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Attachment and the Psychoanalytic School of Psychology

Court-Involved Clinical Psychology and Child Custody Decision-Making

Targeted parents are human beings.  They are people.  Psychologists are not allowed to hurt people.  Anyone.  Targeted parents qualify.

Psychologists are not allowed to hurt people.  We’re not allowed to do anything that would hurt the targeted parent.

Making professional recommendations that would limit the time that targeted parents share with their children to anything less than the maximum time possible, hurts the targeted parent.  It makes them sad, very sad, it takes away from them a fundamental self-identity role of mother or father, it takes from them life experiences with their ever-growing child that can never be recaptured or recovered, the child is only five once, only ten once, only fifteen once, never again.  Lost time is lost, and this hurts the targeted parent.

Psychologists are not allowed to hurt people, not even targeted parents.  They are people.

What is the maximum amount of time?  Following divorce, that would be 50-50% shared custody visitation.  We learn about sharing in preschool.  We take turns.  It’s a fundamental principle of social cooperation.  We share.  We take turns.

Following a divorce, that would a be 50-50% shared time.  A psychologist cannot advocate for anything other than that, because anything other than that will hurt one parent or the other, will make one or the other sad, very sad, and will take from them a fundamental life role, an important experience of self-identity, their role and experience of being a mother or father.  That would hurt them.  Psychologists are not allowed to hurt people.

But sometimes situations and limitations imposed by external factors make a shared 50-50% custody visitation schedule impractical or impossible.  What do psychologists do then?  We work to limit the harm.  We don’t make decisions as to who is harmed.

This is the APA ethics code on Avoiding Harm to the client, Standard 3.04a:

3.04 Avoiding Harm
(a) 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.

We’re not allowed to harm people, and if harm is unavoidable, we “minimize harm where it is forseeable and unavoidable.”

Sometimes the child’s need to attend a single school requires that the child has a school-week residence with one or the other parent.  This will hurt the less involved parent, it will make them sad and damage their life experience as a mother or father.  But it is unavoidable.  The child needs to be at a single school location during the school week, the child needs a single school residence.

If both parents can live close enough to each other that they can share custody visitation time with the child and the child can also have a single school, then this is the best option, then we share, we take turns, and a 50-50% shared visitation schedule is the best in “minimizing harm” caused by the divorce itself – the separation of the family structure.

But if that’s not possible, then an every-other-weekend to one parent and primary school-week custody visitation with the other parent becomes the next available option for a fair distribution of time with a minimization of the unavoidable harm to one parent or the other from divided custody time.

Giving one parent only every-other-weekend is a severe restriction on this parents time, and is less than the maximum possible.  The maximum possible would be every weekend.  If the limitation is the child’s need for a single school so that one parent is the school-week parent, then the more limited-time parent could be the weekend-parent, this would be the best outcome for the more-limited, and therefore harmed, parent.

But then the school-week parent is harmed in another way.  The school week is task oriented with homework and after-school activities, and coincides with the work-week schedule and stresses.  Weekends are a time of relaxing and quality bonding.  If we take all of these weekend times of bonding relaxation away from the school-week parent, this harms them because it harms the quality of their relationship with the child.  One parent, the weekend parent, would receive all the quality bonding time of relaxation, and the other parent would receive all the task-oriented time of schoolwork and activities.

We want to balance the quality bonding time of weekends, so we assign an every-other-weekend schedule for visitation.  But then this is less than the maximum time available for the limited-time parent, and an every-other-weekend schedules imposes a two-week absence between only brief visitation times.  We would like to provide additional time to this limited-time parent if possible, to maintain a consistent presence of contact and involvement.

Because the more infrequent time parent is being harmed, and because of the long period of absence between weekend visitations, we try to add some additional consistent time for this parent.   Typically this is through additional weekday time, often a Wednesday or Thursday dinner with the child every week, sometimes for a block of time, sometimes overnight if the infrequent time parent is able to maintain the child’s single school attendance the following day.

Psychologists, however, do not decide which parent is the school-week parent and which parent is the every-other-weekend parent.  That is not our role.  Ever.  It is not the role of a psychologist to decide who is harmed, who is sacrificed.  The second clause of Standard 3.04 says we “minimize harm” – it does not direct us to decide who is harmed.  The recommendations provided above regarding shared 50-50% custody visitation time, and an alternative every-other-weekend custody visitation schedule when the harm is “unavoidable,” meets this standard to “minimize harm where it is forseeable and unavoidable.”

We do not decide on who is harmed.

But what about the greater good?   If the child would benefit from more time with one parent than the other?

Two responses.  First, psychologists do not judge people to decide who deserves to have children and who doesn’t.  That is NOT our role.  Parents have the right to parent according to their cultural values, their personal values, and their religious values.  Psychologists should NOT assume a professional role of judging which parent is the “better parent” based on criteria that cannot be supported.  If there is no child abuse, then parents have the right to be parents.  If there is child abuse and child protection factors are a consideration, then there should be a corresponding DSM-5 diagnosis of child abuse.

Psychologists should not be in a role of judging who “deserves” to be a parent and who doesn’t.

Second, the “greater good” argument for causing harm is specifically prohibited by the APA ethics code.  Standard 3.04b prohibits psychologists from consulting for or collaborating with torture practices (enhanced interrogation) of terrorists.  Even terrorists, where there is a greater-good argument about the information they possess, psychologists are not allowed to harm terrorists.  The greater-good argument for causing harm is specifically prohibited.

Psychologists are not allowed to harm people.

Targeted parents are people.  We are not allowed to harm them.

The argument made by the allied parent is that the targeted parent “deserves” to be harmed, because they are a “bad parent,” and the allied  parent wants psychology and the court to judge the targeted parent, and to punish the targeted parent because they are a “bad parent” by limiting or restricting the parent’s time with the child.

It is not the professional role of psychologists to judge people to decide if the person “deserves” to suffer and be punished for some flaw or frailty.  That is never the professional role of psychologists.  If the court wishes to take up the matter of whether one parent deserves to be punished for bad parenting, that is a legal consideration of the court.  Psychologists are never in the role of judging someone’s frailty or vulnerabilities to decide if they should be a parent, or to decide if they need to be punished for their frailty.

Psychologists do not harm people.  Targeted parents are people.

If there are frailties, we fix them.  Parents have the right to parent according to their cultural values, their personal values, and their religious values.

Everyone can recognize how we do not override cultural or religious values in parenting rights, I want to highlight personal values.  Society has no authority to override parents in their right to parent according to their personal value system.  This provides a broad latitude to parents regarding their decisions as parents.  As long as there is no child abuse (documented with a corresponding DSM-5 diagnosis of child abuse), then parents have the human right to parent according to their personal values.

Personal values are embedded in cultural values, personal values are embedded in spiritual and religious belief systems.  Personal values are respected by professional psychology.  Psychologists do no judge who is the “better parent” who “deserves” to have a larger share of time with the child, psychologists do not judge who is a “bad parent” who deserves to be less involved with the child.

If there is no child abuse, then the rights of parents to parent according to their cultural values, their personal values, and their religious values is their human right and is respected.

If there is child abuse, then this needs to be documented by a corresponding DSM-5 diagnosis of child abuse, V995.54 Child Physical Abuse, V995.53 Child Sexual Abuse, V995.52 Child Neglect, V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse.  If there is no DSM-5 diagnosis of child abuse, then there is no justification for restricting a parent’s time and involvement with their child.

Custody Visitation Schedules

The practice of child custody evaluation is a professional abomination, psychologists should never be in the role of judging parents and parceling out pain and suffering based on some ill-formed and arbitrary criteria.

Psychologists do not harm people.  Anyone.  Ever.

Targeted parents are people.  They qualify.

