This blog is my place to vent and share resources with other parents of children of trauma. I try to be open and honest about my feelings in order to help others know they are not alone. Therapeutic parenting of adopted teenagers with RAD and other severe mental illnesses and issues (plus "neurotypical" teens) , is not easy, and there are time when I say what I feel... at the moment. We're all human!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Attachment therapy comment

"Have you ever thought that you might not have the relationship you want with your children because of the therapy and parenting methods you are using? Attachment Therapy is not lawful in Texas. It is denounced as abusive by the American Psychological Association's Division on Child Maltreatment and by APSAC. These organizations claim Attachment Therapy is not appropriate for any child and advise child welfare workers to investigate where it is used as "suspected abuse." While Attachment Therapy gets a lot of word of mouth and Internet space, you aren't going to find any reputable journal publishing research recommending it. Quite the contrary. And EMDR hasn't been shown to have anymore benefit than just talking to a therapist. This is quackery -- expensive quackery. Your family has been exploited by it. You should know that any of your children treated with Attachment Therapy will have grounds to sue you and your husband on reaching age 18. - Linda"

I wanted to address this comment.

There are many different methods of attachment therapy. The therapy we use is not "holding therapy" or "rebirth" therapy - which are the controversial therapies where some of the children have died. In fact I do not know anyone that uses rebirth therapy anymore. My children are not forced to stay in their rooms for long periods of time, or even do strong sitting (a yoga pose that is supposed to be very helpful). We focus instead on understanding their behavior, reassuring their fears, loving them even when they are abusive (but not letting them hurt themselves or others), keeping them close (often line of sight supervision), and helping them work through their pain.

When we first got our children they were 11 and 13. We had never heard of RAD, and had very little knowledge of attachment disorders, despite my being a licensed LMSSW (social worker). On I found the special needs forum and they gave me a LOT of great information and advice.

Our first therapist was a female talk/play therapist. It was not a good match and the kids did not respond. We decided to try attachment therapy and looked for a male therapist for our son, but couldn't find one that took our insurance. We found a good "talk" therapist for him that "gets" him and holds him accountable. At 15 and with RAD (among other diagnoses) I do not see a big need for attachment therapy for our son (although I use many of the techniques I learn with his sister when I can). I think it is "too late" in his development to expect him to truly attach to us. We of course continue to mentor (and of course love) him and show him what a healthy family looks like. Now that he has received treatment for his bipolar disorder he is able to stay stable enough to function in our family. I still hold out hope that we can access and help him heal from more of his "issues" before he leaves our home.

For our daughter we found an attachment therapist who was willing to take us on despite the fact that she wasn't covered by the children's insurance. At the time, we thought the children's adoptions would be soon so she waited until our daughter got Texas Medicaid. One and a half years later our daughter was adopted and this amazing therapist is finally getting paid! She is absolutely amazing!

At the beginning of attachment therapy we experimented a little with having my daughter lie in my lap and make eye contact. She couldn't handle it and couldn't do it. We have had to restrain my daughter (not holding therapy), but this was using the techniques I was trained in by our adoption agency and only to keep our daughter safe from hurting herself.

Attachment therapy has mostly consisted of helping our daughter learn who she is really angry with (biomom and her abusive men) and keeping her attachment to me a focus and priority. Eye contact was something we worked on a lot - it took a long time. We worked our way up to Kitty allowing me to touch her and sit next to her. At the end of two years, Kitty will still not let me hug her in public, but she will occasionally actually seek me out for affection, helping her with injuries and problems, and has developed some trust. Even though she said in therapy that she doesn't trust me, and this hurts, I do believe that she was mostly being dramatic. I know she doesn't trust me as my biokids do, but she is able to admit now that I have her best interest at heart.

Because of my adopted children I have developed discipline methods that I find to be better and safer then the methods used by many of my friends with "normal" kids. My children are NEVER spanked. We work on concepts like restitution, behavior management, writing skills, family and friend relationship development, and other life skills. We do "time-ins" instead of "time-outs." My children would have no ground on which to sue me for abuse.

As for EMDR therapy I have undergone this myself, and disagree with you completely. There are many things about our body that science does not have an explanation for - this does not mean that it is not true. I have watched my daughter address issues in EMDR therapy that we have previously (attempted to) discuss in talk or attachment therapy - which she was not able to handle and began a fight, flight or freeze reaction (both my kids have severe PTSD). In EMDR therapy she is able to talk about these issues without immediately dissociating or completely losing it. I'm not saying EMDR is a "perfect cure," but it has definitely helped us make advances and work through issues that she previously couldn't handle. My only wish is that I could combine her AT who knows her VERY well (but after 1 1/2 years of helping Kitty address things that upset her appears to occasionally inadvertantly set off an episode just by triggering a memory of past sessions) with her EMDR therapist.

I know that there is more that I could be doing to help my children heal (as evidenced by my amazing friend Lisa), but I have to balance their needs with that of the family as a whole. I also know that they are severely "damaged" children who came to me as older children - which makes healing even harder for them. I am doing my best to help them as much as I can, considering the difficult circumstances that they have grown up with. I will never give up on them, and I know that while they will never trust or love like my bio children can, I have to believe that I make a difference in their lives.


Lisa said...

I am so sorry that someone left such a nasty comment. You handled this very well Mary. Excellent post!

Torina said...

Great response! Attachment therapy is very diverse in its definitions and can be implemented in so many different ways. Many people just do not have enough information. ANd you are doing a great job with your kids!

Lorraine Fuller said...

I live in Texas and there are many attachment therapists here, so it's not illegal. My opinion is that your commenter did not understand what she was talking about.

Arthur Becker-Weidman, PhD said...

There are real crazies out there who have an axe to grind for some reason. The Association for the Treatment and Training in the Attachment of Children did a training last year for the Texas DHS and will be back in San Antone this year for its annual conference. You will find the workshops there quite helpful to you.

Dyadic Developmental psychotherapy is an evidence-based, empirically supported, and effective treatment for children with trauma and attachment disorders. There will be workshops on this at the ATTACh conference. For further details go to