Thirdly, some of the Object Relations theorists emphasized the inner working of the individual's
psyche - which was the classical Freudian view - and some emphasized the role of the environment- which was not.
Bowlby, like Karen Horney in the USA, was adamant that people were strongly shaped by their environment, and especially by
their formative relationships with their mothers (and fathers) - or their main carers.
Fourth, Bowlby's ideas on attachment were subjected to empirical enquiry and further elaboration my Mary Ainsworth,
who developed the ‘strange situation' research model, in which mothers withdraw from a room in which their toddler is
playing, a stranger enters, then mother returns after three minutes, and the toddler's reaction to mother is assessed.
This work gave rise to the categories of ‘secure attachment', ‘avoidant attachment', ‘resistant attachment'.
Here is a little video clip on the Strange Situation, featuring the work of
# Counselling and therapy all over the world.
If you want to get a sense of how an avoidant attachment style can impact
an individual's chances of happy marriage, please see my recent co-authored paper on 'The anatomy of a failed marriage: How to complete an undigested adult relationship failure, using writing therapy'.***
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profile page at you favourite social networking site, so you friends and followers can also enjoy it:
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role of this website, then please make a small donation:
CENT e-book No.5: How to Control Your Anxiety:
A rational approach using REBT/CBT
In this manual, I want to do two things: (1) To present a basic understanding
of the Rational-Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT/CBT) approach to dealing with anxiety’; and (2) To provide a set of exercises for you to do so that you can learn
how to analyze your problems with anxiety; identify solutions; and implement those solutions so as to eliminate your anxiety.
In that way, you can become your own “counsellor”, in the area of anxiety and fear, because you can learn
to fix your own emotional and behavioural problems.
For further information, please go to How to control your anxiety...
role of the individual's social environment
Paradoxically, Albert Ellis- the creator of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy - had his training analysis in the Karen Horney Object Relations school
in New York City, which emphasized the role of the environment in harming and/or helping the individual.
When he split from psychoanalysis, Ellis represented himself as splitting from Sigmund Freud (and did not mention
differences with Horney). In fact, in developing his ABC model, he was leaving Horney's A>C model behind, and rejoining
Freud's "ABC model". Both Ellis and Freud attach primary significance to the inner workings of
the individual (their B, or beliefs, or drives), and relatively little or no importance to their environment.
Horney and Bowlby thought the environment was primary. For Horney and Bowlby, young children
have little or nothing to do with how they are shaped by their ‘good' or ‘bad' parents: (or should I say "good
enough" or "not good enough" parents).
CENT takes a middle position between Freud/Ellis on the one side,
and Horney/Bowlby on the other. We believe that the relationship between the mother/child is dialectical; that the child
internalizes working models of how mother relates to him; how father relates to him; and he relates to them and the world
on the basis of those models. The character/personality of the child is driven by his/her cumulative, interpretive experience
of encountering ‘good enough' or ‘not good enough' carers, and significant others (like siblings, relatives, neighbours,
# Counselling and therapy all over the world.
CENT e-book No.3: How to Reduce and Control Your Stress Level, and
to Have a Happier Life: The CENT
The purpose of
this book is to teach the reader what stress is, and how to combat it. It is written in the form of a self-help manual, with
spaces for self-reflection exercises. However, it could also be used by counsellors, counselling students, and interested
others, as a means to learn, understand and present the CENT approach to Stress Management in counselling, coaching and therapy contexts.
For further information on this book, go to How to Control Your Stress Level...
The centrality of relationship
Whereas Sigmund (and later Anna) Freud emphasized the sexual tensions between parent and children, during the child's biologized
stages of development, as the seat of neurosis, some post-Freudians, such as Melanie Klein, Ronald Fairbairn, Donald Winnicott,
and others, went back to the relationship between mother and child in the early months of life to
look for the seat of emotional mal-adaptations. This was the beginning of the Object Relations school of psychoanalysis. The ‘object' in Object Relations
theory can be the actual mother (or father, or carer) of the perceiving child; or an internalized image or memory of the mother
(or father, or carer) in the child's mind; or a representation of a part of a significant other (such as mother's breast).
One of the central ideas of Objects Relations is that children split their world up into ‘good' and ‘bad' objects,
based on their experiences of pleasure and pain in relationship, and then project those splits into their social environments.