Child custody decision-making following divorce is not complicated.  A shared 50-50% recommendation would be the default option in all cases because in minimizes harm to each parent created by the separated family structure and need to divide visitation time with the child.  We share, we take turns.  This is a foundational principle of social cooperation taught to all of us in preschool.  It applies in adult social cooperation as well.

We share.  We take turns.

If this is not possible, and harm must be done to one or the other parent by limiting their time and involvement with their child, then an every-other-weekend (and an evening during the week) custody visitation schedule becomes the second option.

This is not complicated.  That is the recommendation of professional psychology in all cases.  Professional psychology is not in the role of judging parents and parceling out pain based on who “deserves” to suffer because they are a “bad parent” (bad spouse).

Geographic Separation

In some cases, parents are geographically separated by long distances.  In these cases, neither the 50-50% shared visitation schedule nor the every-other-weekend visitation schedule is possible.  Additional harm is unavoidable.

In geographically separated families, the child’s need for a single school location requires that one parent be designated as the school-year parent, and the other parent will receive visitation time during the child’s school vacations.  As with the every-other-weekend schedule, the limited-time parent should receive all of the vacation time to maximize their available time with the child, but then this would harm the school-year parent by taking from them all of their relaxed bonding time with the child.

Similar to weekends, holiday and vacation bonding time is typically divided equally in geographically separated families, although sometimes additional time considerations are granted to the limited-time parent during summer vacations, and a strong argument can be made in favor of this compensation summer-bump to the limited-time parent’s custody visitation time with the child.

Move Aways

When a separated family structure occurs because of the parents’ divorce, the geographic location is established and the rights of each parent-spouse are established.  No move aways are permissible except in the most exceptional of circumstances.  Each parent’s individual rights are equally valid.  To take the child away from either parent would significantly harm the limited-time parent.

Psychologists are not allowed to harm people.  Any people.  Deciding if someone should be harmed is not the professional role of psychologists.  Once the home geographic location is established, if one of the spouse-parents wants or needs to move away from that region, for whatever reason, that is their choice.  Their choice, however, should not impinge on the liberties of the other spouse-and-parent, which include the right to be an active and involved parent with their child.

Life circumstances can be difficult and can impose difficult choices.  Personal life situations and choices, however, are not the responsibility of the ex-spouse following divorce, and the rights of the ex-spouse and parent to be an active and involved parent are not made void by the wants and needs of the other spouse-and-parent.

The court may decide that special extenuating circumstances exist that warrant allowing the move away of one parent with the child.  In these circumstances, the geographically separated custody visitation schedule of a school-year parent and a vacation-primacy parent becomes the recommended custody visitation schedule.

All Children – All Families

These recommended custody visitation schedules and the sequencing of their application applies to all children and all families.

Altering these schedules for child protection factors should be accompanied by a DSM-5 diagnosis of child abuse.

Psychologists are not allowed to harm people.  Anyone.  Targeted parents are people, they qualify.  Psychologists are not allowed to do anything that harms the targeted parent…. Standard 3.04 of the APA ethics code, Avoiding Harm.

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

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Attachment and the Psychoanalytic School of Psychology

Attachment and the Psychoanalytic School of Psychology

I’m educating parents and legal professionals about professional psychology because the forensic psychology people are awful – just awful.  They have no knowledge, they apply no knowledge.  They just make things up.

They shouldn’t be doing that.  They should be applying the established knowledge of professional psychology to their assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of pathology.  They’re not.  That’s a big-big problem that currently sits unresolved with the APA,

APA: Complicity with Child Abuse

Forensic psychology is not doing their job, and in fact, is harming the consumers of their mental health services, their clients.  They are harming their clients because they are applying NONE of the knowledge from professional psychology from the past 100 years.  None of it.

Not psychoanalytic knowledge, that’s from the 1930s and 40s.  They are not applying the knowledge of cognitive-behavioral psychology (Skinner, Beck).  That’s from the 1940s to 60s.  They are not applying knowledge from family systems therapy.  That’s knowledge from the 1970s and 80s.  They’re not applying knowledge of the attachment system, that’s knowledge from the 1960s to 2000s.  They’re not applying knowledge from social constructionism and cultural psychology.  That’s knowledge from the 1980s to 2000s.  They’re not applying knowledge from psychometrics, that’s knowledge from the 1940s to 80s.  They’re not applying knowledge from complex trauma.  That’s knowledge from the 1990s and 2000s.  They are applying none of the neuro-developmental research on brain development during childhood, that’s from the 1990s to now. 

None of it.  They are applying none of it, none of the knowledge from the past 100 years in professional psychology.  None of it.

And their absence of knowing the knowledge of professional psychology, and their absence of applying the knowledge of professional psychology, are harming parents and their children.  The absence of knowledge is a violation of Standard 2.01a of the APA ethics code, the failure to apply knowledge is a violation of Standard 2.04 of the APA ethics code.

In order to protect the consumers of mental health services from the abject ignorance of forensic psychology and their failure to apply any knowledge from professional psychology to their assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of pathology, the parents who are seeking to protect themselves from IPV (Intimate Partner Violence) emotional spousal abuse and their children from Child Psychological Abuse will need to become more knowledgeable than their therapists about the established constructs and principles of professional psychology.

That’s not good.  That consumers of mental health services should need to know more than the mental health professional about pathology and its treatment should NEVER happen.  It is, however, the current reality.  So we have to deal with that.

Consumers of psychological services – you, the parents – will have to become more knowledgeable about professional psychology than your therapist is.  Family law attorneys who are assisting their clients achieve a solution through the courts will need to become more knowledgeable about professional psychology than the therapists are.

Ultimately, when professional psychology begins to apply knowledge to solve pathology, then the knowledgeable family law attorney, the knowledge court, and the knowledgeable mental health professional can effectively and efficiently guide the family conflict into solution.

Ignorance will create no solution.  It is only through the application of professional knowledge to the diagnosis and treatment of family pathology that we will create a solution.

But we’re not there yet.  Right now, the field of forensic psychology is applying NO knowledge from professional psychology in their assessments, diagnoses, and treatment.  They are simply making things up.  In this environment of gross professional negligence and incompetence, our first task is to protect parents and children from the emotional and psychological abuse emanating from the more emotionally fragile and pathogenic allied parent who is weaponizing the child into the spousal conflict.

I’m a clinical psychologist.  During this period right now, in which the goal is to stop the active ongoing emotional abuse and traumatization of parents and the psychological abuse of their children, part of my role as a clinical psychologist is to educate the public about matters of professional psychology, and the knowledge of professional psychology. 

For example, when I conduct a school-involved assessment and find a learning disability, part of my role is to educate the parents and the school about what a learning disability is, and what they can to do to help support the child’s healthy development.  Part of our role as clinical psychologists is to educate consumers and the public regarding the principles and constructs of professional psychology.

Consumers of mental health services – targeted parents and their children – are being harmed – in violation of Standard 3.04a of the APA ethics code – by the professionally negligent and irresponsible ignorance from their mental health provider, who is failing to apply any of the established knowledge from professional psychology to the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of pathology in violation of Standards 2.04 and 2.01a of the APA ethics code.

As a clinical psychologist, it is incumbent upon my professional responsibilities to educate and empower the public, the consumers of mental health services who are being harmed by the ignorance and incompetence of their mental health care provider, regarding the professional knowledge that is NOT being applied but should be applied, and regarding professional standards of practice that are NOT being met, but should be.

My book, Foundations, is one tool in this education effort.  Handouts on my website are another resource for parents and legal professionals.  In this blog post, I will take a more direct instruction role regarding the extent and nature of the information that is NOT being applied, but should be.  We will be using bricks to build a structure, the bricks of knowledge will come from domains of professional psychology, each brick adds another piece to the overall structure of knowledge.

We will begin by orienting to the world of psychology generally, and then start with the psychoanalytic school of professional psychology – Freud, Klein, Erikson, Adler, Jung, Mahler, Masterson, Kernberg, Winnicott, Kohut, Bowlby, Stern, Fonagy, Tronick.

