Attachment-Focus Family Therapy

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

  1. Adoption
  2. Foster care
  3. 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 smiles

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

Stealing

Lying

Difficulty focusing and staying on task

Difficulty asking for help when they need it

Easily distracted

Few or not many friends

Lack of empathy for others

Not deterred by negative consequences

Teenagers

Trouble relating with peers

Controlling

Aggressive

Delinquent

Disruptive and anti-social behavior

Little or no fear of consequences

Family Therapy

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)

Reference

  1. Carr (2000) Evidence-Based Practice in Family Therapy and Systemic Consultation I: Child-focused problems. Journal of Family Therapy. 22. 29-60.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.