Just What Is 'Rebirthing' Therapy?
June 28, 2000 -- Alternative therapies must follow a long and arduous road
to get into the mainstream, often for good reason. Nonconventional medications
and therapies can sometimes be useful, but at their worst, they can be
dangerous, even life-threatening.
Take the process called "rebirthing." One such procedure recently
proved lethal to a 10-year-girl in Colorado. But a different technique that
goes by the same name has many believers who say it has changed their life.
Before the tragic incident in Evergreen, Colo., this April, few people had
even heard of rebirthing therapy. But the process made national headlines after
the girl died while undergoing what was termed a rebirth.
She was an adoptee named Candace Newmaker, and she was being rebirthed to
overcome a mental condition called reactive attachment disorder, in which
children lack the ability to develop a loving, intimate relationship with a
The rebirthing therapists reportedly pushed Candace's body against pillows
and wrapped a blanket around her head to simulate the womb. She was told to
push against the pillows and blanket, to recreate her birth in an effort to
heal her past and begin anew with her adopted mother. Instead, she suffocated.
Four workers at the rebirthing clinic, along with the girl's mother, are now
facing charges in her death.
Reactive attachment disorder is a difficult condition to treat, and the
standard treatment is an intensive regimen of psychotherapy. There are
treatment centers around the country that specialize in the disorder.
One such clinic in Evergreen issued a press release about the rebirthing
incident, saying that, except for what was reported by the media, "we are
unfamiliar with this technique and have never engaged in this practice. We are
not aware of others in the attachment field who are using this
Gregory C. Keck, PhD, of the Attachment and Bonding Center of Ohio, tells
WebMD he is familiar with the tragedy in Colorado, but "I really have no
idea about this practice. ... It's not something that we do in our
Rhea Farberman, communications director for the American Psychological
Association (APA), tells WebMD the process "is outside of the mainstream of
what psychologists do ... and honestly, until this story broke, I had never
heard of it."
Farberman says the procedure has no legitimate standing in the mental health
community. "One of our problems with this, in addition to the fact that it
seems bizarre, is that there is no research, there's no validation of it as a
practice, and that's obviously a concern. That, and of course, it's been proven
to be dangerous after this young girl's death."
There's more to the story, though. Some practitioners say rebirthing
may involve a memory of one's birth, but it is first and foremost about