Introduction to Therapy

Understanding Reactive Detachment Disorder

I have been asked numerous times over the years at lectures, from clients, letters…..”Where do you get your information?” “Do you have any citations or references you draw on to make your conclusions?”

The answers lie somewhere in my brain and thought processes. I read, watch other therapists, attend seminars, listen to lectures and everything pours in. It is not sorted out internally where I got which piece of information. I then sit with a client, draw on all I have learned from various sources, put it together in a way the client understands and words pour out. Conversations start. A little from this and a little from that. There is a nod of recognition that what I am saying makes sense. Therapy becomes, for me, a “stream of consciousness.”

The goal is not to make exact and factual scientific sense of what is going on in the brain to cause behaviors that bring only unhappiness. Rather it is an overall look at the interconnection between the past and the brain’s interpretation of it as affected by genetics. Both the parents and the child bring a history that propels them into sets of actions, reactions and interactions that further the problem, rather than enhance the potential for healing and goodness to surface. The goal is to help the child and parents find a “truth” for themselves, creating a foundation of compassion for each other by opening all members of the family to the possibility that what is happening is not anyone’s “fault”. The lack of strict scientific explanations is made up for by a truth that resonates with the child and family and allows them to move forward.

That said, there are certainly people whose work has jumped out at me and caused me to expand my thinking about the task of therapy. In no particular order:

  • Bruce Perry
  • Ron Federici – Help for the Hopeless Child
  • Dan Hughes
  • Foster Cline
  • Ann Jernberg – Theraplay
  • Mary Ainsworth
  • Jay Haley – Uncommon Therapy
  • Strategies of Psychotherapy
  • Problem-Solving Therapy
  • Ordeal Therapy
  • Thomas Verney – The Secret Life of the Unborn Child
  • Peter Neubauer and Alexander Neubauer – Nature’s Thumbprint
  • Wess Roberts – Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun
  • Greg Keck and Kopecky – Parenting the Hurt Child
  • Janoff – The Biology of Love
  • Daniel Siegel – The Developing Mind
  • Ross Green – The Explosive Child
  • Daniel Amen – Change Your Brain, Change Your Life
  • Papolos & Papolos – The BiPolar Child
  • Karr-Morse & Wiley – Ghosts From the Nursery

Pivotal and overriding impact of all others is the giant in the field of trauma and therapy, Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D. His book, The Body Keeps The Score, creates an overall framework for understanding trauma and explaining various modes of treatment.

Van Der Kolk’s researched and tested approach is what he calls “Limbic System Therapy”. It is a combination of a wide variety of therapeutic interventions designed to calm the emotional brain, which is the driver of behavior and emotional states. The path to healing is becoming aware of these inner drivers, accepting them and taking control over them so they no longer cause a hyperarousal. There are numerous ways to train the limbic system to engage the mind and body in controlled emotional and behavioral responses. What must be understood first and foremost when dealing with problematic behaviors and emotions is the goal of therapy is not to change the behaviors and emotional states. The goal, which must be uppermost in the clinician’s mind with every interaction, is healing the brain. The healthy brain will then guide the poorly regulated child to change behaviors and emotional states as needed, when they no longer serve a purpose.

Daniel Amen encapsulated the guiding philosophy succinctly in his book Change Your Brain, Change Your Life. “People behave the way they behave because they think the way they think.” Healing a trauma survivor involves changing the way they think and feel from the inside of the brain outwards. There are numerous ways to work toward healing the brain, the limbic system. No one approach works for all people. Combinations of them can be healing as each works in a different way on the limbic system, to calm, organize and gain control of the thought and emotional processes preventing the child and family from experiencing happiness and joy. Listed, in no particular order:

  • Yoga, Tai chi
  • Martial Arts
  • Theatre
  • Neurofeedback
  • Dance
  • Choral singing
  • Rhythmic exercise
  • Equine Therapy
  • Sensory Integration
  • Theraplay
  • Mindfulness
  • Art
  • EMDR
  • Journaling
  • Psychodrama

Contact Deb today!

And start getting the help you need!