Orienting to Psychoanalysis

Rely on family systems therapy for now, .

With this court-involved family conflict pathology, we will start the solution by using family systems therapy as the foundation for solutions (for right now).  Family systems therapy (Minuchin, Bowen, Haley, Madanes) will solve everything.  Family systems therapy is THE appropriate school of professional psychology to apply to the resolution of family pathology.  Family pathology = family systems therapy (Minuchin, Bowen, Haley, Madanes).  The constructs of triangles, cross-generational coalition, emotional cutoff, and multi-generational trauma all come from family systems therapy – not from the psychoanalytic school.

However, each additional domain of knowledge that we add to family systems therapy adds immensely useful knowledge that can be applied to creating the solution.  The more knowledge we apply, the more fulsome and complete becomes our solution.

The down side to applying multiple domains of professional knowledge to the solution is that when we use a wide-range of ideas, such as including knowledge about narcissistic personality pathology or the attachment system, things can begin to sound confusing and ideas become scattered all over the place.

Parents and legal professionals… remain grounded in family systems therapy.  Family systems therapy will solve everything – cross-generational coalition, emotional cutoff, multi-generational trauma.  I will be educating about additional knowledge, but the core of the solution is found in family systems therapy.  Family systems therapy is THE school of psychology to apply to solving family conflict.

The first time we hear something, it’s new.  Hear it 10 times, it becomes old and familiar. The constructs of a cross-generational coalition and emotional cutoff will become oh-so-familiar over time.  Once this ground knowledge is applied, we will then expand the domains of additional knowledge we apply for more robust, easier, and more efficient solutions in the interface of professional psychology and the family courts.

In learning, it helps to have the boxes, the knowledge structures in our brain, to put stuff in, a context to organize all the different ideas.  The best content boxes for organizing professional psychology ideas are the four primary schools of psychotherapy – psychoanalytic, humanistic-existential, cognitive-behavioral, and family systems.  Nearly everything in professional psychology fits into one of these four boxes, and all the stuff that’s in the same box shares common characteristics. 

All the ideas in humanistic-existential psychology share basic core concepts.  All the ideas in cognitive-behavioral psychology share basic core concepts.  All the ideas in family systems therapy share basic core concepts.

The four schools of psychotherapy are psychoanalytic (Freud-Bowlby), cognitive-behavioral (Skinner-Beck), humanistic-existential (Rogers-Perls), and family systems therapy (Minuchin-Bowen).  To solve this court-involved family conflict pathology, remain within family systems therapy and you will solve everything, apply additional knowledge from the other schools and achieve a more robust and fulsome solution.

The Psychoanalytic School

Attachment (Bowlby, Ainsworth) is from the psychoanalytic school.  It is important that parents and legal professional understand and orient to the psychoanalytic domain of knowledge because that’s where the attachment system knowledge and… the neuro-developmental knowledge (Stern, Tronick)… is anchored.  The psychoanalytic field of professional psychology gave birth to our understanding of the attachment system (Bowlby, Ainsworth).

Psychoanalytic psychology emerged from Sigmund Freud and the couch.  The core of the psychoanalytic school is – meaning – determining what things mean, not just what they are in their external manifestation, and the interpretation of meaning is a big-big part of the psychoanalytic school.  Because of this, psychoanalysis is also called “depth psychology” because… well, it goes deep, way deep, into the psychological organization of our minds. 

Minchin, Bowen, Haley… they are all from the family systems school, a different school of psychology, not this one.  Family systems people organize multiple people interacting together in the here-and-now.  Psychoanalytic people organize one person way-deep, looking more toward childhood than the present.  Bowlby, Stern, Siegel, and Tronick are all from the psychoanalytic world of meaning.   Discovering meaning is the central question for the psychoanalytic school.

But in going deeper into meaning, psychoanalytic psychology goes to realms that rigorous mathematical models can’t go, psychoanalytic psychology sacrifices the scientific rigor of some research methodologies for the quality of information they return.  The psychoanalytic school doesn’t do the classic type of experimental design research – those come from the cognitive-behavioral people in professional psychology.  The psychoanalytic school relies almost entirely on case study research designs, which is a formal research methodology, and information is housed in their case study reports from psychoanalysis using basic established constructs within the field.

Freud opened doors to understanding many things, and we continue to hold many of ideas that Freud developed, such as the ideas of an “unconscious” and of our “defense mechanisms.”  But a lot of Freud’s specific insights and suggestions have been revised and modified, creating different, more evolved sub-domains of psychoanalytic thought than how Freud first organized our unconscious processes.

One of the primary sub-domains that has evolved within the psychoanalytic school is called the “object relations” school.  Bowlby and attachment theory are from the object relations sub-domain of the psychoanalytic school.

The term “object” in the psychoanalytic world is their word for “people.” A technical description is: people are “internalized objects” in our “representational networks” – the representational networks are the various categories of things, dog, chair, mother, you, the things of our mind.  We have ideas for things, chairs and trees, and we have ideas for special people – mothers, fathers, grandparents, spouses.   We internalize features of these special people in our lives – and these people become internal “objects” in our mind-space of meaning.  That’s the school of object relations, looking at our internalized representations for other, special, people. 

In common-speak, the sub-domain of object relations is “people relations” – as opposed to Freud’s emphasis on instinctual animalistic “drives” for sex and violence (bonding and conflict).  The object-relations school emphasizes people’s psychological motivation to bond to each other.  Bowlby and attachment are from this school of psychology.

Adult Object Relations

There’s a lot of adult object relations psychoanalysts who looked at relationships from the adult side of things, two of the most famous are Otto Kernberg who studied narcissistic and borderline pathology and Heinz Kohut who developed a function-oriented model of our inner relationship world.  Heinz Kohut is the current major kahuna in adult psychoanalysis, and most psychoanalytic psychotherapists work from a Kohutian approach. 

Kohut proposed that parents serve three “self-object” functions (roles) for children, and that these functions become internalized into the inside-the-head “representational networks” of the child.  Kohut’s identifies three “self-object” functions that parents serve for the child, and these self-object functions help organize the child’s sense of self-identity (called “self-structure”) and helps to regulate the child’s emotions.  The three self-object roles are broadly, empathy, bonding, and protection; called mirroring, twinship, and idealizing.

Otto Kernberg conducted depth psychoanalysis with adult narcissistic and borderline pathology.  You do NOT conduct depth psychoanalysis on the narcissistic and borderline personality.  Their personality self-structures are too fragile for the techniques of psychoanalysis and will collapse into what’s called a “psychotic transference” – that is not good. 

In psychoanalysis, the patient becomes neurotic (slightly crazy).  The patient imposes the trauma patterns from their past onto the analyst in the present, who then interprets the patient’s trauma reenactment narrative – called “the transference” – the patient’s transfer of childhood trauma patterns onto the current analyst. 

The techniques of psychoanalysis create a neurotic transference – the activation and transfer of past trauma patterns.  The patient – the “analysand” – goes a little crazy, called a “neurosis,” but remains in contact with actual reality.  They become disoriented and confused about who the analyst actually is and their own fears and hopes for who the analyst is that were created in their childhood experiences.  The techniques of psychoanalysis create neurotic transference which is then interpreted for the analysand by the analyst, leading to insight, empowerment, choice, and change.

But the narcissistic and borderline personality structure is too fragile for the depth-psychology techniques of psychoanalysis which loosen the boundaries of self-structure. In psychoanalysis, the narcissistic and borderline personality collapses into a psychotic transference – they lose touch with reality.  That’s not good.  We don’t want to create a psychosis in the patient.  So the general guidelines in psychoanalysis are… do not do psychoanalysis with a narcissistic or borderline patient.  They do something called psychoanalytic psychotherapy – a more structured form of the psychoanalytic approach than depth-psychoanalysis (psychotherapy not psychoanalysis;  different approaches).

