Elizabeth Randolph

Elizabeth Randolph

According to official records, Elizabeth Marie (“Liz”) Randolph is a former psychiatric nurse who was given a doctorate from the unaccredited California Graduate School of Psychology (Corte Madera, CA). She was a licensed psychologist in California until that license was revoked in 1996. She reports that she practices now as a “pastoral counselor.”

The “Randolph Attachment Disorder Questionnaire” (
RADQ), devised by Randolph and published/sold by the Institute for Attachment and Child Development, has been cited by many Attachment Therapy (AT) practitioners as the principal instrument for assessing and diagnosing “Attachment Disorder.”

Randolph currently provides training materials for Foster Care & Adoptive Community (FCAC), a website that sells online materials for continuing education credits to social workers and marriage and family counselors in many states.  FCAC promotes some of the most extreme Attachment Therapy/Parenting beliefs and practices by proponents such as Nancy Thomas.

It should be noted about Randolph and her work that:

• None of her purported research on AT or AD has been published in peer-reviewed, scientific or professional literature, and thus is not considered part of the corpus of scientific knowledge;

• There is no general professional acceptance or recognition of so-called “Attachment Disorder” as a diagnosis, and it should not be confused with the DSM-IV and ICD-10 descriptions of the very uncommon condition called Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD);

• There are no existing validated instruments, including the
RADQ, for measuring or diagnosing either RAD or so-called “Attachment Disorder”

• Established facts about child development (i.e., reported in the corpus of scientific knowledge) are contrary to many of her beliefs quoted here; and,

• The Attachment Center at Evergreen (ACE), with which Randolph has long been affiliated, changed its name in 2002 to the Institute for Attachment and Child Development.

In Her Own Words

World’s Foremost Reseacher”

  • [Randolph] is considered the [sic] be the world’s foremost researcher on Attachment Disorder. Broken Hearts; Wounded Minds (Evergreen, CO: RFR Publications, 2001), inside back cover

On Therapy —

  • In fact, there isn’t actually a dividing line between rage reduction, holding, and attachment therapies… Broken Hearts; Wounded Minds (2001), p. 92

  • As with other approaches to attachment therapy, in humanistic attachment therapy much time is spent … experiencing, intensifying, expressing, and working through of trapped emotions … and [releasing] traumatic memories … Broken Hearts; Wounded Minds (2001), p. 94

  • [T]he child is lying in the therapist’s lap … Because the child is being held by the therapist …, this approach to therapy used to be called called holding therapy. Most therapists today refer to it as attachment therapy, although a few still call it holding therapy. Children Who Shock and Surprise: A Guide to Attachment Disorders
    (Salt Lake City, UT: RFR Publications, 3rd ed., 1999), pp. 36-37

  • Attachment therapy sessions usually last 2-3 hours … the therapist may speak loudly to children or yell at children to encourage the expression of those feelings. The therapist may simultaneously nurture children by stroking their hair or face … may occasionally kiss children … also tickle children … as a way of gaining access to and deepening feelings … Children Who Shock and Surprise (1999), p. 37

  • If the child begins to struggle physically (which some children do when they discover that the therapist is in control), the therapist will hold onto the child’s outside hand or arm (the child’s inside arm is tucked behind the therapist’s back), and may ask someone else to hold onto the child’s legs so the child can’t kick the therapist. Children Who Shock and Surprise (1999), p. 38

  • Thus, one of the primary tasks for humanistic attachment therapist during an intensive is to find ways to help children to be willing to explore their feelings of terror, to allow the terror to intensify a bit, and then to push it away, and then to intensify even more strongly … Broken Hearts; Wounded Minds (2001), p. 97

  • It’s extremely difficult work, and the therapists who do it need to be comfortable with creating very high levels of physiological arousal in children so that trapped emotions can be expressed, and old traumas be resolved. Broken Hearts; Wounded Minds (2001), p. 232

  • Children with the isolated (avoidant) sub-type of AD really hate being touched … they commonly complain constantly about various aches and pains, things that itch, and parts of themselves that they need to move whenever they’re being held. The therapist may sometimes need to briefly cover a child’s mouth with a cupped hand … in order to cut off the child’s constant complaints that are preventing therapy from being able to progress … Broken Hearts; Wounded Minds (2001), p. 103

  • Whenever a therapist lies on top of a child, with the child face up, and with the therapist facing the child, this is known as compression. This technique is also used to help a child become enraged, to help to re-enact the need cycle, and to help a child to access and work through memories of past traumas … Broken Hearts; Wounded Minds (2001), pp. 83-84

  • Compression can be very useful in the process of helping children to work through and release trapped feelings of terror, as the therapist can put a small amount of weight on children until terror is triggered, then takes that weight off, and helps children to calm back down. Then slightly more weight can be put on to again trigger terror … This process can take several hours, and may even take several days … Broken Hearts; Wounded Minds (2001), p. 98

