Originally emailed 15 June 2004
Colorado Moves to Restrict Attachment Therapy
The Colorado Legislature has just changed its mental health statutes to restrict the practice of Attachment Therapy (AT) in the state.
Colorado has been a leading center for AT for several decades, but the practice came under fire three years ago after the death of 10-year-old Candace Newmaker during a holding-therapy “intensive.” As her killers were tried and convicted in 2001, the state’s legislature acted to ban “rebirthing,” a scripted form of AT that figured in her death, but the wider practice of AT was not affected by the passage of “Candace’s Law.”
Previously in 1999, Colorado had passed one of the first sweeping anti-restraint laws in the nation, known as the “Protection of Persons Against Restraint Act” (POPFRA). It effectively bans the use of all restraint in therapy performed by any state-licensed institution or mental-health practitioner, except when there is an emergency (i.e., a serious, probable, imminent threat of bodily harm to self or others). While AT usually involves non-emergency restraint of a child, nevertheless POPFRA is not always applicable to AT practitioners, such as to Candace’s killers, because many practice as only registered (i.e., unlicensed) lay psychotherapists, not requiring a state license and so are not restricted by POPFRA.
This year, “sunset” renewal of mental-health regulation in Colorado has changed that. HB1251 was amended by its sponsor, Rep. Jerry Frangas, to extend POPFRA to cover unlicensed psychotherapists. The change also served to re-affirm that all regulated mental-health professionals, whether practicing in institutional settings or in private offices, are also covered by POPFRA.
Rep. Frangas (D-Denver) earned a “Hero on the Hill” Award from Advocates for Children in Therapy (ACT) for successfully shepherding the change through the Republican-controlled legislature. The amendment passed both Houses of the legislature without opposition. It was signed into law by Governor Bill Owens on 21 May 2004.
ACT, which brought the need for the change to the attention of legislators during a House committee hearing on HB1251, is seeking vigorous enforcement of the new provisions to stamp out the overt practice of AT in Colorado. The group intends to seek cease-and-desist orders against anyone known to be doing AT within the state and not complying with POPFRA.
(POPFRA is codified as CRS 26-20-101 et seq, which can be viewed online without the latest change.)
Caution: links may have aged since this AT News was first emailed.