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Trauma Doesn’t Tell Time- Grand Rapids- Early Bird Extended

July 26, 2014

Yikes, I just realized that my last blog post was about my Austin, TX workshop, and here I am posting now about my Grand Rapids, MI workshop.  I am so sorry!  I try so hard to write blog posts that are helpful, but the summer months are SO hard for me to get in the head space where I can write.

For those of you in West Michigan- just a quick reminder about Trauma Doesn’t Tell Time NEXT Saturday in Grand Rapids, MI.  I extended the early bird rate by a few days so you should be able to get the $50 rate until Monday.

For more information and to register, click HERE.

Thanks for your patience on the marketing blog post instead of the content that you are used to.  I’ll be back on track with writing ASAP!!!  I’m looking so forward to my trip to Grand Rapids, which will be a tiny bit of work and mostly play and fun!!!

In humble gratitude,

Robyn Gobbel, LCSW

Trauma Doesn’t Tell Time- Early Bird Rate Expires Tomorrow!!!

July 3, 2014

If you’re planning to come to Trauma Doesn’t Tell Time next Saturday in Austin, TX, the early bird rate expires tomorrow!!

The venue has been finalized and the workshop will be held at The Settlement Home- 1607 Colony Creek Dr, Bldg. B, Austin, TX 78758. If you attended Regulate, Refuel, and Reconnect in April, it is being held in the same location (fewer attendees though- so we’ll have lots of space!!!).

If you still need to register, you can do so here: REGISTER FOR TRAUMA DOESN’T TELL TIME

Looking forward to seeing you there!

The Tragedy of Disorganized Attachment

June 9, 2014

What if your mother was a Tyrannosaurus Rex? You desperately need your mom to keep you safe. You turn to her when you are afraid, you rely on her touch to comfort you. Human babies need mommies (or daddies- a safe, loving caregiver) for survival. What if the one person who could keep you safe was a scary, loud, rough Tyrannosaurus Rex, with a terrifying roar and sharp pointy teeth?

What happens when you come face to face with a velicoraptor? What do you want to do? Where do you want to run? You run to the person who keeps you safe- your mom! So, what if your mom is a Tyrannosaurus Rex? Then what do you do?

Humans are blessed with an attachment system that serves many purposes. The attachment system lays the building blocks for mental health, relationship skills, and self-regulation. The attachment system is also a biological system that ensures our survival. It is through the attachment system that little babies keep their parents close. When babies are distressed, they behave in ways that brings a parent toward them. As babies get older, they move toward their parents- with their legs or with their eyes- seeking out closeness and safety. This system works because parents aren’t supposed to be scary. When a small child is feeling anxious, nervous, uncomfortable, scared, or terrified their attachment system becomes activated and draws them closer to their attachment figure.

When the attachment figure is the source of the anxious, nervous, uncomfortable, scared or terrifying feelings children are left with an unsolvable dilemma. When your fight/flight/freeze system is activated by the SAME person who activates your attachment system, you’ve got a big problem. It is this unsolvable dilemma that is the basis for disorganized attachment.

Hebb’s Axion tells us that “Neurons that fire together wire together.” Children who experience terror, fear, or neglect at the hands of the person who is supposed to keep them safe experience a simultaneous activation of both the attachment system and the fight/flight/freeze system. This simultaneous activation weaves together these experiences in the nervous system, linking these two systems in a deep way.

Over time, in a new, safe home, children’s attachment system begins to be activated by the new, safe caregiver. But due to the previous tangling of the attachment system and the fight/flight/freeze system, this new, safe caregiver activates the attachment system AND the fight/flight/freeze system. Our children become caught in this impossible paradox of “come close, run away.” This horrifying confusion, which leaves children feeling vulnerable, exposed, and at risk of death, is the driving force behind their bizarre and confusing, sometimes dangerous, behaviors.

This entangled circuitry- of attachment and fight/flight/freeze- can be slowly untangled overtime. It is a slow, methodical process which solidifies our understanding of the importance of parenting with connection. It is the piece we can turn back to when we begin to doubt “trust-based parenting” (Purvis & Cross, TCU) because it reminds us that we must never be sources of fright or terror to our children. That if we become triggered and behave in ways we regret- with a spanking or a threat or any attempt at gaining better behavior through fear or coercion, that it is imperative to repair that breech and continue to repattern our children’s nervous system. We cannot simply reassure our children that we are safe. We must prove to them- over and over and over again- that we are safe. We must commit to never reinforcing in their nervous system that “attachment figure” and “danger danger” goes together.


Like what you read here?  To get more trauma momma support, click here to sign up for my newsletter! I try to send it out monthly. Sometimes I succeed. Sometimes I don’t

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.

