June 15, 2004

WELCOME TO THE AGE OF REASON:

Death by Theory: Attachment therapy is based on a pseudoscientific theory that, when put into practice, can be deadly (Michael Shermer, 5/24/04, Scientific American)

In April 2000, 10-year-old Candace Newmaker began treatment for attachment disorder. Her adoptive mother of four years, Jeane Newmaker, was having trouble handling what she considered to be Candace's disciplinary problems. She sought help from a therapist affiliated with the Association for Treatment and Training in the Attachment of Children and was told that Candace needed attachment therapy (AT), based on the theory that if a normal attachment is not formed during the first two years, attachment can be done later.

According to the theory, the child must be subjected to physical "confrontation" and "restraint" to release repressed abandonment anger. The process is repeated until the child is exhausted and emotionally reduced to an "infantile" state. Then the parents cradle, rock and bottle-feed him, implementing an "attachment."

Candace was treated by Connell Watkins, a nationally prominent attachment therapist and past clinical director for the Attachment Center at Evergreen (ACE) in Colorado, and her associate Julie Ponder. The treatment was carried out in Watkins's home and videotaped. According to trial transcripts, Watkins and Ponder conducted more than four days of "holding therapies." On one day they grabbed or covered Candace's face 138 times, shook or bounced her head 392 times and shouted into her face 133 times. When these actions failed to break her, they put the 68-pound Candace inside a flannel sheet and covered her with sofa pillows, while several adults (with a combined weight of nearly 700 pounds) lay on top of her so that she could be "reborn." Ponder is reported to have told the girl to imagine that she was "a teeny little baby" in the womb, commanding her to "come out head first." In response, Candace screamed, "I can't breathe, I can't do it! ... Somebody's on top of me.... I want to die now! Please! Air!"

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 15, 2004 3:25 PM
Comments

Oh I see, this lunacy is a failure of reason, but screaming at people that they are witches then burning them alive is a legitimate exercise of government power. You need some internal consistency checks on your posts, OJ.

Posted by: Brandon at June 15, 2004 3:41 PM

Latest flake psych...

Posted by: Ken at June 15, 2004 4:01 PM

Brandon:

You're right. We should burn such "therapists." Sadly such punishment for heresy has gone by the boards.

Posted by: oj at June 15, 2004 4:07 PM

You're being sly; so I'll reword my comment. Would it have been okay to kill that little girl in the course of exorcising the demons from her?

Posted by: Brandon at June 15, 2004 4:11 PM

Brandon:

Harry has trained you well. Whatever horrors scientific rationalism brings us, we just think about witch trials and the Inquisition and tell ourselves we're much, much better.

Posted by: Peter B at June 15, 2004 4:21 PM

This kind of therapy is not new by the way, owing its origins back to the halcyon days of later Victorian era medicine where they often advocated Correctional Discipline coupled with Moral Treatment to “cure” the insane.

As in Victorian times the elements of this “attachment therapy” seem to center around weakening or removal of existing negative aspects from the patient’s psyche through correctional discipline (the shaking, hitting, yelling, etc.), followed by the positive attachment therapy (which substitutes for Moral Treatment) to establish the parenting bond. It also seems to have been about as successful as early Victorian era treatments.

Also, if memory serves I believe this was also a Law & Order episode.

Posted by: Robert Modean at June 15, 2004 4:36 PM

Everything is a damn Law & Order episode.

Posted by: Paul Cella at June 15, 2004 4:40 PM

Brandon:

If she were practicing witchcraft, then yes. In this case it is the therapists who resemble witches.

Posted by: oj at June 15, 2004 4:44 PM

Peter B,

We go back to the inquisition and witch trials because they make such wonderful examples. But I'm not saying we're better. I'm saying that this lunatic procedure is more like witchcraft than science.

OJ,

So what is your problem with this lunatic procedure, anyway - that they didn't evoke God to santicy the murder?

Posted by: Brandon at June 15, 2004 6:11 PM

Brandon:

Yes, it's unChristian.

Posted by: oj at June 15, 2004 6:27 PM

In OJs world, it isn't what you do, but the excuse you use for doing it that is important.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at June 15, 2004 6:46 PM

Jeff:

Exactly. The excuse that they were just being rational and scientific should not excuse their violating traditional religious moral norms.

Posted by: oj at June 15, 2004 6:59 PM

Or any other kind.

I noticed, in the other thread about childhood mental disease, that not one poster here proposed that insanity is the result of demon possession.

However, many, probably most, of the Christians I know think of it that way.

That unspecified 'attachment therapists' (who are not, so far as I know considered either rational or scientific by other rational and scientific people) behave like Christians should not, indeed, absolve them of responsibility for torturing children.

