Neil Feinberg

Neil Feinberg

Neil I. Feinberg, LCSW, is an Attachment Therapist and lecturer who had been in private practice in Evergreen, Colorado. He had also worked in conjunction with Attachment Therapist Deborah Hage in a business called Turning Point, and had links to practices in Arizona and Massachusetts.

Feinberg trained with Jacqui Schiff and associated himself early on with
Foster Cline, founder of the Youth Behavior Program located in Evergreen, Colorado (later renamed the Attachment Center at Evergreen [ACE], and now doing business as the Institute for Attachment and Child Development). Feinberg reportedly worked at ACE from approximately 1983 to 2002.

In 1993, Feinberg and ACE made a videotape,
Attachment and Bonding Therapy, that demonstrates techniques used during the “Two-Week Intensive,” an intervention developed at ACE. In this video, a child is subjected to Holding Therapy (and a similar technique called “Emotional Shuttling”), reparenting, psychodrama, and more. As late as 2004, Feinberg had shown a part of this video during a presentation at an ATTACh conference, when he spoke approvingly of Emotional Shuttling. Here is a clip from that training tape:

Feinberg describes Connell Watkins as his mentor. Feinberg worked at ACE while Watkins was clinical director there. When Watkins left ACE, she set up her own Attachment Therapy practice — Connell Watkins & Associates — and named Feinberg as one of her associates on her letterhead. Watkins also disclosed to patients that she was practicing under his social-work license, though Feinberg has testified that he was unaware of that disclosure when it was being made to patients. Watkins was convicted and sentenced to 16 years in prison for killing 10-year-old
Candace Newmaker during in the second week of a Two-Week Intensive. Videotapes of that child’s maltreatment, shown at Watkins’s trial, revealed techniques similar to those shown in the Feinberg/ACE 1993 videotape.

Official records indicate that Feinberg’s LCSW license in Colorado has been subjected to discipline five times. He stipulated to three probations: the first, for one year, ending in 1985, and a second, beginning in 2000. He also received a letter of admonition in 1990. He was on a third probation, for three years, to which he had stipulated in 2004, when he was charged for a fifth time and the probation was rescinded. This disciplinary action stemmed from three complaints, one of which alleged Feinberg had used a “licking technique” while he “rested on his elbows atop” an 8-year-old client. The child was at the time “pinned on his back underneath” Feinberg while Feinberg licked the child from neck to forehead.

In 2010, Feinberg agreed to surrender his social-work license permanently.

In His Own Words

— Most Telling —

  • Why are you crying? [The restrained nine-year-old boy answers in soft voice, “I’m scared.”] … You don’t need to be scared of me … I’m not going to hurt you! I’ll yell at you! I’ll piss you off! I’ll spit on you! I’ll lick your goddamn face! But I’m not going to hurt you! Bonding & Attachment Therapy (Evergreen, CO: Attachment Center at Evergreen, videotape, March 1993).

Taunting Children —

  • [Reading from boy’s writings:] “Mother and I love each other.” Now what kind of bullshit is this? Bonding & Attachment Therapy (1993)

  • You always give such lousy hugs, Jesus! [Puts boy in mother’s lap.] You don’t hug your own hands…Say, “Mom, I’m really sad and scared about having to leave you.” Bonding & Attachment Therapy (1993)

  • So I want you to say good-bye to your old best friend, Anger, and let me introduce you to your new best friends, Loneliness and Emptiness. — “Healing Broken Hearts”. Presentation with Elizabeth P. Cramer at 16th Annual ATTACh Conference. (Richmond, VA: Association for Treatment and Training in the Attachment of Children, 3-6 October 2004, audiotape).

