Avoiding attack and moving through difference together

I am posting a quick note on here although I am away on holiday at the moment, because I am aware that Dr Childress is commenting on my critique of his fine work Foundations today.  I want to ensure that Dr Childress and my readers are aware of my position on his work and that the critique which was posted on the Parental Alienation Studies Group Newsletter was not intended for public criticism (if it had been I would have published it on here), but was rather for the discussion group to which we both belong.   That said, I understand Dr Childress’s point of view and reasons for publishing his response on his blog. Not being given a chance to reply in the group left him with no other option. I fully support his open discussion, even though I stand by my critique. I admire his spirit and as many of you will know, I share his combative style.

We need warriors like Dr Childress in this field and I have absolutely no intention of getting into a blog post war with him. I support his work and having read Foundations and his response to my critique I understand his approach. I do not agree however with some of the points he makes and I still do not consider that Foundations is THE answer, although I absolutely accept, that the tiny group of families which fall into the category he is defining as his target group for the label pathogenic parents require the most robust intervention.

Having been the subject of a recent covert attack on my practice from people supposedly working for alienating parents I understand what stealth attack feels like.  I want to reassure Dr Childress that I am an admirer of his work and his combative style which I know is what is needed in people who work in this field. My critique of his work was never designed to undermine the approach he takes but was for professionals working in the field to discuss. I am a great believer that where there is a cause to fight (and this is one hell of a cause) one stands with those who are also fighting, unless they are potentially damaging to the parents we work with (and there are a few of those people but Dr Childress is most certainly not one of them).  Where there are disagreements, discussion should be had privately in my view, which was why my post for the PASG was not posted on here too.  I hope that Dr Childress is reassured by my public support for him on here and that he understands that whilst I may not agree with everything he says, I like the cut of his jib and I share his determination to end the scourge that is parental alienation (in all its forms).  For me honesty and transparency as a practitioner (I should also clarify I am not Dr Woodall but plain old Karen Woodall), is the very foundation of what it takes to be a successful advocate in this field. Having felt the stab of a couple of  UK based alienation ‘experts’ knives in my back this year, I wouldn’t want Dr Childress or anyone else to feel the same sense of shock and horror that came with that experience.  Knowing that someone also working in this field wants to harm my work with alienated children was a truly horrible experience.  As another article in the PASG Newsletter so eloquently put it, being silenced as an alienation practitioner is one of the biggest risks for those of us who put our wellbeing and reputation on the line everyday in fighting for this cause.  Fighting those who are supposed to work in the same field as well as everyone else and the systems that enable alienation is frankly, more than most could bear.

I bore it and came through it tougher, sharper and amazingly, more skilled, more able and more determined than ever. I let myself learn from the experience and today when I read Dr Childress’s post what I wanted to do most of all was reach out and reassure him and everyone else that he and I are on the same page, made of the same stuff.  I don’t agree with everything he says and I still find some of what he writes problematic for the UK, but I wholeheartedly agree with his publishing his response and I welcome all opportunities to debate the issue both in private with PASG and in public and, I hope soon, face to face.

There are many wars to fight, blog wars with one of our own is not one of them. I stand with Dr Childress in his fight and with the PASG in the ongoing drive to further the debate about parental alienation. Having recently been invited to Blog for the HuffPost I now have a chance to get the issue out to a much wider audience (my first post has been liked by almost two thousand people, most of whom would never have access to this kind of thinking and debate).  We have a chance to take this issue out to the wider world and that’s what I will be concentrating on doing in the coming months. The fight is just beginning and Dr Childress and I, will, I hope, be warriors in it, together.


  1. I worried that it was quite a strong reply to your review, when I saw Dr Childress’ response earlier today. I am relieved that you support him and did feel he should have perhaps have offered more understanding and a little less “sarcasm”.
    I do feel the UK is different and slower in the uptake of the concepts so it is all the more important to have as many people as possible talking about parental alienation in all its ugly forms.
    My only question of his work would be whether the categories stand in the UK as they do in America because if they don’t then an alienated child is just that and not able to be boxed up – just as you said.
    Plough on Karen, you are needed and appreciated for who you are.


