Why Attachment Therapy?

A reader, JM, left the following comment:

I’m curious, if you don’t mind answering, why you chose to do Attachment Therapy with Hope as opposed to other therapies? Also, what do you think about the controversy and criticism of Attachment Therapy?

As we have recently made yet another four hour trip to see the attachment therapist, I thought this would be a good time to start to answer this question. I can only start to answer because Hope’s treatment is a work in progress.

When we Hope first joined our family, it was obvious that she had been severely neglected. Abuse, both sexual and physical, was red flagged by Hope’s behavior the first couple of weeks home. From the moment we took Hope, it was apparent that her rage was focused on the mother. That would be me. Hope has been seeing two trauma therapists since she came home. Last spring, the physical violence against me reached dangerous levels. A friend of mine, who had adopted a child from a Russian orphanage, had used the attachment therapist we are using with good results.

The therapist was Dan Hughes based, and also treated trauma. We did an eight day intensive in July and it was difficult. Difficult for us, difficult for Hope. The therapist told us how seriously disturbed Hope was. She said Hope maybe unable to live in a family, but there was still a spark there to work with.

Hope is not my first child with attachment issues. My first child was adopted at 10 weeks. He cried for the first three months he was home. My oldest daughter, who has FASD, was adopted at 6 months. When my daughter came home, she smiled at everyone. She never cried. She would take right away to anyone she came in contact with. Everybody, including me, thought it was a blessing that she adjusted so well. This was 27 years ago and nobody in the adoption world was talking about attachment issues. She wasn’t diagnosed with RAD until she was 17. She still struggles.

I was looking for a healthier outcome for Hope. I realize attachment therapy comes with a lot of controversy. The “holding” therapy is the source of much of that controversy. Children have died from it. Some of those deaths occurred because parents didn’t feel “in charge” and therefore did not educate themselves on the therapy their child was receiving. By not taking charge themselves, they became subservient to the therapist and allowed physical abuse. The Dad and I are always in the room with Hope and we always know exactly what is going to happen. The only time there is any “holding” involved is during trauma work. During trauma work Hope is rolled up in a blanket on a mattress before it begins.

I feel that since Hope is so young the best outcome for her is for us to become her psychological parents. I still think it is possible for The Dad. I am not sure it is possible for me. I do not know if Hope will ever let anyone be her mother again. This leads me right to where I am. Does Hope have to accept me as her mother in order to grow up healthy in our family?

I have no answer to that question. I can’t find anything in the literature. Most of the literature is written with the assumption attachment is necessary and then goes on to how to get the child attached. I am sure that secure attachment would be the best outcome. Nobody looks at  how to help a child who is not capable of attachment. There were some case studies of unattached child who grew up to be sociopaths, but no examination of unattached children who grew up without becoming sociopaths. I was looking for a study of the differences between the two groups.

I am sure this doesn’t fully answer the question, but I don’t really have an answer. We are a work in progress. Hope is a work in progress. Day by day, we look for new paths, partial answers.

We Set a Record!

Yesterday was Therapy Tuesday. I never like Therapy Tuesdays because they tend to be miserable. Yesterday was by far the worse one I have experienced. 

GB bumped her head, hard, on the car door on our way in. She was instantly convinced I did it and there was no way to convince her otherwise. She has a big knot on her head and would accept no comfort from me. She just cried and insisted it was my fault.

The Dad went back with Hope. During the session, The Dad and the therapist talked about conditions under which it would be productive for The Dad and Hope to go to Texas to visit her first adoptive parents. They had this conversation in front of Hope. All Hope heard was “Daddy is taking me to Texas”. She was more hyper than I had ever seen her. 

She never did settle down last night. She was wild and totally out there for the rest of the night… no eye contact, giddy giggling, and total defiance. It was after 11:30 PM before she was still long enough to fall asleep. The Dad didn’t miss the State of the Union speech, though. It is good to have priorities.

Hope woke up this morning with great difficulties, still carrying on about her non-existent Texas trip. I feel sorry for Mrs. VY Teacher,


Morning Madness

There has got to be a better way to do mornings. I put the girls on the bus at 10 to 9 and all I want to do is go back to bed- I am exhausted. Today, like most mornings, the Dad is gone before anybody is up. GB has always had cuddle time before starting her day, as she is a slow starter. Hope has no interest in cuddling me, but is not going to let GB get something without her getting it too. By 7:15 cuddles are over. GB is normally independent in dressing herself, and usually I check to make sure she takes her meds and brushes her teeth. Hope needs to be within three feet of me and in the same room. Hope uses the toilet, takes her meds, and brushes her teeth while I stand there and watch and try to keep GB on task. GB is very reluctant to leave me in the same room as Hope as she fears Hope will get something GB doesn’t get. Up until this point this morning, Hope had two tantrums, one because GB used the toilet first, the other because GB used the toothpaste she wanted to use (not finished, just used).

When we are done in the bathroom, I walk Hope 20 ft to pick out her clothes. We bring the clothes back to my room so the three of us can get dressed. Hope managed to misplace her panties and she had another tantrum because “somebody” took them. GB found them where Hope had dropped them. Hope finished  dressing and we all went downstairs, including Ellie. It was 8 am.

Weekday breakfasts have limited choices- cereal or something. On Wednesdays, the something is French Toast sticks. Hope chose cereal and ate three bowls. GB went with the French toast sticks. GB feed Ellie while I nuked the French toast sticks and got both girls juice. After her third bowl of cereal, Hope decided she wanted French toast sticks too. It was already 25 minutes after eight and I told Hope there was no more time to fix french toast sticks and she could have a piece of fruit if she was hungry. Tantrum number 3. I told GB it was time to do her hair and to get her hair stuff. GB said we always do my hair in the family room. I don’t want to do it in the kitchen. I told Hope we were moving to the family room and the tantrum turned into a rage. The rage required intervention and GB started crying because I was dealing with Hope, not doing her hair. At that point I laughed, because at the same time yesterday morning, GB was crying because she didn’t want her hair done and I insisted on doing it before the bus came. I ended up going over GB’s hair very quickly with a hair pick,  Hope had calmed to just sobs, and we made the bus with less than a minute to spare.

Hope is asleep by 7:15 most nights and seems to need a solid 12 hours. If I put her to bed any earlier, she won’t see her Dad before she goes to sleep. Since Dad is the sunshine of her life, trying to put her to bed before she sees him is a guaranteed tantrum-to-rage all by itself. (I did try it once).

Time for another infusion of caffeine, so I can do food shopping before they get home.

Travel Arrangements Made

We (the Dad, GB, and I) fly into San Antonio Tuesday night. We will fly home early Friday am. I do not know if court is Wednesday or Thursday, which ever day court is, we have the other day in Texas. I have never been to Texas before. I do not know if they are bringing Hope to San Antonio, or we are picking her up outside of Austin.  A good night’s sleep settled me down for the moment. This morning, I am making lists of what I want done before we leave on Tuesday.

More Progress

We have, in theory, a visitation agreement we can live with. Now we need to see it in writing. I am feeling confident enough that today I ordered a new bed for the girls. In the beginning, Hope will have the lower bed in the little room. When it is safe and appropriate, Hope and her bed will share a room with GB, set up as shown in the picture. GB thinks the bedding in the picture is uuuugly. We found nice tie-dyed huggers (comforters made for bunk beds with elastic on the bottom) in  Wallyworld for $30 a piece (as opposed to the $685 they want for the set in the picture). A true bargain 🙂 Notice the top bunk has stairs for Ellie. GB didn’t think Ellie could climb a ladder!