AT News
Archived Issue
Originally emailed 5 December 2002

Holders Fold

In the face of huge opposition, Utah Attachment Therapists withdrew their request for an “Attachment Holding Therapy Board” half-way through the hearing considering their application.

About 100 people attended the hearing yesterday, approximately half supporters and half opponents.

Speaking for the Board were AT therapists Lawrence Van Bloem, LCSW, Jennie Murdock Gwilliam, LCSW, and Charly Risenmay, leader of SAFF CARE, a local AT support group. These three held forth for about an hour on the virtues of AT.

Van Bloem also demonstrated two kinds of restraint holds on his 10-year-old son (both methods now in clear violation of a new policy set forth by the Utah Chapter of the NASW condemning “coercive restraint therapies”). In the lap hold, the boy’s arm was pinned behind Van Bloem’s back. The compression therapy demo was done on the floor, with Van Bloem’s full chest lying on top of his son’s torso. The crowd mumbled in reaction to the abusive and dangerous techniques, AND over the fact that the legislators were getting sanitized renditions.

After the AT presentation, legislators subjected the petitioners to much intense and, at times, hostile questioning. One legislator claimed the AT therapists were having a PR problem and were coming to the State to solve their problem.

Gwilliam stated outright their intent, “We’re trying to legitimize this therapy as much as we can with this.”

In response to Van Bloem’s characterization of compression therapy as only using partial body contact, one committee member blurted, “It looked like full body contact to me!”

Next came DOPL to explain that either AT is a specialty, such as OB/GYN is within medicine, and specialties aren’t licensed seperately in Utah, or AT needs to be considered as an entirely new mental health profession. Even the AT petitioners themselves weren’t clear on what they wanted.

When it came time for public comment, the chair asked for a show of hands on both sides of the issue. Asking to speak against the proposal were approximately 25 people. Those we identified included representatives of:

  • Utah Medical Association

  • Utah Association of Marriage and Family Therapists

  • Utah Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers

  • Utah Psychology Association

  • National Association for Consumer Protection in Mental Health Practices

  • American Association for the Humane Treatment of Children in Therapy [ed. note: now ACT]

  • A psychiatrist to read the APA policy against holding therapy

Several adult survivors and anti-AT activists also planned to speak. Even the Citizen’s Commission on Human Rights (Scientology) was there.

Three minutes later, after sizing up the opposition, Sen. Hellewell arose to announce that the application for a board would be withdrawn.
A clear win.

But even so, it was a pity not to have the statements of all those professional organizations go on the record against AT.
And, alas, the press missed the big story of the day — that so much of Utah’s health care system was represented there, and on such short notice, to make sure this very, very bad idea had a stake driven through its cold heart.

Press coverage:
  • Jacob Santini, “Professional license standards sought for holding therapy,” Salt Lake Tribune, 4 Dec 2002

  • Jacob Santini, “License request withdrawn,” Salt Lake Tribune, 5 Dec 2002

Caution: links may have aged since this AT News was first emailed.