When Online Therapy Can Be Key To Healing Early Attachment Trauma

What Is Early Attachment Trauma?

The attachment patterns that people experience as children impact the remainder of their lives in powerful ways. Understanding early childhood attachments to their parents offers essential insights into why people live their lives today the way they do, how they operate in relationships, and how online therapy can help repair the wounds of the past.

Research has shown that our earliest relationships serve as templates for how we imagine the world works and how we expect others to behave. Often, without our awareness or understanding, we are mysteriously drawn to recreate in the present old patterns and dynamics from our past.

For example, if, as a child, a woman experienced an insecure attachment pattern (avoidant, ambivalent, or disorganized), she is much more likely to feel unsafe in her closest relationships, especially when it comes to a husband or her children.

It’s almost as if we are programmed to recreate painful or hurtful experiences in our future relationships as a result of an inadequate attachment pattern early in life. The insecure attachment as a young child seems to create an emotional magnet that draws us into a similar dynamic in the future.

3 Ways to Heal from Early Attachment Trauma

1. Create a Coherent Narrative

Attachment research tells us that, to liberate ourselves from the powerful vortex of incomplete or inadequate attachments, we need to face, understand, and feel the full pain of our past. This unpleasant proposition just can’t be avoided. As Dr. Daniel Siegel explained in his book, Mindsight,

“The best predictor of a child’s security of attachment is not what happened to his parents as children, but rather how his parents made sense of those childhood experiences (and reproduced this template with their children).” That is why, to repair and heal our ability to attach and create more inner security later on in life, we must be willing to develop what Siegel calls a “coherent narrative” of our earliest experience.

“It turns out that by simply asking certain kinds of autobiographical questions, we can discover how people have made sense of their past— how their minds have shaped their memories of the past to explain who they are in the present,” wrote Siegel in Mindsight.

“The answers people give to these fundamental questions also reveal how this internal narrative— the story they tell themselves— may be limiting them in the present and may also be causing them to pass down to their children the same painful legacy that marred their early days.”

According to Dr. Siegel, we must bravely face our personal history and absorb the full force of its impact on our lives by understanding the narrative of our past. It is only then that we can alter the course of our lives, the quality of our relationships, and the attachment patterns we bequeath to our children.

2. Choose Relationships with Those with Healthy Attachment

Another method that will create more security is for the one who has suffered attachment trauma to develop a relationship with someone fortunate enough to have a healthier attachment experience. Connecting with such a person long term will build security and slowly transform their own unhealthy reflexive inner dynamic.

This method is useful because the experience of developing a secure attachment, even later in life, will have a powerful impact. The new model of what a relationship can be is no longer abstract but is experiential.

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For example, a person who had a parent whose availability was inconsistent and, as a result, was allowed to experience chronic anxiety, will become more secure and less anxious when connecting with someone calm and consistent.

3. How Online Therapy Can Help

A third and invaluable avenue for developing a secure attachment is through therapy, whether it be face-to-face or online therapy. And there is a significant additional benefit that the therapist can provide besides the therapy itself. By healthily interacting with the client, the therapist offers the opportunity to form a secure attachment with him/her, an essential step in the healing process.

Connecting with a therapist who can consistently provide a secure base serves as a corrective emotional experience that can be a critical benefit to someone suffering from attachment trauma. Promoting this inner security can become a catalyst to experiencing life and relationships more fully, and help unlock one’s true self.

However, it isn’t unusual for a client to feel very sensitive and ashamed about experiencing an intense yearning to become close to his/her therapist. The question is, why do these clients, especially those who had difficulties earlier in life, develop such a craving?

More often than not, this craving finds its roots in some attachment trauma. Invariably, when one’s critical emotional needs are bypassed early in life, the child who carries these unmet needs recedes to the background. This “inner child” doesn’t go away but is waiting expectantly for someone to come along and fulfill those needs.

An essential limitation of therapy is that therapy can be very helpful in resolving the feelings that evolve from unmet needs, but cannot fulfill them. This stands directly in conflict with the needs of the “inner child” who is sure that the only real solution is to find an adult to fill those needs. And who is a better choice than the benevolent therapist?