And the more painful experiences they have as children, the more disturbed their later lives prove to be, all other things
In the USA, Margaret Mahler and her associates conducted observational research on young children and their mothers,
to develop a theory of ego development. This research demonstrated a clear connection between the quality of the relationship between mother and child, on
the one hand, and the degree of emotional disturbance of the child, on the other.
John Bowlby, in the UK, created his
theory of Attachment on the basis of his wartime experiences of dealing with children separated from their parents by war,
or hospitalization, or other forms of institutionalization. He argued that children who are separated from their parents
at a young age are likely to be disturbed in ways that will affect their later adult functioning. This thesis has been
extensively researched and validated.
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The need for emotional availability, and sensitive caring
it is not just separation that can damage the relationship between mother and child, but also any form of
absence, neglect, or abuse (including physical, sexual or emotional abuse). A child's emotional well-being can be protected
by ‘good enough' mothering, and ‘good enough' fathering, and the provision of a ‘secure base'. In
this connection, ‘good enough' means: sensitive, caring, supportive; and a secure base means a person to return to when
problems are encountered, to ‘refuel' (emotionally) and gain reassurance, etc. According to Bowlby (1988), children develop an ‘internal working model' of their relationship with mother, then father, and so on. These
then become templates for their later relationships. Thus, if there are significant disturbances or distortions in their
earliest relationships, they will take them into later relationships, because those are the only ‘maps of the territory'
(of ‘schemas' for relationship) that they possess. And this is why Bowlby (1988) argues that one of the tasks
of a psychotherapist is to provide their client with a secure base from which to explore (their issues), and ‘good enough'
substitute-parenting. This calls for ‘emotional communication' between client and therapist, and not just logical
and rational ‘cognitive' or thinking-based communications.
# Counselling and therapy all over the world.
Attachment in counselling and psychotherapy
This development of Attachment theory has had a profound effect on the shape of CENT counselling practices. In particular,
I place more emphasis on my emotional attachment to the client, and not just on the quality of my thinking and philosophical
teachings, which make my work quite different from REBT/CBT counselling approaches. A ‘good enough' CENT counsellor
will seek to provide a ‘secure base' for his/her clients; to treat them with concern, care and sensitivity; and to model
mindfulness, body awareness, and emotional intelligence for the client to copy, or internalize. In short, a ‘good
enough' CENT counsellor should be prepared to extend ‘maternal love' to their clients, as a matter of course.
subject of how to integrate Attachment theory and psychoanalysis has been taken up by David Wallin (2007). David's work, and the CENT perspective, will change how the self is seen in counselling and psychotherapy. The conventional
view of a self is that it is a ‘separate', ‘individual', ‘discrete entity'. However, in my CENT models,
the individual is modelled as a social being, ‘connected to others' - especially the mother, and then the father, and
later significant others.
I have some reservations about some aspects of Wallin's presentation. However,
there is little doubt that David's model has some significant validity. For example, his emphasis on the ‘somatic
self' as the foundation of the person seems intuitively right, and fits into the CENT model. The emotional self is an
extension and refinement of the somatic self - a self that is felt in the viscera and based in the limbic system of the brain.
David cites Fonagy et al (2002), Schore (2003) and others as proposing "...that regulation of emotions is fundamental to the development of the self and that attachment
relationships are the primary context within which we learn to regulate our affects - that is, to access, modulate, and use
our emotions. The relational patterns that characterize our first attachments are, fundamentally, patterns of affect
regulation that subsequently determine a great deal about the nature of our own unique responsiveness to experience - that
is, about the nature of the self. Correspondingly, in the new attachment relationship that the therapist is attempting
to generate, the (client's) emotions are central and their effective regulation - which allows them to be felt, modulated,
communicated, and understood - is usually at the very heart of the process that enables the (client) to heal and to grow".
# Here is my introduction to David Wallin's view of the cognitive-emotive
basis in the brain for attachment formation...
# Counselling and therapy all over the world.
This is a most important area for consideration by all counsellors and psychotherapists,
psychologists and psychoanalysts. And this time, what I notice to be missing from David's presentation is how ‘good
and evil' get into human behaviour.
