I wonder if such activists are aware of the following method, recommended by Erickson in a journal article in 1962:
Erickson, M. H. (1962). The identification of a secure reality. Family Process, 1(2), 294-303.
Erickson’s methods had no research in the form of well designed controlled studies, to support them. His typical style of presentation was telling detailed clinical anecdotes, and being the great story teller he was makes this one all the more horrifying. In this article, he presents a case of an 8 year old boy who was combative, defiant and having serious behavior problems in spite of his mother’s repeated attempts to discipline. Finally, the exasperated mother took the boy to see Erickson and followed his advice. The following weekend, the boy was engaging in his usual oppositional behavior, demanding breakfast from his mother. The mother carried out the following, as instructed by Erickson [later in the article he makes it crystal clear that these were his instructions she was following – he emphasized how she needed to put her full weight on the boy]:
Erickson, 1962, p. 296-297 [Please note that I am properly citing and quoting this because some true AT believers have tried to have things removed from other websites with bogus charges of copyright violations. This is fair use.]:
His mother merely smiled at him, seized him, and threw him quickly to the floor on his stomach and sat her full weight upon him. When he yelled at her to get off, she replied mildly that she had already eaten breakfast and she had nothing to do except try to think about ways to change his behavior. However, she pointed out that she was certain she did not know any way, therefore it would all be up to him.
The boy struggled furiously against the odds of his mother’s weight, strength, and watchful dexterity. He yelled, screamed, shouted profanity and obscenities, sobbed and finally promised piteously always to be a good boy. His mother answered that the promise did not mean anything because she had not yet figured out how to change his behavior. This evoked yet another fit of rage from him which finally ceased and was followed by his urgent plea to go to the bathroom. His mother explained gently that she had not finished her thinking; she offered him a towel to mop up so he would not get too wet. This elicited another wild bit of struggling which soon exhausted him.
Shortly before noon the boy politely told her he really did need to go to the bathroom. She confessed a similar need. She explained that it would be possible if he would agree to return, resume his position on the floor, and let her sit down comfortably upon him. After some tears, he consented. . . .After over five hours, Joe surrendered by stating simply and abjectly that he would do anything and everything she told him to do. Her mother replied just as simply and earnestly that her thinking had been in vain; she just did not know what to tell him to do. He burst into tears at this but shortly, sobbing, he told her he knew what to do. She replied mildly that she was very glad of this but she did not think he had had enough time to think long enough about it. Perhaps another hour or so of thinking about it might help.
After another hour, the mom finally let him go, after she finished reading her book chapter, but the sadistic behavior of the mom, as advised by Erickson, continued and she deprived him of all his meals for an entire day (p. 297).
With the chapter finally finished, the mother got up and so did Joe. He timidly asked for something to eat. His mother explained in laborious detail that it was too late for lunch, that breakfast was always eaten before lunch, and that it was too late to serve breakfast. She suggested instead that he have a drink of ice water and a comfortable rest in bed for the remainder of the afternoon.
Erickson then goes on to describe how Joe awakened to odors of dinner being served, but his mother would not allow him to have dinner because “it was customary first to eat breakfast and then lunch and then dinner.” He had missed breakfast and lunch, so now he would have to miss dinner. He was not allowed to eat until the next day. The next morning. The whole family had pancakes and sausages the next morning except for Joe, who was made to eat only oatmeal. Later for lunch, he was only given “cold, thick sliced oatmeal” and for the evening meal was only allowed leftovers.
Erickson described how he “educated” the mother: p. 298-299:
The education of Joe’s mother to enable her to deal with her son’s problem by following out the instructions was a rather difficult task. She was a college graduate, a highly intelligent woman with a background of social and community interests and responsibilities. . . The mother’s apparently justified statement that her weight of one hundred and fifty pounds was much to great to permit putting it fully on the body of an eight your old child was a major factor in winning the mother’s full cooperation. At first this argument was carefully evaded [I assume he means that he, Erickson evaded it].”
He also noted: p. 303:
Joe is not the only patient on whom this type of therapy has been employed. Over the years, there have been a number of comparable instances, some almost identical.
Erickson’s work had no controlled studies to support it and this rather chilling anecdote makes me wonder just what his goal was. It looks to me like it was to have been a boy who would be unquestioningly obedient. This “cure” may have been worse than the problem itself if it produced a mindlessly obedient child. What sort of message does this send? Is this what people fighting cults want to endorse? How ironic.
The article is eerily reminiscent of the writings of many AT proponents who had very similar advice about parenting children with behavior problems and alleged “attachment disorders”.
For instance, there is this quote from AT parenting "coach" Nancy Thomas quoted on a website exposing AT abuse:
I have had instances where a kid is so out of control that they refuse to stay. When that happens, I will sit on the child. I have had to do this with dogs as well, and they are generally more dangerous with their teeth and claws than children. … I pick a good book and read while I sit on a child and that really seems to upset them because they feel that I should be miserable like they are. ---Bonding & Attachment Workshop (Chatsworth, CA: Foster Care & Adoptive Community,Online Training Program, nd, 2 parts) [material currently available for CEUs]
I wonder if Nancy got this idea from Milton.
I found out about this 1962 article through Jean Mercer who had mentioned Erickson on her blog. I asked her for the reference, she gave it to me and I was able to obtain a hard copy of the article, which I reference above. Although I have read worse in commercially published books on AT, this is by far the most horrendous article in a professional journal I have ever read. Google Milton Erickson and you’ll find pretty much all positive accounts. I have to wonder how many people actually read his writings and were aware of what he actually did. This shows how far abuse of children in the name of mental health practices dates back. I regret that abuse and torture are about the only words I can think of to describe this published work. Knowing now what happened to Candace Newmaker in 2000, who was smothered to death when several adults put their full weight on her while she was wrapped a blanket, I have to wonder if Erickson's influence may have played a role although of course they took this procedure to much more of an extreme. Some mental health professionals today would like to turn a blind eye to all of this and say it is in the past, and to mention it is mere "sensationalism" but is it realistic to believe that all this would just suddenly go away? While hopefully there is now more awareness about such abusive practices, I hardly think that is a realistic point of view to think that and to slam anyone who tries to mention it as being "sensationalistic". No, some of us are not so willing to sweep all this under the rug.