Historic change afoot: winning without the ‘A’ word

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The good news – click the photo to find the reason they’re smiling!

After decades of ideological impasse, the major US professional body, the APA, has signalled that an historic change is on its way. Let’s celebrate this long-awaited change and the invisible key that seems to have worked at last.

What’s the key?! The absolute absence of the ‘A’ word.

We don’t want to risk spoiling the obvious power of being reasonable, academically informed and positive … and also the power of NOT mentioning the ‘A’ word at all.  So we will not dwell on all the more negative things scattered through past decades in the wake of this new welcome development.

A new safe pathway for all to use

If you know the field at all you’ll know all about the ideological, gender and professional debates that mirror the intensity of the high conflict family patterns and the children at the centre of our concerns. If you know all that, you can marvel at the brilliance of this new move as it steers through the storm by picking a new safe, sound and effective pathway.

If you don’t know all that, just be pleased that now you don’t need to know it. Just enjoy the straightforward clarity that has emerged.

All the often embattled sides should be able to unite in support of this new integrating approach. If we do unite behind it, then that is nothing short of a miracle after all these years. Although this is of particular relevance to a USA context, it will have major effects all round the world too.

Read it all in full

This blogpost is brief to encourage you instead to read and think most about where the action is.

Carefully read and note the powerful, thorough, no ‘A’ word, position statement. It bases its rationale on well-known principles of attachment and child abuse. Note the non-gendered parents organisation behind the petition. The gender-inclusive title avoids the usual but spurious gender conflict. It’s good to have a targeted mother as the voice of NATP to underline this gender point.

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Kay Johnson of NATP. Click on image for their website.

That title doesn’t prioritise the children but their position statement certainly does.  Note that the professionals behind the NATP petition have strategically left it to parents to lead the way. They have also left aside some of their more polemical stuff in order not to distract from this new safer pathway for all.

And finally here’s the brilliant recent news itself of the APA intention to change. That news is added onto the online petition at change.org.

Do read the full position statement for its thorough brilliance and absence of the ‘A’ word. Then do sign that petition. Add some note of who and where you are so that we both support this important US change and link ourselves to world-wide change too.

Next step? Let’s await history in the making.  … Update 26 April (just after PA Awareness Day): The APA continues to process it’s review of its position statement. The old 2008 statement has been taken down from its webpage.

Nick Child, Edinburgh

About Nick Child

Retired child and family shrink and family therapist living, working and playing in Edinburgh.


  1. Please sign the petition. More signatures always helps. And please private message me on facebook if you would like to write a letter to the APA to tell your story.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Thank you, Nick, for your continued diligent devotion to the cause of alienated children and targeted parents. Words are powerful and sometimes a simple change in wording can help immensely. Avoiding the term ‘Parental Alienation Syndrome’ in legal contexts can bypass lawyers ‘innocently’ asking:

    “I’m sorry Doctor. But I don’t seem to see that diagnosis in the DSM. Maybe you can help me find it…. Do you just make up labels when you want to.”
    Progress is our most important progress.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. 20 years ago I began creating a list of alternate names and terms. 10 years ago, I added Attachment issues to the list of diagnostic terms that could be used for Alienation. I am glad that one of them has finally taken off.
    Alternative Names or Terms
    ¥ Custodial Interference
    ¥ Hostile Aggressive Parenting
    ¥ Alienation of Affection

    ¥ Overburdened Children, especially emotionally and with adult matters
    ¥ Chronically Enmeshed Relationships
    ¥ Vulnerable Children’s maladaptive reaction
    ¥ NVS (Narcissistic Victim Syndrome)

    ¥ Hostile Aggressive Parenting
    ¥ Borderless Boundaries
    ¥ Medea Syndrome – based on the Greek myth of Medea avenges her husband’s leaving her for another women through the gods
    ¥ High Conflict Model
    ¥ Unholy Alliances
    ¥ Extreme forms of parental alienation
    ¥ Sabotage
    ¥ Estrangement

    DSM Diagnosis
    ¥ Acute Distress Disorder (308.3)
    ¥ Reactive Attachment Disorder (313.89)
    ¥ Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (309.81), which includes estrangement including new terms of LAS (Legal Abuse Syndrome) and NVS (Narcissistic Victim Syndrome)
    ¥ Projective Identification (DSM-IV 301.83) Part of Borderline Personality Disorder
    ¥ Splitting (DSM-IV 301.83 Part of Borderline Personality Disorder

    Alienating Parents:
    ¥ High Conflict Personality
    ¥ Adjustment Disorders with Mixed Disturbance of Emotions and Conduct (309.4)
    ¥ Antisocial Personality Disorder (301.7)
    ¥ Borderline Personality Disorder (301.83)
    ¥ Histrionic Personality
    ¥ Narcissistic Personality Disorder (301.81)
    ¥ Paranoid
    ¥ Personality Disorder NOS (301.9) such as Passive Aggressive Personality Disorder
    ¥ Phase of Life Problems (V62.82)
    ¥ Relational Problems (V61.9: Relational Problems related to a mental disorder or General Medical Condition, V61.20: Parent-Child Relational Problem, V61.81: Relational Problem NOS,
    ¥ Problems Related to Abuse (V61.21)

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Yes, indeed, thank you Nick and others for your hard work and devotion to this cause. This is a hugely important miraculous breakthrough with the APA. We have to face facts that for 30 plus years the ‘A’ and the ‘S’ word has not won our children back in the courts. The 3 diagnostic indicators in the DSMV (examples which are used above) prove that the children are being psychologically abused. These children have to be removed from the custody of the abuser as you would with any other kind of child abuse. End of.
    Yes, we all know what alienation means but DON’T use it in court. Talk about it at home and also Dr Richard Gardner’s 8 manifestations of alienated children. I am a Gardnerian and have witnessed all of these manifestations for myself. However, one cannot deny that his theories have not been accepted by the MH professionals and TP’s are spending a lot of money fighting for their children and getting nowhere. I believe Dr Childress has nailed it – it is simple, cannot be argued with and there is no ambiguity.

    I also believe that once this has been accepted in the US it will ripple across the Atlantic and reach other countries and become the accepted standard of practice as to how to deal with severely alienated children. I know there are hybrid cases and alienators who do not have a Personality Disorder but these cases can be dealt with later and perhaps differently. However, we are talking about the URGENT cases of severely alienated children here with a parent with a Personality Disorder. Time is of the essence before there are more casualties along the way and one has to prioritise these cases.

    I believe there will be day when ‘alienation’ will be in the DSM but we cannot wait that long and have to use what is already in there so the pathogen can no longer conceal itself. It has been too successful at doing this for far too long!

    By the way, Howie, I sent off letters to 7 members of the APA a couple of days ago – every little helps.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for the comments.

    In the organisational background of this process we can guess that there are some complicated differences, real difficulties, hurdles and banana skins to negotiate. One of those issues is indeed, Pamela, what you refer to:

    “… I know there are hybrid cases and alienators who do not have a Personality Disorder … we are talking about the URGENT cases of severely alienated children …”

    The concern is that Craig’s very black and white version of attachment-based thinking (needed to lever into the DSM) and the focus only on the most severe patterns will make it much harder to assess and work with the many many more complex, not extreme (but still harmful to kids), and hybrid cases.