The third element of David's model of the self is the ‘representational self',
about which he says: "Bowlby argued that it was an evolutionary necessity to have a representational world that mapped
the real one". That is to say, that we have a map in our heads of the spaces in which we live, and the experiences
we have had in those spaces. "To function effectively, we needed (and still need) knowledge of the world and of
ourselves, and this knowledge must be portable. We derive such knowledge from memories of past experience, and we use
this knowledge to make predictions about present and future experience. Hence, the 'internal working model'. But
the map, as they say, is not the territory". (Page 64). That is a very important point. All of our stored representations
are cumulative and interpretive, as shown in the CENT model (See Chapter 9, below). And as I have argued in Chapter
9, our internal working models are not images or templates for individuals we have known, but rather what Douglas Hofstadter
(2007) called ‘strange loops' - and which I have clarified in my CENT writings as ‘strange loops of experience of encountering
others' in which our sense of the other and our sense of self get braided together into one, so that at our very foundations
are strange loops of experience of being changed by others and changing them, in which it is impossible to separate out an
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Attachment in CENT
read more about how Attachment theory is treated and applied in counselling sessions in CENT, please see the second e-book
on CENT: 'Integrating Cognitive & Emotive Counselling & Therapy: How to apply CENT
in counselling, psychotherapy and self-help'.
# Counselling and therapy all over the world.
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Where am I up to with Attachment Theory?
Updated: 27th June 2011
Part 1: Seven elements of Attachment Theory
A couple of weeks ago I wrote this: If I had to summarize the seven most useful ideas that I have got from the literature on attachment, this would be my list:
1. You do not need to be loved or approved by anybody in order to survive
in life; but you do need to be loved and approved in order to thrive!
2. If you currently
feel insecure in your (adult) relationships, then it may be that you had an insecure relationship with your mother (and/or
3. If either of your parents was not sufficiently sensitive, caring and tuned into your emotional state,
or they failed to provide both a secure base and appropriate space for you to develop a sense of autonomy, then you are likely
to feel insecure in your current relationships as an adult.
4. However, there is the concept of "earned security",
which means learning how to be secure with another, loving, caring human being after leaving home.
5. If you have not
been able to achieve "earned security" with a loving friend or partner, then you can go to see a counsellor who
understands attachment theory, and they can help you to achieve "earned security".
6 Once you have achieved
"earned security" you will be able to feel happier and more securely connected to a sex-love partner, and to have
happier relationships in general.
7. Early childhood experiences determine the pattern of relationships that you evolve,
but they are not set in stone. You can learn to relate healthily with others (given time, commitment, and the right
kinds of corrective relationships), even if you came from the most dysfunctional of home backgrounds.
of this learning came from David Wallin's book, and some from Bowlby (1988) on the secure base; some from Fonagy; and also
other sources. I was building up a good understanding of attachment in relationships.
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Part 2: Attachment and the counsellor's approach
Last week I quoted a couple of little extracts from Chapter 7 of David Wallin's book, and then used those as points of departure for the laying out of some of the major insights of Cognitive Emotive Narrative
Today I want to quote one paragraph from David's book, and then to extrapolate from that to a question
that interests me greatly:
What must a counsellor or therapist do to be a good Attachment Therapist - to be able
to reliably help the client to build a secure attachment to them, which they can then generalize to their major social relationships?
set the scene, I must first quote the preceding paragraph as follows:
"...the attachment researcher
Karlen Lyons-Ruth (1999) culled the literature, distilling the empirical findings into a framework for what she calls ‘collaborative
communication'. Such communication generally enabled children to develop security, flexibility, and coherent internal
working models of attachment. Her framework has four elements". (Wallin, 2007, page 105).
will now present Lyons-Ruth's four elements, in the left-hand column of the table that follows, and I will try to extrapolate
from them to what a good therapist should be aiming to do with their clients:
Column 1: From Lyons-Ruth (1999)
2: My extrapolations to the ‘good enough' therapist
the caregiver should be receptive to the whole range of the child's experience (not just her expressions of distress) and
should attempt to learn as much as possible about what the child feels, wants, and believes. Clearly, this kind of openness or inclusiveness can foster the integration so central to attachment theory's understanding
of healthy development.
A good therapist will be receptive to the whole range of the
client's experiences, not just focussing in on their problems. (This lines up well with Positive Psychology, a laDr
Martin Seligmanet al). The therapist should be curious about the client as a whole body-mind-person, how they feel, what they think, what
their life is like, what their hopes and dreams are, and so on. Of course, the therapist should keep one eye on this
openness and inclusiveness, and one on time and efficiency. But efficiency is not superior to effectiveness, and effectiveness
is likely to turn on the therapist's being fully human in their relationship with the client!
Second, the caregiver should initiate efforts at repair when the relationship with the child is disrupted.
