Abuse and power: is this Attachment Therapy?

I was reading an article/post written about the Hansen case featured in our Abuse After Child Placement pages [http://poundpuplegacy.org/node/14973], and I have a very difficult time accepting little mention of Attachment Therapists, and the problems with attachment therapy in these fatal cases.

For instance, in a piece called "Parents Go Free After Starving Adoptees", it mentions the "conviction" of the parents, but makes no mention of what happened to the therapists feeding this family "suggested treatments".

$35,000 College Fund Spares Parents Up to 30 Years in Prison

Utah Parents Accused of Starving Russian Adoptees

"Attachment Therapy" Parenting in Picture


A Utah couple who used AT parenting techniques, and as a result were accused of "one of the worst" cases of child abuse ever seen by local authorities, was able to strike a bargain with prosecutors and avoid jail completely (http://www.heraldextra.com/content/view/159441/3/).

Theresa and Reed Hansen had been accused of felony and misdemeanor charges for withholding food, sometimes for days at a time, from two of their three children adopted from Russia (http://www.commonplacesketchbook.com/childrenintherapy/victims/hansen.html), who were of pre-school age at the time. All three adoptees were removed from the home in 2002 and have thrived since in new adoptive homes.

The two adults were supposed to go to trial on January 10, delayed after almost four years of legal wrangling. In what had been
described by local law enforcement as one of the worst examples of child abuse they'd ever seen, the Hansens faced up to 30 years in
prison, if convicted. Instead, they reached a plea bargain with prosecutors. Mrs Hansen pled guilty to misdemeanor charges of
reckless endangerment, and received a one-year suspended jail sentence. Mr Hansen pled no-contest to misdemeanors for attempted reckless endangerment and received a six-month suspended jail sentence. Both will be on probation for two years, required only to  report their address to authorities every six months.

Teresa Hansen was on probation for early charges of beating one of her adoptees a year before. That probation will be extended to run
concurrently with the new probation.

No fines were levied, but the Hansens agreed to pay $35,000 to college funds for the two children, now aged 8 and 9. The total amount must be paid before the Hansens' probation can be terminated.

One of the new adoptive parents for the abused children correctly calls the penalties a "slap on the wrist." Even prosecutor Sherry Ragan called the deal "a tradeoff to get back the money," perhaps a reference to adoption subsidies possibly paid to the Hansens.

The only significant consequence of the guilty pleas is that the Hansens will never again be able to adopt. Unlike other parents found guilty of child endangerment, the Hansens are in no danger of having their biological children removed from their home. Authorities say the Hansens' biological children were treated better than the adopted ones were, and are in no perceptible danger. No mention was made of the Hansens "forfeiting" their right to raise children because of almost killing two of them. An argument similar to that was made by Ragan in pressing for prison time for Jenette Killpack.
(AT News, 16 Jan 2006)

The plea bargain also doesn't help deter other parents who are using, or contemplating using, AT parenting techniques. That effect had been made in giving jail time to Killpack.

Control over food is a common device used by parents involved with Attachment Therapy parenting techniques. AT "parenting specialists," such as Nancy Thomas, counsel that parents must pick their battles with their children and win them at all costs. Starvation, or near-starvation, is a clear risk with such parental strategies; it has been reported in several cases around the country, with Nancy Thomas AT parenting involved. (For instance, see http://www.commonplacesketchbook.com/childrenintherapy/victims/heiser.html)

Some of Nancy Thomas's books were reportedly found in the Hansen home. Business cards from the now-defunct Cascade Center for Family Growth were also found there.

Parents should avoid AT parenting techniques because of the relentless abuse they inflict and the high risk of injury and even death to the children subjected to them. The message sent in other high-profile cases, such Jenette Killpack's, is that society does not tolerate such treatment of children, and parents use AT at the risk of their freedoms and dissolution of their families. Unfortunately, the message from the Hansen plea bargain is almost exactly the opposite.

Teresa Hansen tearfully entered her pleas before the judge, declaring, "For the sake of my children, guilty." Under the circumstances, they might have been tears of joy and relief.


