Kohut: Self Psychology

I have opened five grand-high Kahunas of professional psychology,

  1.  John Bowlby: attachment
  2.  Savador Minuchin: family systems therapy
  3.  Aaron Beck: CBT & personality disorders
  4.  Bessel van der Kolk: complex trauma
  5.  Edward Tronick: child development

I am now going to open a sixth, Heinz Kohut: Psychoanalytic school; Self Psychology, Object Relations.

Heinz Kohut’s Self Psychology: An Overview

As the article notes, Kohut was twice named by peer nomination and accolade to the list of prominent accomplishment in the field .

Heinz Kohut is a psychoanalyst.  The psychoanalytic school is one of the four primary schools of psychotherapy

  • Psychoanalytic
  • Humanistic-Existential
  • Cognitive-Behavioral
  • Family Systems

The psychoanalytic school was formed and grounded by Freud, extended in different directions by Klien, Mahler, Erikson, Jung, and others, through personality disorders and Kernberg, and object relations to Winnicott and Bowlby.

And then into Kohut.  Heinz Kohut is the current state of the psychoanalytic school; Kohut, elaborated by Stolorow, extended into Bowlby, Stern and Tronick.  This is the current psychoanalytic school, and this is the sixth grand-high Kahuna of professional psychology I am calling.

Heinz Kohut.  Self Psychology; Object Relations.

Key Constructs?

  • Modulated “optimal frustration”
  • Self-objects
  • Transference relationships
  • Transmuting internalizations
  • Parental failure of empathy

I’ve known Kohut all along.  Forensic psychology is dumb as a rock.  I wanted to lay foundation – Bowlby, Minuchin, Beck – then context – van der Kolk, Tronick .

Only once we are free of the pathogen, will I reach Heinz Kohut and Self Psychology.

The parents are free now, they have Minuchin, the ICD-10, and the APA ethics code.  They have surrounding support in attachment, complex trauma, and the breach-and-repair sequence.

They have the assessment protocol (Assessment of Attachment-Related Pathology Surrounding Divorce), and they have alternative options (ABAB Single-Case Assessment and Remedy; the Contingent Visitation Schedule).

Parents have the Escher Paradox of the Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting to identify allies of the pathogen, they have the Parenting Practices Rating Scale to document their parenting and protect themselves from false allegations.  Everyone has the Parent-Child Relationship Rating Scale as the outcome measure for the pathology.

If there is any concern about the child’s recovery, Dorcy Pruter is available and recommended; Conscious Co-Parenting Institute.

Everyone has everything they need.  It’s just a matter of do you want a solution or not?  If you want to argue and fight, and fight, and fight, you will. When you want a solution… do it.

I am free now of my obligations.

Now, we’ve reached Heinz Kohut: Self Psychology; Object Relations

  • John Bowly is attachment
  • Aaron Beck is CBT
  • B.F. Sinner is behavioral psychology
  • Salvador Minuchin is family systems therapy
  • Heinz Kohut is psychoanalysis

The top-tier of grand-high Kahunas in the pantheon of professional psychology, sculpt a mountain.

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

Dr. Childress Vitae

I will be examining the vitaes of the professionals surrounding court-involved family conflict and attachment pathology.  I will begin with my own.

I am entering a period of court testimony.  It is the obligation of the court to evaluate my credibility.  In some cases, I may be testifying in opposition to other asserted “experts” both in forensic psychology (such as the “child custody evaluator” or “reunification therapist” – there is no such thing) or a Gardernian PAS experts, such as Dr. Bernet, Ms. Woodall, Ms. Baker, Ms. Gottlieb, or Dr. Lorandos.

In many cases, our opinions and our testimony will disagree.  The courts will need to make a determination of our respective credibility when our opinions disagree.  Credibility is grounded in vitae, in one’s professional education, training, and experience – this is represented on the professional vitae.

Most non-psychologists cannot read a professional psychology vitae for its substance, areas of fluff and insubstantial entries can be misinterpreted as having more value than they actually convey.  In addition, the background training, education, and experience with specific pathologies speaks to the Boundaries of Competence of the mental health professional (Standard 2.01a of the APA ethics code), which bears again directly on credibility in opinions formed and offered about a specific type of pathology.

The final area of concern addressed by this review of professional vitaes is potential exploitation of a vulnerable population, parents in court-involved child custody conflicts who are in desperate need of professional diagnosis and treatment.  Self-asserted “expertise” by charlatans and frauds preys on this vulnerable population, it is time to review asserted professional “expertise” for accuracy and truthfulness.

In my peer-review of professional vitaes I am also open myself to this same peer-review from my colleagues.  I welcome and invite this peer-review of my professional background as appropriate for establishing both my credibility and my boundaries of professional competence.

I will start with a review of my professional vitae. This will stand as both my offer of professional credibility in my professional opinions and will serve as comparison when I review the professional vitaes of my colleagues.

This is my vitae review for myself, Dr. Childress.

Structure of My Vitae Presentation

I organized my professional vitae into four main domains, and I will discuss each area in turn;

1.)  Entry Orientation Page

2.)  Work Experience

3.)  Training Received

4.)  Training Provided

Of first note is that my doctoral degree is a Psy.D. (Doctor of Psychology) not a Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy).  I am specialized in my education and training on clinical psychology, pathology, and its diagnosis and treatment.   This has implications.

Psy.D vs. Ph.D. Vitaes

Many doctoral vitaes have a Research section, I don’t.  My doctoral degree is a Psy.D. not a Ph.D.  This means that I sacrificed the Research side of my vitae for increased education, training, and knowledge about pathology and treatment.  Instead of receiving doctoral training in research methodology and statistics as does a Ph.D doctoral student, a Psy.D. doctorate replaces the research and statistics training with additional education and training in pathology and its treatment.

This makes the Psy.D. doctorate the most advanced pathology and treatment degree possible, more advanced regarding pathology and its treatment than a Ph.D. degree in clinical psychology.

A Psy.D. will never hold major university appointments because we sacrificed the research side of our vitaes, and hence any chance of university appointments, by selecting to increase our professional skills, knowledge, and expertise in clinical pathology and its treatment.  We are active treatment providers, not researchers at a university, not partially trained therapists.

This sacrifice of research for increased knowledge about pathology and its treatment that’s obtained through a Psy.D. clinical psychology doctoral program has a cascading effect into future training, a further extension of the specialized professional expertise of the Psy.D. doctoral education as more training is received.

All doctorate degrees in clinical psychology require two full years of supervised experience for licensure, one year prior to being awarded the doctoral degree (the “predoctoral internship” year) and one year of supervised experience after receiving the doctorate (the “post-doctoral” training  year).

Note:  I had two years of supervised post-doctoral training at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, an additional training year beyond that required for licensure (see dates on CHLA Post-Doctoral training).

Note:  A licensed Master’s degree therapist only has one year of supervised training total (as compared to my three years of supervised training prior to licensure). In addition to the increased years of education in a doctoral program over a Master’s program, I also have three times as much supervised training as a Master’s level clinician.

Education prepares a clinical psychologist, but it only partially teaches, which is the reason for two years of required supervised training.  The pathology teaches. The assessment of pathology teaches its features, treatment teaches the pathology’s core.  The prior education provides the information needed to benefit from the pathology’s instruction, but it is the pathology itself, not the books and classes, that teaches.

Note: Boundaries of professional competence are always based on direct work experience, not reading about it in a book or taking a course about the pathology.  In clinical psychology, direct treatment experience is the mark for Boundaries of Competence (Standard 2.01a).

When a Psy.D. enters the first predoctoral training year, the preparations in educational background and surrounding coursework for treating pathology are stronger than those of the Ph.D. student who devoted coursework to research methodoloty and statistics.  While they were being trained in research methodology and statistics, we were receiving additional education and training in pathology and its treatment – that is our specialty focus for a Psy.D. doctorate – we know more to start with, at the beginning of our direct supervised training year.

This means that the Psy.D. doctorate is better prepared and better able to take advantage of the pathology’s direct instruction regarding its features and its core, since our educational preparation for this instruction directly from the pathology is more complete and advanced relative to the education and training received by a Ph.D. doctorate.

The more advanced preparation received by the Psy.D. doctorate means that we learn more during our internship year than does the Ph.D. clinician, who is less prepared for pathology and its treatment.  So the advantage to a Psy.D. degree becomes even larger by the end of the first predoctoral internship year.

When a Psy.D. and a Ph.D. emerge from their predoctoral training year, the gap between their knowledge has widened because of the better preparation of the Psy.D. for the internship training experience.

This gulf between the knowledge and professional expertise of the Psy.D. and Ph.D. becomes even larger with the post-doctoral training year.  The improved preparation of the Psy.D., both by education and then further increased by the predoctoral internship year, now once again places this student at a more advanced position to benefit from the post-doctoral training.

Psy.D. doctorates learn more in the post-doctoral training year than Ph.D. doctorates.  We emerge substantially better educated, skilled, and trained in clinical pathology and its treatment than the Ph.D. degree. That is why we sacrifice the Research sides of our vitaes, that is why we sacrifice all hope of university appointments, and all goals for personal advancement within that domain.

Psy.D. doctorates are the best clinical psychologists, assessing, diagnosing, and treating.  We are better than Ph.D. doctorates at all three aspects of pathology.  Ph.D. doctorates are better at conducting research studies and they are able to teach at universities, and they also can treat patients reasonable well.  Psy.D. psychologist are the best clinical psychologists.

My vitae is a Psy.D. vitae, a specialist professional in pathology, its assessment, diagnosis, and treatment.

Child Versus Adult Psychology

Another important consideration in training and on the vitae is the focus on adults or children in treatment (and families if the focus is on children).

All clinical psychologists and Master’s level therapists are first trained in adult pathology, adult diagnosis, and adult treatment models.  This is because they start their education and training knowing nothing, and children are complex and require specialized expertise.  So all education and training in clinical psychology begins with adult treatment models.

The clinical psychology doctoral student must actively seek out training opportunities with children (and families). The first place this shows on the vitae is in the selection of the predoctoral internship, was it adult-oriented or was it a child treatment internship?.  This is followed by the post-doctoral training year, was it an adult-oriented placement or child placement?

Note:  My pre-doctoral internship year and my two years of post-doctoral training were all with Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles – a strong child-oriented training.

Childhood is a period of rapid maturation and development, and treating children involves a complex blend of factors,

1.) The Pathology:  The nature of the pathology is of direct influence, whether it is ADHD-spectrum, autism-spectrum, trauma-spectrum, eating disorders, substance abuse, etc., will all determine the scope of professional expertise needed for each type of pathology.

2.)  Developmental Stage:  Childhood is a period of rapid and continual maturation that is both structured by bio-social factors and is dependent upon individual variations with the child.  New brain systems open up and become available on a two-year period of maturational development (ages 2-4 toddler; 4-6 kindergarten; 6-8 early school years; 8-10 later school years; 10-12 preadolescent; 12-14 puberty; 14-16 mid-adolescence; 16-18 later adolescence).

All pathology will be influenced in its expression by both the age of the child and the unique development challenges of that specific period of development.  To work across the spectrum of childhood requires advanced expertise in all the shifting factors of maturation in association with the specific child pathology.

3.) Family Factors:  All children are deeply embedded in a family, with primary attachment bonds to mother and father, and secondary attachment bonds, to a greater or lesser degree, into extended family.  The maturation of the child’s neural networks for all psychological, emotional, and cognitive function expects experiences in the parent-child relationship (called “experience-expectant” maturation) and requires these experiences for healthy developmental maturation (called “experience-dependent” maturation).

Pathology and developmental age (the developmental challenges of that maturational period) are both further embedded into complex family relationships among multiple people, each having personal needs formed in their families of orgin.  The primary focus of family factors centers on the quality and nature of the child’s bonding and relationship to mother and father (mother-son, mother-daughter, father-son, father-daughter – each is unique – each is essential).

My background and training are entirely in child and family therapy across all age ranges, including an early childhood mental health specialty (ages 0-5), school-age years, and adolescence.

1) Entry Orientation Page


I begin my vitae by listing my Education –  A Psy.D. Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University, a Master’s Degree in Community/Clinical Psychology from California State University, Northridge, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from UCLA.

Of note is that the Community Psychology component of my Master’s degree was instruction and training in addressing pathology by changing community structures, such as solving family conflict pathology by altering the community structures of the mental health and legal systems surrounding the family conflct pathology.

I have specific background education and training for specifically this task of changing the mental health system and legal system as a treatment intervention for family conflict pathology.  This Master’s degree training in the Community Psychology component also involved direct education and training in Organizational Development consulting (improving the functioning of organizations, such as business consultation).

California State University, Northridge
; 6/85
M.A. degree in Clinical/Community Psychology

In my doctoral program at Pepperdine I was able to focus my clinical training in psychotherapy.  There are four primary schools of psychotherapy; psychoanalytic, humanistic-existential, cognitive-behavioral, and family systems.  In the Pepperdine Psy.D. doctoral program we could select two of the four as our specialized training focus.

I selected family systems therapy and humanistic-existential therapy as my specialties.  I am trained in all theorists and all models of family systems therapy, the four primary being Structural (Minuchin), Strategic (Haley & Madanes), Bowenian (Bowen), and Humanistic (Satir).  I am also knowledgeable in Family of Origin therapy (Framo), Contextual family system therapy (Boszormenyi-Nagy), Behavioral family therapy (Wynne), and Multi-Family family therapy (Gritzer & Okun).  I’ve never been trained in the Milan approach because it requires a one-way mirror and multiple therapists  (it doesn’t seem practical).

Recent Presentations

I would normally not place my conference presentations on the first page of my vitae.  I did this because I am a testifying expert witness in the courts and these Recent Presentations establish my relevance and background related to court-involved family conflict.

For the convenience of attorneys presenting my vitae for qualification as an expert witness, I list some of my most recent presentations.  The strength of my presentations is evidenced by the most recent to the American Psychological Association and a prior presentation in 2017 to the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC).

The international scope of my expertise is demonstrated in a presentation in the Netherlands and an invited meeting with the Dutch Ministry of Justice, and an invited presentation by the Law Society of Saskatchewan.

I also list two legislative briefings I have provided, one to the Massachusetts legislature and one to the Pennsylvania legislature.  All of these presentations on this first entry page of my vitae are regarding court-involved family conflict pathology.

