Arthur Becker-Weidman

Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy: An evidence-baesd treatment

Interesting e-mail exchange

I frequently receive e-mails with questions from other professionals and parents. I received the following e-mail from a parent and am posting her e-mail query and my response.

Dear Arthur,
Good to hear back from you. We can continue via email, because the blog entry might otherwise end up too long. I am in Australia, BTW, so please keep in mind that Americans find us a little abrupt and straightforward when this is not the case, though I try to be as “international” as I can.

Now to your subject matter. Although I don’t have a formal qualification in Attachment Theory, I have, for the past 2 years, read voraciously about AT as well as autism. Having a son with autism is an intensive education in itself, and I could equally say to you that unless you have raised a child with autism, you will not understand non-typical, and therefore typical, child development – as an “insider”.

As well as having studied attachment theory in college, the books I have read recently include; Attachment Disorganisation, The Cradle of Thought; Peter Hobson, The RDI Book Stephen Gutstein 2009 (contains some very new and interesting material about brain development), Awakening Childrens’ Minds; Berk, Aspergers:Autism; Solving the Relationship Puzzle; S Gutstein, Relationship Development Intervention: S Gutstein. I have just started the award winning Nature:Nurture assumption. I have also read hundreds of journal articles on attachment, and attended many webinars on autism and RDI. I have read a lot about Mary Ainsworth’s theories and categories of attachment. In fact, before our son was diagnosed with autism, we were assessed in the SSP. So, not only have I read about her theories, I have experienced her methods first hand. My son is not adopted, BTW. Here in Australia, as well as the UK, biological children are diagnosed with RAD and DAD, even when there is no abuse or neglect. I also work part-time as a mental health nurse in a state-run child psychiatric unit.

I also question AT through a socioligical and linguistic perspective, and read books by sociologist Frank Furedi (Paranoid Parenting and Therapy Culture) and Stephen Pinker; The Blank Slate, and Strange Minds: Grinker. I find the juxtapositon between autism and AT, and especially AT versus RDI, the most interesting, and I have ‘insider’ as well as ‘outsider’ education in both arenas. I hope this is enough for you.

I invite you to critique anything I have said in my blog.

In the meantime, I hope you will respond to my proposition that the words used in the categories of attachment pathologise people unnecessarily – namely women and children (the easiest targets). They therefore cannot “just” be about how we manage and enter relationships, but come with a range of unquestioned ideological assumptions as well, as I have argued in my blog.

I also have a question that noone has been able to answer so far: When does “insecure attachment”, or any of the other categories, actually become “attachment disorder”?

I hope you read more of my blog, and I look forward to hearing back from you 🙂


let me answer your last question first. “Attachment Disorder” is a loosely defined term with wide variation in meaning. The five categories of patterns of attachment used in the research with adults (Secure, Avoidant, Preoccupied, Disorganized, and Cannot Classify) are research categories not clinical diagnoses. Same for the corresponding patterns defined by the Strange Situation Procedure (Mary Ainsworth).

Autism and Reactive Attachment Disorder a distinct disorders with distinct diagnostic criteria (DSM IV) and that require different treatments and approaches. One is caused by chronic early maltreatment within a caregiving relationship; the other is more of a neuological disorder).

The books you’ve mentioned I’m not familiar with. If you do want a good orientation to Attachment Theory and Attachment Research, let me suggest any of the following book:

1. Becker-Weidman, A., & Shell, D., (Eds.) (2005), Creating Capacity for Attachment, Wood ‘N’ Barnes, Oklahoma City, OK.
2. Handbook of Attachment: Theory, Research, and Clinical Applications 2nd Edition. Edited by Jude Cassidy and Phillip Shaver. The Guilford Press, 2008.
3. A Secure Base. John Bowlby, Basic Books, NY, 1988.
4. John Bowlby & Attachment Theory. Jeremy Holmes, Routledge, NY, 1993.
5. Parkes, C.M., Stevenson-Hinde, J., & Marris, P., (Eds.), (1991). Attachment Across the Life Cycle, Routledge, NY.

If you are interested in evidence-based, effective, and empirically validated treatments for Reactive Attachment Disorder and Complex Trauma, you could look at:

1. Becker-Weidman, A., & Shell, D., (Eds.) (2005, second printing 2008) Creating Capacity for Attachment.
2. Becker-Weidman, A., (2007) “Treatment For Children with Reactive Attachment Disorder: Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy,”
3. Becker-Weidman, A., (2008) “Treatment for Children with Reactive Attachment Disorder: Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy” Child and Adolescent Mental Health Volume 13, No. 1, 2008, pp. 52-60.
4. Becker-Weidman, A., (2009) “Effects of Early Maltreatment on Development: A Descriptive study using the Vineland,” manuscript submitted for publication.
5. Becker-Weidman, A., & Hughes, D., (2008) “Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy: An evidence-based treatment for children with complex trauma and disorders of attachment,” Child & Adolescent Social Work, 13, pp.329-337.
6. Hughes, D., (2008). Attachment Focused Family Therapy.

Also the folloiwng links may help:

You can then look at articles about Attachment theory, Reactive Attachment Disorder, Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy, Attachment disorder, etc.

I hope this helps.

regards. I look forward to hearing back from you.


June 4, 2009 - Posted by | Arthur Becker-Weidman, Child Abuse, Child Welfare, Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy, Empirically supported, Evidence-based, Parenting, Special Education, Treatment | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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