Doing so builds the child's expectation that, through interaction with others, her lost emotional equilibrium is likely to
The therapist should be trained, or self-trained, in the use of assertive
communication: like the skills of appreciation, conditional appreciation and constructive confrontation taught by Helen Hall
Clinard. The therapist should be convinced of Robert Bolton's insight that "the best relationships exist on the other
side of conflict". The therapist should seek to maintain a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative moments with the client.
Third, the caregiver should actively ‘scaffold' the child's emerging
abilities to communicate - initially, say, by attempting to put into words what the preverbal child cannot yet articulate
and, later, by asking the child to ‘use your words'."
The ‘good enough'
therapist should identify the ‘zone of proximal development' of the client, by asking themselves: ‘Where is this
client up to, in relation to X, at the moment; and where could I help them to move to (in their thinking-feeling-acting, and
communicating about it)?' This involves exploring the client's current understanding of their main upsets, in terms
of verbally labelled components, and their understanding of how to make progress. From this enquiry, the therapist should
be able to identify some possibilities which are hidden by ‘blind spots' in the client's thinking-feeling-acting-communication;
and to begin helping the client to ‘climb across a bridge' built on the therapist's ‘more integrated and developed
understanding' of the world.
Fourth, the caregiver must be willing to actively
engage with the child, to set limits and allow the child to protest, during periods when her sense of herself and others is
in developmental flux. This willingness to struggle makes possible for the child the experience of staying connected
even while feeling separate.
To actively engage with a client in therapy is to have
something at risk - to avoid body armour; to shun risk-avoidance - in the context of a commitment to wholly ethical behaviour.
(No sexual exploitation or inappropriate intimacy, for example!) To set limits for the client is often seen as challenging
clients about missing appointments, failing to pay their fees on time, failing to keep commitments, and so on. It could
also include the REBT practice of challenging the client's irrationalities, their unrealistic and unreasonable demands on
self, other people and the world. In CENT, it also includes setting moral boundaries for the client - and challenging
the client to grow their Good Wolf state, and to shrink their Bad Wolf state.
When I reviewed the description of the ‘good enough therapist' that I generated in
column 2, above, I felt this was a bit thin. Some of the things which are missing for me include:
three ‘core conditions': Carl Rogers' three core conditions for effective counselling are sometimes rendered as
REG: Respect; Empathy; and Genuineness. Some elements of those three appear in column 2 above, but not clearly enough
for my liking. (However, Rogers is not an absolute guide for me, in that I find his Unconditional Positive Regard [UPR]
to be a highly screwy idea, and a promoter of immorality. See my critique here***.)
2. Loving-kindness: The other way that Rogers' ideas get presented are: Genuineness, Non-possessive
caring (or non-possessive love), and Empathy. This quality of non-possessive love, or loving-kindness, is well described and illustrated in a little book by Jack
3. Mindfulness: Mindfulness is captured by the Ram Dass injunction: ‘Be here now!'
It is about present centredness; not drifting off into the past or future - paying attention to the client in front of me.
there are perhaps some other elements that I would ideally like to see in the ‘good enough' Attachment Therapist. For
examples: An ability to help the client to reframe their experience; to re-write their life narrative; to help the client
be more assertive; and to help the client to ‘complete' their previously undigested past.
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Part Three: More on Attachment Theory for the psychotherapist
Returning to the section of Chapter 7 of Dr David Wallin's book on Attachment in Psychotherapy, entitled Relational Processes and Developmental Desiderata, I want to give further consideration to what we can learn from
this section that would help counsellors and therapists to know what to do to help their clients to feel more secure in their
relationships, inside and outside of therapy.
Firstly, we can say that attachment theory has identified what is essential
for healthy psychological development of every individual:
(a) Initially, Dr John Bowlby gave emphasis to the idea that
the parents should be accessible to the child at all times of need; and:
(b) Later on, he
emphasized that parents must be responsiveas well as accessible. (This change was prompted
by the research findings of Mary Ainsworth, who described the importance of the parents' sensitive responsiveness to the child's
Secondly, when babies receive the attention they crave, they prove to be less needy than those
babies who do not receive sensitive responsiveness when they cry. From this I infer that client's who get the kind of
attention they need, will move on through their therapy much quicker, and more surely, than those clients who meet with cool
and less responsive therapists.
(See also the qualities of the therapist that I derived in Part Two above.)
Attachment theory suggests that collaborative communication is about getting to know the mind of another human being.
(We may not consciously know that that is what is happening, and we might not use those verbal labels, but that, it seems,
is what is nonverbally, and non-consciously, happening).