You might be a little careful, Orrin, about bandying about the term 'rational.' The Angelic Doctor considered himself, and was and is considered by the majority of Christendom, a supreme rationalist.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at June 15, 2004 7:40 PM

If the child had a "fear of abandonment," then the solution is to give that child:
1) Unconditional love
2) Discipline

Both tell the child that no matter what she does, the new parent will not abandon her.

Children with a fear of abandonment often cause trouble because it's a way of testing their supposed new "parents/guardians." They feel that at some point of trouble will cause their new guardians to abandon them, so why not get that over with and spare themselves any emotional attachment which would make the abandonment that much harder to take emotionally.

What these people did was just grotesque.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at June 15, 2004 8:28 PM

He was, just not a Rationalist.

Posted by: oj at June 15, 2004 9:10 PM

"Whatever horrors scientific rationalism brings us"
Psychotherapy has nothing to do with "scientific rationalism." Just ask anybody who has a degree in a real science.

Posted by: ralph phelan at June 15, 2004 11:50 PM

ralph:

Sectarianism? How unbecoming.

Posted by: oj at June 16, 2004 12:09 AM

ralph:

Sure it does, as much as bleeding with leeches and trepanning. We are told here frequently and with great pride that science is self-correcting, which presumably means it is often wrong. No one seems to be too upset about the victims of the errors.

The question is not so much whether psychology--especially this variety--is right or wrong. The question is how did we get to the point where our unquestionning respect for scientific authority deprived us of the ability to recognize the torture of children when it is staring us in the face.

Posted by: Peter B at June 16, 2004 6:27 AM

Peter -- Leaches can be an effective treatment and trepanning was not only effective but, unlike almost every other treatment used in pre-science medicine, the practitioners actually were able to diagnose the cases in which it was useful.

Posted by: David Cohen at June 16, 2004 8:48 AM

"We are told here frequently and with great pride that science is self-correcting,"

Which psychotherapy is *not*. It's an edxample of what Richard Feinman called "cargo-cult-science. They've go the white coats and the lingo, but not the essence. It's a field that survives on prestige it borrowed and does not deserve. Kind of like po-mo "humanities" survive on the prestige of the older, true "liberal education" which was a thing of real value.

"The question is how did we get to the point where our unquestionning respect for scientific authority deprived us of the ability to recognize the torture of children when it is staring us in the face."
I don't know, but the cult of "scientism" is inversely correlated with actual scientific knnowledge.

Posted by: ralph phelan at June 16, 2004 10:17 AM

David:

I can't tell you how relieved I am to know that it is yours and Orrin's wives who are the doctors, and not you and Orrin.

Posted by: Peter B at June 16, 2004 11:28 AM

Peter:

Yeah, we're the lawyers, making our families Reverse Huxtables.

Posted by: oj at June 16, 2004 11:40 AM

Peter: Not that I wouldn't be willing to try my hand at trepanning, as part of my exploration of the Aubrey/Maturin books.

Posted by: David Cohen at June 16, 2004 1:18 PM

Oh, and on leeches.

Posted by: David Cohen at June 16, 2004 3:54 PM

OJ:

Exactly. The excuse that following God's should not excuse violating traditional religious moral norms.

Except that it does.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at June 16, 2004 5:44 PM

The traditional norms are God's.

Posted by: oj at June 16, 2004 6:30 PM

Peter, which of us here was unable to discern that this was child-torture?

Posted by: Harry Eagar at June 16, 2004 8:13 PM

The traditional norms are God's.

Depending upon which speaker for God you listen to.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at June 17, 2004 7:14 PM

Harry:

Sure, everyone sees it, but how much of that is because no one believes in the theory. Electro-shock therapy, lobotomies, etc are only revealed for what they really are when no one believes in them anymore. If the scientific establishment supported by peer review said there was evidence this proceudre had an x% chance of bringing the girl closer to her mother, would it cease to be torture? I think it would in many eyes. We would be hearing a lot less about human dignity and a lot more about risk/benefit analysis.

Posted by: Peter B at June 17, 2004 8:00 PM

Peter:

Electro-shock works fine.

Posted by: oj at June 17, 2004 8:21 PM

Orrin:

But it is still torture.

Posted by: Peter B at June 18, 2004 4:55 AM

No it isn't. It's a remarkable medical treatment.

Posted by: oj at June 18, 2004 8:38 AM

Peter, you and Orrin are confusing your argument by treating everything not explicitly Christian as science/rationalism.

There are unChristian forms of nuttiness that have no connection to science/rationalism; and this is one of them.

Furthermore, it has an exact analogue -- with a considerably higher death count -- in Christian exorcisms. We can recall, for example, the sisters who gouged out their possessed sister's eyes and killed her in Texas not so long ago.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at June 18, 2004 2:40 PM

Never mind Jehovah's Witnesses and Christian Scientists.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at June 18, 2004 7:05 PM
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