When the Cycle is Broken…

May 22, 2014

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

I remember rocking….rocking….rocking… the denim blue glider that was nestled into the corner of my bedroom, gazing at a sleeping newborn perched on top of a yellow, velour covered Boppy® pillow.  We rocked with each other in loving peacefulness, the only sounds were the creaking of the glider that desperately needed some lubricant and tiny, sweet, breathy newborn exhales.  I remember thinking to myself….knowing enough about children to understand the future of our relationship but so entrenched in the depth of my love for his little perfection…. “I cannot imagine ever have a feeling for him that isn’t pure love and adoration.”  I knew that I would one day feel frustrated, even mad (and believe me, I have) but I truly could not fathom what that would feel like.

My little guy spent hours- wrapped in my arms.  I touched him almost constantly.  I gazed at him with eyes that said “You are perfect.  The love I have for you is practically more than I can bare.”  We rocked and rocked and rocked….either in the rocking chair or just holding him my arms, automatically swaying the same as I do now when his eight-year-old long-legs are wrapped around my waist, or even if I have a baby doll in my arms.  He cried.  I went.  I held. I spoke gently.  I didn’t speak a harsh word, use a harsh tone, look at him with harsh eyes, or even have a harsh thought for literally months.  Every.single.thing he needed he received, almost instantly.  And through that always-repeating cycle of he has a need, I meet that need the foundation was laid for secure attachment.   Through a secure attachment experience he began to develop the capacity for relationship.  His sensory system developed optimally.  His neurochemistry was balanced.  His ability to self-regulate began to bloom.  He began to learn “I am wonderful.  I am worthy of love and attention.  My needs will be met.  I am safe.  I can trust adult.”  And his brain- released from the need to keep himself safe- was able to devote the appropriate amount of energy to developing connections to his prefrontal cortex- the part of his brain that now gives him impulse control, the ability to focus his attention, tolerate frustration, and learn math facts.  Attachment impacts everything.

What about the children who spend their first months in a small plastic crib in the NICU?  Or the babies who are cared for by moms who are too intoxicated to hold or feed them.  Or the toddler in an orphanage who begs for food or sometimes goes days – not minutes but days- without being held.  The newborn who is not met with a loving gaze.  The child whose life is scary, overwhelming, and chaotic.

All children adopted from foster care, the US, or through international adoption have experienced trauma.  At the very “least” (and there is nothing “least” about it) they’ve lost their parents.  They’ve lost familiarity even if the familiarity was scary or neglectful.  They’ve lost the person who looks like them.  They’ve lost the right to grow up with people genetically related to them.  Children in foster care have been taken into protective custody because their parents weren’t able to care for them, and they experienced abuse or neglect.  We now know that it is never accurate to say “He was only neglected- not abused.”  We now know that “only neglect” is profoundly damaging to the developing brain.  Children in neglectful biological families, in foster care, or in an orphanage have had the attachment cycle {he has a need, I meet that need} disrupted, sometimes profoundly.  Even the best orphanage does not have enough caregivers to provide a child with the one-on-one attention that babies and toddler need to thrive.  Just as attachment lays the foundation for optimal development, disrupted attachment impacts a child’s whole being; their sensory processing system, neurochemistry, cognitive functioning, emotional and behavioral regulation, and his self-concept.

Overlooked children may be even more profoundly impacted due to the often negative-stereotypes about infants and children with down syndrome, HIV, or other medical special need.  These children may be more isolated, less nurtured, and more harshly disciplined than other children due to cultural misconceptions about worthiness or communicability.  Children with medical special needs undergo medical treatments and experience pain and discomfort, which can impact the emotional development of a child in even the most optimal conditions.    But challenges related to trauma and attachment are not unique to children with identified medical special needs.  All children adopted after foster or orphanage care have had their attachment cycle damaged.  Once we understand what caused our children’s difficulties (the tantrums, defiance, lying, stealing, shutting-down, manipulation, control, etc.) we can begin to repair the attachment cycle, heal their bodies, calm their brains, and improve their behaviors.


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- LIVE

May 12, 2014

Last summer, I wrote a blog post that went as viral as a small-time blogger like myself could hope to go viral.  26,000 hits in two days (up from my average of about 100 per day) is probably about as “viral” as I’ll ever know!!!  It was fun and exciting- but what I really learned was how this information struck a cord- how parents, therapists, caregivers, are desperate to understand why their child’s trauma symptoms and behaviors aren’t going away.


Trauma is complex and memory integration (such as is explained in Trauma Doesn’t Tell Time) is just one facet of the impact of trauma.  But it’s an important one to understand, because with understanding brings compassion.  And with understanding we can begin to address THE REAL PROBLEM.

