I am Adam Lanza’s Therapist

A woman who works with kids similar to Lanza talks about her work. God bless her.

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  • I have difficulty working up any sympathy for offenders who appeal to childhood traumas to explain away gravely immoral actions.

    • Marv

      What a fine Christian attitude! Good to see that you are putting your lent to good use.

    • Hezekiah Garrett

      You are absolutely gonna hate Jesus when you see the seemingly evil trash He embraces and forgives because of childhood trauma. Probably even more when you discover that the most banal evils gets folks with the deck stacked in their favor a spot right by the furnace.

  • Shannon

    The offender is dead, he’s not appealing to anything.

  • S. Murphy

    That’s fine, Irksome, but the subject doc is offering explanations and possibly means to avert future tragedies, rather than excuses for anyone.

    • You say potato …

      Look, I’m familiar with the need to make sense of something that is senseless. It’s comforting to draw flow charts and construct actuarial tables in an attempt to soothe one’s own ruffled feathers. It’s empowering to believe that, not just our own, but others’ minds are ultimately within our control. I think, however, the end result of much of this angst has been to enlarge sympathy for the perpetrator at the expense of his victims. Either that, or it tends to be an exercise in academic vanity.

      • Bad MF

        Irksome1, (I am amused typing that, but I don’t find you to be so) I don’t know about Lanza’s specific diagnosis, or if the term Radical Attachment Disorder is used correctly to describe him or the source of his motivation. But the actual condition does exist. Perhaps the therapist was just using the opportunity to share more about a problem that we are experiencing as a society. I have trouble swallowing that daycare might be the cause of it with certain kids, but the rest of what she said rings true to me.
        If I understand you correctly, you are railing against society’s tendency to explain away the problem, and pretend nothing happened. Some people might do so. Perhaps others will see an opportunity to better care for “the least of these”. It can go either way.

        • Bad MF

          *Reactive Attachment Disorder

      • Hezekiah Garrett

        Flow charts and actuarial tables? Did you not read the article, or do you just spout randomly?

  • Interesting essay. As is almost always the case with modern psychology, the spiritual aspect is neglected – it is assumed that an appeal to healthiness is the best we can do to encourage people to undertake the heroic efforts needed to address such crippling spiritual deformities as lie behind these evil acts.

    Also, the theology of our interconnectedness that we sum up as ‘the Body of Christ’ or ‘the Communion of Saints’ does have negative parallels – just as a single saint can be the occasion and instrument of God calling a whole parade of saints into glory, a single sin can be the occasion of a parade of sins that leads to a grade school getting shot up. The author of the essay notes that the (often understandable or even unavoidable) decision to hand a newborn over to harried minimum-wage workers in a day care center can have some serious repercussions – up to and including getting a bunch of schoolkids murdered. So, for us, the other members of this Body, what are we to do? How are we to care for all moms and their babies?

    We can’t despair. We can’t just leave it up to the psychologists. We must of course pray – but that prayer should lead us each to action. I don’t know what this action entails, but it is part of any culture of life.

  • momindeed

    This whole thing loses me when it says daycare (American-Sing-the Alphabet-and-Eat-Graham-Crackers-Style, not Romanian-Orphanage-Spend-All-Day-Locked-In-A-Crib-Style) leads to murder. This is baloney with absolutely zero science behind it. The whole psychobabble early childhood traumas (and by “trauma” this author does *not* mean gross neglect, violence, or abuse) cause later problems is just such pseudo-science that there is nothing to do but dismiss it out of hand. No wonder the “Dr.” is from an unaccredited program. She is simply dead-wrong in saying that certain psychological problems that lead to violence (sociopathy, etc) do not arise from biology–the science is clear that they do. It wasn’t long ago that some chin-stroking psychotherapists would attribute a feces-smearing child’s autism to mother’s neglect–indeed, the early “literature” is rife with examples of a lifetime of severe retardation and autism being linked to, for example, That One Time Mommy Couldn’t Find Bobby For Two Whole Minutes When He Locked Himself in a Closet And Cried as a Toddler. Why–of course the child felt abandoned! He decided his mother didn’t love him and turned inward instead! That’s why he needs his diapers changed at age 40! This blame-the-mom approach is not only hurtful, it’s just plain wrong. Rubbish all around. I find its promulgation detestable.

    • Those are very good points. You’re right that the article comes down entirely too hard on the ‘nurture’ side, and leaves no discernible room for any physical causes of mental problems at all. As you correctly point out, that sort of thinking has lead to moms getting abused for causing, somehow, their children’s autism. This is clearly wrong.

      However, reality is tricky – it’s easily possible to go too far the other way, and think all mental problems are just awaiting the right chemical solution. I’ve seen drugged up kids whose parents are totally committed to the idea that the problem is the kid, that their insane personal choices and out-of-control narcissistic ‘lifestyle’ couldn’t possibly figure into it. Nope, the kid is a problem to be solved, period, end of story.

