Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Hard Post to read

Not sure if anyone has ever heard of attachment therapy.

Let me give you what I know, as we have never done it, but I do know allot of people who may read this, will disagree with me. Which is fine, but it is my blog and I can write whatever I want...nah nah.

Here is your history lesson if you are not aware of adopting kids with trauma histories.

When children are adopted, who start to have behavior problems, they seem to be dx (diagnosed) with RAD, which stands for Reactive Attachment Disorder. Its a clinical dx (diagnosis) that basically means, the child is incapable of attaching to anyone.

These children kill dogs, threaten to kill you, break everything in the house, run away, torture animals, laugh while doing it, piss and poop in places in the house that they aren't supposed and then eventually, if not treated, become sociopaths. Makes sense right?

They have studied children who have severe abuse histories and children who were in orphanages, and there is a belief that if not treated for their 'attachment issues' then they will end up being sociopaths.

But not to worry, because there is a treatment for RAD, its called 'attachment therapy'. It started in Evergreen Colorado.

The premise of attachment therapy, is that children with RAD have learned to depend on only themselves and will not attach to any caregiver as they see them as being dangerous. So the idea is to break the child down where the caregiver can heal the child and have the child learn to trust and bond with their caregiver.

I am being over simplistic here, but want to give you some idea on what I am talking about.

The strange thing is, it sounds good.

When big munchkin moved in our house, all hell pretty much broke loss. He was, how should I put this, out of control.

He was dx with RAD.

Like any good parent, I researched this dx and it all made sense.

But before I continue, let me tell you, as a parent, when your child is that out of control everyday, you start to feel tired and hopeless and start to question yourself.

So we went looking for answers and that's when we found out about this RAD dx. We weren't ones to question the dx as we have never a seen a child act like this, and we were so lost and confused by it, that we listened to anyone who had 'seen this before'.

After talking to many parents who had children with RAD, it was pretty clear that attachment therapy was what they were saying he needed. These parents had a nickname for their Child with RAD, they called them their 'radish', cute, huh?

So I did more and more research.

Not sure if anyone remembers Candace Newmaker. She was dx with RAD and went to Colorado to do some attachment therapy. It was then called 're-birthing'.

Candace died during this session as she had suffocated.

I guess the death of a child really highlights some these practices. She died in 2000. 9 yrs ago. She was 10 yrs old I believe.

The good news is, they don't do rebirthing anymore, but they do other practices like 'holding time' and a few others.

As i questioned attachment therapy, I was informed by countless parents and some attachment therapists, that they no longer do 'that type of therapy'. Well, what do they do?

Then I went to see if i can find an 'attachment therapist' near us, because to be quite honest, when you are sleep deprived, and depressed, you kinda start following suggestions like a sheep.

The closest attachment therapist was 2 hours away. Parents actually told me how lucky we were that they were that close. Some told me they traveled 4 hours a day to see their attachment therapist.

that's right, you read it correctly, a DAY, not a week, but a day. You see, sometimes attachment therapists tell you they need to see you more then once a week.

So I called, and apparently they don't take health insurance, you have to pay it out of pocket since its considered 'alternative therapy'. It really is quite expensive because these sessions are not an hour, they could last hours until the child is somewhat healed. they even have two week extensive therapy. Cannot even imagine how much that is.

Folks kept telling me that I had to bring him or he wouldn't heal.

As time went on, I started to realize that attachment wasn't his issue. He actually seemed very attached to us. He started hugging us, he started to want us to put him to bed....it took time, but it was slowly happening. (not I cant get the kid off of me, but that's a whole other issue)

Plus, the more I read on attachment therapy, the more I was concerned as it seemed like you would be re-traumatizing a child who already was traumatised.

Here is where it gets scary. I started to tell folks that I don't think he really had RAD as he was attaching, and that there was something else that I think is going on.

I actually got shunned from a certain adoption community that I wont mention. I was told that I wasn't a good father and that I was hurting my child for not taking him.