Edit Note:  The website, Advocates for Children in Therpay can be found here:  http://www.commonplacesketchbook.com/childrenintherapy/index.html, and the piece on Nancy Thomas can be found here:  http://www.commonplacesketchbook.com/childrenintherapy/proponents/thomas.html

According to Nancy Thomas's website, business is alive and thriving, so what does this say about a service that sells itself as putting parenting and child safety at a premium?

Just how much is a parent to blame for a child's injury, if the advice given to them comes from a "trained professional" working in a learn-and-pay-as-you-go-along industry?  Because Attachment Therapy is seen as a new form of treatment for "special needs", does this mean ethics and accountability no longer apply?

People who open-shop in the name of Attachment Therapy scare me, because as many of them mean well, many of them are not health-care professionals, or attending seminars/conferences where national medically approved certifications can be earned.

In cases of death or severe trauma/injury by association, shouldn't people like Nancy Thomas come with a warning label? 


Holding Therapy

When I first heard people talking about Holding Therapy, I thought, yes, I do that....   NOT!   What I meant was that I still
hold my kids when they cry or need extra assurance of my love; not what I have read about this so-called therapy!  And
now I hear people are told to starve their children.  I have been the one to give the special snacks before just to let my
kids know mom loves them but have never heard of such evil as starving children.
I'm with you, Kerry, there needs to be a BIG warning label on this far-fetched insanity.

"I can be changed by what happens to me, I refuse to be reduced by it." M.A.
One Step Up From Bottom

I can only imagine...

Like you, when I read the ideas behind holding therapies, or "re-birthing" strategies, I all but screamed, "EEEEEWWWWWWE!".

Coercion of any kind is a huge trigger for me, and forcing me to do something may get compliance, but it will forver remain in my memory as, "I will never forget this".

if you read the history on Nancy, you might be amused to learn she was a dog-groomer, so maybe that's where she gets her ideas and "personal parenting style".  <rolling eyes>.  I laugh, because every dog-grooming shop I went to keeps the dogs on a very short leash, atop a very high table.  You can give a dog all the Scooby Snacks in the world, that doesn't mean the dog is going to like grooming if he is also being choked, or smothered.

Thomas has no training in psychotherapy and no academic credentials. She calls herself variously a “Therapeutic Parenting Specialist,” a “secondary lay-therapist,” and “co-therapist” in Intensive Holding Therapy sessions. A former dog groomer, Thomas learned many of her methods working as a “therapeutic foster parent” under Foster Cline at the Attachment Center at Evergreen (now Institute for Attachment and Child Development).


Evergreen is where Candace Newmaker met her death, and it is also one of the very few facilites that offers Adult RAD therapy.

Adult RAD therapy

By putting myself in the place of a child going through some of these hellish therapies I know for sure that I would
dissociate myself and die.  It frightens me just to read it.

"I can be changed by what happens to me, I refuse to be reduced by it." M.A.
One Step Up From Bottom

can't psychotherapy shut

can't psychotherapy shut these people down?

in my profession, i can not even use the word "architectural" as an adjective to describe the kind of drafting i do, because i did not bother to get my architecture license. 
you'd think the word therapist would be similarly owned by the mental health professions.


why aren't these sick desperate adoptive parents turning around and sueing the attachment therapists?

First-hand experience

As one who has paid MANY visits to a variety of "professionals", I have found no counselors, RN's or therapists under any other guise who know much about adoption issues, let alone "abuse after adoption" issues.  It's this very reason I learned, once again, "I'm on my own".

A while ago I posted a piece on TYPE of therapists, "Do you know what your therapist is?" [http://poundpuplegacy.org/node/4085], but I forgot to mention how the term "counselor", changes one's direction in terms of deceptive perceptions.  [For instance, a priest or clergy member can be considered a trust-worthy "counselor", and yet given the sexual reputation of many, I personally prefer to keep to myself, thank-you!]

