Attachment-Focused Treatment® is for the child who has difficulty making and sustaining meaningfully connections with their parent or care-giver. This service is recommended for children with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). RAD is characterized by a child’s inability to form healthy attachment bonds with their caregivers in early childhood. Children from backgrounds of chronic neglect and maltreatment, violence and abuse, sudden disruptions in care, inconsistent caregiving, and caregiver addictions are susceptible to the disorder.
Attachment is a unique relationship between a child and caregiver that is hard-wired into the brain in the first few years of a child’s growing years. This special relationship enables the child to go on with her developmental needs.
The importance of a secure and healthy relationship translates to children that are happy, confident, able to learn from failures and disappointments and to make positive contributions later in life.
The failure to establish a trusting relationship with a trusted adult is often experienced by the child as a very fearful and anxious time. This can impact on their confidence in their relationships with their parents, friends and loved ones, and most importantly, on your child.
Strong and secure attachments with a loving adult is something that we often take for granted. It is usually in its absence that one notices that something may be amiss for the child.
Common Situations that bring children into therapy
- Foster care
- Frequent and unexpected changes of care-giver for child
Common behavior traits associated with children and youth with insecure or disrupted attachments:
Toddlers and young children
Difficult to sooth and calm
Very little baby sounds or ‘cooing’
Crying for caregiver but pushing and rejecting caregiver when comfort is offered
Avoids eye contact
Does not follow caregiver with their eyes
Rarely reaches out to be picked up
Rarely interested in playing interactive games or playing with toys
Spends a lot of time rocking or trying to comfort themselves
Disruptive in classrooms
May be extremely clingy at times
May also be on their own a lot and rather play alone rather than with other children
School- Aged children
Difficulty focusing and staying on task
Difficulty asking for help when they need it
Few or not many friends
Lack of empathy for others
Not deterred by negative consequences
Trouble relating with peers
Disruptive and anti-social behavior
Little or no fear of consequences
The family is the basic unit of society in many communities. While the shape of families may have changed over time, it remains the same in essence. Carl Whitaker (1981) defined health as " a process of perpetual becoming" and the most important aspect of a healthy family is ". . . the sense of an integrated whole” (p. 190).
Family therapy is offered to families that are experiencing difficulties with family members with conduct disorder, substance abuse, depression and eating disorders (Cortrell and Boston, 2002). It is also effective with children and adolescence with a history of :
- Childhood physical abuse and neglect;
- Conduct problems in childhood and adolescence, including oppositional behaviour
- Difficulties and problems with attention and overactivity;
- Drug-related problems;
- Emotional disorders including anxiety, depression and grief following bereavement;
- Psychosomatic problems
- Carr (2000) Evidence-Based Practice in Family Therapy and Systemic Consultation I: Child-focused problems. Journal of Family Therapy. 22. 29-60.
- Cottrell, D. and Boston, P. (2002) Practitioner Review: The Effectiveness of Systemic Family Therapy for Children and Adolescents. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. 43:5, 573-586.
- Whitaker, C. A. (1981). Symbolic-experiential family therapy. In A. S. Gurman & D. P. Knistern (Eds.), Handbook of family therapy (pp. 187-225). New York: Brunner/Mazel.