  • When was the last time you had a caring feeling, little [redacted], huh? You can’t even remember. Bonding & Attachment Therapy (1993)

  • If you don’t start dealing with the mad inside of you, you’re going to kill somebody. Do you understand that? Bonding & Attachment Therapy (1993)

  • [To restrained boy in his lap, while holding the boy’s head and yelling:] Is this the kind of stuff that you do all the time, huh? “I forgot. I don’t know.” Play stupid. Poor, poor little [redacted]! … “Oh, I don’t know, Neil.” How many times do I want to tell you to look in my eyes, huh? … [G]oing to go into your whiny, whimpy routine now? Bonding & Attachment Therapy (1993)

Holding Therapy —

  • In Evergreen, the way we do therapy, we do what we call Holding Therapy. So, lie down. Feet straight out … You like this? Say, “I don’t like this.” [Boy says: “I don’t like this.”] In my eyes. Say it again. Bonding & Attachment Therapy (1993)

  • Now this hand belongs right on my back right about there’s where I like it [putting boy’s right hand between his back and the sofa] … and this hand either I’ll be holding like this or Margaret [co-therapist Margaret Meineke] gets to hold this hand. Bonding & Attachment Therapy (1993)

  • …Sometimes, sooner or later, most kids make the mistake of messing with that hand. Sometimes they get so pissed off that they like pinch me, try to grab me, rip my shirt, you know. They just don’t like to keep it there where they’re supposed to. So when that happens, just so you know, then I do this. [moves the boy’s right hand from behind Feinberg’ back and sits on it] Okay, now. Which one do you think is more comfortable? … If you have a problem with that hand, it’s not going to be a problem. I’ll just sit on it. Bonding & Attachment Therapy (1993)

  • I’d like for you to get up and walk out the door. [All the while grabbing at and/or tickling the boy’s ribcage, as the boy struggles to get free from restraint:] Just get up. Get up. Go ahead. Get up. Go on. Really try. Come on. As if you were really mad; you have to get out of here. Your life depended on it. Come on. Let’s go. Let me see you get up. Come on. Come on. Let me see you get up. Good. Get up. Come on. With all your might. Come on. Let’s go. Let’s go. Come on. Get up. Get up. Come on. Get up. Come on. Do it. Get up. Come on. Get up. Oh, come on. You’re ten years old. You’re stronger than that. Come on. Show me how strong you are. Bonding & Attachment Therapy (1993)

  • Spaz out on me right now. [To boy restrained on his lap, grabbing at boy’s side repeatedly, while boy yells] … Keep going … This is what they have to live with? Bonding & Attachment Therapy (1993)

  • [Covering restrained boy’s month with his hand:] When I ask you a question, I expect you to respond! [uncovers mouth] Got it?! [Boy repeats, “Got it.”] Got it?! [Boy repeats, “Got it.”] I didn’t like that “got it”! I want it louder and snappier! Got it?! Bonding & Attachment Therapy (1993)

  • [To restrained boy in his lap:] Kick hard. “I think about killing my mother a lot.” [Boy repeats it.] Louder than that! [Boy repeats it.] Louder than that! [Boy repeats it.] Eyes open! [Boy is whimpering.] Oh, don’t whimp out here! I don’t want whimping out here! You get into it! Got it?! [Boy says, “Got it!”] Now what do you think a lot about? [Boy says, “Killing my mother a lot.”] Stop kicking. Bonding & Attachment Therapy (1993)

  • [To restrained boy in his lap.] I don’t want whimpy kicking! Bonding & Attachment Therapy (1993)

  • When I grab your mouth and do this [shakes boy’s head], how do you feel? [Boy replies softly, “Scared.”] Bonding & Attachment Therapy (1993)

  • …[O]ne of the techniques that I found to be very useful was doing this thing called Emotional Shuttling, where I would do a holding. I would hold him in my lap, and I would help him to become aroused. — “An In-Depth Clinical Case Study & Review of Treatment Protocol”. Presentation with Paula Pickle, Margaret Meineke, & Elizabeth Randolph [staff from The Attachment Center at Evergreen] at 11th Annual ATTACh Conference. (Alexandria, VA: Association for Treatment and Training in the Attachment of Children, 30 September - 2 October 1999, audiotape)

  • Emotional Shuttling … the technique that I would utilize… — “Healing Broken Hearts” (2004)