One of the major distinctions between counseling and psychotherapy is the focus. In counseling, the counselor will focus on the here and now, reality situations. During psychotherapy, the therapist is looking into the unconscious or past. A psychotherapist is looking for a connection of past to deal with problems which are now present in the real world. http://www.counsellingpsychotherapytoronto.com/counselling_compared_with_psychotherapy.htm

Keep in mind, one can be a parent-educator without being a licensed therapist.  If no license is required, there is no state-board to contact and complain to.  As such, the scariest thing about "mental health services" is the wide range of practices it can encompass.  No license is required to teach a fellow-parent in a person's home.

In terms of "suing a therapist", it costs money, and not everyone has that.  In fact, chances are the therapist (defendant) will have a lot more money than the petitioner; therefore the defense would have the better lawyer.  All of this breaks down to the simple truth that money buys freedom, especially in a court of law.

i'm going to write some

i'm going to write some professional organizations and push for them to work on making legislation to restrict the term "therapist"
if powerful professional lobbyists can restrict me from using the word architect in any way, shape or form, even the term architectural as an adjective to describe drafting plans for buildings, then whatever types of quacks who call themselves whatever types of therapists can be restricted from using the term therapist

that's the difference with professional practice - which has a mandate to protect the public's safety. 

In the name of "public safety"...

there are two great resources that discuss "professional practice", as it relates to Attachment Therapy.  One site, "A Search for Survivors" is written and maintained by Wayward Radish; an excellent page to review personal stories from victims can be found here:  http://childtorture.wordpress.com/author/childtorture/page/2/.

The second site is called "Advocates for Children in Therapy", and it features a page that demonstrates "holding".   (I strongly caution those who watch the brief video, it's absolutely horrible to see what's being done, all in the name of "therapy":  http://www.advocatesforchildrenintherapy.org/essays/index.html)



Attachment Therapy

The URL for Advocates for Children in Therapy is:
Nancy Thomas quotes:

About the comment someone made that Attachment Therapy/Parenting (AT/P) is a new therapy:  Actually, it's been around since the late 1970s.  AT/P proponents try to make AT/P appear new on the scene, but that appears to be an ongoing ploy to distant  AT/P from its horrific history.  

The national organization for AT/P  has used a PR person to put the best spin on the steady stream high profile child abuse cases related to AT/P where children have been caged, starved, isolated, restrained and/or killed.  ("We don't do that anymore.") This organization adopted a policy that denounces coercive restraint, but it's hard to believe they are serious when you look at their conferences and website.

Attachment Therapist Elizabeth Randolph describes the changes -- or rather the lack of change -- that have occurred in AT/P over the years in her very disturbing book "Broken Hearts: Wounded Minds."   She writes: "In fact, there isn’t actually a dividing line between rage reduction, holding, and attachment therapies…" (page 92). 

On another point discussed here, most Attachment Therapists are usually licensed mental health professionals -- social workers, psychologists, and the like.  It would fall to licensing boards to discipline them for employing abusive practices.  Board move slowly and often protect their fellow professionals more than the public. 

All national mental health professional organizations -- except the Marriage and Family Therapists -- denounce the use of coercive restraint as therapy.  Many states and federal guidelines likewise forbid it except as an emergency safety measure.  But Attachment Therapists assume  (wrongly)  such things as:  that a child's arm pinned behind their back is not restraint; that Holding Therapy  is "corrective touch."

A worse situation is finding that federal, state and local governments promote and pay for AT/P.  This happens a lot. 

The APSAC Task Force Report on Attachment Therapy (*Child Maltreatment* Feb. 2006), adopted by the APA,  can be used to put pressure on government agencies to stop their support of AT/P.  For instance, earlier this year Ohio PASSS (Post Adoption Special Services Subsidy) stopped funding Attachment Therapy.

Professional practice

Many states and federal guidelines likewise forbid it except as an emergency safety measure.  But Attachment Therapists assume  (wrongly)  such things as:  that a child's arm pinned behind their back is not restraint; that Holding Therapy  is "corrective touch."