  • Compression can also be quite useful for helping a child to experience the amount of work that’s required to carry her birth parents around with her all the time … Broken Hearts; Wounded Minds (2001), p. 101

  • [With Compression Therapy] It usually isn’t necessary to put more than 50 pounds of weight on the child … Occasionally more weight may need to be briefly put on a child if the issues the child is working on cause him to become assaultive, and he needs to be physically restrained … Broken Hearts; Wounded Minds (2001), p. 101

  • Other people seem to believe that attachment therapy is abusive for children because the therapist doesn’t let the child go when the child wants to be released. This concern has always seemed a bit ridiculous to me because it fails to recognize that most interactions between adults and children involve adults requiring children to do things children don’t want to do. Children Who Shock and Surprise (1999), p. 41

  • [In the] treatment model used by the Attachment Center at Evergreen (ACE) … parents are virtually always included in every session with a child, although they may often be behind a one-way mirror watching the session (to help stop the child from trying to get them to feel guilty and/or rescue the child). Does Attachment Therapy Work? Results of Three Studies
    (Evergreen, CO: The Attachment Center Press, 2nd ed., 2000), pp. 4-5

  • … The following description of the way that attachment therapy is conducted at ACE [Attachment Center at Evergreen; now called Instititue for Attachment and Child Development] is condensed from the ACE procedure manual written by Terry Levy, PhD and Michael Orlans, MA (1996) … After the treatment team has met, the remainder of each session is spent with the child being held in someone’s lap) usually by the therapist, but occasionally by both the therapist and therapeutic foster parent, or by the placing parents, depending upon what issue the child is working on) with his/her head resting on a pillow, allowing for close proximity between the child and the therapist, for good eye contact to be maintained by the child, and for easy management of assaultive behavior on the part of the child. Does Attachment Therapy Work? (2000), pp. 5-6

On Contracting —

  • Most children with AD will immediately ask what the therapist’s way is, to which the therapist usually responds that the first thing about his/her way of doing therapy is that children don’t get to know in advance what the therapist is going to do. Children need to be willing to take the risk that the therapist isn’t going to do anything during therapy that will hurt them, abuse them … and to blindly agree to work hard the therapist’s way. Broken Hearts; Wounded Minds (2001), p. 88

  • If children appear to be particularly frightened about sexual abuse while in my lap, I usually ask them to look into my eyes, and decide whether or not I’m a person who hurts children, or who does sex things to children. Broken Hearts; Wounded Minds (2001), p. 94

  • Generally, children who won’t contract to participate in holding or attachment therapy aren’t family material, and do much better in a group home or residential treatment facility anyway. Broken Hearts; Wounded Minds (2001), p. 87

On Attachment Disorder —

  • Research has clearly shown that traditional approaches to child therapy … aren’t successful with children with AD. Children Who Shock and Surprise (1999), p. 35

  • Aside from occurring in children who have been severely maltreated, AD can also develop in babies … who were rejected by the birth mother while in utero (even if adopted at birth). Children Who Shock and Surprise (1999), p. 8

  • … [B]aby rage and baby beliefs are extremely difficult to access and change later in life. Children Who Shock and Surprise (1999), p. 13

  • Remember that infant emotional states and beliefs are stored in memory alongside sensory data, and that the sensory data must be accessed if the beliefs and emotions are to be changed. Children Who Shock and Surprise (1999), p. 39

  • … [C]hildren with Attachment Disorder function psychologically in quite different ways from children with other psychiatric disorders, indicating that Attachment Disorder is a distinct and separate diagnosis than Reactive Attachment Disorder or Conduct Disorder. Does Attachment Therapy Work? (2000), p. 2

  • Inability to do the developmental movements, particularly with pressing to all fours, rolling from back to front by reaching, and backward crawling seem to be particularly common among children with AD, and are only very rarely seen in children who don’t have AD. Broken Hearts; Wounded Minds (2001), p. 68

On Parenting —

  • The placing parents spend time in the therapeutic foster home learning the parenting tactics that are needed to successfully parent a child with Attachment Disorder, but otherwise have minimal contact with their child during the intensive unless the child is working hard enough in therapy to earn additional time with his/her parent(s). Does Attachment Therapy Work? (2000), p. 5

  • Some therapists may engage the parents in re-parenting activities with the child, feeding the child a bottle or baby food so that eating can become a positive interaction for the child. Children Who Shock and Surprise (1999), p. 40

  • The child’s parents are usually involved in holding the child at this point so that the infant attachment cycle can be recapitulated, but with a more positive outcome … In additional, they may be trained to do holding sessions at home … although some therapists caution parents against doing holding sessions at home because it creates more anger for the child with the parents … Children Who Shock and Surprise (1999), p. 39