    We can hope that, as the APA moves to review its position here, it will be receptive to these complex issues and range of needs, not just a black and white argument.

    The fear is that the APA and its Child and Family Committee members might contain those who will continue to be very loyal to its long-held position statement on this. If they find various PA factions arguing amongst themselves as we seek to influence them, that may seem to them as continued lack of coherence and a further reason to shut us all out in the cold.

    Their old / present view arises from a highly coherent but faulty gender ideology that could be seen to be faulty if any of them read even a few pages of any literature on PA where it can be seen that PA happens to all genders. Indeed they only need to notice the gender of targeted mothers like you, Pamela, and like Kay Johnson of NATP.

    Nick Child, Edinburgh

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pamela Roche

    Hi Nick et al.

    There have been some very important issues raised here. Les, well done for using the word ‘obfuscate’ it describes it perfectly and that is the problem with why it not being accepted into the DSM. Yes, and what you say Nick is all so true – there cannot be any division in our thoughts – we have to be united in this, this gives us strength and power. For heavens sake, there are so few of us anyway, we must be united. That is why I am an advocate for Craig Childress because it is so black and white and all in the DSMV. If something is not so obviously clear they cannot use his theories as a template to solve the other more complicated, hybrid, moderate, mild cases that also exist. I KNOW they exist but all these cases must be surely too weak (for want of a better word) to get the attention of the APA and get this recognised in the courts. They are indeed so traumatising for the children and parents who are suffering. HOWEVER, we have to speak the language that the APA understand. We have to GRAB their attention with the extreme cases to instigate change otherwise it is disputable (Dr Childress coined the phrase that it has to be ‘idiot-proof’) I agree. Forget the complicated and many cases that do not fit into the black and white category – that will come in time. My belief is that for right now – it has to be very obvious psychological child abuse to make the change, and I am sorry to say that you will only see that in the severe cases. This is not as common as the garden-variety cases that one often sees in high-conflict divorce. However, it shines like a neon light when you witness it and it needs to shine that bright for the MH professionals to ‘get-it’! I am not understating the importance of all the other cases which indeed have extremely damaging consequences for TP’s and children. However, are the courts going to listen to these individual cases? I don’t think so – I think it has to be very clear-cut and as I said before ‘black & white”. If not the Judges will err on the side of caution and hand it over to the therapists to sort out, leaving the children in the custody of the alienating parent. They also have the false belief that the children will work it out for themselves when they are older. This is a huge mistake and the worst decision they could possibly make and any TP knows that.

    The severe cases involve a parent with a Personality Disorder which is categorised as Cluster-B Type Personality Disorder which very importantly includes Narcissistic/Borderline Personality Disorder. If it is not clearly defined it is not understood properly.

    Of course, the Dr’s who work for the APA are very well qualified, but how this form of ‘pathogenic parenting’ has slipped through the net baffles me.

    As for the ‘gender’ issue. I think it is their job as professionals working for the APA to read up on the MANY books that are written by women (not just myself). A very few examples are Lady Catherine Meyer and Pamela Richardson. There are many more books on the PASG web-site written by women if they have the time to read them. We are living in 2016 and this is NO longer a gender issue – this is a very out-dated ethos.

    Sorry about my ranting but I am very passionate about this subject!!


  7. Anyone who has been through PA, anyone who has worked with PA, will be very passionate, Pamela. Your own story, now further validated – Broken Lives Broken Minds … even one page of that book – is enough for anyone to sympathise with your passion.

    But just as sympathy for your particular case is important, so we – at least we the professions and those trying to research and provide comprehensive reliable understandings and services – we must struggle to have a broad sympathy for ALL the range of PA families and the children.

    So I again note and request those in this APA campaign to try to hold on and to take forward with them the broader concerns for all cases, and try to moderate the divisive (if in some ways effective) results of a too-simplistic black and white approach.

    That would be best for us all please.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I understand everything you say Nick and apologise for what I had to say about the black and white approach to PA. I am no professional and certainly not qualified to make any opinions; but it just seems to make some kind of common sense to me. I have been reading a lot of Craig’s literature and it has indeed influenced me. I have recently ordered Karen Woodall’s new book which will certainly give me some insight into the other more complicated hybrid cases – the other side of coin if you like. My only concern is that there is only one clinic handling this which cannot cope with a lot of families in trouble in the UK. Sorry, Sue – I know you do reunification too – I didn’t mean to leave you out.

    The other very important point is that when the situation is not obvious the Judges’ cop out and take the easy option of handed the whole sorry problem over to therapists. This was my experience in the US 12 years ago. I do not know what happens over here in the UK or indeed the US now. Maybe things have moved on. I am talking about therapists who are not experienced in alienation (damn that word but I have to use it!!) and this as we all know leads to disaster. As we all know the bottom line is that the MH professionals have to become educated in the serious form of child abuse, recognise it and then act accordingly.


  9. I am glad that there is a place for a constructive dialog on this.

    I agree that no child should be left behind and all classes should be helped.

    But my personal opinion, which is not backed up by any credentials, is that the quickest way to help every child is to start with correct diagnosis of the most egregarious cases that are blatantly and undeniably causing psychological harm to a child and that are therefore undeniably child psychological abuse (DSM 5 V995.51). Further, they should be viewed as simply “a manifestation of well understood pathologies”. To me, this implies then that absolutely no research is needed, no numbers are needed, and no studies are needed. Also, the question of treatment should be left aside until there is acknowledgement of the diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse.

    I see this strategy as removing every possible flimsy excuse to which people cling to avoid coming to terms with the horror of it all. For these people, it is impossible to have enough empirical evidence and impossible to have enough studies. It is simply too threatening to think that a parent went a little delusional and decided to harm their children.

    The top US Law Enforcement official in the United States, Special Agent Ken Lanning of the FBI, noted a similar thing about child sexual abuse in a training manual for police … basically most adults will refuse to believe that an allegation could be true. Rather, adults rush to the aid of the other adult, until there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary. I see this as causing all the infamous scandals around failure to report. This is something that police must counter-act in themselves and must realize that witnesses will struggle with. The exact quote is “Last and most importantly” …. “Regardless of intelligence and education and often despite common sense and evidence to the contrary, adults tend to believe what they want or need to believe. The greater the need, the greater the tendency.”

    I believe that once the most severe cases of “parental alienation” are widely acknowledged, there will be rapid acceptance of less severe cases.

    I don’t currently see why this strategy need be inherently divisive. It can be divisive, may have been divisive, but need not be divisive. In any team sport, the offense analyzes the opponent’s defense, and adjusts strategy accordingly. No player is any more important than any other player.

    Rather, I see it simply as a strategy for addressing the overwhelming reluctance of some people to come to terms with the horror of it all.

    I believe that history shows that lumping together cases that are easily addressed by standard family therapy with clear child abuse helps neither.

    Please, someone, talk me out of this.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Thank you Pamela and Howie for your further thoughts on this. I don’t have any wish to talk you out of your views. I only want to add to them.

    I am also very pleased we can do our level best here to put together different thinking and views in a definitely complicated but otherwise undoubtedly passionately held common cause. That certainly helps bridge any divisiveness.

