The Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice

Objective Investigations of Controversial and Unorthodox Claims in Clinical Psychology, Psychiatry, and Social Work

Violent Therapies

The Rationale behind a Potentially Harmful Child Psychotherapy

Jean Mercer - Department of Psychology, Richard Stockton College

Author Note:
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Jean Mercer, Richard Stockton College, Pomona, NJ 08240. E-mail:

Although modern therapies for children generally stress a nonintrusive, communicative interaction between therapist and child, practitioners of an approach called attachment therapy (AT) use physical and emotional violence in their attempts to treat emotional problems they attribute to early separation. Several children's deaths have been documented as occurring in association with AT, but the practice apparently continues. AT practitioners have claimed both empirical evidence for the benefits of their treatment and a well-accepted theoretical rationale for their practices, but analysis of their work does not support such claims. Instead, AT seems closely related to a number of ideas historically outside mainstream clinical thinking, some of which are questionable on ethical grounds and none of which are congruent with modern theory or research. The historical background of AT is examined in this paper, and reasons why parents might find AT acceptable are discussed.

You can read the full text of this article in
The Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice, vol. 2, no. 1 (Spring/Summer 2003).
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