In this spotlight profile, we are speaking to Dr. Kristie Craigen. Dr. Craigen is an internationally experienced clinician, psychometric testing and assessment specialist, child inclusive mediation consultant and child advocate.
Dr. Craigen is managing director at her clinic Drs. Cook & Craigen Assessment Services in Hong Kong and she provides a variety of in-person assessment and evaluation services to assist individuals in their healing process. Dr. Craigen uses psychometric testing as a platform to maximize human potential which in turn yields improvements in functioning and/or removes obstacles to learning.
In addition to the above, Dr. Craigen is a child advocate, particularly with respect to children with learning differences and disabilities. Dr. Craigen helps identify their unique set of challenges in order to develop needs-specific recommendations and align with children’s best interests, improve their well-being and increase their chances of living their best lives.
Dr. Craigen, thank you for taking the time to speak with us today.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background and training?
I’ve held management positions since my early 20s, therefore I now have more than two decades of leadership experience in both clinical and corporate contexts. Having completed a Bachelors of Science with Psychology and Management majors, as a young woman I didn’t really know which profession to pursue. Yet looking back it seems that I gravitated to roles in which I could assist people develop and/or reach their potential. In the Human Resources, Marketing, and Leisure Industry Executive roles I have held, I was dedicated to supporting the personal and professional growth of every employee via the development of needs-specific training and development programs, coaching, and creating a “Growth Mindset” culture. Subsequently, it was the need to determine the efficacy of training and development programs, by measuring change in employee performance, that led me to discover the predictive utility and increased certainty of data-driven methods. Basically, I fell in love with psychometric testing.
I have always had a passion for lifelong learning and the desire to deepen my knowledge about the use of psychometric testing as a platform to maximize human potential led me to complete post graduate degrees in the field of clinical psychology. I now have both a Masters’ and a PsyD in Clinical Psychology. I also now know that data-driven methods can be used, not only to maximize potential, but to solve problems and change lives.
You are a child advocate. What does that role entail and what impact do/can you have on a child’s life as an “advocate”?
Most people, both young and old, with mental health difficulties and/or disabilities are in a vulnerable position either in society or in specific situations (e.g., school). Being a child advocate means actively promoting and defending the rights and best interests of children, who are too young to make informed decisions for themselves, may be at risk of harm, aren’t having their needs met, or are in a situation where their rights are being denied.
Being an advocate involves understanding their specific issues on a case-by-case basis, thinking about their needs with particular reference to their developmental stage, and presenting solutions to parents, caregivers, guardians, teachers, and sometimes even the authorities. Part of this role entails ensuring children’s voices are heard but it runs much deeper than that. Dr. Cook and I gain a lot of personal meaning and satisfaction from helping adults, with the responsibility and power to make decisions that will impact a child’s future, develop and implement a course of action that is in the child’s long term best interest. Being mothers ourselves we obviously adore children and there is no better feeling than watching a child who was struggling begin to blossom and thrive.
Children go through their own struggles when their parents are in the midst of a divorce. One of the things you advocate for is “child inclusive mediation.” What do you mean by that and how is that beneficial to children going through the difficulties of divorce?
Child inclusive mediation is a dynamic and powerful evidence-based approach aimed at building co-parenting quality and forming responsive parenting arrangements. This method places the child(ren)’s needs at the center of the divorce arrangements rather than parental conflict. Guided exploration and careful consideration of “what’s best for my child” is more likely to encourage disputing parents to refocus on and plan more cooperatively for the needs of their children post-separation.
The United Kingdom is now seeing the implementation of “no fault divorce.” How does child-inclusive mediation fit in with this idea of “no fault divorce” and avoiding high conflict litigation?
The words “no fault divorce” are like music to my ears! Anyone who’s been through a divorce can tell you that it’s often a devastating process. The breakdown of a marriage is difficult in itself often conjuring feelings of sadness, anger, frustration, failure, grief, and even anxiety about the future. Going through litigation and court proceeding takes the stress and negativity to another level.
No fault divorce gives divorcing couples the opportunity to divorce ‘well” by reducing hostility and avoiding unnecessary character assassinations while also encouraging parents to participate in alternative dispute resolution and mediation channels.
One of the key issues seen in a divorce is parental alienation. First and foremost, can you explain the effects parental alienation can have on a child including the “father effect”?
First of all, it’s important to note that parental alienation isn’t listed in the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, so we need to be mindful about the way in which we use this term. Dr, Cook and myself acknowledge parental alienation to be a symptom (of many) associated with pathogenic parenting.
Parenting attitudes and behaviours can be thought of as lying somewhere on a continuum from very facilitative to very restrictive gatekeeping. Very facilitative parenting behaviours manifest as both parents being:
- Proactive towards the other parent,
- Inclusive of the other parent
- Integral to boosting the image of the other parent,
- Continuously committed to communicating with the other parent,
- Flexible with time-sharing,
- Supportive and facilitative with respect to the child building a relationship with the other parent.