Let’s be clear. The job of the therapist is to help the client, with sensitivity and compassion, understand that the only real solution is to deal with all of the feelings of sadness, disappointment, grief, and anger regarding the unmet emotional needs of the past. Only this will open the door to the real solution, which is healing the “inner child” through self-parenting.

Choosing another person, even an empathetic therapist, to fill the emotional holes of the past will never really work. For some reason, another adult can never adequately remove the pain of the distant past. Soon the client will again feel the hunger pangs for a surrogate parent unfulfilled. Only parenting one’s inner child has been shown to work.

For more information, please contact Global Teletherapy or your local mental health provider.

How Online Therapy Can Help Curb The Growing Bullying Epidemic

Just The Facts

Unfortunately, bullying has reached epidemic proportions. Bullying is rampant, and its terrible consequences can, at times, be catastrophic or even lethal. Bullying occurs practically everywhere, in schools, in parks, and often inside the home. Can online therapy help when the facts may seem to be stranger than fiction?

Consider the following (in the U.S.):

  1. 28% of students in grades 6-12 experience bullying

  2. Over 160,000 kids refuse to go to school each day for fear of being bullied

  3. More than 10% of students who drop out of school do so due to being bullied repeatedly

  4. Nearly 75% of school shootings have been linked to harassment and bullying

  5. 64% of students who are bullied do not report it (according to a study conducted by Petrosina, Guckenburg, DeVoe, and Hanson, 2010)

Bullying Defined

When we talk about bullying, what do we mean? How do we define it? When a child says he/she has been bullied, is this perhaps being too dramatic or hypersensitive? Maybe the term is overused and not appropriate in every situation. Is bullying subjective, or is there some objective definition?

It is essential to distinguish between a child being mean to another child and bullying that child. An unintended consequence of defining bullying too liberally is that the term gradually loses its meaning. Kids and parents sometimes call mean behavior bullying when, in fact, it is not.

Whereas bullying certainly involves mean behavior, not all mean behavior constitutes bullying. When a child doesn't like someone and is mean, or lashes out in anger or frustration, this isn't bullying. Bullying is characterized by certain features that move the mean behavior to a different place. To be considered bullying, mean behavior must be intentional, repetitive, and harmful.

Bullying is characterized as an intentional and aggressive targeting of a particular victim. When a child is bullying, he/she is hurting another child both deliberately and methodically. Bullying involves a plan and devotion to its implementation. The experts define bullying as using force or coercion to either intimidate or abuse another.

Some of the more common bullying methods include:

  1. Mercilessly tormenting or threatening

  2. Harassing another, either verbally or physically

  3. Spreading malicious rumors or gossip

  4. Outing (publicly displaying another's confidential messages)

  5. Intentionally excluding or expelling the child from a peer group

Cyberbullying

There is nothing new about bullying. It's been around as long as people have had an interest in hurting someone else. But bullying has evolved, and some of its forms have changed. Until recently, bullying was limited to face-to-face or in school. Experts now refer to this as "Traditional" or "Schoolyard Bullying."

But the phenomenon of bullying continues to evolve and assume different forms. Today we find physical bullying, verbal bullying, social/relational aggression, and the one that is growing by leaps and bounds, cyberbullying.

The explosion of technology that has made both texting and the hours spent on social media so integral to most kids’ lives has paved the way for bullying to continue unabated around the clock. If so desired, there will be no respite for the bully, and no escape for the victim either!

Cyberbullying is the deliberate and repeated harm that is inflicted through electronic devices. This genre of bullying is much easier than traditional bullying in that it eliminates the face-to-face interaction.

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Without needing to face the victim, the bully becomes wholly desensitized to the victim's pain. By dehumanizing the experience, the bully can now easily say or do things that could be much more difficult had it been face-to-face.

Aside from technology making it much easier to bully, there is another often-overlooked consequence facilitated by texting. With just a few clicks, a child or teen can quickly spread a rumor to many friends at once and, without even realizing it, the damage is spread far and wide and is sometimes irrevocable.