    We are ranging in this discussion around many varied aspects of complex knowledge and campaigning, and across many different personal and professional, particular and generalised experiences, contexts and continents. The remote yet close connection the internet provides us in blogs like this is not known for resolving even much simpler matters! So nor are we likely to resolve everything here. But it’s good to try hard:

    I find it helps – in any discussion actually! – to share reflections rather than try to “win” an argument. So I offer something I’m reading just now to balance and add in please, so we hold hands better as we go forward, and so we are better able to help the full range of families and children.

    Patricia Crittenden is a renowned thinker about Attachment-based strategies that children and parents use across the widest range of good to awful family relationships. In her book Raising Parents: Attachment, Parenting and Child Safety she explores this with real cases … all the way to the most disturbed abuses, including that ultimate alienating action, a parent’s intentional murder of their own children. It’s a rich challenging professional’s book but anyone would understand the most extreme cases in Chap 13. Her website is accessible but you won’t find these extremes there.

    Yes, the disturbance can be and are given some of those DSM and other labels for Personality Disorder and so on. Yes, of course, intervention is a priority because child abuse is happening. Yes, that awareness raising (that this is serious abuse) for the APA is an appropriate leading aim of this APA campaign. Yes, intervention is not going to be done just with therapy – not even skilled therapy will have the necessary power on its own.

    What’s mostly missing it seems is the teaming up of court authority and follow through with skilled therapists who know what to do. If that happened more routinely and earlier, then PA would not get to the extremes we are seeing and campaigning about. It might not then even need any special name for itself! We can dream of this distant future other reason to not use the ‘A’ word – though actually ‘alienation’ is an ancient and entirely apt word for what happens.

    But Crittenden’s version of Attachment is far more nuanced, deep and powerful in understanding what happens in each particular situation, far less categorical and black and white, than is Craig’s admittedly very powerful version of Attachment Theory. In Crittenden’s model – with ‘Attachment’ meaning that it is still about twists in love and safety for your child or your self, even when the outcome is the complete opposite – she shows how to get behind those terminal labels we nail onto even the most terrible perpetrators. She shows how this thinking could have guided what intervention could and should have happened (maybe of course much earlier in the parent’s own upbringing). And she shows what kinds of treatment now would work best (not always the simple obvious ones). Her model works beyond the labels. Her model works across the whole range of relationships good and bad.

    So yes, this is serious, about child abuse, and about awareness-raising, prevention and intervention.

    But let us please also carry forward these wider concerns along with other quite different versions of the theories we apply.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. 1. Thanks for your kind response! Much appreciated.
    2. Yes, these type of exchanges may not be ideal for resolution. If you are interested in a call or series of calls between the National Alliance of Targeted Parents and whoever you would want to be on the call, we would be welcome to participate. We beg for resolution.
    3. I would love to be able to present a united front to the APA.
    4. In about a week, my local library will be able to get me “Raising Parents”.
    5. Maybe I should withhold comment until then, but after perusing Dr. Chittenden’s web site and papers, I see a highly skilled therapist, willing to help others get here too. She has a great heritage from Ainsworth and Bowlby.
    6. However, I am not immediately seeing mountains of empirical validation.
    7. The CYF committee has already signaled that anything that could remotely be construed to be a new form of family therapy is totally 100% dead on arrival without mountains of empirical data. I don’t immediately see how I can use Crittenden. I am quite interested in the book, but I just don’t see yet how it can be of value.
    8. Speaking of generalized experiences …. I know of children who were harmed greatly by people reproving that personality disorders are untreatable.
    9. Those papers out there that claim that personality disorders are treatable are simply cherry picking people who will first show up, and secondly, feel comfortable enough to actually do something constructive besides sabotage everything. People who admit there could possibly be a problem and who might possibly be interested in doing something about it. I am talking about people for whom just going to therapy and being invited to look inward need to resort to projection and decompensation into delusions just to survive a friendly, empathetic invitation to look inward. If Crittenden can treat a family whose alienator will not show up in her office and whose alienator is doing everything possible to sabotage the children’s experience including refusing to allow them to therapy, despite court orders, then she deserves both the nobel peace prize and the nobel prize in medicine.
    10. Speaking of generalized experiences … I am not aware of any family court with any authority, at least no authority in the first 9 years and the first $200,000. Children have finite lives. Parents have finite budgets. I don’t know how to team up with any authority of any court, unless perhaps there is a DSM 5 diagnosis of V995.51.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. If the absolute worst case is accepted as full-on psychological child abuse, will this not add immense weight and urgency to the hybrid cases? If it is clinically understood what *could* happen to the children if it is left unchecked and not addressed early, before it reaches the absolute worst case, doesn’t that provide targeted parents of the hybrid cases a great deal more leverage with therapists and courts?


    • Hello Jason

      Thanks for your comment. I think you raise a reasonable question. I think it might take more space than we can spare here! But here’s a shot at answering it.

      Hopefully you are right. The raising of awareness about the extreme and ‘full-on’ case, in the long run or on balance, may benefit the whole range of cases. OK, there may be some misunderstandings generated on the way that have to be sorted out. But: sort them out, and there we go. Everything is improved.

      This idea would fit too with how I argue in my Climbing the mountain page here – about how we all tackle this mountainous problem – that we need to use the worst case anecdotes, the most extreme cases, because they illustrate most strongly why people should take it seriously. Read Pamela Roche’s book if you want a published detailed case example … and, as I said, she has had subsequent validation of the truth of her story from the frontline of it.

      As I’ve said, I sincerely believe that when we somehow do get everyone to see and get to grips with this, we WILL cut it off early so that it simply doesn’t develop. So I agree too with your sentiment about early intervention.

      However, you describe, in your comment itself, one of the misunderstandings that Craig’s strong but limited model and this petition is already contributing to.

      Long-drawn-out proceedings is only one of the ways that things become extreme. A ‘hybrid’ case is not the same as an ‘early’ case. The point by definition in a hybrid case is that there is not such a simple black and white division between the innocent good parent – ‘the authentic parent’ as Craig calls the target parent – and the evil disturbed guilty controlling abuser of the children. In hybrid cases too, child alienation and harm is still the result though.

      A main concern about this petition and Craig’s simplistic scheme (that fits the extreme ok but not the rest) is exactly that it encourages the polarisation of innocent and guilty parents. So when families – say, in the UK – come to courts and to professionals for assessment or help, they are already fired up with this model … whether they are extreme (i.e. valid) cases or hybrid cases. The result? Because the professional is not immediately going along with the black and white thinking, ALL cases may be seriously deterred. At least they are harder to engage in the unprejudiced assessment and the kind of two-sided work that they – both parents that is – need to get involved in if their alienated children are to benefit.

      Some would add that, even if we intervene in the abuse that happens in the controlling parent’s care, that parent is still the child’s mother or father. In other situations where children are abused by a parent, we know that the child is troubled and, given safe and appropriate support, wants and benefits from some kind of safe if not reparable relationship with that parent. Yes, the child should be placed in the care of the parent who is better able to provide it. Yes, the healthy control of the arrangements should be in that other parent’s hands (or a court’s). But is it logical to preordain that the controlling parent be eliminated forthwith – as the black and white model implies – when eliminating one of the child’s parents was part of the problematic pattern in the first place?

      Does that make sense?!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Thanks. I will be reading her book with great interest to understand other approaches to attachment.