I am a Psy.D.  A Psy.D. vitae is oriented toward work experience.  It will be empty of presentations and research because that is not the focus of a Psy.D. doctorate, we sacrifice that side of our vitae for increased knowledge and training in pathology and its treatment.  Yet my vitae is still relatively strong on that side as well, even where I should be weak (research and presentation), I’m still strong.

Work Experience

This is the strength of a Psy.D. vitae.  We will review my work experience vitae from the bottom-up, tracking the progression of experience gained.

3/74 –6/78 Crisis Counselor Los Angeles Suicide Prevention Center
Crisis telephone counselor and shift supervisor for Los Angeles Suicide Prevention Center crisis telephone hotline. Supervisor and resource for crisis counselors.

I started my career in psychology my Freshman year at UCLA.  I have always been on the path of clinical psychology since my first steps.  My Sophomore year at UCLA I sought out my first clinical psychology placement with the Suicide Prevention Center hotline in Los Angeles.

We had a week of training by the Suicide Prevention Center in suicide and crisis counseling.  Crisis counseling is its own specialty, it’s not psychotherapy, it has a differnet focus.  I learned crisis counseling upon my first entry into clinical psychology. 

I maintained my placement at the Suicide Prevention Center throughout my undergraduate degree as a Psychology major at UCLA, rising to a paid shift supervisor by my senior year.  Crisis and trauma are always a treatment team, they are too high-intensity for individual decision-making without support – in crisis counseling and trauma it’s always a treatment team.

9/80–9/85 Psychiatric Aide
Crossroads Adolescent Psychiatric Hospital; Woodview-Calabassas Psychiatric Hospital; Northridge Psychiatric Hospital, Metropolitan State Hospital, Camarillo State Hospital.

When I graduated from UCLA, I next sought a Master’s degree in Community/Clinical Psychology.  I worked my way through my Master’s degree program as a psychiatric aide at local-area psych hospitals. 

I started by working with the adult populations, major depression, bipolar, schizophrenia.  Over the course of time I shifted to adolescents, eventually spending the bulk of this period working at Crossroads Hospital, an adolescent psychiatric hospital.

I started my professional career working in the trenches, suicide, crisis counseling, and major psychiatric pathology.  I know professional clinical psychology from the ground up, from the trenches.

9/85 -9/98 Research Associate UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute
Principle Investigator: Keith Nuechterlein, Ph.D.
Area: Longitudinal study of initial-onset schizophrenia. Received annual training to research and clinical reliability in the rating of psychotic symptoms using the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale (BPRS). Managed all aspects of data collection and data processing.

My next position was with a major NIMH longitudinal research project on schizophrenia.  Note the dates of time spent in this position – over 12 years.  I was responsible for managing all aspects of data collection and data processing for a major research project, supervising and directing three research staff.

When I began, the testing battery for the schizophrenic patients that was conducted at intake, remission, relapse, one year, through a randomized control double-blind trial, and into a three-year test, was 8-hours long.  It consisted of physiological measures, interview measures, symptom ratings, cognitive testing, computerized testing, and paper-and-pencil measures.  When I left, the battery of tests had expanded to 16-hours across two days of testing at each test point.

Of prominent note regarding this work experience is that I was trained every year for 12 years to clinical reliability and research reliability on the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale (BPRS), which Wikipedia describes as “the oldest, and most widely used scale for measuring psychotic symptoms.”

I have extensive background with psychotic-delusional pathology, rating symptoms and making the diagnosis.  I am likely one of the best trained clinicians in the country on making a diagnosis of psychotic pathology based on twelve years of annual training in doing just that.

9/98 -9/99 Research Associate
UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute
Principle Investigator: Elisabeth Dykens, Ph.D.
Area: Cognitive functioning in Williams Syndrome. Test administration and coding of behavioral observation data.

As I shifted over into my doctoral studies at Pepperdine, I left the UCLA research project on schizophrenia and secured a position with a different clinical research project at UCLA working with children.  This research project focused on two populations of pathology, William’s Syndrome and Prader-Willi syndrome.  In addition to collecting a range of test data at various points, we also scored recorded behavioral observation data.  I have worked with every single type of data.

9/99-9/00  Predoctoral Psychology Intern –APA Accredited
Children’s Hospital Los Angeles
Rotations: spina bifida, early childhood preschool consultation

Despite my time at UCLA with schizophrenia, my goal has always been child and family therapy.  For my doctoral internship training I sought out an APA accredited internship at Childrens’ Hospital of Los Angeles. 

My primary medical-pediatric psychologist rotation was the Spina Bifida clinic (that’s the spinal cord birth defect that puts children in wheelchairs).  That’s where I first encountered the complex trauma of traumatic grief.  My community mental health treatment focus at CHLA with ADHD, and I acquired early childhood mentorship from Marie Pousen, Ph.D. who directed a therapeutic preschool at CHLA.

9/00 –4/02 Postdoctoral Fellow
Children’s Hospital Los Angeles
Two-year post-doctoral fellowship. Specialty focus: ADHD; spina bifida; early childhood mental health

I then secured post-doctoral fellowship training at CHLA, continuing in the spina bifida clinic and a more expanded focus in ADHD and early childhood mental health.  Licensure only required one year of predoctoral supervised training and one year of post-doctoral supervised training – but the CHLA post-doc was a 2-year program, a full year more of supervised training than is required.

Why would someone do an additional year of supervised post-doctoral training above and beyond what is required for licensure?  Why would CHLA only offer a 2-year post-doctoral fellowship when they know that only one year is required for licensure?

4/02-9/02: Research Associate Children’s Hospital Los Angeles
Principle Investigator: Ernest Katz, Ph.D.
Multi-site Children’s Hospital study of remediation of attention deficits of children with cancer.

During my post-doctoral training at CHLA, I also extended my training over into pediatric cancer, working on a multi-site research project on the remediation of attention deficits caused by intrathecal chemotherapy (chemotherapy into the spinal-cord and brain) and brain cancer treated with radiation.

The research involved six of the major Children’s Hospitals, and I was sent to M.D. Anderson Hospital at the University of Texas along with clinical treatment representatives from the other six Children’s Hospitals for training in the attention-remediation protocol used in the multi-site study.

My post-doctoral training was the last position that I actually applied for.  From that point on I have been recruited to each of the following positions.

4/02 –10/06: Pediatric Psychologist Children’s Hospital Orange County – UCI Child Development Center
Early Identification and Treatment of ADHD in Preschoolers
Director: James Swanson, Ph.D.
Served as the primary clinical psychologist on a joint CHOC-UCI project for early identification of ADHD in preschool-age children.

I was recruited our out of CHLA to join Children’s Hospital of Orange County on medical staff in the Psychology Department of Choc, to serve as the lead clinical psychologist on a collaborative Choc-UCI Child Development Center project on the identification and remediation of ADHD in preschool-age children.  I was recruited to this position because of my triple background in ADHD specialization, early childhood specialization, and my training as a pediatric psychologist.

Jim Swanson, Ph.D. is one of the top-tier experts in ADHD.  His UCI Child Development Center was one of the lead sites for the multi-site MTA randomized control study of ADHD conducted in the 1990s, considered the best randomized control study ever conducted for any pathology.  His UCI Child Development Center has also produced nearly all of the research on school-based interventions for ADHD, and major pharmaceutical companies run their clincal trails for new ADHD medication through the UCI Child Development Center because the high-quality of treatment at the UCI Child Development Center ensures that any differences are due to medication effects because the treatment is stable at – the best.

I had several roles with this project, including providing on-call coverage at Choc for consultations on hospital units, supervision of interns and post-doctoral fellows at Choc’s APA accredited internship and post-doctoral training programs, providing direct patient care, supervising training of para-professionals in a specific parent training approach (C.O.P.E. Model) developed by Dr. Cunningham at McMaster’s University, and I was responsible for developing a county-wide teacher training program for preschools, culminating in a two-day training organized and led by me for all Head Start preschools in Orange County.

Early Childhood Trainings & Seminars Given

Functional Behavioral Analysis with Preschool-Age Children -Seminar Series. (9/26/03; 10/17/03). Orange County Head Start Center Directors and Multi-disciplinary Teams. Orange, CA.

Much of the teacher training was in Functional Behavioral Analysis (FBA), a more sophisticated variation of Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA).

Note:  Munchausen by Proxy

My background training and experience at two Children’s Hospitals (CHLA and Choc) provided me with professional training, background, and experience with the DSM-5 diagnosis of Factitious Disorder Imposed on Another (i.e., Munchausen’s by proxy).

Who do you think sees Munchausen’s by proxy?  Children’s Hospitals.  The medical disorder can’t be diagnosed, it keeps moving up the chain of expertise and testing, eventually arriving at the top, Children’s Hospital.  The medical physician begins to see what is happening from the many inconclusive tests.

What does the physician do when Munchausen’s by proxy is suspected?  They call for a “psych consult” – “I think we may have a case of Munchausen’s here, put in a call for a psych consult.”  Then a call is placed to the Psychology Department of the Children’s Hospital, and one of the pediatric psychologists goes up to begin an assessment for Muchausen’s by proxy (Factitious Disorder Imposed on Another).

I am that psychologist in the Psychology Department of Children’s Hospital.  I’m the pediatric psychologist at Children’s Hospital who goes to assess and diagnose Factitious Disorder Imposed on Another.  I am likely one of the most expert clinical psychologists anywere in the pathology of Munchausen’s by proxy – Factitious Disorder Imposed on Another.

I am also one of the best trained clinical psychologists in the assessment of delusional psychotic pathology (UCLA – BPRS).   These are both specialized domains of expertise and training, and they are both directly relevant to court-involved attachment pathology – a shared persecutory delusion that is created in the child for secondary gain – a factitious delusional-psychiatric disorder imposed on the child for secondary gain.

5/03 –10/06: Clinical Director
Fineman Consulting Group
Fire F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Juvenile Firesetting Intervention Program
Executive Director: Kenneth Fineman, Ph.D.
Through grants from FEMA and the Department of Justice to develop a national model for juvenile firesetting intervention, collaborated with Dr. Fineman in developingacomprehensive clinical psychology assessment protocol for the mental healthevaluation of juvenile firesetting behavior.

From this position at Choc-UCI, I was then recruited to serve as the Clinical Director for an assessment and treatment program for juvenile firesetting behavior through FEMA and the Department of Justice.  Dr. Fineman served as the content expert on juvenile firesetting, he is a forensic psychologist and a world-recognized expert in juvenile firesetting behavior.  FEMA and the DOJ wanted to develop a national-model mental health assessment of juvenile firesetters to determine whether individual cases warranted simple fire safety education, required mental health involvement, or required a juvenile justice response.

I was recruited to provide the clinical psychology expertise, including professional expertise in the construction of assessment protocols for child pathology.  We also hired an early career professional seeking experience in Organizational Development (Dr. Patterson) to work with the local-area fire-agencies on implementing the field portion of the screening assessment protocol.  I supervised his Organizational Development work based from my prior training in my Master’s program.

10/06 -6/08: Clinical Director
START Pediatric Neurodevelopmental Assessment and Treatment Center
California State University, San Bernardino Institute of Child Development and Family Relations
Clinical director for an early childhood assessment and treatment center providing comprehensive developmental assessment and psychotherapy services to children ages 0-5 years old. Directed the clinical operations, clinical staff, and the provision of comprehensive psychological assessment and treatment services across clinic-based, home-based, and school-based services. A three-university collaboration with speech and language services through the University of Redlands, occupational therapy through Loma Linda University, and psychology through Calif. State University, San Bernardino.

I was then recruited to serve as the Clinical Director for a three-university assessment and treatment center working with children ages 0-5 in the foster care system, our primary referrals were from the county’s Department of Children’s Services and our funding was through the county Department of Mental Health.

Loma Linda University provided faculty and trainees from their Occupational Therapy program, the University of Redlands provided faculty and trainees from their Speech and Language program, and California State University, San Bernardino provided psychology faculty, mental health therapists, and mental health trainees (Master’s level interns and post-doctoral fellows).

I was hired by Cal State as the Clinical Director to provide the clinical psychology expertise.  As the Clinical Director, I must know all the mental health issues involved with the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of early childhood complex trauma and attachment pathology.  I must also understand the sensory-motor issues involved (OT, sensory integration; Loma Linda) and language issues issues involved (speech-and-language, praxic, pragmatic, and semantic; Redlands) to be able to integrate these domains of assessment and treatment into the overall comprehensive treatment plan for children ages 0-5 in the foster care system.

While in this position, I developed a para-professional support training program with undergraduate students at Cal State, culminating in a team of para-professionals who would work directly in the preschool classroom and in the foster care placement with the care providers and the child.

6/08–Current: Private Practice
219 N. Indian Hill Blvd., Ste. 201
Claremont, CA 91711
Psychotherapy with adults, couples, children, and families. Specializing in attachment pathology, ADHD, anger and impulse control problems in childhood, childhood trauma, family psychotherapy, marital therapy, and parent-child conflict.

I left this position to enter private practice on my way to retirement.  It was at this point that I accepted my first case of court-involved “high-conflict” divorce, referred by a minor’s counsel.  I have subsequently been focused on the severe attachment pathology, the IPV spousal abuse pathology, and child psychological abuse pathology currently untreated and unresolved in the family courts.

1/12–12/17: Faculty University of Phoenix; Pasadena Campus; Ontario Campus
Courses taught: Child Development; Assessment and Treatment Planning; Advanced Diagnosis; Models of Psychotherapy; Counseling Psychometrics; Research Methods; Cultural Psychology

1/09 –9/10: Faculty Argosy University; San Bernardino Campus
Courses taught: Diagnosis and Psychopathology; Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy; Child Development

I enjoy teaching and mentoring students.  I taught and supervised trainees at Choc and at my clinic, and I’ve taught extensive numbers of parenting training courses and preschool teacher trainings.  When I entered private practice I sought out teaching positions at local colleges because I enjoy it.

Of note is that the implication of teaching at the graduate level is that the professor must know everything about the topic area of instruction. So, the courses I’ve taught provide an indication of the scope of my professional knowledge – note in particular that I’ve taught graduate-level courses in Diagnosis and Psychopathology, graduate-level courses in Assessment and Treatment Planning, and graduate-level courses in Models of Adolescent and Child Psychotherapy.