      Regarding the particular issue of day care, what the writer seemed most concerned with was newborns and very small children, and long days. I don’t think very many people think it’s a bad thing for a 3 or 4 year old to spend a few hours a day in an American-Sing-the Alphabet-and-Eat-Graham-Crackers-Style day care. What concerns me, and resonated with me in the essay, was the reality that very young babies can get left in daycare 10+ hours a day 5 days a week – that, it seems to me as a father of 5 children, really is unconscionable abuse. The mother need not be to blame, even a little – but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

      Put all these things together, and you get what I seem to see every day: the parents who think the kid is the problem to be solved and will brook no questioning of their ‘lifestyle’ choices have the option of dumping the kid in daycare, starting close to day 1. I think, based on my admittedly unscientific sample, that such a situation is far from uncommon. Maybe I’m totally wrong, and everywhere else in the world people aren’t abandoning their kids in all sorts of literal and figurative ways – but that’s what it looks like around here. This is different, it seems to me, than blaming moms for autism, which we agree is wrong.

    • Spastic Hedgehog

      Thank you for this. This article hit me in a bad place on a bad day and I couldn’t articulate why it bothered me so much because I was too busy worrying that my child might grow up to be a sociopath despite my and my husband’s best efforts.

    • Rosemarie


      I don’t know whether I fully agree with this article or not, but even if I did I wouldn’t blame mothers. Haven’t we been told for decades now that women can “have it all”? A family and a career. Just put the baby in day care… no problem. What could it possibly hurt? No mother wants her child to grow up to be a sociopath; this wasn’t deliberate neglect. Some mothers did what they thought best, because they had been told it would be okay by experts who, it now turns out, may have been mistaken.

      To be fair, the author herself even says, “This is not about blaming anyone….” (maybe re-read the paragraph that begins with those words). She doesn’t want to blame or shame mothers. And, like Joseph Moore pointed out, she’s talking about infants in daycare for prolonged periods of time, not a preschooler just spending a few hours there. So she’s not condemning all daycare, either, just emphasizing the importance of a little baby bonding with his mother during the first year of life.

  • Rosemarie


    The author doesn’t mention Erik Erikson, but I think she’s talking about his stages of psychosocial development. Particularly the first stage: trust vs. mistrust. Seems I remember that from a psych course I took ages ago in college….

  • Brennan

    This author is spot on and yes, God bless her. The ability to have healthy emotional relationships starts with the family. That is where you learn (or don’t learn) that you are loved and worth someone’s time. And no, you don’t need a “scientific study” to conclude this. It’s called observing life. It’s built into our very nature as human beings. And as Catholics, who should believe in an incarnational religion and a world in which the family is supposed to be the primary unit of society, this ought to be foundational.

  • Ronald King

    Excellent article. For those who disagree with her it is important to understand what the current research on interpersonal neurobiology reveals about the developing brain and attachment styles.

  • Oregon Catholic

    She is far too simplistic in her analysis, imo. Of course there is something different about these children from the get-go because not all children who experience similar treatment by similar parents interpret it as abandoment or worthlessness – not even in the same family. Normal babies are resilient and adaptable, not rigid in their outlook and responses. They have to be or very few would survive. So it can’t be all about the mother. A 3 mon old baby who arches her back and “stares into the corner’ when cooed at to ‘change the subject’ , absent serious abuse, isn’t normal.

    What she fails to mention is that children who are not cuddly and don’t like to be touched from birth often engender resentment and distance in the mother. The mom can’t respond normally because the baby doesn’t respond normally and it goes downhill from there.

    Sometimes it is parental instability or abandonment, physical and/or emotional, but sometimes there is something wrong with the child too. I find this doctor’s rigidity about her belief to be just a little too like the rigidity she sees in her patients. I doubt she has much success with her parent patients – too blaming, although she may do well with the kids since she seems to have tremendous empathy for them.

    • Rosemarie


      The part about infants arching their backs and staring into corners bothered me because such behavior is also typical of babies on the autism spectrum (though symptoms of autism usually don’t show up until the second year of life, in some cases it’s evident in infancy). Arching of the back in that case is believed to be due to sensory issues, not rejecting affection as such. I hope this won’t add to the mistaken belief that people with autism are just Adam Lanzas waiting to happen.

  • Brennan

    I guess she has an unfair advantage because she works with these children and their parents day in and day out while I seriously doubt any of the commentators here have.

  • Ronald King

    I have worked with children and adults who suffer from attachment traumas. What is interesting to note is that each of us are born with an innate sensitivity to distress or stability within our environment. Those children who are more sensitive to distress will react more quickly and intensely through communication verbal and physical symptoms which require a nurturing response appropriate to the cause of the distress. If the instability in the environment is chronic or the child’s parents/caretakers cannot understand or are unable to ease the child’s distress then this will effect how the brain will adapt to protect itself from the intrusion of unwanted distress in human relationships. Those children who seem more resilient may be genetically wired differently which will influence them to present a different set of reactions to distress in the environment. They will also present as being children who are easier to attach to and more enjoyable which then promotes a mutually rewarding bond.
    The author of the article just highlights extremely complex and basic dynamics of human development within the field of interpersonal neurobiology. Just type in attachment and/or interpersonal neurobiology and you will see for yourself.

  • Brennan

    Ronald King,
    Thank you for your comments, they are informative.