Otto Kernberg was an exceptionally skilled psychoanalyst.  He conducted depth psychoanalysis with the borderline and narcissistic personality.  He returned with incredibly valuable information from psychoanalytic depth psychology regarding the deep-structure of the borderline and narcissistic pathology.  That’s what makes Kernberg one of the preeminent authorities on the pathology of the borderline and narcissistic personality.  Otto Kernberg literally wrote the book on the borderline and narcissistic personality:

Kernberg, O.F. (1975). Borderline Conditions and Pathological Narcissism. New York: Aronson.

Notice the date.  This is not new information. 

Childhood Object Relations

Our object relations (our patterns for relating to other people in intimate relationships) are created in childhood.  So another group of object relations psychoanalysts in the 1950s and 60s went off to study children directly – Winnicott and Bowlby are the two primary child object relations kahunas.  John Bowlby and attachment theory is from the object relations school of psychoanalysis, the child side.

Attachment theory as developed by Bowlby would have remained largely contained within the psychoanalytic world except that Mary Ainsworth developed a way to experimentally categorize different types of attachment bonding – as either secure or insecure, with three types of insecure attachment.

The moment we can bring something into the lab for experiments at the local university, more scientifically grounded research designs become available, and science is off and running.  So that’s why you’ll hear Bowlby and Ainsworth linked in professional discussions.  Bowlby developed the underlying description of what the attachment bonding system is, Mary Ainsworth made it available for scientific study.

This is a quote from Mary Ainsworth describing what the attachment system is.  It’s from an article published in THE professional journal of the APA, American Psychologist.  This quote serves as a foundational description for what the attachment system is.

Ainsworth, M.D.S. (1989).  Attachments Beyond Infancy.  American Psychologist, 44, 709-716.

From Ainsworth: “I define an “affectional bond” as a relatively long-enduring tie in which the partner is important as a unique individual and is interchangeable with none other. In an affectional bond, there is a desire to maintain closeness to the partner. In older children and adults, that closeness may to some extent be sustained over time and distance and during absences, but nevertheless there is at least an intermittent desire to reestablish proximity and interaction, and pleasure – often joy – upon reunion. Inexplicable separation tends to cause distress, and permanent loss would cause grief.” (p. 711)

From Ainsworth: “An ”attachment” is an affectional bond, and hence an attachment figure is never wholly interchangeable with or replaceable by another, even though there may be others to whom one is also attached. In attachments, as in other affectional bonds, there is a need to maintain proximity, distress upon inexplicable separation, pleasure and joy upon reunion, and grief at loss.” (p. 711)

For court-involved family conflict, this quote from Ainsworth is the foundational bedrock we are standing on when we talk about the attachment system.  This is a description of a normal and healthy attachment system – to achieve this description for the attachment system is ALWAYS our goal in professional psychology – we never accept  less.  Anything OTHER than this description of a child’s attachment bonding motivation… is pathological. 

Mary Ainsworth’s description is of a healthy attachment system.  Achieving a health attachment system in a child is ALWAYS the goal of professional psychology.

The attachment system is a primary motivational system of the brain, like for eating and sex – a primary motivational system of the brain.  It’s called a “goal-corrected” motivational system – meaning that it ALWAYS maintains the goal of forming an attachment bond to the parent.  Always.  A child who rejects a parent is eaten by a predator (or starves, or falls off a cliff).  Historically, throughout millions of years of evolution, children who rejected parents… died.  Children do not reject parents.

Children are motivated to seek the love of their parents – a primary motivational system of the brain.  The entire attachment system is organized around the child acquiring the love of the parent.  It’s called the attachment system.  It is extremely well researched and understood.

The attachment system functions in characteristic ways, and it dysfunctions in characteristic ways.  In response to bad parenting, the attachment system MORE strongly motivates the child to bond to the bad parent – to acquire the love of the bad parent. Children who rejected bad parents were eaten by predators.  Children who become MORE strongly motivated to bond to the bad parent had a chance of obtaining parental protection… they survived.

From Bowlby:  “The paradoxical finding that the more punishment a juvenile receives the stronger becomes its attachment to the punishing figure, very difficult to explain on any other theory, is compatible with the view that the function of attachment behavior is protection from predators.” (Bowlby, 1969, p. 227)

Notice the date, 1969, this is not new information

Bad parenting produces an “insecure attachment” – there are three types – three categories – of insecure attachment, high-protest, low-protest, disorganized.

Anxious-Ambivalent Attachment:  This is a high-protest display by the child of excessive anger or anxiety.  This type of child insecure attachment is caused by the inconsistent availability of the parent.  The treatment for high-protest anxious-ambivalent attachment is to increase the stability and consistency in the child’s bond to the parent, with more frequent displays of love and involvement from the parent. 

Court-Involved Family Conflict:  This is the type of insecure attachment pattern that is being mimicked – i.e., falsely portrayed – in court-involved family conflict.  In this high-litigation post-divorce family conflict, the child is presenting with high-protest emotional signaling of elevated anger and anxiety symptoms – called “high-protest signaling.” 

In authentic attachment, this high-protest signaling by the child is called an attachment behavior” and is designed to ELICIT the greater involvement of the inconsistently available parent.  Child protest behavior serves the attachment function of eliciting greater parental involvement with the child.

In court-involved family conflict, this child symptom display is a false display of attachment pathology.  Instead of seeking to bond to the parent, the protest behavior seeks to sever the parent child bond.  The attachment system NEVER seeks to sever the parent-child bond.  Children who rejected parents were eaten by predators.

In court-involved family conflict, the child’s emotional display mimics an insecure anxious-ambivalent attachment, but it is a false symptom – that is NOT how protest behavior works in an authentic child attachment system, that is NOT how the brain works.

AND… AND, the treatment for an insecure anxious-ambivalent attachment is to INCREASE the child’s time and involvement with the parent where there is protest behavior – i.e., the child should have MORE time and MORE involvement with the targeted parent – that’s the treatment for high-protest anxious-ambivalent attachment – which this isn’t but mimics.

There are multiple additional features to the child’s symptom display surrounding this court-involved family conflict that are clearly a false display representing a false, externally influenced, non-authentic conflict with the targeted parent… and even still the treament for insecure anxious-ambivalent high-protest attachment would be to provide the child with MORE time, MORE involvement, and MORE love from the targeted parent.

The treatment for an insecure anxious ambivalent attachement is NEVER to reduce the child’s time and involvement with the parent.  An anxious-ambivalent high-protest attachment is always caused by an INCONSISTENTLY available parent.  We want to INCREASE the availability of this parent – notNOTdecrease it.

Anxious-Avoidant Attachment:  This is a low-protest display by the child, in which the child is exceeding low-demand and overly self-sufficient, seeking limited to no emotional contact with the parent.  This type of insecure child attachment bond is caused by a parent who is emotionally overwhelmed and unavailable for the child.  The child learns that demands for parental involvement provoke rejection from the parent, the overwhelmed and rejecting parent goes FURTHER away when the child seeks involvement – the child’s demands for parental involve INCREASE the emotional distance of the parent.

The low-demand characteristics of an anxious-avoidant attachment are often misinterpreted by the public and non-knolwedgeable mental health people as being the child’s mature self-sufficiency.   That is NOT true.  The child is absent normal-range motivations for bonding, they are being suppressed, and the low-demand of the child actually represents a symptom of attachment pathology – an insecure attachment to an overwhelmed and rejecting parent.

Court-Involved Family Conflict:   The children in court-involved family conflict are clearly NOT low-demand, easy, and compliant with the targeted parent.  A low-demand, low-protest anxious-avoidant attachment is not the insecure attachment display of children in court-involved family conflict.

