Skip to content

Is {enter symptom here} Related to Trauma or Attachment?

April 14, 2014

Originally written for and posted on www.ProjectHopeful.org where I have recently been honored to serve on their advisory board.

You knew adoption wouldn’t be easy.  Or maybe you thought it would be.

Just look around… lots of families are adopting.  You know these families from church, from school, or maybe just dance class or the playground.  It was easy for them – they look like happy, normal families.

So maybe you’re wondering – why isn’t it easy for us?  Are we doing something wrong?

Many of you probably did a lot of reading or took a prep class before adopting; in fact, it is likely you heard something about attachment, but it was portrayed as a big problem for a tiny percentage of adoptive families (surely, not yours, right?).

Most adoptive families I know heard about a scary monster called “Reactive Attachment Disorder” and were promised that it is very rare and likely won’t impact their child or, therefore, their family.  In order to help families feel prepared and prudent, adoption counselors and authors tell prospective adoptive families to be on the lookout for RAD warning signs.  These include things like a lack of empathy, a weak or absent conscience, avoidance of physical affection, poor or limited eye contact, physical abuse of animals, and preoccupation with fire.  You think about those symptoms and say to yourself “Well, my child didn’t do any of that…and still doesn’t, thank goodness….so I guess this isn’t about attachment.”

So – what IS IT, then? Maybe your child struggles with impulsivity.  Maybe your child doesn’t seem to be learning from consequences.  Maybe your child is really inflexible, struggles a lot with moving from one activity to another, and seems to be unusually controlling.  Maybe she’s explosive and seems to go from 0-60 in 0.0005 seconds flat.  Maybe an “explosion” looks more like a meltdown, and your child runs to hide on the floor of her shower for a few hours when something (seemingly small) happens. Maybe your child looks like a child who would be labeled “ADHD” or “Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD).”  Maybe a doctor has said “depression” or “anxiety.” Likely, you are trying to decide if this is “adoption behavior,” “orphanage behavior,” or just “pre-teen-stuff.”  And now you are reading numerous books, talking to other adoptive families who have had “hard children,” begging teachers to keep trying, learning about strategies to manage ADHD and ODD – and feeling like things are not going the right direction.  You’ve escalated the consequences more and more because your child just. isn’t. learning.  Whatever it is, adoption is a lot harder than you expected.

What if it wasn’t ADHD or ODD or MDD or BPD or any of those other acronyms?  What if someone told you that these symptoms are all about attachment and trauma?

All adopted children experience attachment trauma, even those adopted at birth.  Whether you are fostering a child, adopting domestically, or adopting internationally, without question, your child experienced a significant amount of attachment trauma.  The research is clear that trauma impacts children- sometimes profoundly.  Simply getting on an airplane with people who don’t speak your language and flying to a new country- one that has big houses, water towers, and SUVs- is traumatic.

All children adopted from foster care, the US, or through international adoption have “special needs.”  Experiencing attachment trauma doesn’t mean you child will struggle or display the behaviors mentioned above – but he or she likely will.  Most do. Some of these children adjust to their new families with little difficulty.  Many do not.

Trauma is losing a parent, even if you are too young to have verbal memories of the loss.  Trauma is living in an orphanage.  Trauma is moving to a new home.  Trauma is not being lovingly held and gazed at adoringly by a mother who is simply intoxicated by your smell.

Believe it or not….these traumas (or one or more of many, many others) are most likely what’s underneath the hard things happening in your family.  Inattention, opposition, hyperactivity, anxiety, shy and withdrawn behaviors are all symptoms of attachment trauma.

The good news?  With the right understanding and intervention, your child and your family can heal. More to come…

~


Like what you read here?  To get more trauma momma support, click here to sign up for my monthly newsletter!

Robyn Gobbel, LCSW is a child and family therapist in Austin, Texas specializing in adoption, trauma, and attachment counseling. She is the founder of the Central Texas Attachment & Trauma Center.

Regulate, Refuel, and Reconnect- Registration is now OPEN!

February 14, 2014

CTATC2014Conference_flierJPEG_DATERegistration is now open for Regulate, Refuel, and Reconnect in Austin, TX.  This day-long conference has been created specifically with YOU in mind.

Registration is here: www.RegulateRefuelReconnect.EventBrite.com

WHY ATTEND?

