Nearly every day, Claire or Forrest answer the phone at the Institute for Attachment and Child Development to hear a mother in tears on the other end of the line. These women tell them that they have spent endless amounts of time and money on therapies for their children with reactive attachment disorder. Yet, nothing works.
In fact, they often say, their children’s behaviors have only escalated over the years. They feel exhausted and hopeless. We wish that parents didn’t have to go through that anguish, but we know why it occurs…
Early development makes a difference in therapy for kids with RAD
In order to understand why traditional therapy doesn’t work for kids with reactive attachment disorder, we must first understand emotional development. Psychologist Erik Erikson found that up to 18 months of age, babies learn how to trust only when adults care for them consistently in loving and affectionate ways. Babies who don’t receive that care learn not to trust. Children who have been hurt or moved several times learn to control and manipulate their environments on “their terms” in order to survive. They push away attachment figures to get what they desire.
Many therapists understand the importance of early child development and the diagnosis of reactive attachment disorder. However, they may not realize how children with reactive attachment disorder have keen abilities to manipulate therapy. Good and well-intentioned therapists can inadvertently make things worse for your child and family when they don’t understand the intricate and complex dynamics of reactive attachment disorder.
Differences between traditional therapy techniques and those for reactive attachment disorder
In traditional therapy, therapists first work to lay foundations of trust between themselves and their clients. To do so, they meet privately with their clients. This method is sound for children who know how to form trusting relationships. Yet, to take children with reactive attachment disorder alone to chat (while parents stay in the waiting room) is the first and most critical mistake therapists can make. Kids with reactive attachment disorder understand the power dynamics of relationships and “work therapists” to their advantage. They often manipulate therapists into focusing on a mother’s anger and depression. Therefore, therapists miss opportunities to truly understand the whole situation.
At the Institute for Attachment and Child Development, we review all aspects of the situation – the child’s developmental history and genetics as well as dynamics within the current family. As we look at a children’s present situations and past histories, we begin to understand why they behave the way they do. All behavior is purposeful. Rather than focus on behaviors themselves, we seek to understand the meaning behind behaviors. We can then explore solutions to the actual issues.
As a parent, you may feel overwhelmed as you seek help for your child with reactive attachment disorder. Continue to seek information about reactive attachment disorder and support for yourself and your family. Forrest is happy to speak at your next parent or professional group. Contact him here. There is hope and you’re not alone!
Please call and invite Forrest Lien to speak at your parent and professional groups worldwide at (303) 674-1910. When we learn together, we can work together to fight reactive attachment disorder.