The trauma-attachment tangle: Let's help children and parents out of the bind


What does help children and adults who have had experiences that ruptured their trust in the world and who have been unable to develop close, reciprocal, loving relationships? 1. Experiences of being safe for an extended period of time. 2. EMDR to desensitize and reprocess upsetting memories. 3. Development of healthy “inner parents” who nurture, encourage, and offer guidance. 4. Children benefit from nurturing cuddle time with parents – and alternating bilateral stimulation to reinforce positive experiences of safety, care, tenderness, and attunement. 5. Adults benefit from imagination exercises to help them experience nurturing. 6. Children and adults need a cohesive life story that is developmentally appropriate and explains and reframes what happened to them and offers trauma resolution and hope for the future. 7. EMDR to target confusion, so that uncertainty (necessary for approaching new experiences and learning) does not trigger anxiety. 8. Grief work, to deal with loss and find ways to be loyal to more than one person or family. 9. Creative opportunities for healing. Art, play therapy, drama, sandtray work can be used to express feelings, as well as provide targets for desensitizing and reprocessing traumatic experiences. Fortunately, children can resolve trauma even when EMDR is used to help the action figure, the baby doll, or the toy horse resolve a challenging situation. 10. Work with parents (or refer them) to understand and desensitize their own triggers for reactivity. Children who are fearful, angry, needy, or sad need mature parents who can stay objective and help them contain their strong emotions. 11. While the work of resolving trauma and developing trust can be slow, EMDR can facilitate the process. The rewards are sweet and well worth the effort. [Excerpt]






Joan Lovett

Original Work Citation

Lovett, J. (2000). The trauma-attachment tangle: Let's help children and parents out of the bind. The Children's Group Therapy Association Newsletter. Retrieved from November 16, 2011



“The trauma-attachment tangle: Let's help children and parents out of the bind,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed September 28, 2021,

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