In the age of Coronavirus, therapists are wondering how treating attachment trauma with telehealth might be different from doing so in person. Treating attachment trauma with telehealth can be an equally fruitful experience where the client and therapist work together, in a comfortable setting, to navigate trauma and build solutions for the future. The telehealth setting does not have to put a strain on the client’s progress. In fact, in many cases, virtual visits can offer a client more comfort and progress than in-person sessions. Before diving in, therapists need to understand the definition of attachment trauma and its treatment.
What is Attachment Trauma?
Attachment trauma starts at infancy or in a young child when there has been a disruption in the process of bonding between that child and their caregiver. The “disruption” could involve a number of different experiences that result in the child’s trauma.
Situations that might be considered disruptions and causes of attachment trauma might include obvious abuse or neglect, or even situations that are less obvious like little to no affection or response from their caregiver. Traumatic experiences in the home that occur when the baby is forming the bond are ultimately what causes the attachment trauma.
Other situations that might cause this kind of trauma include the absence of the caregiver such as divorce, illness, or death.
Treating Attachment Trauma with Telehealth
Treating attachment trauma with telehealth does not have to be a different experience than that of an in-person visit. In reality, telehealth can allow a client to receive treatment from a much more comfortable and calming environment than that of an in-person visit. Some of the risks associated with treating attachment trauma with telehealth that a therapist should consider include whether or not they still live with that caregiver or if their home will allow them the privacy they need to receive therapy.
Benefits of treating attachment trauma with telehealth can be allowing your client to receive therapy in a setting that they might be more comfortable in (like their home), they do not have to worry about traveling to and from visits, there is less of a time commitment due to lack of travel, and it eliminates transportation barriers.
Other than that, treating attachment trauma with telehealth can be approached the same as if it were in person.
Types of Attachments:
A Secure attachment style is the ideal attachment style. This form of attachment is achieved when a caregiver is loving and affectionate, responds appropriately, and offers sensitivity to a baby in distress. This attachment leads to adults feeling comfortable expressing their emotions, experiencing more self-confidence, and have an easier time coping in negative situations.
The avoidant attachment style is just that, avoidant and dismissive attachment. This occurs when a caregiver did not offer sensitivity during distress. The child is then more likely to avoid showing emotions or avoid turning to their caregiver for comfort. As an adult, this person can be emotionally distant and unexpressive.
Resistant or Anxious
An anxious attachment style happens when there is inconsistent or unpredictable responsiveness and sensitivity to distress in the child. It can result in a child that is needy, extremely emotional, and attention-seeking. As an adult, this person may be insecure in relationships, be clingy, and is always in need of reassurance and affirmations.
The last attachment style is disorganized. This style happens when a caregiver is atypical or frightening. The child has no strategy for seeking comfort or attention during distress. As an adult, this can lead to troubled relationships.
Consequences of Poor or Incomplete Attachments
Any style of attachment, other than secure, can be considered poor or incomplete. Attachment trauma is regularly thought of as something intense like abuse or assault but does not have to be. Attachment trauma can occur with any child that does not experience adequate affection, attention, or comfort during distress as a child.
Even something seemingly small, like a caregiver ignoring their child’s cries, can result in attachment trauma. If a baby is crying, scared, or in distress and the caregiver does not comfort them, the baby is not able to understand the reasoning behind it, sometimes resulting in a traumatic experience for them.
Any situation where a poor or incomplete attachment resulted in a disruption of a bond with a caregiver can be considered attachment trauma.
Children that experience attachment trauma can face struggles well into their adult life. Healthy attachment plays such an important role in development, that when not addressed, can cause issues in future relationships and self-identity. Individuals that experienced attachment trauma are more likely to experience stress, difficulty with emotional regulation, dependency, social isolation, and mental illness.
The Use of Telehealth
Treating attachment trauma should hopefully occur when a child is still developing, allowing for those issues to be corrected before they enter adulthood. Treating attachment trauma for children and adolescents might be difficult with telehealth, especially if they still live with their caregiver who caused the initial trauma.
Treating attachment trauma with telehealth in adults is a much more simple experience. Treatment for this kind of trauma in adults typically involves psychotherapy, couples counseling, and attachment therapy, which focuses on helping an individual overcome the impact of their early life trauma regarding attachment.
While attachment therapy would hopefully begin in childhood, many people do not seek help until they are an adult. For adults, therapy involves reworking their emotional framework to form new attachment styles for current and future relationships.
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