Foster Cline

Foster Cline

[Photo: Westword]

Foster Winfield Cline is arguably the premier figure in Attachment Therapy, a psychiatrist residing in Idaho, but lecturing and consulting nationwide. He is also co-creator, with Jim Fay, of “Love and Logic,” a popular system of child discipline.

Dr. Cline is publicly candid about the “intrusive” and “confrontive” therapy he has done and why. He has written at least three books defending what he initially called “rage reduction therapy” and later came to be called “holding therapy” and finally Attachment Therapy (AT). As Cline admits himself in these books, his approach engendered much professional and official opposition. He even quotes one “honest and perceptive” criticism:

The practitioners appear to be taking a sadistic sort of pleasure from their maltreatment of the child. They call him names, ridicule and berate him, direct profanity toward him, and require him to direct profanity toward them in return. They require intense and unrelenting physical contact which is in itself over-stimulating and could easily be construed by the child in sexualized terms. In addition, they frequently “knuckle” the ribs of the child in a way which appears quite aggressive, and appears to be perceived by the child as aversive and both physically and mentally painful.

In short, the “therapy” appears to indicate the belief that the end justifies the means; hence, it is acceptable to strip a child of his basic rights as a human being of treatment in a caring and respectful manner, and that it is also acceptable to exploit the small stature and weakness of the child relative to that of an adult in a physically abusive fashion so long as it is aimed at ridding the child of his “inner anger” (which most likely derives from a past history of abuse much like that which is now billed as “therapy”).

In the 1970s, Cline founded an AT center in Colorado called the Youth Behavior Program. This later become the Attachment Center at Evergreen (ACE), the most prominent center for AT for many years. (It has recently been renamed the Institute for Attachment and Child Development.) Cline was eventually to voluntarily surrender his license to practice medicine in Colorado — and retire to Idaho — soon after the Board of Medical Examiners disciplined him for an AT-related incident at ACE. Cline continues today to defend his treatment approaches and beliefs about the unvalided diagnosis of “
Attachment Disorder” which many credit him with inventing.

Dr Cline’s own words are a clear revelation of the seminal views and practices that led to the Attachment Therapy available today. 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 opinions.

HOLDING THERAPY – A photo from the book High Risk:
Children Without A Conscience
by Ken Magid and Carole McKelvey (Bantam, 1989; still in print)
shows Dr Cline and “holders” engaged in a “Rage Reduction Therapy” session:

Cline Holding

In His Own Words

— A Vision and a Mission —

  • God used intrusive techniques himself. Conscienceless Acts, Societal Mayhem: Uncontrollable, Unreachable Youth and Today’s Desensitized World (Golden, CO: Love & Logic Press, 1995),* p. 119

  • These children need a different kind of love — the type that forces them to love others. Conscienceless Acts (1995),* p. 102

  • Rage Reduction Therapy has been criticized as being close to brainwashing. But Foster Cline … answers such critics with, “Some of these kids need their brains washed.” — Ken Magid and Carole A. McKelvey, High Risk: Children Without a Conscience (New York, NY: Bantam Books, 1987), p. 205

  • The therapy needed to establish the bond does always involve an ordeal … — Foreword in Carole A. McKelvey, Give Them Roots, Then Let Them Fly: Understanding Attachment Therapy (Evergreen, CO: Attachment Center at Evergreen, 1995), p. 6

  • [I]t is the therapist’s job to disturb the disturbed. Conscienceless Acts (1995),* p. 115

“Fearsome and Dangerous” —

  • Depending on how you define severely damaged, it is estimated that between 40 and 60 percent of children available for adoption fall into this category. They may look just like any other kids … Sometimes it is buried so deeply that it takes years to surface. But it will. It has to. And when it does, it will do so with a vengeance that is fearsome and dangerous.
    — (with Cathy Helding) Can This Child Be Saved? Solutions for Adoptive and Foster Families (Franksville, WI: World Enterprises, 1999), p. xix

  • The adoptive mother often becomes the target of rage that would be more appropriately directed at the birth mother. Can This Child Be Saved? (1999), p. 86