Anxious-Disorganized Attachment:  This category of insecure attachment is the most severely pathological.  In this type of insecure attachment, the child is unable to develop any coherent strategy for bonding to the parent.  The parent who creates a disorganized child attachment system is typically a parent who is simultaneously a source of danger AND a source of nurture to the child, creating a mixed double-bind for the child of both intense avoidance motivations regarding the dangerous aspects of the parent, and intense bonding motivations from the nurturing aspects of the parent.  In response to intense and competing motivations to simultaneously flee and to bond, the child is unable to develop any coherent strategy to form a secure attachment bond to the parent – resulting in the display of non-functional – disorganized – child relationship responses.

Court-Involved Family Conflict:  In court-involved complex family conflict, a disorganized attachment was likely the insecure attachment category for the current narcissistic-borderline parent during their childhood in their bonding to their parent, creating their narcissistic and borderline personality pathology as an adult.  Aaron Beck describes this type of parent-child bond that leads to disorganized attachment and personality disorder pathology,

From Beck:  “Various studies have found that patients with BPD [borderline personalty disorder] are characterized by disorganized attachment representations (Fonagy et al., 1996; Patrick et al, 1994).  Such attachment representations appear to be typical for persons with unresolved childhood traumas, especially when parental figures were involved, with direct, frightening behavior by the parent.  Disorganized attachment is considered to result from an unresolvable situation for the child when “the parent is at the same time the source of fright as well as the potential haven of safety” (van IJzendoorn, Schuengel, & Bakermans-Kranburg, 1999, p. 226).” (Beck et al, 2004, p. 191)

Note the citations by Aaron Beck to Fonagy and to IJzendoorn.   Both Fonagy and IJzendoorn are prominent researchers in attachment, and their body of work is essential reading for all court-involved mental health professionals working with complex attachment-related pathology surrounding divorce.

A child rejecting a parent is an attachment-related pathology.  The attachment system is the brain system that governs all aspects of love and bonding throughout the lifespan, including grief and loss.  A child rejecting a parent is a problem in the love and bonding system of the brain – the attachment system.  A child rejecting a parent is an attachment-related pathology.  The research by Fonagy and IJzendoorn is essential and required reading for all mental health professionals working with attachment-related family pathology.

All mental health professionals working with court-involved attachment-related family pathology MUST possess a professional-level knowledge for the attachment system, what it is, how it functions, and how it dysfunctions.   This knowledge includes reading: Bowlby, Ainsworth, Sroufe, Lyons-Ruth, Fonagy, and IJzendoorn – including the Handbook of Attachment: Theory, Research, and Clinical Applications by Cassidy and Shaver.

Ignorance about the attachment system when working with attachment pathology is NOT acceptable professional practice.   Ever.  Ignorance of autism pathology is not acceptable when working with autism, ignorance of schizophrenia is not acceptable when working with schizophrenia, ignorance of eating disorders is not acceptable when working with eating disorders.  Ignorance is a violation of Standard 2.01a of the APA ethics code – and it is NEVER acceptable professional practice.

To be entirely clear:  All mental health professionals working with attachment pathology must possess a professional level knowledge for the attachment system, what it is, how it functions, and how it dysfunctions.  This includes reading Bowlby, Ainsworth, Sroufe, Lyons-Ruth, Fonagy, and IJzendoorn – and the Handbook of Attachment: Theory, Research, and Clinical Applications by Cassidy and Shaver.  Professional ignorance is NOT acceptable professional practice, and is a violation of Standard 2.01a of the APA ethics code.

If harm is then done to the client parent or child because of professonal ignorance, this would represent a violation of Standard 3.04 of the APA ethics code.

Neuro-Development

The attachment system is a goal-corrected primary motivational system of the brain.  It  developed across millions of years of evolution because of the survival advantage to children provided by bonding to their parents.  The attachment system has its neurological origins in the “imprinting” systems of earlier species (Lorenz) – baby ducks follow mommy duck – that’s the attachment system in a duck – called “imprinting.”  Baby zebra gets close to mommy zebra for protection from hyenas and lions – that’s the attachment system in a zebra.

Bowlby describes all of this in his first volume: Attachment. 

Humans are more complex social animals with more complicated brains to wire-up than ducks and zebras.  Our attachment systems are more complex than the attachment systems of zebras and the imprinting of ducks, but its source is the same and it is a foundational – primary – motivational system in the brain; meaning at the same level as the other primary motivational systems for food and sex, a basic built-in motivational system to bond to the parent.  The attachment system confers significant survival advantage.  It functions in characteristic ways; it dysfunctions in characteristic ways.

The attachment system is a brain system, a neurologically based primary motivational system of the brain that evolved for protection of children from predators (and from other environmental dangers like abandonment and starvation).  Children do not reject parents.  Ever.

From Bowlby: “The biological function of this behavior is postulated to be protection, especially protection from predators.” (Bowlby, 1979, p. 3)

Research on Attachment

The basic neural wiring of the attachment system develops during childhood, after which we then use the wiring patterns of our attachment networks throughout our lifetimes to organize our basic expectations and our approach to relationships, our object relations, our internalized representations of ourselves and of others.

We acquire and use our attachment patterns in a similar way as we acquire and use the patterns in our language systems. 

Language Acquisition:  Our brains anticipate that we will be learning language and our brains have specific areas and networks already set up to receive language (called “experience-expectant” development).  We then acquire the grammar of language during the period of early childhood, ages zero to five, and the specific language we learn is based on what we hear, French, Chinese, English (that’s called “experience-dependent” development). 

We then USE language throughout the rest of our lives in our communication and regulation of our social interactions. 

Same for our attachment networks. 

Attachment Pattern Acquisition:  The brain is already prepared to form relationship bonds, with networks ready to receive patterns governing expectations about self and other – called our “internal working models” of attachment (experience-expectant brain development).  We then acquire the specific “grammar” of our attachment system during early childhood, the specific patterns of our attachment networks are created through the specific experiences of the parent-child bond during childhood (experience-dependent).

We then USE these patterns of attachment specific to our expectations and history to then guide all of our future intimate relationships throughout the rest of our lives.

The formative period for language is early childhood, we then use language throughout the rest of our lives to regulate our social interactions.  The formative period for our attachment system is early childhood, we then use our attachment patterns the rest of our lives to regulate our social interactions.

Because the attachment system is glowing active and white-hot during infancy and early childhood, the research people in professional psychology – led by Ainsworth and the experimental paradigm she created for studying attachment behaviors – went to work researching the attachment network’s development in infancy and early childhood.  The heavy-duty neurological research began in the 1980s, led by Stern and Tronick, with others (Trevarthan’s research is notable, as is Beebe’s on the dyadic coordination of psychological states).

While the study of the attachment system focuses on early childhood, what we learn is applicable across the lifespan.  Humans don’t suddenly “switch-out” our attachment networks at adolescence.   We live in the same brains as adults as were neuro-developmentally created in our childhood.  Same brain, same attachment structures.  What we learn about the attachment system’s development in early childhood research is applicable across our lifespans.  Same brain, same brain structures, same neural organizations.

Our “internal working models” for our expectations, and our “internal working models” for interpreting and responding to communications in intimate relationships, are engraved into the neural wiring of our brain’s attachment networks during childhood, in the same way as our language networks are, through a dance of experience-expectant and experience-dependent growth and development across childhood.

The two grand kahunas of this early childhood research are Daniel Stern (amazing research) and Edward Tronick (amazing research).  Their work dovetailed into what the adult object relations psychoanalysts were discovering (Kohut, Stolorow) regarding a shared psychological state and the key role of modulated failures in parental empathy in healthy child development.  The research by Stern and Tronick also merged into the neurological research that has been developing at an ever accelerating pace following the advent of PET scans and fMRIs in the 1980s.

