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Reactive attachment disorder: A developmental spectrum

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  1. Abstract
  2. Formal diagnosis
  3. Normal attachment
  4. Reactive attachment disorder in the DSM
  5. Attachment theory
  6. Comorbid disorders
  7. Controversial treatment
  8. Treatment option: Behavior analysis
  9. Treatment option: The therapeutic alliance
  10. Conclusion
  11. References

Within psychology, many different fields exist. Development, social, and abnormal psychology are considered distinct disciplines within the field, and those who specialize in one discipline rarely spend time in the study of another. Counseling is a substrate of abnormal psychology, focusing on identifying and repairing problematic emotional states, behaviors, and relationships. The identification, or diagnosis, of these problems if most often categorized in conjunction with the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV-TR), which sets specific criteria for different diagnoses.

While formal diagnosis is often necessary for a variety of reasons, in many cases it can be limiting, especially in cases of disorders that are not black and white; present or not present, but can fit into a spectrum.

[...] By studying normative attachment at a neurological level, researchers have concluded that self-organization of the developing brain occurs in the context of a relationship with another self, another brain? (Schore & Schore p. 13). ?Animal research and infant studies confirm that neuroanatomy, neurochemical events, and observable behaviors are modified by early interactions with caregivers? (Corbin p. 542). Sensory deprivation research has shown that narrow windows of opportunity exist for the brain to develop certain functions such as vision and hearing (Corbin, 2007). [...]


[...] Treatment Option: Behavior Analysis Behavioral interventions are a proven way to treat a variety of behavior problems, and behaviorists view attachment disorder behaviors as stemming from ?problem children us[ing] coercive behavior beyond the toddler years to gain more immediate gratification (positive reinforcement) or to avoid/escape unpleasant demands or situations (negative reinforcement)? (Golden p. 454). Behaviorist researchers speculate that these behaviors lead to criminal behavior and alcoholism later in life with continued inadvertent reinforcement of deviancy (Golden, 2007). Behaviorist treatment can be described in opposition to traditional psychotherapy. [...]


[...] Conclusion Reactive Attachment Disorder is arguably only an extreme on a spectrum of attachment difficulties that can affect the lives of children and adults in pervasive and disturbing ways. Although the DSM is the definitive and most- accepted guide to diagnosis and treatment planning, a well-informed counselor would do well to investigate research and treatment options for such a serious disorder in other realms of psychology such as development psychology, neuropsychology, and social psychology, as well as multiple treatment options. [...]

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