So, after offering a sold-out webinar through Cenpatico back in October, and traveling to Iowa to present Trauma Doesn’t Tell Time at the IFAPA conference in March, I think it’s about time that Trauma Doesn’t Tell Time- LIVE makes an appearance in my home town (Austin, TX).  And since that seemed like such a good idea, I thought- why not bring Trauma Doesn’t Tell Time- LIVE to my OTHER home town (where I was born and raised) near Grand Rapids, MI?

I am thrilled to announce that you can catch Trauma Doesn’t Tell Time-LIVE in two locations this summer.  Registration is open for both.

Trauma Doesn’t Tell Time- Grand Rapids- is scheduled for August 2nd, 9am to 12pm, in Grandville, MI.  Grandville is 10 minutes west of Grand Rapids, 25 minutes east of the lakeshore, and 50 minutes north of Kalamazoo.  Register HERE.

Trauma Doesn’t Tell Time- Austin- is scheduled for July 12, 9am to 12pm, in Austin, TX.  The location for this workshop is still being finalized but is anticipated to be in north central OR north MOPAC (Parmer area). Register HERE.

Questions?  Leave them in the comments or send me an email- robyn at gobbelcounseling dot com.


Like what you read here?  To get more trauma momma support, click here to sign up for my newsletter! I try to send it out monthly. Sometimes I succeed. Sometimes I don’t J

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 is Contagious

April 21, 2014

Like the common cold, influenza, or measles, trauma can actually pass from person to person- airborne and invisible. You don’t have to be exposed to the original source in order to become infected with measles- you can catch it from being exposed to a person with measles. The same is true for trauma.  You don’t have to be exposed to the original trauma in order to feel and ‘catch’ it’s impact.  This isn’t news to you if you’ve been parenting a child with a history of trauma. Overtime, you have started to feel as traumatized as your child. You might think you’re imagining this or developing phantom symptoms. But you’re not- trauma is contagious.


Remember from What’s Regulation Got to Do With It that our autonomic nervous system contains the proverbial brakes and accelerator of our body and emotions. Our sympathetic nervous system is the accelerator- amping us up by activating stress hormones and chemicals like cortisol and adrenaline, increasing respiration, increasing heart rate – while the our parasympathetic nervous system is the breaks – slowing us down by releasing calming hormones and chemicals like GABA and serotonin, decreasing respiration, and decreasing heart rate. All day long our sympathetic nervous system gets activated and then our parasympathetic nervous system kicks in to bring us back into balance.

When our nervous system is wide open, we are able to tolerate the fluctuations in our autonomic nervous system without difficulty. We can manage stress, deal with frustration and difficulty, and be available for relationship with our kids, spouses, and friends.

Enter one traumatized kiddo (or two, three, four, five etc…)

People who have experienced trauma have a closed and reactive nervous system. They have a harder time managing stress and frustration. Their overactive amygdala believes there is danger when there isn’t. It’s your child’s closed nervous system that can explain all their challenging behaviors.

The thing about nervous systems- is that we match each other.

Think of the last time you were stressed. And your child was stressed and acting out with whatever their acting out behavior of choice is. Your stressed body responds to their stress by doing what? Usually not becoming more calm. We keep upping the ante. Your child escalates, you escalate, your child escalates further, you escalate even MORE. (Don’t worry- this happens to all of me. Me too!).

Our nervous systems match each other. We match each other in the short term- like yesterday morning when you were late, and lunches weren’t packed, and homework wasn’t put away and all of the sudden everyone is yelling. And we also match each other in the long term. So the two years that you’ve been living with a traumatized, close nervous system who vaguely resembles your child? You’ve caught the trauma and now you are closed and reactive TOO.

When families are in crisis, when the child’s trauma is too out of control, when the behaviors have escalated….the first thing to do is to decrease the level of trauma in the parent’s system. This seems counterintuitive. This seems impossible. How on earth can we decrease the trauma in the parent when the child is spinning out of control?

It’s definitely really really really hard. And really really really unfair. To become calm and centered while a tornado is spinning around you? Hard. But not impossible. Not only is it not impossible but it’s imperative. Imagine you caught a life-threatening illness from your child. Can you help your child heal while you are critically ill? No. Does it seem counterintuitive to focus on your own health while your child is ill? Yes. But a sick momma can’t heal a sick baby (or teen).

Trauma Momma. Heal Thyself.


Like what you read here?  To get more trauma momma support, click here to sign up for my newsletter! I try to send it out monthly. Sometimes I succeed. Sometimes I don’t

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.

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

April 14, 2014

Originally written for and posted on 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.


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