Neuro-developmental research on attachment really started to take off exponentially around 2000.  In 1994, a psychoanalyst, Alan Shore, wrote a full and rich neurological treatise on the socially-mediated neuro-development of the brain’s networks for emotional regulation.

Schore A.N. (1994). Affect Regulation and the Origin of the Self: The Neurobiology of Emotional Development. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

These advancing developments in the neuro-science of the parent-child relationship are summarized by Siegel in his book,  The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are.  Notice in the title how he emphasizes that our brains are shaped by relationships.  Cozolino also provides another summary of this neuro-developmental relationship research in his book, The Neuroscience of Human Relationships: Attachment and the Developing Social Brain.  Notice again, how he also emphasizes the role of relationships in the developing “Social Brain.”

As the research on the attachment system grew in the 1980s, a second, related but distinct, relationship system was discovered.  It was called “intersubjectivity” because that’s the construct for the shared-mind state that’s used in the world of adult psychoanalysis (Stolorow). 

The research on attachment has identified a second relationship system, in addition to attachment. It is a psychological connection system that creates a shared-mind state, called an intersubjective field, or when there are multiple people, and intersubjective matrix of shared experience.

From Stern:  “Intersubjectivity is a condition of humanness.  I will suggest that it is also an innate, primary system of motivation, essential for species survival, and has a status like sex or attachment.” (Stern, 2004, p. 97)

From Stern:  “Our nervous systems are constructed to be captured by the nervous systems of others.  Our intentions are modified or born in a shifting dialogue with the felt intentions of others.  Our feelings are shaped by the intentions, thoughts, and feelings of others.  And our thoughts are cocreated in dialogue, even when it is only with ourselves.  In short, our mental life is cocreated.  This continuous cocreative dialogue with other minds is what I am calling the intersubjective matrix.” (Stern, 2004, p. 76)

Tronick referred to this shared psychological state as a, “dyadic state of consciousness”

From Tronick:  “When mutual regulation is particularly successful, that is when the age-appropriate forms of meaning (e.g., affects, relational intentions, representations) from one individual’s state of consciousness are coordinated with the meanings of another’s state of consciousness — I have hypothesized that a dyadic state of consciousness emerges.” (Tronick, 2003, p. 475)

The “intersubjective” state described in the neuro-developmental research of a shared psychological fusion of experience (a “dyadic state of consciousness”) is similarly captured by the the family systems construct of “enmeshment,” exactly the same constructs identified in a different school of psychology, now provided with a neurologically understood foundation.

Shared Constructs:  In the psychoanalytic school, the construct is “internal working models” of attachment (Bowlby); in the cognitive-behavioral school, the construct is “schemas” (Beck).

Internal working models (Bowlby) = schemas (Beck).  Same construct, different schools.

Shared Constructs:  In the psychoanalytic school, the construct is intersubjectivity – a “dyadic state of consciousness” (Stern, Tronick); in the family systems school, the same construct is described as “enmeshment” (Minuchin; Bowen).

Intersubjectivity, “dyadic state of consciousness” (Stern Tronick) = enmeshment (Munchin, Bowen)  Same constructs, different schools.

They are all identifying the same thing, it is a common, scientifically based, lots of research studies, neurologically identified pathways, understanding for how the brain works in forming relationships and regulating emotions.  Right orbital prefrontal cortex.

Shore, A.N. (1996). The experience-dependent maturation of a regulatory system in the orbital prefrontal cortex and the origin of developmental psychopathology. Development and Psychopathology, 8, 59-87.

Mirror Neurons

Then, in the early 2000s, Italian researchers discovered a set of brain cells called “mirror neurons” that duplicate in us (mirror inside us) what someone else is experiencing. 

Iacoboni, M., Molnar-Szakacs, I., Gallese, V., Buccino, G., Mazziotta, J., & Rizzolatti, G. (2005). Grasping the intentions of others with one’s own mirror neuron system. Plos Biology, 3(3), e79.

This discovery merged into the research on attachment and intersubjectivity – the “dyadic state of consciousness” described by Tronick, and it united with the neurological research described by Shore.

From Stern:  “We experience the other as if we were executing the same action, feeling the same emotion, making the same vocalization, or being touched as they are being touched.” (Stern, 2004; p. 79).

Of prominent note is that research on mirror neurons has found that they are designed to read the INTENTION of other people – what’s motivating their actions.

From Stern:  “The discovery of mirror neurons has been crucial.  Mirror neurons provide possible neurobiological mechanisms for understanding the following phenomena: reading other people’s states of mind, especially intentions; resonating with another’s emotion; experiencing what someone else is experiencing; and capturing an observed action so that one can imitate it — in short, empathizing with another and establishing intersubjective contact.” (Stern, 2004; p. 78)

The constructs in court-involved family conflict of “coaching” and “brainwashing” are more accurately and professionally described from the neurological research on intersubjectivity as the social “cocreation” of a “dyadic state of consciousness,” and the child’s mirror neurons reading the intention of the parent, i.e, what does the allied parent WANT the child to do – mirror neurons read the intention.

Siegel: Mirror Neuons in Depth Video

In the mid-2000s, it all came together, clouds parted and the angels sang.  We’ve got it.  We understand how things work – in the relationship systems, and extending out into the emotion regulation systems and the behavior regulation systems – a dyadic regulation of emotions and behavior in the intersubjective “breach-and-repair” sequence (Tronick).

Tronick: Still Face; breach-and-repair sequence

The breach-and-repair sequence identified by Tronick and described extensively through his research is the core central unit of analysis for parent-child conflict.  All mental health professionals dealing with any aspect of parent-child conflict MUST understand the breach-and-repair sequence.  It is essential to the healthy emotional and psychological development of the child.

From Tronick:  “Unlike many other accounts of relational processes which see interactive “misses” (e.g., mismatches, misattunements, dissynchronies, miscoodinations) as indicating something wrong with an interaction, these “misses” are the interactive and affective “stuff” from which co-creative reparations generate new ways of being together (Cohn and Troncik, 1989; Tronick 1989).  Instead there are only relationships that are inherently sloppy, messy, and ragged, and individuals in relationships that are better able, or less able, to co-create new ways of sloppily being together.” (Tronick, 2002c, d). (p. 477)

Parent-child conflict (the breach) is not a bad thing, and the absence of parent-child conflict (enmeshment) is not a good thing.  The critical feature of the parent-child relationship is that all breaches are REPAIRED.  Dr. Tronick compared the breach-and-repair sequence to the “good, the bad, and the ugly.”

The “good” is the everyday sort of flow to bonding and breaches, the “bad” is a breach caused by an empathic failure, the “ugly” is leaving a breach un-repaired.  The WORST possible thing we can do is leave a breach un-repaired – the “ugly” describted by Dr. Tronick.

So what does forensic psychology do?  Leave un-repaired breaches – the ugly – the WORST possible thing to do… they are doing it.  Because they are ignorant.  They know nothing about the attachment system, they know nothing about the neuro-development of the brain, they are doing EXACTLY the WORST possible thing they can do… leave an un-repaired breach to the parent-child bond.

Dr. Tronick’s research with the Still Face paradigm is an outgrowth of the attachment research, and his research would be considered to fall within the psychoanalytic school of professional psychology.

“Not Ready”

Parents and the court are repeatedly told by entirely ignorant mental health people that the child isn’t “ready” to receive the love of a parent, or that the child needs individual psychotherapy in order to be “ready” to recieve the love of a parent. 

That is complete rubbish.

That is ignorance of epic proportions, and that is EXACTLY the WRONG thing to do, to leave an un-repaired parent-child breach.  We want to fix the breach as quickly as possible.  A breach is fixed with the application of empathy – do you see how quickly the breach was fixed in the Still Face YouTube example provided by Dr. Tronick?  Immediately.