  • I did lots of holdings to get to some genuine feelings. — “Therapeutic Failures”. Presentation at 11th Annual ATTACh Conference. (Alexandria, VA: Association for Treatment and Training in the Attachment of Children, 30 September - 2 October 1999, audiotape)

Attachment Therapy for Babies —

  • So I’ve worked a lot with young Chinese adoptees … I talk to 18-month-old babies about, “This isn’t the mommie who carried you, but this is the mommie that’s going to love you forever.” … And it’s amazing to me how much they understand at 18 months … And a lot of them really get very angry. And this is all in the context of the mother holding them. And then they push the mom away. The mom holds them through it. And this goes on a lot. But again, that’s part of getting, developing the attachment. — “Healing Broken Hearts” (2004)

Using the Discarded Notion of Catharsis —

  • In order to get the mad out of you, I’m going to do certain things to you to really make you angry. Bonding & Attachment Therapy (1993)

  • Getting over it means releasing the rage… — “Long Term Therapy With Attachment Disordered Children”. In Carole A. McKelvey, ed., Give Them Roots, Then Let Them Fly: Understanding Attachment Therapy. (Evergreen, CO: The Attachment Center at Evergreen, 1995), p. 168.

  • The transference of the feelings of hurt, fear and anger from their inept and abusive caregivers onto their present caregivers needs to be addressed through the process of emotional release. — “Long Term Therapy With Attachment Disordered Children” (1995), p. 175.

  • Therapy requires nothing less than psychological surgery to separate the hate and rage from their infantile innocence. — “Long Term Therapy With Attachment Disordered Children” (1995), p. 167.

  • This is the truth. If you don’t get out that killing rage while we’re working here these next two weeks, you’re not going to be able to go home. And that’s not a threat. Bonding & Attachment Therapy (1993)

  • I worked with another 12-year-old girl who — I guess you could say she’s enuretic, in that she has enuresis. That she wets, but she’s not really enuretic. I would think of it more as inappropriate urination. She pees on herself two, three times everyday. Can she control it? I believe that she can. The mother believes that she can. She has at periods of time. So when I met with her, I said to her, “Well, how long are you going to wait for your birth mother to come and change your diaper?” … And I said to her, “I’m sorry to tell you, she is not coming.” And she starts to cry. Has a very nice emotional catharsis — “Healing Broken Hearts” (2004)

Bullying Children —

  • And how do you feel about me being the boss of you? Bonding & Attachment Therapy (1993)

  • Let me tell you something. I don’t argue with 10-year-olds. Got it? Bonding & Attachment Therapy (1993)

  • Sometimes I’ll have them kick [while being restrained] … Just because I like to be a bossy bitch… Bonding & Attachment Therapy (1993)

  • … And the third moral is that if you’re warm and safe, even though you may be up to your eyeballs in poop, you should keep your mouth shut. — “Healing Broken Hearts” (2004)

Threatening Abandonment —

  • I’m not going to let you see your parents. How does that feel? Bonding & Attachment Therapy (1993)

  • Now she’s [adoptive mother] tired. She’s tired of loving you. And you know what? She’ll always love you, but she’s not going to work at it any more. I’m not going to let her work at it. Bonding & Attachment Therapy (1993)

  • Whether or not you become a member of their family is up to you … If you want to become a member of that family and stay with that family, then you’re going to have to work really hard. Bonding & Attachment Therapy (1993)

  • You don’t have to do this work. You can say, “Listen, I really love you people, but this isn’t working out for me … So you’re going to find a nice residential facility for me to grown up in.” Bonding & Attachment Therapy (1993)

  • The child earns … a visit with the mom and dad by doing things fast and snappy, right the first time. So it gives us a lot of leverage in working with the child. — “Perspectives on Attachment Disorder,” Presentation at 8th Annual ATTACh Conference (Alexandria, VA: Association for Treatment and Training in the Attachment of Children, 30 September - 2 October 1996, audiotape)

“Killing Feelings” —

[Said to child restrained in Feinberg’s lap:]

