SENSORY ATTACHMENT INTERVENTION
Enabling Self Regulation & Co-Regulation
What is SAI?
Sensory Attachment Intervention (SAI) is an integrative approach to the treatment of children and adults who have suffered abuse or severe neglect. Negative experiences in the womb and in early childhood impact on one's capacity to cope with stress throughout life. There is a tendency to either: flee and fight, freeze and dissociate, or fluctuate between these stress states when there is a hint or a reminder of traumatic events. Traumatised children and adults tend to operate in persistent fear mode. They maintain a state of hyper-vigilance. This impedes the capacity for filtering out "irrelevant" sensory experiences such as background sights and sounds. There is a tendency to be sensory defensive, as the sensory systems have become sensitised to the possibility of danger.
Children develop behavioural strategies early on in order to survive their attachment environment. The goal is to either maintain the attention, and regulate the response, of their attachment figures or to elicit their attention and approval. While these self protective strategies change in sophistication across the lifespan the basic functions of attachment do not (Crittenden 2015).
SAI recognises the need to target the areas of the brain that are the source of the dysfunction. The first requirement is to establish regulation of arousal states i.e. to shift from the Autonomic Nervous System bias of either freeze dissociation or flight fight responses (Schore 1994). It then focuses on facilitating modulation of the body senses through the just right combination of up regulating and down regulating experiences. This in turn enables higher level sensory, emotional and cognitive functioning.
SAI follows the neurological principle of use-dependent learning i.e. all parts of the brain can modify their functioning in response to specific patterns of activation. (Perry 2001) This is achieved through changing daily living routines in ways that are regulating. For example briskly washing and drying the skin is highly alerting and can inadvertently add to stress levels. In the case of children, the sensory and attachment patterns of Carers are also addressed, as attachment is a co-regulation process.
The SAI centre is currently only involved in training, clinical supervision, research and designing regulating gardens. We regret we cannot reply to questions about treatment and clinical intake.
Schore, Allan. (1994) Affect Regulation and the Origin of the Self. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.
Crittenden, P. (2016) Raising Parents Attachment, representation and treatment. Routledge.
Perry, B.D. The neurodevelopmental impact of violence in childhood.
Chapter 18: In Textbook of Child and Adolescent Forensic Psychiatry, (Eds., D. Schetky and E.P. Benedek) American Psychiatric Press, Inc., Washington, D.C. pp. 221-238, 2001.
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