Thursday, February 05, 2009

Reactive Attachment Disorder - I heart attachment therapists

I know that, as parents of children with a history of trauma, we tend to beat a dead horse, but - seriously - finding a trained attachment therapist is so very, very, very, very, very helpful. If you can't afford it because insurance is not covering this kind of professional, I get it. We were almost in that same boat, and I was having to prep for therapeutic parenting out the ying-yang.

However, if you have a choice, and you can avoid a traditional therapist with your kids, do your best get in with an AT.

Our therapist has taken a very interesting approach with one of my kids - she is not diagnosing Reactive Attachment Disorder! This child is definitely on the lower end of the spectrum of attachment issues. This kid has exhibited plenty of symptoms. Yet, they have also been much healthier and closer to healing than their sibling. In the middle of all of this, said child has also been using "RAD" as an excuse - almost wearing it like a badge of honor. This kid LOVES to throw around words they hear used, to avoid talking about their actual feelings (throwing out a "Because I have attachment disorder" instead of "Because I feel safe and comfortable when I am in total control, and I'm not willing to give that up yet"). Very smart - always able to remember certain phrases in all areas of life, and just regurgitate them when they get uncomfortable and don't want to talk. Some therapists call this "therapized" - repeating catch phrases learned in therapy.

So, a few months back our AT made it very clear that this child has adjustment and adoption struggles. She let my child know that she was not diagnosing them with Reactive Attachment Disorder. We've made it a point to say that any kid that moves around a lot would have adjustment issues, and it is understandable that this child might mimic certain behaviors of Reactive Attachment Disorder due to the time spent with their sibling. As in: this is not another phrase you can throw around to avoid healing.

Her approach has worked wonders. This child has opened up and started talking about feelings. They have admitted they rage just to draw attention to themselves, and not because they are being fearful or cannot articulate what is really going on inside. Our AT really took time to evaluate things and see through so much.

Our AT was the one that peeled back the layers to determine how healthy my child already was, so we could be moving forward more quickly. This child has significant issues and struggles - no doubt. However, they have struggled just enough with attachment, and spent so much time around a child with significant struggles, they had built a nice shell around them utilizing things they felt, as well as things they learned and witnessed. Fascinating to watch as that shell slowly breaks apart.

My other child?

Our AT has confirmed that, in fact, she lands on the spectrum of having attachment disorder and needs significant help to heal. My child has had some of the "edge" taken off their PTSD, which has given them a new perspective on life ... and on this Christine gal that calls herself mom and really does seem to love unconditionally, and may NOT walk away like everyone else and ... OH DEAR GOD!!! They are on a whole new level. The sappy, fake, indiscriminate, pretending to be loving stuff is gone. The defiant, constantly controlling, take-me-to-the-mat behaviors have floated to the top. So much fear in my sweetheart.

Today our therapist looked at me and said, "Wow. Well, this is certainly a side I had yet to see." I gave her a look that must have said, "Do you give Xanax via IV here?" I love this child so very much. I cannot imagine how difficult it is to live in their skin right now. Afraid of getting close. Threatened by their sibling taking such big steps toward healing and embracing "family." If they could keep me at a distance with a taser gun, I think they would.

Our day was SO exhausting. It was deep. It was intense. The three of us have a lot to absorb. I need my AT at times like this, to do the work for me for a little bit, so I can just sit and listen (or day dream, or drool into a cup). I need the fresh perspective. I get so bogged down in the day-to-day that I start just assuming certain things. Fresh eyes and ears can say, "Can I try something? I'm seeing something interesting going on here."

To which I say, "Absolutely. Where is my cup? I would like to drool some more, please."

(photo by doctor-a)


Ericka said...

Christine, you are so funny. In the midst of the hard work, I love it you find the humor. It's probably what keeps the sanity :)

Brenda said...

You know I agree 100 per cent! Thanks for sharing. I'm so happy your child is learning to 'adjust'!! Our RADling did not like the healing or our youngest at all and seeks to drive a wedge between us much of the time. Our healing child does regress from time to time though. It is a process.

Lee said...

WOW Christine - I am so excited for your family and especially your kids - The Lord has done this - it is MARVELOUS in our eyes! (Ps. 118)
We're praying for you - for strength and perseverance and for your kids as they grow and heal.