  • [The attachment disordered child] may even identify himself with the forces of evil — praying to the devil, wishing to be Satan’s child, and preoccupied with death, fire, blood, and gore … Conscienceless Acts (1995),* p. 21

  • Signs and Symptoms of Attachment Disorder … lack of eye contact on parental terms … extreme defiance and anger … lack of impulse control and cause and effect thinking … persistent nonsense questions … extremely sneaky and manipulative … cleverness … Can This Child Be Saved? (1999), pp. 41-43

  • The rule of thumb when dealing with an unattached child in the classroom or elsewhere, is Believe the parents, not the child. Can This Child Be Saved? (1999), pp. 43-44

  • Ted Bundy, serial killer, is almost a classic case of what can happen when an attachment-disordered child grows up. … Just before he was executed for his crimes, [Bundy] blamed pornography for his problems. His interviewer, James Dobson, believed him … Conscienceless Acts (1995),* p. 32

Holding Therapy —

  • In this series of photos Dr. Foster Cline illustrates how a Rage Reduction Therapy session is conducted. … Cline stimulates subject toward rage reaction. Child is being held by “holders” … child screams how much he hates the therapist. — Photo caption in High Risk (1987), p. 182

  • “Well, pal, let’s get started. I’m up here on top of you and you’re on the bottom and you’re being held with your permission by 6 people so who is boss right now?” — Quoted in High Risk (1987), p. 217

  • [T]his therapy helps them form it by purposely recapitulating the first-year-of-life experiences. This is not easy for lay people and even professionals to watch, for what the practitioner is doing is actually pushing (provoking) the client to feel helpless and hopeless, like a baby, by holding the client and making him uncomfortable. The result is that the client goes into a rage. However, this rage is not the simple screaming of an infant — the child yells, strikes out, tries to bite, sulks, curses, threatens, struggles, and kicks before finally submitting to the therapist’s authority. Conscienceless Acts (1995),* p. 111

  • When Chris was four years old, he was diagnosed as schizophrenic. When I first saw Chris at age three, he had a vocabulary of less than a dozen nearly incomprehensible words. … Although he flailed and struggled, his therapist, Laurie Smith, was relentless. Holding Chris’s eyes open, she forced eye contact, and stroked his face and gave him unwanted kisses in the midst of his wails. … Being swung in a circle or being held upside down terrified Chris, and he would then reach out for his therapist.… Conscienceless Acts (1995),* pp. 152-153

  • Intrusive therapy involves physical holding and sometimes verbally provocative techniques that bring on expressions and feelings of loss, pain, rage, helplessness, and finally hopelessness — the process through which a person must go to form attachment. Conscienceless Acts (1995),* p. 109

  • By recreating the first-year-of-life bonding cycle through holding and a push to rage, parents and therapists can bond with the children. Conscienceless Acts (1995),* p. 216

  • Thus, when working with the conscienceless, provoking may often mean interacting with nearly the same level of intrusiveness that brought about the feelings in the first place. Conscienceless Acts (1995),* p. 115

  • Generally, bonding is possible between individuals … when one of them is in a position of helplessness and the other is in a position of helpfulness or authority. … The first time in life that this occurs is with the fetus in the womb … Conscienceless Acts (1995),* p. 51

  • [In holding therapy] Sometimes the child will scream or sob in anger or sadness. It is helpful to remember that this is the child’s way of working through unexpressed feelings. It is not a personal attack, no matter what the child says … Can This Child Be Saved? (1999), p. 265

  • He began doubling up into angry contortions. Within seconds, he was [like] a baby, red and furious, flailing and convulsing with frantic baby rage. — (Cline, 1979, p. 192) quoted in High Risk (1987), p. 210

  • Older, bigger children are held by two or more people … Can This Child Be Saved? (1999), pp. 262-263

  • The children may become even more rebellious and difficult to handle if good resolution cannot be obtained during the end phases of a holding session. … Behaviors can worsen or new undesirable behaviors develop. … Children can become harder to manage between sessions … Can This Child Be Saved? (1999), pp. 269-270