I actually got into quite a few arguments.

basically, their belief was that if you didn't do attachment therapy, then your child will be a sociopath and its your fault.

The last argument I got into with these folks was that an adult man stated that he was worried about his parents because they were foster parents and they had a 4 yr old foster child with them. He went to his parents house for dinner and found this 4 yr old child in the laundry room on the floor and was not allowed to come out.

the 'family' had dinner and then these foster parents let the 4 yr old boy out to eat a P&J sandwich then he was sent back to the laundry room.

The gentlemen said that he was there for quite a few hours and the child never came out.

I personally found this outrageous, but the other parents told me that they were probably working with an attachment therapist and just to leave them alone.

that got me even more angry. I ended up getting into arguments with all of them and was told 'I didn't know anything about attachment therapy and how dare i say its abuse'. Needless to say, I was ostracised from the group and it was clear no one wanted to hear from me again.

oh, I did end up reporting them for possible child neglect. Only because I was losing sleep over it.

well, it turns out, there were other parents like me, who wouldnt challenge them, they wouldnt speak up and they even went to say they appear like a cult. In the adoption world, they are called 'the RAD cult'.

1 yr later, i ended up attending an attachment therapy conference. I wanted to find out more, and it was clear that these people swear by this. It did feel like a cult, well, something like a cult.

When I slowly made the rounds of people who I knew didn't know me, they would talk about their kids. One thing was clear, not one child was 'cured', though they admit they have seen some improvement.

So here is my question. This so called improvement, is it because time has actually passed, or was it because of attachment therapy?

what if they didn't do attachment therapy, would the child have improved quicker or not?

can a child with such a traumatic past actually attach to their caregiver eventually or do they need this type of therapy?

Not sure if anyone can tell, I am not an advocate for this type of therapy. I think certain points of it make sense but some of the practices to me, seem like it would actually take longer for a child to bond.

but hey, what do I know, i never did attachment therapy.

In case anyone is really curious about it, here is a 'session' from a well-known attachment therapist named Neil Feinberg. This practice is common with most attachment therapist. The goal is for the child to give up control and then give control to the parent, so the child can heal. Please keep in mind, the children who go to attachment therapy, are children with trauma background.

Just to let you know, this video can be disturbing to some, and yet for some others, they may think this is what the child needs.

again, Please be advised that this video may be disturbing to some of you.

in case you thought that video was fine, here is another 'attachment therapist'. You can actually hear them talking about how this is working.

But you didn't think I would leave you without giving you more information. Here is the website that they tell you to go to too find a 'credited therapist' in your area, http://www.attach.org/ because apparently there are allot of quakes out there. If you do happen to look at the website, notice the paypal donation button.

I don't know, maybe its me, how many therapist ask for donations through paypal?

I am so grateful through all the 'craziness' I took the time to really look and investigate this type of therapy. My child was lucky, but try to remember, that when parents are dealing with a child who's behaviors are off the charts, and have no idea what to do, they too, are very vulnerable and will listen to anyone that says "oh, seen it a hundred times, we can cure him with attachment therapy, in fact, its the only way to cure him." What would you do?

oh, one quick foot note. Big munchkin no longer has the dx of RAD and I have gotten it off most of his records. (though it does creep up now and then on some paper) It's a very dangerous dx and it is given out like candy lately. The fact is, its a very rare dx and not that common as people believe.



  1. I thought this was a great post. I have no experience with adoption or RAD or anything of the sort, but I have been a victim of crazy diagnoses and crazy therapies.

    I feel like RAD is a bit like Asperger's now days: it is slapped on any child that is slightly off or has difficulty adjusting to their surroundings.

    The "treatment" is usually time, but most people now days are obsessed with doing everything as quickly as possible that they forget about this.

  2. Woah.

    These guys would never be able to even try and be legit in the UK.


