Abusive treatment of children in the name of "Attachment Therapy"
Laurie A. Couture's letter to a proponent of so-called AT, March 28, 2006

Dear Nancy Thomas,

I came across these quotes that are attributed to you: http://www.childrenintherapy.org/proponents/thomas.html

I am a Licensed Child and Adolescent Mental Health Counselor in both Massachusetts and New Hampshire, former social worker and fierce child advocate with a specialty in child development, child trauma and attachment. I am the mother of a wonderful adoptive 12 year old son and I have cared for and worked with traumatized children since 1991. Your reported practices of abusing, neglecting and depriving children of their basic physiological and emotional needs is egregious; it is also boggling to the mind of any sane lay person or professional to try to consider how your techniques of abusing traumatized abuse victims somehow facilitates attachment! You reportedly advocate for forcing children to retain bodily waste, deny them or delay their use of the toilet, deny them the proper nutritious food such as fruits and vegetables, deprive them of play, movement, sensory stimulation, friendships and other basic needs. NO child, regardless of behavior or attachment status, should be treated in a way that Amnesty International would find to meet the guidelines for torture and abuse!

You book yourself as a professional when you are not. You praise and recommend "professionals", authors and organizations (such as Focus on the Family, Foster Cline, Connell Watkins) who not only strongly support parental authoritarianism and corporal punishment (legalized assault) of children but who have been convicted in the murder and/or abuse of children they were entrusted to help heal! You soothe desperate adoptive parents by offering them a program in which they can do no wrong, and when they do, they are not held culpable. If their children fail to act like complete robotic slaves in the totalitarian regime that is their family, you instruct these parents to use deprivation and crazymaking tactics until the children are so desperate that they conform to make the suffering end. You are a fraud. You taint the professions of those of us who practice true attachment-based therapy that emphasizes deep love and respect for the child that combines firm (non-abusive) limits with intense affection and love--- according to the child's needs, best interests and comfortability level!

If children supposedly "bond" or "attach" to people who employ these inhumane tactics, I believe it is due to the phenomenon of a victim identifying with the aggressor in order to survive, similar to Nazi concentration camp survivors. Sooner or later, any child is going to break and learn that he or she must swim in the lake of poison or the "all loving Mother" will drown him or her in it.

You do not treat traumatized, behaviorally disordered or "RAD" children; you MIStreat them, you program them like androids, you overpower them, you break them, you enslave them and you hurt, abuse, neglect and exacerbate the abuse and trauma they suffered at the hands of their birth parents. You do not "love" them, nor do you advocate for any true form of attachment. Love and attachment is based on meeting all of a child's physical, emotional and developmental needs, helping that child to heal by being a strong and soothing salve, being consistent and creative for years and accepting that the child may choose to never attach to you... THAT is love.

My son, adopted as an older child, came to me with most of the classic RAD symptoms, including rage outbursts and intense oppositionality. I have never had to use any of your abusive, depriving, strong-armed, concentration-camp-like "strategies" in order to help my son attach, bond and heal.

Constant affection, need meeting (and reassuring him that I would always meet his physical and emotional needs), allowing him ON HIS OWN TERMS to regress to earlier ages, cuddling and rocking ON HIS TERMS, firm limits, LOGICAL consequences, intense amounts of play and fun time, intense discussion, involving him strongly in human rights work and community service, homeschooling, hands on community activities, extended family activities; immediate dialogue, consequences and expression of expected behavior when his behavior is unsafe or unacceptable; open-ended time outs, daily lessons in relaxation breathing and cognitive/behavioral self talk as well as emotional grounding techniques, art, writing, no TV in the house, friendships in the community... These are the things I have done and will continue to do and support tirelessly to help my son grow into a compassionate individual who will know how to think critically, participate in a democracy, fight for human and environmental rights and most importantly, who will love himself and love others.

A word about respite: When he has mentally exhausted me, my son has done respite with a beloved former foster Mom. He is not deprived or treated poorly there. He spends quality, loving time with her. When he comes home, he is as reset and as refreshed as I am. As a mom, I am not threatened by the relationship he has with his former foster mom. It does not impede our attachment. I support and nurture the relationship. It is not healthy for a child to only have one attachment. I am his primary attachment figure, but he has many other loved ones in his life. Contrary to your reported statements, I do not play God to my child.

My son is a loving, caring, empathic, compassionate, sweet, gifted child who genuinely cares about the welfare of all living things. He is a humanitarian, an animal lover and an environmentalist. He and I share a very strong and deep attachment, which he, over time, has extended to our other family members. Once deeply jealous of my nephew, he has taken my nephew under his wing and is happy that I am mentoring a troubled boy in the community. Nancy, there was never any abuse or maltreatment needed to help my son become more human. He became loving and human because I treated him like a human being and loved HIM unconditionally.

I don't believe that higher education or a degree makes a person a good therapist, but in your case, a basic education in human development, trauma and the brain and human attachment might be a good starting point. It is sick to think that the children you control like animals and robots look up to parents who literally treat them like dogs and worse. You have found a way to capitalize on the most mentally and emotionally disturbed and vulnerable human beings on the planet, by causing them, in the end, to confuse pain and maltreatment, control and domination with love, attachment and mothering.

I doubt I am the only person to guess why you are not licensed as a mental health practitioner: If the ethics boards of the fields of social work, mental health counseling or psychology were to learn of your practices, no doubt you would be deprived of your license to practice.

Laurie A. Couture, M.Ed., LMHC, CMHC

Laurie A. Couture, M.Ed, LMHC
"Live life with passion, intelligence, creativity and in service to the greater good of all nature and humankind."

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