  • I want to see your mad! Bonding & Attachment Therapy (1993)

  • Say, “I’d like to kill you, you mother fucker!” … Again. … Again … Bonding & Attachment Therapy (1993)

  • If you don’t start dealing with the mad inside of you, you’re going to kill somebody. Do you understand that? Bonding & Attachment Therapy (1993)

  • How often do you think about killing your mother?! [no response] How often do you think about killing your mother?! Bonding & Attachment Therapy (1993)

More Attachment Therapy —

  • And I work with Attachment Disordered children on teaching them how to become more sophisticated manipulators. — “Healing Broken Hearts” (2004)

  • It’s an emotional release technique that we developed when I worked at the Attachment Center [at Evergreen] … we kind of call this a “psychological sculpture.” — “Healing Broken Hearts” (2004)

  • By using touch, eye contact, movement, smiles and nurturance the child’s deep emotional issues around fear, rage and grief are activated. — Turning Point (accessed 7 October 2005) onlinetext

Sustained Eye Contact —

  • One of the key things I stress when doing therapy with Attachment Disordered children is eye contact all the time. With me, with mom and dad. And that does have a very curative and corrective quality. — “Perspectives on Attachment Disorder” (1996)

  • In therapy, I stress eye contact with the attachment disordered child, fluctuating between game-like staring contests and intrusive and confrontive physical management. — “Long Term Therapy With Attachment Disordered Children” (1995), p. 166

Scaring Parents About “Attachment Disorder” —

  • Therapy must address the rage which … fuels their dangerous sociopathic and narcissistic behavior. — “Long Term Therapy With Attachment Disordered Children” (1995), p. 176

  • These are the kids that grow up to be serial murderers — “Perspectives on Attachment Disorder” (1996)

  • In some ways, it’s biochemistry gone mad. — “Healing Broken Hearts” (2004)

  • …[T]hey are masters at goading their present caretakers into familiar abusive mistreatment. — “Long Term Therapy With Attachment Disordered Children” (1995), p. 167

  • It is difficult to teach empathy to a child who experiences intense gratification when he inflicts pain on others and revels in the delight of sweet revenge. — “Long Term Therapy With Attachment Disordered Children” (1995), p. 171

  • …[A]ttachment disordered children play a convincing and sophisticated game of “poor me,” sucking in the ignorant and the innocent. — “Long Term Therapy With Attachment Disordered Children” (1995), p. 170

  • [When the Attachment Disordered child says,] “I don’t know.” … To me that’s just acting dumb. When they do know. And you have to be able to see that the “I don’t know” is a way for them to say “Screw you. I’m not going to do it your way.” Even though it doesn’t sound like that. — “Healing Broken Hearts” (2004)

  • Attachment Disordered children do not have a natural tendency to seek parental approval. They seek control. — “Healing Broken Hearts” (2004)

  • …[T]hey tend to want to be sneaky, get by with less than is expected. — “Healing Broken Hearts” (2004)

  • Attachment Disordered children tend to have very poor cause and effect thinking. — “Healing Broken Hearts” (2004)

Intimidation by Breaking Verbal Taboos —

  • …And the third moral is that if you’re warm and safe, even though you may be up to your eyeballs in poop, you should keep your mouth shut. — “Healing Broken Hearts” (2004)

  • Children with Reactive Attachment Disorder love to hear stories about bodily functions. — “Healing Broken Hearts” (2004)

Kids Don’t Feel Pain? —

  • You’re in pain, and yet … you kind of turn off your neurological system so that you don’t experience that pain. — “Healing Broken Hearts” (2004)

  • …[T]hey can turn themselves off to pain… — “Healing Broken Hearts” (2004)

Body Memories —

  • I believe that the body remembers things that the mind doesn’t. …the body has a memory all of its own that remembers every fearful thing that happened. Every time that you were hit, beat, dropped, not fed, not changed … The body remembers. — “Healing Broken Hearts” (2004)

