A nice enough guy…

There was a young man, a nice enough guy.  Not outgoing, but confident enough.  Sweet actually, a nice guy with a good heart.  His career was okay, a stable guy making good money, quiet temperament, with a kind heart and kind of sweet disposition.

He meets a sparkling young lady.  She’s so vivacious and fun. She laughs easily, and she’s just so up-energy, happy, and loving.  She’s very loving. That’s one of the things he finds so captivating, is how free and open she is with affection.  He tends to be a little shy and reserved, but she’s so easy with love and affection that it makes him feel special and relaxed with intimacy.  She clearly loves him a lot, she’s always doting on him and attending to him, making him feel special.

It’s not long before he wants to marry her.  He finds her vibrant personality captivating, and the sex with her is very satisfying, she’s so free and available that it makes him feel relaxed (and he typically tends to be a little anxious with intimacy; he’s a nice guy).  But with her, he’s relaxed and intimacy is full and deep.  What he most likes is how much she loves him.  He’s never had someone love him so much, and she so attractive and bubbly and vivacious. They marry.

Things are okay during the first year, but there were several times where his wife got demanding, and when he tried to work things out reasonably with her, she flew off in an angry tirade, accusing him of not loving her and being a bad husband.  They didn’t really fix these fights, they just kind of ended and everyone went back to the way it was before, and make-up sex was incredible.  So he wasn’t very worried, probably just normal marital bumpy stuff.

They have a child together and things change.  His wife has now become heavily involved with the child. That’s a good thing, and he likes that. She’s being a good mother.  But attention to him has dropped to zero.  If he mentions something to her about wanting more time and attention, she flies into a rage, berating him for being a bad husband and father.  He learns not to bring up his needs, because this just provokes a fight.  She’s a good and devoted mother… a little too devoted, but that’s a good thing, right?

But things continue to deteriorate in the marriage.  His wife becomes more and more demanding of him, in unreasonable ways.  When he tries to have a calm discussion with her about her unreasonable demands, she flies into rages, berating him for his failures.  When he tries to stand up for himself, things just become worse and her anger goes into supersonic levels.  He’s not an assertive guy generally, so he tries to handle her anger with appeasement and keeping her in a good mood.

That kind of helps for a while, but not much.  The child is now a toddler young school-age child, and the mother’s hostility is difficult to contain.  The mother wants another child. The father is concerned about the deteriorating marriage but already has a young child.  The father is a nice guy, he wants to be a good dad.  He doesn’t want to divorce the mother and create a broken home for his child, he wants to make his family work.

He decides to have a second child with her in hopes that by giving her what she wants she will be happy, and he’ll get back that fun and vivacious, loving woman he married, rather than the demanding hostile shrew he currently seems to have.

With the birth of the second child, the mother becomes entirely absorbed with the children, but in an odd way.  She doesn’t really provide for their care, and the father has to do a lot of basic caretaking for the children, because the mother is rather neglectful as a caretaking parent.  But she is super-involved with everybody, telling everybody what to do, becoming angry if they don’t do it, but then changing her mind later and becoming angry that they did do it.  It becomes increasingly hard to work with the mother because she is demanding and judgemental, nothing is ever right, and she gets angry easily and goes into angry rages easily, sometimes lasting hours or more.

By the time the youngest child is in toddler years, the eldest is in primary school, the father is emotionally exhausted by the mother’s constant need for attention and high-drama.  The anger and verbal abuse are the hardest to endure.  There are times of bonding in between, where she seems to forget about all the conflict like it never happened, but then it’s right back into the drama and conflict.

She’s also not a very good parent.  She doesn’t take care of any of the children’s basic needs, she doesn’t make sure the kids are involved in any activities, and she’s never involved in the children’s homework.  The father has to step up in all these domains of parenting with the children.  The mother, however, flutters about the children, controlling, intruding, and demanding.

The dad has a good relationship with both children.  He’s more of the quiet reserved kind of guy, so the bond with the kids has that quiet reserved quality, and he’s patient as he works with them on their homework, and he makes sure they’re fed and bathed and at school on time.  But it’s getting hard on him emotionally to have to deal with his wife’s chaos and high-drama.  He tends to be a logical rational guy, and her emotional tirades are becoming intolerable.

Finally, when his youngest is in primary school and his eldest child is entering middle school, the father simply can’t take the angry tirades, instability, and verbal abuse anymore and he files for divorce.  The divorce creates a lot of fights and arguments.  The level of the wife’s attacks and verbal abuse increase, and there was that one incident where the wife became irrational and angry, and she assaulted the father, slapping him and hitting him on his chest and shoulders, trying to scratch his face, but the father prevented it by blocking her, and the father in return grabbed her by the wrists and pushed her aside so he could leave the house, which he did.

Initially, the custody visitation schedule was for 50-50%.  But then there  was an abuse report filed by the school, apparently one of the children told the school counselor about some touching, and the school counselor filed a suspected child abuse report with CPS.  The mother then abruptly and unilaterally halts the father’s visitation with the children, claiming she is “‘protecting” the children.  The mother tells the CPS investigator, and therapists, and teachers, about the fight where the father grabbed her and threw her to the ground, because the father is controlling and dominating and abusive.

She says that she doesn’t know what the child is reporting, exactly, but that the child said the father touched her, and the mother is only listening to the child, and we need to protect the child because the father is abusive, like the time he grabbed her and threw her to the ground.

During the CPS investigation the father’s visitation time is placed on monitored supervision, because CPS doesn’t yet know if he is an abusive parent.  He meets his children at an agency for a couple of hours each week. It’s really odd and unnatural, and it’s so short.   And expensive too, to pay for the supervisor.  The father hopes the investigation concludes quickly so they can get back to normal.

The investigation takes three months and comes back with “inconclusive.”  The mother tells the school personnel and the eldest child’s soccer coach that the father has been accused of sexually abusing the child and has been put on supervised visitation.  After the inconclusive CPS report, the father expects that the visitation schedule will return to normal, but the children are now saying they don’t want to visit with their father because they are “afraid” of him.

