Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) - II
“Attachment. A secure attachment is the ability to bond; to develop a secure and safe base; an unbreakable or perceivable inability to shatter to bond between primary parental caregiver(s) and child; a quest for familiarity; an unspoken language and knowledge that a caregiver will be a permanent fixture.”
Asa Don Brown,
The effects of childhood trauma on adult perception and worldview.
I vividly recall watching on cable news, U.S. authorities separating the toddlers and kids from their mothers on the southern border. Infants taken from parents, young ones being told lies about seeing mommy soon. Tears uncontrollably ran from my eyes. My emotional brain was outraged. Having received my Ph.D. in Child and Develop-mental Psychology, my cognitive brain shouted out that, “this cannot stand. A solution must be found!” I reflected on the remediative work I have accomplished with our combat-veterans. How might this successful PTSD remediation intervention be applied to infants, toddlers, etc.?
The first piece of the puzzle surfaced in my deep-sleep state. Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are the same! They symptomatically evidence differently in advancing development stages. With remediation intervention, combat veterans were able to release the emotional aspect of trauma while sustaining the memory/non-emotional aspect of the trauma. Might it be possible to place some sense of early bonding security into the long-term memory system? More specifically, is it possible to introject the sensory experience of unconditional love into an individual who has not had this visceral experience previously?
As an initial answer, take a look at 10-month-old toddler (Michaela)with RESET applied by one of my trained practitioners (Susan Parcell Bindewald, PMHCNS-BC). When toddler Michaela stayed with a relative, she was reportedly “a very active but ‘good’ baby’ who showed no fear of strangers. However, when she slept, day or night, she awakened almost hourly, screaming with her eyes tightly closed. It was difficult if not impossible to comfort her. When encouraged, she made eye contact while drinking a bottle, but she seemed to prefer holding the bottle herself and looking away. She smiled at times when she played or rolled around in her walker, but generally, her affect was flat.
The therapist reported that she applied RESET Therapy-RAD to this 10-month-old child for about 20 minutes using bone conduction headphones. “She wanted to play with the regular headphones, so I used my bone conduction headphones and she had no problem at all with it. She danced a little, and I believe she thought it was music.
“The toddler evidenced flat affect but seemed happy throughout the time we used the binaural sound. Clinically, I believe that Michaela was experiencing a trauma reaction in recent months. The family didn't know where she and her mother were, just that she was ‘living with friends.’ Two weeks ago, Child Protective Services called her great aunt, to come to a specific motel to get the baby. The baby had been living in the motel with the mother and a ‘myriad of ‘friends,’ using meth and heroin. The mother had been stealing Michaela’s formula from stores.
The evening following her treatment, Michaela was put to bed at 9:30 p.m. and she slept, reportedly, until 9:30 a.m., awakening only once, not crying and going back to sleep without a bottle. On the following workday, Child Protective Services gave temporary custody to another great-aunt who is where Michaela will remain until her birth mother completes treatment and can evidence stability. The first night in the new setting, she also slept all night, awakening once for a bottle without the screaming and eyes closed. She was quickly and successfully comforted.
Based on our tentative inquiry as evidenced in the above case, the answer to our earlier question, might it be possible to place some sense of early bonding security into the long-term memory system seems to be a definite yes. To date, in addition to the example, a young adult has been able to transform himself from a person who constantly sought the approval of others to that of one who can establish structure and boundaries with those who interact with him. I’m currently exploring the concept with a 15-year-old RAD adolescent who is deeply involved in self-medicating and negatively engaged with the justice system. Standby for a breakthrough in innovative RAD treatment this year. It appears that ‘memory updating’ of the sense of unconditional love is indeed possible.