Attachment Disorder Therapy

Attachment Disorder

What is attachment? A basic definition of attachment is the emotional bond that is formed between an infant and its primary caretaker.

Attachment is integral because it has direct effects on the infants developing brain. When the attachment bond between infant and caregiver is healthy, it leads to feelings of safety, appreciation, joy and pleasure in the infant. These feelings are extremely important for the infant to develop a secure bond with the parent, and set the tone for the ability of the infant to feel security in its relationships with others in life including the father, siblings, and later friends and other adults.

When the infant is tired, hungry, feeling pain, or is ill, the caregiver must respond to the child in a way that soothes them. When we see mothers rush to pick up their crying baby and hold them close, this is the process we are thinking about. This cycle of soothing the infants’ distress happens several times a day and is the basis for the bonding cycle that creates trust in the caregiver. After all, infants are completely dependent upon their caregivers to meet almost every possible need the first year of life. They need to know that this person will respond to them so they know that their needs will be met. When the child cries out due to some distress, the caretaker meets their need in a nurturing manner. The child then begins to regulate and calms down. The infant develops a sense of trust and a positive view of the world around them. Caretakers will coo, smile and rocks their infants in order to provide this nurturance. These behaviors create sensory experiences for the infant and aid in their brain development. A process called “mirroring” occurs where mothers match the way they respond to the infant with similar facial expressions or volume of their voice or intonation. The mirroring allows the child to connect with the mother and the infants breathing and regulatory systems will actually sync with hers in the process.

In an unhealthy attachment cycle, when child shows distress, the caretaker is not consistent in meeting the needs to the child for soothing. Thus the child is not calmed and cannot regulate itself. The infant stays in a heightened sense of arousal. In cases of neglect, where the child continues to cry and no caretaker is there to help it soothe itself such as in cases of neglect, the infant will eventually stop crying and also will no longer attempt to reach out for help.

Recent research into the effects of attachment actually shows that failure to attach to the caretaker is a traumatic experience for the infant. This early life trauma effects self esteem, social awareness, the ability to learn, and physical health. There are also indications that early life trauma also leads to a greater likelihood for traumatic experiences later in life. Other problems associated with poor attachment are: inability to deal with stress, lack of self control, inability to develop or maintain relationships, alienation from others, aggression and violence, antisocial behavior and attitudes, difficulty with trust, intimacy, and affection, lack of empathy, academic problems, anxiety, depression, and apathy, and susceptibility to chronic illness.

Attachment at ATA

Children struggling with sensory dysregulation frequently exhibit an overlapping emotional dysregulation profile as well. In such cases we find it necessary to plan intervention keeping both emotional processing of relationships in mind as well as development of sensory processing. We have witnessed on several occasions how possible it is for adopted children to integrate their subliminal memory of the voice of their womb in acceptance of the new mother. For us the answer lies in acceptance of both, not to extinguish what would forever be part of every child’s birth right, access to the biological mother’s voice. Our intervention programs include:

  1. Assessment: A portion of our assessment session is spent video taping a play session between parent and child and this is analyzed with the full assessment.
  2. Assessment: A portion of our assessment session is spent video taping a play session between parent and child and this is analyzed with the full assessment.
  3. Sensory Processing Therapy: We attempt to intervene on several different levels at once to secure integration between senses, though in a warm, accepting atmosphere creating a clinical secure base for the child.
  4. Sensory Processing Therapy: We attempt to intervene on several different levels at once to secure integration between senses, though in a warm, accepting atmosphere creating a clinical secure base for the child.
  5. Sand Tray Therapy: This work has been instrumental for us to understand the emotional world of children. Children will protect themselves cognitively by not voicing what they are feeling or experiencing, one reason why counseling is frequently not as successful as it needs to be. Once the child touches the sand though, their subconscious rises to the occasion and they use the tactile exploration and feel of the characters etc. to connect to their emotional center (Limbic System). Play is the work of children. When they play, we all go to work, but always respectful with regards to the child’s pace and need for safety and protection.