The mother now withholds visitation, saying that the children are afraid of their father, that he has a history of domestic violence and the child is saying he molested the child.  When the father comes to the door to pick up the children they remain behind a closed door and scream at him to “go away, we’re not coming with you.”  The mother says she can’t do anything about that, “What can I do, I can’t force the children to go with him. What am I supposed to do, drag the children kicking and screaming to the car?”

The father returns to court to seek the mother’s compliance with the court-ordered visitation schedule, and the mother files an order for sole custody because the father is abusive, the children are afraid of him, and the children are refusing to go on visitations with him because they are afraid.  The court orders a child custody evaluation, and continued supervised visitation for the father pending outcomes of assessments.  The court also orders “reunification therapy” to restore the father’s bond to the children.

The “reunification therapy” starts slowly, with the “reunification therapist” meeting individually with the children and individually with the father.  The father thinks the reunification therapist met with the children and the mother, but he’s not sure.  After several months of individual sessions, the “reunification therapist” tells the father that the children are “not ready” because they are “afraid” of him.  When the father asks what the children are afraid of, the “reunification therapist” offers a vague answer that doesn’t really answer the father’s question.

The father describes to the reunification therapist all the bonded times with the children before the divorce, doing homework and coaching the eldest child’s soccer team, normal-range dad stuff.  The father tells the “reunification therapist” that there is no reasonable or rational reason for the children to be afraid of him.  The therapist tells him that the children’s fear is their perception, and we need to validate their feelings.

The father agrees to try to work with “reunification therapy” in whatever way he is instructed.  Each child is also assigned an individual therapist to work on their “trauma” and fear created by their father.  In the individual therapy, the child plays games with the therapist to build a “therapeutic relationship.”

When the individual therapists raise the issue of the father and home, the children tell their therapists a story about how the father was mean to them so they are afraid of him.  Sometimes the story doesn’t even need to describe anything specific, just that he was mean to them and that’s why they are afraid of him now.  Mostly, though, the individual therapists work on the child’s “self-esteem,” helping the child to “label emotions” by building the “therapeutic relationship” with the child.  Meaning they play the card game Uno for an hour… “building the therapeutic relationship” of trust.

After all, the children are anxious and frightened.  We don’t want to push things or go quickly.  We have to take our time and be gradual, because the children are very anxious and frightened.  Four months into “reunification therapy,” the father has had three individual sessions with the “reunification therapist” and no sessions with his children.

The custody report comes back and says the father likely did not sexually abuse the child, since the CPS report was “inconclusive.”  The evaluator says that the mother is showing some “alienating” behaviors, and that the father’s relationship with his children should be restored.  The custody evaluator recommends that the current custody visitation be maintained, after all, the children are very anxious and scared and we wouldn’t want to disrupt their current sense of security with their protective and loving mother.  The evaluator also recommends “reunification therapy” to help restore the father’s bond to his children, and the custody evaluator includes an admonition to both parents to cooperate for the “best interests of the child.”

The eldest child begins demanding that the father stop coming to the child’s soccer games.  The child says that the father watching the child play soccer makes the child “stressed,” and the child doesn’t want him there and the child wants him to “respect the child’s wishes.”

Three years later, the father hasn’t seen his children in three years.

Five years later, the father hasn’t seen his children in five years.

The eldest child is now too “fragile” to “stress” the child with a relationship with the father.  The child has reportedly made suicidal threats if the child is “forced” to have visitation contact with the father, and the father thinks there may have been a psychiatric hospitalization of the child but he’s not sure because no one is telling him anything about his child and it’s hard to get information.

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

A mom, vanished.

Let me tell you a story of a marriage.

There was a young attractive woman who met a confident and assertive young man.  She liked his sense of self-assured ease and self-confidence.  She was capable enough in voicing her opinions, but she preferred to take a more supportive role in things, and she liked that her new suitor took charge.  He was also funny and charming.

Eventually, the confident and self-assured suitor won her hand in marriage.  She was a little worried after she accepted his proposal because there was something missing emotionally for her in the relationship, but he was so wonderful and social and gregarious.  It must be that the relationship is new, and they will grow into deeper intimacy with time.

They marry, and things go well at first.  She always wanted family, and having children and creating a family would be an important center for her sense of being and fulfillment.  They had their first child, and things began to gradually change.  The child was wonderful, and such a joy.  But the husband became more irritable and demanding.  The increasing intimacy she hoped would develop with him, instead turned the other way.  There seemed to be increasing emotional isolation and loneliness in the relationship, she felt empty and emotionally unfulfilled, except with her children.

Fights became more frequent, and the fighting was harsh.  He said hurtful things.  Over time, he began making degrading and caustic comments to her, even if they weren’t actively fighting at the time, a caustic criticism of something she was doing.  She tried to work with his complaints, to keep him calm, but sometimes they seemed unreasonable and demanding, and when he became rude and demeaning she became angry and said some unfortunate things to him as well. 

Still, between the fights there are still some good times.  She tries to work on the marriage and bring a positive attitude.  She hopes that by having a second child, this would help stabilize things in the marriage and family.  He’d calm down more, into the father role, and she’ll have the wonderful family she hoped for.  She has a second child, and the family is wonderful.  Her older child is now in the early school years, and she has a wonderful new child.

Things with her husband, though, take a much darker turn after the birth of the second child. Her husband becomes more verbally abusive and degrading in his treatment of her.  His open contempt is hard for her to bear.  Her children are still young when the more serious verbal abuse begins, so they don’t understand their parents’ fighting, but she’s worried that over time, their father’s verbal abuse and open contempt for her would transfer to her children’s similar treatment of her.

Still, she has a new young child and a child in the school-age years, she doesn’t want to create a lot of fights and arguments. She tries to get along with her husband, giving in to his controlling demands as much as possible, and it keeps most of the verbal abuse and demeaning caustic statements at bay, but the children are also starting to treat her with defiance, sometimes saying rude things to her. 

For the most part, though, she and the kids are great.  She is an actively involved mom, tending to to their feeding and daily routines, homework and school, extra-curricular activities, all the normal mom stuff of family. The kids are happy, and mom and kids share a good bond.  Sometimes the mom decides to have a third child because the family side of her life is wonderful and she’s hoping the marriage will get better, sometimes she stops at two children because she’s worried about the deteriorating marriage.

