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TherapistMarryAnn, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
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Experience:  Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
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Kate...Lets say that a child suffering from emotional disturbances

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Kate...Let’s say that a child suffering from emotional disturbances needs to overcome his maladaptive behaviors. How would this issue be solved according to Attachment theory? What behavioral strategies can be used to help this child cope with family relationships, peer interaction, aggression, social skills, and academic difficulties?

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Attachment theory is a combination of theoretical concepts that point toward the early years of a child's life (often two months to two years) as the critical window in developing healthy bonds with others. Emotional disturbances such as acting out, emotional instability and excessive worries and fears are often be viewed by attachment theorists as flaws in the bonding process. Modern evidence of attachment theory seems most evident in disorders such as Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) where the child may be able to bond with peripheral figures, but not primary caregivers. This disorder supports attachment theory as it is thought to be mostly caused through neglect and failure to bond with a caregiver during the child's early development. And, attachment theory uses social bonding as a therapeutic tool to resolve these and other issues.


Behavioral strategies: All of the mentioned issues, academic, familial, social, would be dealt with through a process of building stronger significant relationships. Further, the skills would be specific and able to be modeled. Family issues for example would be approached through an evaluation of the child's interactions within the family, the apparent strengths of the family and the creation and fostering of better skills (behavior sets) to help the child. The entire family would be a part of this helping process.


Attachment theory does not assume that children innately know the tools and skills that will allow them to be successful. Rather, skills are taught, modeled and worked on in a social context. And, if that social context does not exist, such as quality time spent within the family, that becomes a typical first goal of intervention. Also, the theory allows for significant attachments outside of the traditional family, and socialization groups that focus on skills and interactions are common interventions.


Essentially, the problems are seen as challenges of social bonding: motivation, emotional stability and other problems are assisted within a process that demonstrates appropriate behaviors. And, the entire social system is integrated into the process, as the child is not just the identified patient but a part of a larger meta system that must be worked on in an integrated manner.


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