Girl dies during radical therapy session.
April 5, 2001 6:17 PM   Subscribe

Girl dies during radical therapy session. The mother has been given limited immunity for her testimony against the therapists. This is some scary beans -- does anybody have any experiences with this kind of therapy?
posted by OneBallJay (11 comments total)
Not that I want you to admit to psycological shortcomings, mind you. That last sentence came out wrong. It should read as "does anybody know any more about this kind of heavily symbolic treatment?"

I just don't see how this would work. Perhaps it's something akin to baptism, which in my experience is something you do once you're mature enough to understand it. Maybe my life was more stable as a child, but if somebody (my natural parents, or any of my four step-parents) had put me through a treatment like this, I would have come out and laughed my ass off. Now a child is dead because of it. Could it have been worth it?
posted by OneBallJay at 6:44 PM on April 5, 2001

I don't know accountingboy. There are some interesting and creative means to get "healed" in therapy, and roleplay is apparently one of them. Whether this would work, I don't know.

I'm of a bent to think that therapy should be grounded in the reality of life. Life is hard. Life is not fair. Not all problems can be neatly fixed. Coming to terms with these essential truths is essential for a happy life, I think.

The take home note for me is that some mental health professionals are forgetting their ABC's. When we are caring for someone who we might be worried about, we must monitor their breathing.

A very very sad case.

And if the article is correct, negligence, malpractice and perhaps manslaughter.
posted by artlung at 6:53 PM on April 5, 2001

These people were not mental health professionals. None of these people were licensed. The sad fact is that in many states anyone can call themselves a "therapist" without having any real training, as long as they don't make any false claims about their education or lack licenses. Of course, hardly anybody bothers to check these things out when picking a therapist; they just assume. And they get seriously hurt as a result, mentally and physically.
posted by aaron at 7:27 PM on April 5, 2001

There's a lot of confusion here; some people hear this and think it's a new-agey kind of thing. "Rebirthing" therapy was born out of relaxation techniques for adults.

The girl in this case was diagnosed with Attachment Disorder, which is something like the oft-discussed-here Asperger's syndrome, a mild form of autism, where a child develops no ability to have empathy with other people. This is often a feature in early separation from parents, or sometimes sexual or other severe abuse. A child growing up this way is like a brat on acid: nothing outside themselves, matters, practically ever. Having such a child in your family is unbelievably stressful.

Attachment Disorder was identified and is treated mainly at the Attachment Center in Evergreen. It's spawned a mini-industry (which has its skeptics) based in and around that city, from books to seminars. In this case one of the therapists who briefly trained at the Center went off to start her own practice with a bunch of untrained "counselors" of dubious credentials.

One of the main features of attachment therapy is "holding therapy", intensive sessions of essentially hugs meant to build a parent-child bond with a child that does not respond to normal bonding stimuli. Other relaxation techniques are also used. The therapist in this instance developed a variation based on rebirthing therapy, essentially trying to simulate the conditions of birth for the child. It may or may not have been effective in other cases; in this case, clearly, nobody was paying attention to the medical needs of the patient.

In the wake of this incident, places like the Attachment Center have attempted to improve their professionalism and they have developed an industry-wide standards of practice.

My niece has attachment disorder, as well as bipolar disorder and ADD; she's eleven and having a very hard time of it. This week she's been at the local Lutheran Social Services group home; next week she'll probably be in-patient at a private pediatric clinic, not involving this type of therapy. But my parents (her guardians) have closely investigated it, including travel to Evergreen.
posted by dhartung at 7:32 PM on April 5, 2001

I swear a read a post about the exact same thing here a month or two ago. I searched and couldn't find it.

Anybody else remember or is my deja-vu acting up again?
posted by Mick at 7:45 PM on April 5, 2001


I seem to remember this same story about a year ago. Wierd.
posted by john at 7:50 PM on April 5, 2001

The girl died on April 19th, 2000... so you guys aren't losing it.
posted by techgnollogic at 8:01 PM on April 5, 2001

That is the single most disturbing thing I think I've heard in a very long time.

Just a little eerier since 4/19 is my brother's birthday.
posted by JimmyTones at 5:52 AM on April 6, 2001

Just a side comment. I wish we could get away from this description of Asperger's a "a mild form of autism." This was a common understanding of it for a long time--autism and Asperger's were a big muddle--but the picture is a little more complex now. Asperger's is one type of disorder from what is called the "autistic spectrum," a whole set of disorders with complex and overlapping presentations. Although people with Asperger's are characterized as "high-functioning," it's not necessarily mild, in terms of its consequences for people who have it, and it isn't the same as Autistic Disorder--the classic childhood autism--though the two have some similarities. It's hard to distinguish from Non-Verbal Learning Disability, and both of these are quite different from the classic picture of autism. My son recently went through a long evaluation process to try to prise apart the various elements of NVLD, Asperger's, and just-plain-kid, and it was very difficult to do--but "autism" simply wasn't even in the running.

Dan, I guess your "brat-on-acid" description above was intended to be about Attachment Disorder? It's pretty unlike any Asperger's kid I know, who tend to be bright, sensitive, verbal, and clumsy, but as empathetic and "attached" as you could ever wish.

This not to say "mildly autistic" is always *wrong* so much as inexact, and with negative consequences for those so labelled that probably aren't intended. It's like calling someone "mildly retarded"--the word has been used for so many things that it's practically meaningless, but it still has the power to hurt.
posted by rodii at 1:28 PM on April 6, 2001

Therapist or not, new-agey treatment or not, autism or not, when you've got someone wrapped in a sheet and they're yelling to be let out because they can't breath, you do it.

And when something like this happens, I hope the courts give the person responsible what they deserve.
posted by tomorama at 7:24 PM on April 6, 2001

You know, it's weird. Aspergers, mentioned above as "something we've discussed here a lot", came up in a monstrously long thread I'm embroiled ion Usenet (remember Usenet? This here's a *song*a bout Usenet?) in a newsgroup to be named later.

The topic is "direct vs indirect communication styles" and the ramifications and derivations thereof.

And I've been fairly active on Meta since I got here, excepting the last month or so, and I don't *ever* remember hearing it mentioned; the name was totally new to me.

posted by baylink at 7:42 PM on April 6, 2001

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