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The Tragic Death of Candace Newmaker: A Story of Unregulated Therapy and a Call for Change


The death of Candace Newmaker in 2000 shocked the world and sparked intense debate about the dangers of unregulated therapeutic practices, particularly for vulnerable children. This young girl, diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), tragically lost her life during a rebirthing therapy session, a controversial technique that has since been widely condemned by experts. This blog post aims to delve into the events leading to Candace’s death, explore the controversial nature of rebirthing therapy, and examine the lessons learned from this tragic case.

Table of Contents

  1. Candace Newmaker’s Story
  2. Rebirthing Therapy: A Controversial Approach
  3. The Tragic Events Leading to Candace’s Death
  4. Aftermath and Legal Consequences
  5. Lessons Learned and Ethical Considerations
  6. Candace’s Legacy: A Call for Change
  7. FAQ
  8. Conclusion

I. Candace Newmaker’s Story

Candace Newmaker was a young girl who faced a multitude of challenges throughout her short life. Diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), a condition characterized by difficulty forming healthy attachments, Candace struggled to develop meaningful relationships. This led to several placements in foster care, further exacerbating her emotional and behavioral difficulties.

Despite these challenges, Candace displayed a bright spirit and a longing for connection. Unfortunately, her path took a tragic turn when she became involved with a therapeutic approach known as “rebirthing.”

II. Rebirthing Therapy: A Controversial Approach

Rebirthing therapy, a technique that emerged in the 1970s, claims to help individuals overcome emotional and psychological issues by reliving and reprocessing the trauma of birth. The therapy involves wrapping the individual in a blanket or sheet, simulating the experience of being in the womb, and then guiding them through a process of breathing and emotional release.

While proponents argue that rebirthing therapy can facilitate emotional healing and release, its lack of scientific validity and the potential for harm have led to widespread criticism. The technique is not recognized by major mental health organizations and lacks empirical support. Moreover, the use of physical restraint, pressure, and manipulation, especially on vulnerable individuals like children, raises serious ethical concerns.

III. The Tragic Events Leading to Candace’s Death

On October 9, 2000, Candace participated in a rebirthing therapy session facilitated by a group of therapists who believed it could help her overcome her RAD. During the session, Candace was wrapped in a blanket, and the therapists attempted to guide her through a simulated “rebirth” experience. However, the session took a tragic turn when Candace began struggling to breathe. The therapists continued with the technique, despite signs of distress, and failed to provide immediate medical attention. Candace tragically died shortly after the session, suffocating from the pressure of the blanket.

IV. Aftermath and Legal Consequences

Candace’s death sparked widespread outrage and led to a public outcry against the use of rebirthing therapy. The therapists involved were arrested and charged with manslaughter, highlighting the legal ramifications of using unproven and potentially harmful techniques on children. The case drew significant media attention, prompting a national conversation about the need for greater regulation and oversight of therapeutic practices, especially those involving children.

V. Lessons Learned and Ethical Considerations

The tragic loss of Candace Newmaker serves as a stark reminder of the importance of evidence-based therapeutic approaches and the need to prioritize the safety and well-being of vulnerable individuals. Her case brought to light the dangers of unregulated therapies and underscored the ethical responsibility of therapists to ensure the safety and well-being of their clients.

The case highlighted the importance of adhering to established ethical guidelines and utilizing evidence-based practices. It also emphasized the crucial need for ongoing education, training, and regulation of therapists to protect children from potentially harmful techniques.

VI. Candace’s Legacy: A Call for Change

Candace Newmaker’s story, though tragic, holds immense value in promoting greater awareness about the importance of ethical and responsible therapeutic practices. Her legacy serves as a reminder of the need for vigilance and advocacy to protect children from potentially harmful therapies and to ensure their right to safe and effective treatment.

The case has inspired various organizations and advocates to push for stronger regulations and ethical standards within the therapeutic field, emphasizing the need for evidence-based practices and rigorous oversight.


  • What is Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)?

    Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) is a serious mental health condition that typically develops in early childhood. Children with RAD exhibit a pattern of inhibited, withdrawn, or emotionally unresponsive behavior due to a history of severe neglect or abuse. They often have difficulty forming healthy attachments with caregivers and may experience significant emotional and behavioral difficulties.
    * What are the signs of RAD in children?

    Children with RAD may exhibit a variety of symptoms, including:

    • Inhibited or withdrawn behavior: They may appear emotionally flat, unresponsive, or avoid contact with others.
    • Difficulty forming attachments: They may have trouble bonding with caregivers, showing little interest in affection or social interaction.
    • Emotional dysregulation: They may experience intense outbursts of anger, sadness, or fear.
    • Behavioral problems: They may exhibit aggressive, defiant, or disruptive behavior.
    • What are the common treatments for RAD?

    Treatment for RAD typically involves a multidisciplinary approach that may include:

    • Therapy: Individual, family, or group therapy can help children with RAD learn to manage their emotions, build relationships, and develop healthy coping skills.
    • Medication: In some cases, medication may be used to address symptoms such as anxiety or aggression.
    • Caregiver support: Providing caregivers with education and support is essential for creating a safe and nurturing environment for children with RAD.
    • Why was rebirthing therapy considered controversial?

    Rebirthing therapy was controversial for several reasons:

    • Lack of scientific evidence: The technique lacked empirical support and was not recognized by major mental health organizations.
    • Potential for harm: The use of physical restraint, pressure, and manipulation could pose risks, especially for vulnerable individuals like children.
    • Ethical concerns: The use of a technique without evidence and with the potential for harm raised significant ethical concerns.
    • Are there any other therapies that have been proven effective for RAD?

    While rebirthing therapy is not considered an effective treatment for RAD, there are other evidence-based therapies that have proven beneficial:

    • Attachment-based therapy: This therapy focuses on building secure attachments with caregivers and helping children develop trust and emotional security.
    • Trauma-informed therapy: This approach recognizes the impact of trauma on a child’s development and focuses on healing and empowerment.
    • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT helps children identify and challenge negative thought patterns and develop more adaptive coping skills.
    • What steps have been taken to prevent similar tragedies?

    In the wake of Candace Newmaker’s death, steps have been taken to prevent similar tragedies, including:

    • Increased regulation of therapy practices: Many states have implemented stricter licensing and oversight of therapists, particularly those working with children.
    • Greater awareness about ethical considerations: There is a growing emphasis on ethical practices within the therapeutic field, with a focus on evidence-based treatments and the importance of protecting vulnerable individuals.
    • Public education campaigns: Organizations and advocacy groups have launched public awareness campaigns to educate the public about the dangers of unregulated therapy and to promote responsible practices.
    • What resources are available for parents and caregivers of children with RAD?

    There are various resources available to support parents and caregivers of children with RAD:

    • Mental health professionals: Therapists trained in attachment-based therapy and trauma-informed care can provide support and treatment for children with RAD.
    • Support groups: Connecting with other parents and caregivers facing similar challenges can provide valuable support and understanding.
    • Organizations: Organizations like the National Association of School Psychologists and the Child Welfare League of America offer resources and information about RAD and related issues.

VIII. Conclusion

The tragic death of Candace Newmaker serves as a stark reminder of the importance of ethical and responsible therapeutic practices. Her story underscores the need for greater awareness about the dangers of unregulated therapies and the importance of protecting vulnerable children.

Candace’s legacy has spurred a movement for change within the therapeutic field, inspiring increased regulation, education, and advocacy to ensure that all children receive safe and effective treatment. By learning from this tragedy, we can work towards a future where all children are protected from harmful practices and given the opportunity to thrive.