  • [T]ranscripts of intrusive therapy sessions seem so repetitive — the therapist is working to obtain the right verbal response (quick, loud, snappy) from the child … Conscienceless Acts (1995),* p. 110

  • [Cline:] How did [your therapist Conrad Boeding] get you to scream? Did they give you a poke in the ribs, or did they just say “Scream louder,” or did they just shake your head a little bit … say really rude things …
    [Teen]: Like, “You’re just a pile of poop.” Conscienceless Acts (1995),* p. 158

  • The patient will generally take a reclining position, face up, so that the therapist is looking down on the patient. This reinforces the idea that the therapist is in charge. Conscienceless Acts (1995),* p. 127

  • Brenda … fifteen-year-old. Her first therapy session lasted an entire day … Conscienceless Acts (1995),* p. 150

  • [H]olding can continue for a year or more. Conscienceless Acts (1995),* p. 133

  • This therapy is called by various names around the world — containment and trust, circle of inclusion, trust and attachment development, and holding therapy … Conscienceless Acts (1995),* p. 112

  • Here is what R.M. Hayes says about gentling a wild horse in the book Horse Breaking. First the trainer ties one of the horse’s hind legs to its tail, and then loops the rope around the horse’s neck. The horse’s own struggles against the rope force him to roll over on his side: … [Hayes’s description of “gentling,” where a horse is forced to acknowledge the authority of a human, and is permitted to be neither overtly resistant nor passively aggressive, but in the end only truly submissive.] … What a beautiful expression of the art of bonding! The client (horse) is held (restrained) and begins to struggle. If the client resists passively, the therapist (trainer) provokes the rage. The therapist continues to hold the client, while talking to him gently and stroking him. The client feels rage, then helplessness, and finally hopelessness, giving in to the therapist and accepting his love and authority. Conscienceless Acts (1995),* pp. 118-119

Still Promoting Holding Therapy —

  • I have been involved in two endeavors. One was founding, with Jim Fay, the Love and Logic Institute....There is disagreement about the use of the more intensive methods that I wrote of in the '80s and '90s that was successfully used by a number of therapists to treat severely disturbed children.... I continue to believe that it is necessary to hold some children, look them in the eye and work through their anger and rage... “Concerning negative Internet information about Foster Cline,” [accessed 1/25/2011] onlinetext

  • [T]he American Psychiatric Association and other well known authorities have disavowed the usefulness of holding children or confronting them heavily. The problem is, it is legally dangerous to advocate the holding of children and it is understandable that no one sticks out their necks to recommend it. “Concerning negative Internet information about Foster Cline,” [accessed 1/25/2011]onlinetext

Holding Therapy … for Parents —

  • In some cases, it pays to hold the parents before holding the child! … Holding a parent is perfect … as the closer the parent is to the therapist, physically and psychologically, the better he will be able to “lock into” the therapist’s understanding and acceptance of childhood difficulties. … The parent now knows how it feels to be lovingly controlled … Conscienceless Acts (1995),* pp. 162-167

  • Parents who never experienced hugs in childhood sometimes need to be encouraged and instructed on how to do this right — “I want your nose right in my neck, right where little kids snuggle in.” “I’d like a little tighter hug on my back …” In addition, the therapist might put pressure on certain muscles so that the parent feels slight discomfort. Conscienceless Acts (1995),* p. 166

“Attachment Disorder” —

  • “Helen Keller was, by Anne Sullivan's accounts, a ‘classic’ child with an attachment disorder. However, she would not have fit the DSM III criteria.” — from “Lack of attachment: development of a pathological cycle.” (accessed 25 Aug 2011) onlinetext

  • Teachers and parents may feel horror and anger at the cruelty that unattached children display.” — from “Lack of attachment” (accessed 25 Aug 2011) onlinetext

  • “The more severe the attachment problem, the more resistant children are to being controlled. Unattached children appear obnoxious, bratty and very demanding.”from “Lack of attachment” (accessed 25 Aug 2011) onlinetext

  • “Most children with reactive attachment disorder have difficulties in speech.” — from “Lack of attachment” (accessed 25 Aug 2011) onlinetext