The marriage gets worse. The husband becomes more openly demeaning and verbally abusive of the mother… in front of the children, and the children are being affected.  She can no longer simply absorb the level of his emotional and verbal abuse to avoid arguing with him in front of the children, she is being put in a position of having to stand up for herself in front of the children in response to his degrading and demeaning treatment. But this then leads to some nasty fighting. 

The eldest child is poised to move into the more advanced years of education, middle school and high school, and the mother cannot envision tolerating the husband’s verbal abuse and demeaning treatment long enough to get her youngest through high school, so she makes a decision that for the sake of her children she will divorce the husband now, deal with the conflict and divorce, and then move on with a quieter and healthier home for her children.

That was her plan at least.  The divorce issue became a source of exceeding conflict with the husband.  Sometimes he would become seductive, charming, and cajoling, promising change and better times.  But when these were rejected he became snarling and abusive. 

He started in on controlling the eldest child immediately.  A “special” bond was almost immediately formed between the father and the eldest child, and the mother could feel the slight breach in her bond to her eldest.  But her loving bond with both children remained strong, and she was focused on managing the financial side of the separation.

Over time, and not very long after the separation part of the divorce, the eldest child’s attitude starts to change. The child becomes more critical of the mother, and she can hear that same caustic tone of her ex-husband in the child’s criticism of her. Their fights increase, but they’re manageable, and the bond with the youngest child remains strong. The eldest child keeps accusing the mother of “breaking up the family,” and sometimes the child asks the mom if she can find a way to fix it with dad (“dad wants to fix it with you, why don’t you want to fix it with him?  Why are you being so stubborn?”).

It’s not long, however, before her relationship with the eldest child becomes highly hostile and aggressive.  At one point, the eldest child became so angry, threatening, and out of control, that the mother has to  call the police, because she just can’t think of any other way to get control of the child (or protect herself).  The therapist who was involved at the time told her that if she felt threatened she should call the police, so she did.

Soon after this escalation and intense-conflict breach, the eldest stops coming on visitation-custody to her.  The father says it’s the child’s choice.  According to the father, the child is old enough and mature enough, and should have the choice in where the child wants to be for visitation (“We shouldn’t force the child to go on visitation to the mother. You can’t force a child to have a relationship with someone if the child doesn’t want to”). 

Besides, the father says, it’s the mother’s fault.   She doesn’t listen to what the child wants.  When asked what the child wants, the father says the child wants to live at the father’s house full-time, and the mother doesn’t respect the child’s decision, and that’s why the child doesn’t want to be with her, because she doesn’t listen to to the child, she doesn’t respect the child’s decisions.

The younger child still goes back and forth, and the mother’s relationship with the youngest child remains strong, for now.  But she worries about the future, and the influence of the family conflict on her youngest.

The father doesn’t follow through on the court-ordered visitation schedule, and the mother hasn’t seen her oldest child in several months.  She has to go back to court to get an order enforcing the visitation schedule.  This is hard on her financially, to hire an attorney to do this. Finances are tight after the divorce, and her ex-husband has been difficult and uncooperative with her surrounding the financial separation part of the divorce, so having to spend additional money to hire an attorney is troubling for her. 

But it has to be done, because she needs her visitation time with her child. She loves her child, and its been several months now and she has not seen her child at all, so she has to hire an attorney and go back to court.

Getting enforcement of court orders for visitation is not nearly as simple as it seemed it should be.  The father disputes custody, claiming a change of circumstance, and now the father wants full physical custody of the eldest child.  After several preliminary court appearances and mediation, the father asks for a custody evaluation to decide. The mother objects that waiting that long is unreasonable, that her visitation is being violated, and that it’s a simple matter of enforcing the visitation.

The court decides to order the custody evaluation, and also “reunification therapy” to restore the oldest child’s relationship with the mother while the custody evaluation process takes place.  Then everyone waits for the conclusion of the custody evaluation. By now, however, the mother hasn’t seen her eldest child in over a year, and the younger child is now also refusing to come on visitations to her, saying the child has other plans at the father’s house (neighborhood, sports team, friends, events).

Reunification therapy starts slowly. The therapist meets three or four times with the child individually, and a couple of times with the mother individually.  The therapist says the child isn’t “ready” yet, and that the child was “traumatized” by the time the mother called the police on the child. The mother tries to explain that she called the police because the child was out of control, but the therapist doesn’t seem to understand, and still says the event was “traumatic” for the child, so the child is not “ready” to reunite with the mother.

When the custody report eventually comes back, the mother hasn’t seen her eldest child in a year and a half, and she hasn’t seen her youngest child in three months.  The custody evaluator describes intimate details of the marital relationship and break-up of the marriage, with each parent blaming the other in detail in the report for why the marriage failed.  The report then describes how both children criticize their mother’s inadequacy.  The father’s section says he thinks the children are mature, and we should listen to what they think and want.  He tells the children to visit their mom, but they won’t listen.  She destroyed the relationship with the oldest child when she called the police, and the child just hasn’t gotten over the “trauma” of that.  The father says he just wants what’s best for the children, and he just wishes the mother would get help and change.

There’s testing in the report too.  It doesn’t say much.  It says dad was defensive in reporting. She was apparently defensive, too. Well who wouldn’t be defensive if you’re being criticized and rejected by your children and this testing would determine if you were allowed to see your children, your own children.

The custody evaluator says there is some “parental alienation” by the father, but there is also some “estrangement” – indicating that the time the mother called the police damaged her relationship with the child.  Apparently, she shouldn’t have done that.  But she didn’t know what else to do.  The child was threatening violence and was so angry and out of control. And the therapist at the time had told her that if the child gets out of control like that (this wasn’t the first time), then she should call the police.  So she called the police and now she’s being told that calling the police created the “estrangement.”

The custody evaluator recommends keeping the current custody visitation schedule (100% custody visitation time with the father, although the mother may still get limited time with the youngest child who still agrees to see her sometimes), and the custody evaluator recommends “reunification therapy” to restore the mother’s bonds with the children.

By the time the first “reunification therapy session is arranged, the mother hasn’t seen her eldest child in two years.  She meets separately with the “reunification therapist” a couple times, and the therapist meets individually with the child a couple times.  The therapist then says that the child isn’t “ready”

The mother doesn’t know what to do.  She did absolutely nothing wrong.  She is a wonderful and loving mother.  The father twisted her kids up into a loyalty conflict surrounding the divorce, manipulating them and coercing them into taking his side in the spousal conflict, blaming her for the break-up of the family.  And now she hasn’t seen her oldest child for two years and her youngest for a year.

