Attachment Disorders are psychiatric illnesses that can develop in young children who have problems creating emotional attachments to others. And while attachment issues are not uncommon for teens who have been adopted, there are ways to address these issues.
Adoption and Attachment Issues in Teens
Attachment is the feeling of connection and security a child receives from their caregivers. When a baby is born they immediately begin to connect to their mother through skin-to-skin contact and time spent together. This connection provides them that sense of security. And since babies can recognize their mother’s voice and scent, when that bond is broken that sense of security can be fractured as well. This is why even when a child is adopted at birth, there is still a higher likelihood that they will struggle with behavior issues, academics, or their sense of identity.
As babies grow into toddlers, they now have more basic needs that need to be met. Shelter, food, and love make young children feel safe. They know that if they are hurt, a parent or loved one will be right there to help them and make sure everything will be okay. On the other hand, if there is any kind of abuse or trauma experienced in childhood, that toddler isn’t getting the support and love they need to help them deal with those issues. When young children feel unsafe and without attachment to the people who are supposed to be taking care of them, they also run the risk of not being able to form healthy attachments for the rest of their lives.
Residential Treatment for Attachment Issues
While 1% to 2% of the whole population is adopted, most residential treatment programs have about 30% adopted students. This speaks to the rate of issues that can come from adoptions. Of course, there are many benefits from adopting, but it is important that adoptive parents understand the issues that their child may struggle with. An education around attachment issues and adoptions can be extremely beneficial to potential adoptive parents so they can understand what resources might be available and know that it’s not something isolated to just their relationship.
Parents and children can benefit from an attachment specialty group. Therapists can work in individual sessions and in group sessions to help students understand how to have positive relationships. Students can learn how to create healthy boundaries, both physically and emotionally through experiential sessions. Students with attachment issues may exhibit a lack of eye contact, or affection. They may even get stuck in a freeze mode when they feel they’re being confronted and creating movement in the body helps them reconnect with their body.
Equine therapy is a great way to teach students to be present in their body while also learning to set boundaries with their horse. A horse will respond to a student’s energy and body language, and by learning to connect with the horse, they can learn to give the horse commands it will follow. This can be translated back to the student’s human relationship. Exploring how connecting to the horse can apply to how they can connect to the peers and family.
Students can also benefit from participating in a group where they can share their experiences with other teens who are also adopted. Communicating with peers who understand what they are experiencing can help them to feel less isolated. When students learn to have healthy attachments and feel a sense of security, they are setting themselves up for long-term success.
Solstice RTC Can Help
Family therapy interventions are at the heart of our clinical program. We firmly believe in the strong nature and immense importance of family relationships. Research studies on the effectiveness of residential treatment indicate that the most significant factor in creating positive long-term outcomes for the child is parental involvement in the treatment process. Parental involvement is defined not only by the parents being actively involved in the child’s treatment, but being actively involved in their own treatment and growth process.
The core of our programming is based on healing damaged relationships and restoring healthy connections within the family system. For more information please call (801) 406-7475.
Misty has been working in the adolescent residential treatment industry since 2000. Misty is licensed as both a Clinical Mental Health Counselor and a Substance Abuse Disorder Counselor. Misty has expertise in working with students with a variety of issues including grief and loss, attachment and relationship struggles, oppositional defiance, and addictions including video games and social media, and bullying. Misty feels strongly in the importance of developing a positive sense of self-worth as well as learning the importance of developing healthy relationships to help in aiding a positive sense of self. Misty is married with two beautiful children and loves antiquing, working out, reading, and attending concerts.