The arena of cyberbullying is usually on social platforms. This not only allows other teens to see the hurtful words but frequently gives them a license to throw in their two cents. What ensues is not merely more bullying, but now the victim has more to worry about than just the bullying. His/her reputation can very likely be damaged in the process.

And this collateral damage is often done without the bully or others even being fully aware of what they are doing. Study after study shows that most teens involved in cyberbullying think that the whole attack was just a joke. They don't realize when it has gone too far. This makes it that much more challenging to put an end to the behavior.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)

CBT is quite effective in addressing the emotional pain caused by bullying. Bullying has been shown to cause anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and in more severe cases, leads to substance abuse or even suicide. And now, with online therapy available, many more bully victims can benefit from CBT.

It is only natural for a victim of bullying to internalize feelings of shame from the experience. CBT delivered via online therapy can help the child to better understand his/her negative thoughts and feelings that were perpetrated by the situation. Comprehending those thoughts and feelings, helps the child to better understand what is driving his/her behavior.

Because bullying can often be traumatic, it is only natural for children to be less than fully aware of their self-destructive thoughts and harmful behaviors formulated as a result. An excellent CBT therapist can help cultivate awareness of maladaptive coping mechanisms so that they can be replaced with more positive ones.

Many teens who are victims of bullying struggle with confidence and self-esteem. Negative thoughts about themselves will have a direct bearing on how they interpret situations and magnify their insecurities. This can become a downward spiral as their beliefs lead to negative self-talk and consequently decreased self-worth.

CBT whether face-to-face or online therapy is beneficial in confronting these self-created distortions and destructive thinking patterns. As a result, the wall of self-doubt can be knocked down, and the victim can gradually regain the lost confidence and sense of control over his/her life.

Is Stuttering The Problem? Teletherapy May Be The Solution!

What is Stuttering?

Stuttering is a speech problem. It occurs when the normal flow of speech is disrupted. A child who stutters will repeat or prolong sounds, syllables, or words. Stuttering is not the same thing as repeating words when learning to speak. Stuttering can wreak havoc on a young child's world, making it challenging to communicate with others.

 

With the advent of teletherapy, now a speech-language pathologist (SLP) can diagnose stuttering online through a comprehensive evaluation of a child's speech and language abilities. While there is no cure for stuttering, early treatment can prevent stuttering from continuing into adulthood.

 

When is Stuttering a Problem?

Research shows that for about three-quarters of preschool-age children who stuttered, the stuttering went away by itself without any treatment. However, if a parent notices that a child's stuttering continues longer than three to six months, or if the stuttering began after age 3½, or if someone else in the family stuttered, then it may warrant a teletherapy evaluation.

 

Another concern that parents should be aware of is that, if the child demonstrates tension or seems to have a negative attitude regarding speaking, this could be a red flag. Self-consciousness may cause the child to react to the stuttering by purposefully blinking her eyes or nodding her head to avoid talking.

 

What are the Symptoms of Stuttering?

It must be understood at the outset that, because every child develops differently, there are no hard and fast rules. Many times a child's “stuttering” is nothing more than a stage in healthy speech and language development. However, if any of the following symptoms persist for 3 to 6 months, there is a reason for concern that the child has a stuttering problem:

 

  • There is a repetition of either sounds, syllables, or words. A common example of repetition is W-W-W-What.

  • Or in the place of repetition, sounds are prolonged, such as SSSSend.

  • Sometimes the child will interject fillers such as "um" or "like."

  • A child pausing a lot or talking slowly often indicates a problem.

  • She may open her mouth to speak, but nothing comes out. The speech stops.

  • The child may seem nervous or out of breath when talking.

  • Tension is revealed by trembling, shaking lips when speaking or fast eye blinking.

  • The stuttering increases when the child is under stress or tired.

  • Sometimes the child is just too traumatized to talk at all.

 

What Are The 3 Types of Stuttering?

 

Developmental Stuttering. The most common type of stuttering in children is developmental. Problems generally become noticeable between the second and fifth birthday. The child's speech and language development isn’t keeping pace with her desire to express herself.