She is absolutely heartbroken. She’s missed the lives of her children, that can never be recaptured.  And her children miss her. She just wants to love them so much.  The mother’s grief over the loss of her children is the most profoundly dark abyss she has ever experienced.  Sometimes she doesn’t know how to go on… it just seems impossible emotionally to go on. The grief and loss are unbearable.

She has to go back to court to prove “parental alienation.”  She hires another attorney, she’s mortgaged everything she has and drained all of her finances and taken on debt to pay for the attorney in this round of fighting for her children.  They muster their resources and construct their argument of “parental alienation” using emails and text messages.  The initial custody evaluation does mention “parental alienation” and there has been zero progress in “reunification therapy.”

In response to the initial contact with the court, the court orders a second update evaluation from the same evaluator who did the first one.  After several months, the second evaluation comes back and finds probable “parental alienation” and recommends more “reunification therapy.”

Traumatic grief is a form of complex trauma.  It is being so incredibly sad, with so much grief, for so incredibly long… that is becomes a trauma.  Traumatic grief.

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



Top Tier


Let’s begin with trauma world.

In childhood trauma, the three biggest kahunas are Bruce Perry, Bessel van der Kolk, and John Briere.  I adore the work of all three.  Complete roll over and play dead fan of everything Perry, everything van der Kolk, and everything Briere.  Absolutely brilliant trauma work and knowledge.

So lets pick one.  Let’s pick Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, because of the three I especially love his work.  There is not a breath of daylight between Dr. Childress and Bessel van der Kolk.  I would consider van der Kolk required reading for all child and family psychologists.  Trauma expertise at 100.

So let’s compare vitaes, Dr. Childress and Bessel van der Kolk.


vdK 100; Dr C 0

That’s not a valid comparison for a PsyD.  We sacrificed publication for pathology and treatment knowledge.  A PsyD vitae is evaluated on the work experience and work level side of the vitae.

Work Experience:


vdK 100; Dr C 90

There is absolutely no doubt on the van der Kolk side of work experience, on the Childress side is attachment trauma in the foster care system ages zero to five, early childhood neuro-development of the brain, including infant development and infant trauma, three-university clinical director assessment and treatment center that included university-collaborating occupational therapy and speech-and-language assessment and treatment.  I’m strong.  I’m in the mix.

And remember, knowledge is equal.  We both work hands-on with the same pathology, trauma.  We both have the same knowledge base of evidence.  Van der Kolk extracts information sets from the pathology through the application of research and the scientific method.  He then reports on these information sets from trauma, and I read about the information sets, and I acquire the same knowledge.  So knowledge is equal.  Does the source matter?  No.  Information is information, knowledge is equal.


vdK 100; Dr. C 90

Actually, I might have a stronger attachment background than vdK, but if I do its by a hair.  I’m early childhood, including infant, van der Kolk is trauma.  I know two early childhood diagnostic models and two early childhood attachment treatments, Circle of Security and Watch, Wait, and Wonder.  But to be generous, we’ll give van der Kolk attachment too. Still, treating zero to five in the foster care system is spot-on the attachment years and spot-on attachment trauma… I may have him on attachment.

Early Childhood

Vdk 100; Dr. C 90

Now I don’t think that’s accurate.  I love the work of van der Kolk, but from everything I’ve read, he’s trauma.  Down’s syndrome, Prader Willie syndrome, autism-spectrum pathology, the neuro-biology of ADHD in non-trauma, van der Kolk doesn’t address these issues, because that’s not his area… his area is trauma not developmental disabilities or autism, so I think early childhood I’m stronger… but I’ll even be generous and give van der Kolk early childhood as well.

So where do we stand in work vitae. Van der Kolk 3, Dr. C 0.  But wait, there’s more… we just went toe to toe on van der Kolk’s strength… I still have to bring my full strength of vitae to the table, so hold on.

And while it’s three to nothing van der Kolk, I’m still in the ballpark at 90s, and it could be 2 to 1 in favor of van der Kolk if I get early childhood; and I’d argue that it’d be 2 to 1 advantage Childress with both early childhood and attachment. 

The point is, we’ve just gone through the heart of van der Kolk’s strength, and I’m in the ballpark and could be a 2-1 advantage with favor, or he could be 3-0 with favor.

Now… to my vitae.

Trans-Generational Trauma

Childress 100; vdK 98

The trauma of AB-PA pathology is the trans-generational transmission of trauma, not direct aggressive child abuse, or sexual child abuse, or neglect child abuse – those are vdK trauma – this pathology is a second-generational ripple of trauma being expressed through the family.

Trans-generational transmission of trauma is mine.  I can’t give this to Bessel.  I’m infant mental health and infant mental health is fully informed in trans-generational trauma transmission. Watch, Wait, and Wonder is a fully informed trans-generational trauma treatment.

Multi-generational trauma is also Murray Bowen in family systems therapy, the emotional cutoff and self-differentiation, so I bring an additional information set to the trans-generational transmission of attachment trauma and its effects on family relationships.

I’m stronger in the trans-generational transmission of trauma, which is the type of trauma we’re talking about in divorce-related attachment pathology.


Childress 100; vdK 98

This is a feature of trauma and the neuro-development of the brain. These are the information sets from Stern and Tronick.  Again, van der Kolk is amazing and all homage to him, I’m going to claim advantage on intersubjectivity because of my extension into autism pathology.  So I have normal-range, I have trauma-range, and I have autism-range intersubjectivity.  Slight advantage Childress

Family Pathology and Family Therapy

Childress 100; vdK 40

This is the trans-generational transmission of trauma into the family relationships (Bowen), and knowledge of family therapy and the impact of trauma within a family context is relevant.  I’m top tier family system therapy, multiple models, strong Structural and strong Strategic.  Family therapy is not van der Kolk’s thing. Totally understandable.  He’s wonderful exactly where he is.  I’m just saying in comparing… I’ve also got family systems therapy and Murray Bowen, supported by Minuchin, Haley, and Madanes knowledge.