The client needs to know which of their statements or actions
produces which responses in the therapist. The therapist must be transparent in showing the contingency (or
dependence) of a particular response upon a particular stimulus from the client. This is what helps the client to construct
a model of ‘what is going on' in the mind of the other, reflected in their own mind.
Fourth, it seems important
to help the client to "feel felt" - that is, to see their nonverbal affective behaviours reflected in the nonverbal
affective responses of the therapist. If the client cries, the therapist may reflect this by showing a sad face, ‘marked
as' a reflection.
Therapeutic communication needs to be collaborative - or shared - as well as contingent (each stimulus
is shown a specific response; and each response produces a new reflection). In this process of collaboration and revealing
the connections between stimulus and response, the therapist must aim for a high level of affective attunement: or ‘getting
the client's emotional state' and reflecting it back in a different register.
This process of providing affectively
attuned responses to the client, which helps them to feel felt, probably depends upon intuitive right-brain communication,
which depends less on words than on reading faces and body language, and responding with a good reflection of what is sensed.
There is recent research from Germany that seems to suggest that this might be best facilitated by the kind of ‘mindfulness'
which comes from having the therapist practice regular meditation. (Footnote)
When a client gets repeated experiences of this kind of emotionally attuned responsiveness, this may generate positive
expectations of ‘feeling felt' - feeling understood and accepted by others - which may sediment into a secure model
of a sensitive relationship; a working model of secure attachment. Or, as David Wallin puts it, "such experiences
are lessons in how to have a comfortable and effective relationship - with oneself and one's emotions as well as with others".
Of course, we must not create unrealistic expectations here. Counsellors and therapists, like mothers
and fathers, are imperfect and error-prone humans. We cannot always ‘get it right' for our clients. But
we should aim high. We should aim to get close to understanding where our client is coming from 5 times out of every
6; and we should learn how to track down and resolve any misunderstandings that arise between us. Clients can learn
from us that misunderstandings can be resolved, and "distress can be weathered because it can be relieved", as David
Wallin puts it.
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Part Four: Reciprocal influence and attachment style
Mothers and their babies influence each other. Their responses to each other are reciprocal and either complementary
or clashing. How does this relate to research on the relationship between counsellors and their clients? A similar
pattern seems to be found here, of ‘mutual reciprocal influence' between clients and psychotherapists - according to
David Wallin's learning from the researches of Mitchell (1995), Stolorow et al (1987), and Aron (1996).
More generally, it seems that humans, from the beginning to the end of their lives, live in a matrix of mutual reciprocal
influence. When our schemas are flexible and growth oriented, we change each other; and when our schemas ‘freeze'
or become fixed - as in sexist and racist attitudes, for example, which are immune to new information - we reinforce each
other's existing beliefs and attitudes.
In the early stages of life, of a baby with its mother, there is an obvious
power imbalance, and it would be surprising if the mother did not have more influence over the baby than the baby has over
the mother. Parents who respond sensitively to their child can shift an official assessment of their child's behaviour and
emotional state from ‘difficult' - meaning difficult to soothe or stimulate - to ‘easy' to cope with and relate
to. On the other hand, a less skilful parent can turn an ‘easy' baby into a ‘difficult' one in a matter of months.
(Wallin, 2007, page 108; and Belsky et al, 1991).
Another important point made by Dr Wallin is that parents do, of course, have greater responsibility than the child
for shaping the relationship that emerges with their child. As to whether they have any flexibility in the matter depends
upon your view of "what" a parent is. And the CENT view is that a parent is a type of "automaton"
- a pre-programmed being that operates tacitly, non-consciously; and thus it merely passes on its own experience of relationship
to its offspring. Of course, there is always the possibility that a parent might be "woken up" by their parenting
incompetence or a crisis in their relationship with their child, and they could set about reprogramming their ‘attachment
style' and ‘relational approach'. However, this is probably only less slightly uncommon than hen's teeth!