That is my work history background.  My background education, training, and experience serves as the partial foundation for my professional opinions regarding assesement, diagnosis, and treatment of pathology in children.

Divorce Training

Certificate Program: Certification in Divorce Mediation. Conflict Resolution Training, Inc. 2/24/16 –2/27/16. Susan Deveney, Instructor

I do not consider forensic psychology to be a domain of clinical pathology, it is more of a procedural domain of psychology; court-involved.  According to forensic psychology, their domain is any and all court-involved pathology.

From a clinical psychology perspective, a pathology does not change simple because a court becomes involved.  Autism remains autism even if there is court-involment.  Eating disorders don’t change into another form of pathology if a court becomes involved.  The pathology remains the same.

What occurs with court-involvment are additional and higher obligations and responsibilies on the clinical psychologist.  In treatment the psychologist has once client, the child.  With court-involvement the psychologist has a second client, the court, and has additional obligations added relative to this additional client.  But the pathology itself doesn’t change.

I took this course in Divorce Mediation as a “boundaries of competence” issue surrounding forensic psychology.  I am not a forensic psychologist, nor will I ever be a forensic psychologist, the standards of practice in forensic psychology are substantially below those of clincal psychology.  But I simply wanted to perform due-dillegence on my obligations for training in the “forensic” practice of “divorce mediation,” and this boundaries of comptence item is now evidenced on my vitae.

Early Childhood Training

This is the area of my vitae documenting my specialty training in early childhood mental health, considered the highest caliber sub-specialty domain in all of professional psychology. Early childhood mental health requires multiple complex information sets.

We must know all of the developmental maturation for each system, language, emotional, psychological, attachment, cognitive, sensory-motor – not only for how each system develops individually, also for how they are all cross-integrated in their development. How the developing emotional system interacts with the developing sensory-motor networks, how attachment bonding is mediating emotional reglation and psychological identity development.  How cognitive development and language change and alter emotional and psychological maturation.  All systems both individually, and how the each interact across all the other systems.

And we have to have this knowledge for each rapidly changing stage of maturation in the first fives years – these systems are at different stages of development at 18 months than at 24 months, and will again change by three-years-old, then four, then five.  As an early childhood psychologist, all of the systems both individually and in integration, must ALSO be understood across each distinct phase of maturation.

All of this knowledge must be known – all the system’s individual development and maturation – integrated across multiple systems – and through each developmental period of the first five years… including infancy.

For infancy, you can also see the additional Certification in Infant Mental Health I received.  The first year is a whole new domain of rapidly changing development – 3-months, 6-months, 9-months, 12-months – all systems individually and integrated.

Certificate Program: Parent-Infant Mental Health: Fielding Graduate University, 1/14/08; 1/15/08.

I have posted an Early Childhood Comptency Guidelines to my website to give an indication of what is expected knowledge for basic competence in early childhood mental health – not expertise – just basic competence:

Early Childhood Comptency Guidelines

The listing of knowledge domains needed for professional competence begins on Page 15.  Note that on the bottom of Page 15 it says, “Brain research.”  It doesn’t specify what brain research.  It doesn’t say, “Brain research on psychological development” or “Brain research on emotional and cognitive development.”

It just says “Brain research.” That means all brain research.  All of it.  Brain research on the emotional systems, on the cognitive systems, on the attachment system, on sensory-motor systems, on hormonal and stress system, the limbic system, the amygdala, the frontal cortex and prefrontal cortex, the vagal nervous system, all of it.

Brain research.  Page 15.

Notice too where it lists the authors on Page 19, at the top, Marie Poulsen, Ph.D.  Note her afflilliation – CHLA. She was my mentor in early childhood mental health at CHLA.

I am comptent in all the domains of knowledge listed in this Early Childhood Comptency Guidelines document.  I know all of that information.  In fact, I knew all of that 20 years ago.  That is basic competence.  Note my Work Experience.  I’m at the Clinical Director level – senior-staff top level of knowledge.  No one knows more.  I was competent 20 years ago.

I know two additional diagnostic systems beyond the standared DSM-5 and ICD-10.

Early Childhood Diagnostic System: DC:0-3R Diagnostic Criteria 0-3 Revised.  Attachment oriented early childhood diagnostic system.  Instructor: Orange County Early Childhood Mental Health Collaborative.

This is a stronger attachment-oriented diagnostic system.

Early Childhood Diagnostic System: DMIC: Diagnostic Manual for Infancy and Early Childhood.  Assessment, diagnosis, and intervention for developmental and emotional disorders, autistic spectrum disorders, multisystem developmental disorders, regulatory disordersinvolving attention, learning and behavioral problems, cognitive, language, motor, and sensory disturbances. Instructor, Interdisciplinary Council on Developmental and Learningc Disorders (Greenspan)

This is a stronger autism-spectrum diagnostic system.

I also know the two basic treatments for attachment pathology.

Early Childhood Treatment Intervention: Watch, Wait, and Wonder: Nancy Cohen, Ph.D. Hincks-Dellcrest Centre & the University of Toronto.

Early Childhood Treatment Intervention: Circle of Security: Glen Cooper, MFT, Center for Clinical Intervention, Marycliff Institute, Spokane, Washington.

Attachment System

The domain of attachment is early childhood mental health.  That is where a mental health professional receives training in the attachment system and attachment pathology.  If a mental health professional does not have early childhood training, then they do not have education or training in the attachment system and attachment pathology.

In court-involved attachment pathology surrounding divorce, the assessing, diagnosing, and treating mental health professionals are working with the most severe attachment pathology possible – there is nothing worse in attachment than a complete severing of the child’s bond to a mother or father – that is as bad as it gets for attachment pathology.

Yet NONE of the involved mental health people have any education or training in the attachment system – what it is, how it functions, how it dysfunctions, and how to repair the attachment bond.  They are practicing beyond the boundaries of their competence, and as a result, children are being severely harmed, and parents are being severely harmed.

Google ignorance: lack of knowledge or information

Where did you receive your education and training in the attachment system and attachment pathology?

Recent Seminars Taken

I include these Seminars Taken to indicate that despite my knowledge, I still take training and educational seminars. Role model.

I know family systems therapy.  Yet still I go to a three-day conference put on by the Bowen Center for the Study of the Family at Johns Hopkins regarding the emotional cutoff pathology in families.

I know trauma and complex trauma.  Yet still I take a two-day seminar from Bessel van der Kolk on trauma and complex trauma.  I love the work of Bessel van der Kolk.  He is in my pantheon of exceptional in professional psychology.

I’m a role model.  I know the knowledge, yet still I seek additional learning.


This domain simply shows I have written material that is available for review.  The strength of a Psy.D. vitae is not Publications, it’s Work Experience.  We sacrifice research and publication for additional expertise in pathology and its treatment.  My Publications vitae is simply to provide references for additional information.

Internet Psychology:  Of note are the last three entries in Publications, these three were from my time and expertise in the emerging field of Internet psychology, the integration of the Internet and its impact with professional psychology. This domain is addressed separately later in my vitae as well.

Parental Alienation” Seminars Given

This area is simply to demonstrate the scope of my practice and knowledge.  My Work Experience is grounded in real pathology, I want to also give an indication that I have background in this court-involved “parental alienation” pathology created by forensic psychology.

Early Childhood Mental Health Trainings

These are about 1/3 of the trainings I have provided, I simply wanted to provide a representative sampling.  Note the reference to Functional Behavioral Analysis (a more sophisticated variant of Applied Behavioral Analysis).  Both Functional Behavioral Analysis and Applied Behavioral Analysis have valuable application to court-involved attachment pathology.

Internet Psychology Presentations Given

In addition to the publications in peer-reviewed journals surrounding Internet Psychology, I have presentations of substance on the integration of the Internet into professional psychology as well.

I have an invited presentation to the American Association for the Advancement of Science regarding Internet Psychology.

American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Office of Protection from Research Risks. Conference on the Ethical and Legal Aspects of Human Subjects Research in Cyberspace. Invited paper presentation on Privacy and Confidentiality Issues in Internet Research. 6/1999, June. Washington, D.C.

Report: Ethical and Legal Aspects of Human Subjects Research in Cyberspace

Notice in the Workshop Participants section of the Report that my affiliation is listed as the International Society of Mental Health Online.  At the time, I was the President for this organization, serving a three-year term on the Executive Committee, first as the President-Elect, then a year as the acting President, and then a final year as the Past-President.

I also have an invited presentation regarding Internet Psychoogy to the World Health Organization in Munich.  Travel for both invited presentations, the AAAS and WHO, were paid for by the inviting host organization.

World Health Organization, 2nd International Symposium on Psychiatry and Internet: Information –Support –Therapy. Invited presentation on Ethical Issues in Online Psychotherapeutic Interventions. 4/2002, Munich, Germany.

My third citation of professional experience in this domain of my vitae is to a presentation I made on a Symposium panel to the national convention of the American Psychological Association.  A report on this presentation still remains online.

American Psychological Association Convention, Symposium on Using the Internet for Change: Online Psychotherapy and Education. J. Grohol (Chair): The Potential Risks and Benefits of Online Therapeutic Interventions. 8/1998; San Francisco, California.

Article: The Potential Risks and Benefits of Online Therapeutic Interventions


My vitae reflects the domains of my knowledge. The core of my vitae is Work Experience.  My knowledge comes from practical application in work experience.

The additional extensions of that knowledge are reflected in the breadth of my applied experience in presentations, courses taught, training received, and written references for support.

Work Experience is the heart of a Psy.D. vitae.

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

Robin Deutsch, PhD: The APA “Working Group”

What’s that you say, Dorcy?  Robin Deutsch was put in charge of the official “Working Group” response of the American Psychological Association to the first Petition to the APA from parents?

I never paid much attention to who they assigned to the “death by committee” response they made to the suffering of parents and their desperate plea for help.  I think you’re right, though, I think I heard it was Robin Deutsch they put in charge. The APA refused to ever release the names and vitaes of the “Working Group” members who received the first Petition to the APA written by parents, when was that, 2016?

I’m not sure everyone here knows the story of the Petition to the APA, the whole story.

The one I wrote (Petition to the APA) was the second one, the first one was a home-crafted one by a group of parents. They did immaculate research and made strong argument in that first Petition to the APA. 

Here, gather round the fire and let me tell you the story.  My Petition to the APA is not the first.  No, some intrepid parents were there first, storming the castle walls.  They did good.

Back in 2016, I had no thought for a Petition to the APA, hadn’t even entered my mind.  I had just finished writing Foundations and was turning to crafting the Assessment protocol and supporting booklets.  I had just entered a Facebook presence out of my blog, and my website archive was starting to build.  In 2016 I was beginning to fully enter into the arguments and solutions.

There were a group of parents who understood the paradigm shift.  Unbeknownst to me, they got together and wrote a Petition to the APA and posted it to Change.org. 

That… is a great idea.  And it was well considered in its arguments.  They had listened to my blogs and reasoning, and they put forth solidly grounded professional argument.

They didn’t approach the ethical code violations at all.  They’re not psychologists, they can’t carry that voice and reasoning.  They carried the scientifically grounded evidence voice for consideration and change – Bowlby, Minuchin, Beck.

I knew the pathogen was inhabiting and disabling the response of the American Psychological Association.  How?  Where?

Forensic psychology.  It’s financial, and they have “inside” power.  No one believes your grievances.  They attribute your protests to your just not getting your way in the “custody battle” – it’s not the psychologist’s fault… they’re not ignorant and incompetent… after all, they have those letters after their names.  No one believes you.

They own you.  Forensic psychology owns you and your children.  No one else will work with you. Too dangerous.  Forensic psychology threatens their license if they try to help you.  So they abandon you to forensic psychology, and then forensic psychology feeds on you financially, like piggies at the trough, $20,000 to $40,000 for a worthless “child custody evaluation” that solves nothing, that is not valid prima facie, and that is substantially beneath professional standards of practiced in professional psychology.

They own you.

The first Petition to the APA, the one by this parental alliance, entered into the teeth of the pathogen’s control of the APA.  It was sent to a “Working Group” of forensic psychologists to die.  I knew that, I saw that.

Good job, parents, you’ve drawn down the pathogen’s defense. The APA is exposed now. It’s like drawing down the air cover around a carrier at Midway, no protection left.

We asked that the names of the “Working Group” members and their vitaes be disclosed.  If the lives and suffering of so many parents hangs in the balance of the decisions made by this “Working Group” then these parents have a right to know who’s on the “Working Group” that will have so much impact on their lives and the lives of their children. 

The APA said no. They would not release the names or vitaes of the “Working Group” members.  It’s a secret who they are.

The Petition from these parents claims that the surrounding professional psychology who are involved with their families (i.e., forensic psychology) is not applying the scientifically established knowledge of attachment, family systems therapy, personality disorders, and complex trauma.

Instead of a response, the APA formed a “Working Group” with the mandate given to the “Working Group” to review all the research on attachment, and family systems therapy, and personality disorders, and complex trauma.

Then why not simly appoint members to the “Working Group” who already know this research, so we can skip educating the “Working Group” about pretty much all of the knowledge of professional psychology?

That wasn’t their goal.  Their goal was to silence you, so no one will hear your screams of torment and suffering. They don’t want anyone to hear you.

The first Petition to the APA from these parents was apparently sent to Robin Deutsch.  Let’s see, that was 2016 I think… I wonder how they’re coming along with their “review of the research” in these past… four years.

I wonder if we can get a log from them for how many times this “Working Group” has met in… four years?  Even a list of who’s on it and what their professional background is would be helpful.  Hmm, if Susan Deutsch is heading the “Working Group,” I’m sure she’d be able to give us a progress report for their official APA “Working Group” to develop a response to the… first… Petition to the APA.

I knew what was happening.  They’re hiding you.  After all, no one believes you.  If you scream in pain, no one believes you because the… forensic psychologists… can’t possibly be ignorant and incompetent.  You just didn’t get your way in the custody dispute.  It can’t possibly be the psychologists… after all, their vitaes are so… puffy and look so impressive.  And they have the AFCC endorsing their practice.  It can’t possibly be the psychologists at fault… it must be you.

No one believes you.  I see that.

But what that first Petition did was draw down the pathogen’s defenses, forensic psychology had acted to grab this first Petition.  The APA was vulnerable now to a second.  Good job, parents.  Nicely done.