On the clinical floor, the only time we (the nurses) were allowed to use restraint, (restrict movement), was when that movement was a danger to the patient or staff.  For instance, a common practice on the floor I worked on was the use of wrist restraints for patients on ventilators.  Many times a confused patient would try to pull the large tube from the throat, which would cause obvious damage.  Loosely applied wrist restraints would keep the hands/arms free enough to move, but limited enough to not cause self-injury.  Only a few times did I ever see the need to call an orderly (usually a large man who could lift heavy things) for help with an overly aggressive adult.  In these cases, a very combative patient (like one experiencing severe detox symptoms) would often get held-down by another person so medication could be given to calm the agitated state.  This was ALWAYS done with some sort of verbal instruction:  "I need to give you some medication to help calm your fighting.  Because you are hitting and kicking, I will need someone to hold you down for a minute.  Once I am done, you will be let go, but please try to stay still so neither one of us gets hurt".  Once the patient was calm, the restraint would be lifted.  [I can't count how many times I would pray I would not get stabbed by a flying needle because a patient would swing or jerk from me!  Luckily, I was really good at giving shots, and once a patient knew I could give an injection without much pain, I rarely had a problem with resistence.]

I cannot under any circumstances see how "holding" is deemed smart or safe as a means to stimulate conversation.  It's force, placed on a child so that child will talk and "bond".  Perhaps many of these therapists have never been pinned-down before and hurt by other people.  I would say they are the lucky ones.

Below is an video made by a girl who has experienced Holding Therapy. "I'm talking about my experiences with the Holding Therapy (after the methods of Jirina Prekop) who my mother did with me every day since I was 3 years old until I was 5. Sometimes even for several hours a day."  [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=too5ynYJ4-Q]




Have they really stopped the use of AT in Ohio??

could you provide more info?

I can't find the link or anything....

that would be great...

I did find something that said 20% of their post adoptive services for fiscal year 2008 and went to RAD therapy...

They'd have to mandate stopping the use of all RAD vendors... and Ohio has their experts

Ohio PASSS funds and AT

I called several counties in Ohio and found out they still do fund AT therapy. According to what I was told about at least 80% of the PASSS funds still go to AT therapy.


I did find this.... today, I was so hopeful some state somewhere would want to stop this type of child abuse :( sad it is not true...

(I) Interventions involving planned physical restraint or coercion (e.g., “therapeutic holding” or “compression holding”), “reworking of trauma” (e.g., “rebirthing therapy”), or promotion of regression for “reattachment” shall not be provided utilizing PASSS dollars. In addition, the following therapeutic techniques shall not be permitted on a treatment plan to be paid from PASSS funds under any circumstances:
(1) Face down restraint with back pressure.
(2) Any technique that obstructs the airway or impairs breathing.
(3) Any technique that obstructs vision.
(4) Any technique that restricts the recipient’s ability to communicate.
(5) Pepper spray, mace, handcuffs or electronic restraint devices such as stun guns.
(6) A drug or medication that is used as a restraint to control behavior or restrict the individual’s freedom or movement that is not a standard treatment for the individual’s medical or psychiatric condition.

AT in Ohio

Holding therapy is almost never done anymore. Therapist (people with a license and masters degree or more) use other techniques to help adoptive parents form bonds with the children they raise and adopt who have little to no bonding ability. Instead of blaming adoptive parents and therapists maybe we should blame the biological parents who screwed them up in the first place.

Have you ever been around a RAD kid? They can try everyones patience, know what buttons to push and have to be in control. Parents need to learn to ignore what can be ignored and think twice before you adopt...love is not always enough!


Actually, HT is still used and not infrequently although it is not as accepted as it once was.

I do sympathetize with parents trying to live with kids with serious issues. I sympathetize even more with other children in the home who live with the issues and often are abused by the affected child. However, I do not agree with placing blame on the biological parents. We cannot know what was going on in their lives when the damage was done. It does no good to anyone to place blame squarely with them. I also do not like demonizing the child (who is a child no matter their behavior or challenges).

Who I *do* place blame with are the very people who put children with serious issues in families not equipped to handle or help the child. Some children have been hurt so badly they cannot function well in traditional family homes. Placements in these settings often set everyone up for failure and worse. Why do placing agencies whether domestic or international keep putting kids in an adoptive home without proper screening of both the family and the child?

But the child needs safe, healing environment and that should be everyone's focus.

One Child ...

