The Refuge offers holistic and experiential residential treatment in a serene, secluded healing environment for abandonment related trauma recovery, moving beyond the symptoms to resolve the underlying issues.
About Abandonment Trauma
Fear of abandonment is among the most anxiety-provoking situations in childhood. When parents get home late from work or suddenly leave town, a child may feel mounting anxiety and fear about their parent’s safety. Children feel an emotional attachment to their parents and feel insecure if this is absent; often going to extraordinary lengths to re-establish it. The loss of a parent due to death or divorce often causes a child’s fear of abandonment to intensify, often well into adulthood. When a child grows up with an absent parent, they may have feelings of grief and blame themselves for their parent’s absence. When the child is completely deprived of any contact with their parent, they may attribute parental abandonment as a result of something the child did or did not do. Young children are egotistical, believing they are the cause for events in which there is no logical connection.
The damage caused by parental abandonment is particularly devastating if it happens before the child understands that they are not responsible for others’ actions. If this happens, the child grows up with the belief that there’s something wrong with them that makes them unlovable. While the remaining parent may be able to provide emotional support and help the child develop a healthy sense of self-esteem, oftentimes very young children will still believe they are at fault.
Other types of childhood trauma can also lead to abandonment anxiety, such as childhood abuse, neglect, parental substance abuse, depression, or other mental disorders that parents unavailable can lead to long-term abandonment trauma.
Abandonment and Attachment
Children are born hardwired to become attached to caretakers which is critical for adult functioning and the development of interpersonal relationships. Childhood abandonment – real or perceived – causes problems forming secure attachments which can set the stage for the poor quality of later relationships. Children who do not form secure attachments to their caregivers face challenges socializing with peers; the way most children learn social behaviors. Fear of abandonment is not found exclusively in childhood and can be seen in adults as well. Some adults who experienced childhood abandonment feel the effects and struggle to form satisfying relationships throughout their lifetime. A lack of a social support network deprives them of resiliency factors that provide protection from stress and a coping mechanism for handling the hardships in life.
While there are many effects of child abandonment, the hidden danger is that the person may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of long-term attachment issues, ongoing fear of abandonment, and lack of a supportive social network. Since an adult struggling with childhood abandonment has been silently enduring the psychological, emotional, and physical effects of abandonment for years, they may not realize that their feelings can be changed.
Signs and Symptoms of PTSD of Abandonment
The symptoms of PTSD related to early abandonment can significantly impact a person’s daily life, activities, and stress levels. Symptoms of abandonment trauma may include:
- Intrusive, debilitating anxiety
- Chronic feelings of insecurity
- Chronic depression
- Decreased self-esteem
- Feelings of loss of control over life
- Obsessive thinking and intrusive thoughts about the abandonment
- Attraction to those who are unavailable to re-enact of the original abandonment
- Heightened emotional responses related to abandonment triggers, such as feeling slighted, criticized, or excluded
- Vulnerability in social situations
- Emotional flashbacks from the time of abandonment
- Addiction to self-medicate
- Hyper-vigilance related to perceived threat similar to original trauma
- Panic attacks related to unconscious triggers
Treatment Options for Abandonment Trauma at Our Center
The severe, long-term consequences of childhood abandonment should be addressed as soon as possible; however, this does not always happen. A child may grow not knowing there is an alternative to the way they feel. If PTSD does develop, these individuals may take it in stride, failing to identify the symptoms. These adults may feel hopeless; that their future won’t be any better than their present or their past. Many have come to believe that they caused the abandonment and deserve to live a life of misery.
While the fear of abandonment is a normal in childhood, at our adult residential treatment center, we know that there are many adults who experienced actual or perceived abandonment during their development which may, for some people, become PTSD. Our PTSD and abandonment related trauma treatment center include a variety of therapeutic options to help process your early experiences and connect these with the ways this emotional trauma has led to life-long difficulties. You deserve a life filled with happiness and the support of friends and family. Our compassionate, caring staff will provide you with empathy, treatment, and experiential methods allowing you to travel the path toward the life you want to live. We will show you how to accept your experiences as unchangeable and move past them. We’ll work with you to develop trust with techniques to aid in establishing and maintaining fulfilling relationships. We use empirically validated therapeutic approaches, as well as experiential techniques to help you begin to heal.
Treatment approaches to abandonment trauma include:
Interpersonal therapy (IPT): focuses on social relationships and re-establishing normal roles in your life. This may include trusting others, increasing low self-esteem, setting emotional boundaries, increasing intimacy, strengthening social situations. The goals of IPT at our treatment center is to help individuals establish a sense of mastery and control over life through establishing interpersonal relationships. Our treatment staff may use cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to teach you to identify inaccurate thoughts and learn to replace them with positive, accurate thoughts. Dialectic Behavior Therapy (DBT) integrates various strategies and validates your experiences, stabilizes your negative emotions, and helps you cope with stress. You will learn to accept your experiences, view them without emotion, and establish a plan to move past them.
Group therapy: We provide a variety of group therapy options at our treatment center. Our process groups will allow you to process your experiences while our psychoeducational groups will educate you about your difficulties, treatment, and other topics. The benefit of group therapy is that you will find you are not alone in what you’ve gone through and will be with peers who understand first-hand your experiences, thoughts, and feelings.
Intensive family therapy – Family Week: Families and loved ones are crucial in supporting you during your recovery. It can be difficult for those who’ve experienced abandonment to identify loved ones they feel comfortable involving in their therapy. We encourage you to identify at least one person in your life that you trust and will likely remain a stable presence in your life. Helping your loved one understand your experiences, disorder, treatment, and aftercare plan can help them understand you better and improve your relationship.
At our residential rehab, we use a variety of methods to engage the senses as we are a holistic treatment center. Some of the sensation-based, experiential techniques we use include:
- Art therapy
- Creative expression
- Ropes courses
- Equine therapy
- Music therapy
- Dramatic experiencing
- Sharing assignments and journal entries with the group and gaining feedback
During your time with us, we’ll learn much about you and the emotional trauma you’ve experienced, which allows your treatment center team to identify the most appropriate aftercare options. Many people choose an outpatient setting with a high level of structure such as our partial hospitalization service (PHP). This treatment option allows you to focus on your rehab during the day while slowly integrating back into our community. Other people may feel they’ve made enough progress with us to discharge home with referrals to traditional outpatient treatment and community resources. Whatever the next step on your journey, our nationally recognized residential treatment center will support you the whole way.