    1. Thank you Karen. I’ve been a supporter of you since the day I read “I am the alienator”. I cried and cried that day, thinking someone understands!!! Thank you for all you have done. Please, with Dr Childress help this nightmare end as soon as possible.
      Thank you.


  2. Very impressed with your response Karen, you are a class act and together I know you and Dr. Childress will accomplish a lot. Glad to hear about the new blog!

    Best to you!


    1. well said. Whatever the differences are (and I for one am not convinced about the extent to which it matters..), you handle this with professionalism and aplomb…All power to you.


  3. Karen, I have a huge amount of respect for your work and your professional expertise. I also think you are a wonderful person. I am however one of the ‘tiny’ group of families Childress is referring to and I do think he is onto something important about real, or perhaps ‘pure’, parental alienation, which is after all the one that is most difficult to resolve. I have felt increasingly that your blog does not speak for my circumstances, yet what Childress says rings true and makes sense to me. I have in fact been quite disappointed that you have not raised more awareness of his contribution to the field. It would be good to see his work incorporated here by professionals in the UK. I appreciate what you say about how difficult it is to achieve change and what we are up against here, both within mental health and in the legal system, but at the end of the day, this doesn’t change what needs to happen. We can work with what we’ve got, while at the same time having a vision of the perfect solution that will solve the problem for all targeted parents and alienated children. I would very much like to see the synthesis he talks about happening. It is messier, of course, along the way, but it is actually what is needed.

    I don’t think we need to avoid attack either, or public argument. The pathogen Dr Childress describes operates stealthily. We should counter it by being transparent and I am very glad to be able to see this discussion. Every professional and targeted parent worth their salt will not be afraid of arguments and discussions that will further their understanding, and will respect others’ points of view. And where they can’t, well that is where is the work is – towards synthesis.


    1. I don’t cross promote any other work on this blog Miriam, that is because this is my blog, my place where I write about my work with families here in the UK. I write elsewhere about other people and developments, occasionally I might critique someone on here but largely I simply write about my own work. If that work doesn’t chime with your experience then that is not really something I can do much about, I don’t write to keep everyone on board I write to express those things that come through me as I work and those things I feel this country needs to think about. I am not trying to gather an army or change the system or create some kind of movement that I lead, I am too concerned with families and helping them. If Craig’s answer to pure alienation is what works for you then thank goodness that place exists because lots of people won’t have your experience and won’t find what they need there but will find it elsewhere. I am not afraid of arguments or criticism but I find fighting publicly to be both draining and pointless, I fight every day of my working life for families, I am not going to fight with someone like Dr Childress who is doing his thing his way. It doesn’t work here, not yet and perhaps not ever. The dynamics we face in the family courts here are far far too complex for it to do so and I am not interested in anything other than the children I help and if that is hand to hand combat whilst Dr Childress is busy blitzing his way through that is fair enough. I am a psychotherapist I am not a crusader, I want to help people not lead a movement. Finally, one clear point. In those cases where children are captured by pathogenic parenting we recommend a transfer of residence or foster care – getting it however takes some doing I can tell you and after 4 or 5 hours in a witness box, being slammed by all and sundry, ridiculed and laughed at by other professionals in those cases, I am not about to set myself up as the sacrificial lamb that gets Dr Childress’s system into place here, I know my limitations.


  4. glad for your comments Karen, and I think I understand why Craig Childress responded as he did; as he often says the splitting phenomenon seen in children suffering from extreme PA can also be seen in the very professionals who seek to identify and highlight what is going on. I’m a huge admirer of both of you, and yes you share many strengths and common approaches. There is space for anyone who is willing to stand up and shine a light on this situation, whilst having the courage for the knowledge that the light will reflect back on them too. Power to you Karen (that Dr Woodall can’t be far off).


