Talk therapy — or even play therapy — may not help kids suffering from chronic stress and an inability to bond. But treatments that retrain the brain can help.
Attachment therapy: This controversial discipline uses a variety of techniques to create a bond between parents and child by recreating some early experiences the child missed, such as being held and bottle-fed. These activities are thought to build rapport in the moment and create new responses in the child’s brain. But the American Psychological Association has warned that coercive techniques can harm a child.
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing: EMDR helps people process traumatic events. The child may tell a story, draw a picture, or express emotions while following the therapist’s fingers as they move across her field of vision. She may also be asked to pay attention to auditory tones or tapping on her body while she recreates the painful experience. Exactly how this works isn’t known, but this treatment, formerly considered nutty, is now recognized by the American Psychiatric Association as effective for post-traumatic stress disorder.
Neurodevelopmental reorganization: Originally developed to help repair damaged connections in the brains of stroke victims, this method takes people through individualized series of 36 movements — such as crawling on the tummy — that recreate missed milestones. The idea is that each developmental activity that a child does triggers these reflexes that help to move him to the next stage.
Neurofeedback: Like a gym for the brain, this treatment encourages the brain to produce EEG patterns that are closer to normal. With practice, the neural pathways necessary for attention and impulse control grow stronger and more efficient.