So… where do we stand at the end of a review of work side vitaes? Bessel van der Kolk 3; Childress 3.  And with generous valuation it could be Childress 5-1 if I get attachment and early childhood.

Wow.  It could be 5-1 advantage Childress over van der Kolk in trauma domain?  It’s not important if that’s actually reality, that it is in the realm of reality means I’m strong trauma, very strong trauma.  All from direct assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of trauma pathology, in all its forms and variations.

So that’s my expertise in trauma that I bring on the behalf of you, the parents and children caught in a trauma pathology created by a pathological parent, and supported by the trauma pathology of the bystanders who collude with the pathology.

I am top tier trauma.  Not “parental alienation.”  Poof.  No, I mean real pathology. Trauma.  I am a top-tier trauma expert in the nation – PsyD pathology and treatment, vitae to vitae with Bessel van der Kolk, I can stand my ground as a PsyD.  I sacrificed the publication side of my vitae by sacrificing training in research in favor of additional high-order advanced knowledge in pathology and treatment.

When I testify on your behalf and on behalf of the child, I am testifying as one of the top trauma experts in the United States.  I’d say top; 5-1 advantage Childress with a favorable eye.  On the other hand, I’m certainly zero to 100 with a five-year-old on the publication side of the vitae.  I’m PsyD.  I sacrificed publication for expert knowledge.


Where is Dr. Childress as an expert in attachment pathology?

My vitae: Early childhood mental health, this is spot-on directly attachment.  I’m at 100.  Foster care.  This is spot-on attachment trauma.  Substantially solid 100.

So who should we compare to, we could choose Sroufe – he’s magnificent with a longitudinal research study on attachment.  Oh my god, it is the best.  Extremely impressive research and information coming from Sroufe. 

Or we could choose Ainsworth.  But that wouldn’t be fair to me, would it?  I mean I’m just a clinical psychologist and Mary Ainsworth learned directly at the feet of Bowlby, and she’s the one that grounded attachment into the scientific literature with her research.  How could I possible match vitaes with Ainsworth on attachment?

You know who I am really head-over-heels in love with in attachment is Lyons-Ruth.  Oh my god, her work is immensely wonderful stuff.  I don’t want to match vitaes with her just because she’s so wonderful I wouldn’t even think of it.  So not her.

So it’s between Sroufe and Ainsworth.  Let’s pick Ainsworth.  I know it’s hopelessly not fair to me, but lets see what it turns out to be.


Ainsworth 100; Dr. Childress 100

So clearly Mary Ainsworth is at 100 in attachment.  Pffft, no doubt.  But wait.  I’m at 100 too from early childhood, and it’s a solid 100 with treatment in the foster care system.  Was Mary Ainsworth a clinical psychologist treating attachment trauma hands-on in the foster care system, or was Ainsworth a university researcher running experiments in her laboratory classifying attachment patterns using structured activities and one-way mirrors?

Which provides better knowledge of the attachment system, and remember, I read everything from Ainsworth, so whatever knowledge she has, she shares, and I acquire, so I have at least as much knowledge, and then I have direct experience with all forms of attachment trauma in early childhood.

My expertise in attachment comes from assessing, diagnosing, and treating children age zero to five in the foster care system.  Physical violence trauma and abuse, beatings with electrical cords, cigarette burns, domestic violence; disrupted attachment by foster placement, and attachment instability from changes in foster placement, sexual abuse trauma compounded by neglect trauma from a drug parent, attachment complicated by pre-natal exposure to drug use; and the outcome of severe neglect created in Eastern European orphanages, expressing now in the adoptive family.  I’ve assessed, diagnosed, and treated all of that.  I’ve seen childhood trauma in all its forms, up close and personal, for diagnosis and in treatment.

The world of attachment is wonderful with knowledge, Bowlby and Ainsworth lead, and a host of magnificent researchers add knowledge, Bretherton is wonderful, Fonagy is my favorite of all time, and Sroufe’s longitudinal research is magnificent.  I use every bit of the knowledge these wonderful people provide… and I treat.  I’m the hands on.  No research.  Not one bit on publication or research.  I’m treatment.


Ainsworth 100; Childress 100

Everything from Mary Ainsworth is stellar, and… she’s not an early childhood mental health psychologist; intersubjectivity, affect regulation, language acquisition, autism-spectrum pathology, and the neuro-development of the brain. She’s an attachment researcher. Intersubjectivity is the information sets from Stern and Tronick.  I don’t think Ainsworth has applied intersubjectivity information sets to the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of attachment pathology.  Uh-oh.  With that last sentence, I may be stronger than Ainsworth on intersubjectivity.  Strong in attachment leads to the knowledge of Stern and Tronick, so I have no doubt of her expertise in this area.  I’m at 100, this I know.


Childress 100; Ainsworth 50. 

I treated children ages zero to five in the foster care system.  That’s spot-on trauma. Mary Ainsworth, god bless her, is a university researcher on attachment patterns, she’s not in the trenches of trauma. I’m stronger trauma.

Family Therapy Context for Attachment Trauma

Childress 100; Ainsworth 20

Mary Ainsworth is a university researcher, not a family therapist.  That’s wonderful and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  And I’m stronger on family systems therapy.

So where do we stand? Ties on two and advantage Dr. Chidress on two.

What?  I just went toe-to-toe with Mary Ainsworth on vitae expertise on attachment and we’re tied two and advantage Childress two?  That’s flabbergasting.  No it’s not, I’m strong.  That’s what a PsyD means.  We’re pathology and treatment.  We don’t get attention because we have sacrificed our publication vitae for knowledge… and that’s a good thing for our clients.  I never imagined I could possibly go toe-to-toe with Mary Ainsworth for expert in attachment, but treatment and trauma bring strength to my expertise.

Who’s more expert in attachment, Mary Ainsworth or Dr. Childress?  I’ll easily and happily defer.  What I will say is that I’m top tier.  If I’m not top, then I’m top five.  My expertise in attachment is in the company of Sroufe and Lyons-Ruth, but just from a different source, a treatment rather than research source.

Personality Disorder Pathology

I’m early childhood and attachment, I am not adult personality disorder.  There is, however, considerable overlap.  Attachment trauma creates the narcissistic and borderline pathology.  In attachment, we fully understand the narcissistic and borderline personality, we just know it as attachment trauma.