(And even for those who set about such change, it is not perfectly straightforward or assured of total success!)
back to the main point. Mother and baby do ‘braid together', as described above; and part of that process is how
they monitor each other's communications; and respond and initiate - initiate and respond - in a turn-taking mirroring process
- or failure to mirror each other. The pattern of interactions between mother and baby is different for each pair, or
dyad; and those patterns are shaped by the responsiveness and attunement of the emotional state of each partner, mother and
According to David Wallin: "Sequences of match(ing), mismatch(ing), and repair(ing) (of communicative actions,
between mother and baby) are seen to occur with split-second coordination. Studies using split-screen video (with the
baby's face and torso on one side and the mother's on the other) have revealed such an exquisite synchrony of vocal as well
as facial expressions that each partner's behaviour in the interaction can be predicted, in twelfth of a second increments,
from that of the other. Infants at four months were videotaped interacting with their mothers and at 12 months were
assessed using the Strange Situation*** protocol. Of greatest interest is the finding that what differentiates relationships that foster secure attachment from those
that do not is the degree of bidirectional coordination in the dyad." (Pages 108-109).
Based on observations of
how well mothers and their babies communicate in the first months of life, researchers can predict very accurately how secure
a baby will be, at the age of one year, when tested in a lab situation - involving mothers' presence and her absence for three
minutes, and how the mother and baby relate when she returns. Three levels of ‘coordination' of communication between
mother and baby were identified: (1) high levels, which seemed to be about ‘excessively vigilant
monitoring', suggesting insecurity or anxiety; (2) low levels, which seemed to be about withdrawal
of one or both parties from each other, or inhibition of desire for contact, or a poor fit between the mother and child; and
(3) midrange coordination, where coordination of communication (stimulus and response) ‘is
present but not obligatory' (Beebe and Lachmann, 2002, page 104), which Wallin describes as "(optimum) communication
of infants and parents (which) is close but not perfect". (Page 109).
Dr Wallin interestingly highlights
the idea that these findings have "implications for psychotherapy as well as parenting". What are the implications
for counselling and therapy? Initially we might speculate that counsellors who are excessively vigilant in monitoring
the communication of their clients, and those who are withdrawn or inhibited in their monitoring activities, are likely to
be less helpful in developing a secure emotional base for the client than therapists who operate in the midrange, where "coordination
of communication between client and therapist is present, but not obligatory". There is attentiveness, but not
obsessiveness. There is concern about the relationship and the communication patterns, but not anxiety. There
is acceptance of fallibility and imperfection on both sides. And there is an active practice of repairing the communication
when it goes awry. I would also add, finally, that I aim for a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative moments in my relationships
with clients, which is probably about as good as it is likely to get!
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Part Five. Attachment in psychotherapy: How to proceed
That brings me to a major piece of work I have in store at the moment, which cannot be completed quickly or easily.
It concerns the significance of non-verbal communication in attachment-informed counselling and therapy. Should the
focus of counselling and therapy be mainly, or exclusively, on NVC; or should it just be one part of the process?
have been following the chain of Dr David Wallin's thoughts on attachment in psychotherapy, in his book of that name. I have blogged about the first seven chapters of that book, and a couple of weeks ago I finished reading Chapter 7.
I still have not completely integrated the end of Chapter 7 into my understanding of attachment relationships. In particular,
there is an outstanding issue of how to model the emergence of self-regulation and interactive-regulation in the life of a
child. I will write about that at a later date.
I then went on to read Chapter 8, and this is where some deeper
problems emerge. In earlier parts of my review of David Wallin's book, I concluded that Mary Main and Peter Fonagy seemed
to me to be ‘cognitive extremists' who attribute too much consciousness to individual humans, and too much use of elaborated
linguistic code. (See posts passim on the Happiness Blog***).
At the beginning of Part III of this book, comprising Chapters 8-10, the author introduces his
transition from attachment theory to clinical practice. In the process, David says:
"Because our first
relational experiences are mainly lived outside the domain of language, our crucial internalizations of early relationships
register as representations, rules, and models that cannot be linguistically retrieved. For these hard-to-reach representations
to later be modified - for old working models to be updated - they must be accessed, that is, experientially engaged.
In therapy, such representations in the patient often become accessible only as they are communicated through other-than-verbal
channels. Thus a focus on the realms of preverbal, nonverbal and paraverbal experience is indispensable - both to make
sense of the original learning that occurred in the (client's) first relationships and to facilitate the relearning that can
occur in the new relationship with the therapist. This is the subject matter of Chapter 8". Page 113.
statement might help you to understand why I then had some considerable problem with Chapter 8. David goes on to say
that "...what we cannot recall explicitly - and cannot put into words - is almost invariably expressed in other ways".
this connection, I would propose the following shorthand: That which we cannot verbalize, we tend to enact with others,
to evoke in others, and/or to embody. ...". Page 121.
This moves me into totally unknown
territory: working with enactments of the unthought known; working with evocations of the unthought known; and working with
embodiments of the unthought known. Pages 122-131.