I waited a year to give the “Working Group” enough rope to do something, or not.  I applied to be on the “Working Group” (not a chance that forensic psychologists would let in – an “outsider” – especially one advocating that we apply knowledge).  I simply wanted to document, it’s not me  who is the problem, it’s your ignorance and sloth.  I also sent them my personal 40-page AB-PA Reference List. That’s the time when I also decided to post my personal AB-PA Reference List to my website.  It was time to activate that for this “Working Group” “study the research” lie.

The mandate of the “Working Group” is to review the research, so then, start with this.

Dr. Childress’ Personal: AB-PA Reference List

I waited year, and then I wrote a second Petition to the APA, entirely separate from the last one. The first one was written entirely by parents without my involvement. This second one was written entirely by me.  The first one focused on Bowlby, Minuchin, Beck.  I focused mine as a psychologist, on the many violations to the APA ethics code.

I did that intentionally, took an entirely different focus; the APA ethics code. The first Petition had drawn the protection, I had a clean shot.  Nice job.  It’s a totally separarate Petition and line of argument.

I asked parents for 10,000 signatures before I would submit it.  I had 10,000 signatures in a day.  Ultimately, we had 19,000 when we hand-delivered it to the offices of the APA in Washington, D.C. in June of 2018.  I was accompanied by two parent representatives, Wendy Perry and Rod McCall.  They nailed their presentations at the National Press Club, we visited our representatives in Congress.

Nothing like seeting Texans schmooze each other, a delightful sight to see.

That Petition is still active, it has yet to receive any response whatsoever from the APA, your voice currently stands at 24,000, that’s a strong voice, it’s up to you how strong you choose to make it. If I were you, I’d use it in news media stories, reference the Petition to the APA as something people can do if they want to support you, the parents and your children. Sign the Petition to the APA.  It can always serve as a closer for your news articles – sign the Petition to the APA.

It asks for three things,

1.) Immediate Press Release: An immediate press release affirming the support of the American Psychological Association for Standard 2.01a Boundaries of Competence.

In the two years since delivering the Petition, the APA has declined to issue a press release affirming its support for Standard 2.01a Boundaries of Competence of their own code of ethics.  Think about that. The APA is refusing to publicly affirm its own ethics code…. think about that.

Forensic psychology. They are in the control of forensic psychology. They don’t want to look, they don’t want to turn over the rock to see what’s underneath.  The APA won’t even affirm their own ethics code, even when 24,000 parents plead with them, simply state your affirmation of your own ethics code.

They won’t do it.  The APA refuses – for two years they have refused – to issue a simple press release affirming the importance of Standard 2.01a of its own ehtics code. The APA has abandoned you to the abuse and exploitation of forensic psychology.  You stand alone, they stand with child abuse and spousal abuse.

APA: Collusion with Child Abuse

Notice the counter on the website, my frontal lobe executive function systems for foresight work just fine.

2.) Revise Position Statement: A review of their official “Position Statement on Parental Alienation Syndrome” since there is now a second, and scientifically grounded description for the pathology.

The American Psychological Association is in violation of its own Standard 2.04 of its own ethics code. They are refusing to apply the “established scientific and professional knowledge of the discipline” – Bowlby, Minuchin, Beck, van der Kolk, Tronick.

I have obligations still pending surrounding Standard 1.05 of the APA ethics code and the APA’s violaton of Standard 2.04 of its own ethics code (and possible failure in their vicarious “duty to protect” by negligent disregard).

2.) Conferences & White Papers: To convene a conference of expertise in attachment, family systems therapy, personality disorders, complex trauma, and child development to produce a white paper on court-involved attachment pathology. Then to convene a second conference of expertise in psychometrics, ethics, cultural psychology, clinical psychology, attachment, and family systems therapy to examine the appropriate role of professional psychology in the family courts and to produce a white paper on that.

Two years.  No response.  I take that back, do you know what the response of the APA is to this second Petition to the APA from an entirely different group, with entirely different arguments based on APA ethics code violations, with an entirely different set of sought for remedies… do you know what the response of the APA is?

We have a “Working Group” who is “studying the research.”  The “Working Group” response to the first Petiton is not relevant. That’s somebody else. What is your response to THIS Petition?

Silence.  No response.

We’ll wait.  But please hurry, the lives of these parents and their children are being destroyed daily. There is urgency here. Please hurry.

Four years of a “Working Group” to “study the research” on attachment, and family systems therapy, and complex trauma, and personaltiy disorders, and child development.

Why not just appoint people to the “Working Group” who ALREADY know the research?  Oh… because they want to appoint ignorance… they want to give you to forensic psychologists… the very people who are exploiting and traumatizing you.

I’m not accepting that. And I’m tenacious.

As long as they are going to try to use that lie, then let me ask you, how are things coming with that secret “Working Group” of forensic psychologists in the last… four years?

What’s that you say, Dorcy?  Susan Deutsch, the co-author of that article on Overcoming Barriers in 2010 with Matthew Sullivan, the President of the AFCC, is leading that “Working Group” for the APA?

Well then, let’s ask her about how much “progress” they’re making in their self-education… and when they anticipate being done getting educated.

I’m sure the APA “Working Group” is on her vitae, right? That’s a pretty impressive professional accomplishment, to lead an APA “Working Group” to “study the research” on… something… they still won’t release a list of the research they’ve been reviewing… for four years now.

Why didn’t the APA just appoint people who already knew the research? Why appoint ignorance to a “Working Group”? That seems a really odd thing to do.

Google ignorance: lack of knowledge or information.

So the “Working Group” members (secret members; hidden vitaes, they won’t tell us who and what their background is) is spending 4 years educating themselves… to answer the question from parents, why isn’t professional psychology applying Bowlby, Minuchin, Beck, van der Kolk, and Tronick?

Does that make sense to you?

Or does something smell rotten?  Four years spent educating themselves. So… are you educated yet? Or do you still need more time, is your ignorance that profound that four years of study is to no avail?

So, Dr. Deutsch, how’s the secret “Working Group” coming along?  Maybe it’s time for the APA to ask for a “Progress Report” from the secret “Working Group.” Especially since the response from the APA to a second, entirely unrelated Petition to the APA signed by a separate 24,000 parents is being made contingent on the outcome of the “Working Group”… for four years.

I think it’s time for a Progress Report from the “Working Group.” I certainly hope it’s not some sort of scam.  I certainly hope the American Psychological Association is not lying to parents, running some sort of scam cover-up for the rampant ethics violations and sloth in forensic psychology.

I certainly hope that’s not happening.  I think it’s time the APA asked for a Progress Report from it’s official “Working Group.”  Four years of “work” – how much have you accomplished?  It is an official APA “Working Group.”  So?  What did you find?

Don’t tell me you need MORE time?  Four years is not enough? Then at least tell us your progress to date, after… four years.  Oh, and please… how many times did your “Working Group” meet?  Do you have agendas and minutes from your meetings? Who is on this Working Group”?  What are their professional qualifications for the task? Can you provide us with a list of the research you have reviewed in the last 4 years of your “Working Group.”

This is an official “Working Group” of the APA.  Or perhaps… it’s a scam.  Pehaps… it’s a cover-up.  Hmm, how can we find out?  Let’s get a Progress Report from the Official “Working Group” of the APA, where do things stand after FOUR years of educating yourself because you started off so proundly ignorant.

Are you educated yet?

So… what’s the progress?  Or are you all done?  Or did you never start?

What’s that you say, Dorcy? Robin Deutsch is in charge of the “Working Group.” Well good, then let’s ask her.  How’s it coming, Robin?  Four years, now… kind of a long time.  Any chance of wrapping up your “Working Group” anytime soon?

What did you find?

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


Dr. Sullivan & the AFCC

I am a consultant to a client parent and attorney surrounding the attachment pathology displayed by his child and its treatment.  A recent custody evaluation provided specified referrals for treatment and named Matthew Sullivan, Ph.D. as a primary recommended referral for my client and the child to treat the attachment pathology in the child.

I have been asked by my client to provide an opinion on the referrals offered by the child custody evaluator.  I will be seeking additional information from each of the offered referrals to provide an opinion on their relative merits and my recommendation as a clinical psychologist with expertise in treating attachment pathology in children.

Matthew Sullivan, Ph.D.

Dr. Sullivan is the President of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC).  I am certain this is applied to his credit regarding his asserted “expertise” with court-involved family conflict.  At the same time, the AFCC also endorses the practice of child custody evaluations about which I have prominent professional concerns.

If Dr. Sullivan is to receive credit for his standing with the AFCC, then Dr. Sullivan’s professional judgement and practices should also bear responsibility for any failures in the practice of child custody evaluations. In issuing Model Standards of Practice for Child Custody Evaluations, the AFCC, and Dr. Sullivan as its President, bear responsibility for any failings or flaws to their child custody evaluation assessment procedures.

In addition, the professional background, education, training, and expertise of Dr. Sullivan with assessing, diagnosing, and treating attachment pathology in children (the pathology displayed by my client’s child) also bears relevance to the quality of the referral to Dr. Sullivan for the treatment of the attachment pathology in my client’s child.  While Dr. Sullivan’s professional background in forensic psychology appears substantial, this would not allow him to treat other pathologies such as autism, or eating disorders, or early childhood mental health problems, without additional education and training in those domains of pathology.

My client’s child is displaying severe attachment pathology, and Dr. Sullivan has been offered to the court as an expert in treating and restoring children’s attachment bond to their parent.  I will be reviewing his background education, training, and experience for evidence to support his asserted expertise in assessing, diagnosing, and treating attachment pathology in children, so that I can provide an opinion on Dr. Sullivan’s offered expertise in attachment pathology in children and its treatment.

Critiquing the professional practices of the President of the AFCC, especially when I am such a harsh critic of child custody evaluations, is fraught with professional dangers for me.  I am concerned that if my analysis and opinions regarding the professional practices of Dr. Sullivan are made only through private communication to my client parent and attorney, that Dr. Sullivan will then be denied the opportunity to respond to any misperceptions I may have about his practice.  I am also concerned that elements of my critique may be released that are taken out of context, that misrepresent my opinions, or are inaccurate.

For these reasons, I have decided to make my analysis and opinions public surrounding Dr. Sullivan as a referral resource for my client.  In this way I take full responsibility for the accuracy of my statements and my opinions.  These blogs also allow Dr. Sullivan to correct any misperceptions I may develop surrounding the practices and capabilities of Dr. Sullilvan.

Critiquing and offering an opinion as a clinical psychologist on the professional practices of the President of the AFCC should not be done in haste, and should reflect a proper assessment of the issues involved.  My opinions are my opinions, they do not represent truth.  I have no access to truth except through me, and “me” will always shade my perceptions.  I will allow others to review and discuss, and to reach consensus opinion on where truth lies.  These are my opinions based on the information I describe in support.

If my opinions are in error, I am open to, and invite, correction.


I will approach my review and analysis of the referral resource for my client and the child across several blogs.  This one will focus on the association of Dr. Sullivan to the practice of child custody evaluations through his role as President for the AFCC.  If his professional expertise in the practice of child custody evaluations is held to his credit, then any failings of child custody evaluations to meet professionally acceptable standards of practice would also attach to his responsibility.

My focus in this blog will not be toward Dr. Sullivan directly.  Dr. Sullivan is an acknowledged expert in the practice of child custody evaluations. This blog will examine what that means, what exactly is the practice of child custody evaluation, is it a valid assessment procedure, is it ethical professional practice.  I have prominent professional concerns as a psychologist that child custody evaluations are neither valid nor ethical professional practice, and instead, the practice of child custody evaluations violate multiple ethical Standards of the APA ethics code.

This blog will present the information on which I base my professional opinions regarding child custody evaluations.  Standard 2.04 of the APA ethics code imposes upon me the requirement that my professional judgments be based on the “established scientific and professional knowledge of the discipline.” I am establishing that foundational knowledge here.

2.04 Bases for Scientific and Professional Judgments
Psychologists’ work is based upon established scientific and professional knowledge of the discipline. (See also Standards 2.01e, Boundaries of Competence, and 10.01b, Informed Consent to Therapy.)

The APA ethics code is not optional.  It is mandatory.  My analysis and my judgments formed surrounding child custody evaluations will be based on the “established scientific and professional knowledge” of…

  • Psychometics and validity of assessment
  • The Ethical Principles for Psychologist and Code of Conduct from the American Psychological Association
  • Cultural psychology
  • Research on bias

These domains represent the “established scientific and professional knowledge of the discipline” on which I will rely.


In July of 2018, the American Psychological Association posted an invitation for public comment regarding the practice of child custody evaluation.  I submitted a Comment and posted it to my website:

Comment on Child Custody Evaluations

In this Comment offered to the APA, I describe 8 domains of concern surrounding the practice and procedures of child custody evaluations.  In this current description I will add a ninth.

1.) No Inter-Rater Reliability (psychometrics)

Child custody evaluations have no inter-rater reliability.  Zero.  The inter-rater reliability for the conclusions and recommendations reached by child custody evaluations is zero.  If an assessment procedure is not reliable (stable in its findings), then it cannot, by definition, be a valid measure of anything.  Two child custody evaluators can reach entirely different conclusions and recommendations based on exactly the same data.

The conclusions and  recommendations from child custody evaluations are not valid because they are not reliable, there is no inter-rater reliability.

2.) No Established Validity (psychometrics)

There is no research ever conducted to establish the validity of the conclusions and recommendations made by child custody evaluations (face validity, construct validity, content validity, predictive validity, concurrent validity, and discriminant validity).

Since there is no demonstrated validity for the conclusions and recommendations reached by child custody evaluations, then the conclusions and recommendations from child custody evaluations are not valid.

3.) No Operational Definitions for Constructs (psychometrics)

Child custody evaluations have no operational definitions for either of their key constructs, the “best interests of the child” and “parental capacity.”  Without operational definitions for the constructs, the assessment is unreliable and prone to the whims and biases of the evaluator (both conscious and unconscious).

Without operational definitions for its key constructs, the conclusions and recommendations reached by child custody evaluations are not valid.  They simply represent the opinion and biases of one person.

4.) Violation of Principle D Justice (ethics)

Principle D: Justice
Psychologists recognize that fairness and justice entitle all persons to access to and benefit from the contributions of psychology and to equal quality in the processes, procedures, and services being conducted by psychologists.