      • First of all, I agree with you that a parent must reach out with all energy and urgency to try to bridge the gap, while professional psychology sorts itself out. If a parent has not had coaching from Dr. Baker and Dr. Warshak, does not pour through the blogs of Karen Woodall, is not a keen disciple of Ryan Thomas, does not do everything possible to keep themselves going emotionally, does not read all the normal standard parenting books, and does not daily pour through facebook for additional tips, something is very wrong. I just see Dr. Childress books as not being in that scope. I am not aware of him saying “don’t do that”. It is just a tragic misunderstanding. I think the picture needed here is of people trying to claw their way out of the gas chambers in concentration camps, leaving fingernail marks on the wall.

        However, I admit that I simply do not understand “hybrid cases” and I see tremendous value in the concept of being “broadly normal range”.

        Perhaps it’s because of my experience. If someone has an ethic of doing everything possible to improve relationships, spent years visiting dozens therapists who do not understand PA to figure out what could be done better, had those therapists try out all their pet theories, but all fail. If a parent has addressed countless dozens of “if you only improved in this area things would be okay”, but then seen that anytime one thing is checked off, another dozens complaints arise. Eventually, only one conclusion is possible … the other parent has gone delusional … they won’t admit it but they have a deep psychological need to drive the other parent out of the child’s life. I think it was Amy Baker who said “alienators will use whatever they have available”. And I will extend that: Howie’s second law of parental alienation states that because the bystander has a deep psychological need to avoid the threatening conclusion that a parent is abusing their child, and because the allied parent has a deep seated psychological need to make sure the bystander lines up with their delusion, the allied parent will cycle through complaints until they find something that the bystander can latch onto to say “ahah, that is what the rejected parent is doing wrong.” “Yes, their left sock is two shades of gray different from the right sock. That’s it” Some parents will having more low hanging fruit for the alienator to use than other parents, but that does not change the fundamental problem.

        I read some stuff form Kelly and Johnston, saying a rejected parent might contribute to things by being passive or withdrawn in the face of high conflict, harsh and rigid, self-centered, immature, critical, demanding, and not being an empathy genius. None of that is good and should be fixed, immediately, ASAP. And yes, the rejected parent is under severe psychological pressure that may contribute. But the reality is that the alienated parent has zero margin for any error. The alienator is going to use whatever they have available, and they are going to zoom in and pick up on absolutely anything and everything that can use, even when they have to add delusional, false, and exaggerated content. I simply don’t think that Kelly and Johnston get it at all. For any person on earth, someone with zero talent can identify hundreds of another person’s faults. And alienators typically have lots of talent in this area.

        The fact is that no person is perfect, and each person on earth displays occasional examples of what could be construed as a personality disorder, but a PD only exists when things get way out of hand.. Children have been attached to slightly imperfect parents for thousands of years.

        I do everything possible to be a 100% perfect parent. I accept that challenge. For the sake of my children. But no, in the end, it is only address a tangential symptom, not a root cause. If someone has a personal strength, the flip side is a weakness.

        If two parents are willing, anything can be worked through.

        I think broadly normal range is highly insightful. I am resigned to the fact that any time an alienated parent turns around, someone is going to have another list of things to work on: if “only you did this or that”.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Mr. Child, you may be the most gracious person on the entire Internet. 🙂 Thank you for your great answer!

        The child’s physical separation from either parent is *not* what is harming the child. There is a great deal of psychological and emotional abuse happening to our children *and* to us. People can’t just drop the abusiveness out of the context in order to be able to equate “protective separation” as being another form of “parental alienation”.

        The child won’t be permanently separated from the alienating parent. It’s always been temporary separation. Always. It’s all over Dr. Childress’ books, blog posts, videos, and documents. It’s everywhere, and usually it’s around 90 days. If someone thinks 90 days is too long, it’s been 457 days since my family had any contact with our oldest daughter. We could do 90 days standing on our heads, *twice*, and that is *no where near* as long as it has been for other parents.

        I have read “Foundations” cover-to-cover, and, not being a psychologist myself, I take issue with you calling it “simplistic”. Personally, I prefer to call it “painfully clinical”. 😉

        From what I can gather, the concern is that Attachment-Based Parental Alienation could be unintentionally used by parents in “hybrid” cases as a sledgehammer to swat a fly that is on a window. Well, perhaps the mistake does not lie with Dr. Childress, but with Dr. Gardner who provided a model of PA that was too broad to begin with. Perhaps these “hybrid” cases are only labelled as PA today because PAS was too inclusive. You can’t hold back a cure for A just because a well-meaning doctor carelessly diagnosed people who actually have B and C as having A. If a person can do the mental gymnastics necessary to imagine a world where Dr. Gardner and the PAS diagnosis never existed, it would be possible to categorize and diagnose all of these different cases more accurately, preventing so much confusion.

        I still don’t know what a “hybrid” case looks like. I have heard a lot about what it isn’t, but I have heard very little about what it is. I just need a good description that paints a picture of it in my head because so far the concept has been too abstract.

        Again, thank you for your time, your work, and your graciousness. 🙂


      • Oh, gosh. I didn’t mean for Howie and I to gang up on you like that… Sorry!


  13. Hello Howie

    I agree with all the points you make. I didn’t mean to get you going like you have had to there! I was trying to be very clear that I was NOT trying to make those kinds of undue claims for any kind of ‘out-of-court’ therapy nor for Pat Crittenden’s approach.

    Her book is not about therapy itself. It is big and deep and has wide implications. But it is certainly not intended to address the issues you and we and the petition are primarily concerned about. Her exploration presumes that necessary legal steps are taken as they should be around child protection. Even if you read it all, your points will not be addressed in it … so you may have more important things to do than read that book.

    My only aim in mentioning her work was to point out – given Craig’s (Childress) powerful assertions about his approach – that there is not just the one version of Attachment-based thinking that relates to abuse and coercion of the worst kinds.

    As before, I don’t deny anyone their own experiences – and personal stories are the most powerful evidence. Nor do I deny that these terrible experiences of very slow and poorly integrated services are what many have been through and that is unacceptable.

    But again, when planning for a wide range of cases and services – in different countries too – as professionals (and the APA) should be, it is important to take account of a wider range of cases and experiences, not just individual or local experience. For example, the things that matter most in the USA systems are not always what matters most in the UK systems.

    I was also, more generally, trying to add in to the picture that there are other dedicated people (in addition to Craig) who have devoted their lives to promote and practice in better ways (than was your own particular experience). Read more about them and their successful work in the references in the Links page, or e.g. at the end of my own overview.

    These other dedicated professionals and campaigners may not have moved the APA as the NATP petition has helped to bring about now. I note that many of those other success stories have happened largely by featuring the heading: ‘Parental Alienation / Syndrome’.

    I think it has been awesome that the petition has constructed a case without using the ‘A’ word. But I also think that alienation is a particularly good word for it – and there should have been nothing particularly problematic about using the terms PA and even PAS. Since there has been a spurious block (not just with the APA either) around the ‘PA/S’ terminology, it has been well worthwhile constructing this strategy without it.

    Now, I suggest it would be good to integrate rather than divide an alliance of those several armies that surely fight for the same outcome. And I repeat, in case it’s not clear: I do and have supported the US petition. I now think it would be good and so I request that those moving it forward bear in mind the wider picture if possible. Please. Thanks.