 

Neurogenic Stuttering. Neurogenic stuttering has nothing to do with the child's development but is instead a direct result of either a stroke or brain injury. The stuttering is an indication that there is deficient communication between the brain and nerves and those muscles responsible for normal speech.

 

Psychogenic Stuttering. Psychogenic stuttering is more unusual. This type of stuttering can coincide with problems related to thinking or reasoning, or may occur as a result of psychological trauma.

 

Why Does Stuttering Need to be Treated Early?

 

Once it is determined that the child has a stuttering problem, it is imperative to treat the stuttering as early as possible. This is because, if the problem is left alone, it will most likely lead to collateral damage such as adverse and hurtful reactions from peers, teachers, or unknowledgeable adults.

 

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Aside from the emotional pain that this will most certainly bring, the stuttering itself is likely to worsen, setting up a vicious cycle where the child will become afraid to talk. Humiliated, the child will look for reasons not to speak, which will cause regression and further complications.

 

Avoiding situations where it is appropriate to speak sets the stage for long-term problems that may carry into adulthood. These problems could ultimately affect the child's capacity to form healthy relationships or find a meaningful job.

 

What Causes Stuttering?

 

While research has yet to discover the exact cause of stuttering, it is widely believed that there is a genetic component. Stuttering seems to be related to problems in the way that a child's brain develops neural pathways for speech and language.

Young children undergo rapid development, which is known as a "language explosion," in their preschool years. These years are the most common time for stuttering to begin. As the young child's vocabulary increases rapidly, the brain's neural networks responsible for speech fail to coordinate correctly, resulting in stuttering.

 

What Are Some Typical Treatments for Stuttering?

 

Specific treatment for stuttering depends on several factors, including the child's age, symptoms, the severity of the condition, and overall health. There are a variety of techniques that SLPs, who perform teletherapy, use to teach the child to speak without stuttering, such as learning to breathe while speaking or slowing down the speech. Often, with older children or adults, SLPs work on acceptance of the established stuttering behavior.

 

A treatment that has gained traction in some circles in recent years is the Lidcombe Program. The Lidcombe Program is an approach which focuses on the SLP and parent praising the child for speaking without stuttering. The objective is to help the child to form new neural pathways that will lead to diminished stuttering.

 

Recent research has shown that the Lidcombe Program is an effective stuttering treatment for children under 6 years of age. In fact it is 7.5 times more likely to reduce stuttering than natural recovery (Onslow et al., 2012).

 

How Can a Parent Help?

 

The most important way that parents can help their children who stutter is to show their acceptance of their child's stuttering and minimize their reaction when the stuttering occurs. Children soak up their parents' attitudes and emotions, which practically guarantees that, if the parent is anxious about the stuttering, the child will be as well.

Aside from keeping the proper mindset, there are other ways parents can help their children control and even minimize stuttering.

 

  1. Resist the temptation to finish your child's words when the child is stuttering.

  2. Model speaking slowly, deliberately, comfortably, and in a relaxed manner.

  3. Make the time to talk with your child, giving her your undivided attention.

  4. When your child is speaking, please don't interrupt.

  5. Put your phone down and listen to your child when she speaks.

  6. If your child wants to talk about her stutter, talk openly about it.

teletherapy brain break

Your Kid’s Teletherapy Counseling is Slipping – How About a (Brain) Break?

What is a Brain Break?

Brain Breaks are short, energizing bursts of activity that send oxygen to the brain and boost the flow of blood. They have been shown to help children to be more attentive, retain information, and be more fully engaged in teletherapy counseling with increased motivation. Nothing complicated; they can be as simple as standing up for five minutes, stretching or running in place.

 

When your teletherapy counseling student is feeling overwhelmed, a brain break can be the perfect tactic to get things back on track. It is important to remember that these breaks are not merely downtime for the student, but have been shown to contain genuine therapeutic value, aside from increasing the session's productivity.

 

How Do Brain Breaks Help?

According to Angela Hanscom, a pediatric occupational therapist, "Children naturally start fidgeting to get the movement their bodies so desperately need to "turn their brain on." What happens when the children start fidgeting? We ask them to sit still and pay attention; therefore, their brain goes back to "sleep."