Who do we have to pick from in personality disorder pathology.  I don’t know who is leading in this field right now, several of the advanced experts have passed away.  How about we say Aaron Beck, who is top-top tier for CBT therapy, and Marsha Linehan with borderline and DBT therapy.

I would never presume to even bring my vitae in the room with Aaron Beck.  I concede at the first whisper of the idea.  So, it must be Marsha Linehan I guess.

Oh my god, Linehan is another of my all time favorites.  She’s so magnificently wonderful with borderline personality pathology, the integration of mindfulness is superb, and DBT is a work of artistic genius.  So, on to our vitaes.

Borderline Personality Disorder

Linehan 100; Childress 70 – actually, Linehan 250; Childress 70

Drop the mic.  I am such a fan of her constructs with regard to the borderline personality.  In my defense, I am very strong in the next two features, trauma origins of affect regulation problems, and the borderline personality parent.

Trauma and Affect Regulation

Linehan 100; Childress 100

I bring strong background in the neuro-development of the brain, trauma, and ADHD. Regulatory systems are core knowledge throughout early childhood mental health, as these systems are rapidly maturing across early childhood.

Affect regulation is an area of high strength for me because of the linkages to ADHD and my expertise there.  And for Marsha Linehan, this may be another one of those 250 ratings, off the chart.  So I’ll concede on both the first two.  Not a peep from me, totally fine with that

Borderline Parenting on the Child

Childress 100; Linehan 100

Now here is where my personality disorder strength is.  I’m not an adult-borderline expert, I’m a borderline parent expert.  My focus is the child, and the borderline parent is into the range of child abuse. Psychologically destructive parenting gets my attention.  I fully understand borderline parenting and the effects on the child, and it’s not good.

My absolute strength on this feature simply warrants a change in position with Linehan, and equal status on this feature.

Family Therapy for Borderline and Trauma

Linehan 100; Childress 100

This is an interesting comparison, DBT with Bowen and Minuchin. They are two radically different approaches, and each is extremely good.  I’m a family systems therapist, Linehan is not, but sort of she is, because DBT would cover that feature with borderline pathology, but not from a family systems approach.  So I’ll go full Bowen and Minuchin to 100, and DBT is wonderful for borderline pathology, so that’s a pick-em.

Narcissistic Personality Pathology

Childress 100; Linehan 98

I move past Linehan when it comes to narcissistic personality pathology. She’s focused and dialed in on borderline pathology.  The two personality pathologies, narcissism and borderline, are variants of the same core pathology, and both are born in childhood trauma.  The two point dink on Linehan is only because she hasn’t directly worked with child abuse by the narcissistic parent.

So where do we stand on a comparison of Childress with Linehan on expertise? Linehan 1, Childress 1, and three ties.  Again, I will once again gladly and happily defer to Marsha Linehan on the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of personality disorder pathology, but once again I’m in the ballpark of top-tier.

And if we add the domain of attachment, I’m stronger in attachment, and I’m stronger on trauma generally. So potentially if we added attachment and trauma, it would be Linehan 1, Childress 3, and three ties.

“Dr. Childress, are you saying you’re more of an expert on narcissistic and borderline personality pathology than Dr. Linehan?”  Heavens no, may those words burn your tongue as you speak them.

Top Tier Expertise

I bring the strength of my expertise to my voice in support of the parents seeking to reunify with their children, restoring love and bonding damaged by the pathology of a fragile parent.  My expertise in trauma, in the attachment system, and in family therapy is national level top tier.  It’s not publication strength, but it is professional vitae strength, solid strength.

I wanted to get as far down the road to solution as I could before alerting the trauma pathogen of my trauma expertise, because this trauma pathogen recruits both enacting and enabling allies, and it is vicious in its malignancy.

This is a narcissistic pathogen, asserting expertise is a narcissistic act that could potentially draw the trauma pathogen’s attention and attack on what it perceives to be a narcissistic exposure (a narcissistic vulnerability).  I’m hoping it will my on my assertion of top tier trauma expertise.  Not only does my vitae provide adequate support for my statements, an attack by the pathogen opens a beneficial counter.  Challenge my expertise?  Then take Foundations to top tier and see what they say.  Works for me either way. 

The strength of my expertise as a psychologist benefits you and your children, families seeking love and protection from abuse.  I’m asserting national-level top-tier expertise in trauma, in attachment, and in family therapy – on the work side of the vitae.  I’m Psy.D.

If you disagree, bring a vitae to compare.  My vitae can hold it’s own with the best.

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


I had a dad once.

My father was a vastly intelligent and well-read man.  Our home was filled with bookcases of magical, wonderful knowledge, from Sumerian history to the Count of Monte Cristo, our bookcases glistened with fascination.  My father also played chess.

He was very good at chess.  He taught me to play when I was five.  He taught me how all the pieces moved, and we went through some practice games to get me familiar with all the rules and stuff.  And then we played my first game of chess.  He beat me in four moves.  Seriously.  There is a way to win in four moves and my dad did it to me my first game.  He then taught me how to do it.  Then we played our second game.

Well, he didn’t beat me in four moves in the second game, I made sure of that.  It was at least eight.  Game after game, my dad, an extremely good chess player, would annihilate his five-year old son… game after game. 

Then he took me aside, and explained in his wonderful big-bear gentleness,

“I beat you pretty bad there, didn’t I?”  uh-huh. 

“Do you know why I did that?”  un-unh. 

“I wanted to teach you something.  Something very important.”  Well now he had my interest.

“We learn more by losing than by winning.  Each one of those games we played, look how you became better with each one.  I didn’t become better.  I’m no better at chess now than when we started.  Because I won all those games.  You became much-much better, because you lost those games.”

Wow.  What a wonderful life lesson that is.  Over the course of our games together, I got better, and we used to have pretty good games.  He was devastating using his Knight in forks; I learned Knight forks pretty darn good.  I’m devastating in Knight forks, wanna play chess?  I enjoyed those games of chess with my dad.  I actually beat him once… maybe… (he might have let me have one, I’m not sure).

