Eva Carlston Academy
Posted on:

Eva’s Approach to Adoption/Separation Work

Eva Carlston Academy is a well-respected name in the therapeutic industry due to the quality treatment experience we provide.  Our clients come from around the country with various personal and family challenges preceding their enrollment in our program.  

During our several years in operation as a program, we have served a host of adoptive parents and their adopted children.  This is a unique dynamic entailing some common themes for girls and parents and, thus, requiring a thoughtful approach.

Attachment Theory refers to the role that early childhood attachment with the parent (usually the mother) plays upon the subsequent healthy or disrupted development of the child and the child’s ability to form trusting, attached relationships with others.  John Bowlby, the pioneer of Attachment Theory, posited that the attachment relationship acts as a prototype for all future social relationships; thus, disruptions to it can have noteworthy consequences. Emphasis of Attachment Theory is upon the first two years of life with the belief that the learning about connection which occurs during this critical time period informs the child’s assumptions about subsequent relationship patterns.  Circumstances or situations that may contribute to attachment disruptions include abuse or neglect, mental or physical health issues prohibiting the parents’ ability to be present and meet the needs of the child and adoption.

The child’s symptoms may include emotional withdrawal in response to caregivers; they may avoid comfort-seeking in response to distress or lack any response to comfort offered.  The child may also struggle to form and sustain interpersonal relationships with family members and peers and family members may describe the child as irritable or withdrawn without apparent cause.  

The client with attachment disruptions enters treatment at Eva Carlston typically lacking trust in others and socially isolating from her peers.  She may tend to presume hostility and generally anticipate malintent from people in her environment. This is slow-moving client, due to her wounded nature manifesting in interpersonal withdrawal and distance.  It will take her time to build a trusting relationship with her therapist, academic teachers and milieu staff. Others may describe her as engaging in a “push-pull” dynamic, leaving them confused about where they stand.  She may be engaged and seeking connection one moment while retreating and isolating the next. Her peer group or caregivers may be confused by her hot-cold nature and retreat to protect themselves. Thus, the client may find her fears of interpersonal rejection confirmed.  

The client will first need to work to understand the impact of her attachment disruption upon the development of her beliefs about herself and the world around her.  She will need to explore and understand her attachment style: Avoidant, related to feeling rejected and unloved; or Resistant, as she feels angry and confused. The client may harbor beliefs that she is invisible or unworthy of love, for example.  Based upon this painful schema, the client is likely to engage with others in a manner that perpetuates her beliefs about herself and others’ feelings toward her. The identification of and education regarding the development of her patterns is an empowering first step for the client, which will be taken following the intentional building of trusting, safe, consistent relationships with her support team at Eva Carlston Academy.  Every member of the team will inadvertently play a role in the client’s process of beginning to challenge her negative beliefs about herself. Her parents will be actively engaged in this process via weekly social calls, weekly family therapy via teleconference and visits to her.

When appropriate, the client will have the opportunity to join the Adoption specialty group with other adopted peers at Eva Carlston.  During this group, she will share her adoption story with others and will hear their stories and experiences. The group will read and discuss common symptoms and patterns for adoptees.  While not everyone will share identical stories, perceptions and experiences, there will inevitably be a lot of commonality connecting the girls. They will begin to recognize their story and patterns not as flaws but as a common, understandable outcome of the attachment disruption they experienced early in their lives.  

The parents will be asked to do their own therapeutic work, independent of the family work in this program.  They will need to secure space and opportunity for processing their grief, anger, sadness, and so on. Parents have often grown resentful, having provided a loving home for their child who has become defiant, angry, ungrateful, cruel and disruptive.  Their experiences are real, painful and exasperating.

Prior to entering treatment at Eva Carlston, it is very likely that adopted clients and their adoptive parents have grown distant, reactive and disconnected in their dynamic.  The irony of treatment of an adoptee and her family is that their richest family work is likely to be done in the context of Eva Carlston with a greater physical distance between them than ever before.  Despite living under a common roof, the family has grown increasingly separate. The healing may begin with space for the necessary grieving and self-reflection so common within such a family dynamic. The process is slowed down to support increased thoughtfulness, patience and accountability.  The client and her parents will seek support from their respective therapists and begin to identify ways in which they have contributed to the growing distance in the relationship.

The client is provided the security of a safe, consistent, predictable environment within this program.  The caring, nurturing and responsive environment encourages the client’s development. The consistent caregivers which, again, include the milieu staff, academic teachers and clinical team encourage a stable attachment for the client.

The client’s treatment will be holistic and intentional.  The relationships she manages in her daily life at Eva Carlston, along with the robust family therapy in which she and her parents are engaging is intended to facilitate a strengthened attachment relationship between client and family.  The team will work with the parents to determine a safe and stable living situation for the client to transition to upon completing her treatment at Eva Carlston.