 

Studies have shown that Brain Breaks increase students' on-task behavior and ability to gain more fully from teletherapy counseling. Without becoming too scientific, the benefit of a brain break can be explained as follows.

 

The research has repeatedly shown that, by quieting our minds, our parasympathetic nervous system is activated, which reduces our heart rate. Reducing heart rate lowers blood pressure, which has the tangible effect of enhancing our thinking and enabling us to cope more effectively with challenges such as the demands of teletherapy counseling.

 

What's more, research shows that the brain isn't idle when it "takes a break." During "the break," the brain continues to work at making sense out of how we are experiencing and processing memories. In other words, brain breaks are critical in shaping how we understand our lives. Rest doesn't mean idleness, nor decreased productivity.

 

And the benefits are not limited to the intellectual and psychological realms. For young students, in particular, brain breaks are very effective in minimizing disruptive behavior. Studies have shown that even minimal interruptions improved children's ability to stay seated, attentive, on task, and less disruptive.

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But there is another perhaps more urgent issue that brain breaks address. The trauma and adversity that many students are carrying into classrooms are changing how educators and therapists need to assess performance.

 

Once it is understood that adversity and trauma reside in a child's biology, not merely in their psychology and cognition, it becomes critical to prime students' brains for learning and therapy. This requires a clearer understanding of how the brain is affected by trauma and how it benefits from emotional regulation to maximize the learning and therapeutic experience. Brain breaks are a simple solution to a complex problem.

 

Some Ideas to Try

Brain Breaks allow for the creativity of the teacher or therapist. One approach to devising effective Brain Breaks is to stimulate areas of the brain that respond to curiosity and novelty. Here are some great ideas that are sure to get your child's creative juices flowing.

 

  1. Movement: While perhaps not the most creative brain break, physical movement is practically a sure bet for younger kids. Combining some movement with simple breathing can be very useful as a focused-attention practice.

  2. Tongue Stretch: This is a fun one. Instruct your child to stretch her tongue as far as it can go, with clean hands. Aside from the fun, stretching the tongue has the therapeutic effect of relaxing the brain stem, upper neck, palate, and throat. What's more, this provides the therapist with an opportunity to make it even more enjoyable by making it funny.

  3. Hum: Did you ever think about humming with your student? There are so many ways to incorporate humming into a brain break. You could choose a popular song or some relaxing tune of your own. And while you're at it, have your student move her arms and legs. This activity has been shown to release stress and blockages inside the brain stem.

  4. Name Scribbles: Ask your student to write her name or her favorite word four or five times with her dominant hand and then with her weaker hand. After she's finished, ask her how it felt, why it was more difficult with her weaker hand, and what was going on in her brain when she used her weaker hand.

  5. Sound: Using sound can be potent in eliciting a calm response from a child. There are so many websites that you can access for relaxing, even meditative music. Have the child close her eyes and listen. Afterward, you can discuss what it felt like to listen to soothing music.

 

Breathing

Breathing, perhaps the most versatile method, is in a league of its own. There are so many ways that breath can be used as a brain break. Among the many benefits are decreasing stress, reducing anxiety, promoting calm, strengthening the capacity to sustain attention, sharpening the ability to focus and learn, slowing the heart rate, lowering blood pressure, helping to control emotions, and encouraging happiness.

 

Here are just a few:

  1. Focus: Using the breath as a point of focus, ask your student to place one hand on her stomach and the other hand, close to but not touching her nose. As she inhales, ask her what it feels like for her stomach to expand. As she exhales, ask her to concentrate on the warm air passing over her hand.

  2. Colors: As your student inhales have her visualize a deep green. When she exhales have her change the color to a smoky gray. Suggest that the colors become deeper with each breath so that the richness of the colors fills her mind the same way that the breath fills her lungs.

  3. Energizing: Ask your student to pant rapidly for half a minute, like a dog with her mouth fully open, and her tongue extended. Then for the next half-minute, with her mouth closed, have her take short breaths. After repeating this, have her take a deep-dive breath. Just make sure she doesn't pass out!