Erikson Institute

Putting Humpty Together Again: Working with Children with Attachment Difficulties- Emotional Dysregulation, Rage and Despair

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Recent decades have dramatically changed our understanding of infancy and early childhood development. We now know that from ages 0-5, when brain development is at one of its most crucial phases, a child develops the foundation and capabilities upon which all subsequent development builds. Infants and young children require a secure attachment to a primary caregiver to foster cognitive growth, and social and emotional development. In the absence of sensitive, reliable caregiving, development of critical social, emotional, and intellectual skills, including the ability to trust, to relate to others, to empathize, have a positive sense of self and to emotionally and behaviorally regulate is compromised.  Trauma and maltreatment that occurs within the context of the parent-child relationship has devastating developmental consequences. In times of anxiety or threat, infants are biologically primed to seek the protection and comfort of their caregiver. Infants feel deep confusion and fear when the parent from whom he needs to seek protection is the person who is frightening and threatening to him. 

As a result, young children raised in abusive or neglectful homes, or in residential settings, have considerably different needs than children raised in stable families.  Their rage, despair and emotional dysregulation are often hard to understand and manage. When foster and adoptive families, educators or therapists are unfamiliar with the impact of neglect or abuse on child development, they run the risk of further traumatizing children by not adequately addressing their tremendous needs. Through this workshop the instructor will examine the impact of abuse and neglect and suggest a paradigm to increase a child’s ability to use primary caregivers as a safe base. She will describe stress and trauma response symptoms in young children as well as explain the two most prevalent forms of attachment patterns that lead to difficult behavior in children. She will teach a paradigm and strategies that assist with helping children with attachment disturbances and aid participants in deepening their understanding of how to support caregivers of children with attachment disturbances. Participants will leave with a framework for understanding how to intervene with children who are despairing, and often fearfully enraged.


Julie Ribaudo, LMSW, IMH-E® (IV), is a Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Michigan School Of Social Work, where she joined the faculty in 2006. She has practiced for over 30 years with a focus on parent-infant relationships; assessment and treatment of abused and/or neglected infants, toddlers and young children, and consultant with teachers and child care providers regarding young children with difficult behaviors. In addition to teaching full time, she continues her clinical work, providing Reflective Supervision/Consultation for individuals and groups, is involved in research and service delivery with the Women’s and Infant’s Mental Health Programs through the Department of Psychiatry at U-M. Ms. Ribaudo has a Post-Graduate Certificate and Endorsement as an Infant Mental Health Therapist and Distinguished Mentor. She was the 2013 recipient of the Selma Fraiberg Award for outstanding contributions to Michigan infants and their families. Ribaudo provides national and international training and consultation on infants and toddlers and their families. She has authored and co-authored several publications, including a chapter in “Case Studies in Infant Mental Health” published by Zero to Three, and a 2016 article, “Restoring Safety: An Attachment-Based Approach to Clinical Work with a Traumatized Toddler”, published in the Infant Mental Health Journal.

Early Registration Fees Before November 8th- $99.
November 8th and after- $115


Participants will:

  1. Gain an understanding of stress and trauma response symptoms in young children
  2. Develop a clear understanding of the two most prevalent forms of attachment patterns that lead to difficult behavior in children.
  3. Gain understanding of six strategies that assist with helping children with attachment disturbances
  4. Deepen understanding of how to support caregivers of children with attachment disturbances

Who Should Attend?

The emotional and behavioral challenges seen as children grow older are often related to gaps and lapses in the foundation of their development. These gaps can derail basic capacities to relate and communicate, share attention and self-regulate. Developmental disturbance can disrupt the formation of empathy and comprehension of the world around and the capacity to communicate thoughts and feelings with words, play and other symbols. These disruptions in development can have life-long consequences without intervention.

The focus of this series i.e., understanding the foundations of development and early experiences, make sense for any clinician who is interested in training that will support and enhance their work with families and children of all ages such as Social Workers, Developmental Therapists, Pediatricians, Psychiatrists, Neonatologists, Nurse Practitioners, Midwives , Speech Pathologists, Psychologists, Early Care and Education providers and teachers, Obstetricians, Family Therapists, Professional Counselors, Physical Therapists, Occupational Therapists, and others whose work impacts the lives of infants, young children and families.

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