    • Thanks. I will be reading Dr. Crittenden’s book with great interest to understand other approaches to attachment. I am sorry that my other similar reply was on the wrong thread.


  14. Oh my heck. My mind is going nuts with ideas right now. During my frantic brainstorming I ended up writing a number of different potential posts. Each one tries (sometimes desperately) to help people understand exactly what Dr. Childress has done. There are too many important people that just don’t get it yet. There is so much misunderstanding and confusion, and 99% of the time that misunderstanding and confusion is because of PAS, its various formulations, and the mindset that has taken hold in PA experts’ brains because of it. You really, really, really, *really* have to forget everything you know about “parental alienation” and PAS in order to understand the breadth of Dr. Childress’ work. Okay, here are three of the potential posts that I think are the best. I hope they help someone “get it”.

    Imagine Dr. Gardner was never born. Parental Alienation Syndrome never existed. Even the phrase “parental alienation” never existed.

    Now, take a psychologist who really knows her stuff. Bring several families to her who, in our terms, represent several different levels of “parental alienation” and “estrangement”, including the “hybrid” cases of PA.

    Without the concept of PA or PAS, this therapist will have to rely entirely on the psychological literature that is available to her in order to assess, diagnose, and treat her patients. This means she is free to follow the symptoms wherever they take her. She is free to go as deep as she needs to in order to determine for sure whether the children in any given family are being psychologically abused or not. Mainstream psychological literature is her map and the law of cause and effect is her guide.

    She will end up making many different diagnoses. Some of them will be V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed. Not all of them are diagnosed with that, but some are. Some of those V995.51 diagnoses will have been for children who displayed the three diagnostic indicators of ABPA, although in her world nobody knows what PA, PAS, or ABPA are, so that diagnosis did not stand out to her in any way, other than it was yet another diagnosis that triggered her duty to protect.

    When Dr. Childress holds up “Foundations” and says the solution to “parental alienation” is available now, he’s not saying that the diagnosis provided in his book is the solution. He is saying that the process by which he made the diagnosis is the solution. Please, please understand this. Take a minute to let it sink in.

    He is saying that by understanding the complexities of the attachment system, family systems, personality disorders, and the other components of ABPA, and by digging, digging, digging beneath the surface and following the symptoms like all good therapists should do, *all* cases of what has commonly been called “parental alienation” can be diagnosed and treated properly because everything therapists need can be found in mainstream psychological literature. They have to realize that there is no shortcut (like PAS). They gotta work their butts off to make sure they make a thorough and accurate assessment and diagnosis.

    Is everything psychologists need to diagnose all PA cases found in “Foundations”? No! Well, doesn’t that mean that we need PAS, or some variant of it, to pick up the slack? NO! NO! A thousand times NO! It means therapists need to follow the example of how the diagnosis in “Foundations” was made, which means they need to update their knowledge and follow the symptoms. The symptoms may not lead to a diagnosis of ABPA, but that is the whole point! I think PAS has made people lazy in that they think there can be a shortcut to diagnose these cases, but they just end up waiting forever for a theory, model, or framework to be in place that can handle all the complexities of PA. So when Dr. Childress comes around touting “Foundations” as the solution, everyone is like, “well, what the heck? this framework doesn’t even cover half the cases.” No, it doesn’t. It was never intended to. But what it *does* do is show therapists exactly what it takes to diagnose and treat the worst form of PA, so now they know what they are up against and they know what they will need to do in order to figure out how to diagnose and treat any other form of PA on their own without someone holding their hand. Plus, there doesn’t need to be *any* theory or framework in place to diagnose child psychological abuse, confirmed, or any other diagnosis that exists in the DSM.

    “Parental alienation” is far, far too complex for any one theory, model, or framework to handle. Isn’t that one reason why PAS, or any of its variants, has been refused entry into the DSM over and over? The only way to truly resolve PA is never going to involve a shortcut. The only way is to show therapists what some of the common pathologies are behind it so they know what direction to start heading in, and show them that it will take very expert assessments in order to diagnose accurately. In other words, no shortcuts, they just gotta do the work.

    Instead of starting from the ideas of “parental alienation” and “parental alienation syndrome”, let’s toss those concepts aside for now and start from child psychological abuse instead.

    There are many, many forms of child psychological abuse. One form is called “pathogenic parenting” (Bowlby, 1979) which is parenting behavior that is so aberrant and deviant that it creates/induces a psychopathology in the child. There are many psychopathologies that a parent can create/induce in their child through pathogenic parenting. Three of these pathologies are:

    1) developmental pathology
    2) personality disorder pathology
    3) psychiatric pathology

    These three pathologies cannot develop naturally in a child and therefore can only be created/induced by the pathogenic behaviors of a parent or other caregiver. There are many methods in which a parent can create/induce these pathologies. For example, here are methods for each that happen to involve disrupting the child’s relationship with the other parent:

    1) A developmental pathology can be created/induced by forcing a child to suppress their natural attachment bonding motivations toward the other parent.
    2) A personality disorder pathology can be created/induced by a narcissistic parent through various manipulations that cause the child to adopt that parent’s narcissistic traits toward the other parent.
    3) A psychiatric disorder can be created/induced by a delusional parent through various deceptions that cause the child to adopt an intransigently held fixed false belief (a delusion) that the parenting of the other parent is bad or abusive.

    It’s important to understand that A) these three methods are not the only methods of creating/inducing a pathology in a child that involve disrupting the child’s relationship with the other parent, and B) not all methods of creating/inducing pathology in a child involve disrupting the child’s relationship with the other parent.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Thanks again Howie and Jason for your full and passionately argued views.

    I could follow on in that vein. We’ve agreed before that the internet tends to invite expanding arguments that tend to polarise and raise the heat rather than resolve it. The internet is simultaneously a wonderful magic and also a hell on wheels at the same time.

    How do I respond to you well yet not go on and on in a heated non-resolving way? Here’s my best shot:

    (So) I could spend the rest of today and maybe into the weekend writing long long replies as if I didn’t understand or agree with what you’re saying. But, boringly and maybe annoyingly, all I can genuinely do is repeat some things I’ve said before. And expand on them a bit too.

    Starting with: I do understand and agree with what you’re saying. Well, ok, I could pick up on a few points, but that would be to slide into that internet endless hell, I think and miss the main points as well. I prefer not to enter hell if possible here, if you don’t mind. We’ve all had enough of that elsewhere, haven’t we?!

    To repeat: I do and I have supported the petition based on Craig’s thinking. I am not against you or him or it as your arguing feels and seems to imply.

    Furthermore, I agree along with others in this field – even those who do use the PA/S terminology rather than Craig’s terminology – that there is merit in unpacking and repackaging what has been called PA/S. Please read my own overview if you want more evidence that I am not just saying this to please Craig or you. So, to repeat, I am not arguing against you or Craig.

    To repeat: You are validly as passionate and determined and campaigning as you are. That is wonderful. There are others of course who have been totally gubbed to the point of defeat, depression and death. That makes us more passionate yet. It is no wonder people are passionate (or defeated) given the terrible hellish endless unjust abusive predicaments that you and your children and families have been through and are still going through. Those directly affected as you have been have every reason to be every shade of passionate that there is.

