Dr. Childress puts us ON NOTICE


http://drcraigchildressblog.com/2015/10/14/on-notice-10115/on notice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

De-Identified Summaries of Report Regarding Domains of Professional Concern

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

1. Model of Complaint Structure

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

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

Standard 2.01: Boundaries of Competence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Standard 9.01: Competent Assessment

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

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

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

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

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

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

Standard 3.04: Do No Harm

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

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

Duty to Protect

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

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

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

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

To Mental Health Professionals:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coming Together

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

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

Some initial suggestions:

Request the treatment records of the mental health professional. Your state will have laws governing the release of mental health treatment notes. Research the laws in your state and help each other understand your rights to access the treatment records of your children. The laws governing California are on my website.
Request the vitae of the mental health professional. Review this vitae for evidence of professional training and experience in personality disorder pathology, family systems pathology, and attachment pathology.
Read the ethics codes governing the various categories of mental health professionals: psychologists, MFTs, MSWs. Identify the relevant ethical standards in each of the codes. Help each other frame complaints in terms of violations of ethical standards of practice rather than specifics of the individual case.
I don’t have the time to work with 10,000 targeted parents individually and it is too expensive for you. Put the money you save toward your kid’s college education. Come together into self-help groups. This is your fight. It’s up to you to become strong enough to rescue your children. I am not your warrior, I am your weapon.

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

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

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

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

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

2. Putting Mental Health Professionals On Notice

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

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

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

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

I’ve given you diagnostic checklists.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Craig Childress, Psy.D.

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