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skeptical - rebirthing article & young skeptics email list

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  • eric krieg
    People, some of the worst irrationality has always been in treatment for people with emotional problems. The following is an upsetting story: Below is an
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 12 10:25 PM

      some of the worst irrationality has always been in treatment for people with emotional
      problems. The following is an upsetting story:

      Below is an article by British journalist Christopher Reed on the
      "rebirthing" trial. It has some info on the origins of Attachment Therapy.
      Sorry about the length; it is not on the internet. -- Linda

      "The cuddles that kill"

      By Christopher Reed
      Glasgow Herald, Scotland
      June 21, 2001, (Features, page 17)

      Children are abused, and held so tightly they can't breathe -- with the
      consent of authorities. Christopher Reed reports on the controversial
      America therapy that killed Candace Newmaker.

      In a court hearing this week in Colorado, two women, Connell Watkins and
      Julie Ponder were given the minimum prison sentence of 16 years each for
      suffocating to death a 10-year-old girl, Candace Newmaker, in a grotesque
      "re-birthing therapy" technique. Most Americans think this will end a
      horrific but isolated incident. In fact, the treatment used is widespread,
      systematic, backed by authorities, and linked to the deaths of at least
      four other children in America.

      In fact, the case has helped highlight the fact that this is far from the
      end of the story.

      As a result of the Newmaker case, many victims of frighteningly similar
      treatment from all over America are coming forward to describe what they
      suffered. One is Jessica Bice (sic), who asked the judge to impose maximum
      sentence and whose letter was read in court. She said the Newmaker case
      was "not the first time that this therapy has killed". She said "Watkins
      did rage reduction therapy on me when I was aged five to 11" in which she
      suffered "bruises under the arms and verbal abuse". She said Watkins
      "never cared if I was hurting or tired, but I was lucky, I was strong."

      The treatment involves deliberate violence and abuse of young children who
      are prevented from moving, gripped in holds that can restrict breathing,
      and "take downs" in which they are knocked to the floor in a rugby tackle.
      Parents are also encouraged to withhold food. Clinics charge thousands of
      dollars for such treatment, which may be performed by unqualified staff.

      It is called Attachment Therapy (AT), and is used on children, usually
      adoptees, suffering Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), the "disease"
      diagnosed in Candace Newmaker, the girl who died in a Colorado clinic.

      Some psychologists recommend AT, but the American Psychological Association
      declines to recognize it as proper treatment. Yet there is almost no
      criticism, and only one qualified academic has specifically denounced AT as
      violent and dangerous. In a country where dubious psychological treatments
      are commonplace, the techniques follow the history of quackish remedies,
      with attendant gurus of outlandish theories. AT can be seen as a fad that
      replaces the disastrous "repressed memories" cases of the 1980s and 1990s
      in which dozens on innocent people went to prison on baseless charges of
      sexually molesting children.

      RAD is defined as a child's inability to bond with parents, and attachment
      practitioners claim 90% of adoptees suffer from it because of the traumatic
      loss of their natural mother. Its symptoms include sullen and distant
      behavior, violent temper, aggression, and uncontrollable acting-up.
      Attachment, of "holding" therapy, uses physical restraint, abuse, and
      violence, deliberately inducing rage, terror, and panic. This rage is then
      supposed to dissipate and the child develops warm affection and eye contact
      with the present parent, creating "attachment" and loving, obedient

      In the re-birthing that Candace underwent, a process linked to AT, she was
      tightly swaddled under the supervision of two women -- Watkins, 54, a
      well-known AT advocate but not qualified in psychology, and Ponder, 40 --
      both of whom practised in Evergreen, near Denver. They pushed against
      Candace from the outside to simulate contractions and the girl was meant to
      struggle out of the swaddling, as if emerging from the womb, to form a new
      and close attachment to her adoptive mother, Jeane Newmaker, 47, a nurse.
      Candace suffocated while the therapists leaned on her supine, wrapped body
      talking for half an hour about housing prices. The entire episode was
      filmed and shown at the trial in April.

      Before the re-birthing, Candace endured two AT "holding" sessions for a
      total of 69 minutes, during which a therapist grabbed or covered her face
      48 times, shook or bounced her head 83 times, and shouted 68 times in her
      face from close-up. It was approved attachment therapy, the court heard,
      and is conducted at most AT clinics in America, and also by parents at
      home. The four other deaths were: Russian adoptee Viktor Matthey, seven,
      in New Jersey in 1999; another two, in Colorado in 1997; adoptee Lucas
      Ciambrone, seven, in Florida also in 1997; and Krystal Ann Tibbets, three,
      in Utah in 1995. In each case, lawyers defending the adoptive parents
      argued that the children had been diagnosed with RAD and the violent
      treatment was approved. Las August a Colorado mother, Denise Kaye Thomas,
      43, was convicted of trying to sell her adopted daughter on the internet.
      She said the girl had RAD and "dressed like a Spice Girl, like a hooker. I
      could see the way men looked at her". The girl was eight. Other children
      who underwent AT are said to have been deeply damaged by it, and there may
      have been suicides.