    Those who work with the families affected, professionals like me (but I don’t do direct work now … partly because I can’t bear the pain and battling of it), are typically – I can assure you – as passionately campaigning and hard-working on this as you all are. This networking is my full-time unpaid self-employed job when I could have been enjoying a happy retirement. And Craig and all the rest of the PA army are the same kind of professional as I am – passionately dedicated and forging ahead with a strategy we each have good reason to think will be worth trying to fight for.

    There is one difference between a professional’s passionate work and the particular families who are affected: Professionals work with a range of cases, try to influence a range of agencies, work in a range of different countries and contexts, and are trying to develop a more generally applicable understanding and ways of intervening and helping everywhere for the full range of those affected. Professionals unlike families need to work with a range of different cases and organisations. Keep that in mind please. But a bit more on tragedy:

    When I personally face a tragedy – a much lesser tragedy than you have faced, like a burglary or an illness or a bereavement – when I face such a tragedy, I too am naturally and rightly totally preoccupied with my self and my own predicament and how to survive it and pursue the right thing gets done. In particular for a crime it would mean seeking justice – to prevent me killing the perpetrator myself! So, the individual directly affected is expected, it’s natural, it’s all we have the capacity to do, is to focus in a pre-occupied way with our own case. We don’t really have time or energy to think about other cases.

    What you and we, the affected ones (you with family tragedy, me with my burglary), do expect ‘to get’ is understanding, support, services and justice from family, friends, and agencies. I am likely to get that after my burglary. You and many like you with these family ‘crimes’ you have suffered, not only do not get all that, but you get instead the precise opposite of help. You get ignorance and you get responses that only make it all worse.

    Well, no surprise what happens next: Another layer of furious passion is added to the original passion.

    So it is understandable that then you – the affected families – want to know about more than your own case. Who else is facing this? What is it that makes the world so dumb?! Let’s go get things sorted. And fast. In effect, at that point, you’re joining up into the same game as the professionals who are also trying to sort the world out as fast as they can.

    And you’re very welcome. We very much need all the help we can get. To repeat: Your most awful anecdotal stories are the evidence that helps us tell the world about it.

    OK. Now to repeat and expand on earlier stuff: The professionals who do not choose to do their passionate work in the same way or place or style as Craig / you / the NATP would wish, these professionals can nevertheless point to their own passionately held reasons for why they – in their own context and country and types of case that they see and work with – why they believe and can show evidence that their way of tackling it works too. Like Craig, they too have clients and children and agencies who have reason to praise those professionals’ different (than Craig) ways of doing it. To them it is clear that Craig’s way is NOT the only and exclusive way to do it. They even have, to repeat, reason to show how Craig’s approach can be counter-productive for their work and the cases they see.

    OK, maybe there is debate to be had between these approaches, and evidence to be collected in all these different kinds of case and contexts and countries, to sift it through and see what the pros and cons are of one way versus another way of doing things. But can you see that, just because someone is passionately sure that Craig’s way is the only way to go, the only way that ‘you get’, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t other ways that other people are passionately sure is the way to go. And that we are all pretty well in the same boat here?

    To repeatL I am not arguing against Craig / the NATP. I am only asking that these various other ways and the range of different client groups in different countries and contexts – all of whom, and their children, face the kind of suffering that you know well – I am only asking that we don’t shut all that out, dismiss all that, because we think our one way is the only one.

    To repeat: I only ask that, in this NATP petition and campaign, you please consider adding on this awareness of others. Even if you don’t ‘get it’ please consider doing that compassionate thing for other families, other countries, other professionals who are just as passionate and doing the same kind of work.

    You who are families suffering your own preoccupying cases, it is great you take a wider interest. Not a surprise as I’ve said above. But in a way, you aren’t expected to ‘get’ Kelly and Johnson, or ‘hybrid’, or the not-so-black-and-white range of thinking and cases. You have enough to be doing in your own case and neck of the woods.

    It is good as you say to note that in many places Craig is clear and inclusive and respectful of all this full range of things. But please allow – even if you don’t get it – that there are others, other places, other cases, other types of the same kind of pattern where many factors play their part, other approaches that also have their value and people who value them. Read the wide range of blog posts on the alienation experience here if you want to see other approaches that also have passion and determination and success to report.

    In summary, please let us all argue as strongly as we like FOR one approach, but also please let us allow and add in, if we can and will, the widest range of needs and helpers who are all passionately working toward the same end of changing the system and helping families and their children. Thanks.



  16. Hey, Guys?
    My take on this is that there is way too much “Craig” in this discussion. Dr. Childress likes to shake things up to keep the topic on the table, but the NATP is not a childress fan club.

    The Alliance represents the voice of the parents who come to us for help. Granted, these parents are always the severe cases. They are severely psychologically traumatized and desperate. They suffer mercilessly as the target of their ex-partners escalating violence as we speak. And it is violence. There are recognizable and disturbing physical changes in the brains of the parents and the children. The severity of their injuries last a lifetime. It is impossible to describe to anyone who hasn’t been there, but there simply is no greater torture on earth than for a parent to lose the attachment with their children and then be forced to watch in helpless torment as their children lose themselves. There is no full recovery from this trauma for parent or child. 80% have lost their homes from the protracted litigation and lost their integrity from the stigma of false claims of abuse. They have NOT contributed to their family’s dire situation and yet they are revictimized daily from the lack of compassion by others during their darkest times.

    The Alliance was started to fight for them and their children first and foremost. We will do whatever it takes to pressure the mental health and legal professionals to stop placing our children with the ruthless and cruel abuser and break the cycle of attachment trauma by personality disordered parents. The sooner we can intervene in the predicable pattern the better, but my plate is full just trying to keep these heroic parent going.

    And for the record, the Alliance does not agree with everything that Craig Childress says or does. I hate the term pathogenic parent. I don’t even know where that comes from. But I don’t just study Childress, I read his references, I am part of the trauma informed network, and I study a lot more neuroscience then is ever talked about. For instance, you will not see “attachment based parent alienation” on our site and much of the work we do is creating tools for parents to use in the courts. For all intent and purpose, Bill Eddy has gotten a lot more press from the Alliance than Craig. The APA is one of 5 goals we have to work on and the APA didn’t just agree to put this on the table because of us. It’s been on their strategic plan for years, we just gave them the opening. In the meantime, there is enough pain and anguish to keep us all busy for a while yet.


  17. Thank you, targeted Mom, for filling in the picture some more and correcting some of the assumptions in this discussion so far.

    It is good to know of the broader base to NATP’s thinking. It is good to know that the APA was ready to be given the NATP’s opening. We can guess then that the APA will take time to look at the broadest evidence from all quarters as it reviews its position. So thanks for correcting my presuming that the APA would only talk to NATP or a limited selection of views and voices.

    I still think it would be good for all those who share the suffering and the campaigning to get together as much as we can to recognise and do better for the children and families you describe in graphic terms. There has definitely been some fall out between people when we are all surely fighting the same cause.

    Whatever neck of the woods we’re in, I don’t think anyone needs any more convincing here of how serious things get. This blog anyway takes for granted the harm, injustice and severity of the suffering that is told in fuller awful detail in hundreds of other places. We welcome all who have ideas on how to make things better. That’s why this NATP / APA movement is such good news.

    Lastly, it is always good to have rejected mothers (like you) join in loudly, so you help to clearly show this is not only about one gender pattern. That ideological misunderstanding has been key to the decades of widespread dismissal of Child and Parental Alienation. Let’s work to integrate our various views and experiences across a shared concern so that the APA has no option but to change its faulty position. So thanks again.


