What is Attachment Trauma?

We use the term attachment trauma to describe distressing or traumatic experiences that take place within children’s early attachment relationships.  Francine Shapiro, Ph.D., distinguishes between “big T” trauma and “little t” trauma.  Big T trauma includes any experiences that feel physically threatening or experiences that threaten the well-being or existence of the caregivers in the child’s life.  Big T traumas include physical or sexual abuse, domestic violence, or loss of caregivers.  “Little t” traumas include rejection, criticism, belittling, shaming, separations, or a chaotic home life.  Multiple attachment traumas impair children’s ability to trust and develop healthy attachments and to participate in healthy relationships with friends and teachers.  Attachment trauma can have such a profound impact on the developing minds of young children that it interferes with the typical developmental trajectories in the social, emotional, and cognitive arenas.  Early attachment trauma is stored in implicit memory and is easily triggered by interactions with others in the family setting, school setting, or job setting throughout life unless the traumas and the associated perceptions and emotions are addressed with effective therapeutic interventions.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is an evidence-based practice for treating all types of traumas and related symptoms, and is integral to effective healing through the Integrative Team Treatment model.