You were talking about attachment therapy and then it got around to holding therapy.  My idea is to limit the size of an adoptive family so there is TIME for the child and family to work through serious issues.  Serious issues can be hidden well where there are already many in the family.
Where are the families willing to only adopt ONE child?  I see many families who only have one biological child... why do agencies not place only one child who has some behavior problems and challenges? Limited time, stretched among a large family is not what these children need.
Kerry said:   "Some children have been hurt so badly they cannot function well in traditional family homes."  Add to that, placing these children in homes who already have several  children with serious issues and MOST kinds of therapy do not work.
I agree that, "the child needs a safe, healing environment... and that should be everyone's focus."

Ignorance and Attachment/Adoption Issues

 Instead of blaming adoptive parents and therapists maybe we should blame the biological parents who screwed them up in the first place.

Pretty strong words, especially since severe behavior disorders like those found within the autism spectrum (including "institutional autism")  are not necessarily caused by "biological parents who screwed them up in the first place".

In that case, let's also blame poor adoption stories on negligent orphanage directors, selectively blind adoption facilitators, and ignorant (not as educated as they should be) AP's for not realizing the potential risks, complications and future problems (and consequences) that come with long-term neglect and abuse, and fast-track adoptions that may or may not be able to identify which "legal" adoptions are in fact, illegal adoptions.

After all, isn't the ultimate goal for all involved in Adoptionland quite simple -- secure and provide all the benefits a good solid family relationship can bring a child, even if that child was found wandering the streets or put in less than adequate institutional care?

As an adult adoptee who has been turned away by all my parents, "family" in my mind is not what man chose for me, but what God chose me to have, once I finished school, worked for a year and contemplated suicide.  [Rather than kill myself, I agreed to get married at 23, and I agreed to get pregnant at 24].

Personally, I believe the blame-game can only get a person so-far in life.

Out of anger and frustration, it's easy to blame another for mistakes or problems we ourselves have to fix or repair.  But after a while, that focus on blame (and the angry resentment that often goes with it) can easily keep a person from doing what needs to be done:  take-on the personal responsibility and the challenging accountability one needs to do in order to improve one's situation, and lot in life.

I know parents who have adopted a child with RAD-like behaviors, and I know parents who gave birth to severely autistic children.  Neither child is easy to live with.  Just from my own limited (yet surprisingly abundant) experience I can easily see and appreciate there are many health and safety risks even the most prepared and experienced parent is not prepared to expect, when the violent autistic child enters a family's life. 

[I know one family where all furniture had to be removed from every area open to the child.  They lived like this for years, until their autistic son was old enough to have better control over his temper tantrums.  You see, he would be injured if he threw himself onto or off things during a temper tantrum.  In the early days, there was no predicting what would set the little boy off, so the boy could never be left alone.  One can only imagine how that Emergency Room visit would look like, if the hysterical mother sobbed, "He fell down the stairs as I was making dinner".  For years, they were afraid to invite people over, because they didn't want to explain the life-style they were forced to live, because for some reason, the wife gave birth to a severely autistic child]. 

Not many parents - birth or adoptive - can deal with the tests and trials that go with a "special" child.  It requires the patience of an army of around the clock saints... for a few years, at least.  But once the "unteachable" child matures, and shows how the bond between loved family members works.... it's nothing short of a modern-day miracle to witness the "before" and "after" child in a secure home environment.

New people, strange places....well....parents who have been through the battles know how this routine goes.

Over the years, I have been fortunate enough to witness many very disturbing and wild things, first-hand.  What I've noticed is this -- the mothers who have only one or two children to care for not only manage the many complex needs an autistic/RAD-like each child has, but these mothers do it far better and efficiently than the mothers who are overwhelmed with other tasks and responsibilities.  The children seem to respond better, too, when mom is patient and not in a flustered, or angry, emotional state. [That's just common sense, isn't it?]  These children are sooooooo sensitive to so many different things.  It's mind-boggling how much some parents know about their own child's sensitivities!

In addition, the "successful" mothers I have met tend to have really supportive spouses, plus actively participating and involved extended family members (or super outstanding friends), AND quality education experts/therapists, providing the much needed information, insight and 'break-time' a full-time caregiver needs.  

That's A LOT of help and support -- qualities all mothers need when raising children.  [Yes, moms are not perfect human beings; they need help raising children, even if the (too) proud mother says, "I can do just fine by myself".]

Then there are the less than ideal home-situations.  There is the inconsistent care/lifestyle a child may receive if ("I have no choice, I HAVE to work") mom is stressed, her spouse/partner is either emotionally or physically gone, (or is a lazy selfish do-nothing-nice-for-anyone else type of person), and good decent reliable outside help is virtually impossible to find.

It's easy to see why some families will build and bond and some families will fall apart, if a demanding difficult child is taking center-stage.

It's crazy crazy shit... but ALL of it makes perfect sense, if you take the time to put the pieces together. ["If" is such a huge word..., isn't it?]

Actually, HT is still used and not infrequently although it is not as accepted as it once was.

Parts of the USA may be catching-on to the dangers of Holding Therapy, but that's not to suggest such practices do not exist. For example, in Utah, where  amendments to the Mental Health Professional Practice Act and the Psychologist Licensing Act, now make it unlawful to use or recommend rebirthing or similar therapies, there is no law that prohibits lay people or (unlicensed ) "counselors" from committing questioned practices in the privacy of a person's home or privately owned facility that houses more than a family.  

I myself am not certain how much or how little questionable "therapeutic" acts are done to promote bonding and improved behavior.  I do know some seriously fucked-up shit is being done to people, all under the guise of health-promotion and "healing".   [Ever see fake "faith healing" done by charismatic Christians, (followed-up with the "speaking in-tongues"? ]

In 2008, I posted a link to a website that boasts the use of Holding Therapy.  The website, promoting Jirina Prekop, still exists, and now states the following about HT:

This therapy has rapidly attracted worldwide interest, not only in German-speaking countries but also in the Czech Republic, Belgium, Spain, Mexico, Argentina, Uruguay, South Africa and elsewhere.

The informational page continues:

The 'GFH Gesellschaft zur Förderung des Festhaltens als Lebensform und Therapie e.V.' is a non-profit association that was established in 1989 by our first chairwoman, Dr. phil. Jirina Prekop, an eminent psychologist who took over Holding therapy from Martha Welch (USA) under the personal scientific consultation of the Nobel prize winner Niko Tinbergen (Oxford). She then linked it with the systemic approach of Bert Hellinger and developed it in her own terms into a medium for renewing of love in family ties. 

So, even if Martha Welch's version of Holding Therapy has been tweeked, ("Holding therapy is "like a wrestling match,")  and new terms and mediums have been added, forced restraint is still being used as a type of therapy for those looking to change unwanted behaviors.

Same bones and structure of Welch-esq Holding Therapy, (PLEASE watch the hyperlinked video), with different euro accessories.

Here's what concerns me:

  1. What may work for an adult may not work well for a child, especially in terms of "bonding" and "behavior modification".
  2. People with money are not afraid to travel outside their town, state, or country, if it means they will get the promised reward they seek. [So the argument that questionable practices are "banned" in certain areas only means certain people are banned from using them.]
  3. Desperate people will see only what they want to see, and are likely to make their final decision based on sentiments, like fear and hope, not facts.
  4. Some PAPs can get mighty desperate, especially if they have spent years trying to get pregnant via fertility treatments.  [This is a very special breed of PAP, one that should come with all sorts of flags and warnings....]
  5. Adoption agencies do NOT prepare, educate, or support as they should or need to
  6. There is NO transparency in adoption.
  7. In many cases, blame should NOT be placed on the parents; it ought to be placed on sketchy opportunists trying to save or make money, at the cost of others.

In another post, I'd like to point-out where I see HT helping the adult, and where I see it harming the child.  In addition, I'd like to explore some of the more seemingly odd and bizarre modifications parents are expected to make, when an adoption plan brings with it the "unstable and dangerous" child that deserves to be treated with dignity and be given a life that is more stable and safe.

My POV might surprise some.

Pound Pup Legacy