    Liked by 1 person

  18. Since last commenting, I have had a go at reading Craig’s book ‘Foundations’, and I’ve come across a review of Pat Crittenden’s new edition of ‘Raising Parents’. So I’ve got some more comments to underline the differences in their use of Attachment-based thinking and work.

    As is clear, I do find merit in Craig’s powerful assertive thinking. I see the point of his (and others’) strategies within a US context to influence long-standing ignorance in professional bodies. Like he has, I too have searched for other ways of thinking about and framing the pattern-formerly-known-as-PAS. But his book is self-published and not really like any academic textbook. He references at the end what has influenced him, but not done this in a balanced way throughout the text. He quotes only the old master Sal Minuchin under family therapy, when there are mountains more in that field. Like his videos, the book launches straight in and seeks to convince by continuously repeating the key phrases and strong assertions. Most books would use more clinical case material to illustrate the argument. His book confirms the black and white approach Craig has promoted about who is innocent, who is harmed and who is responsible for that abuse.

    Pat Crittenden’s work has also been quite revolutionary and based in Attachment-based thinking. But in contrast, she has an extraordinary CV over a long career including huge numbers of peer-reviewed publications and invited events and awards. Her thinking is carefully argued from vast amounts of other people’s research. She uses individual case description in much detail. She is arguing for and against, not just asserting, her ideas. She presents carefully noting where evidence may be weak, while inviting criticism from others in the field. And she has entirely the opposite views to Craig’s about the appropriate use of (e.g. personality) labels and blaming … though of course sympathetic explanation does not excuse from necessary intervention.

    Now in her 70s, blow me down but there’s a new 2015 edition of Raising Parents with a new subtitle. And to emphasise the point about her NOT coming up with blame and black and white thinking, below is Prof Rudi Dallos’s review (one of several lower down that Amazon page) He highlights how Pat Crittenden’s model cuts through all the usual malignantly labelled boundaries – including the boundary even of ‘us’ and ‘them’ – that have so far counted as good science and therapy in established fields of study. Yes, she is very revolutionary!

    “Once we recognize that we (ordinary parents and professionals) aren’t different in kind from parents who harm their children, then wondering why they did what they did can elicit inquiry, not accusation”.

    Pat Crittenden in this book offers a richness of ideas to help comprehend the actions of parents who struggle and may inflict harm on their children. This quote above illustrates how her perspective is not only non-blaming but dares to hold a mirror to us all regarding our own actions as parents. All too frequently it is very tempting to adopt a position of ‘them’ and ‘us’ in relation to parents who appear to harm their children. Inviting us into this less than comfortable self-reflection she shows great compassion and also incisive insight into how parents’ own childhood experiences may intrude into their relationships with their children.

    To help children she argues we must understand and offer help to their parents. This is not to make excuses on their behalf but to develop a sophisticated understanding of the complex mental processes that shape their feelings, thoughts and actions.

    The second edition of this book offers new treasures, including expansion of the processes of intervention and in particular the complexities of the therapeutic relationship. The therapist is described as becoming a ‘transitional attachment’ figure and the subtle processes of how this is achieved are systematically detailed. This is an invaluable contribution to what has repeatedly been found to be the cornerstone of successful intervention in families.

    This book is essential reading for all therapists – not just those working with children. It also offers a massive step towards a genuine psychological formulation of a whole range of complex and severe problems in families.

    Rudi Dallos, Professor and Research Director, Doctorate in Clinical Psychology, University of Plymouth, UK. M.SC (Cybernetics), Ph.D. , Dip. Clin. Psychology.

    Since the academic committees of the APA will, I guess, be looking for high academic standards of evidence and argument – alongside the valid views of targeted parents and of Craig’s thinking – it would be good to digest and include Pat Crittenden’s cutting-edge thinking on Attachment and abusive parents. If you / we can show understanding and compassion for all parties in the PA scenario, including the controlling parent – while naturally having a place for those labels too – it seems to me more likely that the APA will accept that their own limited ideologically based thinking needs to be updated.

    By the way, I’ve also heard that the DSM has never said that PAS didn’t exist or cause suffering. Their reasons for excluding it as a diagnostic category of disorder are that it is a family pattern not a child’s mental disorder.

    Best wishes



  19. “Professional Consultation” by Dr. Childress might serve the market that prefers inline citations without repetition?

    Regarding clinical case material … it’s not my field, but I wonder how many folks with NPD/BPD that do not think there is a problem will show up and cooperate to become part of clinical case material? I might wonder if it skews the stats?


  20. Thanks Howie. I think your first sentence refers to a US legal context that I don’t understand .. so I can’t respond! Sorry.

    If you mean that it would be good to have a court system that cuts to the chase more effectively and positively, then no one would disagree. Craig’s black and white terminology and approach may cut to A chase, but I’m not sure how positive the outcome can be when that is applied to most situations that are not so straightforward.

    And there is no question you are right about clinical cases where people who need help don’t volunteer for it. As Karen Woodall writes: “Without the intervention the court cannot act and without the court the intervention does not have teeth.” To me this is the key element in intervention and treatment of any PA case. So obvious, yet somehow everyone looks completely baffled by the idea!!

    No one I know is suggesting we can do without imposed assessments and interventions nor without court ordered and followed-through treatment (e.g. to protect children; and for adults / parents who need help to change).

    But it is best to have good models of how that intervention and treatment can be made to create the best outcomes. Hence being keen on Pat Crittenden’s work. And (in the UK at least) it is not an option to terminate or evaporate people for having, e.g., personality disorders. Those people continue to be members of families and communities – however badly they may have behaved. They and their families and communities will be better off if we have effective ways to help them change.


  21. I apologize for not being clear. My suspicion is that severe alienators would likely be under-represented in any given set of “clinical case material”. Sometimes people facetiously define narcissism as the condition where everyone else ends up in counseling. I don’t know exactly how people become “clinical case material” but I suspect they would have to be a client of a clinician and sign some forms.

    Switching subjects almost entirely – when relevant, do T74.32X and V995.51 have “teeth”?


  22. Howie, I’m sorry. You’re talking ‘American’ again and I don’t really understand or know how to answer your questions.

    I have also retired a while back from the UK service systems, and I have chosen an ‘on the sidelines’ position with the field of PA. That means I’m even more ignorant even of our own UK courts and service systems in a detailed enough way to answer you. And then Scotland is a different legislature from England and Wales.

    The UK systems do not even start to think of PA primarily as a clinical case nor as fitting into any DSM or ICD classification. I’m not saying that’s right, just that’s how it is.

    This blog strives to have an international flavour although it is naturally shaped by its UK basecamp. Rather than you and me spend lots of time and energy to go deeper and deeper into the details of this discussion, I have two suggestions:

    1. That those in the USA who want to take the detailed debate further, use or create a more US-based online forum (that will know about it better). I guess there is at least one of those!

    2. That you put me in touch with – or someone writes for this blog even – a summarised – i.e brief, not lengthy – general picture of the US situation and the issues that arise there, for a non-US international readership like ours to understand it better.

    One of the difficulties other countries have is when people read US-based thinking and debate, and then imagine that their own country is the same. To have a quick better understanding of how it works in the US would help us with clients who come to us believing we are the same.