  • …I work with a lot of adults who have abreactions. And abreaction is basically that the body has a memory of some abuse … I have a client whose stomach hurts a lot. And whenever she has a stomach ache, it’s because she’s having some memory that’s about to come up of having been sexually abused. — “Healing Broken Hearts” (2004)

The Rageful Newborn, the Telepathic Fetus, the Affectionate Zygote —

  • You break [your mother’s] heart everyday … Because you hate her because your birth mother left you. It’s kind of silly, but that’s the way it is. [The 10-year-old boy being restrained replies, “I don’t see how it’s possible to learn something when you’re two days old, and then just keep remembering it … I don’t see how it’s possible, Neil.”] Bonding & Attachment Therapy (1993)

  • Who taught you not to trust people? … Who wasn’t there for you? Who gave you away? When you were just two days old… Bonding & Attachment Therapy (1993)

  • It’s going to take you years to understand … You’re mad because you were left by your birth mom … You don’t even remember it, do you? … And you’ve been hating this mom because your birth mom left you. Bonding & Attachment Therapy (1993)

  • Nancy Verrier has a book … The Primal Wound. I think it’s a wonderful book … You know, some people make the mistake of thinking that attachment begins at birth. Not true. Attachment begins while you’re growing inside of your mother. And the attitude that the mother has towards her unborn child is going to have a significant impact on how you come into the world. Whether you come into the world feeling wanted and loved. — “Healing Broken Hearts” (2004)

  • I really believe that attachment begins at the moment of conception … Life begins with the sperm attaching to the egg … The fertilized egg attaches to the uterine wall … — “Perspectives on Attachment Disorder” (1996)

  • Look at me! I think you’re so mad about being given away [at birth] that you can’t even see straight. Bonding & Attachment Therapy (1993)

  • …[A] lot of the therapy is kind of having the courage to go back and, you know, relive the trauma of your early childhood in order to be able to come through it in a better way. — “Healing Broken Hearts” (2004)

Demonizing Birth Parents —

  • These children end up hating and fearing their adoptive parents when it is their birth parents who have hurt them. I frequently tell them, “You have been hating the wrong person all these years…” — “Long Term Therapy With Attachment Disordered Children” (1995), p. 175

  • I will frequently, in doing therapy with children, I will make a list of birth mother characteristics and adoptive mother characteristics. So birth mother was neglectful; adoptive mother is attentive. Birth mother was abusive; adoptive mother is kind and supportive… “Who are you acting like? Who is it that steals, lies, doesn’t care about others? Doesn’t take care of her personal possessions?” … Because unconsciously, they tend to model themselves after their birth mothers… — “Healing Broken Hearts” (2004)

Guesswork in Therapy —

  • A therapy session where I’m working with this 14-year-old girl. She’s in foster care. And the foster mother comes in with a zip-lock bag full of Q-Tips with fecal matter on the Q-Tips … Then I bring the child in … and I hold up the bag of Q-Tips with fecal matter and I say, “Do you want to tell me about the time that your father anally raped you?”
    [Responding to a question from audience about this case:] I don’t know that I guessed right even [but] … having worked with lots of sexual abuse victims, you know, to go to the idea that she had been sodomized wasn’t a big jump. — “Healing Broken Hearts” (2004)

Obedience Training & Therapeutic Parents —

  • The Attachment Center at Evergreen litany: “learning to be respectful, responsible and fun to be around,” and “doing things fast and snappy, right the first time, Mom and Dad’s way” — “Long Term Therapy With Attachment Disordered Children” (1995), p. 169

  • …[T]here’s a lot of the “Yes, mom,” and there’s a lot of doing things fast and snappy, right the first time, mom and dad’s way. And basically, if you think about it, this is obedience training. — “Healing Broken Hearts” (2004)

  • [Boy tells what his “therapeutic mom” did: “Number one: She sprayed me. Number two: She made me do 200 pushups. Number three: She held me down.”] … Did you do it? [Boy: “Yes, Neil.”] Did it kill you? [Boy: “No, Neil.”] Bonding & Attachment Therapy (1993)

