Developmental Trauma and Attachment Services
for Looked After and Adopted Children

At Sussex Psychology, we understand the complexities in the lives of looked after and adopted children. We also understand the unique needs of those who care for children who have suffered from developmental trauma and broken attachments.

Our service is responsive, flexible and committed to building what works for everyone and changing what may not be working. Ultimately, we aim to provide a service for children, young people and families that they find supportive and restorative, informative and transformative.

A multi-professional approach:

We offer a multi-professional approach to the assessment of and therapeutic work with children and young people. Our professionals are experts in the field of trauma and attachment. We can draw upon their wide-ranging experience and extensive knowledge to deliver evidence-based interventions to children and young people with early histories of developmental trauma and attachment difficulties. Our community of professionals include:

  • Consultant child and adolescent psychiatrists, consultant psychologists, psychotherapists, systemic family therapists, therapeutic social workers, paediatric occupational therapists, play/art/music and drama therapists as well as mindfulness practitioners
  • We work in partnership with Jigsaw Occupational Therapy who offer a dedicated assessment and sensory integration therapy centre for children and young people
  • We also work in partnership with Shine for Life who provide Equine Therapy services to children and young people across Sussex

We are committed to working with the whole system around a child rather than the child alone and to promoting attachment informed care through consultation and training. We are equally committed to supporting the professionals that surround children and families in an inclusive and collaborative way.

Our therapeutic approach:

Our therapeutic approach involves working with parents and children together to promote the development of healthy attachments. This is because:

  • We recognise that it is often hard for parents/carers to understand why a child/young person may be struggling to receive their care and comfort and why they may feel threatened by gestures of loving kindness.
  • We are dedicated to supporting adoptive parents/carers build insight and understanding so that they become confident in responding to the complex and often confusing emotional needs of their children.
  • We aim to build a therapeutic web around the child and family so that we can support parents in parallel with children, as well as the professionals surrounding them.

Our approach to working with looked after and adopted children is informed by Dr Bruce Perry’s Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics.

What is the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT)?

  • The Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics is not a therapy or a specific therapeutic technique or intervention.
  • The NMT is essentially an approach to clinical work that incorporates the key principles of neurobiology into a clinical problem-solving process. Put simply, this helps us understand why a person may be responding to threat and how this influences development.
  • NMT is an evidence-based practice (EBP) that is both ‘trauma-informed’ and developmentally sensitive.
  • NMT is an assessment process that helps us select and sequence developmentally appropriate therapeutic and educational interventions to match the needs and strengths of children, young people and families.
  • The NMT assessments can be used with adults – the same principles of neurodevelopment that apply to children also apply to adults. This means we can create an NMT developmental history for adults (typically parents/carers/kinship family) living with the child.
  • An NMT assessment process aims to build a current picture of specific areas of the brain that may be compromised by early developmental trauma and neglect.

Building a Neurosequential history of early development is especially helpful in complex care planning, but also compliments our comprehensive assessment of therapeutic need. Together they both help us in the selection and sequencing of therapeutic interventions/activities that match a child’s developmental age, not their chronological age.

Assessment of therapeutic needs:

We recommend that all referrals to our developmental trauma and attachment service begin with a comprehensive therapeutic needs assessment. This involves gaining an understanding of:

  • The key vulnerabilities, needs and strength of the family.
  • How the child’s history of trauma and neglect is impacting on current attachment relationships, the capacity to regulate emotions and their health and well-being.
  • The overall impact of a child’s early attachment experiences on parents’/carers’ ability to parent with confidence and compassion.

We listen carefully to the voices of children, the families that care for them and the professionals surrounding them, to help us develop an individually tailored plan of therapeutic care. In recognition of the unique needs of each child and family, our interventions are selected and sequenced to match the areas of the brain compromised by early developmental trauma.

For more information on our assessments and therapeutic approach to working with Developmental Trauma click here.

Consultation and training:

Our psychologists are specialised in working with children and young people who are experiencing trauma and attachment difficulties. We offer consultation and tailored training to professionals, authorities and agencies to enhance psychological understanding of looked after and adopted children in complex care planning and adoption support services.

We can support adoptive parents and carers to develop specific therapeutic skills based on the key principles of PACE (Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity and Empathy). This model is widely recognised as the parenting style of choice with children who have experienced trauma and suffered from significant attachment disruptions.

Adoption Support Fund (ASF)

We work closely with West Sussex County Council and other Local Authorities to provide services for children and families who access financial support through the ASF. The fund was created by the Government to provide help for adopted children and their families. It was specifically developed to fund therapeutic support and help families access the services they might need.

The work we do here with adoptive families is often supported by the Adoption Support Fund. For families that need psychological support, the services we provide can be accessed through the fund in most cases. All funds need to be applied for by your local authority and they will help to assess the funding you might need, apply on your behalf and refer you to a local provider.

We welcome enquiries from adoptive parents and special guardians to discuss in more detail how we may be able to support you and how you can access funding.

Our collaborative approach:

We endeavour to work collaboratively with Local Authorities, CAFCASS, independent foster care organisations, residential homes, health services and other statutory and non-statutory organisation to provide ethical and effective support, assessment and therapeutic interventions for looked after and adopted children.

Free Consultation:

Contact us to arrange a free 15-minute confidential telephone consultation to discuss your current concerns, needs and how you may benefit from the psychology support services we offer.