Equal Access/Equal Benefit:  At a cost of $20,000 to $40,000 per child custody evaluation, the financial costs of the assessment procedure make it unavailable to anyone other than the most affluent of clients who can afford the excessively burdensome financial cost.  This would be in violation of the requirements of Principle D Justice for “equal access to and benefit from the contributions of psychology” since lower socio-economic families are denied “access to and benefit from” the child custody input of professional psychology provided to more affluent parents and families.

Equal Quality: The absence of inter-rater reliability and standardized interpretation of clinical interview data result in highly variable quality in the conclusions and recommendations reached by custody evaluation procedures across evaluators.  This variability in quality is in violation of the requirement of Principle D Justice for “equal quality in the processes, procedures, and services being conducted by psychologists”

Two prominent forensic psychologists, who literally wrote the book on child custody evaluations, Stahl and Simon, acknowledge and describe the high degree of variability in the quality of child custody evaluations:

From Stahl & Simons:  “The American Board of Forensic Psychology is a subspecialty board of the ABPP.  In the fall of 2011, there were approximately 250-300 ABPP board certified forensic psychologists in the United States and an unknown number of psychologists who specialize in forensic work but are not board certified.  On top of that, there are many psychologists who dabble in forensic practice, occasionally performing child custody or other types of forensic evaluations, and who find themselves called to testify in court on occasion. While we recognize that there is a range of quality in their work, it is clear that forensic psychology is a growing area of specialization.” (Stahl & Simons, 2013, p. 9)

Stahl, P.M. and Simon, R.A. (2013). Forensic Psychology Consultation in Child Custody Litigation: A Handbook for Work Product Review, Case Preparation, and Expert Testimony, Chicago, IL: Section of Family Law of the American Bar Association

“…many psychologists who dabble in forensic practice…”  That psychologists “dabble” in severe and highly complex family pathology is deeply distressing surrounding compliance with Standard 2.01a Boundaries of Competence.  This admission by Stahl and Simon, leading figures in forensic psychology, is not reassuring that child custody evaluators who merely “dabble” in working with a pathology possess the necessary professional competence needed for assessing complex family conflict.

Is this then the new standard for professional competence, that psychologists can enter a field to dabble in treating autism, dabble in treating eating disorders, dabble in treating panic disorders, dabble in treating trauma, is that the standard for professional competence established by Standard 2.01a Boundaries of Competence?

Even more disturbing than this open admission regarding the “range of quality in their work,” is the seeming cavalier disregard for the potential negative impact of this “range of quality” on the clients.  Stahl and Simon appear to instead accept this wide “range in quality” from psychologists who merely “dabble in forensic practice” as a good thing because it indicates that the industry of conducting (invalid) child custody evaluations is growing:

From Stahl & Simon: …while we recognize that there is a range of quality in their work, it is clear that forensic psychology is a growing area of specialization.”

It would appear that forensic child custody evaluators are more concerned for their financial success and the growth of their industry than they are in the quality of care they provide to their patients.

5.) Unanswerable Referral Question (bias)

Assessment is always to answer the referral question.  The referral question for assessment accepted by child custody evaluators is, “What should the child’s custody schedule be?”  This is an over-broad and unaswerable referral question by any information existent in professional psychology.  No one knows, it is impossible to answer.

Because there is no answer possible, whatever answer is given is merely a guess made by one person based on nothing of substance in particular.  Just their guess, of that one person.

The key criteria for determining the custody visitation schedule are the “best interests of the child.”  However, this key construct to the assessment is undefined and fundamentally undefinable by any information existent in professional psychology.

Again, Stahl and Simon describe the fundamentally undefinable nature for the construct of the child’s “best interests”:

From Stahl & Simon: “A critical subject facing those working in the field of family law, whether they’re legal professionals or psychological professionals, is the concept of the best interests of the children.  Even recognized experts in this concept differ with regard to what it means, how it should be determined, and what factors should be considered in determining what is in the best interest of a child.  Thus, this ubiquitous term escapes consensus and remains fundamentally vague. (Stahl & Simon, 2013, p. 10-11)

From Stahl & Simon: “It is defined differently from state to state; and even in Arizona, where there are nine statutory factors associated with the best interest of the child, the meaning behind many of the factors is obscure.  Additionally, when psychologists refer to the best interests of children, they are referring to a hierarchical set of factors that may have different meanings to different children with different families and that may be understood differently by psychologists with different backgrounds and different training.” (Stahl & Simon, 2013, p. 11)

This inability to define the basic fundamental criteria for the evaluation invalidates any conclusions and recommendations reached by the child custody evaluator.

6.) Cultural and Personal Bias (bias)

That the construct so central to the assessment is fundamentally undefined, opens the assessment process to distortion by a variety of evaluator biases, including both cultural biases against differing value systems in parenting, or the different ethnicities of the parties, or the different genders of the parties, as well as counter-transference bias from past family of origin or personal marital-spousal issues (e.g., the mother reminds the evaluator of his ex-wife, or the evaluator never had a bonded relationship with their parent and this influences their perceptions and judgements).

The only justification for restricting a parent’s time and involvement with their child is a child protection concern.  If there is child abuse, diagnose child abuse (DSM-5: V995.54 Child Physical Abuse, V995.53 Child Sexual Abuse, V995.52 Child Neglect, V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse) and protect the child.

If there is no child abuse… then parents have the right to parent according to their cultural values, their personal values, and their religious values.  It is exceedingly problematic when psychologists assume a role of deciding if a parent “deserves” to be a mother or father based on non-defined criteria (the best interests of the child) when there is no diagnosis of child abuse.

7) No Oversight or Review

The individual practices, conclusions, and recommendations of individual child custody evaluations receive no separate review or oversight. Unlike a clinical diagnosis and decision-making based on DSM-5 and ICD-10 diagnoses that are subject to a second opinion review, the decisions emerging from child custody evaluations are un-reviewable, they are sealed by the court, and the prohibitive cost ($20,000 to $40,000 each) and length of time needed (six to nine months each), prevent any second opinion.

Child custody reports are never reviewed for accuracy or for applied professional standards of practice.

As a clinical psychology consultant to parents and attorneys regarding treatment of attachment-related pathology, I have had the opportunity to review the child custody reports for my clients to assist in treatment plan development.  The child custody reports I have reviewed have consistently been substantially beneath acceptable standards of practice in clinical psychology assessment, often reach deeply troubling conclusions and recommendations that are entirely unsupported by their reported data, and that often contain prominent indicators of clear bias in interpretation.

I will offer two of the most egregious examples of the problematic professional standards of practice I have encountered.

Example 1: MMPI 4-6-9 Elevation

I reviewed one child custody report in which the father received an MMPI elevation on three scales; 4 Psychopathic Deviant, 6 Paranoia, 9 Mania (Narcissism when elevated 4).  The MMPI is not a personality measure, it is a pathology measure.  When it identifies a pathology – it’s not personality, it’s pathology.

The father was identified by the MMPI as potentially having psychopathic-narcissistic spectrum character traits with prominent paranoia. The mother’s MMPI was entirely normal.  The children’s chief complaint against the mother was that she fed them leftovers, so their dad had to come over when they called him and bring them take-out food because they hated their mother’s cooking.  They never wanted to see their mother again, because she was a bad cook and fed them leftovers. I kid you not, documented fully in the child custody report, that was their chief complaint.  Father had a 4-6-9 elevation on the MMPI, mother’s MMPI was entirely normal.

The custody evaluator never elaborated on the 4-6-9 MMPI elevation beyond a one-paragraph standard nondescript horoscope-type general description, and awarded full custody to the father and placed the children on restricted visitation with the mother and… “reunification therapy.”  No review.  No oversight.  No reason given.

Example 2: Lazy Forensic Psychologist

Lest you think that is an isolated example, I reviewed one child custody evaluation that was nothing more than a transcript of the “interviews” with the family members, entirely quotations throughout, with only connecting sentences provided by the custody evaluator to the transcript.

No discussion, no analysis, nothing.  The custody evaluator simply block quoted the verbatim transcript as the entire body of the report, and then made a three-paragraph pronouncement that lacked any proffered reasoning or justification, simply three paragraphs of personal conclusions and recommendations (the substance of which was deeply concerning because they were apparently wrong, based on the information provided in the transcripts).

So distressing were the professional practices exhibited by this child custody evaluator that I redacted the evaluation report and posted it to my website for educational purposes – this represents standard of practice – actually “high quality” standard of practice, for child custody evaluations.

I redacted all direct quotes as blue and all original sentences in red.

Lazy & Slothful Forensic Psychologist

I can have a high-school kid audio record people’s complaints, get it transcribed, and give me a random opinion based on nothing in particular.  I’m sure they’d be a lot cheaper than the $20,000 to $40,000 for a child custody evaluation, and likely be more accurate. Still no inter-rater reliability though.

Notice the signature line for this child custody evaluator,

“Diplomate of the American Board of Assessment”

I wonder if the American Board of Assessment knows this is the quality of work produced by one of their Diplomates?  Is this what they train them to do, record, transcribe, and give a three-paragraph pronouncement based on nothing?

This is a “high-quality” forensic child custody evaluation, by one of their “Diplomates in Assessment.” This is one of their good ones.

A (volunteer) Professor at a Prestigious School of Medicine and Institute

I wonder if the prestigious School of Medicine and Institute knows that this is the quality of professional work that they are being associated with through a “Volunteer” Professor (what exactly is that?).

This is one of their “good ones” – from a “Diplomate in Assessment.”

These are two examples, unfortunately, they are not a-typical.  No review, no oversight, $20,000 to $40,000 for each evaluation, combined with people who merely “dabble” in child custody evaluations, breeds ignorance, sloth, and incompetence throughout the “industry” of child custody evaluations.

8) The “Custody Prize”

When we make the child’s “voice” and expressed opinions the basis for our decisions surrounding child custody and visitation, we essentially turn the child into a “custody prize” to be won by who can prove that they are the “better parent.”  The judge in this matter of who is the “better parent” is the custody evaluator, who will go through a ritualized (and expensive) set of procedures to make a determination of which parent is the winner of the “custody prize” – the child.

Each parent must not only plead their case to the custody evaluator to choose that parent as the “better parent,” but the value placed on the child’s voice means that appeasing the child and getting the child to align with that parent’s side in the marital conflict will ensure that the custody prize goes to the parent who is better able to seduce and coerce the child into verbally taking that parent’s “side” in the marital-custody conflict.

The child’s voice is now a prize to be one.  On your mark, get set, go… go convince the child to be on your “side” – whoever wins the child’s voice will be the winner of the custody prize. Okay, times up.  Now go visit the custody evaluator and “Plead Your Case.”

Oooo, I’m sorry, it’s a draw, no decision.  You’ve been sent to the “Reunification Therapy” doldrums.  You’ll need a Second Child Custody… Reevaluation… by the SAME custody evaluator as last time, because after two years of the “Reunification Therapy” doldrums, the child’s pathology has gotten WORSE.

It is not the role of psychologists to sit in judgement of parents to determine who is the “better parent” to be awarded the “custody prize” of the child.  And psychologists should know better than to give uncritical substance to the child’s expressed “voice,” and should apply a broader analysis to the data.

9) Intentionally Withholding Relevant Information from the Court and Litigants (ethics)

Child custody evaluators are directly instructed by the AFCC to withhold relevant information from the courts and the litigants.  Standard 4.6c of the Model Standards of Practice for Child Custody Evaluations published by the AFCC directs child custody evaluators to withhold information about “diagnostic labels” from the court and from the litigants.

4.6 Presentation of Findings and Opinions

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.

By “diagnostic labels” I assume they mean “diagnostic labels” such as V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse and ICD-10 F24 Shared Psychotic Disorder (a shared delusional disorder with the parent as the “primary case” – the “inducer”; American Psychiatric Association, 2000).

Withholding a “diagnostic label” of child psychological abuse and a shared persecutory delusion between the child and the allied parent from the court’s consideration is a deeply troubling instruction for the AFCC to give to their child custody evaluators.

Do they make a similar policy regarding withholding the “diagnostic labels” of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder from the court’s consideration as well?  Or is this policy to withhold information about “diagnostic labels” a matter of personal choice left up to the individual discretion of each custody evaluator, to weigh and balance the “probative” value of the “diagnostic label” for one litigant’s case versus the potentially “prejudicial” impact that the “diagnostic label” will have on the chances of the pathological parent to obtain custody of the child.

This is a decision specifically instructed on the child custody evaluator by the AFCC, to determine the probative value for one litigant versus the prejudicial impact of the “diagnostic label” for the pathological parent, and if the child custody evaluator decides that the “diagnostic label” is too substantially “prejudicial” to the chances for the pathological parent to gain custody of the child, then to withhold this information from the court.

What is perhaps even worse, is that child custody evaluators also withhold this relevant diagnostic information about the parent’s “diagnostic labels” from the litigants. This means that the court does not obtain this information about the “diagnostic label” of one parent, and the litigant for whom it may have “probative” value is denied access to this information as well, so they cannot provide this potentially “probative” information to the court.

The child custody evaluator is essentially being told by the AFCC through Standard 4.6c of the Model Standards of Practice for Child Custody Evaluations to make a prior decision on the probative and prejudicial impact of a “diagnostic label” and then to disclose or entirely withhold this information from both the court and from the litigants involved, so no one ever knows, and no one can challenge this prior-decision made solely and secretly by the child custody evaluator.

This is a deeply troubling over-reach from the psychologists ethically, and while I am not a legal professional, it seems an inappropriate abrogation of the court’s role and authority in evaluating the evidence, and the rights of the litigants to present to the court unbiased evidence.

The child custody evaluator is instructed by the AFCC to put their finger on the scales of justice without the court’s knowledge, and tip the scales in favor of the pathological parent by withholding the “diagnostic label” for the pathological parent from the court’s consideration and the litigant’s knowledge.


For these nine reasons, I am deeply troubled by the practice of child custody evaluations as practiced by forensic psychologists and as advocated for and instructed by the AFCC.

My website contains an area where I describe a variety of my concerns surrounding child custody evaluation:

drcachildress.org: Attorneys – Child Custody Evaluations

Dr. Sullivan is the President of the AFCC who produce the Model Standards of Practice for Child Custody Evaluations. The AFCC actively supports the practice of child custody evaluations, and it is assumed that Dr. Sullivan is also an established practitioner of child custody evaluations.