  3. I'm not sure how to begin. I first want to say, I totally respect your opinion. I, fortunately, have found Attachment Therapy to be our saving grace. But, I do want to point out that our AT was, and has been NOTHING like what is in those videos. If it was, I'd hope I wouldn't have permitted it. I feel like I wouldn't have but like you said, when you have a child with these types of behaviors, you just want it to stop. The goals of therapy is to help the child attach to the primary caregiver, learn to self-regulate their behaviors, and I believe to also let go of all that anger and guilt from their trauma. We did a 2 week intensive. It was 3 hours a day for 2 weeks. And from then on we go weekly, for one hour. We met with the 2 therapists for an "evaluation" before the intensive, but it was mostly to get all the information. I had to fill out a huge packet of information and write an essay about how I parent and how my parents "parented." Then, of course there was a description of my child's life up until that point detailing her trauma. There was "holding therapy" but it consisted the two therapists sitting on a couch side by side, with my child laying on the lead therapists lap with her legs and feet extended out on to the other therapists lap. That therapist had her hands laying on my daughter's lower legs, but not holding her. Just hands on. Maybe sometimes play with her toes. The lead therapist would caress her hair or cradle her a little on her lap when the moment called for it. It's purpose was to show care, as well as to hold attention. She used to be so hypervigilient that should couldn't keep eye contact. For whatever reason, the cradling and caring touch was calming and promoted eye contact between her and the therapist. There was absolutely NO yelling. She might say "Oh now now, I don't believe that!" with a tickle to her side. But it was helpful in that this type of therapy goes right to the topic. My daughter had been in traditional therapy for years and she only got worse. After her second hospital stay for suicide and then wanting to murder her bio mom, we went to AT. They said, in a very loving, non judging manner, "we know what happened to you. This happened, and it's not your fault." "It's not your fault" was such a huge message that she had to work on.

  4. Anyway, I could go on. For us, it worked. It is nothing like the AT that you describe. The most important thing taught at AT is that the healing doesn't happen there, it happens at home. I had to learn a great deal about how to parent her. I have NEVER nor did they ever recommend to lock her in her room. Everything is done with love, not anger. Action, not lecture. She has an alarm on her door. But no lock. The alarm is for her protection and mine. She has alarms on her windows and a baby monitor - because of her nightmares.
    The only thing that you said that sounds remotely similar is the issue of control. These kids have learned that they are the only person they can rely on. In order to let love in and grow an attachment, is to let go of that control. However, the more she lets go of control, the more choices she has. The idea is that she should learn to be a kid, be responsible and have fun. These kids do not know how to make the right decisions. Their lives were so unpredictable, they didn't learn cause and effect. They have to start over and earn choices.
    I don't know about the "cult" thing, but I can see how the experience I've had, which could be similiar to other, in that I had seen this poor child in so much pain for so long and everything that I've ever learned to try not work, then AT enters our journey and it's like the clouds part and the sun appear. Over a matter of months, she is a totally different child. School officials say "This is not the same child!" I'm not saying by any means we are not still struggling on a regular basis but it's miles a head of where we were. So I can see a parent say "You HAVE to do this!" But, I also believe, the strongest parents know what their child needs. And just like RAD and AT is an alternative theory, and to accept it, you have to be open minded. I would hope that we are also open minded enough to see that it's not always going to be the end all for everyone.
    It's a good question if a child with RAD would have healed over time without AT. You had said in the beginning that RAD is where the child can't bond. I don't think it's a matter of can't, but rather a matter of hasn't learned to bond. Just because a person didn't learn how to do something as simple as swim when they were a kid, doesn't mean they can just jump in a pool and not drown. They still need to learn.

  5. Sorry, lastly I want to make very clear - There is no holding down, or anything of the sort. My daughter never got physical in therapy (no she saved that for home..)but they said that if she ever did, they do not believe in holding a child down.
    It was hard to watch those videos. I don't know how anyone could not consider that abuse. My daughter was sexually abused, amongst the long list of abuse she has had to endure. How traumatizing would it be to have that man lay on top of her!