AT News
Archived Issue
Originally emailed 13 December 2004

Utah Attachment Therapist Dies In Car Crash

Utah’s foremost Attachment Therapist Larry Van Bloem, 52, was killed Friday night, 10 December, in collision with a truck. (see Jesse Hyde, “ ‘Holding’ therapist is killed,” Deseret Morning News, 12 Dec 2004.)

Van Bloem’s pugnacious defense of his brand of Attachment Therapy — where he combined “rage-reduction” holding-therapy with neurofeedback, applying pressure to abdominal organs, EMDR, satanic ritual abuse therapy, and a cult-like partnership with mothers — made him a national figure in the Attachment Therapy movement, as well as the center of considerable controversy in Utah.

Video clips demonstrating Van Bloem’s AT methods can be found on the website.

Van Bloem was the subject of local press coverage just two weeks prior to his death. (see
AT News, 1 Dec 2004).

Utah licensing authorities were closing in on a showdown with Van Bloem, a social worker, and his Cascade Center for Family Growth in Orem, Utah. After two years of delays and preparations, Utah’s Social Work Board was set to proceed next month with a hearing on 16 counts of incompetence, negligence, and unprofessional conduct against Van Bloem and his colleague at Cascade, Jennifer Gwilliam. The hearing was expected to take about five weeks, and would have directly challenged the validity of the AT practices and beliefs which were at the center of the charges. It is unclear at this time how and when the State will continue against Gwilliam.

Van Bloem complained that the State’s actions were persecution and that Cascade, as a result, was almost bankrupt. The day before he died, Van Bloem announced that the two therapists working with him at Cascade were leaving. It is not confirmed at this time to whom he was referring, but the State’s licensing complaint says that Van Bloem, Gwilliam and Max Park provided clinical services at Cascade. It would be an indication of the severity of the financial woes of the Center, if Gwilliam — a co-owner — was leaving Cascade.

Van Bloem also leaves behind a cult-like following of mothers of children he treated. (He was just leaving the home of one of his biggest supporters, after a treatment, when he was killed.) It will be significant to see what these “Awesome Moms” (as they call each other) and their children (whom they call “RADishes”) will do now that their primary support base is gone forever.
The State’s licensing actions weren’t all of Van Bloem’s legal troubles. He and Cascade have been embroiled in a host of other legal actions. His death leaves a question about how those cases will proceed. Pending matters in which they are involved:

  • Two parents implicated Van Bloem and Cascade in the water-intoxication death of their 4-year-old adopted daughter, for which the parents are criminally charged with child-abuse homicide. The parents’ trial is scheduled for next Fall.

  • Two other parents have been criminally charged with abusing and maltreating their adopted children while the children were clients of Van Bloem and Cascade. The parents deny that the treatment was criminal abuse. Their trial is scheduled for early 2006.

  • The mother of a child treated for Satanic Ritual Abuse at Cascade has sued an expert for giving an opinion in a custody case that the treatment was quackery. The suit was dismissed, but is on appeal.

  • An adult who underwent holding-therapy at Cascade has filed a malpractice action against Gwilliam and Cascade. No proceedings have been scheduled.

  • Van Bloem, Cascade, and their fund-raising arm, Hope for the Children, sued the operators of an anti-AT website for libel. (see AT News, 3 Jul 2004). The defendants have filed a motion for summary judgment under Utah’s anti-SLAPP, pro-free speech law. No hearing on the motion has yet been scheduled.

  • The parent of a child who underwent AT as a toddler at Cascade has recently filed a malpractice claim against the clinic, alleging among other things that the child became violent as a result of her treatment there.

Van Bloem and his “Awesome Moms” cultivated some powerful political connections over the years and succeeded in thwarting passage of an anti-holding therapy law in Utah. Bills for such a law passed the Utah House of Representatives by overwhelming margins in 2002 and 2003, only to fail to stalling tactics in the Senate by Van Bloem’s personal supporters in the Senate (Sens. Parley Hellewell and Chris Buttars). Future efforts to pass the legislation were awaiting the outcome of the State’s licensing actions. Coming a month before the start of the legislative session, Van Bloem’s demise will not likely result in a bill being introduced this time. The 2006 session may be a different story, however.

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