David Ziegler

David Lee Ziegler, PhD, objects to being characterized as an Attachment Therapist or a proponent of Attachment Therapy. He points out in particular that he has testified against some Attachment Therapists, notably Connell Watkins, Julie Ponder, and Keith Reber. Such testimony notwithstanding, we at ACT are of the opinion that indeed Zeigler advocates for the non-emergency holding (restraint) of children during therapy (see our criteria for being an Attachment Therapy proponent). What follows is material authored by Ziegler that we used to arrive at our conclusion. We invite parents, educators, academics, child-welfare workers, adoption agencies, policy makers, human rights organizations and other concerned parties to review these statements so that they may form their own opinion on this controversy. Ziegler is the principal owner-operator of SCAR/Jasper Mountain in Oregon.

In His Own Words

  • Coercive elements, I believe, are essential with attachment work. But coercive elements cannot be physically coercive elements, they must be interpersonally and relationship coercion. … Yes, there is an element of coercion with attachment-specific therapy with a child with [attachment] disorder. — Expert Testimony, People v. Watkins and Ponder (12 Apr 2001),
    Record on Appeal, Colorado 01CA1313, 17:277

  • Dr Howard Bath, in his excellent 1994 article on this subject, summed up the issue in a manner that is difficult to improve upon: Quite apart from the collateral benefit of containing a dangerous behavior (most often the protection of other children and adults and the prevention of “contagion” effect), sensitive employment of physical restraint can effectively demonstrate limits for a child, provide a timely response to a child’s need for protection from his or her own impulses, and prevent a child from receiving reinforcing rewards for aggression. In contrast to the use of seclusion, it achieves these ends in an interactive and inclusive manner. Additional therapeutic benefits may be found in attachment-related possibilities. A care worker with an understanding of a child’s temporal responses to confrontation and the typical phases of temper tantrums will allow and channel the expressions of anger and rage and be alert to the opportunities that the resolution affords for mutual bonding. Physical restraint is not a management tool that should be employed when less intrusive approaches will suffice, but when used appropriately it can have significant therapeutic, benefits.
    — “To Hold, or Not to Hold…Is That the Right Question?”
    Residential Treatment for Children & Youth, 2001, 18(4):42-43

  • The goal in healing trauma is not to keep the child calm. The goal is when the child becomes agitated to help them learn skills to reduce the agitation. This repeated cycle is what most helps the child. — “Understanding and Helping Children Who Have Been Traumatized,”
    Family Matters, Feb 2004, [p. 2] onlinetext

  • Full Containment Restraints — The child usually responds to being restrained by resisting or seeing if you have control of the situation. … For many emotionally disturbed children, only after all this testing has occurred can he or she begin the steps of moving beyond the violent and controlling behavior that hides internal fear, sadness and pain. If a staff person and a treatment program cannot get to the place of reassuring protection, the therapeutic work will often not occur. Raising Children Who Refuse To Be Raised (2000), p. 272

  • Brief Redirection Holds — this can include holding a child’s arm or shoulders, or it can also be a basket hold (from behind the child crossing your arms in front of the child while holding their hands or forearm). … Seldom is a child’s response to a hold immediately positive. He will generally struggle physically or verbally to see who is in control of the situation. … If a child knows that a certain behavior will end up in a hold and she proceeds anyway, there is a good chance she needs to be reassured by being held by the adult. Raising Children Who Refuse To Be Raised (2000), p. 271

  • I think that good, solid trauma therapy does include a component of having children be re-exposed to the element that has caused them trauma … — Expert Testimony, People v. Watkins and Ponder (2001), 17:270

  • [T]he modern world of regulations and liability have placed a spotlight on physical interventions. In some ways this is good if a heightened awareness brings more effective physical interventions. However, this focus can also put a very effective form of treatment into a category of a crisis, and this line of thinking maintains that all crisis are best prevented. Understanding treatment and the purpose of an intensive treatment setting includes that in this unique setting problems cannot be ignored, behaviors cannot be allowed to go underground, and explosive issues cannot simply be avoided with skilled crisis prevention. … The goal of residential treatment is to achieve the treatment goals in the most expeditious way possible given the unique situation of the child. It is therefore important that treatment centers and their staff have the latitude to use all interventions that are clinically appropriate.
    Raising Children Who Refuse To Be Raised (2000), pp. 264-265