The attachment system is a goal-corrected motivational system – it ALWAYS maintains the goal of forming an attachment bond.  In the Still Face example, do you see how the child’s protest behavior was an “attachment behavior” designed to ELICIT the parent’s involement – NOT to sever the parent-child bond to punish the parent.  Protest behavior is an attachment behavior, the attachment system is a goal-corrected motivational system, it ALWAYS maintains the goal of forming an attachment bond.

The idea that the child is not “ready” to be loved by a parent is insane ignorant rubbish. 

Any mental health professional who says the child is not “ready” to be loved by a parent is an ignorant buffoon who should NOT be working with children.  It is a breach.  It is part of a vital – neuro-developmentally vital – breach and repair SEQUENCE – with three parents, the breach, the protest, and the repair… the good, the bad, and the ugly.

DO NOT leave the child in the ugly – in a non-repaired breach.  Repair the breach as QUICKLY as you possibly can. 

If you are a mental health professional and don’t know how to repair a breach in the parent-child relationship – you should NOT be working with breaches to the parent child relationship.  Learn attachment.  Learn Bowlby.  Learn Stern and Tronick.  Don’t work with children until you do.

Do NOT leave the child in an un-repaired breach to the parent-child relationship.  Ever.  Fix it.  As quickly as you can, preferably immediately.

If any mental health person says that the child is not “ready” to be loved by a parent or needs individual therapy in order to be “ready” to be loved by a parent, that mental health person is an ignorant buffoon who should NOT be working with children.

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

Read More –>

Slide10

Forensic Psychology: Standards of Practice

This is a work product sample of what I run across from forensic psychology.  I redacted red for the sentences of the Evaluator, and blue for direct quotes.

Notice the extent of direct quotes.  She tape recorded the sessions and simply used the transcripts from the sessions as her History and Symptoms.  Then she provided three paragraphs in the concluding “Opinions” section of her report, giving her judgement; her decree on the child custody schedule.

Forensic Psychology: Standard of Practice

When the Checklist for Applied Knowledge is used on her report, her report evidenced the application of no knowledge from any domain of professional psychology.  The red-redacted sentences in the body of the report were mostly transitional statements from one block quote to the next in the recorded transcript.  Her final three paragraphs were entirely her opinion and judgement recommendations.

Her “Opinions” recommended that because the 12 year-old son didn’t want to live with his mother that the father should have sole physical custody of him, and even though the 10 year-old daughter explicitly said in the direct quotes in the report of the Evaluator that she wanted 50-50% shared custody visitation with both parents when the custody Evaluator asked her what she wanted, the Evaluator said said the daughter’s custody visitation schedule should only be every-other-weekend with the mother, with no rationale given.


Commentary:

This is considered an acceptable standard of practice child custody assessment in forensic psychology. 

Notice the signature line for this psychologist, all the puffy titles, Queen protector of the realm of Zambeezeland.  Sounds impressive, doesn’t it.

I say “sounds impressive” because I have her actual work product.  I know what this psychologist actually does.  Now you do too.  You’re pretty much looking at it. She tape records her sessions, uses the transcript as her History and Symptoms, she applies no effort, no knowledge, nothing to the actual analysis of anything, then she just writes three paragraphs at the end saying, “The 12 year-old child says he doesn’t want to live with XYZ parent so full custody should go to ABC parent” – Next…

Unbelievable, but oh so true.  I run into this abysmal level of professional practice from forensic psychology all the time – and much-much worse – every single day.  I exaggerate.  Three times a week, four tops.

Look at the lines of her signature. She’s one of the “top people” in forensic psychology.  She’s one of their supposedly best people… and this is her actual work product.  She’s a fraud.

Holy cow, do you understand the implications of that?  One of the top people in forensic psychology is a fraud.  Ask me if I’m surprised.  I read their stuff all they time.  Typically, they’re better at hiding it.  Typically it’s not this completely and utterly lazy and incompetent.

She didn’t know that anyone in the world would be reviewing her report, and certainly not Dr. Childress.  She probably would have done things differently if she had known her report was going to be “reviewed” by somebody who actually knew something about professional psychology.  Which is what makes it perfect… this is an example of what they do.  Routinely.

Did you know it’s illegal for me to have an opinion about the work of a forensic psychologist.  Yeah, only other forensic psychologists are allowed to express an opinion about the work of a forensic psychologist.  So you’ll never hear me express an opinion about the actual practice involved with a specific child custody evaluation.  I’m legally not allowed to do that, only they can “review” their work – and this is one of their top people who would do the “review” – APA you MUST come look at this – from the outside – do NOT let forensic psychology review itself.  This is an example of their “top people”.

I’m different, though.  I’m a clinical psychologist.  I’m treatment guy.  My focus is on treatment plans for the family.  What do we do about things.

The forensic psychology report almost always refers for therapy.  That’s me, I’m therapy psychologist.  I’m the one who catches the family as they’re jettisoned from the child custody “evaluation”.  That’s where I come into the mix, talking about treatment issues of concern surrounding the family data.

Do I have an opinion about the child custody evaluation?  Oh yeah.  I’ve made my opinions about child custody evaluations abundantly clear.  No inter-rater reliability, no validity (by definition if there’s no reliability), voodoo assessments, rattle some beads, chant some incantations, and read the entrails of a goat.  That’s my opinion.

But I just can’t say that about any specific forensic psychology evaluation.  Only they are allowed to critique each other’s work.  How… convenient.

I am in professional jeopardy because of my critical statements about forensic psychology.  This is a prominent financial industry for them.  They will NOT like me calling attention to their deficits and critiquing their work.  They’re not used to having their work critiqued by “outsiders” like me.

Don’t care.  Standard 1.04 and 1.05 of the APA ethics code are clear.

Because of the professional threat to me personally from forensic psychology’s retaliation, this full redaction of one of their reports is great, because it is so incredibly blatant.  From someone who is considered a “top” forensic psychologist.  One of their best.  Honest to god, this is the standard of practice.  It is arrogance, arrogance, arrogance through and through.  Do you know why?  No oversight or review.

Their reports are sealed by the court to protect the child, and only other forensic psychologists can review what each other do… and this is considered standard of practice.  Anything is.  Usually it is more structured, but that’s for the big nine-month version for lots of money.  This psychologist appears to have thrown this one off in a few sessions.  The family probably didn’t have enough money for the longer version.

This is considered top-level standard of practice in forensic psychology.  Look at the credentials she cites for herself.  Hey, American Board of Assessment Psychology, this is the standard of practice work for one of your “Diplomats” – this is the product of your training – you – the American Board of Assessment Psychology – are confirming the quality of her work… See, right there in her signature line to her court report, she’s saying she’s a Diplomat of your training.  Her quality of work is your product. This is the quality of work produced by your Diplomats.

The forensic psychology people (I refuse to call them professionals until they start acting like professionals; standard of practice) may start making noises about this redacted report being an “exception” – no.  Actually it’s not. I read their reports all the time.  This is typical, they even get worse.  Most are irrational and lazy.  Then there’s the behemoth 9-month $40,000 monstrosities.

No application of any knowledge, no diagnosis, everybody just makes stuff up.  Look.  Right there.  See.  This forensic psychologist just made something up.  That’s all over the place, they all do it.  That is considered normal everyday run-of-the mill sort of stuff for this psychologist.  For all of them.  I read their reports.  Listen carefully – I – read – their – reports.

And my head is exploding at how bad it is.  Have we even touched on cultural competence yet?  Holy cow, is that a nightmare and a thousand over here in forensic psychology.  But they review themselves.  Don’t you see the problem with that?  They – review – themselves.  And this report is from one of their “top” forensic psychology people.  She’s one of the people they’d ask to review the reports of other forensic psychologists.  You don’t see the problem with that?

If you don’t believe me, just look for yourself.  Please.  Come over here and look.  APA.  I’m pleading with the APA, please, please, please come look at this “forensic psychology” world, it’s a nightmare of professional ignorance and professional sloth – and a true paradise of pathological narcissism… in the mental health professionals.