But you know what’s even more important and valuable than the life lesson my father taught me that day?  That here I am an old man, and I still carry that lesson taught to a five-year-old boy by his dad so many years ago.  All these many years later, my father still lives in me.

Don’t tell me a dad is not important to a child.

mother-son; father-son; mother-daughter; father-daughter

I remember my son was about 12 at the time.  I made him move bricks, a pile of bricks, from one side of the back yard to the other.  About 100 of them.  I paid him 10 cents a brick.  He liked that.  Ten bricks for $1.00 – $10.00.  He was okay with that.  For a 12 year-old, ten bucks is pretty nice coin to have.

When he finished moving the bricks, I had him sit at the patio table and do ten math problems.  They were all well within his wheel-house, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division.  I paid him $1.00 for each math problem he completed, so he earned $10.00.  Wow!  He was kind of excited, earning $20.00.

Then I said, “Do you know why I did that?”  He shook his head no.  “I wanted to teach you something.  In the world, you get paid for what you do, or you get paid for what you know.  You get paid more for what you know, than what you do.  That’s what school is about, learning the stuff to get paid for what you know.   Moving bricks is honest and honorable work.  It will be your choice.”

My son graduated from The George Washington University in Washington, DC a couple years ago with a degree in foreign relations.  The commencement ceremony was on the national mall under the Washington Monument, kid you not.  I have the pictures.  Senator Cory Booker was the speaker.  My son was lucky, he landed a pretty good job with a consulting firm in Washington, right out of college.  He’s an impressive guy.

mother-daughter; father-daughter; mother-son; father-son

Attachment Bonding Rejection

You come to me as a clinical psychologist and tell me that a father hasn’t seen his son in years.  The father says he just wants to spend time with his son.  He just wants to love his son.

“Why isn’t that happening?” I ask.

The son doesn’t want to spend time with his father, is the reply.

I remember my games of chess with my dad.  I remember that one time my dad took me to work with him, I was about 10.  Some sort of have your kid at work day.  He was a boss type person, so everybody was doing what he told them.  That was interesting.  He was my dad.  He was a big cuddly teddy bear (with huffy puffy if you did something bad, like the time I got caught for throwing rocks at another kid.  Yeah, my dad got huffy puffy bear on that one).  It was interesting for a 10 year old boy to see his father being a boss person at work.

A child doesn’t want to spend time with his dad?  I remember being a child.  That’s nonsense. 

“Is the dad doing anything bad?” I ask.

The father got a little huffy puffy once.  “Bad huffy puffy?” I ask.  No, I’m told.  Just a normal huffy puffy parent.

“Why did the dad get huffy puffy?” I ask.

Because the child was rude and defiant, I’m told.  Oh my goodness, if I had been rude and defiant with my dad he would have been very huffy puffy, not bad huffy puffy, but not a huffy puffy a kid would want to see.  Defiance and rude?  All parents get huffy puffy on that, because it’s not okay for the child to be defiant and rude.

“And is that it?” I ask.  Yes, I’m told.

And I remember my dad.  I remember where my love of chess comes from.  I remember my dad’s big cuddly-bear hugs, rolling with him on the living room floor in rough-house play, and I remember his laugh.  His laugh was the best thing of all for me to hear.  He smiled a lot, but not laugh.  His laugh was the best to hear.

We have to restore the father-son bond immediately I say.  Because that father-son bond is simply too important to the boy.  I know.  I was a child once.  I had a father.  I know.

Don’t tell me a father is not important. 

father-son; mother-son; father-daughter; mother-daughter

I have a daughter too.  Shall I tell you about her?  She’s magnificent.  I’m so proud of who she is.  She is the absolute glow in my eye.

You know what’s really wonderful about being a dad.  My wife is into visual-design crafting, she’s got an excellent artistic eye.  My daughter, when she’s home from college, will often join my wife in her crafting room, and I’ll hear them chattering their woman stuff.  Hearing that makes me glow as a dad.  Sometimes they go to tea at some tea place (I don’t go, are you kidding me?  Tea?  That’s a mother-daughter thing).  Apparently there’s some fancy tea place they go to, hoity-toity oooo.


I once took my, about 10 year-old daughter on a business trip to New York with me. I was doing a conference presentation with my professional colleagues, can’t remember what it was about.  Standard professional conference nonsense.  So I decided to bring my daughter with me, just dad and his princess on the town in New York city.  Of course we did Broadway and the Statue of Liberty.  My daughter left her purse with her phone in it on the subway.  Oh no!  (her purse also had her retainer in it… mom’s not going to be happy about losing that.  Mom’s going to get pretty huffy puffy).

But you know what?  Mom had put a label on my daughter’s phone with my wife’s phone number.  The person who found the phone in New York city called my wife in L.A. and my wife coordinated our meeting this person just outside Yankee Stadium and we got my daughter’s phone and retainer back.  Yay mom.  Mom took care us from all the way across the country.

Don’t tell me a mother is not important to a child.

father-daughter; mother-daughter; father-son; mother-son 

Do you know one of my wife’s favorite stories is about the time she got so irritated with my son for being a butthead that she told him to “Get outside!” and she threw him outside in the back yard and locked the door.  Do you know what my son did?  My son just walked around to the front door and walked in the house.  My wife turned around and looked at him, realizing she didn’t lock the front door, and how he simply ignored her huffy puffy because he knew it was just huffy puffy because he was being a butthead.  And they both started laughing. 

Don’t tell me a child doesn’t need a mother.

I was a child once.  I remember how wonderful it is to be loved by my mother, to be loved by my father.

Don’t tell me a child doesn’t need their mother’s love, the love of their father.  I was a child once.  So were you.  I know what a mother’s love means, I know what a father’s love means.  Do you?

So I say to the people who come to me as a clinical psychologist, we need to fix the mother-son; father-son; mother-daughter; father-daughter as fast as we possibly can.  It’s too important.  A child can’t lose the love of a mother, the love of a father.  That’s too important.

Let’s fix things as fast as we can, and let’s bring as many smiles, and hugs, and stories, and huffy puffy as we can to the child… because that’s wonderful for the child.  I was a child once.  I remember.

My dad died in 1985.  I still miss his big cuddly bear hugs.  For about ten years after his death, he’d come to me sometimes in my dreams at night, just to give me one of his big cuddly bear hugs.  I remember once, becoming very sad when I woke up and realized that the big cuddly bear hug I was just having with my dad… it was only a dream.  Thanks dad.  I love you too.

