I write clinical psychology consultation reports for Dorcy and CRM, and for private consultation clients, attorneys and their clients. In none of my reports do I use the construct of “parental alienation.” Never use it.
It avoids so much nonsense, the analysis and the report become immensely stronger, and I can cut through all the clutter and get more directly to the heart of the pathology in the family.
That’s what the shift to the construct of pathogenic parenting does. It is an established construct with established meaning – a parent is creating pathology in the child through aberrant and distorted parenting practices.
This sharpens our focus onto the child’s symptom, and avoids having to chase the allied parent down the rabbit hole of documenting their distorted parenting.
We focus instead on the child’s symptoms, the product of the pathogenic distorted parenting practices. We lift the fingerprint evidence – the psychological fingerprints – of parental control of the child by the allied parent from off of the child’s symptoms.
The symptoms tell us everything. Every pathology has a pattern of symptoms. Match the symptoms to the pattern. It’s called diagnosis. Don’t make up new pathologies, stick with the ones we have. But learn the patterns and match it up.
I’m looking at triangulation, cross-generational coalition, emotional cutoff, multi-generational transmission of trauma (boundary violations; dysfunctional anxiety management) – just by applying family systems therapy; Minuchin, Bowen, Haley, Madanes.
So by avoiding the construct of “parental alienation” entirely, my analysis cuts to the bone, the core of the pathology, and describes it using established constructs and principles from family systems therapy.
I pretty much stick to a family systems and trauma description, I don’t delve into attachment or personality disorder frameworks much, trying to avoid information overload in the report.
Staying focused on a family systems description of the pathology improves clarity. I add the trauma component to explain the parent’s influence on the child, and I use the construct of psychological control to describe the process of parental influence on the child.
The only time I use the term “parental alienation” in one of my reports is when a therapist person out there uses it in a report of theirs, and when I reference the therapist or evaluator’s use of the term “parental alienation” it’s to criticize their practice as beneath professional standards of practice. We apply knowledge, we don’t make up new pathology. There is no such pathology in professional psychology as “parental alienation,”
Carrot Rejection Syndrome: The child rejects carrots for weak and frivolous reasons, the child shows no guilt for not liking carrots…
I know it’s an easy to understand idea, kind of simple to grasp… but from a professional perspective it is quite probably the worst diagnostic model in the history of man, from monkeys with sticks til now… the worst.
I have a YouTube series walking through the magical world of Gardner’s eight diagnostic symptoms that he created all by himself entirely out of the thin air of his personal experience.
YouTube: Gardnerian PAS Series
It is the worst diagnostic model for anything, ever.
Alternatively, if you want to hear the family systems description of the pathology, I’ve got a YouTube series on that too,
YouTube: Family Systems Series
I walk through all the books and explanations for the pathology from a family systems perspective.
My professional analysis and my clinical psychology, treatment-oriented, consultation reports are sooooo much stronger using Minuchin and Bowen (backed by Haley and Madanes) – the fully established and accepted applied information from family systems therapy, than if I were to have to prove a new form of pathology based on those god-awful symptoms.
And you know what? Anyone can do it. Anyone can apply family systems therapy constructs and principles. It’s not me, it’s Minuchin and Bowen and Haley and Madanes. You don’t need me to do it… you can do it on your own.
Really, mental health people, try it. Try applying the knowledge of family systems therapy and see what happens. Just try it.
But seriously, Gardnerian PAS as a diagnostic model isn’t even a diagnostic model. That’s the truly amazing thing, it proposes to be a diagnostic model with eight criteria symptoms, but then it doesn’t specify any cutoff criteria for the diagnosis.
Diagnosis specifies a cutoff for when the pathology is present, and when it’s not – this many out of that many symptoms and you have the diagnosis. Six out of nine symptoms of ADHD, you have ADHD. Five our of eight symptoms of Major Depression, you have Major Depression.
That’s how diagnosis works. You specify a set of symptoms and indicate how many of those symptoms need to be present for the diagnosis of the pathology as present.
So how many of Gardner’s eight truly awful symptom descriptions have to be present in order for the pathology of “parental alienation” to be present?
A: It depends.
Seriously, that’s the answer they give when asked that question. How many of the eight symptoms of the Gardnerian PAS diagnostic model have to be present for “parental alienation” to be present? A: It depends.
That’s not a diagnostic model. That fundamentally has zero – no – absolutely black hole vacant understanding for what diagnosis is. Define a set of symptoms and then set a criteria for the diagnosis – four of eight, six of eight, two of eight, something… something.
“It depends” – that is not even a serious diagnostic proposal for a new form of pathology.
Me personally, in my professional work I am entirely standing on family systems therapy, add trauma for the parental pathology explanation (attachment if I need to, personality pathology if the opportunity is there, neuro-developmental breach-and-repair more and more as time goes by).
I haven’t used the construct of “parental alienation” in a professional capacity for years and years…. in fact, never. The only time I ever reference the construct of “parental alienation” in my professional work is to critique a mental health person’s work as beneath professional standards of practice for the application of knowledge.
Craig Childress, Psy.D.
Clinical Psychologist, PSY 18857