How is reactive attachment disorder (RAD) treated?

Treatment for reactive attachment disorder focuses on repairing and/or creating emotionally healthy family bonds. It aims to strengthen relationships between children and their caretakers in a way that can later help the child to develop other healthy relationships

Both children and parents benefit from tailored treatment plans. Treatment may incorporate:

  • Psychotherapy/Counseling. A mental health provider works with the child and parents in a variety of ways, sometimes one-on-one with the child, sometimes with just caretakers, and sometimes in combination, to build skills and reduce problematic patterns of behavior.
  • Family therapy. This therapy involves working together with the primary caretakers and child to develop ways to interact in healthy ways.
  • Social Skills Intervention. This therapy teaches the child how to interact more appropriately with other similar–aged children in typical social settings. Parents are usually also involved to help the child to use the skills they learn.
  • Special education. If a child qualifies, these are school-based programs that help children learn skills to succeed both academically and socially.
  • Parenting skills classes. In these sessions parents may learn more effective ways of managing their child’s challenges. This can be particularly beneficial as managing discipline for children with RAD can be more difficult.

What complications are associated with reactive attachment disorder (RAD)?

Physical, emotional, and social neglect and abuse put children with RAD at higher risk for complications in later childhood and adolescence. These complications may include:

  • Delays in developmental milestones
  • Delays in physical growth (which can be linked to eating difficulties)
  • Emotional problems, such as depression, anxiety, and anger management issues
  • Eating disorders
  • Drug and alcohol abuse and dependency
  • Trouble in school (learning and/or behavioral)
  • Problems in relationships (with peers or adults, and potentially later with partners)

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