Haughty arrogance.  You see that in this report can’t you?  Of course.  That sense of haughty and arrogant entitlement, she’s above the rules, the rules don’t apply to her.  All the lines following her name, she’s a sham grandiosity – an outward appearance of pompous grandiosity without substance.  Don’t believe me?  Look at her work product.  That’s who she actually is.  A sham.  A fraud.  But showy pomp.

THAT is her actual work product.  I didn’t produce that report, SHE did.  That is her work product.  Do you think that is in any way acceptable professional practice?  Yikes cowabunga not from my world of clinical psychology.  That is not even practicum student level.  If an intern gives me that report, I’m booting the intern out of the training program and contacting the graduate school about their inferior training of their students.

And this person is considered a “top” person in forensic psychology. APA, this needs OUTSIDE review.  Bring cultural, bring psychometrics, bring clinical, bring ethics.  Do NOT let forensic psychology “review” themselves.  This is one of their “top people” – this person is who will be doing their “review” of themselves.

That’s standard of practice in forensic psychology.  She’s just one of the gang.  In fact, she’s one of the top in their gang.  She’s a leader of their little group of “forensic Evaluators” – she’s a Diplomat in Assessment.  Wow, she’s their best.

And this is her work product.

Defend it forensic psychology.  Defend this report.  Tell me that amount of block quotes and a three paragraph summary that entirely lacks the application of any professional knowledge, tell me that’s “okay”.  That this is acceptable standard of practice.

Because… if you don’t… then this psychologist is going to face a malpractice lawsuit from mom, and she’s going to get one of you forensic psychologists to “review” the work of this psychologist for “standards of practice” related to fraud and incompetence.  It will be based on your testimony, forensic psychology – remember, I’m not legally allowed to review the work of forensic psychologists, so mom is going to ask you… forensic psychology… is this fraud and incompetence?

What’s your answer forensic psychology?  Is this fraud and incompetence?

These people’s lives hang in the balance, her opinion holds the lives of these people.  The child’s development, the child’s life, is in this woman’s hands. 

Is this level of professional practice what you would want from your “Evaluator” if your children and your lives depended on the “Opinion” you received from “the Evaluator”?

Doesn’t that even sound creepy?  The “Evaluator” – the child custody “Evaluator” – like the Inquisitor from the Church of forensic psychology, who judges parents and decides the fates of children and parents, whether parents “deserve” to have children.  The child custody “Evaluator”.

They abrogate the obligations of the court.  The “Evaluator” from forensic psychology hears evidence (the history of the conflict in vivid and voyeuristic detail), they make a finding of fact (regarding the supposed cause of the conflict), and they order the remedy (of child custody and visitation schedules; who should have the children and when).

Isn’t that the court’s job, to hear evidence, make a finding of fact, and determine the remedy? 

Why is a child custody “Evaluator” doing that, based on this sort of shoddy report?  She tape records sessions, uses the transcript as her History and Symptoms, and gives a three-paragraph pronouncement of her rulings from the bench – excuse me, from the couch.

Isn’t hearing evidence, making a finding of fact (based on the law, not opinion), and making an order for the custody and visitation schedule (based on the law, not opinion), isn’t that the court’s obligation?  How is it that we have an “Evaluator” doing this, this… one person.  Why them?  Why any of it?   We should be focused on treatment, not custody.

The courts can make decisions.  Professional psychology is about pathology and treatment.  This isn’t a child custody issue, it’s a family pathology and treatment issue.  Professional psychology needs to stay away from custody and visitation schedules.  I don’t care.

Three options:

1.)  50-50.  That’s my recommendation as a clinical child and family psychologist. That is the best I can come up with if you ask me. Mother-daugher, father-daughter, mother-son, father-son, all unique, all equally important, 50-50.  Like kindergarten and Legos, we learn to share.

2.)  Every-other-weekend.  If, for some reason a shared 50-50 isn’t workable, then the default is primacy to one parent and the other parent gets every-other-weekend and one weekday (maybe dinner, maybe overnight) during the week.  Still okay. Everything is fine.

3.) School year/vacations.  If distance factors make an every-other-weekend schedule impractical, then the next default is primacy to one parent during the school year and vacation bonus time to the other parent.  This is not great, we’d prefer every other weekend, and we’d actually prefer 50-50, but the world has its limitations and context.

Which of these three options the court chooses is for the court to decide based on the application of its legal criteria for its decision-making.  Psychologists do not make decisions about custody and visitation schedules, courts do.

I can provide counsel to the court on family pathology, it’s treatment and it’s resolution.  Here’s my counsel surrounding custody visitation schedules.

First, I don’t care what the schedule is.  The only thing that’s important is the flow of love from the parent to the child – we always want 100 mom-love and 100 dad-love reaching the child whenever they see each other.   Zero mom-love or Zero dad love is a very-very-very bad thing.  If there are problems, we fix them.

Second, the only time we ever separate a child from a parent is for child abuse and child protection.

When we act for child protection, it should accompany a DSM-5 diagnosis of child abuse.  If there is no DSM-5 diagnosis of child abuse, then there is no justification for restrictions on the child’s access to the parent.  The directional flow of love that is of professional concern is from the parent to the child, we want the child receiving and accepting abundant parental love from each and both parents.

The only justification for interrupting the flow of love from the parent to the child is a threat of child abuse.  A threat of child abuse should be documented by a corresponding DSM-5 diagnosis of child abuse. 

Designating someone a “bad parent” based on arbitrary criteria arbitrarily applied is frightening in its implications – and it’s application.  The “Evaluator” system of forensic psychology is a frightening system, both traumatic and abusive.

Look at her “credentials” – her vitae gets even puffier… she’s a big-wig I’m sure.  A full narcissist display of show without substance.

Work product assessment is the best assessment there is – bar none.  If you want to know what somebody’s work is going to be like, get a sample.  Work product sample is a lock assessment.

This is a report from a big-wig in forensic psychology, standard of practice in forensic psychology.  Please, APA, get over here to look at this.

The review committee should include representation from cultural psychology, from psychometrics, from trauma, from attachment, from clinical psychology, and from ethics.

DO NOT allow “forensic psychology” to review itself.  They will select this person or someone similar to “review” the work of forensic psychology.  You will be decieved by the lines following their names.  THIS is an actual sample of their work product. 

Please, APA.  Bring review and scrutiny to the world of “forensic psychology” from OUTSIDE of forensic psychology.  They must NOT be allowed to continue to self-review.  The “Evaluator” system of judgment with no oversight or review is not working.  Severely not working.

There is zero application of knowledge. 

Professional review needs – needs – to include representation from psychometrics and assessment design.  Please, please, please, they have constructed a nightmare assessment of narcissistic self-indulgence.  Please, APA, we need psychometrics to review the evaluation procedures.

Lest forensic psychology start to babble at me at this point, I have three words – inter-rater reliability.  What is the inter-rater reliability for your assessment procedure?  Zero.  If there is no reliability to the assessment procedure, it cannot possibly be a valid assessment of anything.  That is axiomatic in the psychometrics of assessment design, construction, and use.

I have a professional obligation under Standards 1.04 and 1.05 of the APA ethics code to speak, and to continue to speak until appropriate professional review and oversight occurs.

This – this report – is considered high-quality standard of practice in forensic psychology.

If an intern gave me a report like that, I’m terminating the intern’s placement at my agency and I’m contacting the graduate school immediately to express my deep-deep concerns about their training program – and I’m not accepting another intern from that school.

That’s for an intern. This is from what’s considered to be a “top professional” in forensic psychology.  This is top-quality work product in forensic psychology.

This is not unusual.  I run into this level, and worse, routinely.

I am appalled.  Standard 1.04 and 1.05 are applicable.

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