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Holding therapy, also known as "attachment therapy," "rage reduction therapy," and "the Evergreen model" is a dangerous and potentially traumatizing "therapy" done to children who are supposedly not close enough to their parents. Autistic children and those diagnosed with attachment disorders are at risk of being subjugated to it.
During "therapy," a child is pinned down by a therapist or parent. The child is freed only after they "accept comfort" (i.e., stop resisting) or after a certain amount of time has passed.
Supposedly, this will encourage the child to "regress" and unleash all their hidden anger towards the parent.
What do you do if your relationship with your child needs improvement? The answer is probably not to pin them down against their will.
Not to mention the risk of injury to the parent and the child.
Autism doesn't work that way
Holding therapy for autism doesn't even make sense. Proponents of holding therapy claim that autism is caused by a poor bond between mother and child, hearkening back to the decades-old refrigerator mother theory. But autism isn't caused by bad parenting or social problems; it's predominantly genetic.
Not all autistic kids feel comfortable with physical affection, which can be overwhelming or distressing. So there's nothing cuddly or comforting about being pinned down by someone who is too bony, too sweaty, too stinky, covered in too much scratchy fabric, or otherwise uncomfortable to the touch.
Proponents also suggest making intense eye contact with the child. Yet eye contact can be frightening or painful to autistic people, a fact backed up by research. So if the kid isn't already terrified by a huge adult pinning them down, they now get to feel like they're staring into the eye of Sauron.
And teaching autistic children to be compliant, when they're already at increased risk of abuse and neglect, isn't a good idea. Autistic kids should probably be taught how to be more assertive, not more helpless.
Being pinned down by a giant person who you trusted, regardless of how much you call out or fight back, is clearly a frightening and potentially traumatizing experience.
Teaching children that they can only be free after they have allowed someone else to control what happens to their body is... pretty obviously bad.
Physical harm and death
Pinning down a child could result in bruises, broken bones, suffocation, and other injuries. Wikipedia estimates that about 6 children have died as a result of holding therapy or similar techniques.
Some autistic people do like being held tightly. But this should only be done with their permission, and if they push away, that means it's time to let go.[citation NOT needed]
If a child has a condition like reactive attachment disorder or autism, talk to a licensed professional about therapies that can help them without running the risk of adding PTSD to their list of diagnoses.
And if you feel like your child isn't close enough to you, you can try strategies like listening to them, asking them about their favorite things, taking them on outings to places they like, validating their feelings, and giving affection with consent.
- Big Think: Holding Therapy: Blowing The Whistle on Institutionalised Child Abuse in the UK
- Holding therapy
- Science Alert: For Those With Autism, Eye Contact Isn't Just Weird, It's Distressing Complete with a very distressing picture to scare away the autistics.
- Indiana Resource Center for Autism: Should We Insist on Eye Contact with People who have Autism Spectrum Disorders
- The Natural Child Project: The Dangers of Holding Therapy
- Wikipedia: Attachment Therapy
- Bristol Autism Support:How and when to use deep pressure