully nurturing and understanding “protective parent.”

Having psychologically surrendered to the will of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent, the child eagerly embraces the “victimized child” role by offering to the “bystander” therapists and attorneys a litany of well-rehearsed criticisms of the targeted parent, both as a parent and also as a person. The child fully expects that these criticisms will be met with the same understanding support from the “bystander” as they received from the narcissistic/(borderline) parent. If, perchance, the “bystander” somehow challenges the legitimacy of the child’s rehearsed criticisms, the child will become confused and disoriented, and the reporting of criticism begins to break down.

If a “bystander” therapist fails to validate the reenactment narrative and challenges the legitimacy of the child’s criticisms, then the narcissistic/(borderline) parent will quickly seek to have this therapist removed from treatment. For the narcissistic/(borderline) parent, the purpose of therapy is not to have the child get better and restore a relationship with the targeted parent. For the narcissistic/(borderline) parent, the purpose of therapy is for the “bystander” therapist to validate the legitimacy of the trauma reenactment narrative of “abusive parent”/”victimized child”/”protective parent.” If the therapist fails in their “bystander” role in the trauma reenactment narrative, then the narcissistic/(borderline) parent will replace this “bystander” therapist with one who will validate the legitimacy of the reenactment narrative.

There are two ways that the narcissistic/(borderline) parent can remove a non-cooperative “bystander” therapist from treatment. The first way is to simply withdraw parental consent for treatment with the non-cooperative “bystander” therapist. The most effective way of ensuring that the therapist fulfills the “bystander” role in the reenactment narrative is for the narcissistic/(borderline) parent to only consent to the child’s treatment with providers who legitimize the trauma reenactment narrative.

If withdrawing parental consent for treatment with the non-cooperative “bystander” therapist is not possible as a means to remove a non-cooperative “bystander” therapist, then the narcissistic/(borderline) parent will employ a tried-and-true method of achieving power and control; i.e., inducing and then exploiting child symptoms. Following a therapy session, the narcissistic/(borderline) parent will elicit a child criticism of the therapist, typically that the therapist is not sufficiently “understanding” of the child’s feelings (meaning that the therapist does not accept the legitimacy of the trauma reenactment narrative). The narcissistic/(borderline) parent then uses this child complaint to petition the court for a change in therapists to one who is more “understanding” of the child, and with whom the child feels more “comfortable.” In this way, the child is empowered to select a therapist who does not challenge the child’s presentation as a “victim” of the supposedly “abusive” parental inadequacy of the targeted parent.

Together, the narcissistic/(borderline) parent and the child put on their show of the reenactment narrative for the audience of “bystanders,” with the child in the leadership position of offering a well-rehearsed set of criticisms of the targeted parent around select themes that were previously provided to the child by the narcissistic/(borderline) parent during the induction process. Meanwhile, the narcissistic/(borderline) parent takes the opportunity to make a full display to the “bystanders” of being the perfectly nurturing and concerned “protective parent.” The role of the “bystander” therapists and attorneys is to accept and thereby validate the legitimacy of the reenactment narrative; that the targeted parent is the “abusive” and inadequate parent who is being rejected by the child for being a fundamentally inadequate parent (person).

The failure of mental health and legal professionals to recognize the extreme degree of psychopathology involved with attachment-based “parental alienation” will result in their seduction by the psychopathology into adopting their collusive role as the legitimizing “bystander” in the trauma reenactment narrative. In this “bystander” role, therapists and attorneys will wind up actively supporting and colluding with the psychopathology in the family, to the psychological and developmental harm of the child and the emotional and psychological harm of the targeted parent.

Attachment-based “parental alienation” is not a child custody issue, it is a child protection issue. Mental health professionals and legal professionals assigned to represent the child’s interests must possess the level of professional competence necessary to serve the best interests of the child. Failure to recognize the extraordinary severity of the pathology involved in attachment-based “parental alienation,” and failure to protect the child from the profound psychological and development harm associated with attachment-based “parental alienation,” is to collude with the pathology and psychological abuse of the child.

Childress, C.A. (2015). An Attachment-Based Model of Parental Alienation: Foundations. Claremont, CA: Oaksong Press. (p. 252-258)


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