  • “Eye contact may be very intense or it may be absent altogether. When these children are beguiling or want a favor, eye contact may be terrific. When asked to do a task the authority figure's way, they will not only be extremely resistant, but eye contact is generally lost.”from “Lack of attachment” (accessed 25 Aug 2011) onlinetext

  • The Parents Seem Unreasonably Angry....Preoccupation with Blood, Fire and Gore...Unattached children lie consistently...Cruelty to others...Phoniness...Severe problems with stealing, hoarding and gorging on food...Various types of learning disorders...” from “Lack of attachment” (accessed 25 Aug 2011) onlinetext

Parenting —

  • In my opinion, one of the best forms of isolation is the blanket wrap. Using this technique, a child is wrapped, arms down in a blanket, and the blanket with the child wrapped is wedged tightly but not uncomfortably between two chairs. This technique is illegal in many states. Making it illegal is a big mistake. The blanket wrap has many advantages over other forms of isolation. — “Corporal Punishment,” Foster Cline’s website (2004, accessed 11 October 2004) onlinetext

  • Love and Logic works in all situations … What do we expect [from children]?
    Fun to be around — “Love and Logic Parenting,” Foster Cline’s website (2004, accessed 11 October 2004) onlinetext

  • The major task of the second year of life is for the child to learn “Basic German Shepherd.” Children learn to obey “Come, sit, go, no, stay” messages … Can This Child Be Saved? (1999), p. 32

  • [T]here is no compromise — it’s either win completely or lose absolutely. Conscienceless Acts (1995),* p. 177

  • Joining the children in their misbehavior can be almost as much fun.… ”Oh, it’s time to go to your soccer game? Oh dear! I know I told you that I’d take you. Sorry, I guess I lied about that … ” Can This Child Be Saved? (1999), pp. 239-242

  • Children with severe attachment disorder must be in very difficult situations before they can easily accept attention, relief, and rescue from the adult caretaking individual. The most valuable times are when the child is scared, anxious, or sick. These are golden opportunities … Can This Child Be Saved? (1999), p. 27

  • Even healthy and well-adjusted children can benefit from simple holdings. … Simple holding sessions may last for an hour or two … Even simple holding can be seen as too intrusive by those who believe that a child should only be held with the child’s permission. Can This Child Be Saved? (1999), p. 266-267

  • [Cline approvingly reprints details of a case in which therapist Milton Erickson employed holding therapy and therapeutic parenting:] As the mother later explained, “ … I began to take pleasure in anticipating and meeting his moves. It was almost like a chess game. … I got an immense satisfaction out of frustrating him … ” Conscienceless Acts (1995),* p. 176

  • One parent purposely allowed a child to become lost in a mall, but kept an eye on her as her distress level increased before being “found.” … a recreation of the early distress/relief bonding cycle. Can This Child Be Saved? (1999), p. 283

“Therapeutic Parenting” —

  • I stripped his room of everything but a bed and dresser … [I used] compliance restraint … [I used] in-close and holding program … — [quoting Bob Lay, “therapeutic parent” in] Conscienceless Acts (1995),* pp. 192-196

  • During the holding, the child will complain that the holder is hurting him. … ”Pains you may feel are old memories. Being close brings up past pain. Let it out. Free yourself from it.” — [quoting Bob Lay, “therapeutic parent” in] Conscienceless Acts (1995),* p. 201

  • When Susan came into our home at age thirteen, she identified herself as having three separate parts named Sue, Susie, and Susan. … it was extremely difficult to activate Susan. — [quoting Bob Lay, “therapeutic parent” in] Conscienceless Acts (1995),* p. 197

  • During one holding, an eight-year-old boy was being fussy and distant when, suddenly, an evil look came across his face and with a deep growl he said, “I’m the devil.” We were startled, but continued the holding, for now he was being real. — [quoting Bob Lay, “therapeutic parent” in] Conscienceless Acts (1995),* p. 200

