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Reactive Attachment Disorder Treatments

(Also Known As: Attachment Disorder Treatments, Childhood Disorder Treatments, Disinhibited Attachment Disorder Treatments, Abnormal Emotional Attachment Treatments, Inhibited Attachment Disorder Treatments)

(Reviewed by: Paul Peterson, Licensed Therapist)

What Kinds of Reactive Attachment Disorder Treatments are Available?

The treatment for reactive attachment disorder consists of the combination of pharmacological, psychotherapy, educational and preventive approaches. The aim of treatment is to help the child achieve a more stable emotional growth that will boost their self esteem and improve their social relationship with primary caregivers, peers, and other people.

The general treatment for reactive attachment disorder includes the following basic approaches:

  • Family therapy
  • Individual therapy
  • Reaction therapy or occupational therapy
  • Parenting skills classes
  • Parent and caregiver education about the condition
  • Residential or in-patient treatment for those suffering with serious problems or at risk of harm
  • Medication for standing conditions of anxiety, hyperactivity and depression.
  • Special education services

Preventive Treatment

  • The mainstream prevention program for reactive attachment disorder is based on attachment theory and increasing the caregiver responsiveness and sensitivity to child care. 7
  • This treatment advocates the relationship as a two-way process involving the child’s attachment behavior and the caregiver response.
  • Some prevention programs are aimed towards the foster care providers more than to the parents. The following approaches may be used:
    • Watch, wait and wonder
    • Manipulation of sensitive responsiveness
    • Pre-school Parent Psychotherapy
    • Modified Interaction Guidance
    • Circle of Security
    • Attachment and Biobehavioral Catch-up (ABC)
    • Parent-Child Psychotherapy
    • Development, Individual-difference and Relationship- based Therapy (DIR)

Recommendation in the treatment guidelines made by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry consist of the following:

  • Even if the diagnosis of the reactive attachment disorder is based according to the manifested symptoms of the child, the caregiver’s attitude and perceptions towards the child is an important consideration in the treatment selection.
  • Adjunctive therapies are required to be incorporated in the treatment of children who meet the criteria for reactive attachment disorder with oppositional and aggressive behavior.
  • After ensuring that the child is placed in a safe, secure and stable environment the attachment treatment must be focused in establishing the child’s positive interaction with their caregivers.
  • The clinician should provide the child with an emotionally available attachment figure in the absence of attachment of a child to a discriminated caregiver.

Failure to provide the child with the proper treatment may lead to various complications such as the following:

  • Aggression
  • Academic problems
  • Anxiety
  • Developmental delays
  • Depression
  • Growth delays
  • Lack of empathy
  • Drug/alcohol addiction
  • Eating problems
  • Inappropriate sexual behavior
  • Malnutrition
  • Anger problems/uncontrolled temper
  • Relationship problems in adulthood
  • Unemployment or frequent changes in jobs
  • Troubled social relationships with peer and classmates

In general there is no standard treatment procedure for reactive attachment disorder but the treatment option should always encompass the involvement of:

  • Working with the caregivers
  • Working with the child and caregiver
  • Working with the child alone 8

Could You Have Reactive Attachment Disorder?

Reactive Attachment Disorder Topics

Related Conditions

Antisocial Personality Disorder - Deceitful, Manipulative, Sociopath, Psychopaths
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder – Impulsiveness, Hyperactivity, Inattention
Autism – Impaired Social Interaction, Restricted Behavior, Less attachment Security, Social Deviance
Mental Retardation – Idiot, Imbecile, Moron, Memory Deficit, Difficulty in Social Skills and Problem Solving, Delayed Language Development
Oppositional Defiant Disorder – Defiant, Hostile, Disobedient, Conduct Disorder
Selective Mutism – Inability to Express Oneself in Words, Normal Speech but Unable to Speak
Separation Anxiety Disorder – Excessive Anxiety from Being Separated from People with Strong Attachment, Persistent Worry, Recurring Distress
Social Anxiety Disorder – Anxiety, Social Phobia, Phobia, Impaired Socialization, Excessive Worry, Distressed Behavior