Experiences of attachment therapy
Wimmer, Jane Shoemaker
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The purpose of this study was to explore mothers’ experiences of attachment therapy as related to their current relationships with their adopted children. The therapy cited in this study was family-focused intervention which engaged the child and parents in resolving attachment difficulties. All of the children were adopted from the Georgia public child welfare system and had been diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder, a serious emotional disorder of childhood that is exhibited by lack of bonding of the child to parental figures. The 16 mothers interviewed in this study had participated in state-sponsored attachment therapy and were part of an evaluation of that therapy in 2003. This research study employed a descriptive qualitative design that used in-depth semi-structured interviews, artifacts, and a reflective research journal for data collection. The population was purposefully chosen, and all mothers who were part of the 2003 study participated. Three research questions guided this study: (1) What was the experience of attachment therapy for the participants? (2) How did the participants view their current relationship with their adopted child? (3) What were the participants’ perceptions of the role attachment therapy played in their current level of functioning? Data analysis guided by the constant comparative method revealed eight major findings. The experience of attachment therapy was (1) consistently supportive, (2) emotionally painful, and (3) physically safe. The mothers’ current relationships with their adopted children were (4) continuously stressful and (5) unquestionably permanent. Attachment therapy had (6) instilled confidence in the mothers, (7) preserved family structure, and (8) offered partial solutions to the children’s problems. Conclusions were that adoptive mothers exhibited extraordinary resilience, that attachment therapy had essential therapeutic components including a sense of the safety of therapy, and that families needed multi-level support from therapists, community resources, and public policy.