  • The Lays are so good at what they do … Conscienceless Acts (1995),* p. 201

“Reparenting” —

  • Reparenting treats children as they should have been treated at the age when earlier deprivation occurred … A nine-year-old might be allowed to choose rattles and chew toys to play with, and be encouraged to use them as is usually done in infancy. Can This Child Be Saved? (1999), p. 283

  • Give children the opportunity to bottle feed or lick honey off a fingertip … Can This Child Be Saved? (1999), p. 274

  • All bonding could then be considered a “trauma bonding” whether the bonding be in infancy, in the service, in a “boot camp” or in reparenting and attachment techniques. — Foreword in Give Them Roots (1995), p. 8; and “An Essay on Understanding Bonding,” Foster Cline’s website (2004, accessed 11 October 2004) onlinetext

Corporal Punishment —

  • After some discussion we brought Kirk in and we discussed how poorly his “memory gland” worked and it had a hard time reminding him to stay in the “think it over spot.” That it was understandably hard sometimes to remember that. So the memory gland needed stimulation. And, it turned out that the memory gland could be stimulated by the large cord that ran up the spine. Then, of course, the question becomes what stimulates the long cord? It turned out that the cord could be stimulated by stimulating the little nerve fibers on a person’s butt. When those nerve fibers are stimulated, they zap a message to the cord, that zings a message up to the memory gland, locking in the thought that one should stay where one is put. … it was decided that the principal would give Kirk one really hard swat with a paddle … — “Corporal Punishment,” Foster Cline’s website (2004) onlinetext

Professionalism —

  • [intrusive holding therapy is the] … best and quickest way to purposefully reach unbonded children, character-disturbed individuals, and neurotics … Conscienceless Acts (1995),* p. 10

  • Although holding, confrontive, and intrusive therapy have been carried out for many years, good controlled studies are almost impossible to obtain. Conscienceless Acts (1995),* pp. 148-149

  • The techniques discussed in this book are grouped under the name intrusive therapy, and have proven to be effective in case after case. I have been using this therapy for thirty years. Conscienceless Acts (1995),* p. 8

  • Intrusive techniques … have had strong proponents, some of whom has been fairly charismatic individuals who … achieve astonishingly quick results with very difficult clients. Conscienceless Acts (1995),* p. 122

  • [Regarding Attachment Therapy] effectiveness. Most of the current proof, however, is anecdotal. — Foreword in Give Them Roots (1995), p. 7

  • This is intrusive or confrontive therapy, and it is the only approach that has proven effective. Conscienceless Acts (1995),* p. 109

  • [Attachment Therapy] is built upon the belief that the end justifies the means. — “An Essay On Understanding Bonding,” Foster Cline’s website (2004) onlinetext

  • It is my contention that character-disturbed children can be reached only by applying nontraditional intrusive techniques. Only after these children have recreated the first-year-of-life bonding cycle … can they be treated with traditional therapy. Conscienceless Acts (1995),* p. 96

  • This six-hour session [of a 150-lb. mother sitting on her prone 8-year-old son, as described by their therapist Milton Erickson] would be illegal in some states. Conscienceless Acts (1995),* p. 173

  • The professional community doesn’t quite know how to respond to intrusive therapy. … many people still feel that they are new, weird, harmful, ineffective, or dangerous. Conscienceless Acts (1995),* p. 96

  • [T]he holder might be open to charges of abuse once the child gets done distorting what has happened to the police or child-protective services. Conscienceless Acts (1995),* p. 129

Responding to Critics —

  • There are websites that quote my writings and they have generally quoted me correctly, but taken out of context, my overall thoughts can be misconstrued, just as Christ, Prince of Peace, would seem a war monger if quotes from gospels were pulled out of context: "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter in law against her mother-in-law." Matthew 10: 34-35 “Concerning negative Internet information about Foster Cline” [accessed 1/25/2011] onlinetext

Notes —

Conscienceless Acts was re-published by Love & Logic Press in 2001 and retitled Uncontrollable Kids: From Heartbreak to Hope. Though retitled and labelled a “first edition,” the later book does not appear to have any significant changes to distinguish it from the original 1995 version.