  5. My husband is going through the nightmare of alienation. Back in court tomorrow, as the alienating parent, in an attempt to overturn the final orders which are barely a year old, and orders that she has breached from the 1st day they came into effect. We read as much as we can on alienation. Karen’s work on the enmeshed child – my god, it was as if it was written about the ex and her own relationship with her mother, and now the alienated son. But we also find so much resonates in Craig’s work. If we are forced back into court, we are seeking orders THIS time to have the ex attend a psychiatrist for assessment, as Craig’s description of borderline/narcisistic parenting is sickeningly accurate.

    I hope both of you unite – we need help out here in Australia too. Sadly the son has been taken (in breach of the orders and behind my husband’s back) to see a ‘run of the mill’ therapist – and we were horrified to see the timeline of this hidden therapy aligns exactly to when the son has become alienated, and the ex is now using the ‘therapists’ testimony to support her cause. Yes, we have reported the therapist to the regulator here. Yes, after 5 months they have decided to investigate. But its all a bit late for the poor boy.

    Please please keep communicating guys, and keep up the fight together 🙂


    1. Cindy
      I wish you well – I share your experience.
      Please excuse my comments but I wanted to say one thing – in response to your comment “If we are forced back into court, we are seeking orders THIS time to have the ex attend a psychiatrist for assessment, as Craig’s description of borderline/narcissistic parenting is sickeningly accurate.”
      Understand that this comment comes because of my own personal experience, and lessons we have painfully learnt along the way, so forgive me if I say that the focus should always and only ever be on what is happening for the child, not what you think should happen to the other parent. It is too easy to get into a situation that allows, and gives permission almost, for the court to reduce this down to a domestic argument between warring ex-partners (even if that is not how you personally are trying to behave). By doing that you allow yourself to be framed into an antagonistic place and put yourself on the back foot of trying to ‘prove’ something that isn’t even acknowledged. I know in this country (UK) that’s what happened for us. The accusation was that by trying to draw attention to the mother’s behaviour my husband was being ‘controlling’, – the very thing she was accusing him of being with their son, so his behaviour, in the court’s view, confirmed her untrue allegations. Understand also, as I’m sure you do, that by increasing the pressure on the other parent (by trying to get psychiatric assessments) the end result is increased pressure on the child.
      I don’t have the answer, all I do have is a really clear, retrospective picture, of how the pressure on the child increased with every court appearance, until he said he didn’t want to see his father (as for him he knew that this was only way to get this nightmare to stop). And that was an easy way out for the court, as they were ‘listening to the voice of the child’.

      Karen – I hope in the new resource to come there will be a pathway for people who find you at an early stage, to enable them to take action to avoid court appearances, and guidance for how to deal with the other parent in all these circumstances. For me it would include really simple small things, that afterwards we can see didn’t help – one small example comes from the work you wrote about ‘the transition bridge’. If I could have this time again I would never leave the child at the end of the drive, to walk the lonely painful walk back to his mother, at the end of any shared time. I’d always have my husband walk with his son to the door, and hand him back to his mother with loving words, to try to reduce the sting of handover. I’d also always make sure that his son’s phone was put aside during visits, to reduce the incessant interruptions that the mother made. And there are many many more. The sadness is that most parents are probably like us, who come to find Karen, or Craig Childress when the damage is advancing, and they’ve gone beyond the things that might have made a difference.

      best wishes to you both


  6. Hello Karen,

    Dr Childress on “P.A” is good stuff and very, very forthright. It seems directed towards fellow movers and shakers. Yours Karen is powerful and convincing. For me much more humane and understandable. Everyone involved is addressed- from the ‘movers and shakers’ to the adults and children experiencing ‘Family systems Ltd’.

    So French or English or whatever language appropriate to suit the listener otherwise simply a waste of breath. To recognise and value the others excellent but different language skills.

    Many shoulders make light work Ive found.


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