  • … [B]ased upon what I observed, there was a level of oppositionality that was a key that I observed in Candace’s response to what was going on around her. What I saw in that was that she was going to trick the person that was trying to trick her. It seemed to me that she immediately locked into the power person and began to try to exercise her power in return. … These children strive to be in control of others. And so what I observed was that she used a rather interesting approach and that was to begin initially to provide exactly what it is that she was being asked to do, but to do it in pretty clearly kind of a phony manner. So basically, giving the message I will do what you want, and we’ll see how far you get with it. … Everything I just said was not overt. I would say it was primarily covert or deeper-level communication. … Actually, what I saw was extreme compliance, almost strange — a strange level of compliance, overcompliance that would cause me to sit up and take notice of that, if I was the treating therapist. — Expert Testimony, People v. Watkins and Ponder (2001), 17:266-267

  • This diagnostic instrument for assessing the level and severity of attachment problems with young children was developed through years of direct, clinical work with attachment disordered children. This instrument is available to professionals who need a quick and easy screening tool for issues related to attachment and bonding problems. It is designed as an adjunct to other assessment information. New psychometric data has indicated excellent validity. — Online promotion of “Attachment Disorder Assessment Scale,”
    SCAR/Jasper Mountain, David Ziegler, Executive Director (dated 24 Mar 2004) onlinetext

  • We have learned from new research that positive and negative experiences not only are stored in the memory areas of the brain, but experiences also sculpt the developing brain and determine how it will process all new information. This process goes on at every age even before birth … If the child comes into a world with trauma of any kind, the higher regions of the brain grow smaller affecting the child ability to learn and fully understand the world other than how to survive by being ever vigilant of possible harm. — “Understanding and Helping Children Who Have Been Traumatized” (2004) [p. 1] onlinetext

  • [A] physical intervention is designed to let a child know that you are there, you are prepared to handle any problem, and the child is in good hands. There are some who say that a child has a basic right not to be physically restrained in any circumstance. There is an even more basic right — to be safe. The adult’s presence in the above ways [sic] constitutes safety and predictability for the child. It is important from the outset to state that physical interventions are not negative, punitive, nor a symbol of failure on the part of either the child, parent, or the staff person. … When done in the right way and at the right time, physical interventions can be some of the most potent aspects of a clinical regimen, particularly in the early stages of a child’s residential stay. Raising Children Who Refuse To Be Raised (2000), pp. 264-265

  • The limbic system is fundamentally impacted by trauma. It controls emotions, perceptions, attachment and sexual behavior. All memories of trauma are stored and impact the individual in the limbic system, but these memories are for the most part unavailable for conscious recall. … A traumatized child operates from the limbic system and doesn’t understand why they act as they do. The goal is to provide safety the child experiences so they [sic] can operate and develop the higher regions of their brain — decision making, learning from the past, developing values, and forming a personality others care to be around. — “Understanding and Helping Children Who Have Been Traumatized” (2004) [p. 2] onlinetext

  • It was initially stated that the issue of physically holding children was best framed by the question “what ethical and clinically appropriate physical interventions does your program use to manage and treat aggressive and violent behavior, and are they effective?” This question stems from the acknowledgment of the vast majority of intensive treatment providers, accrediting bodies, state regulatory agencies, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, that physical interventions used to address extreme aggressive and violent behavior are not only sanctioned but essential in many situations. — “To Hold, or Not to Hold…Is That the Right Question?” (2001), p. 42

  • Physical interventions are not restricted to taking charge of an out-of-control child. Physical interventions include any situation where there is a therapeutic gain possible through physical touch. … It is often the case the types of interventions mentioned above can help desensitize a child to physical touch when difficult situations do arrive where more firm action may be necessary. Raising Children Who Refuse To Be Raised (2000), p. 270

  • [The “References and Suggested Readings” found in Traumatic Experience and the Brain (2002), pp. 165-174, include works by Robert Scaer and Bessel van der Kolk. The “References and Suggested Readings” found in Raising Children Who Refused to Be Raised, pp. A23-A32, include works by Howard Bath, James Drisko, Vera Fahlberg, and Bessel van der Kolk.]

  • [Among scheduled presenters at a 2004 conference at Ziegler’s SCAR/Jasper Mountain was Ronald Federici.]