Parenting a child with a history of trauma can be traumatizing to parents and families.  Over time, you may have become exhausted while struggling to cope with the cycle of trauma behaviors. If you know the “how to” but are struggling to do the “how to,” it may be due to the trauma of parenting trauma. Join CTATC for our First Annual Conference to “Regulate, Refuel, and Reconnect.” Drawing on research and innovation from the fields of neuroscience, attachment, and child development, this conference will address the mind, body and spirit of YOU (and your children) to help attendees better understand their critical role in helping a child to grow, heal, and thrive in a relational context.

WHAT TO EXPECT

Conference sessions will include information on how trauma causes our nervous systems to become closed and reactive instead of open and receptive, as well as the importance of attachment and how our attachment styles impact our children’s. The afternoon sessions will be full of fun and practical ideas to reset your nervous system and heal your own trauma through self-regulation, mindfulness, and the power of play. (CEUs available)

PRESENTERS

Robyn Gobbell, LCSW, Suzette Lamb, LPC-S, LCPAA, Katie Spillar, LMFT Associate, Elisha Bidwell, LMFT Associate

More details and registration available HERE.

~


Like what you read here?  To get more trauma momma support, click here to sign up for my monthly newsletter!

Robyn Gobbel, LCSW is a child and family therapist in Austin, Texas specializing in adoption, trauma, and attachment counseling. She is the founder of the Central Texas Attachment & Trauma Center.

What’s Regulation Got to do With It? (Behavior)

January 27, 2014

Emotional Regulation- Keeping the Accelerator and the Brakes of Emotion in Balance. 
Daniel Siegel, MD- Parenting from the Inside Out.

When I explain emotional regulation to clients in my office, I summarize it as our ability to manage stress without “freaking out.” Most people can resonate with that description! Throughout the day, we experience countless stressors- from missing the alarm, to packing lunches, to rush hour traffic- and countless moments of recovery. Think for a moment about the last small stressor you experienced. Getting out the door is a good example for me. We rush rush rush, getting more and more amped up, and then once we are in the car and backing out of the driveway, the recovery starts to set in. What’s really happening in our bodies is that the accelerator is pressed as I rush around (my sympathetic nervous system) and then the brakes are gently and evenly applied once I am finally on our way (the parasympathetic nervous system). Bottom line is that all day long, the accelerator and breaks are ebbing and flowing in a (mostly) gentle and even way, preventing us from “freaking out.” We all have a “window” within which we can tolerate a certain amount of stress- our “window of tolerance.” Really smart scientists and therapists like Pat Ogden and Daniel Siegel talk a lot about the “window of tolerance.” I didn’t come up with it J When I explain regulation and the window of tolerance in my office, I draw something that looks like this on my white board:

I didn’t come up with this graphic, either. I got it from Peter Levine, PhD, and his website: www.TraumaHealing.com. I DID make this particular graphic so that I could color-code it to match a power-point presentation I’m working on!

Anyway. Some days, we have nice, wide windows of tolerances. (Yes, I made that plural). Some days we don’t and the same stress I handled yesterday without any difficulty makes me freak out today. Like some days I can handle the morning chaos no problem. Some days….not so much. So my window of tolerance is sometimes narrower, sometimes wider. This depends on all sorts of different factors- like chronic stress, sleep, being hungry, the highest cedar pollen count in the history of Austin, TX, etc. Typically my window of tolerance can move back to baseline fairly easily.

This is NOT true for your child of trauma (or you- the one who lives with and parents trauma). Your child’s window of tolerance looks more like this:

The blue lines move closer together….as illustrated by the doted orange line. Well….there is an obvious problem with this. Now, regular ole stress pushes the child right outside their window of tolerance. Most parents in my office can relate to this. Their window looked a lot like the first one BEFORE they became trauma parents. Now, their window more closely resembles the second one.

One more complicating factor. Unresolved trauma comes out looking more like this:

The red jagged line? Yeah, that looks like your kid doesn’t it? There is no even accelerator and brake being applied. This is ‘pedal to the medal’ followed up by a jarring ‘slam on the brakes.’ You’ll notice sometimes the brakes get stuck, and sometimes the accelerator gets stuck. I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know!!!! (Again, I did not come up with this graphic. I remade it so the colors matched a power-point presentation I’m giving! www.TraumaHealing.com).