Any prior bias I may have in my assessment of Dr. Sullivan as a resource for resolving parent-child attachment pathology is acknowledged by these nine points, and I invite Dr. Sullivan to provide response to my concerns that will reassure as being unfounded.  I am concerned, however, because each of the nine concerns is substantial, each appears warranted, and any of the nine by itself would warrant the discontinuation of the practice.

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

Smile. yes, you. Smile. doctor’s orders.

Change isn’t hard, it’s just doing something different.  It’s not hard, it’s just different.  We don’t like to do stuff that’s different, it’s not comfortable, it’s different, the same is comfortable.  I know what the same is.  I may not like the same, but I do know what it is. And that’s comfortable, because it’s the same.

Change is just doing something different until it becomes the same.  How do you do that?  

Do you want to know how to do that, to make changes, to become different?  I can tell you if you want know the secret to change, it’s not very complicated.  You’ll be impressed by how simple it is.  And you won’t want to do it, because then things will be different and you don’t like different because we like to be comfortable.

Do you want me to tell you?  I can.  Okay, here’s the secret to change.

Do something different.

Didn’t I tell you that you’d be impressed with its simplicity?  And didn’t I tell you that you wouldn’t want to do it?

Change is not hard, we just don’t want to do it.  For example, say you’re a couch-potato unhealthy mess.  You want to change.  What do you do?  Start doing something different.  Go to the gym.  Oooh, I hate the gym.  Who cares, just go.  So you go, and you go, and you go, and soon, what was different, and you go, and you go, becomes the same, and you go, and now, it feels good to go to the gym.  You want to go to the gym because it feels good.

Or say you want to learn the piano.  What do you do?  Start taking piano lessons.  Oh my god, you’ll be awful, absolutely awful.  Who cares, just keep plunking away… you practice, and you practice, and it’s sooo boring, and you practice and you practice, and it’s not even close to music, and you practice and you practice, and now it’s turning into music, and what was different is becoming the same, and you practice and now you’re playing the piano.

Everything works that way.  It’s not some big Freudian secret, if you want to change, do things different.  Doing things the same will not lead to change.  Doing things different is the secret to change.

But you don’t want to do it, I know. 

What you’re doing when you do things different is you’re grooving in new tracks in your brain, like little groove thingies in the circuitry wiring.  Each time you do something it lays a little grove, like a raindrop down a dirt hill, it leaves a little groove.

Other raindrops can go different ways, but if a lot of raindrops keep going down one path, that path gets deeper and deeper.  That’s how our brain works, we groove in the neural networks.  Wanna hear the ten-dollar word… long-term potentiation… ain’t that a mouthful.  That’s the term for the grooving in process.

The ten-cent word is habit.

It’s also called use-dependent development – we build what we use.  Every time we use a neural network it gets strong, faster, and more efficient.  If we use problematic networks (do stupid things and make poor decisions), these networks become stronger, faster, and more efficient.  We get better at making mistakes and getting ourselves into trouble… because we keep doing it, and… because we keep doing it… we keep doing it.

We build what we use.

So how do we change?

First… stop doing the bad thing.  Whatever the bad thing is, don’t do that anymore because you are only grooving it deeper and deeper every time.  So put a big boulder in that groove, you are NOT going down that groove.

Uh-oh.  That’s the only groove you have.  You’ve been struck in that groove since the dawn of time, it’s the Grand Canyon of grooves in your brain, all other grooves in your brain feed into that single groove.

I don’t care.  Do something different.


I don’t care, just so it’s different.

Ahhhh, okay, okay, ahhhh, it’s so different and I don’t know what to do.

What do you want to do?

You’re free. 

But every single time a single nerve cell lights up in your brain, it is going to head directly for that mother of all grooves, the bad one.  What do you do?  Don’t do the bad groove, that only makes it deeper, do something different?  What?  I don’t care, just so it’s different.  Ahhh, okay, well, what, what…

What do you want to do?

Is it hard to go to the gym?  Yes.  Do you want to go to the gym?  No.  Do you go to the gym?  Yes.  Why?  Because it’s different.  The same is sitting on the couch.  Do not-that.  So then what?  I’ll go to the gym.  I hate the gym.  Who cares, just go, and go… see?  Grooving in the brain circuits.

Piano, same thing.  Or how do you learn math?  Do it over-and-over, all the time, you groove in the “doing math” circuits in the brain, use-dependent development.

Two parts, 1) stop doing the bad groove, it only makes it deeper, 2) start doing something different.  What?  It doesn’t matter, as long as it’s different (don’t worry, you’re a smart human, you’ll figure out the what – what do you want to do?)

Change isn’t hard, it’s actually quite simple.  Do things different.  If you do things the same, that’s not going to be change, that’s just the same.

But change is scary (ahh-ahh, it’s not the same, it’s different), but don’t worry, we’re smart humans, we’ll figure it out.  Once you leave the groove, you’re… free.

But we don’t want to be free, too much pressure.  It’s more comfortable in our grooves.  We may not like our grooves, but they’re ours, and they’re comfortable…. kind of a familiar suffering.

I want to give you a gift. I’m not sure you’ll take it, but maybe.

I want you to smile.

More often, a lot as a matter of fact.  Not because you feel happy.  I don’t care how you feel.  Did I say I want you to feel happy?  No.

I want you to smile.

For no reason whatsoever.  I know, amazingly silly.  I don’t care, just smile.  More.

How many times do you smile a day?  Three times?  Five times?  Zero times?  Whatever it is, I want you to smile three times as much. So if you smile zero – smile three times a day, for no reason whatsoever and yes you will look like a lunatic.  I don’t care.  Just smile, for no reason whatsoever.

If you smile twice a day, smile six, three times, smile nine… oh my god, Dr. Childress, stop, you’ll have me smiling all the time.

Exactly.  Maybe not all the time, but pretty close.  Why?  Use-dependent development, we build what we use.  I’m gifting you a brain-hack, a back-door.  There’s this little kink in the neural networks that we can take advantage of… we’re stupid.

Our brain doesn’t know how we feel.  So when we smile, our brain registers the muscle movement of the smile, but when it goes to look at emotions there’s no happy.  What’s up with that?  So the brain calls down to emotions and says, “Are you happy?”

And emotions says, “No, not really.”

“Well, we’re smiling, so we must be happy.  Give us some happy.”  So emotions produces a little pop of happy, called endorphins for the ten-buck word.  We trick the system into thinking it’s happy.  Emotions and body are linked, we just ran up the backside of the system.

We smile when we’re happy… and we’re happy when we smile, either way.

Then… we use use-dependent development, just like playing the piano, just like going to the gym.  What happens when you go to the gym over-and-over again, you get all buffed-out and strong.  What happens if you practice the piano over-and-over again, you’re playing jazz riffs at the Christmas party.  So then smile.

Smiling is a whole lot easier than going to the gym and practicing the piano, and way-way more fun.  You’ll feel silly.  I don’t care.  You’ll look silly.  Doesn’t matter.  Apologize if you look creepy, tell them “doctor’s orders.”  Doesn’t matter, just smile, for no reason at all.

Do it in the car while you’re driving to and from work.  You have all kinds of time driving.  You’re brain doesn’t care when you practice “happy” – car’s a great time.  Just smile.  “But I don’t feel happy.”  Just smile anyway.

Do it over-and-over, practice the piano over and over and what happens?

Are you terrible at the piano when you start?  Yes.  Does it matter?  No. 

It is as simple as just doing something different.  Smile.  More.  Again…. and again… and again.  I don’t care whether you feel happy, you will become happier.  Not an ecstatic find-god sort of happy.  But your brain systems for the happy emotion will become stronger, faster, and more efficient.  That’s a nice thing.

You will become happier (stronger), more often (faster), and that feeling just sort of happy feeling will become a way of life (more efficient).  That’s not a bad outcome from smiling for no reason in the car to-and-from work. 

Before going to bed, from the time you enter the bedroom to the time you crawl under the covers, I want you to smile three times – doctors orders.  Three times before bedtime

Doctor’s orders:  Patient needs to increase the long-term potentiation and synaptogenesis along the neural networks for the up-arousal and social-bonding affect systems for joy and laughter. 

You need more joy and laughter, doctor’s orders.

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

The Voice of Children, for Children.

I do not seek the voices of the children, children are neutral.  We will fight and win this battle with pathology without relying on the child’s voice.  We will find other ways, children are neutral.

Yet the adult children who have recovered themselves from their devastated childhoods of loss created by the pathology of one parent, can carry the voice of and for the child.

This speaker is anonymous to me, and that’s the way it should be. She speaks for all children of alienation. This pathology is devastating for the children, and it moves in them for a lifetime, a childhood destroyed, a lifetime altered, a lifetime of enduring grief and loss.  This is the voice of the child.  Listen.

Dorcy Pruter is also that child.  She’s not a psychologist or a mental health professional, she was that child.  She too was abandoned to the pathology of one parent that alienated her from the other.  She also had to self-recover because of the failure of professional psychology.  She became determined to end this for every child.

Amanda’s voice.


Dawn’s voice

I recently received this email from Dawn Endria McCarty, Chair, National Parents Organization Florida and Associate Producer for the documentary, Erasing Family.  I found her email to me spoke with the authenticity of that child, the voice from and for the children of alienation.  I asked and received her permission to post her email to me on my blog.

In addition to her work to bring an end to this devastating family pathology, she was that child.  Ms. McCarty is a survivor of childhood alienation.

These now-adult children, like Dawn McCarty, are coming forward to speak.  It is time to listen to this voice from the authentic child.

From Ms. McCarty:

Dr. Childress,

It’s a pleasure to be introduced to you directly and I want to thank you for sharing your work so generously.  As I watch your videos or read your posts to learn as much as I can from you, I have realized that for me, I take something away that is probably a little different than most, because I learn more about myself, than anything else.  I am an adult child that experienced the emotional cutoff that you speak about and I was just telling Paul, that what I learn is that my experiences and feelings from the trauma I endured are validated and I have a deeper understanding of what really took place.   I was abducted and erased from my father in 1972 and the world as I knew it vanished overnight.  What that world was replaced with is what I have referred to over the years as my personal “Twilight Zone”, which I could never reconcile it in my head without help.

After a 44-year search, I finally found my father January 29, 2016 and together we were able to do some much-needed healing.  I believe it is important for others to know is that a child cannot heal holistically without their erased parent, they need each other to really heal.  Before I realized this, I never thought I had a purpose, but I have learned otherwise over the last 3 years.  Thru the emotional roller coaster of feelings during the time I had with my father, I finally realized that there was a reason that I was able to survive the trauma as I did, and that is to share what I experienced now.  To expose and oppose those that believe they are only thinking about the “best interest of the child”.   I can dispute many of these arguments, where they are not able to dispute mine, because they are not thinking about the long-term effects of the child. They are only applying a band-aid to a wound that will never heal without the proper people and tools.

The turning point for me was when I lost my father again on January 19, 2018, only permanently this time.  I am a member of the unpopular group of people that have lost someone dear to them twice in one lifetime.  As we educate and reconnect children to their erased parents, there is potential for the membership of this group to grow if we don’t change and protect the child’s inalienable rights to love and be loved by both of their parents.  I feel a loss, yes, but I also feel extremely blessed that I was able to spend those last two years with him before he left this world. I am fortunate in that respect, however for others, that means there is no time to waste, we must change now for the children of today. 

I became a GAL and also participated in a few studies on the effects of abductions or emotional cutoffs, however they are hardly adequate for use by the United States to the degree we need them to be.  To my knowledge there are no studies conducted on the long-term effects of childhood trauma that follows the children throughout their lives.  We know that children do not outgrow their trauma, they do not get over it, they just suppress it.  We know that these effects do not go away, even when on the outside there is nothing apparently wrong.  It just sits idle in Pandora’s Box waiting for the trigger to be pulled and not many are ready or equipped with the needed tools to process these emotions.  Not when it is like a firehose on full blast, aimed at their heart.  It is my hope to get NPO to conduct a study of these long-term effects in the near future.

It is very true that you are working ahead of everyone else, as you mention in your posts.  Your research, education, and communications validate the long-term effects that I felt as a very young child, growing into a young adult, and far into being a grown woman.  By laying this out now, the way you have, means when we finally do get to conduct studies, there will be a model to follow.  In combination with future studies, I hope it will help identify the issues a child faces throughout their lives.  What I went through when my pandora’s box blew open was almost more than I could handle.  I am strong, yet I still had trouble handling this, which makes me fear for the ones who are either too fragile, the young children, the vulnerable, or those who are shattered from the trauma. I am sharing my experiences by speaking and educating for them, which is quite possibly the missing key to the argument. I am trying to be an open book to allow others to have an example to study and ask questions, although I still have my trauma brain struggles from time to time. But I promise to keep at it.  

That said, I am the chair for the National Parents Organization of Florida and as such, I am planning a Shared Parenting Conference this year with a Premiere of Erasing Family to officially kick of the Impact Campaign that Michelle Stegall-Jordan has implemented. I work closely with her and she has been coaching me both personally and professionally.  We have so many great resources and I am a huge collaborator of sharing and tapping into the tools and expertise that are effective. I have already had three screenings in the state with 3 or 4 more in the works and my hope is that with the attention we gain from Impact Campaign and hosting a statewide conference for equal shared parenting, we can get things rolling in our state legislatively by next year.

One member of my NPO team is Leslie Ferderigos (aka Lawyer Leslie and the “Alienated Kids” videos), whom you reached out to regarding a shared parenting conference in our state.  We would love to have you attend, if you are available.  We are teaming up with Danica Joan (Custody Matters) for a conference on April 24th and will probably have at least one other later on in the summer or fall.  If you can make the April conference, that would be fantastic, otherwise I can work with your schedule for the timing of the other conference later in the year.

I am looking forward to learning from and hopefully working with you more in the future.

Warm regards,

Dawn Endria McCarty
Chair, National Parents Organization Florida
Associate Producer – Erasing Family


I am unable to attend the conference in Florida on the 24th because I will be returning from my seminars with Dorcy in Ireland in April.  I hope to be in Florida in the future. 

The world is changing.  It needs to change.

I will not place any of the burden for change onto the child. That is our responsibility.  I’m fine with that.  Empathy, make it easy, no worries.  There are others, though, who were that child.  Who understand that child.  Who speak with that child’s voice.