Ainsworths Strange Situation Paradigm

As suggested by its name, the Strange Situation was designed to present children with an unusual, but not overwhelmingly frightening, experience (Ainsworth et al 1978). When a child undergoes the Strange Situation, researchers are interested in two things:

  1. How much the child explores the room on his own, and
  2. How the child responds to the return of his mother

Typically, a child’s response to the Strange Situation follows one of four patterns.


Our kids are off to college!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Hi Maude,

I hope all is well with you and your wonderful Total Approach Family. Quick update: Both my children will be starting college this fall! Our oldest was accepted into the Engineering Program at Penn State Brandywine. He's starting off slowly with 3 classes and will be living at home. We have our fingers crossed, but are quite optimistic about his new chapter. The youngest will be attending Dickinson College with a pre-health major with the intention of going on to a Nursing or PA graduate program. We are both proud of and excited for them and are grateful to ATA for helping to make this all possible!

I hope you know we think of you all so often and recommend ATA to everyone we know.


Mother of 2 adopted children


Maude Le Roux has been elected onto the Board for ATTACh, The Association for Training on Trauma and Attachment in Children.

ATTACh is an international coalition of professionals and families committed to helping those with attachment difficulties by sharing knowledge, talents, and resources with others.

The vision of ATTACh is to be a leader in creating awareness, as well as education, regarding attachment and its role in human development. Unfortunately, there are many children around the world who lack adequate parenting during the early years of their life. Due to their foundation for healthy development being damaged, these children find it difficult to form loving, lasting, intimate relationships.

This is why the vision of ATTACh is to strive for a world where every child has secure attachment relationships.

Maude Le Roux and ATTACh

Maude has been involved in attachment work for a number of years and have completed training with Dr. Daniel Hughes and Dr. Art Becker Weidman. She is looking forward to this next challenge in her career!

Save the Date: 28th Annual ATTACh Conference

Where: St. Louis, Missouri

When: September 22nd-25th, 2016

What: At the ATTACh Conference, you will receive cutting-edge training from leaders in the field of trauma and attachment specifically designed for intermediate and advanced therapeutic training, parents and caregivers, educators, child welfare and social service professionals, and sensory and occupational therapists.

For more information on the conference, please click here.


A Call for Proposals!

Deadline: January 29th

New this year: easy, fillable forms for electronic submission. Click HERE for the PDF.

Find out more on the 2016 Conference page on the website or by contacting our offices.

Attachment Patterns

The securely-attached child explores the room freely when Mom is present. He may be distressed when his mother leaves, and he explores less when she is absent. But he is happy when she returns. If he cries, he approaches his mother and holds her tightly. He is comforted by being held, and, once comforted, he is soon ready to resume his independent exploration of the world. His mother is responsive to his needs. As a result, he knows he can depend on her when he is under stress.

The avoidant-insecure child doesn’t explore much, and he doesn’t show much emotion when his mother leaves. He shows no preference for his mother over a complete stranger. And, when his mother returns, he tends to avoid or ignore her.

Like the avoidant child, the resistant-insecure child doesn’t explore much on her own. But unlike the avoidant child, the resistant child is wary of strangers and is very distressed when her mother leaves. When the mother returns, the resistant child is ambivalent. Although she wants to re-establish close proximity to her mother, she is also resentful—even angry—at her mother for leaving her in the first place. As a result, the resistant child may reject her mother’s advances.

The disorganized child may exhibit a mix of avoidant and resistant behaviors. But the main theme is one of confusion and anxiety. Disorganized-insecure children are at risk for a variety of behavioral and developmental problems.

Emotions and faces

"My children were cutting out shapes today as part of S.'s art lesson. E. said, "You can just FEEL his emotions, can't you?!" I asked him to show me the faces he was making with the shapes. The pictures below are all ones HE made on his own, and HE told me the names of each face/emotion. SO cool!!"

Adoption and Foster Care can be difficult

Thank you to all our families who have taken in those who needed a family and needed care. This unselfish deed does not go unnoticed! May others be encouraged to do the same.