But here’s the piece I think is realllllly important to consider. When children are inside their windows, they are open for relationship. They can use their prefrontal cortex to make good decisions, use some delayed gratification, have impulse control. Really! It’s when your child leaves their window that behaviors start to go south. And being dysregulated doesn’t necessarily mean yelling, screaming, or throwing a huge fit. The path of dysregulation includes opposition, defiance, verbal aggression, physical aggression.

It’s easier to look at a fit-throwing, leg-kicking, obscenity-screaming kiddo and say “Yup….that kid’s dysregulated.” It’s a lot harder to look at the oppositional “NO! I won’t do my homework!” kid and label that dysregulated.

But it IS. And get this- this is true even of non-traumatized kids (and adults). I’ll write more about this, but this article just got really long, so I think it’s time to pause and digest.

The next time your child isn’t compliant….consider looking at the behavior through the lens of regulation. Re-regulate your child instead of punishing, consequencing, lecturing, demanding, or threatening, and see what happens.

PS Obviously for some really traumatized or really dysregulated kids, they live in a chronic state of dysregulation and ‘reregulate’ is way easier said than done. I get it. I’ll write more on that.

~


Like what you read here?  To get more trauma momma support, click here to sign up for my monthly newsletter!

Robyn Gobbel, LCSW is a child and family therapist in Austin, Texas specializing in adoption, trauma, and attachment counseling. She is the founder of the Central Texas Attachment & Trauma Center.

Regulate, Refuel, and Reconnect- A Conference for Parents in Austin, TX ~ April 4.  Save the date- you won’t want to miss this!

Regulate, Refuel & Reconnect- Austin, TX Conference

January 20, 2014

Please save the date for the 1st Annual Central Texas Attachment & Trauma Center Conference!

April 4, 2014 ~ Austin, TX ~ 9am – 3:30pm

CTATC2014Conference_headerJPEG

WHY ATTEND?

Parenting a child with a history of trauma can be traumatizing to parents and families.  Over time, you may have become exhausted while struggling to cope with the cycle of trauma behaviors. If you know the “how to” but are struggling to do the “how to,” it may be due to the trauma of parenting trauma. Join CTATC for our First Annual Conference to “Regulate, Refuel, and Reconnect.” Drawing on research and innovation from the fields of neuroscience, attachment, and child development, this conference will address the mind, body and spirit of YOU (and your children) to help attendees better understand their critical role in helping a child to grow, heal, and thrive in a relational context.

WHAT TO EXPECT

Conference sessions will include information on how trauma causes our nervous systems to become closed and reactive instead of open and receptive, as well as the importance of attachment and how our attachment styles impact our children’s. The afternoon sessions will be full of fun and practical ideas to reset your nervous system and heal your own trauma through self-regulation, mindfulness, and the power of play. (CEUs available)

PRESENTERS

Robyn Gobbell, LCSW, Suzette Lamb, LPC-S, LCPAA, Katie Spillar, LMFT Associate, Elisha Bidwell, LMFT Associate

MORE DETAILS AND REGISTRATION INFORMATION TO FOLLOW!  

Nourishing snacks will be provided throughout the day.  A healthy lunch will be served and is included in the cost of admission.  

CTATC2014Conference_flierJPEG

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

~

Like what you read here?  To get more trauma momma support, click here to sign up for my monthly newsletter!

Robyn Gobbel, LCSW is a child and family therapist in Austin, Texas specializing in adoption, trauma, and attachment counseling. She is the founder of the Central Texas Attachment & Trauma Center.

Another Free Webinar

November 18, 2013

Tomorrow- Tuesday the 19th- I’ll be presenting another free webinar!!

Building Attachment: Strengthening the Bond with your Foster or Adopted Child.

The webinar goes from 7pm to 8:30pm Central Time.

You can register by clicking HERE.

P.S. Thanks for sticking with me!  I know I haven’t been adding new content to the blog recently.  Now that I’ve survived the fall and the Adoption Knowledge Affiliates conference is OVER, I will be able to write again!!!

~

Like what you read here?  To get more trauma momma support, click here to sign up for my monthly newsletter!

Robyn Gobbel, LCSW is a child and family therapist in Austin, Texas specializing in adoption, trauma, and attachment counseling. She is the founder of the Central Texas Attachment & Trauma Center.