We need to listen to that voice, the voice of the authentic child.  We need to bring them solutions for the entire family, to return to them a childhood of love and bonding, for all children, everywhere.

Empathy.  Simple empathy.

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

Dr. Childress: Cyberspace Office

I have entered cyberspace. 

Cyberspace Office: my online office is at doxy.me/drchildress

Dr. Childress: Cyberspace Office

Scheduling Calendar: I have an online Scheduling Calendar for scheduling consultation appointments with me:

Dr. Childress: Scheduling Calendar

Website Description:  I further describe my Cyberspace Office & Telepsychology practice on my website:

Dr. Childress Website: Cyberspace Office & Telepsychology

Encrypted Email:  I have encrypted email through Hushmail.com

Dr. Childress Secure Email: drchildress@hushmail.com

California Residents:  I am licensed as a psychologist in California, so there are no restrictions on my ability to practice with California residents through telepsychology.

Non-California Residents:  Jurisdictional limitations on licensure restrict my ability to provide online psychotherapy with non-California residents using a telepsychology platform.  I can, however, provide limited-scope professional consultation with non-California residents (I am limiting this consultation to two sessions).

Professional-to-Professional:  There are no restrictions on my ability to provide online consultation to other mental health professionals or legal professionals.

Online Mental Health Consultation

My consultation with other mental health professionals can occur separately through my Cyberspace Office or can occur directly in their session through my telepsychology platform (with the proper permissions and agreement of the involved parties).  There are two implications of this;

1.) Parent-initiated Consultation: The targeted parent can, with the prior permission of the therapist, bring me to an appointment with the involved mental health professional for direct telepsychology mediated consultation, or can schedule a separate appointment time with the therapist at the Cyberspace Office of Dr. Childress.  We can meet in their brick-and-mortar office or at mine in cyberspace, whichever is preferred.

2.) Therapist-Initiated Consultation: The therapist can request the direct in-session telepsychology consultation of Dr. Childress with the child or select clients, with the proper agreement of the involved parties.  Again, this can occur in their brick-and-mortar office or at mine in cyberspace, whichever is preferred (note: I do not meet with children at my Cyberspace Office only, my consultation that includes direct contact with the child must include a mental health professional in the room with the child).

MH Professional Cyber-Office Consultation

I can meet through my Cyberspace Office with the involved mental heath professional alone, or with the therapist and client.

Therapist Alone:  If desired, I can meet with just the therapist at my Cyberspace Office to consult on a case.

Therapist & Client:  If desired, I can meet with the therapist and up to three additional clients in my Cyberspace Office.

Direct In-Session Consultation: Parent Initiated

Parent-initiated direct in-session telepsychology consultation with the involved mental health professional requires the following steps:

1.)  Initial Consultation:  Schedule an online consultation appointment with Dr. Childress to provide background information on the surrounding circumstances and to obtain guidance on the possible professional-to-professional consultation involvement of Dr. Childress in your matter.

2.)  Permission: If professional-to-professional consultation appears indicated from the initial consultation, then the next step is to obtain the permission and agreement of the involved mental health professional for the in-session professional consultation.

3.)  Confirmation: Dr. Childress will then send an email to the involved mental health professional confirming my cyber-attendance and telepsychology consultation at the next session.

Direct In-Session Consultation: Therapist Initiated

A mental health professional can schedule a direct in-session consultation with Dr. Childress with the proper permissions and agreements of the involved participants.

Therapist & Targeted Parent:  The direct telepsychology in-session participation and consultation of Dr. Childress can be with the therapist and targeted parent.  This would only require the consent of the targeted parent.

Therapist & Allied Parent:  The direct telepsychology in-session participation and consultation of Dr. Childress can be with the therapist and allied parent.  This would only require the consent of the allied parent.

Therapist & Child:  The direct telepsychology in-session participation and consultation of Dr. Childress can be with the therapist and child. This direct in-session telepsychology consultation with the involved mental health professional would require the consent of both the targeted parent and allied parent (each consenting for the child’s participation).

Therapist & Targeted Parent & Child:  The direct in-session participation and consultation of Dr. Childress can be with the involved therapist, the targeted parent, and child.  This direct in-session telepsychology consultation with the involved mental health professional would require the consent of both the targeted parent and allied parent (each consenting for the child’s participation).

Exceptions to Consent:

Exception 1:  If one parent has been given court-ordered sole authorization to consent for the child’s treatment, then the child’s participation in a direct in-session telepsychology consultation with the involved mental health professional and Dr. Childress would only require the consent of this authorized parent.

Exception 2:  If the court orders the direct in-session telepsychology consultation participation of Dr. Childress, then court orders supersede parental consent.

Standard 3.09 Cooperation with Other Professionals

The relevant Standard from the APA ethics code governing professional-to-professional consultation is Standard 3.09 Cooperation with Other Professionals.

Standard 3.09 Cooperation with Other Professionals
When indicated and professionally appropriate, psychologists cooperate with other professionals in order to serve their clients/patients effectively and appropriately.

Court-Ordered Professional-to-Professional Consultation

If the court desires, the court can order the involved mental health professionals to consult with Dr. Childress through telepsychology.  The court may order that the telepsychology consultation only be with the involved mental health professionals, or the court order can include additional family members dependent upon the court’s wishes.

Court orders regarding the telepsychology consultation of Dr. Childress should be sent to Dr. Childress by secure email (drchildress@hushmail.com) when the consultation appointment is scheduled.

Consultation with Legal Professionals

If attorneys wish to consult with Dr. Childress on any matter, they can schedule a consultation appointment through the Scheduling Calendar.

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

Limbic System: Robert Sapolsky Stanford Lecutures

Robert Sapolsky is a valuable resource of knowledge.  He has a set of Stanford University  lectures on YouTube regarding various aspects of his field, taught from his undergraduate course at Stanford University in 2010,

It’s free, it’s available on YouTube, search on Dr. Sapolsky’s Stanford Lectures:

YouTube: Robert Saposky Stanford University Lectures

All mental health professionals working with court-involved family conflict must watch Robert Sapolsky’s Stanford lecture on the limbic system.  It is free, it is available, it is your introduction to the limbic system.

YouTube: Dr. Sapolsky Stanford Lectures: Limbic System

Attend to statements about the amygdala, frontal cortex, and anterior cingulate.  Attend to the James-Lange theory of emotion, and the role of interpretation and attribution for a bodily state.

Dr. Sapolsky’s lecture on the Limbic System is mandatory.  From this point on, I will assume that all court-involved mental health professionals will be familiar with all of the material discussed by Dr. Sapolsky in this lecture.  The remainder of his 2010 course at Stanford University on YouTube is “optional” – a post-doc of mine would watch the entire course, knowledge is a good thing when working with children.

Child Development Knowledge

Mental health professionals working with complex family conflict surrounding divorce must understand child development.  In 2020 this is substantially more than Erickson’s stages of basic trust vs basic mistrust, industry vs inferiority, from the 1940s.  Since 1990, understanding child development means understanding the neuro-social development of the brain during childhood,

They are inseparable.  Childhood is the period of brain maturation.  To understand childhood, and importantly, the different phases of childhood and the different socio-neurological developmental tasks-challenges for that period, requires – requires – an understanding for the neuro-development of the brain in childhood across different developmental levels.

If the mental health professional does not want to learn the neuro-development of the brain during childhood, that’s fine – just don’t work with children.  Work with adults.  Because since the 1990s, child development has required a professional understanding of the neuro-development of the child.

This is not optional knowledge – knowledge of child development when working with children – it is required knowledge.

Robert Sapolsky’s Standford University course lectures on YouTube are an exceptionally good introduction.  Of central importance is information about the limbic system (emotional system), which includes essential information on a cortical portion of the limbic system, the prefrontal cortex and the executive function systems.

Professional Ignorance

I am only assigning you Dr. Sapolsky’s Stanford lecture on the Limbic System.  I do that with post-docs, I “assign” some material, and I “recommend” other material, the difference being direct relevance and indirectly important.

You should watch them all.  You will only be using the knowledge about the limbic system when you reach the material from Stern, Shore, Tronick, Trevarthan, van der Kolk – and others – attend also to the Polyvagal Theory and Porges.

Notice something important at the start of Dr. Sapolsky’s Limbic System lecture.  It is a week before the midterm and the material about the limbic system is not going to be on the midterm.  Dr. Sapolsky nonchalantly comments on a number of empty seats.

There are two types of humans, and they are reflected in the students’ decisions.  One group, “Is this going to be on the midterm?” and if not, then they disregard the knowledge that they will need as professionals, because it is not directly relevant to their task at the moment, passing the midterm exam.

This failure in frontal lobe systems surrounding time projection, called foresight and planning, indicates unresolved traumas in other regions of the prefrontal cortex and limbic system that is inhibiting full activation of frontal lobe executive function systems – or – developmentally appropriate maturational processes during the 18-to-24 period. 

The students that skipped the class did not have the frontal lobe capability “to do the hard thing” (attend class) “when it is the right thing to do” (learn knowledge).  The students came to Stanford University, a top-tier educational institution, to learn.  Yet they do not attend class because the material is “not on the midterm.” 

A very “now” orientation to their motivation.  Is this going to help me… now?  The frontal lobe systems for foresight and the inhibition of other competing limic systems activity driving motivation has not yet fully developed.  That’s relatively normal for that age period.  The frontal lobe does not complete its maturation until age 25.

Other students attended. Even though they weren’t going to be “tested” on the information, they came to learn the information.  They understand the value of the information, that’s what they came to Stanford University for, the knowledge. They want this knowledge because it then serves as a foundation for the next set of knowledge, and they will need this next set of knowledge for the tasks they will undertake professionally. 

Do you see the difference between a limic brain of motivation that’s oriented toward the now, and the executive function systems of the prefrontal cortex that inhibit limic activity to allow us to “do the hard thing, when it’s the right thing to do.”

Ignorance is Not Acceptable with Children

To my professional colleagues, you are working with children. Their lives are in your hands. Your ignorance can destroy their life trajectories, or it can fulfill and enrich the entire future course of their lives, and the lives of their spouses and children.  Their future is in your hands – in your ignorance or your knowledge.

What reason do you have for ignorance and sloth?  Is any level of ignorance and sloth acceptable when working with the lives of children?

The court also holds the lives of these parents and their children in the balance of its decisions, lives will be changed, potentially destroyed or saved, by the court’s decision.  The court is seeking consultation from professional psychology for recommendations supporting the child’s healthy development – the “best interests of the child.”

The court is coming to you.  You hold the lives of these children and the lives of these parents in your hands, in the difference between your ignorance and knowledge.

The Limbic System is on my midterm, the midterm of Dr. Childress for professional competence in working with children, especially emotionally dysregulated children – that’s the limbic-prefrontal cortex network.  You will need this information for the information on intersubjectivity, attunement, emotional regulation, and complex trauma that will follow next. That is the information you need to know; Stern, Tronick, Trevarthan, van der Kolk, Fonagy, Shore, Lyons-Ruth, and others.

The rest of Sapolsky’s Standford University lectures are not on the midterm of Dr. Childress.  Bear in mind that I already know the material.  I watched them anyway, and I learned more.  Because ignorance is never acceptable when working with children.

What’s your excuse for your ignorance?  Is understanding child development not important to working with children?  Is understanding the neuro-development of the brain too difficult? 

Then you are ignorant of child development, and you need to go away and not work with children, or you should follow the instructions of people who are not ignorant and who do understand child development – including the neuro-social development of the brain across its various phases and processes.

Do you understand intersubjectivty?  “What’s that?” you say.  I know.  You don’t know what that is, do you?  You don’t know what you’re doing, do you?… I know.  That’s a problem.

Do you understand the roles of attunement and misattunement in the joint construction of meaning?  Do you understand the processes of affect regulation and dysregulation, and its treatment?  Do you understand the neuro-social processes of identity formation and stabilization within the variations across the developmental stages of childhood? 

If not, then I cannot even have a professional-level discussion with you.  You are too ignorant (lacking knowledge or information).

You do not understand child development, the scientific research on child development… you don’t know any of it.  That’s a serious problem if you are working with children whose lives hang in the balance of your knowledge or ignorance… because you’re ignorant.

Dr. Sapolsky’s class is an undergraduate course.  You are not even at the level of an undergraduate student if I cannot discuss the role of the limbic brain, particularly and especially the amygdala, prefrontal cortex, and the vagus nerve of the autonomic nervous system.

I have to first educate you in order to have a professional-level discussion with you. That’s not okay.  I shouldn’t have to educate you, you should already be educated before – before – you start to work with children.

Start with van der Kolk’s two day course-seminar from PESI in trauma and complex trauma.  As a preliminary assignment, watch Sapolsky’s Stanford University lecture on the Limbic System.  Google Polyvagal Theory; Porges.   You will ultimately be headed toward Tronick and Stern (intersubjectivity), this will include Trevarthan and Fonagy.

Oh… know Bowlby.  Read all three volumes on attachment, know Lyons-Ruth, buy and know the Handbook on Attachment.

I would consider all of this an assignment for a post-doc.  If you do not know this information, you are not ready to begin work with children… you are not ready to even – begin – not even begin – your work with children if you do not know this information about child development.  You are ignorant, which means you will be incompetent.

If you were my post-doc and didn’t know this information, I would not let you have patient contact until you knew this information.  Not only would I be supervising your work because you’re still in training, I wouldn’t even let you work with child patients until you knew this information.

Google ignorance: lack of knowledge or information

Do you know Sapolsky and van der Kolk?  Cicchetti and Lyons-Ruth?  Stern and Tronick?  Then you lack knowledge or information, you are ignorant.

Ignorance solves nothing. Ignorance is unacceptable professional practice when you hold the lives of children in the balance of your knowledge and ignorance.

Google incompetence: inability to do something successfully; ineptitude.

Can you resolve interpersonal conflict?  Then do it.  You can’t, can you.

You can’t do it because you lack knowledge about how to do it, about how to resolve conflict.  You are ignorant.  And because of your ignorance, you are unable to solve the parent-child conflict, you are unsuccessful, you are incompetent.

Google sloth: reluctance to work or make an effort; laziness.

Have you watched Sapolsky’s Stanford University lecture on the limic system, available for free on YouTube?  Have you watched all of Dr. Sapolsky’s Standford University course lectures?  Have you taken Bessel van der Kolk’s two-day course from PESI on trauma and complex trauma?  Or are you reluctant to work and make an effort? Are you lazy and slothful?