Indeed, David goes further and implies that to incorporate Attachment
Theory into psychotherapy, we must necessarily use the ‘relational model', and not any other model. (I may be misunderstanding
him, but this will become clearer by the time I have digested Chapters 8-10 a number of times). This is very different from
the view taken by Dr Bowlby, who thought that Attachment theory should become a core element of all systems of counselling
As I was passing through Halifax Central Library on Tuesday of this week, I found a book by Jeremy
Holmes on John Bowlby and Attachment Theory. Chapter 8 of that book is about ‘Attachment theory and the practice of psychotherapy'. One of the suggestions
of this chapter is that effective therapy includes a process of helping the client to improve their ‘autobiographical
competence'. This is more comfortable territory for me: narrative therapy, stories, and scripts.
Holmes (1993) suggests that in Attachment theory, the concept of narrative is central, and if a person has conscious access
to a storied version of their life's experiences, then they are likely to feel secure in their relationships, in the parental
home, and in later relationships. Holmes refers to the key skill of ‘autobiographical competence' which stems from secure attachment, and also
promotes it. The work of the attachment-conscious therapist then is to promote a conscious awareness in the client of
their non-conscious personal history. By encouraging clients to write the story of their lives, we help them to give
their difficult experiences coherence, around a time line, and with a definite meaning - storyline, plot, characters, motives,
effects, and so on. Writing our own life stories also helps us to objectify it, which helps to turn painful emotions
into cognitive symbols. In the process a great deal of reframing of the meaning of experience takes place. A person
takes possession of their own past, present and their vision of the future. (Holmes, 1993, page 150).
Holmes (1993) considers that Attachment Theory should not become another, new form of psychotherapy. There are already
more than 400 systems in use. Instead, Holmes argues that there are aspects of Attachment Theory that fit in with some
preexisting elements of most systems of counselling and therapy. These include: "a relationship with
the therapist, which provides hope or ‘remoralization' - in Bowlbian terms a secure base from which to start to explore
the problem; a coherent explanation for the (client's) difficulties - a shared narrative; and a
method for overcoming them". Holmes believes the overall goal of therapy is promoting
emotional autonomy: " - the capacity to form relationships in which one feels both close and free, corresponding
with Attachment Theory's picture of a secure base facilitating exploration". (Page 151).
Holmes considers that
there are five key themes that impact the client's sense of secure or insecure attachment - as opposed to David Wallin's mono-focal
emphasis on non-verbal communication. (Of course, again, I may be misunderstanding David here; and he may broaden that
out in Chapters 9 and 10). The five key themes identified by Holmes (1993) are: "The need for a secure therapeutic
base; the role of real trauma (as opposed to phantasy) in the origins of neurosis; affective processing, especially of loss
and separation; the place of cognitions in therapy; and the part played by ‘companionable interaction' between therapist
and (client)". (Page 151).
Holmes seems to liberate me from having to narrow my focus down to the non-verbal communication
of the client. But I have to admit that CENT theory sees human "individuals" as being constructed in dialectical
relationships, in which social experiences of encounters (with mother, mainly, initially) result in sedimented layers of cumulative,
interpretive experiences. And the deepest, most basic layers are non-verbal.
understandings come later in the development of the child, and most of our earliest experiences, including our earliest experiences
of learning language-based distinctions, are inaccessible to recall. But in fact, one of the propositions of CENT is
that our cumulative, interpretive experiences are stored in long-term memory, in the form of electrochemical corollaries of
schemas, scripts, stories and other narrative elements, below the level of conscious awareness, and permanently
beyond direct, conscious inspection.
The only way we can 'dig up our earliest history' is
by inferences and hunches about what went on, based on tiny fragments of memory, and things we were told later on, or bits
and shards of family history from that time.
Nevertheless, I balk at the idea of exploring those deepest, non-verbal
layers of experience with my clients; just as much as I balk at the idea of assuming they are super-conscious, linguistic
beings who normally talk to themselves about their experiences using elaborated code.
So I am in some kind of intellectual
crisis, which is going to involve some kind of hibernation, reflection, and struggle. I do not know what will result!