Trauma Doesn’t Tell Time….the WEBINAR!

October 3, 2013

Next Tuesday October 8 at 7pm, I’ll be teaching a FREE webinar based on my article Trauma Doesn’t Tell Time.  The webinar is a part of Foster Parent EDU here in Texas, but ANYone ANYwhere can register to take this FREE webinar!  All you have to do it click HERE.  I hope you’ll join me!

 

****I just learned that there is a waiting list for the webinar!  Sounds like we’ll have to do another one soon!  Thanks everyone****

~

Like what you read here?  To get more trauma momma support, click here to sign up for my monthly newsletter!

Robyn Gobbel, LCSW is a child and family therapist in Austin, Texas specializing in adoption, trauma, and attachment counseling. She is the founder of the Central Texas Attachment & Trauma Center.

PS Don’t forget to register for the 2013 Adoption Knowledge Affiliates Conference in Austin, TX!

Integrative Parenting Class and other Central Texas upcoming events

September 16, 2013

Integrative Parenting: Strategies for Raising Children Impacted by Attachment Trauma

IntegrativePareningAvatarThis five-week class will meet on Friday afternoons from 12:30 – 2:30pm.  I scheduled a day-time section to catch parents who need to rely on school to provide the childcare.  My colleague Suzette Lamb, LPC-S will be teaching a Monday evening section beginning in mid-October.

This workshop will help you :

  • Identify the root of your child’s behaviors
  • Learn effective methods to calm reactive and misbehaving children
  • Strengthen the parent-child bond
  • Identify the impact of past trauma on the parent-child relationship
  • Heal the hurt child through attunement, nurturing messages, and comforting touch
  • Facilitate attunement between caregivers and children

Topics will include –

  • Attachment and Trauma 101
  • Creating connections with your child
  • Solutions to your child’s big behaviors
  • Parenting dominos – thoughts, feelings, and responses
  • Boundaries and consequences with love and attunement

Friday Afternoon Classes  ~  Oct. 4, 11, 18, 25 & Nov. 1  ~  12:30pm – 2:30pm

Individual Registration: $100 for the five week class

Parenting Partners Registering together: $175 total for the five week class

Register here: https://squareup.com/market/gobbel-counseling-and-adoption-services-pllc

********************************************************

How to Talk about the Hard Truths in Adoption: San Antonio

****POSTPONED****DUE TO A DATE CONFLICT IN SAN ANTONIO*****CHECK BACK SOON!

What do we say to our children when “She couldn’t take care of you” isn’t enough anymore, especially if the truth involves things like abandonment, substance abuse, rape, or serious criminal history? How do we explain abstract social concepts like poverty or “one child” laws to young children when it’s hard for even adults to understand?

avatar_sanantonioblogBy bringing in ideas from memory processing and attachment theory, “How to Talk about the Hard Truths” will first help parents with the idea of WHY we would give this hard information to our kids in the first place. Robyn will offer examples and ideas about how to give our children age-appropriate and honest information about their life stories. At the conclusion of this workshop, attendees will understand the why it’s important for children to know the truth about their life story. Robyn will help parents and professionals develop the tools and language for discussing these difficult topics with children, while emphasizing the importance of attunement when sharing stories and supporting attachment. There will be LOTS of time for questions and discussion!

Saturday, October 12 from 9:30am – 12:30pm

Pathways Youth & Family Services
4243 Piedras Drive East
San Antonio, TX

This fun and interactive workshop has been held in both Austin and Denver, CO. Participants have reported that the workshop is fun, interactive, and given them the confidence to tackle these hard topics.

Register Here: http://hardtruthsofadoption.eventbrite.com/

********************************************************

Adoption Knowledge Affiliates Conference- “Chapters In Adoption”

adoption_knowledge_affiliates_smallRegistration is now open for this Austin, TX conference that uniquely brings together adoptive parents, adopted people, birthfamily, and adoption professionals.  This year’s keynote and breakout sessions will focus on healing preverbal trauma and loss, openness and authenticity in adoption, and honoring each other’s stories.  You really don’t want to miss this!

See the full line-up and register for the conference here: http://adoptionknowledge.org/aka/conference/schedule/

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,002 other followers

%d bloggers like this: