Let’s say you have an adopted child who you’ve taken to therapy (after therapy after therapy). You know that he has reactive attachment disorder and finally found him a good attachment therapist. However, he’s still not improving.
What’s going on?
The reason kids with reactive attachment disorder often don’t get better usually comes down to these factors—
- Your child needs more than outpatient therapy.
- Your child has an unrecognized or misdiagnosed mental illness.
- Your child needs more time.
When your child needs more than outpatient therapy
You may have the best attachment therapist out there—but that clinician still isn’t enough for your child. Kids with the disorder who fall within the mid to severe range need more than just outpatient therapy.
Some kids need to get out of their homes to learn how to attach. While that may seem counterintuitive, in-patient therapy can make for true change. A team of consistent, highly trained live-in therapy parents and clinicians who “get it” can help kids learn how to trust and attach.
Meanwhile, parents have a chance to take care of themselves when their child is away. And they learn tools to successfully parent their kids with the disorder. The kids also have the will and skills to build their relationships upon returning home.
When all of this comes together, change can finally happen. Parents and kids can work together, not against each other.
When your child has an unrecognized or misdiagnosed mental illness
Perhaps you’re missing a huge part of what your child needs. That is, the right treatment for his mental illness. Many therapists miss it too.
A lot of kids with reactive attachment disorder also have mental illnesses. That’s because they’ve inherited them from their biological parents (read up on that more here).
The first step to treat reactive attachment disorder is to first calm the brain. If your child has a mental illness that’s not recognized, his brain isn’t calm. If your child is misdiagnosed for a mental illness and taking the wrong meds, his brain isn’t calm.
Whether a missed mental illness or a misdiagnosis, your child’s mental illness will get in the way of treating his reactive attachment disorder. Your child can only work on trust and relationships when his brain is ready.
As one of our therapeutic treatment dads Chris Roosma says, “Kids who feel better, do better.” Yet, it’s not always easy to figure out how to make that happen. That’s why you need an excellent attachment therapist and psychiatrist.
When your child needs more time
To heal from early trauma doesn’t happen quickly. Everyone needs to work hard for the long haul—the child, parents, therapy team, teachers, etc. Eventually, the hard work will pay off if your child has the right kind of help. But that takes patience.
The good and bad news
The good news is that you might have found a solid reason why your child isn’t improving. The bad news is that sometimes it’s hard to find the solutions or patience to make it through.
There’s simply not enough good help or resources to go around for those of you raising kids with the disorder. And patience runs thin—we know. In fact, many of you raising kids with reactive attachment disorder have post-traumatic stress disorder or other kids in the home who suffer. It’s complicated, demanding, and highly stressful.
But there is hope. We have seen kids get better and lead healthier lives.
Take care of yourself and keep researching and advocating. Keep going. There is hope for your child.