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Part Six: Conclusion
At the moment, I cannot imagine giving up my process of teaching clients how to ‘reframe' their problems, and how to
think about them using well-tested philosophical insights; of teaching assertiveness skills; or the importance of diet, exercise
and self-talk; or helping them to dig up any unprocessed incidents from their past which have been buried in the ‘shadow
side' (to use Jung's concept of repressed, rejected bits of ourselves and our experience), and allowing the client to complete
their experience of those incidents and experiences. I cannot imagine giving up teaching various models to my clients
- models which allow them to think more clearly about their problems, and to rewrite their unhelpful stories and scripts.
of all, I cannot imagine giving up all of that so I can focus my attention on the non-verbal realm of experience with my counselling
But I will take on this challenge. I will read Chapters 8-10 of David Wallin's book, and write some more
on this subject when I have digested that material, and made sense of it.
 Holmes, J. (1993) John Bowlby and Attachment Theory. London: Routledge.
The Institute for CENT
Bretherton I (1992). "The Origins of Attachment Theory: John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth". Developmental Psychology
 Gomez, L. (1997) An Introduction to Object Relations. London: Free Association Books. Chapter 7.
Gullestad, S.E. (2001) Attachment theory and psychoanalysis: controversial issues. Scandinavian Psychoanalytic Review,
Bowlby, J. (1988/2005) A Secure Base. London: Routledge Classics.
Ainsworth M.D. (1969) "Object relations, dependency, and attachment: a theoretical review of the infant-mother relationship". Child Development, 40 (4): 969-1025
Bowlby J (1958). The nature of the child's tie to his mother. International Journal of Psychoanalysis 39
Ainsworth M (1967). Infancy in Uganda: Infant Care and the Growth of Love. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
 Mahler, M.S., Pine, F. and Bergman, A. (1975/1987) The Psychological Birth of the Human Infant: Symbiosis and individuation.
London: Maresfield Library.
Bowlby, J. (1988/2005) A Secure Base: clinical applications of attachment theory. London: Routledge Classics.
Wallin, D. (2007) Attachment in Psychotherapy. New York: The Guildford Press.
Fonagy, P., Gergeley, G., Jurist, E.J., and Target, M.I. (2002) Affect regulation, mentalization, and the development
of the self. New York: Other Press.
Schore, A. N. (2003) Affect regulation and the repair of the self. New York: Norton.
 Hofstadter, D. (2007) I am a Strange Loop. New York: Basic Books.
Holmes, J. (1995) Something there is that doesn't love a wall. John Bowlby, attachment theory, and psychoanalysis.
In: Goldberg, S. et al (eds) Attachment Theory: Social, Developmental and Clinical Perspectives. London: The
Analytic Press. (Pages 19-43).
 Byrne, J.W. (2010) Therapy after Ellis, Berne, Freud and the Buddha: the birth of Cognitive Emotive
Narrative Therapy (CENT). Hebden Bridge: The Institute for CENT.
Bowlby, J. (1988/2005) A Secure Base. London: Routledge Classics.~~~
CENT ebook No.6 is now available:
Creating Joy: How to be much happier, right now! by Dr Jim Byrne
The main aim of this book is to spread
happiness. Not just any old hedonistic happiness, excitement, or thrill seeking; but rather pro-social,
moral, sustainable happiness, in line with the insights of Positive psychology, Buddhist psychology, Stoic philosophy and
various forms of Rational and Narrative therapy, and the two major systems of writing therapy (the scientific and the artistic).
In this book you will find a twelve week program which is designed to help you to manage your life
in such a way that you can reduce your unhappiness and increase your happiness. You will learn simple techniques that
can produce almost immediate improvements that will astound you.
Creating Joy: How to be much happier, right now!
CENT e-book No.4: Crown of Thorns - A Memoir of Childhood in Ireland by Daniel O'Beeve
The Institute for CENT
agreed to publish this somewhat fictionalized memoir of childhood in Ireland because of its psychologically curative potential.
All humans live within stories, and stories are the medium
through which we understand ourselves and each other. And some stories contribute greatly to our emotional development
For further information about this book, see this memorir of childhood in Ireland
CENT e-book No.2: CENT Counselling: How to apply Cognitive Emotive Narrative Therapy in Counselling and Self-help
This is a popular introduction to the theory and practice of Cognitive Emotive Narrative Therapy (CENT), which
is a highly effective new philosophy of life, and psychological system of therapy.For further information on this book, please click here.
CENT e-book No.1: The Theoretical Grounding of CENT
Byrne, J. (2010)
Therapy after Ellis, Berne, Freud and the Buddha: the birth of Cognitive Emotive Narrative Therapy
(CENT). Hebden Bridge: The Institute for CENT.