Key Concepts


Attachment security is based on parental attunement to infant emotional and mental state. Capacity to understand the heart and mind of another (and of oneself) is called mentalizing. Infants/children develop patterns of response to distress based on the security of their attachment to their parents or primary caregivers. Patterns can be secure or insecure. Insecure patterns include anxious/ambivalent which lead to clinging, etc. Dismissive insecure attachment leads to avoidance of connection, avoidance of needing help, etc. Disorganized insecure attachment leads to unpredictable reactions to stress.


  • One result of trauma, according to Jon Allen, is the feeling that the victim’s suffering is invisible so he/she can’t get anyone else to help. Therefore the victim is helpless
  • Three characteristics include hyperarousal (state of fight/flight/freeze), emotional numbing, and involuntary re-experiencing of the trauma
  • KidsTLC trains staff and parents on the short and long term effects of developmental trauma as well as how to effectively manage children’s traumatic re-enactments


  • Neglect can lead to dismissive insecure attachment and the infant/ child’s sense that s/he is not important, valued, loved or seen
  • Leads to profound sense of shame – Child experiences, “I’m bad, unlovable, and unworthy of having a good family. I am so bad that I deserve to feel unhappy”

Guiding Principles of the Phoenix Program

  • Caring adults need to keep children safe
  • The therapeutic residential environment must be a safe and caring community
  • Parents & Caregivers work as partners with the residential program
  • Parents & Caregivers are vital in guiding treatment
  • Parents & staff need to keep children close rather than isolate them
  • Parents & staff need preparation to parent and work with children who have developmental trauma and attachment insecurities
  • Connect with children before you correct them
  • Shame needs to be explored and reduced