      AT can be traced to Wilhelm Reich, the Freudian-Marxist psychiatrist from
      Vienna. He was imprisoned in the US in 1956 for fraudulently promoting his
      "orgone box", which was supposed to boost sexuality and mental health. He
      died in prison in 1957. A more recent theorist is Dr. Arthur Janov, who
      has a clinic in California, but repudiates the methods used on Candace
      Newmaker. It was Janov who popularized "primal screaming" in the 1970s, a
      method by which people could deal with their primitive feelings by
      screaming out loud.

      Several psychologists continued to develop AT theory, but a more definitive
      -- and controversial principle was Robert Zaslow's Z-Process, which
      detailed in 1975 the restraining and rebirthing techniques. Zaslow, who
      lived in California until losing his medical licence, is believed to have
      returned to Europe several years ago.

      The Z-Process involved several holders, one of whom restrained the head,
      while others rubbed their knuckles up and down the child's ribcage "in
      order to provoke rage and overcome resistance". Children could be
      restrained for two hours, said Zaslow, although sessions could last eight
      hours. Active resistance and bruising were to be expected before the child
      admitted that the therapist was "boss". Zaslow saw rage as a great
      primordial force to be turned to productive use, and the anger and hysteria
      AT aroused were "the last resistance of negativism and also the beginning
      of the transition to positive behavior".

      A technique linked to AT is "re-parenting", introduced in American by
      Jacqui Schiff, a social worker now retired. She treated adults as
      children, making them wear nappies and suck on teats, to re-structure their
      early development. Schiff's methods have been denounced as "sadistic
      pseudo-science". In one personal account she described touching the
      genitals of a naked, restrained patient, her adopted son, with a large
      hunting knife to confront his castration anxiety. He was later convicted
      of involuntary manslaughter in the scalding death of a schizophrenic youth,
      aged 16, in 1972. Dr. Jean Mercer, professor of psychology at Richard
      Stockton College in New Jersey, is the academic who has raised concerns
      about attachment therapy. In a paper on AT entitled "Violent Therapies"
      that she is preparing for publication, she writes: "It is surprising and
      distressing to discover that a violent transformational therapy for
      children and adolescents is being practised in the US, not only as an
      underground "alternative" or "complementary" treatment...[but] taught in
      courses awarded education credits, supported in publications by the Child
      Welfare League of America, and made available by a leading scholarly
      publishing house. States have appropriated funds for training as well as
      treatment with AT techniques (New Hampshire, for example)."

      In another paper on "potentially dangerous" AT methods, published in the
      current Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing, Dr. Mercer
      itemises eight "red flag" warnings about suspect treatments. These include
      "cult-like defensiveness", and "absence of empirical support", and poor
      comparisons with "accepted psychotherapy practices". Attachment therapists
      often invoke two books. One is The Secret Life of the Unborn Child, which
      claims the foetus has conscious awareness of the mother's attitudes towards
      the pregnancy, and that negative reactions are a source of later rage and
      grief. The second, The Primal Wound, asserts that all adopted children
      mourn the loss of their birth mother. Dr. Mercer concludes: "Needless to
      say, these ideas are completely at variance with available information
      about infants' cognitive abilities and emotional reactions."

      The AT techniques are a historical descendant of the bad old days of mental
      health treatment in which patients were whipped, chained, and even thrown
      into snake pits, to create terror that would shock the patient back to
      sanity. But there is also an unmistakable whiff of exorcism about today's
      therapy. Consider this article in the Rocky Mountain News of April 30 by
      Dr. John Dicke, clinical director of the Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy
      Institute in Colorado. Of Candace he wrote: "In many ways she was 'the
      devil' that we are afraid of in all of us...She was destined for a life of
      misery and perhaps drug abuse, living on the streets or in prison. In five
      to six years, she might have been prosecuted by the same district attorney
      who convicted Watkins and Ponder. Instead of homicide, perhaps they should
      have been charged with defiling a corpse, for, tragically, Candace
      Newmaker's soul died the day her unable mother cast her aside."

      During the trial the Colorado legislature hastily passed a law forbidding
      the rebirthing technique that killed Candace, but it is widely criticised
      as riddled with loopholes.

      Meanwhile, the governing body of AT, the Association for Treatment and
      Training in the Attachment of Children, or ATTACH, does not answer queries
      from journalists and its website is being "rebuilt". Connell Watkins and
      Associates has closed, and she and Julie Ponder now begin their 16 years
      each in prison.

      The body of Candace was cremated.


      on a completely different topic

      Dear Group Moderator:

      The Young Skeptics Program (www.csicop.org/youngskeptic) has started some
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      Please forward this message if you think your members may be interested.
      Thank you.

      Best Wishes,

      Lisa Goodlin, Moderator


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