  • The primary differences between the ACE [Attachment Center at Evergreen] treatment model and other approaches to attachment therapy is that children … often stay with those therapeutic foster parents for follow-up attachment therapy for a few weeks to a few years after the two-week intensive … Broken Hearts; Wounded Minds (2001), p. 218

  • When parenting children with AD, there is a greater likelihood of success (not letting the child be in control) when consequences are unpredictable and illogical. Children Who Shock and Surprise (1999), p. 29

  • … your greatest success will come from the use of a generic, non-specific threat: “Something Will Happen”. Children Who Shock and Surprise (1999), p. 30

  • One technique that holding therapists developed to help children to learn basic reciprocity was the idea that children need permission from their parents for everything they do, except for breathing. Broken Hearts; Wounded Minds (2001), p. 89

  • … [Parents] want to give themselves permission to use consequences that are illogical (tying the child’s shoelaces in knots, short-sheeting the bed, handing the child a penny, having the child stand on his head in the corner, etc). Broken Hearts; Wounded Minds (2001), p. 120

  • If you give a “stupid” answer, he isn’t in control, which means that you are. Congratulations! Children Who Shock and Surprise (1999), p. 31

  • … if your child starts wondering if you’re going crazy, you’re doing well. Children Who Shock and Surprise (1999), p. 35

  • Some books on parenting children with AD … advise parents on how to be therapists to their own children … parents can be easily injured by their children while trying to hold them … Broken Hearts; Wounded Minds (2001), p. 121

  • Schools also need to agree with parents that they (the teachers) won’t worry about trying to educate children with AD until those children have begun to learn how to love themselves, to treat themselves in loving ways, and to get over the conviction that they’re basically pond scum … Broken Hearts; Wounded Minds (2001), p. 229

  • Remember, a key principle to successfully parent a child with AD is that being successful doesn’t mean that the child is getting better, or is changing. It simply means that the parents are having more fun being this child’s parents. Broken Hearts; Wounded Minds (2001), p. 118

On Research —

  • IACD [Instititute for Attachment and Child Development, formerly Attachment Center at Evergreen] plans to conduct a study in the near future that will assess how much anxiety and trauma attachment therapy creates for children so that we can, finally, put to rest the question of whether this therapy is too traumatic and distressful for children. Does Attachment Therapy Work? Results of Three Studies, with Robin Myeroff (Evergreen, CO: Instititute for Attachment and Child Development, 2nd ed., 17 October 2002) onlinetext

  • Over the years the Attachment Center at Evergreen (ACE), has played a major role in research that investigates the effectiveness of attachment therapy as provided by ACE … Does Attachment Therapy Work? (2000), p. 2

  • … [A]bout half of the children in this study were still being treated at ACE at the time of the follow-up assessments as 12 and 24 months). Broken Hearts; Wounded Minds (2001), p. 219

  • Dr. Randolph developed the Randolph Attachment Disorder Questionnaire (RADQ) to assess for the presence of Attachment Disorder, and has conducted a number of reliability and validity studies for this instrument (contact ACE to obtain information on RADQ materials). She found that the RADQ is a reliable and valid instrument for assessing attachment disorder, and that it distinguishes quite well between children with Attachment Disorder, and those who have Conduct Disorder, or who were severely maltreated but do not have symptoms of Attachment Disorder. She is currently conducting research that will assist the DSM committee to develop a more accurate diagnostic category for Attachment Disorder. Does Attachment Therapy Work? (2000), pp. 2-3

  • … The RADQ [Randolph Attachment Disorder Questionnaire] was designed to be used by psychotherapists and school personnel to assist in identifying and diagnosing attachment disorder in children between the ages of 5 and 18 years.… The RADQ was developed by Liz Randolph, Ph.D. over years of research with a large sample group. Dr. Randolph joined the Attachment Center At Evergreen in publishing this tool and offers it to the field at a modest cost as compared to other assessment tools. Randolph Attachment Disorder Questionnaire (9 June 2003) onlinetext

Recent Promotional Claims —

  • [Randolph] is a world-renowned researcher in the field of Attachment Disorder, and has published the results of multiple studies in this field over the past 10 years. She has been an adjunct faculty member at five different major universities for over 20 years. Teaching child development, child therapy, research, family therapy, and psychological testing, among other courses, to both undergraduate and graduate level students. She has been a foster parent to a child with AD, and currently works as an Integrated Awareness Teacher and Pastoral Counselor. — On FRL [Forrest R. Lien] Counseling
    (http://www.frlcounseling.com/, accessed 21 June 2003)

  • … This workshop [by Randolph] will provide participants with the information needed to diagnose AD, to distinguish AD from Reactive Attachment Disorder, to utilize the assessment of children’s movement abilities in the diagnosis of these various disorders (this information is available ONLY from Dr. Randolph) … — On FRL [Forrest R. Lien] Counseling
    (http://www.frlcounseling.com/, accessed 21 June 2003)