Parental alienation is a very restrictive gatekeeping behaviour. It is a form of child abuse and is often part of a wider set of pathogenic parenting practices. Pathogenic parenting creates significant psychopathology in the child through aberrant and distorted modes of parenting such as derogating the other parent in front of the child, marginalizing the other parent, refusing to communicate with other parent, and being extremely time restrictive with respect to the time the child spends with the other parent.
Research demonstrates that children of divorce show the best long-term adjustment when they have a relationship with both parents. While there has been countless studies on the positive effects of maternal involvement on children’s psycho-social development, the benefits of an engaged paternal presence are only just beginning to be understood. For example, there is a reliable correlation between a lack of aggression and children with a father figure. In general, children raised with a father tend to get better paying jobs and the presence of a participating father also reduces female delinquency.
What advice do you provide parents who may have a tendency to engage in parental alienation? And what coping/healing mechanisms do you suggest for children who may be experiencing parental alienation?
Unfortunately, most individuals engaging in pathogenic parenting practices lack insight. All too often they feel their campaign of denigration towards the other parent is justified or they may be unable to separate their marital conflict from the parent-child relationship and continue to focus on their own pain and hurt rather than the child(ren)’s needs. All divorcing couples should make the effort to stay acutely aware of the messages they send their children about the other parent and constantly question their motives should they find themselves highlighting the faults and minimizing the positives of their ex-spouse to their child(ren).
Children are vulnerable and their sense of security and trust are shattered when they become pawns in their parent’s conflict. They need to be sheltered, as best as possible, from their parent’s acrimony, allowed to continue to develop their own separate relationships with each parent, and reminded at all possible opportunities that they aren’t required to “take sides”. Seeking the assistance of an appropriately qualified mental health professional is greatly encouraged.
When families are involved in high conflict divorce, is there a way to backtrack and bring it back to a place of peace? How can parents bring their divorce from high conflict to more peaceful negotiation and resolution?
Divorcing “well” takes a lot of emotional maturity. It is also a joint effort. Too often we see ex-spouses “slinging mud” at each other yet they rarely stop to consider their own behaviour and how that contributes to the dynamic.
Emotionally mature individuals are flexible, solution-focused, aware of their own limitations, look for opportunities for self-development, and take responsibility. If you find yourself embroiled in a high conflict divorce, first take a step back and determine if there is anything you can change about your own actions and/or reactions that might facilitate even the tiniest bit of positive change. If you can go the next step and get professional help (i.e., family therapist or a parenting coordinator) then even better and your children are likely to benefit the most.
In addition to your work as a clinician, you also provide psychological assessments/evaluations to the Courts related to children and their development. What is at the forefront of your mind when you are in the midst of preparing these assessments/evaluations? What is the overall goal when providing the Courts with these assessments/evaluations?
We produce comprehensive data-driven reports that strive to understand and explain:
- The quality of each parent’s relationship to each child
- The relationship between the parents and their ability or willingness to support their children’s ongoing relationships with the other parent
- The parenting skills and capacity of each parent
- Each parent’s psychological health and any drug or alcohol abuse
- The children’s psychological health
- Any evidence of abuse or violence
By getting a clear picture of functioning and possible risk we can then make informed recommendations to the Court in the child’s best interest. Our general guideline is to distinguish between marital problems and parenting issues, and focus on the latter.
About Cook & Craigen Assessment Services
With more than thirty years assessment-specific experience between them Drs. Cook & Craigen have provided a variety of in-person assessment and evaluation services, of the highest quality, for over a decade to individuals based in Hong Kong. Recently, in response to travel restrictions imposed during the Covid-19 pandemic, Cook & Craigen Assessment Services have expanded their offering to include online psychoeducational testing to students attending geographically remote or underserviced English-medium international schools across Asia.
About Dr. Kristie Craigen
Dr. Craigen is an internationally experienced clinician, psychometric testing and assessment specialist, child inclusive mediation consultant and child advocate.
Dr. Craigen is based in Hong Kong and is the managing director at her clinic Drs. Cook & Craigen in Hong Kong and she provides a variety of in-person assessment and evaluation services to assist individuals in their healing process. Dr. Craigen uses psychometric testing as a platform to maximize human potential which in turn yields improvement in functioning and to remove obstacles to learning. In addition to her work as a clinician, Dr. Craigen is a child advocate and has assisted the Courts in providing psychological evaluations and assessments.
About Dr. Alison Cook
Dr. Alison Cook received her medical degree from London University. She then specialised in Family Medicine, and worked as a GP and schools’ doctor in the UK, gathering a deep understanding of the cognitive, physical, and emotional milestones that children achieve throughout their development. She augmented her knowledge and training with the British Psychological Society and has worked for more than a decade in Hong Kong to provide clients comprehensive psychological assessments. Her expertise encompasses Psychoeducational Assessments, as well as Custody Assessments for families undergoing divorce proceedings in the Family Court. She has a strong interest in supporting children to achieve their full potential and to be best supported during a parental separation or divorce.
In addition, Dr. Cook served for 11 years on the Executive Committee of the Psychotherapy Society of Hong Kong and she is a past Vice-President.