Google negligence: failure to take proper care in doing something; (law) failure to use reasonable care, resulting in damage or injury to another.

Did you use proper care?  Or are you ignorant, incompetent, and slothful?  Did your ignorance, incompetence, and professional sloth result in injury to the parent, harm and damage to the child?

Do any of those words apply to you?  Ignorance, incompetence, sloth, or negligence?

Do you lack information and knowledge, are you unable to solve the family conflict because you lack knowledge and information about how to do that, and do you fail to know this knowledge and information because you are reluctant to make an effort, you’re lazy, and then this causes harm, causes injury to the child and the parent, because you failed to take proper care in first learning about child development and parent-child conflict and bonding – before – you started to work with children.

None of those words apply to me.  I work with children.  None of those words apply to me.

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

Complex Trauma & Bessel van der Kolk

Professional practice with court-involved family conflict surrounding divorce requires competence in five domains of professional psychology:

  • Attachment
  • Family systems therapy
  • Personality Disorders
  • Complex trauma
  • Neurodevelopment in childhood

Leading figures in each of these domains would be:

John Bowlby, Mary Ainsworth: attachment

Salvador Minuchin, Murray Bowen: family systems therapy

Aaron Beck, Otto Kernberg, Theodore Millon, Marsha Linehan: personality disorders

Bessel van der Kolk: complex trauma

Edward Tronick, Daniel Stern: neurodevelopment of the brain

Trauma & Complex Trauma

Professional competence in the educational curriculium for trauma and complex trauma can be gained, and demonstrated on the vitae, through the PESI 2-day Continuing Education course from Bessel van der Kolk:

Bessel van der Kolk: The Body Keeps Score

It is my strong professional recommendation that all mental health professionals working with court-involved family conflict take this Continuing Education course from PESI to acquire and demonstrate current educational curriculum knowledge regarding trauma and complex trauma.

This two-day course from Bessel van der Kolk would not satisfy practice requirements as a trauma therapist, but would be sufficient for court-involved family conflict mental health professionals. Of note is that PESI offers a separate 75 hour Certificate Program in Traumatic Stress Studies.

Also of note regarding additional information, training, and competency in trauma and complex trauma is the National Child Traumatic Stress Network.

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



AFCC: Class Action Exposure?

The Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC),is the professional organization for forensic psychologists and family law attorneys.  The AFCC specifically instructs child custody evaluators NOT to diagnose pathology.

The AFCC has published an instruction guide for child custody evaluations, the Model Standards of Practice for Child Custody Evaluations.

With this document, the AFCC has put their seal of approval, their imprimatur, on the practice of child custody evaluations.  I believe that is significant, because I wonder what sort of legal liability that establishes for the AFCC regarding the assessment procedure of child custody evaluation.

I’m not a lawyer, but as a psychologist I’d be worried if I were on the Board of Directors for the AFCC about the potential legal liability exposure this “Model Standards of Practice” creates for our organization.  If we’re telling people how to do it, and providing our professional credibility, name and status to the activity, then to what extent do we also incur legal liability responsibility for endorsing and recommending the practice?

If I’m on the Board of Directors as a clinical psychologist, I’m going to want our attorneys to offer an opinion on that, and I’ll want our attorneys to review our “Model Standards of Practice” with an eye toward legal liability exposure before we publish them and provide our organization’s imprimatur of support for the practice.

And, on the other hand, if I’m considering a class action lawsuit against the practice of child custody evaluations for essentially being a fraudulent financial racket (I’m not a lawyer, but if I were, I’d seriously look at a Rico violation with the AFCC as the organizing syndicate and the child custody evaluators as the capos), I’d be looking at linking the AFCC to the lawsuit specifically on this document, their Model Standards of Practice for Child Custody Evaluations.

Seems to me… they took ownership of the practice of child custody evaluations with that document.

Principle D Justice

The first problem the AFCC faces is that the practice of child custody evaluations is a foundational violation of Principle D Justice of the American Psychological Association ethics code.  Child custody evaluations, as a practice, are in violation of a foundational Principle of ethical practice, Justice, on two separate and independent counts.

Principle D: Justice
Psychologists recognize that fairness and justice entitle all persons to access to and benefit from the contributions of psychology and to equal quality in the processes, procedures, and services being conducted by psychologists.  Psychologists exercise reasonable judgment and take precautions to ensure that their potential biases, the boundaries of their competence, and the limitations of their expertise do not lead to or condone unjust practices.

Let’s begin to apply this Principle of professional ethics to the practice of child custody evaluations…

“fairness and justice entitle all persons to access to and benefit from …”

A typical child custody procedure costs between $20,000 to $40,000 for each evaluation. That financial cost places the practice of child custody evaluation beyond the affordability of all but the most affluent of families.  Since lower-income families are offered no alternative, they must turn to substandard assessments conducted by less qualified, and often unqualified, professionals because the more qualified professionals and assessments are cost-prohibitive.

The most expensive clinical psychology assessment for the most complicated child pathology (e.g., trauma with autism-spectrum and ADHD features, learning disabilities, involving prenatal exposure to drugs, foster care placement, and current behavioral problems) would cost around $5,000 and take between four to six weeks to complete, with a report, for a high-end comprehensive assessment.  A typical clinical psychology assessment for most pathologies costs about $2,500.

That forensic psychology cannot develop an assessment protocol for their “high-conflict divorce” pathology for less than $20,000 to $40,000 strains credulity, and raises prominent professional concerns about their exploitation of a vulnerable population, the class of parents in family court litigation surrounding child custody and visitation schedules.

Forensic psychology claims this population as their exclusive property, prohibiting any recommendation for child custody visitation schedules being offered by clinical psychologists based on any criteria OTHER than the conduct of their $20,000 to $40,000 child custody evaluation procedure.

As a treating clinical psychologist with full, direct, and ongoing knowledge of the pathology in the family, I can form a professional opinion on the relative benefits of different custody visitation schedules… I just can’t tell the court my opinion.  I am prohibited from telling the court my opinion unless I’ve conducted one of their $20,000 to $40,000 child custody evaluations.  Then I can tell the court my opinion.

Parents who cannot afford the excessive and obscene cost of a child custody evaluation are denied “access to and benefit from” quality professional input into their family litigation and the court’s decision-making.  That is a fundamental violation of Principle D… “fairness and justice entitle all persons to access to and benefit from …”, less affluent families are being denied “access to and benefit from ” the input of professional psychology.

The practice of child custody evaluations, endorsed with guidelines from the AFCC, is foundationally in violation of Principle D Justice of the APA ethics code for denying “access to and benefit from” quality professional input into their court-involved family conflict because the excessive and prohibitive financial cost of their immensely bloated and ill-conceived assessment procedures.

“fairness and justice entitle all persons to… equal quality in the processes, procedures, and services being conducted by psychologists.”

There is no inter-rater reliability to child custody evaluations.  This means that child cusody evaluations are not a valid assessment of anything, they are just the opinion of one person, the evaluator, based on no supported foundations.

The absence of inter-rater reliability means that different evaluators can reach entirely different conclusions and recommendations based on exactly the same family information and data.  Families are therefore denied “equal quality in the processes, procedures, and services” by the absence of inter-rater reliability to the procedure.

Two of the prominent experts in forensic psychology, Stahl and Simon, who literally wrote the book on child custody evaluations, published by the Family Law Section of the American Bar Association, acknowledge the high degree of variability in the quality of “services” delivered by child custody evaluators.

From Stahl & Simons: “The American Board of Forensic Psychology is a subspecialty board of the ABPP. In the fall of 2011, there were approximately 250-300 ABPP board certified forensic psychologists in the United States and an unknown number of psychologists who specialize in forensic work but are not board certified.  On top of that, there are many psychologists who dabble in forensic practice, occasionally performing child custody or other types of forensic evaluations, and who find themselves called to testify in court on occasion.  While we recognize that there is a range of quality in their work, it is clear that forensic psychology is a growing area of specialization.” (Stahl & Simons, 2013, p. 9)

Stahl, P.M. and Simon, R.A. (2013). Forensic Psychology Consultation in Child Custody Litigation: A Handbook for Work Product Review, Case Preparation, and Expert Testimony, Chicago, IL: Section of Family Law of the American Bar Association

The procedure of child custody evaluations violates Principle D Justice of the APA ethics code by failing to provide “equal quality in the processes, procedures, and services being conducted by psychologists.”  This is an openly acknowledge fact (“we recognize that there is a range of quality in their work”; Stahl & Simon, 2013).

To the extent that the AFCC issues Model Standards of Practice for Child Custody Evaluations they are providing recommended “Standards of Practice” for an unethical procedure.

Avoiding Diagnosis

Diagnosis is considered professional standard of practice in all cases.  Diagnosis guides treatment.  The treatment for cancer is different than the treatment for diabetes.  In order to develop a treatment plan and recommendations (any recommendations), we must first know what the pathology is, what’s the diagnosis?

The treatment for cancer is different than the treatment for diabetes.  Diagnosis guides treatment.

How can we possibly know what to do about a problem, until we first identify what that problem is.  The term “identify” is the common-language word for the professional term “diagnosis.”  We must first identify what the problem is in order to know how to fix it; we must first diagnose what the problem is in order to know how to treat it.

identify = diagnosis

fix = treatment

It is professional standard of practice to first diagnose (identify) the pathology before offering any recommendations about what to do.  If we don’t know what the problem is, if we haven’t identified (diagnosed) what the problem is, how can we possibly know what to do about it?

Failure to first diagnose (identify) what the pathology is prior to making recommendations about how to fix it (treatment or remedy) would be a violation of Standard 9.01a of the APA ethics code requiring that;

Standard 9.01a 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. (See also Standard 2.04, Bases for Scientific and Professional Judgments.)

If the assessing evaluator has NOT even identified what the problem is (diagnosis), then the recommendations contained in their “reports, and diagnostic or evaluative statements, including forensic testimony” are not based on information “sufficient to substantiate their findings” because they don’t even know what the pathology is – they have not yet even identified – diagnosed – what the problem is.

In addition, the Model Standards of Practice for Child Custody Evaluations from the AFCC specifically instruct child custody evaluators to AVOID making a diagnosis.

4.6 Presentation of Findings and Opinions
(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.

While not directly prohibiting child custody evaluators from identifying what the pathology is (the “diagnostic label”) prior to offering recommendations to the court, the clear indication from the AFCC is that identifying pathology (the “diagnostic label”) is “often more prejudicial than probative” and should be avoided, because it “diverts attention” from the true focus of the assessment, which must be something other than identifying what the problem is and offering recommendations on how to solve it.

Diagnosis guides treatment.  We do not know what to do about a problem until we first identify (diagnose) what that problem is.  The treatment for cancer is different than the treatment for diabetes.

In addition to the deeply troubling prominent encouragement from the AFCC to avoid diagnosing pathology before making recommendations to the court, is the further troubling assertion from the AFCC that child custody evaluators should strive to influence the court’s decision-making by withholding from the court information about pathology that the custody evaluator thinks might be “prejudicial” to the case of the pathological parent.

The AFCC is recommending that the child custody evaluator preempts  the court’s authority to assess the relative value of a “diagnostic label” (identifying what the problem is), and that the child custody evaluator should instead independently weigh the relative “prejudicial” and “probative” value of disclosing to the court the identifying name for the pathology in a family, apparently to influence the court’s decision in favor of the pathological parent by withholding diagnostic information from the court’s consideration.

It is a deeply troubling role for a child custody evaluator to be making preemptive decisions on the relative prejudicial and probative value of diagnostic information in order to then withhold information from the court’s consideration that will influence the court’s decision in favor of a pathological parent, based solely on a decision made by the custody evaluator regarding the relative prejudicial and probative value of the information.

Not only is this diagnostic information withheld from the court’s consideration, it is also not disclosed to the parties.  This violates the rights of the non-pathological parent to present evidence to the court because the relevant evidence is being arbitrarily withheld from disclosure to the parent by the child custody evaluator, based on instructions made to the evaluator from the AFCC in their Model Standards of Practice for Child Custody Evaluations, Standard 4.6(c).

In issuing Model Standards of Practice for Child Custody Evaluations, to what degree has the AFCC assumed legal liability for the practice of child custody evaluations?

Principle D Justice
“Psychologists… take precautions to ensure that their potential biases, the boundaries of their competence, and the limitations of their expertise do not lead to or condone unjust practices.”


How have child custody evaluators taken “precautions” to limit their “potential biases“?  What specific precautions in the child custody interview process has that child custody evaluator taken to limit the “potential biases” of the evaluator?

The mother in the case reminds the evaluator of his ex-wife, the tone of her voice, what she says.  She’s really irritating.  The custody evaluator doesn’t agree with the cultural parenting practices and values of one of the parents, he just doesn’t think that’s the right way to parent.

What precautions did that child custody evaluator take in that evaluation to limit the potential biases – many of them unconscious biases (the evaluator may have mommy-issues or daddy-issues, may have been sexually abused as a child and harbor unconscious anger toward “abusive men”).

What type of “precautions” are taken?  None.

Child custody evaluations take NO precautions to limit “potential bias.”

What “precautions” did the custody evaluator take to ensure boundaries of competence?

This is an attachment pathology, a child rejecting a parent.  Where on the custody evaluator’s vitae does it demonstrate background training and experience in assessing, diagnosing, and treating attachment pathology?

This is a family conflict pathology.  Where on the custody evaluator’s vitae does it demonstrate background training and experience in family systems therapy.  Or do they assert that family systems therapy, one of the four primary schools of therapy and the only one dealing with families… is not relevant to boundaries of competence.

Do they believe that knowing about families and how families function is not required knowledge for assessing, diagnosing, and treating family conflict pathology?

How has the custody evaluator taken “precautions” to ensure their boundaries of competence?  What precautions?

“…do not lead to or condone unjust practices.”

Do you mean like denying people “equal access to and benefit from the contributions of psychology and to equal quality in the processes, procedures, and services being conducted by psychologists”? 

That type of “unjust practice”?

In issuing Model Standards of Practice for Child Custody Evaluations, and placing their professional endorsement and imprimatur of credibility onto the practice of child custody evaluations, to what degree has the AFCC incurred legal liability relative to the practice of child custody evaluations in forensic psychology?

I don’t know, I’m not a lawyer.

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