Educating the world about Reactive Attachment Disorder through experience, hope, humor and love.
(Warning: nothing here should be taken as medical advice)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Why you need an attachment therapist

There has been some discussion lately about the effectiveness of therapy for RAD, and the general consensus seems to be "not traditional therapy". Nor does typical "play therapy" seem to be of any use. In fact, traditional and play therapy tend to make things worse. One on one therapy means the child is alone with the therapist. This gives the child the room and freedom to manipulate and triangulate the therapist, and the more they get their hooks into the therapist, the more empowered they become. That isn't the only problem either. The child is quickly learning how people want/expect them to behave and act. They are learning better methods of getting what they want.

Look at the following traits:

Factor 1:
Glibness/superficial charm
Grandiose sense of self-worth
Pathological lying
Cunning/manipulative
Lack of remorse or guilt
Shallow affect (genuine emotion is short-lived and egocentric)
Callousness; lack of empathy
Failure to accept responsibility for own actions

Factor 2:
Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom
Parasitic lifestyle
Poor behavioral control
Lack of realistic long-term goals
Impulsivity
Irresponsibility
Juvenile delinquency
Early behavior problems
Revocation of conditional release

Look familiar? Certainly sounds like a list of RAD traits, but that's not where I got it from. The above comes from the Hare Psychopathy Checklist, which is the psycho-diagnostic tool most commonly used to assess psychopathy.

Because traditional therapy allows the RAD to perfect many of the above traits in factor 1, you are, in effect, training them to become a better sociopath. And I'm guessing that's not anywhere near the top of your list for "things I want for my child". Luckily, just as the attachment issues took time to develop, the child can relearn ways of dealing with the world in time. There is a reason the diagnosis of "sociopath" isn't given before a person reaches age 18 - the brain is still growing and learning throughout childhood, and just as the child can learn manipulative ways with traditional therapy, proper attachment therapy can help reverse that process.

This is why Attachment therapy focuses less on the child and more on the parent, especially working with the parent on finding ways to get the child to attach. If you are seeing an attachment therapist, they may rarely ever meet with your child, and certainly will never meet with them alone. Unfortunately, attachment therapists aren't easy to find - you can't just look in the phone book for a list of names!

So... where to find them? A great place to start is on Nancy Tomas' website where she has a list of attachment therapists by state. She only lists therapists that have been recommended by parents. If you have had success with any that are not on the list, please let her know.

If you currently DO have your child in traditional therapy, look back over the past year and ask yourself if he/she has improved or worsened.  Only you can decide whether your childs therapist is right for them. 

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