Don’t tell me a dad isn’t important to a child.  I know better.

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

Treatment Plan? What’s a Treatment Plan?

So there is no inter-rater reliability or validity to child custody evaluations, there is no knowledge of attachment or family systems therapy or personalty pathology in the mental heath people treating your families, and there is no treatment plan guiding treatment.  As a clinical psychologist, my head is exploding.

The very first question a clinical psychologist asks about an assessment procedure is, “What’s the reliability?”  The next question is, “What’s the research on validity?”  Third question, “What are the possible cultural issues and limitations?” boom-boom-boom all clinical psychologists ask these same first three questions about an assessment procedure, and in that order – reliability, validity, culture.

The answers with child custody evaluations are, zero, there is none, and we don’t know.  Done.  There is not a clinical psychologist alive that accepts those three answers.  Done.

Basic to professional practice, and I mean obvious-fundamental duh-level basic to professional practice, is that you’re expected to know about the pathology you are treating (Standard 2.01a).  That is simply a no-brainer.  If you’re treating autism… you know about autism.  If you’re treating eating disorders… you know about eating disorders.  You know about that pathology you’re treating.  Obvious no-brainer, right?

So if you’re treating attachment pathology you know about the attachment system, right?  No.  Not in the alternate reality of forensic psychology.  You don’t need to know anything about the attachment system if you’re treating attachment pathology in forensic psychology.  Something about working for the court means you don’t need to know stuff anymore.  You’re exempt from knowing anything if it’s a court-involved family.

What about if you’re treating families, you would need to know about family therapy right?  You’d think so, but no.  Not in this alternate reality of forensic psychology.  You don’t even need to know about family systems therapy to treat families.  No knowledge necessary, just dive right in.

My head is exploding.

And in forensic psychology there’s no such thing as a treatment plan. A what?

I know.  That’s exactly what I’m saying.  What’s a treatment plan?  <sigh>

Look at a school IEP.  There it is.  That’s it.  That’s a treatment plan.

Do the same thing except for pathology problems rather than educational problems, and that’s a treatment plan in clinical psychology.

The public school system is slightly more formal in how they handle their treatment plans than is clinical psychology, but we in clinical psychology still have the full structure of the treatment plan in our intake assessment notes and our treatment progress notes.

So what do we notice right off the bat about a standard of practice routine school treatment plan for the child’s educational problems… it’s written.

You don’t even have to ask.  The IEP is written.  If you asked the school NOT to do a written treatment plan, they’d say no.  It’s a written treatment plan.

The educational treatment plan of an IEP is explained to parents fully, and parents have to agree to the proposed plan before the school has permission to enact the treatment plan described to the parent and documented in the written treatment plan.  In clinical psychology, this is called informed consent to treatment (Standard 10.01 of the APA ethics code).

A written treatment plan and full explanation and informed consent of the parent is standard-of-practice routine in the public schools.

As a parent in the public school system, you are provided with a written educational treatment plan for your child.  That plan comprehensively addresses each aspect of your child’s educational challenges, identifying goals, specific interventions, and ways that progress toward achieving those goals will be measured.

School system – routine standard of practice – written treatment plan.

And the professional standards of practice in forensic psychology require you to get a court order to learn what symptoms the child has.  I am writing letters for parents supporting their attorney’s efforts to get a court order to find out what the child’s symptoms are.  Far cry from an IEP standard of practice, wouldn’t you say?

Have you ever been given a written treatment plan for your therapy with your child?

What about for your child’s individual therapy, have you ever seen the therapy IEP for your child’s individual therapy?

My head is exploding.  We are going to ask… strongly suggest… expect… that all mental health professionals working with your children practice at least at the level of our public schools for when they develop educational assessments and interventions for your children’s educational problems.

Is that too much to ask forensic psychology?  That you practice at least at the level of the public school system when they assess and intervene with educational problems?

Because if that’s too much to handle forensic psychology, if you can’t make it up that hill to the standards that are routine for our public school system, then step aside please, because clinical psychology does treatment plans routinely, and we in clinical psychology can actually elevate the IEP plan process.  So we’re comfortable with written treatment plans ala IEP in clinical psychology.

AB-PA represents the return of clinical psychology to court-involved practice.

Parents, compare your treatment plans to the school IEP.  Oh my god, look how beneath professional standards of practice we are.  We should routinely be at school IEP documented treatment plan level… today…. right now…. yikes, yikes, yikes.  That’s seriously deficient where we’re at.

Forensic psychology, you’re going to need to up your game substantially and quickly.  IEP level written treatment plans.  Standards of practice at LEAST at the level provided by the public school system for the child’s educational needs.

No?  Well that’s a curious response, forensic psychology.  Because I suspect that may be a legal right of this parent.  At the level of the public school system.  You’re saying no to “at the level of the public schools”?  That may be actionable.  It’d be actionable in the public school system if the school didn’t do a written IEP level treatment plan for the child’s educational problems.

Oh, and if you’re saying no to practice at least at the level of our public school system… why?

Don’t these parents deserve the same respect and treatment that they receive from our schools?  Why don’t these parents deserve the same respect and treatment from professional psychology that the receive routinely as a standard of practice in the educational system.

Soooo, forensic psychology… you may have a problem saying that you are NOT going to provide standard of care in treatment planning that is at LEAST at the level mandated for treatment of educational problems in the public school system?

Treatment plans.  Expected standard of practice.

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

A Court Order? A Court Order? Contempt & Shame.

I want to note this day.  I want to note the contempt that forensic psychology has for these parents, and the shame this brings to all of professional psychology.

I just had to write a consultant letter of support for a parent seeking a court order to obtain information about their child’s symptoms…. not the child’s treatment, just the child’s symptoms.  Just to be told what the child’s symptoms are, requires that these parents obtain a court order.

Court Request for Symptom Information

Shame to professional psychology.  Shame to the APA.

Parents are being forced to obtain a court order just to be told their child’s symptoms.

Shame to the APA.  Shame to psychology.

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

A Dangerous Pathology

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everything is completely transparent.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Parenting Practices Rating Scale
Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s the right thing to do.

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