January 23, 2018

Why RAD kids shouldn’t have individual counseling

One of the biggest mistakes parents make is to send their Reactive Attachment Disorder child to individual counseling. We went down that road, and it’s not a good thing for them. It actually makes them sicker, not better. But how can that be true? Isn’t counseling good for any emotionally disturbed child? Well, the answer is yes and no.

Individual counseling is bad

We’ve had our RAD daughter in counseling with several different competent counselors over the years. It’s not a good situation for the child. RAD kids need to be in control and one of the ways they do this is to triangulate. Our daughter would triangulate with anyone she met as soon as she met them, trying to get them on her side against her mom. And she was very good at it – mostly by telling lies. What she discovered is that the counselor makes a great person to triangulate with! She would tell them how horrible we were, all the bad things we did to her, on and on. The counselors would feed that because they didn’t know us.

When we started catching on to this, we said to our daughter and the counselor that we would no longer allow her to go to counseling without one of us present. Well, that went over like a lead balloon! In retrospect, we should have just cut it off immediately, but we thought it would be detrimental to our daughter to pull her out right away. As it turned out, it didn’t matter at all – see, she had no emotional tie to that counselor – how could she? We raised her from a baby and she didn’t have emotional ties to us!

The whole thing came to a head when I went to the last session with her and she sat and yelled at me, called me names, retreated into her shell, etc. The counselor looked horrified and when the session got over she asked my daughter to leave so she could talk to me in private. She said that my daughter was in a really bad place and she was very worried. I recognized this as manipulative behavior and I told the counselor this, and predicted she would be just fine as soon as we left. And guess what – I was right! It was at that moment that I realized individual counseling was not a good thing for her.

So what is the answer?

The answer (as far as counseling goes, anyway) is family counseling. Find a good attachment counselor that follows Nancy Thomas’ guidelines and practices, and either go with your whole family, or just the child. The point is, at least one of the parents must be there –preferably the mom! The whole goal of the counselor should be to create a bonded, attached situation between child and mother. Once that happens, the child will turn around 180 degrees. And you’ll have the loving, caring child you’ve always wanted.

Parent’s note:  We are happy to report that our children get healthier every day, thanks to the steps we’ve taken to bond with them. The most important resource we’ve found is When Love Is Not Enough by Nancy Thomas. For parents of children with Reactive Attachment Disorder this is a must have. If there is only one thing you buy, make it this book!

About the author: By

Matt is the parent (along with his wife Julie) to five wonderful kids. He has been self-employed for 25+ years and is the owner of the Parenting Allies website.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


  1. Kathryn Stout says:

    We adopted our nephew from foster care and he has rad. We have found it hard to find a counselor who knows how to treat rad. We are just simply hanging in there for now, not knowing what to do. I have read the book when love is not enough, but finding counselors who know what they’re doing is tough. Any info would be appreciated.

  2. Keri Legrand says:

    We have a child that was just diagnosed with RAD he is thirteen. He would go to school and tell them stories of abuse and neglect that was unfounded. He then started to run away. CPS came into the picture and removed him from our care. We live in Kingman Arizona and according to the state laws a child that is of the age of 13 does not have to see his parents if he chooses not to. His attachment disorder is with his bi-dad who he was living with and has been with him since he was 2 years old. We tried to get help to no avail and now this. We can not see him its been five months and he is not involved in therapy that specializes in rad because there is none in our county and cps will not go outside the county to receive the help. What can we do, We really need help!!!!!

  3. Keri – Do you have any professionals on his case that you have a good relationship with, caseworker, guardian ad litem, attorney? Maybe they could go to bat for you. Any materials you can get a hold of to give to the counselors he is working with is great. Look on this website and copy anything you need to give them. Any networking with other parents of RAD, in your area, on fb (there are excellent fb pages just search on Reactive Attachment to find them) to get direction is helpful. You are doing great – don’t give up. Write him letters, send cards, let him know you are still there! And take care of yourself during this time, ok?

Speak Your Mind


CommentLuv badge

Disclaimer: We are not psychologists, counselors, or therapists. We are parents of children with special challenges, and the techniques, tools, and programs we recommend on this website have worked for us on our parenting journey.

Affiliate links may be used within this post for products we recommend. They in no way affect our judgment of said products, nor do they affect the price of the product.
Your privacy will always be protected