    Leaving aside Donald J Trump’s ‘great’ US plans, what is normal for you is not normal for the rest of us! 🙂



  23. I am quite a bit late to the response party here. My apologies. 🙂

    I’m passionate about this because I see it as the only light at the end of the tunnel. It took quite a few epiphanies before I really saw what was going on. If it was difficult for me to see beyond the veil of PAS, I can imagine it will be magnitudes harder for people who have *only* had PAS to work with to see past it.

    I’m just another targeted parent (step-parent actually, my wife is the biological targeted parent). I am not an expert, I am not a psychologist. I hope you understand that if I am rough around the edges, it is not intentional. I respect all of the experts in this field and would be thrilled to have any of them helping me and my family. However, if this is going to be solved at all, how can it be solved any other way than through mainstream psychology? Everybody and their dog wanted PAS to get into the DSM because they know that mainstream true-blue psychology is the way to go.

    If you can’t set PAS aside, I mean *really* set it aside, don’t even think about it, unlearn what you have learned, and focus only on actual, real psychology, then I don’t think I can do anymore to shine light on this.

    When you say “Craig’s terminology” and “Craig’s way”, my heart sinks a little, because it is evidence that you are *still* somehow missing what is going on.

    It’s not “Craig’s terminology”, it’s terminology from the established, accepted, and peer-reviewed psychological literature of our day.

    It’s not “Craig’s way”, it’s the way of the true profession of psychology. Study, assess, diagnose, treat, repeat.

    It’s very nice that the PAS experts have been doing CPR on the victim for the last 30 years, but the EMS folks are here now and it’s time to let them take over so they can use their superior knowledge and equipment to actually revive and heal the patient.

    That’s it. That’s the distinction. With PAS, all targeted parents are just *victims*. But with Attachment-Based Parental Alienation (AB-PA), we all become *patients*. We can’t be patients with PAS because PAS does not exist in psychology.

    You say “what about the hybrids?” I say, a psychologist who knows AB-PA knows enough to assess, diagnose, and treat *all* the cases. Not because AB-PA or “Foundations” covers all the cases, but because the training and expertise required to use AB-PA is exactly what the therapist can use to figure out the other cases. It might not be AB-PA exactly, but the therapist will be knowledgeable enough to know whether it is or not, and they will continue following the symptoms. Follow the symptoms, read the psychological literature, diangnose something, treat it based on what it is.

    If a psychologist does all the training necessary to be able to diagnose AB-PA, that does NOT mean that *all* they can use that knowledge for now is diagnosing AB-PA. It means they now have a *huge* new store of knowledge that they can tap into in order to follow the symptoms properly of *whatever* it is that is going on and make an accurate diagnoses.

    Dr. Childress’ book “Foundations” isn’t putting forth AB-PA as the “solution” to all things PA. The “solution” that his book puts forth is the process by which he went about figuring out the diagnosis.

    Another way to put it: “Foundations” and AB-PA are not the answer. The answer is the training and expertise necessary to use AB-PA, because that training and expertise will lead psychologists down the correct path to wherever the symptoms lead them, even if it is not the specific diagnosis described in “Foundations”.

    That’s all I got. Heaps of respect I throw upon you. Thanks. 🙂


    • Just in case it is American-ese… EMS = paramedics


    • Dear Jason,
      Another historic change afoot. The AFCC, the best known international association of professionals dedicated to improving the lives of children and families by resolving family conflict, is holding the 12th Symposium on Child Custody Evaluations November 3-5. The title: Abuse, Alienation and Gatekeeping: Critical Issues for Family Court Professionals. The most interesting thing about this conference is that no one in the PA community would even recognize any of the presenters. A conference of this magnitude takes a couple of years to prepare for, so these topics aren’t new nor are targeted parents from the pa community the only groups of people who are taking an active role in trying to address the nightmare.

      This validates the research that targeted parents are so traumatized that they cannot discern relevant information from irrelevant and cannot learn from their mistakes or the history of what works or doesn’t work in the process of making a major paradigm shift in how America addresses child abuse and neglect. Targeted parents from the pa community (bless their hearts) , and researchers who are heavily invested in their own livelihoods, keep beating the same dead horses. Parent do this because they struggle with complex PTSD . I can recognize it every time I get “firehosed” by another email or comment. C-PTSD caused by severe interpersonal trauma, shuts down some critical communication centers in the brain. As smart as you, and others like you are, you will not be able to move your agenda ahead until you process your own trauma. I know it feels like you “have the answer”, but your answer must be integrated into the mainstream movements so that together, American can rise to the occasion. I miss working with you.

      The National Alliance For Targeted Parents


  24. Hey Jason and Kay and everyone still following this discussion.

    Apologies for my absence and lack of blogging. I was on holiday in July where the children did and the wifi didn’t shine in France. Then suddenly I’ve become unexpectedly in demand at home and PA and other fronts.

    Plus, my next topics awaiting a blog require a large amount of reading, research and thinking before I’d be ready to do it. They will be about the BBC soap opera The Archers – with its long-running tale of domestic abuse, coercive control and parental alienation – and about the broadest issues to do with patterns of family and non-family undue influence (see openmindsfoundation.org), leading to wider issues still such as all the heated up questions around the principles of free speech (see freespeechdebate.com and read Timothy Garton Ash’s completely brilliant book of the same name).

    Meanwhile I am pleased and surprised to be part of some of the more thoughtful discussions on social media where flame wars are so easily started. Thanks for keeping the thinking going with this hot and burning issue of PA etc.

    I take on board your recent thoughts, Jason and Kay, and will digest them further. For now just a couple of additional thoughts arising from your comments. Both are links through the international network PASG that connects all those with an organisational concern for PA across the world. See pasg.info for more.

    David Curl (in Australia) has recently gone further with Craig Childress’s line or thinking. In effect he suggests that we miss out completely using terms like PA/S including therefore “Attachment-based PA” or “non-Gardnerian PAS” etc.

    He says, let’s stop saying “PA is child abuse”. He says, if it is emotional child abuse and can be fitted into the given DSM categories that recognise it, why don’t we just say directly “this is child abuse”. Full stop.

    Would that reduce the heated in-fighting between so-called Gardnerian and Attachment-based PA proponents? Maybe it would.

    I will not try to summarise my less simple views (than David’s) that partially validate what he suggests (especially of course for open and shut cases of PA). And my views as ever about the broader range (than open and shut cases) of patterns that affect children and how best to intervene in them.

    And, Kay, I have also noted elsewhere the forthcoming international AFCC conference on “… Alienation …” and wondered if enough dedicated PA-experts are going there and presenting too.

    Some of “our” most famous leading PA experts have published in their journal, Family Court Review – e.g. Nicolas Bala, Richard Warshak, et al. But some have commented that it is an organisation that mostly supports those mostly interested in earning money from court and para-court work with high conflict cases – that can easily seem to become an interest in stoking and prolonging conflict (and harm to children) as a good earner.

    My comment on this is that PA campaigners just have to get inside and talk to the best organisational places that hold those with power (legal, courts, professional, academic etc). We need to be there and talk EVEN IF and also BECAUSE they may be unethical or otherwise problematic in whatever way.

    If we just talk among ourselves, nothing will change in the wider system that is faulty.

    Nick Child


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