Since the start of the year, we have shared a series of blogs about foster care — the challenges and needs of children in the system and the attachment issues they often struggle with. These articles sparked energetic discussion and we heard from a number of individuals who are still in pain many years after leaving foster care. Their comments show just how damaging early trauma can be, even into adulthood.
Early attachment experiences affect people from the cradle to the grave. You bring your past experiences, feelings, expectations, and relationship patterns to how you relate to other people and the world in adulthood. We see four attachment patterns in adults based on the caregiving they received as children. These patterns impact every aspect of life.
- Secure/autonomous attachment comes from loving, stable homes with caring parents who are in tune with their children’s emotions. Securely attached adults are able to trust and depend on others, open up emotionally and develop close relationships.
When children experience attachment insecurity due to unstable home lives, neglect or trauma they develop avoidant, anxious, or disorganized (unresolved) attachment patterns.
- Avoidantly attached adults deactivate attachment needs and behaviors. They copy by being compulsively self-reliant and tend to suppress feelings and emotions.
- Anxiously attached adults employ hyperactivating attachment behaviors. They can act needy and controlling and may be overly dependent on their partner for comfort.
- Unresolved adults are those individuals who experienced severe trauma and loss as children, including emotional, physical and sexual abuse. They have not mourned their losses and are frightened and confused by memories and emotions stemming from prior trauma. These individuals have no organized strategy for managing their emotions and relationships. They are incoherent when talking about the past and will even disassociate to avoid fear and pain. They are emotionally and biochemically dysregulated and often feel overwhelmed and out of control. They may struggle with PTSD, depression, anxiety, substance abuse and other issues.
Healing and Change
Once formed, our belief systems and attachment patterns operate automatically and unconsciously, making them difficult to change. Change, however, is possible. A combination of effective interventions and a caring and competent therapist can make the difference.
The healing process can begin by getting to know yourself and understanding and learning to communicate about your attachment history and current mindset. The safety of a therapeutic relationship allows clients to acknowledge and discuss feelings and experiences that were denied and avoided and try out new behaviors, mindsets and relational patterns. The therapist’s support and acceptance help reduce anxiety and distress so clients can learn about prior and current relationships and begin the process of change. At Evergreen Psychotherapy Center, we provide our clients with the Life Script at the start of therapy. This is an effective tool to increase self-awareness and prompt reflection. (Download it for free.)
Our Corrective Attachment Therapy program is grounded in a foundation of basic theories, principles and research. It is an organized systematic framework and follows a sequential format of assessment, goal setting, intervention (incorporating a variety of systematic procedures and interventions to facilitate positive changes), reassessment. Depending on the success of the interventions toward achieving clinical goals the therapist either proceeds or considers a different therapeutic direction.
For severely traumatized children, families and adults, where traditional therapy is not resulting in the desired outcomes, Evergreen Psychotherapy Center offers an Intensive Outpatient Psychotherapy format. The program involves 30 hours of therapy for 10 days, three hours per day for two weeks, with a break on the weekends. This short-term, goal-oriented, intensive treatment approach has been highly effective in facilitating positive change for resistant, traumatized children, for adults with histories of interpersonal trauma, and for traumatized family systems.
Adults who participate in the IOP often present with PTSD, depression, anxiety, substance abuse and other self-destructive behaviors and severe attachment disorders in childhood and adulthood. They have usually been in outpatient psychotherapy but are in need of a more intensive therapy format for positive change to occur. Mental health professionals identify this need and refer these individuals to our IOP program. The goals of the IOP are to help adults both heal from personal trauma and to provide them with the tools to develop secure attachment relationships with trust, intimacy, need fulfillment, honesty and safety.
If you are an adult, who has experienced childhood trauma and wants to learn more about treatment options. Do not hesitate to contact Evergreen Psychotherapy Center at (866) 674-4029 or firstname.lastname@example.org.