  • I’ll frequently begin sessions by having a child do some jumping jacks, just to see if they’re going to accept my authority… — “An In-Depth Clinical Case Study & Review of Treatment Protocol” (1999)

  • [redacted] paid me 250 pushups for the five days that he didn’t [ask his mother each day “How are you today?”] — “Therapeutic Failures” (1999)

  • …[T]he child develops … the capacity to relinquish control, be compliant and be obedient. — “An In-Depth Clinical Case Study & Review of Treatment Protocol” (1999)

Attachment Parenting —

  • You know, one of the rules for parents is pick your power struggles carefully, you know, but once you pick one, it’s important that you don’t lose face and you need to win. — “Healing Broken Hearts” (2004)

  • …[I]n the early stages of bringing a child into the family, I think it’s important that you give them the message that: “My love is stronger than your anger. And I’m going to love you through your anger in a very physical context way.” — “Healing Broken Hearts” (2004)

  • …[I]n order for an Attachment Disordered child to be safe, feel safe, there has to be predictability in the environment. That doesn’t mean your behavior has to be predictable, because I’m a big fan of doing things that are unpredictable… — “Healing Broken Hearts” (2004)

  • I use paradox and confusion techniques. You know, so if a kid is stealing candy frequently, I will suggest to the parents that they give the kid a goody bag where they can carry around treats… — “Healing Broken Hearts” (2004)

  • Frequently there’s an education process for the dad to recognize that they do target mom … Dad’s job initially is to take care of mom. — “Perspectives on Attachment Disorder” (1996)

  • Frequently, in the past, I have worked with the parents of children that have come to work with Connell, to help them deal with some of the post-traumatic stress that they themselves suffer with as a result of living with and raising attachment disorder[ed] children. … [S]ometimes parents’ issues from their own childhood can interfere or hinder their ability to effectively parent a difficult child. — Testimony in People of Colorado vs. Connell Jane Watkins (Golden, CO: Colorado District Court, 4 Apr 2001), (Colorado Court of Appeals, Case No. 01CA1313, Transcript on Appeal, 12:96-107), p. 104

Strong Sitting —

  • The therapy foster parents are also extremely controlling. There’s a lot of first you learn how to sit. — “An In-Depth Clinical Case Study & Review of Treatment Protocol” (1999)

  • As a consequence, I like sitting a lot. So when in doubt, I’ll always say, “Go sit.” — “Healing Broken Hearts” (2004)

School —

  • I really strongly encourage parents to back out of the whole school power struggle, and let the child fail. Let this be the child’s problem. — “Healing Broken Hearts” (2004)

Crossing More Boundaries —

  • So, [redacted] gets sent to a day camp for the summer, and at the end of the summer, he comes into therapy. He says, “I sexually abused this girl. Two of my friends held her down while I took out my penis and put it in her mouth.” And I looked at him, and I said, “Really?” And he says, “Yeah.” So I have one of my adult clients — female clients — who has been sexually abused come in the next week, and kind of read him the riot act. And tell him how, you know, disgusting that was. And how it affected her life. And how what he did wrong. And he starts crying and crying. The next week I find out that he made that up. He lied. Making himself look worse. He never did this. [Emphasis added] — “Healing Broken Hearts” (2004)

Success —

  • …When I first started working the field, success was defined as fixing a child, and that child would go home and live with his or her adoptive parents and they would all live happily ever after. That didn’t happen a lot. So I had to kind of redefine my sense of success. So then I defined success as if a child grows up and does not commit violent crimes. — “Therapeutic Failures” (1999)

Endorsing Others —

  • I’m good friends with Deborah Hage and Nancy Thomas. And I know Dan Hughes pretty well. And I’ve met Ron Federici. And these are all very good people in what they do. — “Healing Broken Hearts” (2004)

  • My good friend and colleague Connell Watkins, who has been my mentor for years and years… — “Therapeutic Failures” (1999)

  • There’s a place in Evergreen — Forest Heights Lodge — which I think is very good. — “Therapeutic Failures” (1999)