Monday, July 7, 2008

Too Attached (To Killing Kids)

[Attachment therapy] — based on ideas of how children attach to their parents — was founded in Colorado in the 1970s. The state has about 50 practitioners, making it the unofficial capital of the movement.

Most outside the psychological community first heard about attachment therapy after 10-year-old Candace Newmaker was asphyxiated during a “rebirthing” ceremony at an Evergreen, Colo., attachment clinic in 2000. The therapists — who were later convicted of child abuse resulting in death — wrapped the girl in a flannel blanket to mimic a womb and pushed on pillows surrounding her to simulate labor. They kept going until she stopped breathing.

The incident didn’t stop attachment therapy. Evergreen is still home to the Evergreen Psychotherapy Center Attachment Treatment & Training Institute, where parents pay $10,500 for intensive two-week sessions.

Attachment therapists believe that the foundation of parent-child attachment is laid between conception and age 3, so many of their methods — such as holding or rebirthing — attempt to regress a child to those early stages of development. The idea is to give them a redo in forming healthy attachments.

Most mainstream psychologists argue that you don’t get redos.

“Attachment therapy is the worst quackery in our nation today,” said Linda Rosa, executive director of Advocates for Children in Therapy in Loveland, Colo.

Rosa’s believes “attachment disorder” is a bogus diagnosis that is broadly defined to scare parents and drum up business, and that attachment therapy is not only quackery but dangerous and often abusive.

Many other psychologists seem to agree. A 2006 report on the therapy from a team of 12 academics criticized its scientific justification, efficacy and safety. The American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children and the American Psychological Association endorsed the report.

“The main focus of this is not to create a loving bond; it’s to exert total adult control over the child,” said Rosa, who attended the Candace Newmaker trial as part of her work for the National Council Against Health Fraud. “For attachment problems, what you need is consistent, gentle, patient parenting.”

Other high-profile cases — many involving adopted children, whom some therapists believe are prone to attachment problems — have highlighted therapy techniques that many find disturbing. One couple in Ohio, under the direction of an attachment therapist, lost custody of 11 adopted children they kept in cages with alarms that sounded if the kids tried to get out. Another attachment therapist in Colorado was put on professional probation for licking the face of an 8-year-old client. In Utah, a mother killed her 4-year-old adopted daughter by forcing her to drink a gallon of water, claiming she was acting on advice from therapists.


-- Bill Reed, in a weird story about John Trentalange, an “attachment therapy” quack the reporter seems to like, in Colorado's Recorder Online.